December Offerings – Part XVII: Something to Delight both Head and Heart

American Art – Part I of IV: Tom Wesselmann

Died 17 December 2004 – Tom Wesselman, an artist associated with the Pop Art movement.

Below – “Still Life #20”; “Sunset Nude with Matisse Odalisque”;
“Lulu”; “Maquette for Cabin By the Lake”; “Great American Nude #52”; “Great American Nude #2”; “Great American Nude #44”; “Great American Nude #48.”
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“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing, there is a field.
I will meet you there.” – Rumi, Persian Muslim poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic, who died on 17 December 1273.

Some quotes from the work of Rumi:

“Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.”
“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.”
“This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.”
“If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?”
“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”
“It may be that the satisfaction I need depends on my going away, so that when I’ve gone and come back, I’ll find it at home.”
“Something opens our wings. Something makes boredom and hurt disappear.” “Someone fills the cup in front of us: We taste only sacredness.”
“Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.”
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French Art – Part I of II: Pierre-Auguste Renoir

“The pain passes, but the beauty remains.” – Pierre Auguste Renoir, French artist and a leading painter in the development of Impressionism, who died on 17 December 1919.

Below – “The Swing”; “Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette”; “Two Sisters”; “By the Water”; “Children at the Beach at Guernsey”; “Luncheon of the Boating Party”; “Self Portrait” (1910).
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French Art – Part II of II: Daniel Bouvard

In the words of one critic, French painter Jean-Daniel Bouvard’s work “is all about composition. He is an artist who creates his imagery with infinite precision, tempered with a gentle soul. To avoid being ‘a slave to the subject,’ Bouvard prefers to forget the actual topic at hand to seek inspiration from the laws of composition. When one looks at a Bouvard painting, the artist wants him or her to feel good, to feel the equilibrium and the harmony, and to purify the subject as much as possible. ‘The subject doesn’t matter,’ claims Bouvard, ‘what does is light, shadow, mood, ambiance; and imagining what is beyond the painting.’”
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“An ignorant people is the blind instrument of its own destruction.” – Simon Bolivar, South American revolutionary, political leader, and one of the most influential politicians in the history of the Americas, who died on 17 December 1830.

Simon Bolivar obviously possessed keen political insight, but he was also uncommonly prescient, as is evident in this quote: “The Unites States appear to be destined by Providence to plague America with misery in the name of liberty.”

Below – Simon Bolivar Memorial Monument in Santa Marta, Colombia.
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Here is what one critic has written about the work of English painter Simon Garden (born 1960): “ Garden succeeds in mapping the landscapes of our dreams. He communicates directly to our subconscious, unhindered by rationality. His paintings invite a gut-wrenching sense of personal familiarity and recognition.”
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From the Music Archives: Eddie Kendrick

Born 17 December 1939 – Eddie Kendrick, an American singer, songwriter, and co-founder of the Motown singing group The Temptations.

Polish painter Antoni Cygan was born in 1964.
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“I’ve been on the trail for many moons to arrive at this place.” – Wes Studi, Native American actor, who was born on 17 December 1947.

Wes Studi has appeared in many fine films, including “Dances with Wolves,” “The Last of the Mohicans,” “Pow-Wow Highway,” “Geronimo: An American Legend,” and “The New World,” but his most accomplished cinematic performance has been largely neglected by both critics and movie fans. I am referring, of course, to his portrayal of the evil hijacker Hanover in the 1998 science fiction classic “Deep Rising,” which, in addition to featuring an uncommonly ravenous monster, also allows viewers to enjoy the vastly talented Treat Williams and the flawlessly beautiful Una Damon. Please consider this almost Shakespearean dialogue from the film:

Hanover: You wanna wind up in jail, Mulligan?
Mulligan (an assistant hijacker): Better there then in the belly of one of those things!

And yet, despite its obvious greatness, “Deep Rising” did not receive a single Academy Award nomination. We live in an aesthetically degenerate time.

Below – Hanover (Wes Studi) preparing to repel the monster’s attack.

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Japanese painter Shinji Nakabori (born 1956) graduated from the Japanese Painting Department at Tama Art University.
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17 December 2007 – The Republic of Lakotah declares its independence from the United States. The boundaries of this nation are those established in the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie between the United States government and the Lakota tribe. Here is a brief description of some of its governing principles:

“Citizenship is open to people of all races and to any resident of the land Lakotah claims. The group plans to issue its own passports and driving licenses in the name of the proposed nation.”
“The Republic of Lakotah proposes that the nation be organized as a confederation that would respect the libertarian principles of posse comitatus and caveat emptor, would offer ‘individual liberty through community rule,’ and would collect no nationwide taxes. However, individual communities within the proposed nation would be allowed to levy taxes with the consent of the taxed.”

Unfortunately, individuals who champion political entities such as the Lakotah Republic will not likely garner much support for their cause among intelligent and informed Americans, because contemporary secessionist movements are generally associated with either Tea Party troglodytes or intellectual culls like Todd Palin and Rick Perry. However, before dismissing all secessionist campaigns as chimerical, I suggest that people read “Secession: How Vermont and All the Other States Can Save Themselves from the Empire,” by Duke University professor emeritus Thomas H. Naylor, who is also the Founder and Chair of the Second Vermont Republic. Here are a few words from the book’s Foreword, written by scholar Kirkpatrick Sale: “Secession may seem like an outlandish idea at first, but when considered forthrightly and un-prejudicially it becomes a powerful alternative to other kinds of political action. Thomas Naylor has here charted a brave and inspiring course for any American interested in practical, useful, thoroughgoing social and political change in America.”
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Died 17 December 2013 – Fred Bruemmer, a Canadian photographer, researcher, and author who works have centered on the people and animals of the Arctic.
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“Give fools their gold, and knaves their power; let fortune’s bubbles rise and fall; who sows a field, or trains a flower, or plants a tree, is more than all.” – John Greenleaf Whittier, American poet and abolitionist, who was born on 17 December 1807.

Whittier is not widely remembered today, but he was once famous in the United States for being the author of “Snow-Bound: A Winter Idyll” (1866). In words that might stand as a summary of “progress” in America, James Russell Lowell found in this poem a chronicle of a vanishing era: “It describes scenes and manners which the rapid changes of our national habits will soon have made as remote from us as if they were foreign or ancient.”

I am posting the first stanza of “Snow-Bound,” in part because in a now vanished educational era, every student in my seventh grade class was required to memorize it.

“The sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray,
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder light than waning moon.
Slow tracing down the thickening sky
Its mute and ominous prophecy,
A portent seeming less than threat,
It sank from sight before it set.
A chill no coat, however stout,
Of homespun stuff could quite shut out,
A hard, dull bitterness of cold,
That checked, mid-vein, the circling race
Of life-blood in the sharpened face,
The coming of the snow-storm told.
The wind blew east; we heard the roar
Of Ocean on his wintry shore,
And felt the strong pulse throbbing there
Beat with low rhythm our inland air.”
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American Art – Part II of IV: Robert Hunt

Robert Hunt received a Bachelor’s degree in Art History from the University of California and a Master’s degree in Illustration from the Academy of Art in San Francisco. As described by Walt Reed in the 2003 edition of “The Illustrator in America,” “His work reflects his classical training, but with a contemporary take.”
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“Apparently I lack some particular perversion which today’s employer is seeking. ” – John Kennedy Toole, American novelist and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “A Confederacy of Dunces,” who was born 17 December 1937.

If you have not read “A Confederacy of Dunces,” you should do so as soon as possible, since it is a literary gem.

Some quotes from “A Confederacy of Dunces”:

“I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.”
“You could tell by the way he talked, though, that he had gone to school a long time. That was probably what was wrong with him.”
“When Fortuna spins you downward, go out to a movie and get more out of life.”
“You can always tell employees of the government by the total vacancy which occupies the space where most other people have faces.”
“With the breakdown of the medieval system, the gods of chaos, lunacy, and bad taste gained ascendancy.”
“Between notes, he had contemplated means of destroying Myrna Minkoff but had reached no satisfactory conclusion. His most promising scheme had involved getting a book on munitions from the library, constructing a bomb, and mailing it in plain paper to Myrna. Then he remembered that his library card had been revoked.”
“The only excursion of my life outside of New Orleans took me through the vortex to the whirlpool of despair: Baton Rouge. . . . New Orleans is, on the other hand, a comfortable metropolis which has a certain apathy and stagnation which I find inoffensive.”
“Leaving New Orleans also frightened me considerably. Outside of the city limits the heart of darkness, the true wasteland begins.”

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American Art – Part III of IV: Bill White

Artist Statement: “I am a portrait painter and figurative artist living in Puerto Vallarta Mexico. I paint my friends and acquaintances and include them in scenes of contemporary Mexico. I attempt to paint the beauty and emotion of the people I meet. Every picture really does have a story.”
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A Poem for Today

“Mount Kearsarge Shines,”
By Donald Hall

Mount Kearsarge shines with ice; from hemlock branches
snow slides onto snow; no stream, creek, or river
budges but remains still. Tonight
we carry armloads of logs

from woodshed to Glenwood and build up the fire
that keeps the coldest night outside our windows.
Sit by the woodstove, Camilla,
while I bring glasses of white,

and we’ll talk, passing the time, about weather
without pretending that we can alter it:
Storms stop when they stop, no sooner,
leaving the birches glossy

with ice and bent glittering to rimy ground.
We’ll avoid the programmed weatherman grinning
from the box, cheerful with tempest,
and take the day as it comes,

one day at a time, the way everyone says,
These hours are the best because we hold them close
in our uxorious nation.
Soon we’ll walk — when days turn fair

and frost stays off — over old roads, listening
for peepers as spring comes on, never to miss
the day’s offering of pleasure
for the government of two.
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American Art – Part IV of IV: Susan Bennerstrom

Artist Statement: “Since the early 1980’s my main theme has been the exploration and depiction of light. I began with landscape as a foil. Gradually, buildings started to enter the compositions, at first far away and tiny, then closer and larger, until the buildings became the main focus and the landscape shrank. Finally, I concentrated on details of the buildings and the objects within them. Always, however, the structures and objects are stage sets for light with its transformative power and ability to affect emotions. I rarely put figures in my paintings, as I find that they tend to take over; I prefer to let light and shadow imply the narrative and carry the emotional weight. In addition to the dearth of human figures, I also choose to paint quite ordinary scenes, and for the same reason: by focusing on the easily ignorable architectural detail, washbasin, household appliance, piece of furniture, or houseplant, I like to explore how a fall of light can turn a humble item into something poignant and worthy of lasting attention.
I don’t think of myself as a realist painter in the currently accepted sense. I work from photographs, which are themselves abstractions – one step removed from reality. I travel further into abstraction by removing details, shifting things around, changing perspective, exaggerating the quality, color, and direction of light, investing the shadows with greater emotional intensity. The paintings wander far afield of straightforward observations of reality, and instead become my own emotional response to the places and objects depicted.”

Below – “Red Gate”; “Snow”; “Skagit Dusk”; “Middle Fork #2”; “Soap Lake”; “Lobby”; “Between Storms”; “Georgetown”; “Rainy Season”; “Fort Mason.”

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