American Art – Part I of II: Richard Cleaver
Artist Statement: “My sculptures integrate ceramic, which is the primary medium, with wood, fresh water pearls, semi-precious stones, gold leaf and oil paint. They are made complete with secret compartments which serve as hiding places for multiple and often times personal meanings. My recent work is based on narratives drawn from personal and historical events that are overlapped with subconscious images. The figures are like actors on a stage, enigmatic yet tense while being enveloped or encrusted within layers of overgrowth concealing a world within.”
Born 27 January 1893 – Soong Ching-ling, the second wife of Sun Yat-sen, leader of the 1911 revolution that established the Republic of China. In the words of one historian, “She was a member of the Soong family, and together with her siblings played a prominent role in China’s politics prior to 1949. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, she held several prominent positions in the new government, and traveled abroad during the early 1950s, representing it at a number of international activities. During the Cultural Revolution, however, she was heavily criticized; in one incident in 1966, her parents’ grave was destroyed by Red Guards. Soong survived the Cultural Revolution, but appeared less frequently after 1976. During her final illness in May 1981, she was given the special title of Honorary President of the People’s Republic of China.”
Anyone wishing to garner some fascinating insights into the role of the Soong family in influencing Chinese history during the twentieth century should read “The Soong Dynasty,” by Sterling Seagrave.
“I don’t hold with shamans, witch doctors, or psychiatrists. Shakespeare, Tolstoy, or even Dickens, understood more about the human condition than ever occurred to any of you. You overrated bunch of charlatans deal with the grammar of human problems, and the writers I’ve mentioned with the essence.” – Mordecai Richler, Canadian writer, screenwriter, essayist, and author of “The Apprenticeship of Danny Kravitz,” who was born 27 January 1931.
Some quotes from the work of Mordecai Richler:
“What’s black and white and brown and looks good on a lawyer? A Doberman.”
“In Canada, nobody is ever overthrown because nobody gives a damn.”
“Fundamentally, all writing is about the same thing; it’s about dying, about the brief flicker of time we have here, and the frustration that it creates.”
“Canada is not so much a country as a holding tank filled with the disgruntled progeny of defeated peoples. French-Canadians consumed by self-pity; the descendants of Scots who fled the Duke of Cumberland; Irish, the famine; and Jews, the Black Hundreds. Then there are the peasants from Ukraine, Poland, Italy and Greece, convenient to grow wheat and dig out the ore and swing the hammers and run the restaurants, but otherwise to be kept in their place. Most of us are huddled tight to the border, looking into the candy store window, scared of the Americans on one side and of the bush on the other.”
Died 27 January 2003 – Louis Archambault, a Canadian sculptor.
Below (left to right) – “Moon Maids”; “Man and Woman”;
“A Winged Man”; “The Great Priest”; “Tall Couple.”
Born 27 January 1805 – Samuel Palmer, a British landscape painter, etcher, printmaker, and key figure in Romanticism in Britain, who produced visionary pastoral canvases.
“Suspect each moment, for it is a thief, tiptoeing away with more than it brings.” – John Updike, American novelist, poet, short story writer, art critic, literary critic, and the recipient of numerous literary awards, who died 27 January 2009.
Some quotes from the work of John Updike:
“Celebrity is a mask that eats into the face.”
“The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding.”
“It is easy to love people in memory; the hard thing is to love them when they are there in front of you.”
“We do survive every moment, after all, except the last one.”
“Dreams come true. Without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them. ”
“What art offers is space – a certain breathing room for the spirit.”
“How can you respect the world when you see it’s being run by a bunch of kids turned old?”
“Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or better.”
“Everybody who tells you how to act has whiskey on their breath.”
“Looking foolish does the spirit good. The need not to look foolish is one of youth’s many burdens; as we get older we are exempted from more and more.”
“The world keeps ending but new people too dumb to know it keep showing up as if the fun’s just started.”
“Children are not a zoo of entertainingly exotic creatures, but an array of mirrors in which the human predicament leaps out at us. ”
“A leader is one who, out of madness or goodness, volunteers to take upon himself the woe of the people. There are few men so foolish, hence the erratic quality of leadership.”
“So much love, too much love, it is our madness, it is rotting us out, exploding us like dandelion polls.”
“The Founding Fathers in their wisdom decided that children were an unnatural strain on parents. So they provided jails called schools, equipped with tortures called an education.”
“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” – Howard Zinn, American historian, writer, playwright, social activist, and author of “A People’s History of the United States” and “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train” (his memoir), who died 27 January 2010.
Some quotes from the work of Howard Zinn:
“There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”
“I’m worried that students will take their obedient place in society and look to become successful cogs in the wheel – let the wheel spin them around as it wants without taking a look at what they’re doing. I’m concerned that students not become passive acceptors of the official doctrine that’s handed down to them from the White House, the media, textbooks, teachers and preachers.”
“Historically, the most terrible things – war, genocide, and slavery – have resulted not from disobedience, but from obedience.”
“How can you have a war on terrorism when war itself is terrorism?”
“Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders…and millions have been killed because of this obedience…Our problem is that people are obedient allover the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves… (and) the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.”
“Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it.”
“History is important. If you don’t know history it is as if you were born yesterday. And if you were born yesterday, anybody up there in a position of power can tell you anything, and you have no way of checking up on it.”
“We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”
“The challenge remains. On the other side are formidable forces: money, political power, the major media. On our side are the people of the world and a power greater than money or weapons: the truth.
Truth has a power of its own. Art has a power of its own. That age-old lesson – that everything we do matters – is the meaning of the people’s struggle here in the United States and everywhere. A poem can inspire a movement. A pamphlet can spark a revolution. Civil disobedience can arouse people and provoke us to think, when we organize with one another, when we get involved, when we stand up and speak out together, we can create a power no government can suppress. We live in a beautiful country. But people who have no respect for human life, freedom, or justice have taken it over. It is now up to all of us to take it back.”
“If those in charge of our society – politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television – can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves.”
“The memory of oppressed people is one thing that cannot be taken away, and for such people, with such memories, revolt is always an inch below the surface.”
“But I suppose the most revolutionary act one can engage in is… to tell the truth.”
“Nations are not communities and never have been. The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals the fierce conflicts of interest (sometimes exploding, often repressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex. And in such as world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners.”
“We need to decide that we will not go to war, whatever reason is conjured up by the politicians or the media, because war in our time is always indiscriminate, a war against innocents, a war against children”
“I think people are dazzled by Obama’s rhetoric, and that people ought to begin to understand that Obama is going to be a mediocre president — which means, in our time, a dangerous president — unless there is some national movement to push him in a better direction.”
“The prisons in the United States had long been an extreme reflection of the American system itself: the stark life differences between rich and poor, the racism, the use of victims against one another, the lack of resources of the underclass to speak out, the endless ‘reforms’ that changed little. Dostoevski once said: ‘The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.’
It had long been true, and prisoners knew this better than anyone, that the poorer you were the more likely you were to end up in jail. This was not just because the poor committed more crimes. In fact, they did. The rich did not have to commit crimes to get what they wanted; the laws were on their side. But when the rich did commit crimes, they often were not prosecuted, and if they were they could get out on bail, hire clever lawyers, get better treatment from judges. Somehow, the jails ended up full of poor black people.”
“What struck me as I began to study history was how nationalist fervor–inculcated from childhood on by pledges of allegiance, national anthems, flags waving and rhetoric blowing–permeated the educational systems of all countries, including our own. I wonder now how the foreign policies of the United States would look if we wiped out the national boundaries of the world, at least in our minds, and thought of all children everywhere as our own. Then we could never drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, or napalm on Vietnam, or wage war anywhere, because wars, especially in our time, are always wars against children, indeed our children.”
“I will try not to overlook the cruelties that victims inflict on one another as they are jammed together in the boxcars of the system. I don’t want to romanticize them. But I do remember (in rough paraphrase) a statement I once read: ‘The cry of the poor is not always just, but if you don’t listen to it, you will never know what justice is.’”
“Today everybody is talking about the fact that we live in one world; because of globalization, we are all part of the same planet. They talk that way, but do they mean it? We should remind them that the words of the Declaration [of Independence] apply not only to people in this country, but also to people all over the world. People everywhere have the same right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When the government becomes destructive of that, then it is patriotic to dissent and to criticize – to do what we always praise and call heroic when we look upon the dissenters and critics in totalitarian countries who dare to speak out.”
“I am convinced that imprisonment is a way of pretending to solve the problem of crime. It does nothing for the victims of crime, but perpetuates the idea of retribution, thus maintaining the endless cycle of violence in our culture. It is a cruel and useless substitute for the elimination of those conditions–poverty, unemployment, homelessness, desperation, racism, greed–which are at the root of most punished crime. The crimes of the rich and powerful go mostly unpunished.
It must surely be a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit that even a small number of those men and women in the hell of the prison system survive it and hold on to their humanity.”
“Why should we cherish ‘objectivity,’ as if ideas were innocent, as if they don’t serve one interest or another? Surely, we want to be objective if that means telling the truth as we see it, not concealing information that may be embarrassing to our point of view. But we don’t want to be objective if it means pretending that ideas don’t play a part in the social struggles of our time, that we don’t take sides in those struggles.
Indeed, it is impossible to be neutral. In a world already moving in certain directions, where wealth and power are already distributed in certain ways, neutrality means accepting the way things are now. It is a world of clashing interests – war against peace, nationalism against internationalism, equality against greed, and democracy against elitism – and it seems to me both impossible and undesirable to be neutral in those conflicts.”
“The Greatest Generation?
They tell me I am a member of the greatest generation. That’s because I saw combat duty as a bombardier in World War 11. But I refuse to celebrate “the greatest generation” because in so doing we are celebrating courage and sacrifice in the cause of war. And we are miseducating the young to believe that military heroism is the noblest form of heroism, when it should be remembered only as the tragic accompaniment of horrendous policies driven by power and profit. The current infatuation with World War 11 prepares us–innocently on the part of some, deliberately on the part of others–for more war, more military adventures, more attempts to emulate the military heroes of the past.”
Italian Art – Part I of II: Felice Casorati
Felice Casorati (1883-1963) was an Italian painter, sculptor, and printmaker best remembered for his figurative compositions.
From the American History Archives: Indian Territory
27 January 1825 – The United States Congress approves the creation of Indian Territory (in what is now Oklahoma), clearing the way for the forced relocation of Eastern Indian tribes on the “Trail of Tears.”
Below – A steamboat entering Indian Territory on the Arkansas River.
Italian Art – Part II of II: Stefania Fersini
Here is how one critic describes the artistry of Italian painter Stefania Fersini: “Stefania Fersini creates wrinkled oil on canvas portraits, as a critique of a world that produces more than we need. She uses enlarged fashion pages to bring back to real scale the characters and the scene in the foreground, creating a parallel world made of models, scenarios, icons of our society. As in front of a mirror, viewers recognize the reflection they aim to identify with. Magazine papers picked recycled from rubbish, with their twists and reflections, divert the attention from the scene. Together with the products’ captions, they represent consumerism and appearance, that is the values and myths of nowadays society.”
A Poem for Today
“Reading Primo Levi Off Columbus Circle,”
By J. T. Barbarese
Re-reading him in Bouchon
past noon, it is mobbed midtown,
like an ant farm seen through painkillers.
God, what a bust it’s all been,
capitalism, communism, feminism,
this lust to liberate.
Che should have stayed in medicine.
The girls here admit they can’t wait
to marry and get to the alimony,
before they hit thirty. The men,
heads skinned like Lager inmates,
know only the revolutions
American Art – Part II of II: Natalia Fabia
Painter Natalia Fabia graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. In the words of one critic, Fabia is “inspired by light, color, punk rock music, hot chicks, sparkles… and sultry women.”
Speaking for Psyche: Quotes from the Work of James Hillman – Part I of IV
Speaking for Psyche: Quotes from the Work of James Hillman – Part II of IV
“Everything that everyone is afraid of has already happened: The fragility of capitalism, which we don’t want to admit; the loss of the empire of the United States; and American exceptionalism. In fact, American exceptionalism is that we are exceptionally backward in about fifteen different categories, from education to infrastructure.”
Speaking for Psyche: Quotes from the Work of James Hillman – Part III of IV
“Of course, a culture as manically and massively materialistic as ours creates materialistic behavior in its people, especially in those people who’ve been subjected to nothing but the destruction of imagination that this culture calls education, the destruction of autonomy it calls work, and the destruction of activity it calls entertainment.”
Speaking for Psyche: Quotes from the Work of James Hillman – Part IV of IV