American Art – Part I of V: Adolph Gottlieb
“My favorite symbols were those which I didn’t understand.” – Adolph Gottlieb, abstract expressionist painter, sculptor, and graphic artist, who died 4 March 1974.
In the words of one writer, “Ting Shao Kuang, a prominent contemporary Chinese painter in America, has produced works characterized by a combination of traditional Chinese painting techniques and the more expressive Western art forms. He has created a unique style that does not belong exclusively to the East or the West, but to the world. Ting Shao Kuang was born in Chenggu, a village located in the Northern province of Shanxi, China in 1939. In order to survive his loneliness and alienation, Ting turned to painting for solace. By age 11, he was painting every day, using cooking oil as a medium for his pigment. Despite his lack of adequate supplies, he evidenced such remarkable talent that, in 1954, he was given the opportunity to attend the prestigious high school affiliated with the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. In 1957, Ting was accepted at Jeijing’s Central Academy of Arts and Crafts. Although he was taught ‘socialist Realism’ in his classes, it was during this time that he discovered the works of Picasso, Matisse and Modigliani. The paintings of these artists inspired him to experiment with new themes and techniques.”
“I take my children everywhere, but they always find their way back home.” – Robert Orben, American author of books on comedy and magic, who was born 4 March 1927.
Some quotes from the astute and witty Robert Orben:
“Older people shouldn’t eat health food, they need all the preservatives they can get.”
“A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that ‘individuality’ is the key to success.”
“Every day I get up and look through the Forbes list of the richest people in America. If I’m not there, I go to work.”
“Never raise your hand to your children – it leaves your midsection unprotected.”
“A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in.”
“Life was a lot simpler when what we honored was father and mother rather than all major credit cards.”
“Do you ever get the feeling that the only reason we have elections is to find out if the polls were right?”
“Sometimes I get the feeling the whole world is against me, but deep down I know that’s not true. Some of the smaller countries are neutral.”
“Love is so confusing – you tell a girl she looks great and what’s the first thing you do? Turn out the lights!”
“To err is human – and to blame it on a computer is even more so.”
“Illegal aliens have always been a problem in the United States. Ask any Indian.”
“There are days when it takes all you’ve got just to keep up with the losers.”
“Time flies. It’s up to you to be the navigator.”
“I got a Valentine’s Day card from my girl. It said, ‘Take my heart! Take my arms! Take my lips!’ Which is just like her. Keeping the best part for herself.”
“Do your kids a favor – don’t have any.”
“Don’t think of it as failure. Think of it as time-released success.”
“In prehistoric times, mankind often had only two choices in crisis situations: fight or flee. In modern times, humor offers us a third alternative; fight, flee – or laugh.”
“Inflation is bringing us true democracy. For the first time in history, luxuries and necessities are selling at the same price.”
“Most people would like to be delivered from temptation but would like it to keep in touch.”
“More than ever before, Americans are suffering from back problems: back taxes, back rent, back auto payments.”
“Inflation is the crabgrass in your savings.”
“Quit worrying about your health. It will go away.”
“I remember when humor was gentle pokes. I used to call it ‘arm around the shoulder’ humor. Now they go for the jugular and they take no prisoners. It’s mean, mean stuff.”
“What bothers me about TV is that it tends to take our minds off our minds.”
American Art – Part II of V: Alexi Worth
In the words of one writer, “Alexi Worth is a contemporary American realist painter and art writer who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He attended Yale College (BA 1986) and Boston University (MFA 1993). In his work, Worth is fond of quirky realism with deliberate surfaces and modulated colors. His pictures feature seamless shading and attention to the particulars of texture and detail, while also dealing with complex and ambiguous narratives.”
From the Music Archives: Richard Manuel
Died 4 March 1986 – Richard Manuel, a Canadian composer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist best known for his contributions to and membership in The Band.
Here is the Artist Statement of Canadian painter Jean Paul Lemieux (1904-1990): “I paint because I like to paint. I have no theories. In my landscapes and my characters I try to express the solitude we all have to live with, and in each painting, the inner world of my memories. My external surroundings only interest me because they allow me to paint my inner world.”
From the American History Archives: Vermont
4 March 1791 – The Vermont Republic is admitted to the Union as the fourteenth state.
Here is one critic describing the artistry of Welsh painter Mike Briscoe: “At first glance one might be forgiven for regarding Mike Briscoe, quite simply, as a realist painter of extraordinary skill. That he is, but there is more. At one level these paintings can be mesmerizing and uplifting, at another faintly disturbing. This creates a sense of unease, a rather unsettling feeling that something is about to happen – the calm before the storm. It is similar in mood to the paintings of that great American realist painter, Edward Hopper, and it is what makes Mike Briscoe’s work so fascinating.
Most of Mikes paintings revolve around his children, and the beach near his home in North Wales, where he was born in 1960. He studied at Wrexham College of Art and Sheffield College of Art.”
From the American History/American Cinema Archives: Territory of Idaho
4 March 1863 – The United States Congress creates the Territory of Idaho.
Below – Some quotes from important personages in what is now the Gem State:
President Pedro: “Well, when I came home from school my head started to get really hot. So I drank some cold water, but it didn’t do nothing. So I laid in the bathtub for a while, but then I realized that it was my hair that was making my head hot. So I went into my kitchen and I shaved it all off. I don’t want anyone to see.”
Secretary of Art, Dance, and Romance Napoleon: “My old girlfriend from Oklahoma was gonna fly out for the dance but she couldn’t cause she’s doing some modeling right now.”
Secretary of Technology and Defense Kip: “Napoleon, don’t be jealous that I’ve been chatting online with babes all day. Besides, we both know that I’m training to be a cage fighter.”
Secretary of Commerce and Sport Rico: “How much you wanna make a bet I can throw a football over them mountains?… Yeah… Coach woulda put me in fourth quarter, we would’ve been state champions. No doubt. No doubt in my mind.”
Secretary of Photography and Marketing Deb: “And here we have some boondoggle key chains. A must-have for this season’s fashion.”
Here is one critic describing the artistry of German painter Gernot Kissel (born 1939): “His still lifes and landscapes are strong and bold expressionist works with vibrant colour and stark line. Kissel is better known, however, for his female nudes or portraits which are painted with an almost disconcerting bold assurance. His female figures have a direct and powerful sensuality and force the observer to admire them. These paintings are like a love for women.”
“If they give you lined paper, write the other way.” – William Carlos Williams, American poet, physician, and author of the five-volume poem “Paterson,” who died 4 March 1963.
William Carols Williams won the first National Book Award for Poetry in 1950 (for both the third volume of “Paterson” and “Selected Poems), the 1963 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (for “Pictures from Breughel and Other Poems” – awarded posthumously), and the 1963 Gold Medal for Poetry of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.
“To Waken an Old Lady”
Old age is
a flight of small
bare trees above a snow glaze.
Gaining and failing
they are buffeted
by a dark wind–
On harsh weedstalks
the flock has rested,
is covered with broken
and the wind tempered
by a shrill
piping of plenty.
WHEN I was younger
it was plain to me
I must make something of myself.
I walk back streets
admiring the houses
of the very poor:
roof out of line with sides
the yards cluttered
with old chicken wire, ashes,
furniture gone wrong;
the fences and outhouses
built of barrel staves
and parts of boxes, all,
if I am fortunate,
smeared a bluish green
that properly weathered
pleases me best of all colors.
will believe this
of vast import to the nation.
“A Sort of Song”
Let the snake wait under
and the writing
be of words, slow and quick, sharp
to strike, quiet to wait,
through metaphor to reconcile
the people and the stones.
Compose. (No ideas
but in things) Invent!
Saxifrage is my flower that splits
years of anger following
hours that float idly down –
drifts its weight
deeper and deeper for three days
or sixty years, eh? Then
the sun! a clutter of
yellow and blue flakes –
Hairy looking trees stand out
in long alleys
over a wild solitude.
The man turns and there –
his solitary track stretched out
upon the world.
From “Book I, Paterson”
Paterson lies in the valley under the Passaic Falls
its spent waters forming the outline of his back. He
lies on his right side, head near the thunder
of the waters filling his dreams! Eternally asleep,
his dreams walk about the city where he persists
incognito. Butterflies settle on his stone ear.
Immortal he neither moves nor rouses and is seldom
seen, though he breathes and the subtleties of his machinations
drawing their substance from the noise of the pouring river
animate a thousand automations. Who because they
neither know their sources nor the sills of their
disappointments walk outside their bodies aimlessly
for the most part,
locked and forgot in their desires-unroused.
From above, higher than the spires, higher
even than the office towers, from oozy fields
abandoned to gray beds of dead grass,
black sumac, withered weed-stalks,
mud and thickets cluttered with dead leaves-
the river comes pouring in above the city
and crashes from the edge of the gorge
in a recoil of spray and rainbow mists-
(What common language to unravel?
. . .combed into straight lines
from that rafter of a rock’s
A man like a city and a woman like a flower
—who are in love. Two women. Three women.
Innumerable women, each like a flower.
American Art – Part III of V: Alice Dalton Brown
4 March 1769 – Charles Messier first noted the Orion Nebula, and since it was the 42nd object on his list, it became classified as M42.
Here is the Artist Statement of Filipino painter Jef Cablog: “I have listened to the countless stories of Barlig, my hometown, as narrated by our village elders; and now I struggle to preserve these through my works and I know I will have to devote my entire life to this task.
I paint as my ancestors have built the rice terraces—stone by stone, piece by piece. My ancestors painstakingly crafted a grand cultural monument. Now I wish to do the same through my art.”
“I remember a hundred lovely lakes, and recall the fragrant breath of pine and fir and cedar and poplar trees. The trail has strung upon it, as upon a thread of silk, opalescent dawns and saffron sunsets.” – Hamlin Garland, American writer, novelist, and recipient of the 1922 Pulitzer Prize for Biography (for “A Daughter of the Middle Border”– the story of Zulime Taft, the artist who captured his heart and would become his wife), who died 4 March 1940.
Hamlin Garland spent his youth on various Midwestern farms, and his memories of those days brought him his first literary success with the publication of “Main-Traveled Roads” (1891), a collection of short stories inspired by his time in rural America. In 1898, Garland traveled to the Yukon to witness the Klondike Gold Rush, and the next year he published an account of his experiences in “The Trail of the Gold Seekers,” a creative meditation on the wilderness and the men drawn to it that will remind some readers of Jack London’s work.
Throughout his adult life, Garland campaigned for the rights of Native Americans, going so far as to have a series of meetings with President Theodore Roosevelt (who was to become a good friend) in an attempt to alter government policy toward Indians, which at the time was eradicating their customs, languages, and cultures in an effort to assimilate them into white civilization. This spirit of justice also animates both the enlightened cavalry officer who is the hero of Garland’s novel “The Captain of the Gray-Horse Troop” (1902) and the Native American characters in the short stories and novellas published as “The Book of the American Indian” (1923, with illustrations by Frederic Remington; a note: Harlan disliked both the man and the illustrations).
Here is one of my favorite Hamlin Garland quotes: “Whenever the pressure of our complex city life thins my blood and numbs my brain, I seek relief in the trail; and when I hear the coyote wailing to the yellow dawn, my cares fall from me – I am happy.”
Some quotes from the work of Hamlin Garland:
“I see a time when the farmer will not need to live in a lonely cabin on a lonely farm. I see the farmers coming together in groups. I see them with time to read, and time to visit with their fellows. I see them enjoying lectures in beautiful halls, erected in every village. I see them gather like the Saxons of old upon the green at evening to sing and dance. I see cities rising near them with schools, and churches, and concert halls, and theaters. I see a day when the farmer will no longer be a drudge and his wife a bond slave, but happy men and women who will go singing to their pleasant tasks upon their fruitful farms. When the boys and girls will not go west nor to the city; when life will be worth living. In that day the moon will be brighter and the stars more glad, and pleasure and poetry and love of life come back to the man who tills the soil.”
“There is no gilding of setting sun or glamour of poetry to light up the ferocious and endless toil of the farmers’ wives.”
“Do you fear the force of the wind,
The slash of the rain?
Go face them and fight them,
Be savage again.
Go hungry and cold like the wolf,
Go wade like the crane:
The palms of your hands will thicken,
The skin of your cheek will tan,
You’ll grow ragged and weary and swarthy,
But you’ll walk like a man!”
American Art – Part IV of V: Shawn Zents
American painter Shawn Zents (born 1965) attended the California Art Institute.
A Poem for Today
“A Brook in the City”
By Robert Frost
The farmhouse lingers, though averse to square
With the new city street it has to wear
A number in. But what about the brook
That held the house as in an elbow-crook?
I ask as one who knew the brook, its strength
And impulse, having dipped a finger length
And made it leap my knuckle, having tossed
A flower to try its currents where they crossed.
The meadow grass could be cemented down
From growing under pavements of a town;
The apple trees be sent to hearth-stone flame.
Is water wood to serve a brook the same?
How else dispose of an immortal force
No longer needed? Staunch it at its source
With cinder loads dumped down? The brook was thrown
Deep in a sewer dungeon under stone
In fetid darkness still to live and run —
And all for nothing it had ever done
Except forget to go in fear perhaps.
No one would know except for ancient maps
That such a brook ran water. But I wonder
If from its being kept forever under,
The thoughts may not have risen that so keep
This new-built city from both work and sleep.
American Art – Part V of V: Patti Warashina
Artist Statement: “We live in interesting times. At the turn of the millennium, there seemed to be a moment of optimism of what the future would bring. It is evident that all is not well in the world. I find as an artist it is hard to ignore the incompetence that has affected the future of our world.
In response to these immediate events, I have created works titled the ‘Drunken Power Series’ that imply political, social, and environmental scenarios that have effected the future and the quality of life. The use of the sake sets as a metaphor becomes the stage for the vignettes to appear. The symbolic act of sharing a cup of spirits sets the tone for this participatory act. The pouring vessels and cups are the subjects of conversation and act as conveyance for the discourse in this world that is drunk with power.”