American Art – Part I of II: Louise Nevelson
“I have made my world and it is a much better world than I ever saw outside.” – Louise Nevelson, Russian-born American sculptor known for her monumental wooden pieces, who died 17 April 1988.
“Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge where there is no river.” –Nikita Krushchev, Russian leader of the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War, who was born 17 April 1894.
Some quotes from Nikita Krushchev:
“When you are skinning your customers, you should leave some skin on to heal, so that you can skin them again.”
“The press is our chief ideological weapon.”
“Do you think when two representatives holding diametrically opposing views get together and shake hands, the contradictions between our systems will simply melt away? What kind of a daydream is that?”
“The purpose of the United Nations should be to protect the essential sovereignty of nations, large and small.”
“Call it what you will, incentives are what get people to work harder.”
Economics is a subject that does not greatly respect one’s wishes.”
“Revolutions are not made for export.”
“What the scientists have in their briefcases is terrifying.”
Here is the Artist Statement of Polish painter Wiola Stankiewicz: “(I am) completely addicted to browsing the past. Black and white pictures, covered by blanket of dust, are overflowing with mystery, full of undiscovered colours and stories – real ones mixed with imagined fables. In my works I only try to show that which I see.”
“Any society that will give up a little liberty for a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” – Benjamin Franklin, a Founding Father of the United States, writer, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, statesman, diplomat, and author of “Poor Richard’s Almanac,” who died 17 April 1790.
Some quotes from “Poor Richard’s Almanac”:
“Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.”
“Love your Enemies, for they tell you your Faults.”
“There cannot be good living where there is not good drinking.”
“To all apparent beauties blind, each blemish strikes an envious mind.”
“He that drinks his cider alone, let him catch his horse alone.”
“Necessity never made a good bargain.”
“Marry’d in haste, we oft repent at leisure.”
“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.”
“To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals.”
“He that lives upon hope will die fasting.”
Here is the Artist Statement of Canadian painter Kristen Johnson: “My paintings have a dream logic to them. Specific moments caught in time. They are filled with the tension of the moment just before and the moment just to come. Deliberately theatrical – provocative, disturbing, humorous – they explore the specificity of human emotions. They are housed within a style that plays with the tradition of classical portraiture – subverting its formality into a new idea.
I paint with strong, bold, graphic colours that lie just below and above the surface of nature. I’m obsessed with detail and painting flesh in a way that makes it seem alive – the skin transparent. I use realism further to freeze a moment in time.
My paintings have been described as ‘gothic portraiture’ and ‘magic realism in paint.’ Keeping with the idea of the theatrical, I see the paintings’ subjects as characters in a ‘dream drama’ as much as models. I seek to show them from the inside out – understanding and feeling their positions – joy, struggle, pain. Yet, where the emotional landscape is real, the physical landscape is surreal, it relies heavily on metaphor and my personal iconography.”
“I believe that economists put decimal points in their forecasts to show they have a sense of humor.” – William Gilmore Simms, American novelist, short story writer, poet, and author of “The Cassique of Kiawah,” who was born 17 April 1806.
According to Edgar Allan Poe, William Gilmore Simms was both “The best novelist which this country has, on the whole, produced” and “immeasurably the greatest writer of fiction in America.” It is therefore regrettable that Simms has all but disappeared from reading lists in the United States. Regrettable, but perhaps not surprising, since Simms, born and raised in South Carolina, remained steadfastly loyal to the Confederacy, even in defeat. In the words of scholar David Aiken, William Gilmore Simms was purged from the canon of American literature because of the “unpardonable sin Simms committed when he published an account of Columbia’s destruction in which he dared to deny the North a righteous victory.” Critic Donald Davidson has suggested that, “The neglect of Simms’ stature is nothing less than a scandal when it results . . . in the disappearance of his books from the common market and therefore from the readers’ bookshelf. This is literary murder.”
Some critics find similarities between Simms’ “The Yemassee: A Romance of Carolina” and James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales.
Some quotes from the work of William Gilmore Simms:
“The proverb answers where the sermon fails, as a well-charged pistol will do more execution than a whole barrel of gunpowder idly exploded in the air.”
“Genius is the very eye of intellect and the wing of thought; it is always in advance of its time, and is the pioneer for the generation which it precedes.”
“No errors of opinion can possibly be dangerous in a country where opinion is left free to grapple with them.”
“Neither praise or blame is the object of true criticism. Justly to discriminate, firmly to establish, wisely to prescribe, and honestly to award. These are the true aims and duties of criticism.”
Here is one critic describing the artistry of Roman Zaslonov:
“Roman Zaslonov is one of the most celebrated artists of our time. Born in 1962, he studied for 13 years at the Russian Academy of Fine Arts in Minsk. Upon moving to France, he won instant acclaim (including First Prize at the Salon d’Automne in 1997) and gained a vast international following.
His paintings are stunning — visually, intellectually and emotionally arresting. They are filled with the most fantastic imagination and wit. His work has been variously described as surrealist, fantastical, neo-romantic, theatrical — but it defies categorization. Zaslonov is in a world that is entirely his own.”
From the Music Archives: Eddie Cochran
Died 17 April 1960 – Eddie Cochran, an American musician and songwriter whose songs have been covered by many great bands.
Here is the Artist Statement of Dutch painter Jolanda Richter (born 1971): “I don’t paint fashion-paintings since fashion is fast moving. My art is influenced by the spirit of the age, though ageless. I want to touch the midst of the human-being.”
17 April 1397 – Geoffrey Chaucer reads aloud the “Canterbury Tales” for the first time at the court of Richard II. Chaucer scholars have also identified 17 April 1387 as the date when the book’s pilgrimage to Canterbury begins.
Happily, we can emulate Chaucer in this matter any time we wish:
“Canterbury Tales, General Prologue,” ll. 1-18
Whan that Aprill with his shoures sote°
The droghte° of Marche hath perced to the rote,°
And bathed every veyne° in swich licour,°
Of which vertu° engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus° eek with his swete breeth
Inspired° hath in every holt° and heeth°
The tendre croppes,° and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne;1
And smale fowles° maken melodye,
That slepen al the night with open yë°—
So priketh hem Nature in hir corages2—
Than longen° folk to goon° on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,3
To ferne halwes,° couthe° in sondry londes;
And specially, from every shires ende
Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende,
The holy blisful martir4 for to seke,°
That hem hath holpen,° whan that they were seke.°
If your Middle English is a bit rusty:
When that April with his showers sweet
The drought of March has pierced root deep,
And bathed each vein with liquor of such power
That engendered from it is the flower,
When Zephyrus too with his gentle strife,
To every field and wood, has brought new life
In tender shoots, and the youthful sun
Half his course through the Ram has run,
And little birds are making melody,
Who all the night with open eye do sleep –
Nature their hearts in every way so pricks –
Then people long to go on pilgrimage,
And palmers who seek out foreign strands,
To far-off shrines, renowned in sundry lands;
And specially, from every shire’s end
Of England, down to Canterbury they wend,
The holy blissful martyr there to seek,
Who had aided them when they were sick.
Here is one critic describing the artistry of Australian painter Herbert Badham (1899-1961): “In his own work Badham tended to concentrate on domestic or mundane subjects which he recorded with meticulous detail but which also tend to be imbued with a sense of the uncanny. This busy scene with some of its perspective distorted by mirrors and windows is no exception, as we loose our ability to distinguish between what is real and what is reflection.”
The Pulitzer Prize – Part I of II: Carl Sagan
17 April 1978 – Carl Sagan wins the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction for “The Dragons of Eden.”
“In general, human societies are not innovative. They are hierarchical and ritualistic. Suggestions for change are greeted with suspicion: they imply an unpleasant future variation in ritual and hierarchy: an exchange of one set of rituals for another, or perhaps for a less structured society with fewer rituals. And yet there are times when societies must change.” – from “The Dragons of Eden”
Here is one critic describing the artistry of Thai painter Uab Sanasen (born 1935): “(He) is an artist whose creative vision, whilst not being so esoteric that it renders his work inaccessible, is still pitched far enough ahead to be thought provoking and instrumental in broadening the perspective of his audience.”
The Pulitzer Prize – Part II of II: Larry McMurtry
17 April 1986 – Larry McMurtry wins the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for “Lonesome Dove.”
Here is the Artist Statement of Korean painter Park Min-Joon (born 1971): “The main subjects of my work are three: life, death, and eternity. These three subjects foam a foundation of all my work; each piece of artwork has specifically different stories. Those stories are based on Greek and Roman mythology, religious stories, Egyptian mythology and even the Eastern philosophy. However, I do not limit my thought in a particular philosophy. Actually, my work depicts stories of human beings: the current of time, nation and generation. On the one hand, my work looks more realistic when viewers see it through the lens of a traditional viewpoint. On the other hand, it looks enlightening when one sees it through the lens of a contemporary point of view. My work is located at the borderline between contemporary paintings and traditional paintings. That is I pursue the craftsmanship of great masters of the past while addressing contemporary issues at the same time.”
“The air was cold to the lungs, the long grass dripping wet, and the herbs on it gave out their spiced astringent scent. In a little while on all sides the Cicada would begin to sing. The grass was me, and the air, the distant invisible mountains were me, the tired oxen were me. I breathed with the slight night-wind in the thorn trees.” – Karen von Blixen-Finecke, known by her pen name Isak Dinesen, Danish writer and author of “Out of Africa” and “Seven Gothic Tales,” who was born 17 April 1885.
Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, described it as “a mistake” that Blixen was not awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature during the 1930s.
Some quotes from Isak Dinesen:
“I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.”
“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.”
“To be lonely is a state of mind, something completely other than physical solitude; when modern authors rant about the soul’s intolerable loneliness, it is only proof of their own intolerable emptiness.”
“When in the end, the day came on which I was going away, I learned the strange learning that things can happen which we ourselves cannot possibly imagine, either beforehand, or at the time when they are taking place, or afterwards when we look back on them.”
“Through all the world there goes one long cry from the heart of the artist: Give me leave to do my utmost!”
“What is man, when you come to think upon him, but a minutely set, ingenious machine for turning, with infinite artfulness, the red wine of Shiraz into urine?”
“Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before, how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way, and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever.”
“When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, suddenly the work will finish itself.”
“I think it will be truly glorious when women become real people and have the whole world open to them.”
“I don’t believe in evil, I believe only in horror. In nature there is no evil, only an abundance of horror: the plagues and the blights and the ants and the maggots.”
“Love, with very young people, is a heartless business. We drink at that age from thirst, or to get drunk; it is only later in life that we occupy ourselves with the individuality of our wine.”
A Poem for Today
“Measuring the Distance to Oklahoma,”
By Laura Da’
Driving past Vantage:
damp sign proclaiming ginkgo fossils
and iron sculpture of wild horses on the ridge.
At the turn of the last century,
Cayuse ponies were bred with European draft horses.
A leaner, tougher work animal for the logging fields.
Trumpeter swans stitch
the sallow slab of sky.
Two birds swap point position
to cut the air’s polarity.
Path that pulls the taste
of mixed blood into my mouth.
and I am three weeks pregnant. I drive
and the Columbia loosens
my dad’s easy silence.
He talks about his grandfather:
star musician of the Haskell Indian School Marching Band,
telegraph operator, rodeo cowboy?
Tracking his family across
three states to hunt for big game
dead within a week of my birth;
I am told
he looked at a Polaroid
and proclaimed me an angry little Indian.
Late August in a post-depression labor camp
in the Mojave desert.
My dad was born; he might have been premature,
covered with dark hair and sick enough to die?
Terraced sun shower wading through the cloudbank.
Recollection becomes embrace?
At twenty-nine weeks,
the doctor’s chart advises me—
my child is two and a half pounds, like a Chinese cabbage.
Blinking heavy eyes and fluttering his newly formed lashes.
My hair still damp from swimming laps.
severe headaches, excessive nausea, a change in reflexes.
Feel of the doctor’s hand pushing me back onto the table.
In the hospital, I ask for books.
Posters from old rodeos.
A photo of a Mimbres pot
from southern New Mexico
black and white line figures—
a woman dusting corn pollen over a baby’s head
during a naming ceremony.
with the skins incised with hymns and verses
as a portent against death in childbirth.
injected daily and nightly
in a slow abdominal arc
incising my skin
like a creation spiral; my hope apple.
Say splitting the rails of the body
to lay down a fence
between harm and one’s young.
Terraced sun shower wading through the cloudbank.
My son at ten months
staring calmly at morning stars
during his naming.
The faint trail of corn pollen suspended
in his fine, dark hair.
Below – A Native American woman scoops corn pollen out of a pouch to use in a blessing ceremony.
American Art – Part II of II: Carrie Graber
Here is one critic describing the artistry of painter Carrie Graber (born 1975): “Carrie Graber is considered to be among the most talented, exciting and well-collected artists in the world today. With her warm tones and exquisite control of illumination creating a perfect composition of light and contrast, Carrie captures the beauty and subtlety of familiar environments, which are often overlooked. Her soft, realistic but also bold approach warms the viewers’ senses and creates a feeling of intimacy. This is the link between Carrie and one of her main influences, Dutch master painter Vermeer.
Carrie Graber has always been fascinated with the human figure.
Scholars and experts from several different institutions have predicted that as our aesthetics evolve, art will become less reliant on overt color, and come to depend more on the subtle interplay of light and shadow. Ms. Graber’s work is perfectly suited for the new millennium.”