American Art – Part I of VII: Jason Sacran
Painter Jason Sacran was the curator for the Fort Smith Art Center for three years. Since 2009, he has been a part-time instructor for the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. Here is his Artist Statement: “In general, my work is largely about documenting today. Everything has a history, and history is made now. I am interested in exploring subjects that evoke a mood or feeling introspectively, mostly dealing with forgotten and/or overlooked aspects of everyday life. These subjects carry a bitter-sweetness and tranquility to which I am drawn – a scene we pass by every day, a person we know very well, and objects we often use, but we hardly ever think twice about. In the chaos of daily life, I believe we all take the simple and familiar things for granted. Sometimes, they are the very things we come to miss.”
The Pulitzer Prize – Part I of III: Thornton Wilder
7 May 1928 – The Pulitzer Prize is awarded to Thornton Wilder for “The Bridge of San Luis Rey.”
American Art – Part II of VII: Rene Lynch
Artist Statement: “My intention is to evoke the heightened awareness of a dream world and a connectedness to all of life’s hidden mysteries. My imagery is an invitation into the secret and essential poetry of being human with all its attended anxieties joys and hopes. Referencing personal memory, art history and fairy tales I hope for an open-ended subjective response from viewers. Studio modeling sessions, photography from my travels and nature lead to imagined, collaged scenarios, and then the final distilled painted images.
My work explores that period of puberty that embodies pure spirit and an inchoate knowledge of power and vulnerability, when a child begins to break free and desires, like Alice in Wonderland, to see what is beyond the looking glass.
My images depict the blurred boundary dividing innocence and experience, and provide an intense examination of that nexus where childish fantasy collides with a growing realization of the body, of sexuality and its power. That cusp in life between the unselfconscious exuberance of childhood, and adulthood with its inevitable series of responsibilities and regrets. In that middle period the individual’s savage, reckless, and extravagant traits are not yet tamed, before they are enculturated to society’s expectations and limits. The adolescent’s instincts are honed and sharp. There is a certain honesty to this time in life when intuitive nature is ascendant and the true nature with its raw emotions and untapped and confusing desires are on the surface. I am fascinated at how the body of a young teen reveals its inner vulnerability by the awkward turn of the shoulders, the inward turn of the foot or the expression on the lip. Smoothly worked with a glowing translucence, my watercolor and oil paintings are composed in a large empty field stripped of all that is superfluous, and in this way the central figure becomes iconic.”
The Pulitzer Prize – Part II of III: Eudora Welty
7 May 1973 – The Pulitzer Prize is awarded to Eudora Welty for “The Optimist’s Daughter.”
“And perhaps it didn’t matter to them, not always, what they read aloud; it was the breath of life flowing between them, and the words of the moment riding on it that held them in delight. Between some two people every word is beautiful, or might as well be beautiful.” – From “The Optimist’s Daughter”
American Art – Part III of VII: Joe O’Donnell
Born 7 May 1922 – Joe O’Donnell, an American photographer and journalist. In the words of one historian, “(He was) an American documentarian, photojournalist and a photographer for the United States Information Agency. Born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, his most famous work was documenting photographically the immediate aftermath of the atomic bomb explosions at Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945 and 1946 as a Marine photographer.”
The Pulitzer Prize – Part III of III: Robert Lowell
7 May 1974 – The Pulitzer Prize for Poetry is awarded to Robert Lowell for “The Dolphin.”
My Dolphin, you only guide me by surprise,
a captive as Racine, the man of craft,
drawn through his maze of iron composition
by the incomparable wandering voice of Phèdre.
When I was troubled in mind, you made for my body
caught in its hangman’s-knot of sinking lines,
the glassy bowing and scraping of my will. . . .
I have sat and listened to too many
words of the collaborating muse,
and plotted perhaps too freely with my life,
not avoiding injury to others,
not avoiding injury to myself–
to ask compassion . . . this book, half fiction,
an eelnet made by man for the eel fighting
American Art – Part IV of VII: Karen Noles
Painter Karen Noles spent nearly twenty years working as an illustrator for the Hallmark Card Company, but her lifework changed dramatically when she moved to Northwest Montana and spent the next thirty-five years living on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Here she raised her family and devoted herself to painting Native Americans, especially children.
7 May 1718 – The Founding of New Orleans
In the words of one historian, “La Nouvelle-Orléans (New Orleans) was founded May 7, 1718, by the French Mississippi Company, under the direction of Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, on land inhabited by the Chitimacha. It was named for Philippe d’Orléans, Duke of Orléans, who was Regent of the Kingdom of France at the time. His title came from the French city of Orléans.”
Canadian Art – Part I of II: Tara Juneau
Artist Statement: “Art is my passion in life. Through painting I try to express the power that light and beauty have on my soul. I am always striving to know more – not only how to paint but also learning about what I paint. There is beauty and natural order in everything and I hope that through my work I can reveal that truth to others.”
Canadian Art – Part II of II: Joanne Tod
Artist Statement: “In realist painting, quality is assessed by the degree to which a depicted image resembles the model. This tradition is fundamental to the discipline of drawing. It is also a habit that has resulted in a deeply rooted consensus regarding what constitutes quality. Realism is a genre that conflates quality with accuracy, implying an absolute standard to which the work is held.
Yet paradoxically, when it comes to realist painting, the innocent pleasure associated with suspension-of-disbelief and the sensation of being-there, is just as firmly established in our collective consciousness. The notion of images having phenomenological attraction based on the seductive quality of illusory space is compelling.”
7 May 1763 – Pontiac’s War begins when Pontiac attempts to seize Fort Detroit from the British. In the words of one historian, “Pontiac’s War, Pontiac’s Conspiracy, or Pontiac’s Rebellion was a war that was launched in 1763 by a loose confederation of elements of Native American tribes primarily from the Great Lakes region, the Illinois Country, and Ohio Country who were dissatisfied with British postwar policies in the Great Lakes region after the British victory in the French and Indian War (1754–1763). Warriors from numerous tribes joined the uprising in an effort to drive British soldiers and settlers out of the region. The war is named after the Ottawa leader Pontiac, the most prominent of many native leaders in the conflict.”
Above – Artistic interpretation of Chief Pontiac painted by John Mix Stanley (1814-1872).
Below – In a famous council on April 28, 1763, Pontiac urged listeners to rise up against the British. (19th-century engraving by Alfred Bobbet).
American Art – Part V of VII: Erika Craig
Artist Statement: “I paint figures underwater, immersing my subjects in their surroundings. A person’s reflection in water is a constantly changing self, a distorted image with many sides. Near the surface, the familiar blends into the unknown. Color and shape break down. Things that seem separate become entwined.
Water is the source of life, bodily and spiritual renewal. It represents both life and death, existing in the same place as a continuation. It is the place of origins, and a place inside ourselves where we go to find peace. Making up most of the Earth and most of our bodies, it is the connectedness of things.
I occupy the world below the surface, the subconscious, a place of intuition and dreams. The vague ideas and emotions that don’t quite fit into words. I marvel at the world above the surface, past the limits of our perception. The unseen and unexplained, mysteries beyond our human reach. Reality is deep and complex. The more we delve and search, the more astounding layers we find. Yet in supreme chaos I see universal order. From galaxies to subatomic particles, the curve of a leaf and the human brain.
I prefer the organic to the mechanized, natural to manmade, timeless to modern. In nature, I see the essence of truth and beauty. As people disconnect from nature, they lose a vital understanding. We become preoccupied with the mundane, obsessed with tiny details of our daily lives, restless and struggling for meaning. Forgetting how small we are and how little we control. How strange it is to even exist.”
From the Music Archives – Part I of V: Ludwig van Beethoven
7 May 1824 – Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony premieres in Vienna. Michael Umlauf was the conductor, with Beethoven acting as his supervisor.
German Art – Part I of II: Caspar David Friedrich
Died 7 May 1840 – Caspar David Friedrich, a German Romantic landscape painter and one of the most important and influential artists of his day. In the words of one historian, “He is best known for his mid-period allegorical landscapes which typically feature contemplative figures silhouetted against night skies, morning mists, barren trees or Gothic ruins. His primary interest as an artist was the contemplation of nature, and his often symbolic and anti-classical work seeks to convey a subjective, emotional response to the natural world. Friedrich’s paintings characteristically set a human presence in diminished perspective amid expansive landscapes, reducing the figures to a scale that, according to the art historian Christopher John Murray, directs ‘the viewer’s gaze towards their metaphysical dimension.’”
Below – “Wanderer above the Sea of Fog”; “Chalk Cliffs on Rugen”; “The Abbey in the Oakwood”; “The Sea of Ice”; “Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon”; “Memories of the Giant Mountains”; “Seashore by Moonlight.”
From the Music Archives – Part II of V: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
“I sit down to the piano regularly at nine-o’clock in the morning and Mesdames les Muses have learned to be on time for that rendezvous.” – Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Russian composer, who was born 7 May 1840.
German Art – Part II of II: Kurt Mair
From the Music Archives – Part III of V: Glenn Miller
7 May 1941 – Glenn Miller records “Chattanooga Choo Choo” on RCA Victor’s Bluebird label, and by the following February it had become the first certified gold label, with sales of 1,200,000.
Romanian Art – Part I of II: Serban Savu
Here is one critic describing the artistry of Romanian painter Serban Savu: “Serban Savu is a figurative painter. His skillfully rendered canvases capture the daily existence of contemporary Romanians at work and leisure. Savu treats his protagonists’ facial characteristics in a generic manner, causing their individual identities to remain elusive. Interior scenes depict people unaware of our gaze and absorbed in their own worlds, viewed through glass and embedded in compositions governed by architectural features. Exterior rural landscapes often portray solitary figures in the middle-distance, isolated and overwhelmed.”
From the Music Archives – Part IV of V: The Mamas and the Papas
7 May 1966 – The Mamas and the Papas’ song “Monday Monday” reaches number one on American popular music charts.
Romanian Art – Part II of II: Dan Voinea
Here is one critic describing the artistry of Romanian painter Dan Voinea: “A momentary rise of reason constitutes a deliberated exercise in sanity and the absurd in the realm of the surreal. By means of basic, sparse compositions and frugal coloring, the artworks depict every-day stereotypes in which the strange detail contaminates the apparent reality with the absurd. The logic commands a reading from right to left, while the suggested substance of the story is no longer the foundation of the whole, but merely a guilty last brush- stroke, the author’s unconditioned reflex.
Time is suspended, the characters are ageless, the backdrop minimal. Light itself hesitates between flooding the overexposed frame or whimsically set itself upon the shapes. The imperfectly square frames gather the characters into the center of a setting described more out of weakness for the real than for stylistic reasons.”
From the Music Archives – Part V of V: The Beatles
7 May 1970 – “The Long and Winding Road” becomes the last single released by the Beatles in the United States. It reached number one on American popular music charts on 13 June 1970.
7 May 1974 – The stolen painting “Guitar Player,” by Jan Vermeer, is recovered in London after having been missing for nearly three months.
Art Theft – Part II of II: Munch
7 May 1994 – The stolen painting “The Scream,” by Edvard Munch, is recovered in Norway after having been missing for three months.
7 May 1915 – German submarine U-20 sinks RMS Lusitania, killing 1,198 people, including 128 Americans. In the words of one historian, “The sinking turned public opinion in many countries against Germany, contributed to the American entry into World War I and became an iconic symbol in military recruiting campaigns of why the war was being fought.”
“The general consensus seems to be that I don’t act at all.” – Gary Cooper, American actor, who was born 7 May 1901.
Despite the “general consensus,” Gary Cooper won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in “High Noon.”
“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” – Robert Browning, English poet and dramatist best known for his mastery of dramatic monologues, who was born 7 May 1812.
“Home-Thoughts, from Abroad”
Oh, to be in England
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops—at the bent spray’s edge—
That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children’s dower
—Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!
7 May 1986 – Canadian photographer and mountaineer Patrick Morrow becomes the first person to climb each of the Seven Summits – the highest peaks of all seven continents: Mount McKinley in North America (1977), Aconcagua (22,837 ft) in South America (1981), Mount Everest (29,029 ft) in Asia (1982), Elbrus (18,510 ft) in Europe (1983), Mount Kilimanjaro (19,341 ft) in Africa (1983), Vinson Massif (16,050 ft) in Antarctica (1985), and Puncak Jaya (16,024 ft) in Indonesia (1986).
American Art – Part VI of VII: Louie Metz
Here is one critic describing the artistry of painter Louie Metz: “The sometimes disturbing, always intriguing, figurative oil paintings of Louie Metz juxtapose flawless technical detail with a raw, emotionally charged stimulus. An urbane and unique perspective tempers the work, fusing old world classicism onto an outsider art aesthetic. Sensual, confrontational nudes with emaciated souls recline and hesitate in the foreground of plush, photo-realistic landscapes or darkly psychological tableaus.”
A Poem for Today
“The Evening of the Mind,”
By Donald Justice
Now comes the evening of the mind.
Here are the fireflies twitching in the blood;
Here is the shadow moving down the page
Where you sit reading by the garden wall.
Now the dwarf peach trees, nailed to their trellises,
Shudder and droop. Your know their voices now,
Faintly the martyred peaches crying out
Your name, the name nobody knows but you.
It is the aura and the coming on.
It is the thing descending, circling, here.
And now it puts a claw out and you take it.
Thankfully in your lap you take it, so.
You said you would not go away again,
You did not want to go away—and yet,
It is as if you stood out on the dock
Watching a little boat drift out
Beyond the sawgrass shallows, the dead fish …
And you were in it, skimming past old snags,
Beyond, beyond, under a brazen sky
As soundless as a gong before it’s struck—
Suspended how?—and now they strike it, now
The ether dream of five-years-old repeats, repeats,
And you must wake again to your own blood
And empty spaces in the throat.
American Art – Part VII of VII: Warren Chang
Artist Statement: “My primary goal in painting the figure in interior is to capture an ambiance of mood and emotion through manipulation of light and space. I accomplish this working with a limited palette with emphasis on grays and browns along with the observation of close value relationships.
Much of my interior subjects are biographical in nature depicting my studio and classroom environment. I find an artist’s environment to be rich in character, including the people who inhabit the environment- the artists and models.”