American Art – Part I of V: Mark Rothko
“Life is a series of collisions with the future; it is not the sum of what we have been, but what we yearn to be.” – Jose Ortega y Gasset, Spanish philosopher, essayist, and author of “The Revolt of the Masses,” who was born 9 May 1883.
Some quotes from the work of Jose Ortega y Gasset:
“Our firmest convictions are apt to be the most suspect; they mark our limitations and our bounds. Life is a petty thing unless it is moved by the indomitable urge to extend its boundaries.”
“Tell me what you pay attention to and I will tell you who you are.”
“The type of human being we prefer reveals the contours of our heart.”
“Living is a constant process of deciding what we are going to do.”
“Romantic poses aside, let us recognize that ‘falling in love’ is an inferior state of mind, a form of transitory imbecility.”
“Tragedy in the theater opens our eyes so that we can discover and appreciate the heroic in reality.”
“The characteristic note of our time is the dire truth that, the mediocre soul, the commonplace mind, knowing itself to be mediocre, has the gall to assert its right to mediocrity, and goes on to impose itself where it can.”
“The poet begins where the man ends. The man’s lot is to live his human life, the poet’s to invent what is nonexistent.”
“We fall in love when our imagination projects nonexistent perfection upon another person. One day, the fantasy evaporates and with it, love dies.”
“Every life is, more or less, a ruin among whose debris we have to discover what the person ought to have been.”
“Just because of its promise of unlimited possibilities, technology is an empty form like the most formalistic logic and is unable to determine the content of life. That is why our time, being the most intensely technical, is also the emptiest in all human history.”
“To be surprised, to wonder, is to begin to understand.”
From the Music Archives – Part I of III: Dieterich Buxtehude
Died 9 May 1707 – Dieterich Buxtehude, a Danish-German organist and composer during the Baroque period.
From the Music Archives – Part II of III: Peter and Gordon
9 May 1964 – Peter and Gordon release their hit song “A World Without Love.”
From the Music Archives – Part III of III: Billy Joel
Born 9 May 1949 – Billy Joel, an American pianist, singer-songwriter, and composer.
I apologize for the song choice, but Jack, my Border Collie, insisted on it.
Japanese fine art photographer Kiyo Murakami (born 1976) employs photo-manipulation to create fantasy worlds.
“One can only really travel if one lets oneself go and takes what every place brings without trying to turn it into a healthy private pattern of one’s own, and I suppose that is the difference between travel and tourism.” – Dame Freya Madeline Stark, British explorer, travel writer, and author of more than two dozen books on her travels in the Middle East and Afghanistan, who died 9 May 1903.
I had the pleasure of meeting some of Dame Stark’s heirs while on a trek with students in Ladakh, India. On the penultimate day of our journey through the Markha Valley, we camped in a field near a small tea hut just below a 17,000’ pass we were to cross the next morning. I awoke the next morning to find that sometime during the night a British Women’s Walking Society had arrived in our campsite, and its plucky members were busily cataloguing flowers and birds in the thin light of dawn. These estimable ladies, most of whom were in their mid-fifties, had negotiated in darkness a testing climb that we were to find sufficiently challenging in daylight, when, after topping the pass, we descended along narrow, mud-slick pathways, stepped gingerly through treacherous boulder fields, and crossed a flood-swollen stream multiple times. Dame Stark would have been proud of these intrepid women.
A few quotes from the work of Dame Freya Madeline Stark:
“Few are the giants of the soul who actually feel that the human race is their family circle.”
“It is only the amateur [gardener] like myself who becomes obsessed and rejoices with a sadistic pleasure in weeds that are big and bad enough to pull, and at last, almost forgetting the flowers altogether, turns into a Reformer.”
“There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do.”
“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.”
“Love of learning is a pleasant and universal bond, since it deals with what one is and not what one has.”
“The great and almost only comfort about being a woman is that one can always pretend to be more stupid than one is and no one is surprised.”
“The most ominous of fallacies – the belief that things can be kept static by inaction.”
Russian artist Valery Sidorov (born 1956) has spent time studying and working in the United States and Greece. His paintings are in private collections in Russia, Italy, England, and Spain.
British Art – Part I of II: Eric Rimmington
In the words of one critic, English painter Eric Rimmington (born 1926) is “both one of the country’s most distinguished exponents in the field of still life and one of the most particular and distinctive.”
“We started off trying to set up a small anarchist community, but people wouldn’t obey the rules.” – Alan Bennett, English playwright, screenwriter, actor, author, and writer and performer in the satirical review “Beyond the Fringe,” who was born 9 May 1934.
Some quotes from Alan Bennett:
“I’m all in favour of free expression provided it’s kept rigidly under control.”
“Were we closer to the ground as children, or is the grass emptier now?”
“Children always assume the sexual lives of their parents come to a grinding halt at their conception.”
“Definition of a classic: a book everyone is assumed to have read and often thinks they have.”
“If you think squash is a competitive activity, try flower arranging.”
“I’ve never seen the point of the sea, except where it meets the land. The shore has a point. The sea has none.”
“Life is generally something that happens elsewhere.”
“Life is like a box of sardines and we are all looking for the key.”
“Those who have known the famous are publicly debriefed of their memories, knowing as their own dusk falls that they will only be remembered for remembering someone else.”
“Your whole life is on the other side of the glass. And there is nobody watching.”
British Art – Part II of II: Saied Dai
Artist Statement: “Portraiture can be considered to be the most complex of the visual idioms, both structurally and psychologically and consequently the most fascinating, as one is dealing with humanity itself or in mirror reflection, ourselves. It is also a microcosm in which one can explore almost all the problems of drawing and painting.”
Pulitzer Prize- Part I of III: Charles Simic
“Insomnia is an all-night travel agency with posters advertising faraway places.” – Charles Simic, Serbian-American poet and recipient of the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (for “The World Doesn’t End”), who was born 9 May 1938.
It seemed the kind of life we wanted.
Wild strawberries and cream in the morning.
Sunlight in every room.
The two of us walking by the sea naked.
Some evenings, however, we found ourselves
Unsure of what comes next.
Like tragic actors in a theater on fire,
With birds circling over our heads,
The dark pines strangely still,
Each rock we stepped on bloodied by the sunset.
We were back on our terrace sipping wine.
Why always this hint of an unhappy ending?
Clouds of almost human appearance
Gathering on the horizon, but the rest lovely
With the air so mild and the sea untroubled.
Dutch Art – Part I of II: Heinrich Campendonk
Died 9 May 1957 – Heinrich Campendonk, a German-born Dutch painter.
Pulitzer Prize – Part II Of III: Mona Van Duyn
“The world’s perverse, but it could be worse.” – Mona Van Duyn, American poet and recipient of the 1971 National Book Award (for “To See, To Take”) and the 1991 Pulitzer Prize (for “Near Changes”), who was born 9 May 1921.
“Earth Tremors Felt in Missouri”
The quake last night was nothing personal,
you told me this morning. I think one always wonders,
unless, of course, something is visible: tremors
that take us, private and willy-nilly, are usual.
But the earth said last night that what I feel,
you feel; what secretly moves you, moves me.
One small, sensuous catastrophe
makes inklings letters, spelled in a worldly tremble.
The earth, with others on it, turns in its course
as we turn toward each other, less than ourselves, gross,
mindless, more than we were. Pebbles, we swell
to planets, nearing the universal roll,
in our conceit even comprehending the sun,
whose bright ordeal leaves cool men woebegone.
Dutch Art – Part II of II: Jeroen Sebastian Buitenman
Here is the Artist Statement of self-taught Dutch painter Jeroen Sebastian Buitenman (born 1973): “I search for the representation for feeling, love and religion. I strive for euphoria. It would be wonderful to be able to paint like the sounds of the violin. Surrealism lets you tell a tale in a synthetic way, to reach a mythological level of art in painting.”
Pulitzer Prize – Part III of III: Jorie Graham
“This is freedom. This is the force of faith. Nobody gets what they want. Never again are you the same. The longing is to be pure. What you get is to be changed.” – Jorie Graham, American poet and recipient of the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (for “The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994”), who was born 9 May 1950.
“Act III, Sc. 2”
Look she said this is not the distance
we wanted to stay at—We wanted to get
close, very close. But what
is the way in again? And is it
too late? She could hear the actions
rushing past—but they are on
another track. And in the silence,
or whatever it is that follows,
there was still the buzzing: motes, spores,
aftereffects and whatnot recalled the morning after.
Then the thickness you can’t get past called waiting.
Then the you, whoever you are, peering down to see if it’s
Then just the look on things being looked-at.
Then just the look of things being seen.
American Art – Part II of V: Fongwei Liu
Artist Statement: “I draw inspirations for my art from nature. The subject matter is not important to me. I enjoy capturing all the beauty surrounding us, such as autumn colors, white snowy scenes, foggy cities, people’s emotion, and the expressive human bodies.
My creative process is also an intuitive response to the power of nature. When something touches me, a picture takes shape in my mind and formed an idea or concept, and then I experiment with various techniques to visualize the idea. Thus, I believe that every stroke in my paintings comes from my mind, flows through my hand to reach my canvas. It is my language to tell stories.
As an artist, I incessantly improve my skills and make them become my second nature because I believe that better techniques produce better paintings.”
Fongwei Liu has an MFA from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where he is an art instructor.
Died 9 May 1986 – Tenzing Norgay, a Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer and, with Edmund Hillary, one of the first two individuals known to have reached the summit of Mount Everest (on 29 May 1953).
American Art – Part III of V: Mark Bullen
Artist Statement: “As a visual artist, I express myself in pictures, not in words. My paintings are a metaphor for the life I see and feel around me. Hopefully, my work speaks to viewers in ways I never imagined.”
From the American Old West: Buffalo Bill Cody
1887 – Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show opens in London, giving Queen Victoria and her subjects their first look at “real” cowboys and Indians.
Above – Buffalo Bill in London.
American Art – Part IV of V: Mary Scheier
Born 9 May 1908 – Mary Scheier, an American ceramist, and the wife and artistic partner of Edwin Scheier.
A Poem for Today
“Sonnet: On Being Cautioned Against Walking on an Headland Overlooking the Sea, Because It Was Frequented by a Lunatic,”
By Charlotte Smith
Is there a solitary wretch who hies
To the tall cliff, with starting pace or slow,
And, measuring, views with wild and hollow eyes
Its distance from the waves that chide below;
Who, as the sea-born gale with frequent sighs
Chills his cold bed upon the mountain turf,
With hoarse, half-uttered lamentation, lies
Murmuring responses to the dashing surf?
In moody sadness, on the giddy brink,
I see him more with envy than with fear;
He has no nice felicities that shrink
From giant horrors; wildly wandering here,
He seems (uncursed with reason) not to know
The depth or the duration of his woe.
Note: In the words of one writer, “Charlotte Smith wrote ‘Elegiac Sonnets’ in 1783 while she was in debtor’s prison with her husband and children. William Wordsworth identified her as an important influence on the Romantic movement. She published several longer works that celebrated the individual while deploring social injustice and the British class system.”
American Art – Part V of V: William Hung
Here is one critic describing the artistry of China-born painter William Hung (born 1928): “(His) works display a profound knowledge of the traditions and techniques of both East and West. In harmony of composition and precision of execution, they reflect the restraint and refinement of the Chinese tradition. In the use of gauzy layers of color to build images from flakes of light, he recalls the 19th century French artists, while his subjects are often reminiscent of classical sources. Extraordinarily gifted and thoroughly schooled, he produces exquisitely sensitive, intellectually provocative, and delicately rendered portraits and nudes.”