American Art – Part I of IV: Sarah Miriam Peale
Died 19 May 1900 – Sarah Miriam Peale, an American portrait painter.
“And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky,
Whereunder crawling coop’t we live and die,
Lift not thy hands to It for help—for It
Rolls impotently on as Thou or I.” – From “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam” (Edward Fitzgerald translation), by Omar Khayyam, Persian poet, philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer, who was born 18 May 1048.
A few more verses from the great poem:
“A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread–and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness–
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!”
“Some for the glories of this world; and some
Sigh for The Prophet’s Paradise to come;
Ah, take the cash and let the credit go,
Nor heed the rumble of a distant drum.”
“The Moving Finger writes: and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”
Above – A bust Of Omar Khayyam in Nishapur, Iran.
Below – The Edward Fitzgerald translation of the “Rubaiyat.”
American Art – Part II of IV: Mathew Brady
Born 18 May 1822 – Mathew Brady, one of the first American photographers, best known for his scenes of the Civil War.
Above – Mathew Brady in 1875.
Below – Portrait of President Lincoln; Portrait of Walt Whitman; Portrait of Frederick Douglass; Portrait of Robert E. Lee (taken just days after the surrender at Appomattox); Portrait of General George Armstrong Custer; Antietam; Cold Harbor; General Grant at Cold Harbor; Chickamauga; Gettysburg – Three Captured Confederate Soldiers.
“Ah, what a dusty answer gets the soul
When hot for certainties in this our life!” – George Meredith, English novelist, poet, and author of “The Egoist,” who died 18 May 1909.
“Dirge in Woods*
A wind sways the pines,
Not a breath of wild air;
Still as the mosses that glow
On the flooring and over the lines
Of the roots here and there.
The pine-tree drops its dead;
They are quiet, as under the sea.
Rushes life in a race,
As the clouds the clouds chase;
And we go,
And we drop like the fruits of the tree,
In the words of one writer, “Ukrainian artist Denis Chernov (born 1978) regularly participates in exhibitions both in Ukraine and abroad, and many of his paintings are in private collections in Ukraine, Russia, Italy, England, Spain, Greece, France, the United States, Canada, and Japan.”
“These days, what isn’t worth saying is sung.” – Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, French musician, playwright, satirist, and revolutionary, who died 18 May 1799, making an observation that is decidedly apt for our time.
A few quotes from Beaumarchais:
“I quickly laugh at everything for fear of having to cry.”
“Where love is concerned, too much is never enough.”
“It is not necessary to understand things in order to argue about them.”
“Drinking when we are not thirsty and making love at all seasons, madam: that is all there is to distinguish us from other animals.”
In the words of one writer, “Alexander Novoselov was born in Leningrad, Russia. He studied at the N.K. Roerich Art College from 1995-2000. From 2001-2007 he studied at the Repin Academy in St.Petersburg where he graduated from the studio of renowned Professor Andrei A. Mylnikov in monumental painting, which included training in mural painting, fresco, mosaic, and sgraffitto. During his studies he was awarded medals, including the Gold Medal of the Russian Academy of Art, and was honored as ‘Best Graduate of 2007’ of the Russian Academy of Art. In 2008, Alexander was accepted as a member of the Union of Artists of Russia.”
“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne, American novelist, short story writer, and author of “The Scarlet Letter,” who died 19 May 1864.
Some quotes from Nathaniel Hawthorne:
“It contributes greatly towards a man’s moral and intellectual health, to be brought into habits of companionship with individuals unlike himself, who care little for his pursuits, and whose sphere and abilities he must go out of himself to appreciate.”
“No man for any considerable period can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.”
“We must not always talk in the market-place of what happens to us in the forest.”
“Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”
“Every individual has a place to fill in the world and is important in some respect whether he chooses to be so or not.”
“Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.”
“Love, whether newly born, or aroused from a deathlike slumber, must always create sunshine, filling the heart so full of radiance, that it overflows upon the outward world.”
“Religion and art spring from the same root and are close kin. Economics and art are strangers.”
“Nobody, I think, ought to read poetry, or look at pictures or statues, who cannot find a great deal more in them than the poet or artist has actually expressed. Their highest merit is suggestiveness.”
“Selfishness is one of the qualities apt to inspire love.”
“The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognized it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison.”
“A hero cannot be a hero unless in a heroic world.”
“Life is made up of marble and mud.”
“The world owes all its onward impulses to men ill at ease. The happy man inevitably confines himself within ancient limits.”
“You can get assent to almost any proposition so long as you are not going to do anything about it.”
“Mountains are earth’s undecaying monuments.:
“Sunlight is painting.”
“Moonlight is sculpture.”
18 May 1897 – Bram Stoker publishes “Dracula,” and thirty-four years later, the novel finds its perfect cinematic expression.
“To my embarrassment, I was born in bed with a lady.” – Wilson Mizner, American playwright and entrepreneur, who
was born 18 May 1876.
Some quotes from Wilson Mizner:
“Be nice to people on your way up because you’ll meet them on your way down.”
“Don’t talk about yourself; it will be done when you leave.”
“Gambling: The sure way of getting nothing for something.”
“God help those who do not help themselves.”
“If you steal from one author it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many it’s research.”
“There is something about a closet that makes a skeleton terribly restless.”
“I hate careless flattery, the kind that exhausts you in your efforts to believe it.”
“Art is science made clear.”
“A fellow who is always declaring he’s no fool usually has his suspicions.”
“A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while, he knows something.”
“To profit from good advice requires more wisdom than to give it.”
“I respect faith, but doubt is what gives you an education.”
“I can usually judge a fellow by what he laughs at.”
“In the battle of existence, Talent is the punch; Tact is the clever footwork.”
“Life’s a tough proposition, and the first hundred years are the hardest.”
“Do not be desirous of having things done quickly. Do not look at small advantages. Desire to have things done quickly prevents their being done thoroughly. Looking at small advantages prevents great affairs from being accomplished.”
“Hollywood is a sewer with service from the Ritz Carlton.”
“The difference between chirping out of turn and a faux pas depends on what kind of a bar you’re in.”
“Those who welcome death have only tried it from the ears up.”
“If you count all your assets you always show a profit.”
American Art – Part III of IV: Dan Beck
According to Dan Beck, painting is “a balancing act between opposite ideas – direct observation and instinct, control and spontaneity, even between the literal and the symbolic. It seems to me that although a painter is deeply involved with his own private investigation, his real aim is to communicate something that only the person looking at the painting really understands.”
“You see I am very stupid. I don’t understand or talk well. I take it easy every day. I am like an idiot. Be like this every day, and then you’ll look young.” – Chow Yun-Fat, Hong Kong actor, who was born 19 May 1955, waxing philosophical.
Chow Yun-Fat is justifiably praised for his roles in films such as “The Killer,” “Hard Boiled,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” and “The Replacement Killers,” but his greatest performance to date is inarguably as the Monk With No Name in “Bulletproof Monk.” In fact, this film has almost everything requisite to qualify for cinematic greatness: a plot nearly Shakespearean in its complexity, a deeply spiritual theme, emotionally nuanced characters played by vastly talented actors, and weapons – lots of weapons – as well as a flock of cranes. And a bulletproof monk.
Three quotes from “Bulletproof Monk” (feel free to meditate on them, Grasshopper):
Monk With No Name: “Why do hot dogs come in packages of ten, but hot dog buns only come in packages of just eight?”
Monk With No Name: “An enlightened man would offer a weary traveler a bed for the night, and invite him to share a quiet conversation over a bowl of Cocoa Puffs.”
Monk With No Name: “Water which is too pure has no fish.”
Nobel Laureate: Bertrand Russell
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.” Bertrand Russell, British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic, who was born on 18 May 1872.
When Russell won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1950, it was, in the Nobel Committee’s words, “in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought.” Russell spent the majority of his career defending individuals from pernicious threats to their political, social, moral, and intellectual liberty, including Nazism, Stalinist totalitarianism, the Vietnam War, the nuclear arms race, and organized religion.
Some quotes from the work of Bertrand Russell:
“Democracy is the process by which people choose the man who’ll get the blame.”
“Dogmatism and skepticism are both, in a sense, absolute philosophies; one is certain of knowing, the other of not knowing. What philosophy should dissipate is certainty, whether of knowledge or ignorance.”
“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.”
“I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its Churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.”
“I think we ought always to entertain our opinions with some measure of doubt. I shouldn’t wish people dogmatically to believe any philosophy, not even mine.”
“I’ve made an odd discovery. Every time I talk to a savant I feel quite sure that happiness is no longer a possibility. Yet when I talk with my gardener, I’m convinced of the opposite.”
“If there were in the world today any large number of people who desired their own happiness more than they desired the unhappiness of others, we could have a paradise in a few years.”
“What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite.”
“In America everybody is of the opinion that he has no social superiors, since all men are equal, but he does not admit that he has no social inferiors, for, from the time of Jefferson onward, the doctrine that all men are equal applies only upwards, not downwards.”
“The secret to happiness is to face the fact that the world is horrible.”
“Why is propaganda so much more successful when it stirs up hatred than when it tries to stir up friendly feeling?”
“Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.”
“It is possible that mankind is on the threshold of a golden age; but, if so, it will be necessary first to slay the dragon that guards the door, and this dragon is religion.”
From the American History Archives: Mount St. Helens
18 May 1980 – Mount St. Helens erupts, resulting in the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States.
Here is one writer describing the artistry of Chinese painter and printmaker Zhang LiuFeng: “Mr. Zhang Liufeng’s art works are characterized by a very distinctive style. These lithographs have an atmosphere of their own. The people that are shown look so real but somehow lost and left alone. For many people, these images cannot be interpreted, but they have a mesmerizing charm that is hard to describe.”
A Poem for Today
C. D. Wright:
“Everything Good between Men and Women”
has been written in mud and butter
and barbecue sauce. The walls and
the floors used to be gorgeous.
The socks off-white and a near match.
The quince with fire blight
but we get two pints of jelly
in the end. Long walks strengthen
the back. You with a fever blister
and myself with a sty. Eyes
have we and we are forever prey
to each other’s teeth. The torrents
go over us. Thunder has not harmed
anyone we know. The river coursing
through us is dirty and deep. The left
hand protects the rhythm. Watch
your head. No fires should be
unattended. Especially when wind. Each
receives a free swiss army knife.
The first few tongues are clearly
preparatory. The impression
made by yours I carry to my grave. It is
just so sad so creepy so beautiful.
Bless it. We have so little time
to learn, so much… The river
courses dirty and deep. Cover the lettuce.
Call it a night. O soul. Flow on. Instead.
American Art – Part IV of IV: Akio Takamori
In the words of one writer, “Akio Takamori’s ceramic sculptures evoke an eerie sense of reality and presence. Often drawn from childhood memories of small-village life in Japan, his standing and sleeping figures depict ordinary people going about their day-to-day existence.”
Takamori was born in 1950 in Nobeoka, Miyazaki, Japan. He studied art at Masashino Art College, Tokyo, before moving to the U.S. in 1974. He received a BFA at the Kansas City Art Institute in 1976 and an MFA at Alfred University in New York in 1978. Since 1993 he has been a faculty member in the University of Washington School of Art.