May Offerings – Part XXII: Something to Delight both Head and Heart

American Art – Part I of VI: Mary Cassatt

“I doubt if you know the effort it is to paint! The concentration it requires, to compose your picture, the difficulty of posing the models, of choosing the color scheme, of expressing the sentiment and telling your story! The trying and trying again and again and oh, the failures, when you have to begin all over again! The long months spent in effort upon effort, making sketch after sketch. Oh, my dear! No one but those who have painted a picture know what it costs in time and strength!” – Mary Cassatt, American painter and printmaker, who was born 22 May 1844.

Below – “Self-Portrait”; “The Boating Party”; “Cup of Tea”; “Summertime”; “Lydia Leaning on Her Arms”; “Young Woman in Green, Outdoors in the Sun.”
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“To me art is a form of manifest revolt, total and complete.” – Jean Tinguely, Swiss painter and sculptor best known for his kinetic art satirizing the mindless overproduction of material goods in advanced industrial society, who was born 22 May 1925.

Below – “Meta Harmony IV – Fatamorgana”; “”Heureka”; “Baluba III.”
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“To err is human; to loaf, Parisian.” – Victor Hugo, French poet, novelist, dramatist, and author of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “Les Miserables,” who died 22 May 1885.

Some quotes from Victor Hugo:

“To love beauty is to see light.”
“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”
“The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.”
“He who opens a school door, closes a prison.”
“Intelligence is the wife, imagination is the mistress, memory is the servant.”
“All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.”
“The wicked envy and hate; it is their way of admiring.”
“Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age.”
“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”
“Adversity makes men, and prosperity makes monsters.”
“Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots.”
“Fashions have done more harm than revolutions.”
“When a woman is talking to you, listen to what she says with her eyes.”
“When dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right.”
“An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise.”
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Born 22 May 1911 – Minoru Kawabata, a Japanese artist.
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American Art – Part II of VI: Sal Villagran

Painter Sal Villagran has earned a BFA from the Laguna College of Art and Design and an MFA from the New York Academy of Fine Art.

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“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.” – Sherlock Holmes in “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Scottish writer, who was born 22 May 1859.

While Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was sometimes far too gullible – he was a devotee of Spiritualism, for example, and he fell for the ridiculous Cottingley fairies hoax perpetrated by two young girls – Sherlock Holmes remains both a beacon of reason in a frequently irrational world and the greatest amateur consulting detective in literary history.

Some quotes from Sherlock Holmes:

“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”
“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really mere commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs, and and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the plannings, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chains of events, working through generations, and leading to the most outre results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.”
“I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”
“I’m not a psychopath, I’m a fully functioning sociopath. Do your research.”
“Don’t talk, Anderson. You lower the IQ of the entire street every time you open your mouth.”
“It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but that you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it.”
“The game is afoot.”
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American Art – Part III of VI: Katy Unger

In the words of one writer, “Katy Unger was born in 1981 in Boulder, Colorado. She received her BFA from the Pacific NW College of Art in Portland, Oregon in 2003 and currently resides in Los Angeles, California. Her work is celebrated for her representational use of acrylics to capture the depth of light and skin.”
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Here is how one critic describes the artistry of Spanish painter Jose Royo (born 1941): “The sweeping brush strokes, bold swaths of color, and heavy impasto capture the eye and draws one inward until that final absolute moment of awareness that one is actually there in the scene feeling the light and heat of the sun, the salt and sea spray, and hearing the crashing surf. Royo conveys not merely image, but mood and atmosphere as well.”

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“There is still a difference between something and nothing, but it is purely geometrical and there is nothing behind the geometry.” – Martin Gardner, American mathematician, science writer, stage magician, and author of “Science: Good, Bad, and Bogus” and “Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science” (1952), about which one critic has written, “Modern skepticism has developed into a science-based movement, beginning with Martin Gardner’s 1952 classic,” who died 22 May 2010.

Martin Gardner was a man of wide-ranging interests who devoted much of his career to debunking pseudoscience. One of his successors in this worthy endeavor is Robert L. Park, whose “Voodoo Science: The Road From Foolishness To Fraud” exposes the fallacies behind such things as magnet therapy, “free energy” machines, Deepak Chopra’s “quantum alternative to growing old,” cold fusion, and homeopathy. In the words of one reviewer, “Scientists, (Park) observes, insist that the cure for voodoo science is to raise the general scientific literacy. But what is it that a scientifically literate society should know? It is not specific knowledge of science the public needs, Park argues, so much as a scientific world view–an understanding that we live in an orderly universe governed by natural laws that cannot be circumvented by magic or miracles.” Another of Gardner’s intellectual heirs is Michael Shermer, whose “Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time” is required reading for individuals who are skeptical about received opinion and conventional wisdom. Please obtain the second edition of this edifying book, because in it Shermer devotes a chapter to addressing an intriguing puzzle: “Why Smart People Believe Weird Things.” In short, smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons.

A few quotes from Martin Gardner:

“A god whose creation is so imperfect that he must be continually adjusting it to make it work properly seems to me a god of relatively low order, hardly worthy of any worship.”
“If God creates a world of particles and waves, dancing in obedience to mathematical and physical laws, who are we to say that he cannot make use of those laws to cover the surface of a small planet with living creatures?”
“Her constant orders for beheading are shocking to those modern critics of children’s literature who feel that juvenile fiction should be free of all violence and especially violence with Freudian undertones. Even the Oz books of L. Frank Baum, so singularly free of the horrors to be found in Grimm and Andersen, contain many scenes of decapitation. As far as I know, there have been no empirical studies of how children react to such scenes and what harm if any is done to their psyche. My guess is that the normal child finds it all very amusing and is not damaged in the least, but that books like ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz’ should not be allowed to circulate indiscriminately among adults who are undergoing analysis.”
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In the words of one writer, Natasha Milashevich “was born in 1967 in Dushanbe in the former Soviet Union. She started her studies locally, graduating from the Art College of Dushanbe in 1989.
She continued her studies in St. Petersburg in the studio of the renowned artist Vasili V. Sokolov at the Repin Academy of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture—widely considered the finest art academy in Russia—from which she graduated in 1995. Since that time, she has been a member of the Russian Fine Artist’s Association. Her work has been included in more than 30 exhibitions in Russia, Finland, Holland, France, Chile and Kazakhstan.”

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Polish artist Andrzej Malinowski (born 1947) is a painter, art director, and illustrator.”
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From the American History Archives: Lassen Peak

22 May 1915 – Lassen Peak in Northern California erupts, and it is the only mountain other than Mount St. Helens to erupt in the contiguous United States in the 20th century.

Above: The “Great Explosion” eruption column of 22 May 1915 was seen as far as 150 miles away (photograph by R.E. Stinson).
Below – Lassen Peak today, with devastated area from cinder cone.
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Chinese painter Guorun Wen (born 1955) is a graduate of the Shanghai Theater Academy (1982) with a degree in stage design.
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“Cats are rather delicate creatures and they are subject to a good many ailments, but I never heard of one who suffered from insomnia.” – Joseph Wood Krutch, American writer, critic, naturalist, and author of “The Desert Year,” who died 22 May 1970.

“The Desert Year,” which won the Burroughs Award, is sometimes referred to as “The Cactus Walden” – and for good reasons. Like Thoreau, Krutch had a keen eye for observing seasonal transformations in the natural world and an elegant style with which to describe them.

Some quotes from Joseph Wood Krutch:

“If people destroy something replaceable made by mankind, they are called vandals; if they destroy something irreplaceable made by God, they are called developers.”
“When a man wantonly destroys one of the works of man we call him a vandal. When he destroys one of the works of god we call him a sportsman.”
“It is not ignorance but knowledge which is the mother of wonder.”
“If we do not permit the earth to produce beauty and joy, it will in the end not produce food, either.”
“Happiness is itself a kind of gratitude.
“The snow itself is lonely or, if you prefer, self-sufficient. There is no other time when the whole world seems composed of one thing and one thing only.”
“Any euphemism ceases to be euphemistic after a time and the true meaning begins to show through. It’s a losing game, but we keep on trying.”
“It is sometimes easier to head an institute for the study of child guidance than it is to turn one brat into a decent human being.
“Both the cockroach and the bird would get along very well without us, although the cockroach would miss us most.”
“Cats seem to go on the principle that it never does any harm to ask for what you want.”
“Few people have ever seriously wished to be exclusively rational. The good life which most desire is a life warmed by passions and touched with that ceremonial grace which is impossible without some affectionate loyalty to traditional form and ceremonies.”
“Only those within whose own consciousness the sun rise and set, the leaves burgeon and wither, can be said to be aware of what living is.”
“Security depends not so much upon how much you have, as upon how much you can do without.”
“The most serious charge which can be brought against New England is not Puritanism but February.”
“There is no such thing as a dangerous woman; there are only susceptible men.”
“Though many have tried, no one has ever yet explained away the decisive fact that science, which can do so much, cannot decide what it ought to do.”
“What a man knows is everywhere at war with what he wants.”
“As machines get to be more and more like men, men will come to be more like machines. ”
“For a real glimpse into an almost vanished world, one should look…at a scorpion who so obviously has no business lingering into the twentieth century. He is not shaped like a spider and he has too many legs to be an insect. Plainly, he is a discontinued model–still running but very difficult, one imagines, to get spare parts for.” “The world of poetry, mythology, and religion represents the world as a man would like to have it, while science represents the world as he gradually comes to discover it.”
“The wilderness and the idea of wilderness is one of the permanent homes of the human spirit.”
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American Art – Part IV of VI: Jaxon Northon

In the words of one writer, “Jaxon Northon is a self-taught oil painter specializing in realistic portraiture. As a full-time artist, he has exhibited his work between San Francisco, California and his hometown of Reno, Nevada. Jaxon’s portraits present women who seem to be growing out of their surroundings. His representational works confront the viewer with a realistic subject interacting with elements of unreality.”
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A Poem for Today

“Whitman’s Pantry,”
by T.R. Hummer

Dried beans in a muslin sack, tied shut with greasy string.
An ounce of ginger root to brew digestif,
Procured on physician’s advice from an “Oriental” grocer
at remarkable expense, desiccated now almost
Past recognition. Half a pound of sowbelly wrapped
in cheesecloth. Hard cheese. A licorice twist.
A box of sugar cubes to meliorate bitter tea—with these
you could construct a model of the odd granite tomb
He insisted on for his own final habitation.
There in his beloved Camden he rests in a blank box.
You may count there twelve thoracic vertebrae,
two lunate bones, two trapeziums, a coccyx,
And all the rest, to the final mystic number two hundred and six.
His book is a homemade Bible. His tomb is a homemade Blake.
Here is the skull-cup that held the brain his doctors lifted.
He was the catalog of his perfect body. In love with health,
He ate grim food. Behold his ounce of flour, cut with weevils.
Behold his dried orange peel, studded with a sorry clove.
This pantry is a compost now. It is small; it contains millipedes.
The bottom shelf reveals this lunar dust, a Kosmos in it
Writ in groceries. “Here,” as he never said. I hold it toward you.
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American Art – Part V of VI: Martha Mayer Erlebacher

In the words of one writer, “Martha Mayer received her MFA from Pratt Institute in 1963. Since her graduation, she has become a major figure in contemporary representational art.
As a leading American Realist painter, Erlebacher has shown extensively in many principal galleries in New York City, Chicago and Philadelphia throughout the past four decades. She has also been included in numerous museum exhibitions across the nation, surveying such subjects as figurative art, American women artists, and the Philadelphia art scene. In addition to being included in many prestigious private collections, her work is also featured in over a dozen national museums, including such institutions as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Cleveland Museum of Art, among others.”

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A Second Poem for Today

“After Ikkyu #23,”
By Jim Harrison

It certainly wasn’t fish who discovered water
or birds the air. Men built houses in part
out of embarrassment by the stars
and raised their children on trivialities
because they had butchered the god within themselves.
The politician standing on the church steps thrives
within the grandeur of this stupidity,
a burnt out lamp who never imagined the sun.
Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum

American Art – Part VI of VI: John Nieto

Artist Statement: “I paint native American themes so I can step back in time and shine some light on those people – that culture. Through my artwork, I hope to show their humanity and their dignity.”

Below – “Wolf Tag with Red-Tailed Hawk”; “Coyote in Tune with the Cosmos”; “Petition for Wakan Tanka”; “Buffalo with Blue Horn”; “Trickster Coyote”; “Chaparral (Roadrunner)”; “Man Who Packs Eagle Visits Matisse”; “Coyote in Monument Valley”; “Portrait of a Young Coyote”; “Pony Express”; “Medicine Man”; “Chief Red Cloud.”
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