July Offerings – Part XXXI: Something to Delight both Head and Heart

American Art – Part I of IV: Margaret Speer

Artist Statement: “I was born in Arkansas and still live there, but I have moved around and traveled quite a lot: Colorado, New Mexico, the Caribbean, France, Greece. When I traveled I took photos–or my sister did–and I started painting from those photos and from memory. I continue to do that. I have a good visual memory and a love of nature. The rest is effected through color and brushwork.”

Below – “Icefields Parkway”; “A Hidden Place”; “Caribbean Dawn Sky”; “Neighborhood Trees”; “Autumn Trees, Rock Wall”; “Greek Island #4.”

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From the Music Archives: Franz Liszt

Died 31 July 1886 – Franz Liszt, a Hungarian pianist, composer, conductor, and teacher.

“The Preludes” is one of Liszt’s most stirring compositions:

Here is one critic describing the artistry of Belgian painter Carl Brenders (born 1937): “The artistic visions of Carl Brenders reflect his respect for nature. His precise and lively paintings capture the extreme realism of the birds, mammals and habitats he depicts. Brenders paints every detail of his wildlife images – feathers, hair, leaves or pine thorns – until, he says, ‘they get into my skin.’
The wildlife images of Brenders’ art are first created from pencil sketches; from these sketches his mixed media paintings of watercolour and gouache are completed with a technique he has developed during the last 25 years. His paintings, which encompass every intricacy of nature, devote equal attention to the detail of the wildlife subject and its habitat as well as to the mood created by the light.
Brenders combines his dreams, his senses, his imagination and his strict attention to anatomical perfection to make his paintings. He says, ‘Nature is already beautiful, already perfect. That is why I paint the way I do with so much detail and so much realism – I want to capture that perfection.’
For long revered and collected by admirers around the world, in September 2002 he was deservedly honoured by the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wisconsin, USA, as their Master Wildlife Artist, describing it as ‘the high point of my career.’”

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“A fanatic is a man who, when he’s lost sight of his purpose, redoubles his effort.” – Poul Anderson, American science fiction writer and recipient of seven Hugo Awards and three Nebula Awards, who died 31 July 2001.

A few quotes from the work of Poul Anderson:

“I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it in the right way, did not become still more complicated. ”
“In the intricate and mutable space-time geometry at the black hole, in-falling matter and energy interacted with the virtualities of the vacuum in ways unknown to the flatter cosmos beyond it. Quasi-stable quantum states appeared, linked according to Schrodinger’s wave functions and their own entanglement, more and more of them, intricacy compounding until it amounted to a set of codes. The uncertainty principle wrought mutations; variants perished or flourished; forms competed, cooperated, merged, divided, interacted; the patterns multiplied and diversified; at last, along one fork on a branch of the life tree, thought budded.
That life was not organic, animal and vegetable and lesser kingdoms, growing, breathing, drinking, eating, breeding, hunting, hiding; it kindled no fires and wielded no tools; from the beginning, it was a kind of oneness. An original unity differentiated itself into countless avatars, like waves on a sea. They arose and lived individually, coalesced when they chose by twos or threes or multitudes, reemerged as other than they had been, gave themselves and their experiences back to the underlying whole. Evolution, history, lives eerily resembled memes in organic minds.
Yet quantum life was not a series of shifting abstractions. Like the organic, it was in and of its environment. It acted to alter its quantum states and those around it: action that manifested itself as electronic, photonic, and nuclear events. Its domain was no more shadowy to it than ours is to us. It strove, it failed, it achieved. They were never sure aboard Envoy whether they could suppose it loved, hated, yearned, mourned, rejoiced. The gap between was too wide for any language to bridge. Nevertheless they were convinced that it knew something they might as well call emotion, and that that included wondering.”
“So much American science fiction is parochial — not as true now as it was years ago, but the assumption is one culture in the future, more or less like ours, and with the same ideals, the same notions of how to do things, just bigger and flashier technology. Well, you know darn well it doesn’t work that way.”

Here is one critic describing the artistry of Italian painter Mario Tozzi (1895-1979): “His compositions are characterized by strong monumental, geometric volumes and mythical implications.”
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“If there is a technological advance without a social advance, there is, almost automatically, an increase in human misery.” – Michael Harrington, American writer, democratic socialist, political activist, professor of political science, and author of “The Other America: Poverty in the United States,” who died 31 August 1989.

Some quotes from Michael Harrington:

“Clothes make the poor invisible. America has the best-dressed poverty the world has ever known.”
“Life is lived in common, but not in community.”
“People who are much too sensitive to demand of cripples that they run races ask of the poor that they get up and act just like everyone else in the society.”
“That the poor are invisible is one of the most important things about them. They are not simply neglected and forgotten as in the old rhetoric of reform; what is much worse, they are not seen.”
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Russian painter Kostya Lupamov (born 1977) studied at Krasnodar State University of Culture and Art.

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“As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: you liberate a city by destroying it. Words are to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests.” – Eugene Luther Gore Vidal, American public intellectual and writer known for his essays, novels, screenplays, and Broadway plays, who died 31 July 2012.

Some quotes from the work of Gore Vidal:

“The unfed mind devours itself.”
“Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half.”
“How marvelous books are, crossing worlds and centuries, defeating ignorance and, finally, cruel time itself.”
“Today’s public figures can no longer write their own speeches or books, and there is some evidence that they can’t read them either.”
“Ayn Rand’s ‘philosophy’ is nearly perfect in its immorality, which makes the size of her audience all the more ominous and symptomatic as we enter a curious new phase in our society…. To justify and extol human greed and egotism is to my mind not only immoral, but evil.”
“Actually, there is no such thing as a homosexual person, any more than there is such a thing as a heterosexual person. The words are adjectives describing sexual acts, not people. The sexual acts are entirely normal; if they were not, no one would perform them.”
“Monotheism is easily the greatest disaster to befall the human race.”
“The idea of a good society is something you do not need a religion and eternal punishment to buttress; you need a religion if you are terrified of death.”
“The American press exists for one purpose only, and that is to convince Americans that they are living in the greatest and most envied country in the history of the world. The Press tells the American people how awful every other country is and how wonderful the United States is and how evil communism is and how happy they should be to have freedom to buy seven different sorts of detergent.”
“I have always regarded as a stroke of good fortune that I was not born or brought up in a small American town; they may be the backbone of the nation, but they are also the backbone of ignorance, bigotry, and boredom, all in vast quantities.”
“As the age of television progresses the Reagans will be the rule, not the exception. To be perfect for television is all a President has to be these days. ”
“We are the United States of Amnesia, we learn nothing because we remember nothing.”

According to one writer, British painter Christian Furr (born 1966) “became the youngest artist to have ever officially painted Queen Elizabeth II, when in 1995 – at the age of twenty eight – he was invited by the Queen to paint her portrait at Buckingham Palace. The work was commissioned by and hangs at the Royal Overseas League, St James, London.”
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“I am constantly amazed by man’s inhumanity to man.” – Primo Levi, Italian Jewish chemist, writer, Auschwitz survivor, and author of “Survival in Auschwitz” and “The Periodic Table,” who was born 31 July 1919. The Royal Institution of Great Britain has named “The Periodic Table” the best science book ever written.

Some quotes from the work of Primo Levi:

“Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.”
“The sea’s only gifts are harsh blows and, occasionally, the chance to feel strong. Now, I don’t know much about the sea, but I do know that that’s the way it is here. And I also know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once, to find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions, facing blind, deaf stone alone, with nothing to help you but your own hands and your own head.”
“Sooner or later in life everyone discovers that perfect happiness is unrealizable, but there are few who pause to consider the antithesis: that perfect unhappiness is equally unattainable. The obstacles preventing the realization of both these extreme states are of the same nature: they derive from our human condition which is opposed to everything infinite.”
“A country is considered the more civilised the more the wisdom and efficiency of its laws hinder a weak man from becoming too weak and a powerful one too powerful.”
“Even in this place one can survive, and therefore one must want to survive, to tell the story, to bear witness; and that to survive we must force ourselves to save at least the skeleton, the scaffolding, the form of civilization. We are slaves, deprived of every right, exposed to every insult, condemned to certain death, but we still possess one power, and we must defend it with all our strength for it is the last — the power to refuse our consent.”
“You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find warm food
And friendly faces when you return home.
Consider if this is a man
Who works in mud,
Who knows no peace,
Who fights for a crust of bread,
Who dies by a yes or no.
Consider if this is a woman
Without hair, without name,
Without the strength to remember,
Empty are her eyes, cold her womb,
Like a frog in winter.
Never forget that this has happened.
Remember these words.
Engrave them in your hearts,
When at home or in the street,
When lying down, when getting up.
Repeat them to your children.
Or may your houses be destroyed,
May illness strike you down,
May your offspring turn their faces from you.”
“Those who deny Auschwitz would be ready to remake it.”
“We must be listened to: above and beyond our personal experience, we have collectively witnessed a fundamental unexpected event, fundamental precisely because unexpected, not foreseen by anyone. It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say. It can happen, and it can happen everywhere.”
“Beyond the fence stand the Lords of Death, and not far away the train is waiting.”
“The aims of life are the best defense against death.”
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American Art – Part II of IV: Christian Vincent

Here is one critic describing the artistry of Christian Vincent (born 1966): “Vincent’s works are so fascinating because he applies contemporary narrative themes in a film-noir palette. Art critics have compared Vincent’s work to that of Odd Nerdrum in that they both use the same dark, rich tones which accompany underlying social commentary. The difference between Vincent and Nerdrum is that Vincent’s social commentary is more obvious as it portrays his view of American 20th century industry. Each work is contemporary yet non-specific to a certain era. These aspects give Vincent’s paintings a narrative quality and invite the viewer to contemplate and reflect on the depicted scene.”

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“Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery, French writer, poet, and pioneering aviator, who died on 31 July 1944.

After having little success as a writer, Saint-Exupery decided to take a job delivering mail as a pilot for a commercial airline. While working in the desolate isolation of the desert, he discovered something that proved to be a catalyst for his artistry: Quiet and solitude are necessary prerequisites for creative endeavors. Filled with newfound inspiration, Saint-Exupery wrote several remarkable books, including “The Little Prince,” “Wind, Sand and Stars” (which fired my boyhood imagination with dreams of adventure), and “Night Flight.” Finally, Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote something that I have always found especially heartening, since I generally find myself among individuals who don’t understand the affection and gratitude we night people feel for our Dark Muse: “Night, the beloved. Night, when words fade and things come alive. When the destructive analysis of day is done, and all that is truly important becomes whole and sound again. When man reassembles his fragmentary self and grows with the calm of a tree.”

Some additional quotes from the work of Antoine de Saint-Exupery:

“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
“How could there be any question of acquiring or possessing, when the one thing needful for a man is to become – to be at last, and to die in the fullness of his being.”
“A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born.”
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
“It is in the compelling zest of high adventure and of victory, and in creative action, that man finds his supreme joys.”
“It is such a secret place, the land of tears.”
“Only he can understand what a farm is, what a country is, who shall have sacrificed part of himself to his farm or country, fought to save it, struggled to make it beautiful. Only then will the love of farm or country fill his heart.”
“True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new.”
“You are responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose.”
“What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.”
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
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American Art – Part III of IV: Marion Wachtel

In the words of one historian, “Marion Kavanaugh Wachtel (1875–1954) was a plein air painter in watercolors and oils that lived and worked with her artist husband Elmer Wachtel in the Arroyo Seco near Pasadena, California, in the early 20th century. Her work was valued in her own day, and her works were exhibited across the United States.
Like most of the American Impressionist artists now known as California Impressionists, Wachtel relocated to Southern California after first establishing her career in the eastern US. She trained at the Art Institute of Chicago, and under William Merritt Chase in New York.
Later, she taught in public schools and at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1903 she journeyed to California, where she studied under William Keith, and Elmer Wachtel, whom she married in 1904.
She painted primarily landscapes of the dramatic Californian and Southwestern terrain. Her medium of choice was watercolor, but she began painting in oils after her husband’s death.”

Below – “High Sierras”; “The San Gabriel Valley”; “Crystal Craig and Lake George”; “Sunset Clouds No. 5”; “The Sentinel”; “Lifting Clouds, Ojai.”

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A Poem for Today

“For My Young Friends Who Are Afraid,”
By William Stafford

There is a country to cross you will
find in the corner of your eye, in
the quick slip of your foot–air far
down, a snap that might have caught.
And maybe for you, for me, a high, passing
voice that finds its way by being
afraid. That country is there, for us,
carried as it is crossed. What you fear
will not go away: it will take you into
yourself and bless you and keep you.
That’s the world, and we all live there.
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American Art – Part IV of IV: Peter Van Dyck

In the words of one critic, “Peter Van Dyk (born 1978) has studied at both Wesleyan University and the renowned Florence Academy of Art. An emerging talent, his work conveys a maturity and contemplative serenity, whether through the downward tilt of a young woman’s chin or the calm of an empty room waiting for the next occupant. His paintings are beautifully rendered – elegant in their simplicity, the surfaces smooth and creamy. Steeped in the traditional techniques imparted by a strict academic background, his work represents an exciting marriage of a new voice speaking in the time-honored language of classical painting.”
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