American Art – Part I of III: Steve Albert
Artist Statement: “In my paintings, I begin by discovering and drawing out abstract, linear and spatial order from the seemingly random activity of commonplace situations, such as those found sitting in or walking by cafes and restaurants where so many elements of normal life converge. Architectural elements are used as a sort of scaffolding to frame, and fracture the picture plane and illusionistic spaces, creating something of a kaleidoscopic collage. Objects and events like interior/exterior, people, streets, cars, tables, chairs, cups, napkins and trees, are held together by a unifying, realistic rendering and warm, bright light, shadows, and reflections luring us in.
With no object or figure deemed more central or more important than any other, the paintings are subject-less and decentralized, seemingly expanding beyond the confines of the canvas. The final images compel, disquiet and reassure. Comfortable inviting moments are answered with jarring complexity, and sometimes confusion.
They are still, silent, possibly ambiguous, yet frenetic, complicated and active. They are without emotional or narrative context, moral or politic. They are also without existential probing and anxiety. Viewers may decide to impart such meaning depending on their own personal experiences and reactions. Instead, the paintings are distillations and attempts at acceptance of the ever changing and ungraspable and inescapable and unedited ‘now,’ brimming with imminent and potential energy. They delight is simply being ‘slices of life,’ stumbled upon and easily missed, inviting contemplation of the moments and structure within our surroundings.”
“Art is not escape, but a way of finding order in chaos, a way of confronting life.” – Robert Hayden, American poet, essayist, and educator, who was born 4 August 1913
When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful
and terrible thing, needful to man as air,
usable as earth; when it belongs at last to all,
when it is truly instinct, brain matter, diastole, systole,
reflex action; when it is finally won; when it is more
than the gaudy mumbo jumbo of politicians:
this man, this Douglass, this former slave, this Negro
beaten to his knees, exiled, visioning a world
where none is lonely, none hunted, alien,
this man, superb in love and logic, this man
shall be remembered. Oh, not with statues’ rhetoric,
not with legends and poems and wreaths of bronze alone,
but with the lives grown out of his life, the lives
fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing.
French artist Laurent Parcelier (born 1962) attended the Applied Arts School in Dordogne. In describing Parcelier’s work, one critic has written, “This stylized impressionism manages to avoid all the wrong notes . . . and creates timeless atmospheres of the good life while preserving natural beauty.”
Elaborating The American Experience In Song – Part I of IV: Marc Cohn
Norwegian painter Per Fronth (born 1963) was the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Artist.
Elaborating The American Experience In Song – Part II of IV: John Mellencamp
Here is the Artist Statement of Dutch painter Alwin van der Linde (born 1957): “Creation is a manipulation of energy that has an impact on our surrounding world. Art has a direct influence on the way we live by shaping our environment and thus our future. Art in the future will acquire greater social importance as boundaries between scientific and creative disciplines will dissolve.”
Elaborating The American Experience In Song – Part III of IV: Bob Seger
Here is one critic describing the artistry of Italian painter Nicola Delvigo: “Characters in Nicola Delvigo’s art are born from paper and glue, in a very personal use of the collage technique.
His art cannot disregard the pleasure of manual work, in an act suspended between the lightness of a game and the precision of an artisan.
Among his recurrent themes – women: familiar or unknown to the artist, but moulded from the same passionate craft.
Very particular is also the use of text, where characters move in a verbal background which is never separate from the human figure, creating an alphabet of feelings.
Nicola Delvigo’s art belongs to a poetic and naif universe suspended between desire, fun and mystery.”
“No worse fate can befall a young man or woman than becoming prematurely entrenched in prudence and negation.” – Knut Hamsun, Norwegian author and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature “for his monumental work, ‘Growth of the Soil,’” who was born on 4 August 1859.
Knut Hamsun was one of the most original and influential authors of his era. Isaac Bashevis Singer called Hamsun “the father of the modern school of literature in his every aspect—his subjectiveness, his fragmentariness, his use of flashbacks, his lyricism. The whole modern school of fiction in the twentieth century stems from Hamsun, and Ernest Hemingway stated that “Hamsun taught me to write.”
Some quotes from the work of Knut Hamsun:
“The intelligent poor individual was a much finer observer than the intelligent rich one. The poor individual looks around him at every step, listens suspiciously to every word he hears from the people he meets; thus, every step he takes presents a problem, a task, for his thoughts and feelings. He is alert and sensitive, he is experienced, his soul has been burned…”
“An increasing number of people who lead mental lives of great intensity, people who are sensitive by nature, notice the steadily more frequent appearance in them of mental states of great strangeness … a wordless and irrational feeling of ecstasy; or a breath of psychic pain; a sense of being spoken to from afar, from the sky or the sea; an agonizingly developed sense of hearing which can cause one to wince at the murmuring of unseen atoms; an irrational staring into the heart of some closed kingdom suddenly and briefly revealed.”
“But now it was spring again, and spring was almost unbearable for sensitive hearts. It drove creation to its utmost limits, it wafted its spice-laden breath even into the nostrils of the innocent.”
“The long, long road over the moors and up into the forest – who trod it into being first of all? Man, a human being, the first that came here. There was no path before he came.”
“I have gone to the forest.”
Elaborating The American Experience In Song – Part IV of IV: Don McLean
In the words of one critic, “Milixa Morón is a Venezuelan realist painter who has developed her artistic talent in few years. She was born in 1977 and her interest in drawing and painting began early. Through all her childhood she attended painting classes until her secondary school.
After graduation in 1994, she enrolled to the Design Institute of Valencia where studied Graphic Design. (She then) travelled to London, where she studied at the Camberwell College of Art and visited many art museums and exhibitions which inspired her and drove her to dedicate totally to painting. In 2000 few months after she returned to her home country, she enrolled to the Giovanni Battista Scalabrini Academy of Art, where she received the basics knowledge in the great traditions of western art.”
“Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted.” – Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of the major English Romantic poets, who was born 4 August 1792.
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Here is the Artist Statement of Polish sculptor Marek Zyga: “The works which I present are made of chamotte clay. I am fascinated with is rough structure.
Through impressing, casting, forming I try to obtain its variety.
Looking for ideas, I collect stones, metal scraps, which constitute an inspiration for me. Their randomness makes my works unique. Trying to maintain harmony between used materials, I remember that clay is the most crucial one. I hope that such connection is succesful.
Using pigments, engobes or glazes, I try to make them color coordinated; where there is a visible diversity, I try avoid color clash. The final result means for me giving equal importance to art and craft as well. Content is important for me but I pay the same attention to form.”
From the History Archives: The Great War
4 August 1914 – Germany declares war on Belgium and, in response, Britain declares war on Germany. Austria-Hungary had declared war on Serbia on 28 July, an act that effectively began World War I, and Germany had already declared war on Russia on 1 August and on France on 3 August. Turkey formally entered the conflict on 28 October, Italy on 23 May 1913, and the United States on 6 April 1917. By the time the hostilities concluded on 11 November 1918, between ten and sixteen million military personnel had been killed, along with seven million civilians. Total casualties – dead, wounded, and missing – amounted to an appalling thirty million human beings.
For a brilliant exposition of both the events leading up to World War I and its earliest stages, I recommend “The Guns of August,” by Barbara Tuchman, which won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. For a richly informative and beautifully written description of the varied, sometimes invisible, and frequently poignant ways that World War I changed the character of Western Civilization, I recommend “The Great War and Modern Memory,” by Paul Fussell, which won both the National Book Award for Arts and Letters and the inaugural National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism.
The first three photographs below show armies and students marching off to war in August 1914. When war was declared, there were celebrations in the streets of most European capital cities.
Here is the Artist Statement of Australian painter Ron Francis (born 1954): “My earliest memory relating to art is drawing huge Disney characters on my bedroom wall, and in retrospect, I’m surprised and grateful that my parents allowed me do it.
I settled in Melbourne in 1974 where I took up my vocation with fervor and began painting full time and improving what skills I had.
By 1980 I was represented in the first of several exhibitions.
In the following years I became interested in involving the viewer more directly in my paintings. I realized that there was a direct mathematical correlation between a viewpoint and the objects in a painting which eventually led to my developing formulas for application with perspective, and also computer software to accommodate them.
I moved to South Australia in 1991, where I now live with my wife and child, and continue to paint a mixture of oil paintings and trompe l’oeil.
I have never had any formal training and acquired most of my knowledge from observation, experimentation and trial and error, as well as studying books about perspective, light and mathematics.
I approached learning to paint with one main aim; to refine my technique enough to be able to create a realistic representation of anything that I may imagine or dream.”
From the American Old West: The Indian Wars
4 August – In the words of one historian, “On this day in 1873, (Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong) Custer was far ahead of the rest of the (American military) force, camping along the Tongue River in southeastern Montana. Suddenly, a large band of Sioux warriors appeared on the horizon and attacked. The Indians were led by Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, but the young braves seemed to have attacked impetuously and with little planning. Custer, who had been taking an afternoon nap, reacted quickly and mounted an effective defense. After a brief skirmish, the Indians withdrew.
Since only one soldier and one Indian were killed in the skirmish, Custer’s short battle along the Tongue River seemed relatively insignificant at the time. However, Custer’s easy escape in his first encounter with Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse may have given him a dangerously scornful view of their fighting abilities. It helped to confirm his belief that the Plains warriors tended to flee rather than fight. As a result, when Custer again encountered Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse at the Little Big Horn River three years later, his greatest fear was that they would withdraw before he could attack, and he rushed in without proper reconnaissance. That time, though, the Indians stood and fought, leaving Custer and more than 200 of his men dead.”
American Art – Part II of III: Kathleen Kinkopf
In the words of one critic, “Myths of the Great Goddess teach compassion for all living beings. There you come to appreciate the real sanctity of the earth itself, because it is the body of the Goddess. Although this inventive surrealist often juxtaposes people and objects in thought-provoking relationships, her (recent paintings show that) these relationships have risen to archetypal statements. Using her uniquely personal incantations of earth and sky, Kinkopf (born 1956) explores the physical and spiritual roots of the planet we live on.”
“I Forget the Date,”
By Juan Felipe Herrera
I forget the date:
en route to Austin, Texas: soda on tray.
Women at the computer, mexicanas
learning to read and write at the same time,
a workshop, we exchange stories
Chihuahua—I think of my father, for a moment—
I see him again, robust, alone, walks to the park,
the heat dissolves the avenues.
The Nomenclature cuts across the Arctic:
snare the oil, gas lines, install the stations,
derricks and surveillance towers, surveys, documents,
Carry this microscopic fissure
into South Asia. Diplomats—they say,
so many teams of men, they orbit in silence and
loud vests and helmets, they stoop with a sweetness
and sift the granules, then, they rise,
oblong, hunched, on fire,
ready to dig into the ice, a new boundary for the national vortex,
this undeclared war; the almost-uttered war, this war begins,
listen. Listen closely—
I hear a rap song in the distance:
“I am standin’ in Lebanon
watchin’ everbody get it on,
why am I the only one
singin’ this desolation song…?”
American Art – Part III of III: Ran Ortner
Here is part of the Artist Statement of Ron Ortner (born 1959 in San Francisco): “‘Like a wave in the physical world, in the infinite ocean of the medium which pervades all, so in the world of organisms, in life, an impulse started proceeds onward, at times, maybe, with the speed of light, at times, again, so slowly that for ages and ages it seems to stay, passing through processes of a complexity inconceivable to men, but in all its forms, in all its stages, its energy ever and ever integrally present. – -Nikola Tesla, from the 1893 lecture ‘On Light And Other High Frequency Phenomena’
Water is a manifestation of the multitude of wave energies that surround us, a formless, colorless, tasteless, odorless ‘billowing solid’ (Wallace Stevens), visible to our eye only with the addition of light. A single drop potentially mirrors everything that surrounds it. Water embodies the concept of endlessness, of complexities repeated fractally from one drop to the vast sea. I expose the identity of the ancient body of the ocean with integrity by being hyper-observant to its nature, focusing on the structure, synchronicity, and oscillations of the waves.
Yet I am interested in conveying how the ocean resonates, rather than depicting it. Constantly moving in a dance that mirrors the tempo of the human body, waves break in time with the beating of our hearts, the in and out of our breaths, like a metronome marking the present moment: now, now. My paintings are about being immersed in this present. For that reason, the horizon and any other reference points are disappeared, a move that detaches my work from the tradition of marine paintings, from Caspar David Friedrich, Turner, the Hudson River. Now we are not a distant observer, but all in.
How I paint today evolved from the minimalism I practiced for years while making all white panels that echo the reign of space and silence, the sparseness of Rainer Maria Rilke ‘living the questions.’ The courage and emotional complexity of Rembrandt also influence my work, which nevertheless lives in the continuity of Abstract Expressionism. It connects with the luminosity and vastness of Mark Rothko’s transcendent fields of color as well as the vitality and intensity of Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings.
Each day, in one painting after the next, I attend to an ever deeper engagement and understanding.”