American Art – Part I of IV: William F. Shepherd
In the words of one writer, “William F. Shepherd was born (1943) and raised in Casper, Wyoming. After graduating from the University of Wyoming in 1976, he stayed in Laramie for a few years, then moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, preferring to remain in the West rather than settle in a major city. His career as a professional artist began while he was still in college, when he began selling his landscape paintings through a gallery in Denver, Colorado.
Shepherd’s early landscapes were vistas of Wyoming. Over time, his work evolved into large-format paintings of tumbled stones and streambeds. After several decades of landscape painting he decided he needed a change and began painting still lifes. As a young man, he had been fascinated by the Indian regalia and Western accoutrements he saw in the homes of his ranch friends, and these became natural subject matters for his new focus.”
“They tell you that you’ll lose your mind when you grow older. What they don’t tell you is that you won’t miss it much.” – Malcolm Cowley, American novelist, poet, literary critic, and journalist, who was born 24 August 1898.
Some quotes from the work of Malcolm Cowley:
“Everywhere was the atmosphere of a long debauch that had to end; the orchestras played too fast, the stakes were too high at the gambling tables, the players were so empty, so tired, secretly hoping to vanish together into sleep and … maybe wake on a very distant morning and hear nothing, whatever, no shouting or crooning, find all things changed.”
“(B)ut you drank your black coffee by choice, believing that Paris was sufficient alcohol.”
“Going back to Hemingway’s work after several years is like going back to a brook where you had often fished and finding the woods as deep and cool as they used to be.”
“The late 1920s were an age of islands, real and metaphorical. They were an age when Americans by thousands and tens of thousands were scheming to take the next boat for the South Seas or the West Indies, or better still for Paris, from which they could scatter to Majorca, Corsica, Capri or the isles of Greece. Paris itself was a modern city that seemed islanded in the past, and there were island countries, like Mexico, where Americans could feel that they had escaped from everything that oppressed them in a business civilization. Or without leaving home they could build themselves private islands of art or philosophy; or else – and this was a frequent solution – they could create social islands in the shadow of the skyscrapers, groups of close friends among whom they could live as unconstrainedly as in a Polynesian valley, live without moral scruples or modern conveniences, live in the pure moment, live gaily on gin and love and two lamb chops broiled over a coal fire in the grate. That was part of the Greenwich Village idea, and soon it was being copied in Boston, San Francisco, everywhere.”
Here is the Artist Statement of Italian painter Fabio D’Aroma:
“I am fascinated by the transcendental qualities associated with figurative painting. Derived from the study of the Old Masters, I set my figures against background made up of concrete and textural fragments. The narrative thread of each painting dictates the method, which includes interrupted handwriting, spray paint, collage and textured acrylics.
I am interested in presenting time as an entity that is simultaneously fixed and fluid. Vividly clear and static memories constantly seek to engage the chaos of the present and that chaos seeks form in an unformed idea of the future.”
24 August 79 – Mt. Vesuvius erupts, burying Pompeii and Herculaneum, and killing an estimated 16,000 people.
Paleontologist Charles Pellegrino has written a fascinating account of the Vesuvius eruption and its aftermath – “Ghosts of Vesuvius.”
American Art – Part II of IV: Dorian Vallejo
In the words of one writer, “Born in New York City on March 1, 1968, Dorian Vallejo’s passion for drawing came at an early age. Inspired by his father, the fantasy artist and illustrator Boris Vallejo, Dorian had pencil in hand by the age of three and was working as a professional illustrator before reaching college age, regularly producing covers for Marvel Comics and numerous paperback novels. Today, he is one of the country’s most accomplished and versatile portrait painters creating everything from traditional commissioned oil portraits and sketches to pencil drawings and intimate life portraits.”
From the Music Archives: Alexandre Lagoya
Died 24 August 1999 – Alexandre Lagoya, a Greek-Italian classical guitarist.
In the words of one writer, Canadian painter “Kristy Gordon is an internationally exhibiting fine artist. Born in Nelson, British Columbia, she has earned numerous awards, including the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant, a Merit Award from Daniel Greene in the Salon International 2009, Third Prize at the Portrait Society of Canada International Portrait Competition, Best of Show in the National Art Premier, Illinois, and was a Top Finalist in the Art Renewal Center’s International 2008/2009 ARC Salon. She currently resides in Toronto, Canada.”
“Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere.” – Jean Rhys, Dominica-born British writer and author of “Wide Sargasso Sea,” a novel written as a “prequel” to Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre,” who was born 24 August 1890.
Some quotes from the work of Jean Rhys:
“I hated the mountains and the hills, the rivers and the rain. I hated the sunsets of whatever colour, I hated its beauty and its magic and the secret I would never know. I hated its indifference and the cruelty which was part of its loveliness. Above all I hated her. For she belonged to the magic and the loveliness. She had left me thirsty and all my life would be thirst and longing for what I had lost before I found it.”
“My life, which seems so simple and monotonous, is really a complicated affair of cafés where they like me and cafés where they don’t, streets that are friendly, streets that aren’t, rooms where I might be happy, rooms where I shall never be, looking-glasses I look nice in, looking-glasses I don’t, dresses that will be lucky, dresses that won’t, and so on.”
“There are always two deaths, the real one and the one people know about.”
“But they never last, the golden days. And it can be sad, the sun in the afternoon, can’t it? Yes, it can be sad, the afternoon sun, sad and frightening.”
“When you are a child you are yourself and you know and see everything prophetically. And then suddenly something happens and you stop being yourself; you become what others force you to be. You lose your wisdom and your soul.”
Chinese Art – Part I of II: Wei Shaodong
In the words of one critic, “Wei Shaodong(born 1971) takes inspiration from classical master painters, both Western and Chinese, from eminent Chinese historical figures and from the Chinese landscape painting tradition. He depicts icons of modern times, such as aircraft, firearms and electronica, against a background of the lush tropical foliage of his native land. This surreal amalgam of technology and the natural world is then incorporated into a classical setting, thus creating striking and thought provoking images.”
Chinese Art – Part II of II: Luo Wenjong
“If I had a large amount of money I should certainly found a hospital for those whose grip upon the world is so tenuous that they can be severely offended by words and phrases and yet remain all unoffended by the injustice, violence and oppression that howls daily about our ears.” – Stephen Fry, English writer, comedian, actor, and social activist, who was born 24 August 1957.
Some quotes from the work of Stephen Fry:
“The only reason people do not know much is because they do not care to know. They are incurious. Incuriousity is the oddest and most foolish failing there is.”
“Language is my whore, my mistress, my wife, my pen-friend, my ry check-out girl. Language is a complimentary moist lemon-scented cleansing square or handy freshen-up wipette. Language is the breath of God, the dew on a fresh apple, it’s the soft rain of dust that falls into a shaft of morning sun when you pull from an old bookshelf a forgotten volume of erotic diaries; language is the faint scent of urine on a pair of boxer shorts, it’s a half-remembered childhood birthday party, a creak on the stair, a spluttering match held to a frosted pane, the warm wet, trusting touch of a leaking nappy, the hulk of a charred Panzer, the underside of a granite boulder, the first downy growth on the upper lip of a Mediterranean girl, cobwebs long since overrun by an old Wellington boot.”
You are who you are when nobody’s watching.”
“When you’ve seen a nude infant doing a backward somersault, you know why clothing exists.”
“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.
Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.”
“It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so fucking what.”
“Choking with dry tears and raging, raging, raging at the absolute indifference of nature and the world to the death of love, the death of hope and the death of beauty, I remember sitting on the end of my bed, collecting these pills and capsules together and wondering why, why when I felt I had so much to offer, so much love, such outpourings of love and energy to spend on the world, I was incapable of being offered love, giving it or summoning the energy with which I knew I could transform myself and everything around me.”
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself and you will be happy.”
“The English language is like London: proudly barbaric yet deeply civilised, too, common yet royal, vulgar yet processional, sacred yet profane. Each sentence we produce, whether we know it or not, is a mongrel mouthful of Chaucerian, Shakespearean, Miltonic, Johnsonian, Dickensian and American. Military, naval, legal, corporate, criminal, jazz, rap and ghetto discourses are mingled at every turn. The French language, like Paris, has attempted, through its Academy, to retain its purity, to fight the advancing tides of Franglais and international prefabrication. English, by comparison, is a shameless whore.”
“I like to wake up each morning and not know what I think, that I may reinvent myself in some way.”
Died 23 August 1996 – John Christopherson, a British painter.
From the American History Archives: Territory of Alaska
24 August 1912 – District Alaska becomes an organized incorporated territory of the United States. In the words of one historian, “The Territory of Alaska or Alaska Territory was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from August 24, 1912, until January 3, 1959, when it was admitted to the Union as the State of Alaska. The territory was previously the District of Alaska, created on May 17, 1884.”
Here is the Artist Statement of Irish painter Bairbre Duggan : “My trajectory to becoming an artist has been a circuitous one – initially disillusioned by what the art schools had to offer, I became an art historian, an interaction designer, an editor and a yoga teacher, before finally coming full circle and pursuing my initial ambition which was to make images with paint. Having moved to the Netherlands, I found the school that could teach me what I wanted to learn, and some other stuff of course that I needed to learn. I graduated from the Ruudt Wackers Academie in 2009, under the mentorship of Sam Drukker.”
Bairbre Duggan lives and works in Amsterdam.
“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” – Howard Zinn, American historian, writer, professor, playwright, social activist, and author of “A People’s History of the United States,” who was born 24 August 1922.
Some quotes from the work of Howard Zinn:
“I’m worried that students will take their obedient place in society and look to become successful cogs in the wheel – let the wheel spin them around as it wants without taking a look at what they’re doing. I’m concerned that students not become passive acceptors of the official doctrine that’s handed down to them from the White House, the media, textbooks, teachers and preachers.”
“There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”
“If the gods had intended for people to vote, they would have given us candidates
“Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders…and millions have been killed because of this obedience…Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves… (and) the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.”
“History is important. If you don’t know history it is as if you were born yesterday. And if you were born yesterday, anybody up there in a position of power can tell you anything, and you have no way of checking up on it.”
“We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”
“If those in charge of our society – politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television – can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves.”
“The challenge remains. On the other side are formidable forces: money, political power, the major media. On our side are the people of the world and a power greater than money or weapons: the truth.
Truth has a power of its own. Art has a power of its own. That age-old lesson – that everything we do matters – is the meaning of the people’s struggle here in the United States and everywhere. A poem can inspire a movement. A pamphlet can spark a revolution. Civil disobedience can arouse people and provoke us to think, when we organize with one another, when we get involved, when we stand up and speak out together, we can create a power no government can suppress. We live in a beautiful country. But people who have no respect for human life, freedom, or justice have taken it over. It is now up to all of us to take it back.”
“The prisons in the United States had long been an extreme reflection of the American system itself: the stark life differences between rich and poor, the racism, the use of victims against one another, the lack of resources of the underclass to speak out, the endless ‘reforms’ that changed little. Dostoevski once said: ‘The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.’
It had long been true, and prisoners knew this better than anyone, that the poorer you were the more likely you were to end up in jail. This was not just because the poor committed more crimes. In fact, they did. The rich did not have to commit crimes to get what they wanted; the laws were on their side. But when the rich did commit crimes, they often were not prosecuted, and if they were they could get out on bail, hire clever lawyers, get better treatment from judges. Somehow, the jails ended up full of poor black people.”
“Nations are not communities and never have been. The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals the fierce conflicts of interest (sometimes exploding, often repressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex. And in such as world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners.”
“What struck me as I began to study history was how nationalist fervor–inculcated from childhood on by pledges of allegiance, national anthems, flags waving and rhetoric blowing–permeated the educational systems of all countries, including our own. I wonder now how the foreign policies of the United States would look if we wiped out the national boundaries of the world, at least in our minds, and thought of all children everywhere as our own. Then we could never drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, or napalm on Vietnam, or wage war anywhere, because wars, especially in our time, are always wars against children, indeed our children.”
“What most of us must be involved in–whether we teach or write, make films, write films, direct films, play music, act, whatever we do–has to not only make people feel good and inspired and at one with other people around them, but also has to educate a new generation to do this very modest thing: change the world.”
American Art – Part III of IV: Carin Gerard
A Poem for Today
“What I Learned From My Mother,”
By Julia Kasdorf
I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewings even if I didn’t know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease
awful pains materially like an angel.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another’s suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
To every house you enter, you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.
American Art – Part IV of IV: Michael Paul Miller
Artist Statement: “I am fascinated by perseverance and find this primordial instinct and necessity of life to be ennobling and suspect, especially when the path is perilous and end is bleak.
My work explores the sublimity of existence through a post-apocalyptic environment emblematic of death, disaster, and desolation, without abandoning subtle indications of hope and beauty. This deconstructive setting is a harrowing and plausible circumstance that allows for an open-ended inquiry into the bewildering human condition, and enables the subject matter to address an extensive range of contemporary issues.
I take refuge in the power and versatility of oil paint on canvas. I have deep respect and appreciation for its immediacy, history, and its transformative capability to depict the authentic. I use traditional glazing, scumbling, and impasto techniques with a dark and rich color palette to create the subdued tones and distressed atmosphere associated with destruction. In selective areas I apply bright cautionary cadmiums that break through the darkness to present an alarming beauty.
The imagery I create and manner in which I work comes from a variety of sources including a grand tradition of studio painters. I feel indebted to the artistic accomplishments of many, though the works of Goya, Turner, Géricault, and Homer often come to mind. As for other sources of creation, I rely upon symbolism, ingenuity, intuition, knowledge, and happenstance. I am intrigued and often mystiﬁed by the wonder and awe of personal experience and its relationship to consciousness, delusion, and purpose. I seek out the gray and am delighted when my paintings raise open-ended questions that are subject to different interpretation.
In which direction does the road lie? We seek answers to the many questions of life and are seldom pacified. An apocalypse is inevitable and when this moment arrives will we finally know. As conscious beings we have emerged from infinite mystery, and into mystery we’ll return. In the end we may find that mystery is all there is. Until then, may these paintings be an enduring reminder.”