American Art – Part I of III: Jeanne Duval
“A man is not old as long as he is seeking something.” – Jean Rostand, French biologist and philosopher, who died 4 September 1977.
Some quotes from the work of Jean Rostand:
“Kill a man, and you are a murderer. Kill millions of men, and you are a conqueror. Kill everyone, and you are a god.”
“My pessimism extends to the point of even suspecting the sincerity of the pessimists.”
“A few great minds are enough to endow humanity with monstrous power, but a few great hearts are not enough to make us worthy of using it.”
“One must either take an interest in the human situation or else parade before the void.”
“Science has made us gods even before we are worthy of being men.”
“To be an adult is to be alone.”
Born 3 September 1810 – Paul Kane, a Canadian artist known for his paintings of First Nations peoples in the Canadian West and Native Americans in the Oregon Country.
Below – “Cree Warrior”; “Mount St. Helens Erupting at Night”; “Flathead Woman and Child”; “Indian Encampment of Lake Huron”; “Assiniboine Hunting Buffalo.”
Here is one writer describing the background of Indian artist Suchitra Bhosle: “Born and raised in Bangalore, India, Bhosle earned a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management and a master’s in business administration and was already successful as a corporate marketing strategist when she and her husband, Madhur Kapoor, came to the United States in 2001. Six months after the move, however, Bhosle’s beloved father died back home in India. ‘He was a hobbyist painter, and growing up we had lovely art books in our home, and I was always taken to the best art shows,’ she recalls. ‘And the moment he passed away was an awakening call for me.’”
From the American Old West: General William S. Harney
3 September 1855 – Seven hundred American soldiers under the command of General William S. Harney attack a Sioux village, killing one hundred men, women, and children. In the words of one historian,
“While on leave in Paris in 1854, Harney was recalled by the US government to lead a punitive expedition against the Sioux, after they killed a small US Army detachment in Nebraska Territory, an event called the Grattan Massacre. He led attacks against the Sioux culminating in the Battle of Ash Hollow in 1855, in which the Sioux were defeated. After the battle, the Sioux called Harney ‘Woman Killer.’ This was one of the opening battles in the more than two decades of the Plains Indian Wars.”
Russian Art – Part I of II: Georgy Kurasov
Here is one critic describing the background of Russian artist Georgy Kurasov: “(He) was born in 1958 in the USSR, in what was then Leningrad. He still lives and works in the same place, but now the country is Russia and the city is called St Petersburg. Without any effort on his part whatsoever, Georgy seems to have emigrated from one surreal country to another.
In 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed. By that time Kurasov had put together a large body of paintings, but had absolutely no idea what he was going to do with them. The future looked bleak. Then in 1993 his works were first exhibited in the USA. Since then, Georgy Kurasov have exhibited and sold his paintings exclusively in North America.
Americans see Georgy Kurasov as a Russian artist, Russians as an American artist. Painters think he is a sculptor. Sculptors are sure he is a painter. And when Georgy Kurasov thinks of it, he rather likes this borderline existence. Perhaps it is what makes it possible for him to be himself, to be unlike anyone else.”
“A withered maple leaf has left its branch and is falling to the ground; its movements resemble those of a butterfly in flight. Isn’t it strange? The saddest and deadest of things is yet so like the gayest and most vital of creatures?” – Ivan Turgenev, Russian novelist, short story writer, playwright, and author of “Fathers and Children” (translated as “Fathers and Sons”), who died 3 September 1883.
Some quotes from the work of Ivan Turgenev:
“If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything is ready, we shall never begin.”
“We sit in the mud my friend and reach for the stars.”
“Whereas I think: I’m lying here in a haystack… The tiny space I occupy is so infinitesimal in comparison with the rest of space, which I don’t occupy and which has no relation to me. And the period of time in which I’m fated to live is so insignificant beside the eternity in which I haven’t existed and won’t exist… And yet in this atom, this mathematical point, blood is circulating, a brain is working, desiring something… What chaos! What a farce!”
“O youth! youth! you go your way heedless, uncaring – as if you owned all the treasures of the world; even grief elates you, even sorrow sits well upon your brow. You are self-confident and insolent and you say, ‘I alone am alive – behold!’ even while your own days fly past and vanish without trace and without number, and everything within you melts away like wax in the sun .. like snow .. and perhaps the whole secret of your enchantment lies not, indeed, in your power to do whatever you may will, but in your power to think that there is nothing you will not do: it is this that you scatter to the winds – gifts which you could never have used to any other purpose. Each of us feels most deeply convinced that he has been too prodigal of his gifts – that he has a right to cry, ‘Oh, what could I not have done, if only I had not wasted my time.’”
“So long as one’s just dreaming about what to do, one can soar like an eagle and move mountains, it seems, but as soon as one starts doing it one gets worn out and tired.”
Russian Art – Part II of II: Victoria Kalaichi
British Art – Part I of II: Francis (Tone) O’Leary
English artist Francis (Tone) O’Leary has lived and worked in Australia since 1966.
Here is how one critic describes his work:
“Virtuoso puzzle paintings, pencil and paint magically combined.
Dazzling depictions of the figure in allegorical compositions.
A close study of old masters such as Leonardo, Perugino, and above all, Botticelli.”
From the American History Archives: The Wilderness
Act of 1964
“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” – The definition of “wilderness” in the 1964 Wilderness Act. In the words of one historian, “The Wilderness Act of 1964 was written by Howard Zahniser of The Wilderness Society. It created the legal definition of wilderness in the United States, and protected 9.1 million acres (36,000 km²) of federal land. The result of a long effort to protect federal wilderness and to create a formal mechanism for designating wilderness, the Wilderness Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on September 3, 1964 after over sixty drafts and eight years of work. When Johnson signed the act, he made the following statement: ‘If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.’”
British Art – Part II of II: Tanya Brett
“While wandering a deserted beach at dawn, stagnant in my work, I saw a man in the distance bending and throwing as he walked the endless stretch toward me. As he came near, I could see that he was throwing starfish, abandoned on the sand by the tide, back into the sea. When he was close enough I asked him why he was working so hard at this strange task. He said that the sun would dry the starfish and they would die. I said to him that I thought he was foolish. there were thousands of starfish on miles and miles of beach. One man alone could never make a difference. He smiled as he picked up the next starfish. Hurling it far into the sea he said, ‘It makes a difference for this one.’ I abandoned my writing and spent the morning throwing starfish.” – Loren Eiseley, American anthropologist, educator, naturalist, philosopher, writer, and author of “The Immense Journey” and “The Unexpected Universe,” who was born 3 September 1907.
Some quotes from the work of Loren Eiseley:
“Perhaps a creature of so much ingenuity and deep memory is almost bound to grow alienated from his world, his fellows, and the objects around him. He suffers from a nostalgia for which there is no remedy upon earth except as it is to be found in the enlightenment of the spirit–some ability to have a perceptive rather than an exploitive relationship with his fellow creatures.”
“The need is not really for more brains, the need is now for a gentler, a more tolerant people than those who won for us against the ice, the tiger and the bear. The hand that hefted the ax, out of some old blind allegiance to the past fondles the machine gun as lovingly. It is a habit man will have to break to survive, but the roots go very deep.”
“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”
“It is a commonplace of all religious thought, even the most primitive, that the man seeking visions and insight must go apart from his fellows and live for a time in the wilderness. If he is of the proper sort, he will return with a message. It may not be a message from the god he set out to seek, but even if he has failed in that particular, he will have had a vision or seen a marvel, and these are always worth listening to and thinking about…. One must seek, then, what only the solitary approach can give – a natural revelation.”
“It is frequently the tragedy of the great artist, as it is of the great scientist, that he frightens the ordinary man.”
“I love forms beyond my own, and regret the borders between us”
“The journey is difficult, immense. We will travel as far as we can, but we cannot in one lifetime see all that we would like to see or to learn all that we hunger to know.”
“If it should turn out that we have mishandled our own lives as several civilizations before us have done, it seems a pity that we should involve the violet and the tree frog in our departure.”
“Since the first human eye saw a leaf in Devonian sandstone and a puzzled finger reached to touch it, sadness has lain over the heart of man. By this tenuous thread of living protoplasm, stretching backward into time, we are linked forever to lost beaches whose sands have long since hardened into stone. The stars that caught our blind
amphibian stare have shifted far or vanished in their courses, but still that naked, glistening thread winds onward. No one knows the secret of its beginning or its end. Its forms are phantoms. The thread alone is real; the thread is life.”
“Though men in the mass forget the origins of their need, they still bring wolfhounds into city apartments, where dog and man both sit brooding in wistful discomfort.
The magic that gleams an instant between Argos and Odysseus is both the recognition of diversity and the need for affection across the illusions of form. It is nature’s cry to homeless, far-wandering, insatiable man: “Do not forget your brethren, nor the green wood from which you sprang. To do so is to invite disaster.”
“For the first time in four billion years a living creature had contemplated himself and heard with a sudden, unaccountable loneliness, the whisper of the wind in the night reeds.”
American Art – Part II of III: Jason Walker
Here is the Artist Statement of ceramicist Jason Walker: “For quite some time, I have explored the idea of ‘nature.’ What is it exactly? How do we perceive and define it, and why? In America we hold tightly to a very dualistic view of nature. This view has created two separate worlds – the human made world and the non-human made world – or in other words culture and nature. This view places human beings on the outside of nature and one place that embodies our most ideal perception of nature is wilderness. I have titled this show Human Made Wild, to reference how wild and wilderness are constructs of my culture, and the way I think about nature comes from these constructs. The imagery was gathered by walking 75 miles of trail through Yosemite National Park and many more miles of concrete through Chicago Illinois, two iconic American landscapes, with my sketchbook. The pieces are an attempt to merge these two opposing places; to say it is time to rethink our perceptions of nature, culture, wilderness and civilization, in hopes we can once again reinstate our own naturalness and perhaps one day find balance between ourselves, and the planet.”
“I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing than to teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.” – e e cummings, American poet, painter, essayist, author, and playwright, and recipient of the 1958 Bollingen Prize in Poetry, who died 3 September 1962.
Buffalo Bill ‘s
who used to
ride a watersmooth-silver
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
Here is one critic describing the artistry of Chinese painter Xie Chuyu: “In Chuyu`s works, one can keenly feel his sentimental asceticism. The background (can be) gloomy and confused, with a figure showing ignorance of her previous existence and this life, which constructs an artistic conception as if you had been in the remote past. You must think deeply about the brief youth and the limits of human existence, which arouses sorrow and reluctance.”
Greek Art – Part I of II: Nikos Ghika
Died 3 September 1994 – Nikos Ghika, a Greek painter, sculptor, engraver, writer, and academic.
A Poem for Today
“My Mother, on an Evening in Late Summer,”
By Mark Strand
When the moon appears
and a few wind-stricken barns stand out
in the low-domed hills
and shine with a light
that is veiled and dust-filled
and that floats upon the fields,
my mother, with her hair in a bun,
her face in shadow, and the smoke
from her cigarette coiling close
to the faint yellow sheen of her dress,
stands near the house
and watches the seepage of late light
down through the sedges,
the last gray islands of cloud
taken from view, and the wind
ruffling the moon’s ash-colored coat
on the black bay.
Soon the house, with its shades drawn closed, will send
small carpets of lampglow
into the haze and the bay
will begin its loud heaving
and the pines, frayed finials
climbing the hill, will seem to graze
the dim cinders of heaven.
And my mother will stare into the starlanes,
the endless tunnels of nothing,
and as she gazes,
under the hour’s spell,
she will think how we yield each night
to the soundless storms of decay
that tear at the folding flesh,
and she will not know
why she is here
or what she is prisoner of
if not the conditions of love that brought her to this.
My mother will go indoors
and the fields, the bare stones
will drift in peace, small creatures —
the mouse and the swift — will sleep
at opposite ends of the house.
Only the cricket will be up,
repeating its one shrill note
to the rotten boards of the porch,
to the rusted screens, to the air, to the rimless dark,
to the sea that keeps to itself.
Why should my mother awake?
The earth is not yet a garden
about to be turned. The stars
are not yet bells that ring
at night for the lost.
It is much too late.
Below – Richard Diebenkorn: “Woman on a Porch”
Greek Art – Part II of II: George Kotsonis
Here is one critic describing the background of painter George Kotsonis: “Born at Palechori, Cyprus in March 1940. In 1958 he studied Art at Saint Martins School of Art, London. In 1960 he won a scholarship to China, where he continued his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1963 he went to Czechoslovakia, on a scholarship, where he continued and finished his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. He received his degree of Art in 1967 and the title of Academic Artist. Since then, he has lived and worked in Pafos, Cyprus.”
“Tableaux: Four 19th Century Photographs,”
By John Spaulding
Somewhere Indians are walking across America.
One is a woman caught in stride
between two white birches, her eyes
on the ground, her mouth
biting open a word while the wind
shreds the lake behind her.
A boy wakes alone in cold New England air.
From his window he watches his father’s breath
mix with the steam from cows’ urine.
A white blanket of sheep has unrolled
across the hill, and the yellow dogs
who ran and ran have now disappeared.
A glass necklace floats on her white breast
just as she herself floats inside his lens
while he watches from under the dark hood—
her small black eardrops hang perfectly still,
her long white neck and cleavage ready to be
frozen forever by the touch of his finger.
As the deer ate from the deep lawn
and the fish jumped near the willow trees,
the big white ferry paused briefly before sliding
back again across the lake, completely
unaware of its brightness and its beauty.
American Art – Part III of III: Sandra Bierman
Artist Statement: “It is important in my work that I paint intuitively, with no models or photographs to influence the spontaneity of my inner perceptions as they emerge. Although I approach the canvas much like an abstract painter, working with divisions of space, shapes and lines, I enjoy the added challenge of using the human figure. I consciously work with technique and composition, but my unconscious adds an element of inner yearning for tranquility, strength and well being– depending on my mood. The figures, often depict grounded women with bare earthy feet and large caring hands. The women may be cradling a child, getting solace from a cat or washing their hair in the rain reflections from my own life. The large old women may be my grandmother or me. I am also the cat or baby. In a way, the whole painting is a self-portrait from the inside, out. Men are also coming into my compositions. For the sake of important elements in a work, I often exaggerate or distort shapes and lines to enhance the overall flow and composition. I apply the paint, but it is a struggle to not get in the way of the process as it unfolds. It works best if the vision guides me, not I guide it. I notice that my visits to Kauai are influencing my palette.”