American Art – Part I of V: Carol Lee Thompson
“The deepest feeling always shows itself in silence; not in silence, but restraint.” – Marianne Moore, American poet and recipient of the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and the Bollingen Prize (for “Collected Poems”), who was born on 15 November 1887.
Man, looking into the sea—
taking the view from those who have as much right to it as you have it to yourself—
it is human nature to stand in the middle of a thing
but you cannot stand in the middle of this:
the sea has nothing to give but a well excavated grave.
The firs stand in a procession—each with an emerald turkey-foot at the top—
reserved as their contours, saying nothing;
repression, however, is not the most obvious characteristic of the sea;
the sea is a collector, quick to return a rapacious look.
There are others besides you who have worn that look—
whose expression is no longer a protest; the fish no longer investigate them
for their bones have not lasted;
men lower nets, unconscious of the fact that they are desecrating a grave,
and row quickly away—the blades of the oars
moving together like the feet of water-spiders as if there were no such thing as death.
The wrinkles progress upon themselves in a phalanx—beautiful under networks of foam,
and fade breathlessly while the sea rustles in and out of the seaweed;
the birds swim through the air at top speed, emitting cat-calls as heretofore—
the tortoise-shell scourges about the feet of the cliffs, in motion beneath them
and the ocean, under the pulsation of light-houses and noise of bell-buoys,
advances as usual, looking as if it were not that ocean in which dropped things are bound to sink—
in which if they turn and twist, it is neither with volition nor consciousness.
Below – Artifacts from the Titanic lying on the seabed.
In the words of one critic, “Tone Aanderaa, a graduate fine arts student at Pratt Institute, heads to the fjords of her native Norway every summer, where she works as a salmon fisherman, casting a net from her rowboat every morning to earn money to pay her $10,000 tuition. Not surprisingly, her paintings are highly evocative of the rhythms of the natural world.
Miss Aanderaa plans to return to Norway after graduation. ‘There’s too much country in me,’ she explains in her second-floor studio at Pratt one morning, the air redolent of linseed oil and turpentine. ‘In New York, you forget the cycles, the particular way the seasons change. I’m a northern person. I feel very tied to that particular area of the world.’
Norway offers a more independent vantage point, a place removed from the frenzied world of the New York or European gallery scenes. ‘It’s outside, which feels like freedom,’’ she explains. ‘Still, the prospect of returning is not without its conflict. In many ways it’s harder to paint in the country, because a lot of painting comes from questioning the outside. I worry about that.’”
“Cornstalks from last summer’s garden now lean toward the kitchen window, and the November wind goes through them in a shudder. Their thin tassels spread out beseeching fingers, and their long bleached blades flutter like ragged clothing.” – Rachel Peden
From the American History Archives – Part I of II: Zebulon Pike
15 November 1806 – Explorer Zebulon Pike first sights the mountain that would bear his name – Pike’s Peak.
Below – Zebulon Pike; a field near Genoa, Colorado, with Pike’s Peak in the distance. (This might not be an impressive photograph, but it was taken at the place on Interstate 70 West where Pike’s Peak first comes into view, thus signifying to travelers that their wearisome transit across the vast and featureless plains is nearing an end.); Pike’s Peak.
American Art – Part II of V: Thomas John Carlson
Artist Statement: “These paintings are a type of visual memoir in which I document moments in my life personally significant to me. Similar to pages of a journal, these paintings record my reflections on certain events and my relationships with people I know. I habitually photograph everyday events with hundreds of disposable images. While rapidly cycling through them, I look for elements of true sincerity. My final image is composed of elements from various sources, and through paint gains value over the initial disposable imagery. If a viewer believes that an image is not contrived, they are better able to sympathize with its subject matter. These paintings are honest reflections of myself ever changing, sometimes very literal, sometimes emblematic, and always open to interpretation.”
From the American History Archives – Part II of II: The Cow Palace
15 November 1941 – The Cow Palace opens in Daly City, California, on the city’s border with San Francisco.
I don’t understand why a bunch of bovines deserves to have a Palace built for them. Perhaps cows are sacred in San Francisco, as are cable cars, Rice-A-Roni, youthful but generally worthless technocrats, and old hippies.
American Art – Part III of V: Georgia O’Keeffe
“I hate flowers—I paint them because they’re cheaper than models and they don’t move.” – Georgia O’Keeffe, American artist, who was born on 15 November 1887.
“The mark of a truly civilized man is confidence in the strength and security derived from the inquiring mind.” – Felix Frankfurter, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, who was born on 15 November 1882.
Frankfurter was considered a liberal and advocated progressive legislation, but he was also a firm believer in judicial restraint.
Some quotes from the work of Felix Frankfurter:
“The real rulers in Washington are invisible, and exercise power from behind the scenes.”
“To some lawyers, all facts are created equal.”
“It is a fair summary of history to say that the safeguards of liberty have been forged in controversies involving not very nice people.”
“Old age and sickness bring out the essential characteristics of a man.”
“All our work, our whole life is a matter of semantics, because words are the tools with which we work, the material out of which laws are made, out of which the Constitution was written. Everything depends on our understanding of them.”
“As a member of this court I am not justified in writing my private notions of policy into the Constitution, no matter how deeply I may cherish them or how mischievous I may deem their disregard.”
“Freedom of the press is not an end in itself but a means to the end of achieving a free society.”
“Gratitude is one of the least articulate of the emotions, especially when it is deep.”
“I don’t like a man to be too efficient. He’s likely to be not human enough.”
“It is a wise man who said that there is no greater inequality than the equal treatment of unequals.”
“It simply is not true that war never settles anything.”
“Judicial judgment must take deep account of the day before yesterday in order that yesterday may not paralyze today.”
“Litigation is the pursuit of practical ends, not a game of chess.”
“The history of liberty has largely been the history of the observance of procedural safeguards.”
“The ultimate touchstone of constitutionality is the Constitution itself and not what we have said about it.”
“We forget that the most successful statesmen have been professionals. Lincoln was a professional politician.”
“Wisdom too often never comes, and so one ought not to reject it merely because it comes late.”
A Poem for Today
“First Snow, Kerhonkson,”
By Diane di Prima
This, then, is the gift the world has given me
(you have given me)
softly the snow
cupped in hollows
lying on the surface of the pond
matching my long white candles
which stand at the window
which will burn at dusk while the snow
fills up our valley
no friend will wander down
no one arriving brown from Mexico
from the sunfields of California, bearing pot
they are scattered now, dead or silent
or blasted to madness
by the howling brightness of our once common vision
and this gift of yours—
white silence filling the contours of my life.
“The more people have time to experience the joys of creativity, the less they will be consumers, especially of mass-produced culture. I see that as a kind of new wealth that counts for more than owning material things. I also see art as something people will do rather than consume, and do it as a natural part of their lives; creative endeavors are a form of profound spiritual satisfaction.” – Theodore Roszak, American scholar, professor, and author of “The Making of a Counter-Culture: Reflections on the Technocratic Society & Its Youthful Opposition” and “Where the Wasteland Ends: Politics and Transcendence in Postindustrial Society,” who was born 15 November 1933.
Some quotes from the work of Theodore Roszak:
“Nature composes some of her loveliest poems for the microscope and the telescope.”
“It may, after all, be the bad habit of creative talents to invest themselves in pathological extremes that yield remarkable insights but no durable way of life for those who cannot translate their psychic wounds into significant art or thought.”
“The blood is our strength, for it is the power of the heavens and the Earth within us.”
“Deprived of bread or the equal benefits of the commonwealth, the person shrivels. Obviously. And that is a clear line to fight on. But when the transcendent energies waste away, then too the person shrivels–though far less obviously. Their loss is suffered in privacy and bewildered silence; it is easily submerged in affluence, entertaining diversions, and adjustive therapy. Well fed and fashionably dressed, surrounded by every manner of mechanical convenience and with our credit rating in good order, we may even be ashamed to feel we have any problem at all.”
A Second Poem for Today
“How Rare a Really Beautiful Hand Is Now, Since the Harp Has Gone Out of Fashion,”
By Amy Key
Moisturizer is important to me like a car is important.
I’ll never own a car and skin is incidentally mine.
Truth is, skin seems to manage pretty well on its own.
I only travel in cars to sing to the radio.
My skin is such a brute! It needs a regime!
I need a drink. My car and my skin need a drink. I want to say
‘ain’t you a cool glass of water.’ My skin is so dull
and I have no car. My eyes, however, are ritzy.
I favor the non-abrasive. My cult product
is an anti-aging self-emollient. More often
this is new pajamas. But pajamas need multi-talents!
I’m not yet old-old. Thinking of crystal decanters
makes me feel young, they are inscrutable adulthood.
My skin can’t be so bad — sleep is like a drink
and my controls are set to bed. This is my mitigation
against stress, stern weather, assorted irritations.
Being ravaged is my own fault! Proper living
requires routine, tiny adjustments that make life better.
I’m making plans with no muscle to them.
Sleep is no artificial skin, despite its gauzy potential.
Rose water — by the by I’d rather drink it
as the hokey pendulum swings.
I’m looking for something foolproof, aplomb
that withstands the interrogating nude.
In the words of one writer, “Eugeni Balakshin was born in 1962 in Saransk, Russia. He studied in Saransk Art College, at M. P. Shanin’s art studio. He is a member of the Union of Artists of Russia since 1991.
The paintings of artist have deep and philosophical character of Russian school of painting. His works are presented in the private collections in France, England, Holland, Spain, Switzerland, Japan and Russia.”
A Third Poem for Today
By Kathleen Graber
One man prays: How shall I be able to lie with this woman? Do thou pray thus: How shall I not desire to lie with her? Another prays thus: How shall I be released from this? Another prays: How shall I not desire to be released? — Marcus Aurelius
When we are lost in our longings, Aurelius, already it is too late:
there is already nothing we can do. I have rarely desired an end
to my desires. We are so in love with our wanting. Last week,
though doctors were quick to repair it, a baby in India was born
grasping her own beating heart in her fist. Today, a Dumpster
arrives from Dave’s Trash Removal & I begin to fill it. I toss in
a transistor radio that hasn’t worked in years. A man walking past
asks if he can take it. Later, he returns & carries off a broken TV.
A neighbor salvages the dented gray fuse box; a girl wants a window,
a paper bag full of tangled cords. All night I listen to the wind
& the echoes of feet kicking through rubbish, like a mouse nesting
inside a drum. My older brother is dead a decade. Yet here
in its enormous gold frame is the familiar, pastel portrait
someone named Maxwell drew for our mother, an inaccurate
rendering of the two of us when we were small. I can’t look at it;
I can’t throw it away. ‘Every change is a death,’ you tell yourself,
‘turn thy thoughts now to thy life as a child. . . .’ One day, I tell myself,
I will shut all the doors, leave everything behind. The museum
is showing a hundred tricked-out Victorian photographs
of that other world: the hoax of floating fairies, women haunted
by ghostly blurs. Another century & still we want to believe
in what we know cannot be true. Your words, Aurelius, have found me,
but you could not. If we are disappointed, we have only ourselves
to blame: ‘Wipe out thy imagination.’ We fill out hands when they are
empty. We empty ourselves when we have held too much too long.
“Civilised life, you know, is based on a huge number of illusions in which we all collaborate willingly. The trouble is we forget after a while that they are illusions and we are deeply shocked when reality is torn down around us.” – J. G. Ballard, China-born English novelist, short story writer, science fiction writer, essayist, and author of “Empire of the Sun” and “The Atrocity Exhibition,” who was born 15 November 1930.
Some quotes from the work of J. G. Ballard:
“All over the world major museums have bowed to the influence of Disney and become theme parks in their own right. The past, whether Renaissance Italy or Ancient Egypt, is re-assimilated and homogenized into its most digestible form. Desperate for the new, but disappointed with anything but the familiar, we recolonize past and future. The same trend can be seen in personal relationships, in the way people are expected to package themselves, their emotions and sexuality, in attractive and instantly appealing forms.”
“I believe in the power of the imagination to remake the world, to release the truth within us, to hold back the night, to transcend death, to charm motorways, to ingratiate ourselves with birds, to enlist the confidences of madmen.”
“Deserts possess a particular magic, since they have exhausted their own futures, and are thus free of time. Anything erected there, a city, a pyramid, a motel, stands outside time. It’s no coincidence that religious leaders emerge from the desert. Modern shopping malls have much the same function. A future Rimbaud, Van Gogh or Adolf Hitler will emerge from their timeless wastes.”
“I would sum up my fear about the future in one word: boring. And that’s my one fear: that everything has happened; nothing exciting or new or interesting is ever going to happen again … the future is just going to be a vast, conforming suburb of the soul.”
“Sooner or later, everything turns into television.”
“It was an excess of fantasy that killed the old United States, the whole Mickey Mouse and Marilyn thing, the most brilliant technologies devoted to trivia like instant cameras and space spectaculars that should have stayed in the pages of Science Fiction. Some of the last Presidents of the U.S.A. seemed to have been recruited straight from Disneyland.”
“Unhappy parents teach you a lesson that lasts a lifetime.”
“A kind of banalization of celebrity has occurred: we are now offered an instant, ready-to-mix fame as nutritious as packet soup.”
“The marriage of reason and nightmare that dominated the 20th century has given birth to an ever more ambiguous world. Across the communications landscape move the spectres of sinister technologies and the dreams that money can buy. Thermo-nuclear weapons systems and soft-drink commercials coexist in an overlit realm ruled by advertising and pseudo-events, science and pornography. Over our lives preside the great twin leitmotifs of the 20th century – sex and paranoia…In a sense, pornography is the most political form of fiction, dealing with how we use and exploit each other, in the most urgent and ruthless way.”
“Sooner or later, all games become serious.”
“Everything is becoming science fiction. From the margins of an almost invisible literature has sprung the intact reality of the 20th century. ”
“The media landscape of the present day is a map in search of a territory. A huge volume of sensational and often toxic imagery inundates our minds, much of it fictional in content. How do we make sense of this ceaseless flow of advertising and publicity, news and entertainment, where presidential campaigns and moon voyages are presented in terms indistinguishable from the launch of a new candy bar or deodorant? What actually happens on the level of our unconscious minds when, within minutes on the same TV screen, a prime minister is assassinated, an actress makes love, an injured child is carried from a car crash? Faced with these charged events, prepackaged emotions already in place, we can only stitch together a set of emergency scenarios, just as our sleeping minds extemporize a narrative from the unrelated memories that veer through the cortical night. In the waking dream that now constitutes everyday reality, images of a blood-spattered window, the chromium trim of a limousine windshield, the stylised glamour of a motorcade, fuse together to provide a secondary narrative with very different meanings.”
“The American Dream has run out of gas. The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies. No more. It’s over. It supplies the world with its nightmares now: the Kennedy assassination, Watergate, Vietnam…”
“The twentieth century ended with its dreams in ruins. The notion of the community as a voluntary association of enlightened citizens has died forever. We realize how suffocatingly humane we’ve become, dedicated to moderation and the middle way. The suburbanization of the soul has overrun our planet like the plague.”
“Elaborate burial customs are a sure sign of decadence.”
“The human race sleepwalked to oblivion, thinking only of the corporate logos on its shroud.”
“Science and technology multiply around us. To an increasing extent they dictate the languages in which we speak and think. Either we use those languages, or we remain mute.”
“The endless newsreel clips of nuclear explosions that we saw on TV in the 1960s (were) a powerful incitement to the psychotic imagination, sanctioning ‘everything.’”
“These people were the first to master a new kind of late twentieth-century life. They thrived on the rapid turnover of acquaintances, the lack of involvement with others, and the total self-sufficiency of lives which, needing nothing, were never disappointed.”
“The 90’s map the decades to come – full of invisible technologies that will ‘sub-contract’ many of the functions of the central nervous system.”
“First she would try to kill him, but failing this give him food and her body, breast-feed him back to a state of childishness and even, perhaps, feel affection for him. Then, the moment he was asleep, cut his throat. The synopsis of the ideal marriage.”
“With its passive and unobtrusive despotism, the camera governed the smallest spaces of our lives. Even in the privacy of our own homes we had all been recruited to play our parts in what were little more than real-life commercials. As we cooked in our kitchens we were careful to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, as we made love in our bedrooms we embraced within a familiar repertoire of gestures and affections. The medium of film had turned us all into minor actors in an endlessly running daytime serial. In the future, airliners would crash and presidents would be assassinated within agreed conventions as formalised as the coronation of a tsar.”
“Let the psychotics take over. They alone understood what was happening.”
“Religions are Trojan horses which conceal profoundly strange psychopathy strains. There’s no other explanation for them. The sheer fear of death has been the main engine of religions for a very long time.”
“At the sales counter, the human race’s greatest confrontation with existence, there were no yesterdays, no history to be relived, only an intense transactional present.”
“These days even reality has to look artificial.”
“The relationship between the famous and the public who sustain them is governed by a striking paradox. Infinitely remote, the great stars of politics, film and entertainment move across an electric terrain of limousines, bodyguards and private helicopters. At the same time, the zoom lens and the interview camera bring them so near to us that we know their faces and their smallest gestures more intimately than those of our friends.
Somewhere in this paradoxical space our imaginations are free to range, and we find ourselves experimenting like impresarios with all the possibilities that these magnified figures seem to offer us.”
“I’m a strong opponent of all religious belief.”
“The bourgeois novel is the greatest enemy of truth and honesty that was ever invented.”
“Even their insistence on educating their children, the last reflex of any exploited group before it sank into submission, marked the end of their resistance.”
“No one could have imagined the effects the Internet would have: …there’s a vast new intimacy and accidental poetry, not to mention the weirdest porn. The entire human experience seems to unveil itself like the surface of a new planet.”
“Electronic aids, particularly domestic computers, will help the inner migration, the opting out of reality. Reality is no longer going to be the stuff out there, but the stuff inside your head. It’s going to be commercial and nasty at the same time.”
A Fourth Poem for Today
From “The Dry Salvages,”
By T. S. Eliot
I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god – sullen, untamed and intractable,
Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier;
Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce;
The only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.
The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten
By the dwellers in cities – ever, however, implacable.
Keeping his seasons, and rages, destroyer, reminder
Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, unpropitiated
By worshippers of the machine, but waiting, watching and waiting.
His rhythm was present in the nursery bedroom,
In the rank ailanthus of the April dooryard,
In the smell of grapes on the autumn table,
And the evening circle in the winter gaslight.
The river is within us, the sea is all about us;
The sea is the land’s edge also, the granite,
Into which it reaches, the beaches where it tosses
Its hints of earlier and other creation:
The starfish, the horseshoe crab, the whale’s backbone;
The pools where it offers to our curiosity
The more delicate algae and the sea anemone.
It tosses up our losses, the torn seine,
The shattered lobsterpot, the broken oar
And the gear of foreign dead men. The sea has many voices,
Many gods and many voices.
The salt is on the briar rose,
The fog is in the fir trees.
The sea howl
And the sea yelp, are different voices
Often together heard: the whine in the rigging,
The menace and caress of wave that breaks on water,
The distant rote in the granite teeth,
And the wailing warning form the approaching headland
Are all sea voices, and the heaving groaner
Rounded homewards, and the seagull:
And under the oppression of the silent fog
The tolling bell
Measures time not our time, rung by the unhurried
Ground swell, a time
Older than the time of chronometers, older
Than time counted by anxious worried women
Lying awake, calculating the future,
Trying to unweave, unwind, unravel
And piece together the past and the future,
Between midnight and dawn, when the past is all deception,
The future futureless, before the morning watch
When time stops and time is never ending;
And the ground swell, that is and was from the beginning,
American Art – Part IV of V: Barbara Kacicek
In the words of one writer, “With a BFA in Drawing and Painting (Kutztown University, Pennsylvania, USA), artist Barbara Kacicek has exhibited in numerous museum and invitational exhibitions including ‘Getting Real: 20th Century American Realism from the Philip Desind Collection’ and most recently ‘Contemporary Imaginings: the Howard A. and Judith Tullman Collection.’ Barbara’s chief influences are the Old and Modern Masters, the sky (clouds, stars, wind, phases of the moon), the quality and color of shifting light, walking, standing still, the creative pursuits of her husband and daughter, the poetry of singer-songwriters, day dreams, night dreams, the human figure, fruit, water, her hands.”
“I like spring, but it is too young. I like summer, but it is too proud. So I like best of all autumn, because its tone is mellower, its colours are richer, and it is tinged with a little sorrow. Its golden richness speaks not of the innocence of spring, nor the power of summer, but of the mellowness and kindly wisdom of approaching age. It knows the limitations of life and its content.” – Lin Yutang
A Fifth Poem for Today
“To an Old Square Piano,”
By Robinson Jeffers
Whose fingers wore your ivory keys
So thin—as tempest and tide-flow
Some pearly shell, the castaway
Of indefatigable seas
On a low shingle far away—
You will not tell, we cannot know.
Only, we know that you are come,
Full of strange ghosts melodious
The old years forget the echoes of,
From the ancient house into our home;
And you will sing of old-world love,
And of ours too, and live with us.
Sweet sounds will feed you here: our woods
Are vocal with the seawind’s breath;
Nor want they wing-borne choristers,
Nor the ocean’s organ-interludes.
—Be true beneath her hands, even hers
Who is more to me than life or death.
American Art – Part V of V: Charles Williams
Artist Statement: I explore the relationship between human emotions and the natural environment. These parallel perspectives are the basis for my landscapes channeled onto canvas. Often, it’s my perception that
I feel compelled to paint a specific landscape. These feelings inspire me to capture honest moments,
showing others a glimpse of what’s beneath the surface.”