From the American History Archives: Requiem
Artist Statement: “I’m not sure there’s anything that hasn’t been done in painting except what’s been written on artists own souls. The only thing possible is to keep working from my own intuition and own inner self.”
A Poem for Today
By Donald Hall
To grow old is to lose everything.
Aging, everybody knows it.
Even when we are young,
we glimpse it sometimes, and nod our heads
when a grandfather dies.
Then we row for years on the midsummer
pond, ignorant and content. But a marriage,
that began without harm, scatters
into debris on the shore,
and a friend from school drops
cold on a rocky strand.
If a new love carries us
past middle age, our wife will die
at her strongest and most beautiful.
New women come and go. All go.
The pretty lover who announces
that she is temporary
is temporary. The bold woman,
middle-aged against our old age,
sinks under an anxiety she cannot withstand.
Another friend of decades estranges himself
in words that pollute thirty years.
Let us stifle under mud at the pond’s edge
and affirm that it is fitting
and delicious to lose everything.
“One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” – Andre Gide, French writer, author of “The Immoralist” and “The Counterfeiters,” and recipient of the 1947 Nobel Prize in Literature “for his comprehensive and artistically significant writings, in which human problems and conditions have been presented with a fearless love of truth and keen psychological insight,” who was born 22 November 1869.
Some quotes from the work of Andre Gide:
“Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.”
“It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.”
“Only those things are beautiful which are inspired by madness and written by reason.”
“Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”
“Work and struggle and never accept an evil that you can change.”
“‘You have to let other people be right’ was his answer to their insults. ‘It consoles them for not being anything else.’”
“Only fools don’t contradict themselves”
“Fear of ridicule begets the worst cowardice.”
“Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself- and thus make yourself indispensable.”
“We prefer to go deformed and distorted all our lives rather than not resemble the portrait of ourselves which we ourselves have first drawn. It’s absurd. We run the risk of warping what’s best in us.”
“The most decisive actions of our life – I mean those that are most likely to decide the whole course of our future – are, more often than not, unconsidered.”
“To read a writer is for me not merely to get an idea of what he says, but to go off with him and travel in his company.”
American Art – Part II of IV: Nanci France-Vaz
In the words of one critic, “Nanci France-Vaz is a progressive realist that creates paintings filled with drama, light, color, and a life like quality. Her background in acting, dance, and special effects film is evident in all of her compositions. She is the director of her own film through the medium of painting. Each subject has a unique presence in the environment with dramatic light and atmosphere. “As a painter, my greatest desire is to combine the style of a modern cinematographer with the classical style and techniques of the old masters. Painting in the 21st century should not be a replica of the classical art of the past, but a progressive modern version utilizing the techniques and information of the past with the technology of the future.”
A Second Poem for Today
“The Broken Fountain,”
By Amy Lowell
Oblong, its jutted ends rounding into circles,
The old sunken basin lies with its flat, marble lip
An inch below the terrace tiles.
Over the stagnant water
The blue-green of coned yews;
The purple and red of trailing fuchsias
Dripping out of marble urns;
Bright squares of sky
Ribbed by the wake of a swimming beetle.
Through the blue-bronze water
Wavers the pale uncertainty of a shadow.
An arm flashes through the reflections,
A breast is outlined with leaves.
Outstretched in the quiet water
The statue of a Goddess slumbers.
But when Autumn comes
The beech leaves cover her with a golden counter-pane.
Here is one critic describing the artistry of German sculptor Bruno Walpoth: “Humans are his central theme. With great love and craftsmanship he makes his sculptures and gives every one, it seems, a soul. The sculptures have a meditative effect on the viewer. The material, either linden or walnut wood, in combination with light gives each sculpture a specific character and makes it hard not to want to touch them.”
A Third Poem for Today
“For a Traveler,”
By Jessica Greenbaum
I only have a moment so let me tell you the shortest story,
about arriving at a long loved place, the house of friends in Maine,
their lawn of wildflowers, their grandfather clock and candid
portraits, their gabled attic rooms, and woodstove in the kitchen,
all accessories of the genuine summer years before, when I was
their son’s girlfriend and tied an apron behind my neck, beneath
my braids, and took from their garden the harvest for a dinner
I would make alone and serve at their big table with the gladness
of the found, and loved. The eggplant shone like polished wood,
the tomatoes smelled like their furred collars, the dozen zucchini
lined up on the counter like placid troops with the onions, their
minions, and I even remember the garlic, each clove from its airmail
envelope brought to the cutting board, ready for my instruction.
And in this very slight story, a decade later, I came by myself,
having been dropped by the airport cab, and waited for the family
to arrive home from work. I walked into the lawn, waist-high
in the swaying, purple lupines, the subject of June’s afternoon light
as I had never been addressed — a displaced young woman with
cropped hair, no place to which I wished to return, and no one
to gather me in his arms. That day the lupines received me,
and I was in love with them, because they were all I had left,
and in that same manner I have loved much of the world since then,
and who is to say there is more of a reason, or more to love?
“The deepest sin against the human mind is to believe things without evidence.” – Aldous Huxley, English writer, humanist, pacifist, satirist, and author of “Brave New World” and “The Doors of Perception,” who died 22 November 1963.
Some quotes from the work of Aldous Huxley:
“Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted. That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.”
“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”
“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”
“The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.”
“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.”
“An intellectual is a person who has discovered something more interesting than sex.”
“The real hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives, that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does. They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted.”
“If one’s different, one’s bound to be lonely.”
“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you mad.”
“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.”
“Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.”
“The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.”
“Chastity—the most unnatural of all the sexual perversions.”
“Chronic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most undesirable sentiment. If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and address yourself to the task of behaving better next time. On no account brood over your wrongdoing. Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.”
“Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are the dead.”
“Happiness is not achieved by the conscious pursuit of happiness; it is generally the by-product of other activities.”
“Every man’s memory is his private literature.”
“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.”
“Man is so intelligent that he feels impelled to invent theories to account for what happens in the world. Unfortunately, he is not quite intelligent enough, in most cases, to find correct explanations. So that when he acts on his theories, he behaves very often like a lunatic.”
“Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.”
Here is how one critic describes the work of Latvian painter Vija Zarina: “The language of the artist’s painting is very feminine, refined, ornamental. Peace and harmony radiate from her compositions, thus reflecting the internal world and thinking of the artist.”
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Mahatma Gandhi
A Fourth Poem for Today
“If Once You Have Slept On An Island,”
By Rachel Field
If once you have slept on an island
You’ll never be quite the same;
You may look as you looked the day before
And go by the same old name,
You may bustle about in street and shop
You may sit at home and sew,
But you’ll see blue water and wheeling gulls
Wherever your feet may go.
You may chat with the neighbors of this and that
And close to your fire keep,
But you’ll hear ship whistle and lighthouse bell
And tides beat through your sleep.
Oh! you won’t know why and you can’t say how
Such a change upon you came,
But once you have slept on an island,
You’ll never be quite the same.
American Art – Part III of IV: William Bliss Baker
Died 20 November 1886 – William Bliss Baker, an American artist who, in the words of one critic, “began painting just as the Hudson River School was winding down.”
Musings in Autumn: Mary Austin
“Wild fowl, quacking hordes of them, nest in the tulares (swamp reeds). Any day’s venture will raise from open shallows the great blue heron on his hollow wings. Chill evenings the mallard drakes cry continually from the glassy pools, the bittern’s hollow boom rolls along the water paths. Strange and farflown fowl drop down against the saffron, autumn sky. All day wings beat above it hazy with speed; long flights of cranes glimmer in the twilight. By night one wakes to hear the clanging geese go over. One wishes for, but gets no nearer speech from those the reedy fens have swallowed up. What they do there, how fare, what find, is the secret of the tulares.” – “The Land of Little Rain”
A Fifth Poem for Today
By Edna St. Vincent Millay
I looked in my heart while the wild swans went over.
And what did I see I had not seen before?
Only a question less or a question more;
Nothing to match the flight of wild birds flying.
Tiresome heart, forever living and dying,
House without air, I leave you and lock your door.
Wild swans, come over the town, come over
The town again, trailing your legs and crying!
“With the aurora borealis flaming coldly overhead, or the stars leaping in the frost dance, and the land numb and frozen under its pall of snow, this song of the huskies might have been the defiance of life, only it was pitched in minor key, with long-drawn wailings and half-sobs, and was more the pleading of life, the articulate travail of existence. It was an old song, old as the breed itself–one of the first songs of the younger world in a day when songs were sad.” – Jack London, American writer, journalist, social activist, and author of “The Call of the Wild” and “White Fang,” who died 22 November 1916.
Some quotes from the work of Jack London:
“There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive.
This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artist, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame; it comes to the soldier, war-mad in a stricken field and refusing quarter; and it came to Buck, leading the pack, sounding the old wolf-cry, straining after the food that was alive and that fled swiftly before him through the moonlight.”
“I’d rather sing one wild song and burst my heart with it, than live a thousand years watching my digestion and being afraid of the wet.”
“The Wild still lingered in him and the wolf in him merely slept.”
“But especially he loved to run in the dim twilight of the summer midnights, listening to the subdued and sleepy murmurs of the forest, reading signs and sounds as a man may read a book, and seeking for the mysterious something that called — called, waking or sleeping, at all times, for him to come.”
“Ever bike? Now that’s something that makes life worth living! Oh, to just grip your handlebars and lay down to it, and go ripping and tearing through streets and road, over railroad tracks and bridges, threading crowds, avoiding collisions, at twenty miles or more an hour, and wondering all the time when you’re going to smash up. Well, now, that’s something! And then go home again after three hours of it…and then to think that tomorrow I can do it all over again!”
“A vast silence reigned over the land. The land itself was a desolation, lifeless, without movement, so lone and cold that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness. There was a hint in it of laughter, but of laughter more terrible than any sadness-a laughter that was mirthless as the smile of the Sphinx, a laughter cold as the frost and partaking of the grimness of infallibility. It was the masterful and incommunicable wisdom of eternity laughing at the futility of life and the effort of life. It was the Wild, the savage, frozen-hearted Northland Wild.”
“Deep in the forest a call was sounding, and as often as he heard this call, mysteriously thrilling and luring, he felt compelled to turn his back upon the fire and the beaten earth around it, and to plunge into the forest, and on and on, he knew not where or why; nor did he wonder where or why, the call sounding imperiously, deep in the forest.”
“The function of man is to live, not to exist.”
Canadian artist Faye Dietrich takes her inspiration from the natural beauty of her country’s wild landscapes.
A Sixth Poem for Today
“The Epic Stars,”
By Robinson Jeffers
The heroic stars spending themselves,
Coining their very flesh into bullets for the lost battle,
They must burn out at length like used candles;
And Mother Night will weep in her triumph, taking home her heroes.
There is the stuff for an epic poem-
This magnificent raid at the heart of darkness, this lost battle-
We don’t know enough, we’ll never know.
Oh happy Homer, taking the stars and the Gods for granted.
American Art – Part IV of IV: Kevin Red Star
Kevin Red Star (born 1943) is a Native American artist. He is a member of the Crow tribe and lives in Lodge Grass, Montana.
Below – “Crow Indian Riders Mountain Trail Ride”; “Evening Mountain Horses”; “Crow Indian Parade Riders”; “Crow Tipi 9”; “Spirit Ponies”; “Crow Indian Man Dancers and Sisters II”; “Black Bird – Crow Indian Woman”; “Herd of Red Horses”; “First Snow.”