December Offerings – Part I: Something to Delight both Head and Heart

American Art – Part I of III: Judith Peck

Artist Statement: “I’ve painted my models to have an ethereal glow, distinct from a background that might otherwise envelop them. Captured in their gaze is the knowledge that the person has experienced life fully and moved beyond life’s challenges. My hope is that their penetrating gaze will move the viewer out of complacency. The warmly resonant faces offer a gateway to the human interior, evoking psychological and social urgency. The detail in the paintings is important in making them feel solid and real. These works become guides to explore the challenges that speak to the core of one’s own existence. The paintings are intimate, and viewed up close, create the sense of looking into a mirror to meet eyes that ask inescapable questions. Balancing light and darkness, the images prompt existential questions, triggering deep feelings about life’s ambiguities. Beauty and pain, life and death come into balance, and the viewer becomes the philosopher, drawn into introspection on the meaning and preciousness of life. Art becomes poetry, and poetry stirs into philosophy, leaving the viewer subtly changed.”
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A Poem for Today

“December 1st,”
By Czeslaw Milosz

The vineyard country, russet, reddish, carmine-brown in this season.

A blue outline of hills above a fertile valley.

It’s warm as long as the sun does not set, in the shade cold returns.

A strong sauna and then swimming in a pool surrounded by trees.

Dark redwoods, transparent pale-leaved birches.

In their delicate network, a sliver of the moon.

I describe this for I have learned to doubt philosophy

And the visible world is all that remains.
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Art for Today – Oleg Bezugly: “December”
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From the Music Archives – Part I of II: Norah Jones

Here is how one critic describes the artistry of Italian painter Licio Passon (born 1965): “A self-taught artist, Licio Passon uses the techniques of antique masters to create modern day paintings of Venice. Many of the most refined collectors still request this accurate look to remind them of a vacation they took to a foreign place. It is said the paintings can form a sense of refuge from everyday life. Their beauty and space for thought allows one to imagine themselves in the painting’s peace.”
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Musings in Autumn: John Geddes

“December’s wintery breath is already clouding the pond, frosting the pane, obscuring summer’s memory.”
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Here is the Artist Statement of Argentinean painter Mercedes Farina (born 1976): “The main characters from the paintings are people from my social environment, people with a special sensibility for art in many of their faces. Through a dialogue with them, I encourage them to perform, with the body, different moods, moments and situations that have to do with everyday life, with imagination and feeling. Then, I take those images as anatomic references and as the beginning of a creative process.”

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A Second Poem for Today

“Year’s End,”
By Ted Kooser

Now the seasons are closing their files
on each of us, the heavy drawers
full of certificates rolling back
into the tree trunks, a few old papers
flocking away. Someone we loved
has fallen from our thoughts,
making a little, glittering splash
like a bicycle pushed by a breeze.
Otherwise, not much has happened;
we fell in love again, finding
that one red feather on the wind.
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Chinese artist Yeqiang Wang now lives and works in the United States. The paintings below come from his exhibition “Reflections.”
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“People can cry much easier than they can change.” – James Baldwin, American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, social critic, and author of “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” who died 1 December 1987.

Some quotes from the work of James Baldwin:

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”
“People pay for what they do, and still more for what they have allowed themselves to become. And they pay for it very simply – by the lives they lead.”
“The paradox of education is precisely this – that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated. ”
“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”
“Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.”
“Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.”
“I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”
“Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death – ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life.”
“True rebels after all, are as rare as true lovers, and in both cases, to mistake a fever for passion can destroy one’s life”
“Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.”
“It is very nearly impossible to become an educated person in a country so distrustful of the independent mind.”
“Everybody’s journey is individual. If you fall in love with a boy, you fall in love with a boy. The fact that many Americans consider it a disease says more about them than it does about homosexuality. ”
“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word ‘love’ here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace – not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.”
“To accept one’s past – one’s history – is not the same thing as drowning in it; it is learning how to use it. An invented past can never be used; it cracks and crumbles under the pressures of life like clay in a season of drought.”
“People can’t, unhappily, invent their mooring posts, their lovers and their friends, anymore than they can invent their parents. Life gives these and also takes them away and the great difficulty is to say Yes to life.”
“People who treat other people as less than human must not be surprised when the bread they have cast on the waters comes floating back to them, poisoned.”
“Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. ”
“Nothing is more desirable than to be released from an affliction, but nothing is more frightening than to be divested of a crutch. ”
“For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell, it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness.”
“Most of us, no matter what we say, are walking in the dark, whistling in the dark. Nobody knows what is going to happen to him from one moment to the next, or how one will bear it. This is irreducible. And it’s true of everybody. Now, it is true that the nature of society is to create, among its citizens, an illusion of safety; but it is also absolutely true that the safety is always necessarily an illusion. Artists are here to disturb the peace.”
“Neither love nor terror makes one blind: indifference makes one blind.”
“Trust life, and it will teach you, in joy and sorrow, all you need to know.”
“No man is a devil in his own mind.”
“If you’re treated a certain way you become a certain kind of person. If certain things are described to you as being real they’re real for you whether they’re real or not.”
“The price one pays for pursuing any profession or calling is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.”
“Hatred is always self hatred, and there is something suicidal about it.”
“The artistic image is not intended to represent the thing itself, but, rather, the reality of the force the thing contains.”
“Perhaps everybody has a garden of Eden, I don’t know; but they have scarcely seen their garden before they see the flaming sword. Then, perhaps, life only offers the choice of remembering the garden or forgetting it. Either, or: it takes strength to remember, it takes another kind of strength to forget, it takes a hero to do both. People who remember court madness through pain, the pain of the perpetually recurring death of their innocence; people who forget court another kind of madness, the madness of the denial of pain and the hatred of innocence; and the world is mostly divided between madmen who remember and madmen who forget. Heroes are rare.”
“Nobody is more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure in heart; for his purity, by definition, is unassailable.”
“Most of us are about as eager to be changed as we were to be born, and go through our changes in a similar state of shock. ”
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American Art – Part II of III: Jim Salvati

In the words of one writer, “To look at a Jim Salvati painting, is to experience a snapshot into the soul of his subjects. Each person portrayed in his work, which is thick and textured with oil paint, is telling a story about the life of the person, the emotion of that moment in time, their world surrounding them, and a warm sense of the human condition and its uniqueness. ‘We all have stories,’ Salvati says, ‘and I like telling them.'”

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A Third Poem for Today

“December Sonnet,”
By Christopher Watkins

Now the corn mazes truly are frightening;

bedraggled hulking husks of a sinister thinness,

looming and swaying over the tamped-down paths

littered with their fallen hides —

ochre’d in the early winter darkness,

they rustle at the unsympathetic winds,

conspiratorial whispers

interwoven with the harsh hiss of the season.

What child now dares lose themselves
among these rasping ghouls, whose shrouds
come peeling off in leprous strips? What child now
dares enter this maze of death? What child? None!
For what they truly seek is not a fright,
but to be startled by delight.
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British artist Madeleine Hand (born 1959) attended the Glasgow School of Art.
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From the American Old West: Elfego Baca

1 December 1884 – Near Frisco (now Reserve), New Mexico, deputy sheriff Elfego Baca (1865-1945) holds off eighty Texas cowboys who want to kill him. Here is how one historian describes the event: “The trouble began the previous day, when Baca arrested Charles McCarthy, a cowboy who fired five shots at him in a saloon. For months, a vicious band of Texan cowboys had terrorized the Hispanos of Frisco, brutally castrating one young Mexican man and using another for target practice. Outraged by these abuses, Baca gained a commission as deputy sheriff to try to end the terror. His arrest of McCarthy served notice to other Anglo cowboys that further abuses of the Hispanos would not be tolerated.
The Texans, however, were not easily intimidated. The morning after McCarthy’s arrest, a group of eighty cowboys rode into town to free McCarthy and make an example of Baca for all Mexicans. Baca gathered the women and children of the town in a church for their safety and prepared to make a stand. When he saw how outnumbered he was, Baca retreated to an adobe house, where he killed one attacker and wounded several others. The irate cowboys peppered Baca’s tiny hideout with bullets, firing about 400 rounds into the flimsy structure. As night fell, they assumed they had killed the defiant deputy sheriff, but the next morning they awoke to the smell of beef stew and tortillas–Baca was fixing his breakfast.
A short while later, two lawmen and several of Baca’s friends came to his aid, and the cowboys retreated. Baca turned himself over to the officers, and he was charged with the murder of one of the cowboys. In his trial in Albuquerque, the jury found Baca not guilty because he had acted in self-defense, and he was released to a hero’s welcome among the Hispanos of New Mexico. Hugely popular, Baca later enjoyed a successful career as a lawyer, private detective, and politician in Albuquerque.”

Here is the Artist Statement of Australian painter Jason Cordero: “I, Jason Cordero, am a painter of the landscape. At present, I am concerned with the Wilderness, not so much as a place, but as a manifestation of the ethereal, a freedom from the known, the constructed. A dual identity, both empirical and subliminal, it is the Horizon – an illusion of the imagination, a portal to something other.
The Mountain and the Sea, the Lake and the River are sanctuaries, thresholds through which the transcendent can be felt. From the caress of a cloud upon the summit, to the glint of a pool upon the beach, the Other can be experienced. Intertwined and inseparable, the land pressures the sky, as the sky sculpts the land. Gathering libation offered by the sea and held by the winds, the peak is fashioned by the river, doubled by the lake and all are received by the sea. A circadian rhythm of end and beginning.
It is a sublime one craves. We can only glimpse such from our harbours, in suspense and dreaming, breathing through the gates whatever is offered. I mearly provide an echo of my encounters, a shadow of my memories.”
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In the words of one writer, the paintings of Malagasy artist Christophe Jean Michel Rabearivelo (better known as Fofa) “involve viewers in the fairy atmosphere of the East by forming an amazing world” that “reminds viewers of mirages.”

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From the Music Archives – Part II of II: Franz Liszt

1 December 1822, Vienna – Eleven-year-old musical prodigy Franz Liszt gives his first public performance as a pianist. His success at this concert, with Beethoven in attendance, was a harbinger of things to come.

El Salvadoran painter Alex Cuchilla studied graphic design at the Technological University of El Salvador.
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A Fourth Poem for Today

“In California,”
By Donald Davie

Chemicals ripen the citrus;
There are rattlesnakes in the mountains,
And on the shoreline
Hygiene, inhuman caution.

Beef in cellophane
Tall as giraffes,
The orange-rancher’s daughters
Crop their own groves, mistrustful.

Perpetual summer seems
Precarious on the littoral. We drive
Inland to prove
The risk we sense. At once

Winter claps-to like a shutter
High over the Ojai valley, and discloses
A double crisis,
Winter and Drought.

Ranges on mountain-ranges,
Empty, unwatered, crumbling,
Hot colours come at the eye.
It is too cold

For picnics at the trestle-tables. Claypit
Yellow burns on the distance.
The phantom walks
Everywhere, of intolerable heat.

At Ventucopa, elevation
Two-eight-nine-six, the water hydrant frozen,
Deserted or broken settlements,
Gasoline stations closed and boarded.

By nightfall, to the snows;
And over the mile on tilted
Mile of the mountain park
The bright cars hazarded.

Below – Evelyn McCorristin Peters: “California Mountain Landscape”

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Dutch painter Jan Wisse graduated from the Academy of Visual Arts in Rotterdam with a degree in Painting, Drawing, Sculpture, and Art History.
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Musings in Autumn: Kenneth Grahame

“All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.” – “The Wind in the Willows”

Below – Ashley Baldwin-Smith: “Spring Morning at St. Ives Lakes”

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Pere Pruna (1904 – 1977) was a Catalan painter and a favorite of Pablo Picasso, who introduced him to the intellectual and artistic circles of Paris. Throughout his career, Pruna remained an admirer of ancient arts, especially Greek and Renaissance classics, and the female form was his favorite subject matter.
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A Fifth Poem for Today

“On Darkness,”
By Rainer Maria Rilke

You darkness, that I come from,

I love you more than all the fires

that fence in the world,

for the fire makes

a circle of light for everyone,

and then no one outside learns of you.

But the darkness pulls in everything;
shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them!—
powers and people—
and it is possible a great energy
is moving near me.
I have faith in nights.

Below – John Clapp: “Into The Darkness”
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American Art – Part III of III: Diana Woods

Here is the Artist Statement of painter Diana Woods: “As an experimental artist, I try to push the boundaries and explore the territory of color, composition, line and texture. My work bridges painting and sculpture in a patchwork of ideas. Using canvas or wood as a painting surface, I incorporate anything from oil paints, to metals, glass, sand and found objects to create layer upon layer of texture and luminous color.”
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