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

American Art – Part I of III: Johanna Harmon

In the words of one writer, “Johanna Harmon has been a student of life since her childhood in Arizona. To express her feelings about what she saw back then, she started drawing at age 7. Observations and emotions continue to be at the core of her paintings. Not only does she document the world around her, she also expresses her personal response to the glory of creation, whether exemplified by a dancer’s discipline and grace or by a child’s indulgence in the colors and fragrances of a secret garden.”
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Johanna Harmon _ paintings

Johanna Harmon _ paintings

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Johanna Harmon _ paintings

Johanna Harmon _ paintings

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A Poem for Today

“River Snow,”
By Liu Zhongyuan

A thousand hills, but no birds in flight,

Ten thousand paths, with no person’s tracks.
A lonely boat, a straw-hatted old man,

Fishing alone in the cold river snow.
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Musings in Autumn: Jarod Kintz

“I’m addicted to warm Thanksgiving bird meat, but I should just quit cold turkey. To me, the beginning of December is like leftover November.”
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From the History Archives: American Hegemony – Part I of II: The Monroe Doctrine

2 December 1823: President James Monroe proclaims his “Monroe Doctrine.” In the words of one historian, “It stated that further efforts by European nations to colonize land or interfere with states in North or South America would be viewed as acts of aggression, requiring U.S. intervention.”
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“Painting is the art of hollowing a surface.” – Georges Seurat, French Post-Impressionist artist noted for devising a painting technique known as pointillism, who was born 2 December 1859.

Below – “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”; “Alfalfa Fields Saint Denis”; “Bathers at Asnieres”; “The Circus”; “Circus Sideshow”; “The Models.”
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From the History Archives: American Hegemony – Part II of II: Manifest Destiny

2 December 1845: In his first address to Congress, President James K. Polk calls for aggressive American expansion into the West, a policy that came to be known as Manifest Destiny.
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Musings in Autumn: Charlotte Riddell

“He had been walking for a long time, ever since dark in fact, and dark falls soon in December.”
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Belarusian painted Oleg Zakharevitch was born in 1961 in Bobruisk. In 1984, graduated from art college with a degree in decorative arts.
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“So many things I had thought forgotten
Return to my mind with stranger pain:
Like letters that arrive addressed to someone
Who left the house so many years ago.” – Philip Larkin, English poet and novelist, who died 2 December 1985.

“Aubade”

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
—The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says ‘No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel,’ not seeing
That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.
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Albena Vatcheva is a French artist of Bulgarian origin whose paintings show the influence of the iconographic traditions of India and Persia.
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A Second Poem for Today

“Stone Thoughts,”
By Robert Pack

I speak cold silent words a stone might speak

If it had words or consciousness,

Watching December moonlight on the mountain peak,

Relieved of mortal hungers, the whole mess

Of needs, desires, ambitions, wishes, hopes.

This stillness in me knows the sky’s abyss,

Reflected by blank snow along bare slopes,

If it had words or consciousness,

Would echo what a thinking stone might say

To praise oblivion words can’t possess

As inorganic muteness goes its way.

There’s no serenity without the thought ‘serene,’

Owl-flight without spread wings, honed eyes, hooked beak,

Absence without the meaning ‘absence’ means.

To rescue bleakness from the bleak,

I speak cold silent words a stone might speak.
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Here is one writer describing the artistry of Australian painter Gavin Brown: “In his new work, Gavin Brown has created a mythical undersea arbour that is the domain of a rarified breed of exotic beings and non-beings strangely alien to each other yet belonging. Much of the detail is disguised as iridescent and surreal sea-bed formations that create a grotto-like landscape backdrop to more a recognisable subject matter that makes the work unmistakably Gavin Brown in style.”
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Musings in Autumn: Dr. Seuss

“How did it get so late so soon?”

Below – Patty Schwarz: “Evening Approaching”
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American Art – Part II of III: Jonathan David Matthews

In the words of one writer, “Jonathan Matthews was born in Montgomery, Al where he currently resides. Jonathan began drawing at an early age and has since devoted much of his time to refining his ability to represent the subtleties of light and form in his work. He first started painting in 2003 and showed a great deal of enthusiasm for the technical aspects of the craft. Jonathan is committed to craftsmanship and beauty and is continually trying to improve his ability to express himself through his work. Now, whether through drawing or painting, he strives to present the viewer with timeless images centered on the human form.Although he experiments with a wide range of techniques, the human figure and its expressive capabilities remains the linchpin that ties his work together.”
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A Third Poem for Today

“Come into Animal Presence,”
By Denise Levertov

Come into animal presence.
No man is so guileless as
the serpent. The lonely white
rabbit on the roof is a star
twitching its ears at the rain.
The llama intricately
folding its hind legs to be seated
not disdains but mildly
disregards human approval.
What joy when the insouciant
armadillo glances at us and doesn’t
quicken his trotting
across the track into the palm brush.

What is this joy? That no animal
falters, but knows what it must do?
That the snake has no blemish,
that the rabbit inspects his strange surroundings
in white star-silence? The llama
rests in dignity, the armadillo
has some intention to pursue in the palm-forest.
Those who were sacred have remained so,
holiness does not dissolve, it is a presence
of bronze, only the sight that saw it
faltered and turned from it.
An old joy returns in holy presence.

Below – Photographs by Gregory Colbert
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Finnish artist Jussi Poyhonen (born 1975) spent two years studying classical drawing and painting at the Florence Academy of Art. He lives and works in Finland.
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Musings in Autumn: Buddha

“The trouble is, you think you have time.”
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Here is the Artist Statement of New Zealand painter Richard Smith: “Having always lived in the Bay of Plenty, time spent on and about the Tauranga Harbour during my formative years has had a lasting influence on my approach to painting. Frequent travel throughout the country visiting both new and familiar locations also provides inspiration. Often it’s the everyday and urban, places that represent the fundamental nature of the country’s people and places and examine the relationship between the past and present. These places fellow travelers might pass by, but of course are as typically New Zealand as our iconic and picturesque landscapes. They are locations I search out.”

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Musings in Autumn: Henry David Thoreau

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”
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A Fourth Poem for Today

“You Reading This, Be Ready,”
By William Stafford

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life.

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?”

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American Art – Part III of III: Francisco Benitez

In the words of one writer, “Francisco Benítez (b. 1967) was raised in New Mexico, New York, and Spain. His mother, a flamenco dancer and choreographer, and his father, a Spanish set designer, influenced his subsequent interest in tenebrist painting and baroque art. Benítez studied Classics at St. John’s College (Santa Fe), and then academic painting techniques and anatomy/figure drawing at the Art Student’s League in New York City. Benítez subsequently obtained his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of New Mexico, during which time he studied abroad at the Facultad de Bellas Artes in Granada, Spain, through an exchange program, and later did graduate-level independent study.
Benítez lived in Southern France for over four years, during which he participated in a number of museum shows. He exhibited at the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain de Nice, and co-organized, curated, and participated in an exhibition featuring cutting-edge New Mexico artists at the Musée Denys-Puech in Rodez, France. Benítez also had several one-person and group shows in Southern France as well as in Paris.
At present, Benítez divides his time between Europe and Santa Fe. His active exhibition schedule in the US is enhanced by projects in France and Italy. In 2002 he had a one-person exhibition in Messina, Sicily, accompanied by a catalog, as well as another exhibition in 2006 held at the Monastero del Ritiro in Syracuse, Sicily, in conjunction with the Festival of Ancient Greek Theatre. The exhibition was met with much critical attention and large numbers of visitors.
Benitez’ work is included in numerous private collections, some high-profile, such as Jean-Paul Gaultier’s, throughout the United States, as well as in France, Italy, Mexico, Canada, Sweden, etc. His work is on permanent display at the New Mexico State Legislature’s public art collection, as well as at the National Hispanic Culture Center and the Conseil Général de l’Aveyron in France. He has lectured on painting of the baroque period, as well as having his work featured on the covers of various books and publications.”
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