American Art – Part I of VII: Lisa Ober
In the words of one critic, “Lisa Ober is a professional portrait artist specializing in oil and pastel portraits. She is most known for her ability to depict the likeness and personality of her subjects with a finely executed attention to detail and an obvious fondness for classical realism. A native of St. Louis, Lisa began painting portraits in 1983 while working on her BFA in Graphic Design and Illustration at Washington University. Initially, she intended to pursue a career in commercial illustration, but by 1987 her growing list of clients coupled with her enthusiasm for painting people led her to take a leap of faith and pursue a full time career as a portrait artist instead. Lisa co-owns Ober Anderson Gallery in Kirkwood, Missouri and is a Signature Member of The Pastel Society of America.”
A Poem for Today
“A Name for All,”
By Hart Crane
Moonmoth and grasshopper that flee our page
And still wing on, untarnished of the name
We pinion to your bodies to assuage
Our envy of your freedom—we must maim
Because we are usurpers, and chagrined—
And take the wing and scar it in the hand.
Names we have, even, to clap on the wind;
But we must die, as you, to understand.
I dreamed that all men dropped their names, and sang
As only they can praise, who build their days
With fin and hoof, with wing and sweetened fang
Struck free and holy in one Name always.
American Art – Part II of VII: Katie Wilson
Artist Statement: “Working with collage pushes me to be more innovative. It allows me to put down color, pattern and texture where I wouldn’t have otherwise with any other medium. I am intrigued by the imagined drama or peace of a past moment. My desire is to translate that moment through my own interpretation of the subject’s inner person by creating the drama and mood with color, texture and facial expression.”
Musings in December, Hoping for Snow: John Greenleaf Whittier
From “Snow-Bound: A Winter Idyl”
The sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray,
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder light than waning moon.
Slow tracing down the thickening sky
Its mute and ominous prophecy,
A portent seeming less than threat,
It sank from sight before it set.
A chill no coat, however stout,
Of homespun stuff could quite shut out,
A hard, dull bitterness of cold,
That checked, mid-vein, the circling race
Of life-blood in the sharpened face,
The coming of the snow-storm told.
Lithuanian painter Arvydas Kasauskas works at the Lithuanian Art Museum.
“The downhill path is easy, but there’s no turning back.” – Christina Rossetti, English poet, who was born on 5 December 1830.
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
“I am following Nature without being able to grasp her. I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.” – Claude Monet, French painter and founder of Impressionism, who died on 5 December 1926.
From the Music Archives: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
“I pay no attention whatever to anybody’s praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings.” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Austrian composer and musical genius, who died on 5 December 1791.
American Art – Part III of VII: Abby Heller-Burnham
Artist Statement: “I use a combination of naturalism and spontaneity to represent certain aspects of what I have seen and experienced during semi-conscious dream states. My work portrays an ethereal luminosity that creates life-like spaces which the viewer can visually enter. My goal is to create increasingly complex compositions by combining multiple images from a vast collection of visual references. With a highly disciplined background in traditional methods and techniques as a base, I nevertheless strive to expand its boundaries to find new artistic approaches through continual experimentation.
I find nineteenth century naturalism to be particularly inspiring. Its simplicity of design, complex esthetic content, and distinct atmospheric quality all resonate with my artistic sensibilities. Klimt and Mucha, for example, have been important influences, particularly their unique blend of graphic patterns and textures with natural realism.
I am always in the process of finding my own delicate balance between naturalism and other contradictory interests that also inspire me. I believe that a versatile and experimental approach leads to the resolution of this conflict, and allows me to reach beyond realism to more fully express my ideas.”
From the Television Archives: Alvy Moore
Born 5 December 1921 – Jack Alvin “Alvy” Moore, American comic actor best known for his role as agricultural agent Hank Kimball on the television series “Green Acres.”
Canadian Art – Part I of II: Mary Reardon
Here is the Artist Statement of Canadian painter Mary Reardon: “While attending the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design I became intrigued with the intangible process of memory and have tried, through my art, to give form to the process of remembering or forgetting – the essence of who we are.
In order to effect this description, I have turned to one of the traditions of the still life – the use of objects as symbols. The bird has been used throughout the history of the visual arts to represent the human soul. Following in this tradition, I use the feather to represent the human soul or, in psychological terms, our memories. The containers, nests, and branches I have depicted are meant to represent the physical mind and how it functions as it holds, or fails to hold, those memories. The finished composition is intended to be a metaphor for how the mind looks at the moment when something is remembered or forgotten.
Skies and clouds, in more recent paintings, create a suggestion of a particular state of mind for me. The ‘landscape’ in some works is sometimes simply alluded to with the use of an object such as a twig or a leafing branch.
The reflection of objects in the surface of other objects speaks to the literal act of remembering (or reflecting) as well as introducing another level to the symbolism of the objects.”
“California: The west coast of Iowa.” – Joan Didion, American author best known for her novels and her literary journalism and recipient of the 2005 National Book Award for Nonfiction (for “The Year of Magical Thinking”), who was born on 5 December 1934.
Some quotes from the work of Joan Didion:
“The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.”
“A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.”
“Grammar is a piano I play by ear. All I know about grammar is its power.”
“Self-respect is a question of recognizing that anything worth having has a price.”
“Ask anyone committed to Marxist analysis how many angels on the head of a pin, and you will be asked in return to never mind the angels, tell me who controls the production of pins.”
“Hemingway was really early. I probably started reading him when I was just eleven or twelve. There was just something magnetic to me in the arrangement of those sentences. Because they were so simple – or rather they appeared to be so simple, but they weren’t.”
“Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.”
“The fancy that extraterrestrial life is by definition of a higher order than our own is one that soothes all children, and many writers.”
“You have to pick the places you don’t walk away from.”
“We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget.”
Canadian Art – Part II of II: Derek Stefanuk
Here is one writer describing the background of Canadian painter Derek Stefanuk:
“Derek was born in Saskatoon Saskatchewan in the winter of 1980. He attended the Alberta College of Art & Design in Calgary and graduated in 2004.
Derek has been fortunate enough to be able to live by his skills as a painter. In addition to being a fine-artist he also works as a scenic artist and painter for the theatre and cinema. He has worked on major international productions for Broadway, The Metropolitan Opera (NYC), The Cirque Du Soleil, Universal Pictures and Relativity Media.”
Musings in December, Hoping for Snow: Miguel de Unamuno
“The Snowfall Is So Silent”
The snowfall is so silent,
so slow, bit by bit, with delicacy
it settles down on the earth
and covers over the fields.
The silent snow comes down
white and weightless;
snowfall makes no noise,
falls as forgetting falls,
flake after flake.
It covers the fields gently
while frost attacks them
with its sudden flashes of white;
covers everything with its pure
and silent covering;
not one thing on the ground
anywhere escapes it.
And wherever it falls it stays,
content and gay,
for snow does not slip off
as rain does,
but it stays and sinks in.
The flakes are skyflowers,
pale lilies from the clouds,
that wither on earth.
They come down blossoming
but then so quickly
they are gone;
they bloom only on the peak,
above the mountains,
and make the earth feel heavier
when they die inside.
Snow, delicate snow,
that falls with such lightness
on the head,
on the feelings, come and cover over the sadness
that lies always in my reason.
From the American History Archives: The Gold Rush
5 December 1848 – In his State of the Union Address, President Polk announces that the rumor that gold has been discovered in California is factual, thus precipitating the Gold Rush of ’49. Before his announcement, many people believed that the claim was a hoax. Polk stated that, “The explorations already made warrant the belief that the supply is very large and that gold is found at various places in an extensive district of country.”
American Art – Part IV of VII: Jean Hildebrant
In the words of one writer, “Born and raised in a small town in Oregon, Jean Hildebrant found herself drawn to the beauty of art at the exceptionally early age of three. With a love for art growing within, Jean spent most of her free-time drawing to develop her gift. As her personal style began to develop, she discovered that she especially enjoyed working in oil and pastel mediums. Specializing in portraits and figurative works.”
“The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.” – Calvin Trillin, American journalist, humorist, poet, memoirist, and novelist, who was born 5 December 1935.
Some quotes from the work of Calvin Trillin:
“When someone reaches middle age, people he knows begin to get put in charge of things, and knowing what he knows about the people who are being put in charge of things scares the hell out of him.”
“Health food makes me sick.”
“Every good idea sooner or later degenerates into hard work.”
“The price of purity is purists.”
“I never did very well in math-I could never seem to persuade the teacher that I hadn’t meant my answers literally.”
“Paul has his own style, which is folksy, not canned.
Religion? He’s got one. His prophet’s Ayn Rand.
By Rand’s eerie theories he’s fervently gripped,
So he won’t do flip-flops. He long ago flipped.”
“Understand what Ernest Becker meant when he said something like ‘To live fully is to live with an awareness of the rumble of terror that underlies everything.’”
“I suppose it’s possible that the Sundance Kid didn’t like to make much of his birthdays — they may have struck him as just another reminder that his draw was getting slower by the year—but what if he truly liked a major celebration? What if he looked forward every year to marking the day of his birth with what they used to call in the West ‘a real wingding, with pink balloons and a few survivors’?”
“The question about those aromatic advertisements that perfume companies are having stitched into magazines these days is this: under the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment, is smelling up the place a constitutionally protected form of expression?”
“Your children are either the center of your life or they’re not, and the rest is commentary.”
Here is the Artist Statement of Czechoslovakian sculptor and ceramicist Jitka Palmer: “My work is figurative, expressive and narrative and is inspired by stories and themes.
I love watching people, their body language and facial expressions.
I am on lookout for a special moments and situations accompanying every human activity.
Music, dance, theatre and poetry are my important sources of inspiration.
I use my sketchbooks, my books and my CDs as a valuable collection of raw material.
I draw on personal experiences, past and present, with a view to reflect the spontaneity of ordinary human life.”
Svetlana Ivanchenko is a contemporary Ukrainian artist who employs sand and shells to create mosaics. She is a graduate of Glukhovsky Pedagogical Institute with a specialization in Fine Art, and her work appears in private collections in Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and Israel.
From the American Old West – 5 December: Coincident Destinies
Born 5 December 1839 – George Armstrong Custer, United States Army officer in charge of 7th Cavalry forces in the Battle of Little Bighorn.
Died 5 December 1895 – Gall, Hunkpapa Lakota Chief who was one of the Sioux commanders in the Battle of Little Bighorn.
A Second Poem for Today
By Derek Walcott
That sail which leans on light,
tired of islands,
a schooner beating up the Caribbean
for home, could be Odysseus,
home-bound on the Aegean;
that father and husband’s
longing, under gnarled sour grapes, is
like the adulterer hearing Nausicaa’s name
in every gull’s outcry.
This brings nobody peace. The ancient war
between obsession and responsibility
will never finish and has been the same
for the sea-wanderer or the one on shore
now wriggling on his sandals to walk home,
since Troy sighed its last flame,
and the blind giant’s boulder heaved the trough
from whose groundswell the great hexameters come
to the conclusions of exhausted surf.
American Art – Part V of VII: Katherine Doyle
In the words of one writer, “Katherine Doyle, realist figure painter, brings a concentration and sensuality to her nude paintings and drawings that seems to capture the moods of tension and repose that occur in the lives of ordinary people, while her clothed figure paintings are rich with narrative intrigue. She has been featured in Judy Chicago’s ‘Women and Art: Contested Territory’ and Edward Lucie-Smith’s ‘Art Tomorrow’ and her paintings can be seen in the Tatistcheff Gallery in NY, New York.”
Musings in December, Hoping for Snow: Michael P. Garofalo
American Art – Part VI of VII: Panni Malek
Artist Statement: “My work deals with human vulnerability, boredom, fragility and the imprisonment of oneself. My work has always been about things in myself that I feel incredibly uncomfortable and embarrassed by. I exploit what’s dangerous and what scares me about myself. I collect and I hoard, my work has some kind of delicate profanity, and a certain over-passivity.
‘If neurotic is wanting two mutually exclusive things at one and the same time, then I’m neurotic as hell. I’ll be flying back and forth between one mutually exclusive thing and another for the rest of my days.’- Sylvia Plath.
Plath had a strange way of accepting her own presence in her life and work. In her first and only novel ‘The Bell Jar,’ Plath slowly tells the unraveling story of her life and her first attempt at suicide, comparing her feelings of despair and vulnerability to the feeling of being trapped in a bell jar. Years later at her second attempt at suicide, she succeeded. It was this dethatched fragility that has influenced my most recent work.”
A Third Poem for Today
By William Stafford
On a frozen pond a mile north of Liberal
almost sixty years ago I skated wild circles
while a strange pale sun went down.
A scattering of dry brown reeds cluttered
the ice at one end of the pond, and a fitful
breeze ghosted little surface eddies of snow.
No house was in sight, no tree, only
the arched wide surface of the earth
holding the pond and me under the sky.
I would go home, confront all my years, the tangled
events to come, and never know more than I did
that evening waving my arms in the lemon-colored light.
American Art – Part VII of VII: Alan Feltus
Artist Statement: “About my painting, I don’t paint from models at all, and not from still life. The exceptions are, in still life, sometimes bringing in an object like the coffee maker in ‘First Coffee’ (in last catalogue) and a wine bottle and two glasses in a recent painting of two figures. Everything else is from inside, or without sources except for some degree of referring to other painters’ paintings, sculptures, photographs, and more than anything to myself in mirrors. I paint a combination of self and invention, you could say. I move things around in layers until I have what works in the composition, basically, refining and defining and searching for structure as I paint. I think of it as choreographing figures and objects. Often I have a problem, it seems impossible to get the form because I don’t know what things look like, and I have to move the head and start again, a different view. It’s not at all easy what I do, but years of experience have enabled me to do it. It’s nice not to compromise my solitude, my privacy, with another person present. I also realize I have more freedom, of a sort, without a model to observe. When I was a student I painted more what was there and less what I might like to see.”