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

American Art – Part I of III: Lori McNee

Artist Statement: “I would like to paint the way a bird sings.
My broad spectrum of work includes still life, landscape and plein air painting. In still life I am able to create my own small universe. These elegant arrangements are a juxtaposition of nature-made and man-made objects and most always include birds. Often metaphorical paintings, they echo the delicate balance between nature and man. The great master artists such as Rembrandt, Rubins, and the Dutch and Flemish painters have influenced my work.
Whether is be landscape or still life painting, my goal is to create a painting that captures a sense of mystery, beauty and drama. I respond to the effects of color, light or atmosphere on the subject. Much of what I paint is connected to my past.”
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“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” – Sydney J. Harris, English-born American journalist, who died 8 December 1986.

Some quotes from the work of Sydney J. Harris:

“When I hear somebody sigh, ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what?’”
“Knowledge fills a large brain; it merely inflates a small one.”
“Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.”
“Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.”
“It’s surprising how many persons go through life without ever recognizing that their feelings toward other people are largely determined by their feelings toward themselves, and if you’re not comfortable within yourself, you can’t be comfortable with others.”
“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”
“Happiness is a direction, not a place.”
“The real danger is not that computers will begin to think like men, but that men will begin to think like computers.”
“An idealist believes the short run doesn’t count. A cynic believes the long run doesn’t matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run.”
“Men make counterfeit money; in many more cases, money makes counterfeit men.”
“Nobody can be so amusingly arrogant as a young man who has just discovered an old idea and thinks it is his own.”
“Middle Age is that perplexing time of life when we hear two voices calling us, one saying, ‘Why not?’ and the other, ‘Why bother?’”
“Ninety per cent of the world’s woe comes from people not knowing themselves, their abilities, their frailties, and even their real virtues. Most of us go almost all the way through life as complete strangers to ourselves – so how can we know anyone else?”
“The greatest enemy of progress is not stagnation, but false progress.”
“When we have ‘second thoughts’ about something, our first thoughts don’t seem like thoughts at all – just feelings.”
“Ignorance per se is not nearly as dangerous as ignorance of ignorance.”
“Any philosophy that can be put in a nutshell belongs there.”
“The most important thing in an argument, next to being right, is to leave an escape hatch for your opponent, so that he can gracefully swing over to your side without too much apparent loss of face.”
“The beauty of ‘spacing’ children many years apart lies in the fact that parents have time to learn the mistakes that were made with the older ones – which permits them to make exactly the opposite mistakes with the younger ones.”

Musings in December: Sylvia Plath

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.’”
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Canadian painter Tim Okamura earned a B.F.A. from the Alberta College of Art and Design and an M.F.A. from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn.
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A Poem for Today

“Gold in the Mountain,”
By Herman Melville

Gold in the mountain,
And gold in the glen,
And greed in the heart,
Heaven having no part,
And unsatisfied men.

Below – An image from “Greed” (1924), a silent film written and directed by Erich von Stroheim and based on the 1899 Frank Norris novel “McTeague.”
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“This above all remember: they will be very brave men,

And you will be facing them. You must not despise them.” – From “Psychological Warfare,” by Henry Reed, British poet, translator, World War II veteran, and journalist, who died 8 December 1986.

“Naming of Parts”

Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And to-morrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But to-day,
Today we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighboring gardens,
And today we have naming of parts.

This is the lower sling swivel. And this
Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see,
When you are given your slings. And this is the piling swivel,
Which in your case you have not got. The branches
Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,
Which in our case we have not got.

This is the safety-catch, which is always released
With an easy flick of the thumb. And please do not let me
See anyone using his finger. You can do it quite easy
If you have any strength in your thumb. The blossoms
Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see
Any of them using their finger.

And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this
Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it
Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this
Easing the spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards
The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:
They call it easing the Spring.

They call it easing the Spring: it is perfectly easy
If you have any strength in your thumb: like the bolt,
And the breech, and the cocking-piece, and the point of balance,
Which in our case we have not got; and the almond blossom
Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards and forwards,
For today we have naming of parts.
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Spanish painter Ignacio Estudillo Pérez was born in Jerez de la Frontera in 1985.
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“Religions change; beer and wine remain.” – William Hervey Allen, Jr., American writer, educator, and poet, who was born 8 December 1889.

Some quotes from the work of William Hervey Allen, Jr.:

“Legends are material to be molded, and not facts to be recorded.”
“Each new generation is a fresh invasion of savages.”
“Local color has a fatal tendency to remain local; but it is also true that the universal often borders on the void.”
“Only the middle-aged have all their five senses in the keeping of their wits.”

Syrian artist Reem Yassouf (born 1979) graduated from the Department of Fine Arts of Damascus University with a degree in Painting.
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“You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements.” – Norman Douglas, British writer and author of “South Wind,” who was born 8 December 1868.

Some quotes from the work of Norman Douglas:

“If you want to see what children can do, you must stop giving them things.”
“It seldom pays to be rude. It never pays to be only half-rude.”
“Bouillabaisse is only good because cooked by the French, who, if they cared to try, could produce an excellent and nutritious substitute out of cigar stumps and empty matchboxes.”
“You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements.”
“How hard it is, sometimes, to trust the evidence of one’s senses! How reluctantly the mind consents to reality.”
“Education is a state-controlled manufactory of echoes.”
“To find a friend one must close one eye – to keep him, two.”
“They who are all things to their neighbors cease to be anything to themselves.”
“Never take a solemn oath. People think you mean it.”
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Here is one writer describing the artistry of Polish painter Kasia Domanska: “The Artists’ works speak of the affirmation of life and it’s fleeting beauty: the sunshine, sparkling bright light bringing out the color intensity, suggesting thoughts of the eternal but often forgotten union between man and nature.
With fairy-tale like colors contrasting and blending into one another, the artist creates a work of purity and balance which does not give rise to worry or confusion, but peace and calm. The compositions give us moments of silence and stillness while transforming her pictures into living forms, pulsating with vital energy, life-giving, like a salty summer breeze, the sound of waves crushing on to the beach, a place where everything is go with the flow, forgetting schedules, rushing and stress, uniquely capturing reality at its most fleeting and temporary. The force and the power in her work is the light, it plays a decisive role in the theme as do the mood and balanced composition. It is brightness, joy, day and life, creating an idyllic climate.
The affirmation of nature and life becomes the background for a symbolic celebration of emotions, moods and reflections. Behind the literal meaning there is another, hidden meaning, which the artist allows to speak freely. Her paintings are testaments to a passion for beauty in all its forms, from the sublime to the everyday.”
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“Time is the school in which we learn,
Time is the fire in which we burn.” – Delmore Schwartz, American poet and short story writer, who was born 8 December 1913.

“The Heavy Bear Who Goes With Me”

‘the withness of the body’
The heavy bear who goes with me,
A manifold honey to smear his face,
Clumsy and lumbering here and there,
The central ton of every place,
The hungry beating brutish one
In love with candy, anger, and sleep,
Crazy factotum, dishevelling all,
Climbs the building, kicks the football,
Boxes his brother in the hate-ridden city.

Breathing at my side, that heavy animal,
That heavy bear who sleeps with me,
Howls in his sleep for a world of sugar,
A sweetness intimate as the water’s clasp,
Howls in his sleep because the tight-rope
Trembles and shows the darkness beneath.
—The strutting show-off is terrified,
Dressed in his dress-suit, bulging his pants,
Trembles to think that his quivering meat
Must finally wince to nothing at all.

That inescapable animal walks with me,
Has followed me since the black womb held,
Moves where I move, distorting my gesture,
A caricature, a swollen shadow,
A stupid clown of the spirit’s motive,
Perplexes and affronts with his own darkness,
The secret life of belly and bone,
Opaque, too near, my private, yet unknown,
Stretches to embrace the very dear
With whom I would walk without him near,
Touches her grossly, although a word
Would bare my heart and make me clear,
Stumbles, flounders, and strives to be fed
Dragging me with him in his mouthing care,
Amid the hundred million of his kind,
The scrimmage of appetite everywhere.

Below – A Creative Illustration by Rebecca Mock based on “The Heavy Bear Who Goes With Me.”
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In the words of one writer, “Born in Guangzhou, China, H. Momo Zhou has followed in her family footsteps of creating fine artistic works. Her parents, highly respected professors of fine arts at the prestigious Guangzhou University of Art, China, nurtured Momo’s unique gift of spatial awareness of color, juxtaposition of line & form, and a broad brush stroke of creativity. Her images embody the quintessential nuances of romanticism, realism and impressionism.”
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A Second Poem for Today

“In drear-nighted December,”
By John Keats

In drear-nighted December,
Too happy, happy tree,
Thy branches ne’er remember
Their green felicity:
The north cannot undo them
With a sleety whistle through them;
Nor frozen thawings glue them
From budding at the prime.

In drear-nighted December,
Too happy, happy brook,
Thy bubblings ne’er remember
Apollo’s summer look;
But with a sweet forgetting,
They stay their crystal fretting,
Never, never petting
About the frozen time.

Ah! would ’twere so with many
A gentle girl and boy!
But were there ever any
Writhed not at passed joy?
The feel of not to feel it,
When there is none to heal it
Nor numbed sense to steel it,
Was never said in rhyme.

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Musings in December: George Santayana

“The earth has music for those who listen.”

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“How green was my valley then, and the valley of them that have gone.” – Richard Llewellyn, Welsh novelist and author of “How Green Was My Valley,” who died 8 December 1906.

Some quotes from the work of Richard Llewellyn:

“O, there is lovely to feel a book, a good book, firm in the hand, for its fatness holds rich promise, and you are hot inside to think of good hours to come.”
“But you have gone now, all of you that were so beautiful when you were quick with life. Yet not gone, for you are still a living truth inside my mind.
So how are you dead, my brothers and sisters, and all of you , when you live with me as surely as I live with myself.”
“I wonder is happiness only an essence of good living, that you shall taste only once or twice while you live, and then go on living with the taste in your mouth, and wishing you had the fullness of it solid between your teeth, like a good meal that you have tasted and cherished and look back in your mind to eat again.”
“Why is it, I wonder, that people suffer, when there is so little need, when an effort of will and some hard work would bring them from their misery into peace and contentment.”
“What is there, in the mention of Time To Come, that is so quick to wrench at the heart, to inflict a pain in the senses that is like the run of a sword, I wonder. Perhaps we feel our youngness taken from us without the soothe of sliding years, and the pains of age that come to stand unseen beside us and grow more solid as the minutes pass, are with us solid on the instant, and we sense them, but when we try to assess them, they are back again in their places down in Time To Come, ready to meet us coming.”
“How can there be fury felt for things that are gone to dust?”

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From the Music Archives – Part I of II: Jim Morrison

“I am interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos, especially activity that seems to have no meaning.” – Jim Morrison, American singer-songwriter and poet, who was born 8 December 1943.

The aesthetic conjunction of three accomplished artists – Jim Morrison, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Sheen:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1b26BD5KjH0

In the words of one critic, the delicate works of French sculptor and ceramicist Jeannie Griveau exude a sense of “quietude and harmony.”
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From the Music Archives – Part II of II: John Lennon

“Life is what happens when you are making other plans.” – John Lennon, singer, songwriter, and member of “The Beatles,” who died 8 December 1980.

Here is the Artist Statement of Peruvian painter Fidel Ponce Ccana: “During my childhood I have grown up with the Andean culture, trough the education that my parents have given me, and the western culture that was received through the educational system and the media of communication. Since then I have dreamed to express and to show through my work this half-cast that it typical of my country. Through my work of medium and large sizes, the human figure is the principal element to express existentialism situations: empty bodies surrounded by pre-Hispanic symbolism, geometric and linear like architectonics structures solid and spatial. Small formats are also inspired by nature mort and with the same style.
All the elements in conformity of my work are expressed with colours inspired by day living of our days to day living of our days: like neon lights, discotheques, internet, television, etc…And the entire modern means that are offered are expressed with subtlety and abounded materiel. The aim to find a language in which to translate a plastic encounter between the ancient and the modern, the tradition and the modernity of our days.
The research of a personal and sincere language in the painting that leads us to observe our surrounding and understand our roots and in own existence. The historic tradition, the western culture and all cultural manifestations that converge in Latin America give us a language engaged with our history and society.”
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From the Cinema Archives – Part I of II: Slim Pickens

“After ‘Dr. Strangelove,’ the roles, the dressing rooms, and the checks all started gettin’ bigger.” – Louis Burton Lindley, Jr., known by the stage name Slim Pickens, American rodeo performer and film and television actor, who died 8 December 1983.

Here is the Artist Statement of British painter Michael Hlousek-Nagle: “I am an artist based in London. My work adopts the language of the Western figurative
tradition in the belief that the depiction of the
human being is still relevant, still a source of
beauty, and remains a sure way to explore the
fundamental questions of life, the joyful spectacle
of human failure, love, mischief, violence, and
desire. I believe that paint is still a valid resource
and a beautiful medium.”

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From the Cinema Archives – Part II of II: David Carradine

“If you cannot be a poet, be the poem.” – David Carradine,
American actor and martial artist, who was born 8 December 1936.

Before “Kill Bill,” there was “Kung Fu”:

A Third Poem for Today

“The Cold Heaven,”
By William Butler Yeats

Suddenly I saw the cold and rook-delighting heaven
That seemed as though ice burned and was but the more ice,
And thereupon imagination and heart were driven
So wild that every casual thought of that and this
Vanished, and left but memories, that should be out of season
With the hot blood of youth, of love crossed long ago;
And I took all the blame out of all sense and reason,
Until I cried and trembled and rocked to and fro,
Riddled with light. Ah! when the ghost begins to quicken,
Confusion of the death-bed over, is it sent
Out naked on the roads, as the books say, and stricken
By the injustice of the skies for punishment?
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Musings in December: Albert Einstein

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
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“I mused for a few moments on the question of which was worse, to lead a life so boring that you are easily enchanted, or a life so full of stimulus that you are easily bored.” – Bill Bryson, American writer and author of “The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America” and “A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail,” who was born 8 December 1951.

Some quotes from the work of Bill Bryson:

“Consider the fact that for 3.8 billion years, a period of time older than the Earth’s mountains and rivers and oceans, every one of your forebears on both sides has been attractive enough to find a mate, healthy enough to reproduce, and sufficiently blessed by fate and circumstances to live long enough to do so. Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stranded, stuck fast, untimely wounded, or otherwise deflected from its life’s quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment in order to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that could result — eventually, astoundingly, and all too briefly — in you.”
“But that’s the glory of foreign travel, as far as I am concerned. I don’t want to know what people are talking about. I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.”
“As my father always used to tell me, ‘You see, son, there’s always someone in the world worse off than you.’ And I always used to think, ‘So?’”
“Tune your television to any channel it doesn’t receive and about 1 percent of the dancing static you see is accounted for by this ancient remnant of the Big Bang. The next time you complain that there is nothing on, remember that you can always watch the birth of the universe.”
“Of all the things I am not very good at, living in the real world is perhaps the most outstanding.”
“If you imagine the 4,500-bilion-odd years of Earth’s history compressed into a normal earthly day, then life begins very early, about 4 A.M., with the rise of the first simple, single-celled organisms, but then advances no further for the next sixteen hours. Not until almost 8:30 in the evening, with the day five-sixths over, has Earth anything to show the universe but a restless skin of microbes. Then, finally, the first sea plants appear, followed twenty minutes later by the first jellyfish and the enigmatic Ediacaran fauna first seen by Reginald Sprigg in Australia. At 9:04 P.M. trilobites swim onto the scene, followed more or less immediately by the shapely creatures of the Burgess Shale. Just before 10 P.M. plants begin to pop up on the land. Soon after, with less than two hours left in the day, the first land creatures follow.
Thanks to ten minutes or so of balmy weather, by 10:24 the Earth is covered in the great carboniferous forests whose residues give us all our coal, and the first winged insects are evident. Dinosaurs plod onto the scene just before 11 P.M. and hold sway for about three-quarters of an hour. At twenty-one minutes to midnight they vanish and the age of mammals begins. Humans emerge one minute and seventeen seconds before midnight. The whole of our recorded history, on this scale, would be no more than a few seconds, a single human lifetime barely an instant. Throughout this greatly speeded-up day continents slide about and bang together at a clip that seems positively reckless. Mountains rise and melt away, ocean basins come and go, ice sheets advance and withdraw. And throughout the whole, about three times every minute, somewhere on the planet there is a flash-bulb pop of light marking the impact of a Manson-sized meteor or one even larger. It’s a wonder that anything at all can survive in such a pummeled and unsettled environment. In fact, not many things do for long.”
“We used to build civilizations. Now we build shopping malls.”
“It is easy to overlook this thought that life just is. As humans we are inclined to feel that life must have a point. We have plans and aspirations and desires. We want to take constant advantage of the intoxicating existence we’ve been endowed with. But what’s life to a lichen? Yet its impulse to exist, to be, is every bit as strong as ours-arguably even stronger. If I were told that I had to spend decades being a furry growth on a rock in the woods, I believe I would lose the will to go on. Lichens don’t. Like virtually all living things, they will suffer any hardship, endure any insult, for a moment’s addition of existence. Life, in short, just wants to be.”
“In France, a chemist named Pilatre de Rozier tested the flammability of hydrogen by gulping a mouthful and blowing across an open flame, proving at a stroke that hydrogen is indeed explosively combustible and that eyebrows are not necessarily a permanent feature of one’s face.”
“There are three stages in scientific discovery. First, people deny that it is true, then they deny that it is important; finally they credit the wrong person.”
“Black bears rarely attack. But here’s the thing. Sometimes they do. All bears are agile, cunning and immensely strong, and they are always hungry. If they want to kill you and eat you, they can, and pretty much whenever they want. That doesn’t happen often, but – and here is the absolutely salient point – once would be enough.”
“When the poet Paul Valery once asked Albert Einstein if he kept a notebook to record his ideas, Einstein looked at him with mild but genuine surprise. “Oh, that’s not necessary,” he replied . “It’s so seldom I have one.”
“Is there anything, apart from a really good chocolate cream pie and receiving a large unexpected cheque in the post, to beat finding yourself at large in a foreign city on a fair spring evening, loafing along unfamiliar streets in the long shadows of a lazy sunset, pausing to gaze in shop windows or at some church or lovely square or tranquil stretch of quayside, hesitating at street corners to decide whether that cheerful and homey restaurant you will remember fondly for years is likely to lie down this street or that one? I just love it. I could spend my life arriving each evening in a new city.”
If this book has a lesson, it is that we are awfully lucky to be here-and by ‘we’ I mean every living thing. To attain any kind of life in this universe of ours appears to be quite an achievement. As humans we are doubly lucky, of course: We enjoy not only the privilege of existence but also the singular ability to appreciate it and even, in a multitude of ways, to make it better. It is a talent we have only barely begun to grasp.”
“I was heading to Nebraska. Now there’s a sentence you don’t want to say too often if you can possibly help it.”
“It is not true that the English invented cricket as a way of making all other human endeavors look interesting and lively; that was merely an unintended side effect. …It is the only sport that incorporates meal breaks. It is the only sport that shares its name with an insect. It is the only sport in which spectators burn as many calories as the players-more if they are moderately restless.”
“We may be only one of millions of advanced civilizations. Unfortunately, space being spacious, the average distance between any two of these civilizations is reckoned to be at least two hundred light-years, which is a great deal more than merely saying it makes it sound. It means for a start that even if these beings know we are here and are somehow able to see us in their telescopes, they’re watching light that left Earth two hundred years ago. So, they’re not seeing you and me. They’re watching the French Revolution and Thomas Jefferson and people in silk stockings and powdered wigs–people who don’t know what an atom is, or a gene, and who make their electricity by rubbing a rod of amber with a piece of fur and think that’s quite a trick. Any message we receive from them is likely to begin ‘Dear Sire,’ and congratulate us on the handsomeness of our horses and our mastery of whale oil. Two hundred light-years is a distance so far beyond us as to be, well, just beyond us.”

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A Fourth Poem for Today

“Wild Geese,”
By Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
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Musings in December: John Muir

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
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American Art – Part II of III: Jaclyn Alderete

In the words of one writer, “Jaclyn Alderete is a San Francisco Bay Area artist, originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She draws her inspiration from many things; the human condition, social and environmental concerns and desert nostalgia.”
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A Fifth Poem for Today

“Why I Keep A Diary,”
By William Stafford

While I follow the wind
There is no wind. Because
my wings are silent. I follow
the coast and find these pines
wrapped in their wind, those old believers.

And I know that I am alive
and this is the world’s trail
a day, a day, a day
much on its own track.
Where did the others go?

Pacemaker sun, persuader,
and heart that wants to beat
(and then the soul’s one stride):
my destiny is to find
this coast I follow.
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American Art III of III: Alia E. El-Bermani

Artist Statement: “When a friend asked me to summarize my entire body of work into as few words as possible I was a bit stumped. Although my work in both drawing and painting has always comprised either the figure and/or still life, that didn’t seem an adequate statement. After a moment of silent thought; it suddenly came to me in a single word, ‘Beauty.’ I have always been interested in finding beauty in my subjects. Whether it is a psychologically charged portrait, a dead bird, or a quiet interior, there is an inherent urge within me to represent the power of ordinary things, the power of their beauty. Habitually, we all tend to overlook and not question ordinary things. As an artist I hope to reveal and celebrate the extraordinary within the ordinary, including the human form.”
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