American Art – Part I of VII: Alyssa Monks
Painter Alyssa Monks (born 1977) began painting as a child. She studied art at the New School in New York and at the Lorenzo de’ Medici in Florence, and received her MFA from the New York Academy of Art. Here is how Monks describes the process whereby she creates her hyper-realistic paintings: “Using filters such as glass, vinyl, water, and steam, I distort the body in shallow painted spaces. These filters allow for large areas of abstract design – islands of color with activated surfaces – while bits of the human form peak through. In a contemporary take on the traditional bathing women, my subjects are pushing against the glass ‘window,’ distorting their own body, aware of and commanding the proverbial male gaze. Thick paint strokes in delicate color relationships are pushed and pulled to imitate glass, steam, water and flesh from a distance. However, up close, the delicious physical properties of oil paint are apparent. Thus sustaining the moment when abstract paint strokes become something else.”
From the Music Archives – Part I of IV: Hector Berlioz
“Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils.” – Hector Berlioz, French Romantic composer, who was born on 11 December 1803.
Below – The 5th movement of “Symphony Fantastique – “Dreams of a Witches’ Sabbath.”
Musings in December: Anton Chekhov
“These people have learned not from books, but in the fields, in the wood, on the river bank. Their teachers have been the birds themselves, when they sang to them, the sun when it left a glow of crimson behind it at setting, the very trees, and wild herbs.”
German sculptor Wolfgang Stiller (born 1961) studied art at the Art Academy in Dusseldorf from 1981 to 1984. He has lived and worked in Istanbul, New York City, Beijing, and Shanghai. He currently resides in Berlin.
From the Music Archives – Part II of IV: The Marvelettes
11 December 1961 – The Marvelettes release “Please, Mr. Postman,” one of the first number-one singles recorded by an all-female vocal group and the first by a Motown recording act.
A Poem for Today
By Carl Sandburg
Desolate and lone
All night long on the lake
Where fog trails and mist creeps,
The whistle of a boat
Calls and cries unendingly,
Like some lost child
In tears and trouble
Hunting the harbor’s breast
And the harbor’s eyes.
American Art – Part II of VII: Chris Miles
Artist Statement: ”I usually like to have some kind of narrative in my paintings. I get ideas and inspiration from reading, from old master and contemporary paintings, from nature, and from delving into my own imagination. I like to include images that have symbolic meaning that viewers can interpret in some personal way. I particularly like traditional painting techniques of Europe that were used and developed before the advent of impressionism, and modern art. I study painters like Bruegel, Raphael, and pen and ink artists like Gustave Dore. I also study many contemporary artists who work in these older techniques. I keep sketchbooks in which I draw imagined ideas or whatever or whoever’s in front of me. Some of these ideas evolve into paintings. I challenge myself to be as deeply connected to the subject and process as I can.”
From the Music Archives – Part III of IV: Sam Cooke
Died 11 December 1965 – Sam Cooke, American gospel, rhythm and blues, soul, and pop singer, songwriter, and entrepreneur, who was commonly known as the “King of Soul” for his distinctive vocal abilities and influence on the modern world of music.
In the words of one critic, Danish painter Carl Vilhelm Holsoe (1863-1935) “studied at the academy in Copenhagen from 1882 to 1884 and then under Peder Severin Krøyer (1851-1909). His first exhibition was at Charlottenborg, a prestigious gallery in Copenhagen and after that he received grants from the academy to travel to exhibit his works.
He received accolades for his work in Paris at the Exposition Universelle and in Munich. Holsoe was well known in his day and his popularity has continued to this day, resulting in high auction prices for his work.”
Musings in December, Hoping for Snow: William Shakespeare
“When icicles hang by the wall,
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail,
When blood is nipp’d, and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
To-whit! To-who!—a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.
When all aloud the wind doe blow,
And coughing drowns the parson’s saw,
And birds sit brooding in the snow,
And Marian’s nose looks red and raw,
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
To-whit! To-who!—a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.” – From “Love’s Labour’s Lost”
“It is not because the truth is too difficult to see that we make mistakes… we make mistakes because the easiest and most comfortable course for us is to seek insight where it accords with our emotions – especially selfish ones.” – Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Russian writer, dissident, activist, author of “The Gulag Archipelago,” and recipient of the 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature “for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature,” who was born on 11 December 1918.
Some quotes from Alexander Solzhenitsyn:
“Hastiness and superficiality are the psychic diseases of the 20th century, and more than anywhere else this disease is reflected in the press.”
“A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.”
“How can you expect a man who’s warm to understand one who’s cold?”
“It is time in the West to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.”
“Literature transmits incontrovertible condensed experience… from generation to generation. In this way literature becomes the living memory of a nation.”
“Man has set for himself the goal of conquering the world but in the process loses his soul.”
“Not everything has a name. Some things lead us into a realm beyond words.”
“Anyone who has proclaimed violence his method inexorably must choose lying as his principle.”
“The battleline between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.”
“For a country to have a great writer is like having a second government. That is why no regime has ever loved great writers, only minor ones.”
“I have spent all my life under a Communist regime, and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale but the legal one is not quite worthy of man either.”
“It would have been difficult to design a path out of communism worse than the one that has been followed.”
“Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity. Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually recognize also the voice of justice.”
“Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.”
“The next war… may well bury Western civilization forever.”
“The salvation of mankind lies only in making everything the concern of all.”
“The sole substitute for an experience which we have not ourselves lived through is art and literature.”
“When truth is discovered by someone else, it loses something of its attractiveness.”
Musings in December: John Muir
American Art – Part III of VII: Louise Dahl-Wolfe
Died 11 December 1989 – Louise Dahl-Wolfe, a photographer known primarily for her work for “Harper’s Bazaar,” though she preferred portraiture to fashion photography.
From the American History Archives: Plymouth Rock
11 December 1620 – William Bradford and 102 of his fellow pilgrims disembark from the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock.
Italian Art – Part I of II: Lucio Frizzotti
Musings in December: John Marsden
Italian Art – Part II of II: Bruno Lucchi
In the words of one critic, sculptor “Bruno Lucchi was born in Levico Terme (Trento-Italy) in 1951, where he still lives and works. He studied at the Art Institute of Trento completing his studies at the Magisterium of Fine Arts in Urbino.”
From the Music Archives – Part IV of IV: Ravi Shankar
Died 11 December 2012 – Ravi Shankar, an Indian musician, composer, and sitar player.
Here is one writer describing the background of British painter Barry Hilton (born 1941): “Whilst having no formal training, he moved to Cornwall in 1979 where the experience of working alongside a group of extremely active artists helped in the development of his artistic abilities.”
“The belief that there is only one truth and that oneself is in possession of it seems to me the deepest root of all evil that is in the world.” – Max Born, German-British physicist and mathematician and co-recipient of the 1954 Nobel Prize in Physics (with Walther Bothe), who was born on 11 December 1882.
Korean painter Ho Ryon Lee earned a B.F.A. from the Painting Department of the College of Fine Arts of Hannam University and an M.F.A. from the Graduate School of Painting Department of Hong-Ik University.
American Art – Part IV of VII: Sharon Knettell
Artist Statement: “I was born rather late in the day, January 20th 1943, in the middle of World War Two, in Shelton Connecticut. My father was an advertising executive and my mother was a nurse. I was followed by three lovely sisters, with who I am still on speaking terms.
I had an idyllic childhood. My first memory is wheeling about on a tricycle in a yard flanked by a field dotted with sheep on one side and a snake den on the other. My first significant piece of art was a picture of a Coca-Cola bottle, entitled ‘Soda Not Being Drunk’ at age four.
Grade school was equally memorable except for two unfortunate incidences. The first occurred when I caught my dress on the top of a slide and descended without the skirt. The second was when I was called into the principal’s office for brawling on school grounds. Needless to report I was always called on for school murals and art projects of all kinds.
High School was made infinitely exciting by my ability to decorate the margins of my text books. My Headmistress told my mother years later, that the Latin textbook was the most special.
In High School I was fortunate to have Sanford Lowe as my art instructor. He was the director of the New Britain Museum of Art and a fine painter himself. He was responsible for helping to create its magnificent collection of American art including Andrew Wyeth and the wonderful American impressionists such as Childe Hassam and Frederick Frieseke. This was what I thought art was supposed to be and what I wanted to emulate. I have not changed my opinion.”
Musings in December: William Blake
“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.”
A Second Poem for Today
By Jim Harrison
I believe in steep drop-offs, the thunderstorm across the lake
in 1949, cold winds, empty swimming pools,
the overgrown path to the creek, raw garlic,
used tires, taverns, saloons, bars, gallons of red wine,
abandoned farmhouses, stunted lilac groves,
gravel roads that end, brush piles, thickets, girls
who haven’t quite gone totally wild, river eddies,
leaky wooden boats, the smell of used engine oil,
turbulent rivers, lakes without cottages lost in the woods,
the primrose growing out of a cow skull, the thousands
of birds I’ve talked to all of my life, the dogs
that talked back, the Chihuahuan ravens that follow
me on long walks. The rattler escaping the cold hose,
the fluttering unknown gods that I nearly see
from the left corner of my blind eye, struggling
to stay alive in a world that grinds them underfoot.
Musings in December, Hoping for Snow: e e cummings
“She ate her breakfast in silence, then drove downtown in weather so lowering the streetlights seemed decapitated. This was when you could discover if your preparations for winter were adequate, and if you were ready for the restrictions of movement and light that were about to be upon you.” – From “The Cadence of Grass,” by Thomas McGuane, American writer and author of “Ninety-Two in the Shade” and “Some Horses,” who was born 11 December 1939.
Some quotes from the work of Thomas McGuane:
“We both liked children; we just didn’t want any ourselves. There were children everywhere, and we saw no reason to start our own brand. Young couples plunge into parenthood and about half the time they end up with some ghastly problem on their hands. We thought we’d leave that to others.”
“Giving freaks a pass is the oldest tradition in Montana.”
“I considered the wonder of the things that befell me, convinced that my life was the best omelet you could make with a chainsaw.”
“The occupational hazard of making a spectacle of yourself, over the long haul, is that at some point you buy a ticket too.”
“They were unironic enthusiasts for all the mass pleasures the culture offered: television, NASCAR, cruises, Disney World, sports, celebrity gossip, and local politics. Szabo often wished that he could be as well adjusted as Melinda’s family, but he would have had to be medicated to pursue her list of pleasures.”
“After the long time of going together and the mutual trust that had grown out of that time, Payne had occasion to realize that no mutual trust had grown out of the long time they had gone together.”
“In Oakland, he saw two slum children sword fighting on a slag heap. In Palo Alto, a puffy fop in bursting jodhpurs shouted from the door of a luxurious stable, ‘My horse is soiled!’ While one chilly evening in Union Square he listened to a wild-eyed young woman declaim that she had seen delicate grandmothers raped by Kiwanis zombies, that she had seen Rotarian blackguards bludgeoning Easter bunnies in a coal cellar, that she had seen Irving Berlin buying an Orange Julius in Queens.”
“By your late thirties the ground has begun to grow hard. It grows harder and harder until the day that it admits you.”
Musings in December, Hoping for Snow: Charlie English
American Art – Part V of VII: Howard Terpning
In the words of one writer, “Howard Terpning is one of the most lauded painters of Western art. Over his lifetime he’s received the highest awards in the field, including the National Academy of Western Art’s Prix de West, the Hubbard Art Award for Excellence, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Autry National Center, and 2005 Masters of the American West Thomas Moran Memorial Award and countless others. He’s an Emeritus member of the Cowboy Artists of America with over forty-one awards from that organization alone. Quite simply, he’s a living master of Western art.”
Musings in December: E. B. White
“I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.”
A Third Poem for Today
By Mary Oliver
Last night, an owl
in the blue dark
an indeterminate number
of carefully shaped sounds into
the world, in which,
a quarter of a mile away, I happened
to be standing.
I couldn’t tell
which one it was –
the barred or the great-horned
ship of the air –
it was that distant. But, anyway,
aren’t there moments
that are better than knowing something,
and sweeter? Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness. I suppose
if this were someone else’s story
they would have insisted on knowing
whatever is knowable – would have hurried
over the fields
to name it – the owl, I mean.
But it’s mine, this poem of the night,
and I just stood there, listening and holding out
my hands to the soft glitter
falling through the air. I love this world,
but not for its answers.
And I wish good luck to the owl,
whatever its name –
and I wish great welcome to the snow,
whatever its severe and comfortless
and beautiful meaning.
Musings in December: Henry David Thoreau
“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
“Often, lately, the night is a cold maw and stars the scattered white teeth of the gods, which spare none of us. At dawn I have birds, clearly divine messengers that I don’t understand, yet day by day feel the grace of their intentions.” – From “In Search of Small Gods,” by Jim Harrison, American poet, novelist, essayist, and author of “Legends of the Fall” and “After Ikkyu & Other Poems,” who was born 11 December 1937.
Some quotes from the work of Jim Harrison:
“I like grit, I like love and death, I’m tired of irony. … A lot of good fiction is sentimental. … The novelist who refuses sentiment refuses the full spectrum of human behavior, and then he just dries up. … I would rather give full vent to all human loves and disappointments, and take a chance on being corny, than die a smartass.”
“Birthdays are ghost bounty hunters that track you down to ask, ‘Que pasa, baby?’”
“Some people hear their own inner voices with great clearness. And they live by what they hear. Such people become crazy… or they become legend.”
“The danger of civilization, of course, is that you will piss away your life on nonsense.”
“Barring love I’ll take my life in large doses alone–rivers, forests, fish, grouse, mountains. Dogs.”
“Sometimes the only answer to death is lunch.”
“Dad said I would always be ‘high minded and low waged’ from reading too much Ralph Waldo Emerson. Maybe he was right.”
“His own life suddenly seemed repellently formal. Whom did he know or what did he know and whom did he love? Sitting on the stump under the burden of his father’s death and even the mortality inherent in the dying, wildly colored canopy of leaves, he somehow understood that life was only what one did every day…. Nothing was like anything else, including himself, and everything was changing all of the time. He knew he couldn’t perceive the change because he was changing too, along with everything else.”
“Every day I wonder how many things I am dead wrong about.”
“The days are stacked against what we think we are.”
“Beware, O wanderer, the road is walking too.”
“Death steals everything except our stories.”
“I did not want to live out my life in the strenuous effort to hold a ghost world together. It was plain as the stars that time herself moved in grand tidal sweeps rather than the tick-tocks we suffocate within, and that I must reshape myself to fully inhabit the earth rather than dawdle in the sump of my foibles.”
“My advice is, do not try to inhabit another’s soul. You have your own.”
“It is easy to forget that in the main we die only seven times more slowly than our dogs.”
“The Statue of Liberty, that frequently malevolent bitch, has an enormous tumor in her gut that has spread to her brain and eyes. With regard to the Native Americans she has Alzheimer’s or mad cow disease and can’t remember her past, and her blind eyes can’t see the terrifying plight of most of the Indian tribes. Meanwhile she blows China and stomps Cuba to death, choosing to forget the Native cultures she has already destroyed.”
“Suits obviously had helped to promote bad government and he was as guilty as anyone for wearing them so steadfastly for twenty years. Of late he had become frightened of the government for the first time in his life, the way the structure of democracy had begun debasing people rather than enlivening them in their mutual concern. The structure was no longer concerned with the purpose for which it was designed, and a small part of the cause, Nordstrom thought, was probably that all politicians and bureaucrats wore suits.”
“Life is an honor, albeit anonymously delivered.”
“Trying to teach creativity is the major hoax of our time along with the Iraq war and plastic surgery.”
“Another year has passed, or so they say, but calendars lie. They’re a kind of cosmic business machine like their cousin clocks but break down at inappropriate times.”
“Perhaps swimming was dancing under the water, he thought. To swim under lily pads seeing their green slender stalks wavering as you passed, to swim under upraised logs past schools of sunfish and bluegills, to swim through reed beds past wriggling water snakes and miniature turtles, to swim in small lakes, big lakes, Lake Michigan, to swim in small farm ponds, creeks, rivers, giant rivers where one was swept along easefully by the current, to swim naked alone at night when you were nineteen and so alone you felt like you were choking every waking moment, having left home for reasons more hormonal than rational; reasons having to do with the abstraction of the future and one’s questionable place in the world of the future, an absurdity not the less harsh for being so widespread.”
“‘Cliff, a cell phone isn’t a toy. It’s a very lucky technical miracle for all of us. It’s a prime weapon against our essential loneliness.’
‘I can’t say I’ve ever felt that lonely.’”
“Nothing on my trip thus far was as I expected which shows you that rather than simply read about the United States you have to log the journey.”
“The world that used to nurse us now keeps shouting inane instructions. That’s why I ran to the woods.”
Musings in December: Jack Kerouac
“I felt like lying down by the side of the trail and remembering it all. The woods do that to you, they always look familiar, long lost, like the face of a long-dead relative, like an old dream, like a piece of forgotten song drifting across the water, most of all like golden eternities of past childhood or past manhood and all the living and the dying and the heartbreak that went on a million years ago and the clouds as they pass overhead seem to testify (by their own lonesome familiarity) to this feeling.”
American Art – Part VI of VII: Frederic Remington
Frederic Sackrider Remington (1861-1909) was a painter, illustrator, writer, and sculptor who specialized in depictions of the American Old West.
A Fourth Poem for Today
By Jim Harrison
I’m hoping to be astonished tomorrow
by I don’t know what:
not the usual undiscovered bird in the cold
snowy willows, garishly green and yellow,
and not my usual death, which I’ve done
before with Borodin’s music
used in Kismet, and angels singing
‘Stranger in Paradise,’ that sort of thing,
and not the thousand naked women
running a marathon in circles around me
while I swivel on a writerly chair
keeping an eye on my favorites.
What could it be, this astonishment,
but falling into a liquid mirror
to finally understand that the purpose
of earth is earth? It’s plain as night.
She’s willing to sleep with us a little while.
American Art – Part VII of VII: Albert Bierstadt
In the words of one historian Albert Bierstadt (11830-1902) was a German-American painter best known for his lavish, sweeping landscapes of the American West. To paint the scenes, Bierstadt joined several journeys of the Westward Expansion. Though not the first artist to record these sites, Bierstadt was the foremost painter of these scenes for the remainder of the 19th century.”
Below – “Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains”; “Looking Down Yosemite Valley”; “Lake Tahoe”; “Storm in the Mountains”; “Sierra Nevada”; “Storm in the Rocky Mountains”; “California Spring”; “The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak”; “Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Trail”; “Sunset in the Yosemite Valley.”