American Art – Part I of IV: Eastman Johnson
In the words of one art historian, Eastman Johnson (1824–1906) “was a painter and co-founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, with his name inscribed at its entrance. He was best known for his genre paintings, paintings of scenes from everyday life, and his portraits both of everyday people and prominent Americans such as Abraham Lincoln, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. His later works often show the influence of the 17th-century Dutch masters, whom he studied in The Hague in the 1850s; he was known as The American Rembrandt in his day.”
Below – “Ojibwe Wigwam at Grand Portage”; “Negro Life at the South”; “The Girl I Left Behind Me”; “The Nantucket School of Philosophy”; “The Young Sweep”; “Benjamin Harrison”; “Nathaniel Hawthorne”; “Ralph Waldo Emerson”; “Self-Portrait.”
Musings in December: Joseph Campbell
“How does the ordinary person come to the transcendent? For a start, I would say, study poetry. Learn how to read a poem. You need not have the experience to get the message, or at least some indication of the message. It may come gradually.”
A Poem for Today
“Fireflies in the Garden,”
By Robert Frost
Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,
And here on earth come emulating flies,
That though they never equal stars in size,
(And they were never really stars at heart)
Achieve at times a very star-like start.
Only, of course, they can’t sustain the part.
“My idea of an educated person is one who can converse on one subject for more than two minutes.” – Robert Millikan, American scientist and recipient of the 1923 Nobel Prize in Physics, who died on 19 December 1953.
Musings in December: Lao Tzu
Here is the Artist Statement of Russian painter Nikos Safronov: ”It has been proven that the human being’s life in the universe lasts but 3 seconds, but thanks to the interspecies communication and travel (including the Internet), a person extends his life-span up to 5-10 seconds. However, when communicating with and through art human being enters the Eternity.
I hope, that those of you who get acquainted with me or know me already will benefit from my art.”
19 December 1776 – Thomas Paine, American political activist, author, revolutionary, and one of the greatest of our Republic’s Founding Fathers, publishes his first “The American Crisis” essay, which begins thusly:
“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.”
Musings in December: Anne Rice
“A summer rain had left the night clean and sparkling with drops of water. I leaned against the end pillar of the gallery, my head touching the soft tendrils of a jasmine which grew there in a constant battle with a wisteria, and I thought of what lay before me throughout the world and throughout time, and resolved to go about it delicately and reverently, learning that from each thing which would take me best to another.”
From the Music Archives – Part I of V: Phil Ochs
Born 19 December 1940 – Phil Ochs, an American singer, songwriter, and guitarist best known for his protest songs. In the words of one music critic, “(Ochs) was known for his sharp wit, sardonic humor, earnest humanism, political activism, insightful and alliterative lyrics, and distinctive voice.”
A Second Poem for Today
By Edward Dorn
Broad black scar the valley is
and sunday is
in the wide arc
the small lights of homes come on
in that trough.
Burnish my heart
with this mark
Furnish my soul with the hope
Far away and by a river
In the darkness of a walnut stand.
no home, no back.
All is this wrong key, the lark
but his voice trails off
in the snow. He has not
brought his meadow.
is the truth here — dark smoke
drifts in from the morning fertilizer factory
and men there return lamely
to work, their disputes not settled.
Musings in December: Franz Winkler
“Not too long ago thousands spent their lives as recluses to find spiritual vision in the solitude of nature. Modern man need not become a hermit to achieve this goal, for it is neither ecstasy nor world-estranged mysticism his era demands, but a balance between quantitative and qualitative reality. Modern man, with his reduced capacity for intuitive perception, is unlikely to benefit from the contemplative life of a hermit in the wilderness. But what he can do is to give undivided attention, at times, to a natural phenomenon, observing it in detail, and recalling all the scientific facts about it he may remember. Gradually, however, he must silence his thoughts and, for moments at least, forget all his personal cares and desires, until nothing remains in his soul but awe for the miracle before him. Such efforts are like journeys beyond the boundaries of narrow self-love and, although the process of intuitive awakening is laborious and slow, its rewards are noticeable from the very first. If pursued through the course of years, something will begin to stir in the human soul, a sense of kinship with the forces of life consciousness which rule the world of plants and animals, and with the powers which determine the laws of matter. While analytical intellect may well be called the most precious fruit of the Modern Age, it must not be allowed to rule supreme in matters of cognition. If science is to bring happiness and real progress to the world, it needs the warmth of man’s heart just as much as the cold inquisitiveness of his brain.”
American Art – Part II of IV: David P. Hettinger
Contemporary painter David P. Hettinger began his formal training at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, where he studied classical realism and the techniques of Flemish, Dutch, and Spanish Masters. In the words of one critic, “Hettinger doesn’t think of his figurative pieces as portraits or paintings of people but rather of relationships and moments in time.”
Musings in December: Joseph Campbell
“[Comedies], in the ancient world, were regarded as of a higher rank than tragedy, of a deeper truth, of a more difficult realization, of a sounder structure, and of a revelation more complete. The happy ending of the fairy tale, the myth, and the divine comedy of the soul, is to be read, not as a contradiction, but as a transcendence of the universal tragedy of man…. Tragedy is the shattering of the forms and of our attachments to the forms; comedy, the wild and careless, inexhaustible joy of life invincible.”
From the Music Archives – Part II of V: Cornell Dupree
Born 19 December 1942 – Cornell Luther Dupree, an American jazz and rhythm & blues guitarist.
Here is the Artist Statement of Iranian painter Vahid Chamani (born 1984): “My work on the whole talks about Iran’s present cultural situation which is disturbed by deep contrasts between tradition and modernism. We have somehow turned away from or traditional culture but at the same time been left behind by modernism. We have distanced ourselves from our beliefs and now stand far from them to be able to join in the global stream of modern cultures but it seems like we have failed in reaching both of them. May be this is because we are doubtful of this liberation and don’t want to separate from our past. This has out us in some kind of cultural gap where we can’t find our true place in western modernism. I try to show this gap in my works, my dark and even colored backgrounds show a theme of having no place and time, where people are doubtful of their identity and worried for their future. Some figures and faces are shown with two different sides which show their stressed minds. Some eyes are blind and some show disappointment with traces of scares they have on their hearts and souls, few have hopes.
In some others I have used ornaments like earrings and necklaces with shiny faces on pretty figures who although have put on a lot of makeup still have their traditional dresses on, a sign of their inner want for returning to past cultures and in spite of that, trying to keep up with new trends of fashion, in order to hide their fear of being called backward. They have made a false identity for themselves and a world of self-deceit. My figures are never who they appear, they are acting all the time, trying to show off and sometimes it looks like they pity themselves and are trying to be self-consoling.”
Musings in December: Wendell Berry
“While the government is ‘studying’ and funding and organizing its Big Thought, nothing is being done. But the citizen who is willing to Think Little, and, accepting the discipline of that, to go ahead on his own, is already solving the problem. A man who is trying to live as a neighbor to his neighbors will have a lively and practical understanding of the work of peace and brotherhood, and let there be no mistake about it – he is doing that work…
A man who is willing to undertake the discipline and the difficulty of mending his own ways is worth more to the conservation movement than a hundred who are insisting merely that the government and the industries mend their ways.”
Born 19 December 1036 – Su Shi (Su Tung-p’o), Chinese poet, essayist, painter, calligrapher, and traveler who lived during the Song Dynasty (960-1279).
Musings in December: Susanna Clarke
“There is nothing else in magic but the wild thought of the bird as it casts itself into the void. There is no creature upon the earth with such potential for magic. Even the least of them may fly straight out of this world and come by chance to the Other Lands. Where does the wind come from that blows upon your face, that fans the pages of your book? Where the harum-scarum magic of small wild creatures meets the magic of Man, where the language of the wind and the rain and the trees can be understood, there we will find the Raven King.
Painter Roberto Liang was born in Chengdu, Sichuan, China in 1964. At age 25, he arrived in Spain, and enrolled first in the College of Applied Arts and Crafts and then in the Department of Fine Arts in Madrid.
From the Music Archives – Part III of V: Michael Clarke
Died 19 December 1993 – Michael Clarke, an American drummer best known for being a member of The Byrds.
Musings in December: Tony Hillerman
“Everything is connected. The wing of the corn beetle affects the direction of the wind, the way the sand drifts, the way the light reflects into the eye of man beholding his reality. All is part of totality, and in this totality man finds his hozro, his way of walking in harmony, with beauty all around him.”
A Third Poem for Today
By Margaret Atwood
There is nothing to be afraid of,
it is only the wind
changing to the east, it is only
your father the thunder
your mother the rain
In this country of water
with its beige moon damp as a mushroom,
its drowned stumps and long birds
that swim, where the moss grows
on all sides of the trees
and your shadow is not your shadow
but your reflection,
your true parents disappear
when the curtain covers your door.
We are the others,
the ones from under the lake
who stand silently beside your bed
with our heads of darkness.
We have come to cover you
with red wool,
with our tears and distant whispers.
You rock in the rain’s arms,
the chilly ark of your sleep,
while we wait, your night
father and mother,
with our cold hands and dead flashlight,
knowing we are only
the wavering shadows thrown
by one candle, in this echo
you will hear twenty years later.
Musings in December: Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Nature is not always tricked in holiday attire, but the same scene which yesterday breathed perfume and glittered as for the frolic of the nymphs, is overspread with melancholy today. Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.”
Musings in December: Dan Quinn
“It’s the idea that people living close to nature tend to be noble. It’s seeing all those sunsets that does it. You can’t watch a sunset and then go off and set fire to your neighbor’s tepee. Living close to nature is wonderful for your mental health.”
From the Music Archives – Part IV of V: Marianne Faithfull
Born 19 December 1946 – Marianne Faithfull, a British singer, songwriter, and actress.
American Art – Part III of IV: John Koch
In the words of one critic, New York-based painter John Koch (1909–1979) “was one of the key American Realists of the 20th Century. When the world seemed to turn its back on the realist tradition, Koch persisted and presented intimate views of his personal world. His paintings are populated with models, musicians, views of his studio, and his New York Apartment. Through it all, Koch was a quiet and understated voice who kept the heartbeat of the realist movement alive and respected.
Koch’s compositions were elegant. His warm tones and colours invited you into his world where, as you investigate the contents, you discover treasures amongst his beautifully observed objects. The objects themselves are chosen with care and a sense of knowledgeable appreciation. In all his work, the intricacies of light permeate and penetrate to create airy spaces into which the viewer enters. John Koch was a well trained artist who delighted in his profession and created an impressive amount of work.”
Musings in December: Ray Bradbury
“He stood breathing, and the more he breathed the land in, the more he was filled up with all the details of the land. He was not empty. There was more than enough here to fill him. There would always be more than enough.”
A Fourth Poem for Today
“Sleeping In The Forest,”
By Mary Oliver
I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.
Musings in December: Joseph Campbell
On King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table: “They thought that it would be a disgrace to go forth as a group. Each entered the forest at a point that he himself had chosen, where it was darkest and there was no path. If there is a path it is someone else’s path and you are not on the adventure.”
From the Music Archives – Part V of V: Johann Sebastian Bach
Musings in December: Hermann Hesse
“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.”
A Fifth Poem for Today
By Jane Hirshfield
More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another. A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
mitochondria, figs–all this resinous, unretractable earth.
Musings in December: Edward Abbey
“Water, water, water….There is no shortage of water in the desert but exactly the right amount , a perfect ratio of water to rock, water to sand, insuring that wide free open, generous spacing among plants and animals, homes and towns and cities, which makes the arid West so different from any other part of the nation. There is no lack of water here unless you try to establish a city where no city should be.”
Here is the Artist Statement of Kaikaoss: Born in 1965, I (Kaikaoss) studied in Minsk at the art academy where I did my master of art.
I have lived and worked in Germany since 1991 and consider myself a global citizen, for art has no borders. My experiences in various cultures have allowed me to find my own unmistakable style. I am and have been present at many single and group exhibitions in Germany, Belgium, France, the USA, and Belarus.
Musings in December: Henry Beston
“Our fantastic civilization has fallen out of touch with many aspects of nature, and with none more completely than with night. Primitive folk, gathered at a cave mouth round a fire, do not fear night; they fear, rather, the energies and creatures to whom night gives power; we of the age of the machines, having delivered ourselves of nocturnal enemies, now have a dislike of night itself. With lights and ever more lights, we drive the holiness and beauty of night back to the forests and the sea; the little villages, the crossroads even, will have none of it. Are modern folk, perhaps, afraid of night? Do they fear that vast serenity, the mystery of infinite space, the austerity of stars? Having made themselves at home in a civilization obsessed with power, which explains its whole world in terms of energy, do they fear at night for their dull acquiescence and the pattern of their beliefs? Be the answer what it will, to-day’s civilization is full of people who have not the slightest notion of the character or the poetry of night, who have never even seen night. Yet to live thus, to know only artificial night, is as absurd and evil as to know only artificial day.”
American Art – Part IV of IV: Warren Chang
Artist Statement: “A common theme in my outdoor subjects is the fieldworkers of Monterey County where I grew up. I started exploring this subject around 2001 when I had recently relocated from New York to Northern California.
These paintings were in part inspired by the writings of John Steinbeck (1902-1968), whose novels I read as a youth. His works examined the lives of working class and migrant workers in the Salinas Valley, California.
In addition, I felt this subject had an historical precedent dating as far back as the 16th century with the paintings by Peter Bruegel the Elder (1525)-1569) known for his peasant scenes and then later on with the work of Francois Millet (1814-1875) and the 19th century Naturalist Movement in general. American artists Winslow Homer (1824-1906) and Eastman Johnson (1824-1906), both painted the fieldworker and later Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) painted the fieldworker in his regional works, so I felt I could pursue this genre with a sense of substance and tradition. My works though inspired by the paintings and subjects of the past are however contemporary records of our times. I depict the farmworker honestly without idealization with an understanding of their plight. In a way I see the farmworker as a tragic figure, a metaphor for the all humanity.”