American Art – Part I of VII: Alfred Henry Maurer
In the words of one writer, “Alfred Henry Maurer (1868-1932) was an American Modernist painter. He exhibited his work in avant-garde circles internationally and in New York City during the early twentieth century. Highly respected today, his work met with little critical or commercial success in his lifetime, and he died, a suicide, at the age of sixty-four.”
A Poem for Today
“Bivouac on a Mountain Side,”
By Walt Whitman
I see before me now a traveling army halting,
Below a fertile valley spread, with barns and the orchards of summer,
Behind, the terraced sides of a mountain, abrupt, in places rising high,
Broken, with rocks, with clinging cedars, with tall shapes dingily seen,
The numerous camp-fires scatter’d near and far, some away up on the mountain,
The shadowy forms of men and horses, looming, large-sized, flickering,
And over all the sky-the sky! far, far out of reach, studded,
breaking out, the eternal stars.
Musings in Winter: Craig Childs
“Most animals show themselves sparingly. The grizzly bear is six to eight hundred pounds of smugness. It has no need to hide. If it were a person, it would laugh loudly in quiet restaurants, boastfully wear the wrong clothes for special occasions, and probably play hockey.”
Nobel Laureate: Samuel Beckett
“We are all born mad. Some remain so.” – Samuel Beckett, Irish poet, playwright, author of “Waiting for Godot,” and recipient of the 1969 Nobel Prize in Literature “for his writing, which – in new forms for the novel and drama – in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation,” who died 22 December 1989.
Some quotes from the work of Samuel Beckett:
“All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
“You’re on Earth. There’s no cure for that.”
“The tears of the world are a constant quantity. For each one who begins to weep somewhere else another stops. The same is true of the laugh.”
“Every word is like an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness.” “Don’t touch me! Don’t question me! Don’t speak to me! Stay with me!”
“The end is in the beginning and yet you go on.”
“Nothing is more real than nothing.” is in the beginning and yet you go on.”
“My mistakes are my life.”
“‘Let’s go.’ ‘We can’t.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘We’re waiting for Godot.’”
“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”
Musings in Winter: Wendell Berry
“We do not need to plan or devise a ‘world of the future’; if we take care of the world of the present, the future will have received full justice from us. A good future is implicit in the soils, forests, grasslands, marshes, deserts, mountains, rivers, lakes, and oceans that we have now, and in the good things of human culture that we have now; the only valid ‘futurology’ available to us is to take care of those things. We have no need to contrive and dabble at “the future of the human race”; we have the same pressing need that we have always had – to love, care for, and teach our children.”
American Art – Part II of VII: Bill Mack
In the words of one writer, “The impact of Bill Mack’s art is achieved not only by his dramatic portrayal of the human form, but also by the utilization of a wide variety of materials with which to execute his artistic vision. The final work emerges as a classic example of the interplay of form and materials. For over 35 years, American sculptor Bill Mack has created sculpture in relief and in the round for government, corporate and private collections.”
A Second Poem for Today
By Mary Oliver
Now through the white orchard my little dog
romps, breaking the new snow
with wild feet.
Running here running there, excited,
hardly able to stop, he leaps, he spins
until the white snow is written upon
in large, exuberant letters,
a long sentence, expressing
the pleasures of the body in this world.
Oh, I could not have said it better
Musings in Winter: Brunonia Barry
“There is lace in every living thing: the bare branches of winter, the patterns of clouds, the surface of water as it ripples in the breeze…. Even a wild dog’s matted fur shows a lacy pattern if you look at it closely enough.”
From the Music Archives – Part I of III: Ludwig van Beethoven
22 December 1808 – Ludwig van Beethoven conducts and performs in concert at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna, with the premiere of his Fifth Symphony, Sixth Symphony, Fourth Piano Concerto (performed by Beethoven himself) and Choral Fantasy (with Beethoven at the piano).
Musings in Winter: C. S. Lewis
“We do not want merely to see beauty… we want something else which can hardly be put into words- to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses, and nymphs and elves.”
A Third Poem for Today
By W. S. Merwin
How long ago the day is
when at last I look at it
with the time it has taken
to be there still in it
now in the transparent light
with the flight in the voices
the beginning in the leaves
everything I remember
and before it before me
present at the speed of light
in the distance that I am
who keep reaching out to it
seeing all the time faster
where it has never stirred from
before there is anything
the darkness thinking the light
Musings in Winter: Jimmy Carter
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” – Mary Ann Evans, known by her pen name George Eliot, English novelist, journalist, translator, and author of “Middlemarch,” who died 22 December 1880.
Some quotes from the work of George Eliot:
“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”
“What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?”
“Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.”
“It is always fatal to have music or poetry interrupted.”
“It will never rain roses: when we want to have more roses, we must plant more roses.”
“It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.”
“No evil dooms us hopelessly except the evil we love, and desire to continue in, and make no effort to escape from. ”
“If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.”
“Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds.”
“Only in the agony of parting do we look into the depths of love.”
“I am not imposed upon by fine words; I can see what actions mean.”
“Adventure is not outside man; it is within.”
Musings in Winter: Loren Eiseley
“Perhaps a creature of so much ingenuity and deep memory is almost bound to grow alienated from his world, his fellows, and the objects around him. He suffers from a nostalgia for which there is no remedy upon earth except as it is to be found in the enlightenment of the spirit–some ability to have a perceptive rather than an exploitive relationship with his fellow creatures.”
In the words of one art historian, Italian painter Giovanni Giacometti (1868-1933) “entered on the artistic career and moved to Munich in 1886 to attend the school of arts and crafts. There, Giacometti met Cuno Amiet, who became his close friend and with whom he studied the works of the French impressionists. Supported by his parents, Giacometti moved along with Amiet to Paris in 1888.”
“To some will come a time when change itself is beauty, if not heaven.” – Edwin Arlington Robinson, American poet and three-time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, who was born 22 December 1869.
“The House on the Hill”
They are all gone away,
The house is shut and still,
There is nothing more to say.
Through broken walls and gray
The winds blow bleak and shrill:
They are all gone away.
Nor is there one today
To speak them good or ill:
There is nothing more to say.
Why is it then we stray
Around the sunken sill?
They are all gone away.
And our poor fancy-play
For them is wasted skill:
There is nothing more to say.
Musings in Winter: N. K. Jemisin
“It is blasphemy to separate oneself from the earth and look down on it like a god. It is more than blasphemy; it is dangerous. We can never be gods, after all – but we can become something less than human with frightening ease.”
From the Music Archives – Part II of III: James Gurley
Born 22 December 1939 – James Gurley, an American musician best known as the guitarist of Big Brother and the Holding Company, a San Francisco band that was fronted by Janis Joplin from 1966 to 1968.
A Fourth Poem for Today
“Recalling a Sung Dynasty Landscape,”
By Jane Hirshfield
Palest wash of stone-rubbed ink
leaves open the moon: unpainted circle,
how does it raise so much light?
Below, the mountains
lose themselves in dreaming
a single, thatch-roofed hut.
Not that the hut lends meaning
to the mountains or the moon–
it is a place to rest the eye after much traveling, is all.
And the heart, unscrolled,
is comforted by such small things:
a cup of green tea rescues us, grows deep and large, a lake.
Here is how one critic describes the paintings of self-taught Australian artist Steve Harris (born 1953): “Harris has become well known for his impeccably painted still life compositions, the skillful use of light, shadow and space being a hallmark of his approach. He tends to depict objects which have an everyday function or perhaps have even been discarded, but the work is about much more than simple representation. Harris is a master of understated realism which in turn evokes its own sense of ‘atmosphere’ and contemplative mood. His works have been described as ‘meditations in light,’ and this is very much the feeling one has when attending one of Harris’s exhibitions – a type of reflective silence emanates from the paintings and imbues them with a spiritual quality that one would not perhaps anticipate.”
From the Music Archives – Part III of III: Maurice Gibb
Born 22 December 1949 Maurice Gibb, a Manx-English musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer best known as the guitarist, bassist and keyboardist of the Bee Gees.
A Fifth Poem for Today
By Jack Kerouac
Musings in Winter: Wendell Berry
“If we apply our minds directly and competently to the needs of the earth, then we will have begun to make fundamental and necessary changes in our minds. We will begin to understand and to mistrust and to change our wasteful economy, which markets not just the produce of the earth, but also the earth’s ability to produce. We will see that beauty and utility are alike dependent upon the health of the world. But we will also see through the fads and the fashions of protest. We will see that war and oppression and pollution are not separate issues, but are aspects of the same issue. Amid the outcries for the liberation of this group or that, we will know that no person is free except in the freedom of other persons, and that man’s only real freedom is to know and faithfully occupy his place – a much humbler place than we have been taught to think – in the order of creation.”
American Art – Part III of VII: Victoria Selbach
In the words of one critic, “Victoria Selbach, in her youth, studied drawing and pastel at the Carnegie Mellon Museum of Pittsburgh and continued on to art classes at Carnegie Mellon University. Her years at CMU provided a range of course work including drawing from live models and studying anatomy at the Pitt Medical School Morgue. Victoria moved to New York City and graduated from Parsons School of Design. While making New York her home Victoria has traveled extensively and is indebted to all the amazing faces and startling visual environments that have fascinated and inspired her.”
Musings in Winter: David Attenborough
“I don’t think whole populations are villainous, but Americans are just extraordinarily unaware of all kinds of things. If you live in the middle of that vast continent, with apparently everything your heart could wish for just because you were born there, then why worry? … If people lose knowledge, sympathy and understanding of the natural world, they’re going to mistreat it and will not ask their politicians to care for it.”
“I write for one and only one purpose, to overcome the invincible ignorance of the traduced heart. … I wish to speak to and for those who have had enough of the Social Lie, the Economics of Mass Murder, the Sexual Hoax, and the Domestication of Conspicuous Consumption.” – Kenneth Rexroth, American poet, academic, translator and essayist, who was born 22 December 2905.
Kenneth Rexroth, a central figure in the San Francisco Renaissance, was one of the fist American writers to explore Japanese poetic forms such as haiku and to translate Chinese verse.
“Falling Leaves and Early Snow”
In the years to come they will say,
“They fell like the leaves
In the autumn of nineteen thirty-nine.”
November has come to the forest,
To the meadows where we picked the cyclamen.
The year fades with the white frost
On the brown sedge in the hazy meadows,
Where the deer tracks were black in the morning.
Ice forms in the shadows;
Disheveled maples hang over the water;
Deep gold sunlight glistens on the shrunken stream.
Somnolent trout move through pillars of brown and gold.
The yellow maple leaves eddy above them,
The glittering leaves of the cottonwood,
The olive, velvety alder leaves,
The scarlet dogwood leaves,
Most poignant of all.
In the afternoon thin blades of cloud
Move over the mountains;
The storm clouds follow them;
Fine rain falls without wind.
The forest is filled with wet resonant silence.
When the rain pauses the clouds
Cling to the cliffs and the waterfalls.
In the evening the wind changes;
Snow falls in the sunset.
We stand in the snowy twilight
And watch the moon rise in a breach of cloud.
Between the black pines lie narrow bands of moonlight,
Glimmering with floating snow.
An owl cries in the sifting darkness.
The moon has a sheen like a glacier.
Musings in Winter: Rachel Carson
“The winds, the sea, and the moving tides are what they are. If there is wonder and beauty and majesty in them, science will discover these qualities… If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.”
American Art – Part IV of VII: George Tsui
In the words of one critic, “George Tsui, Chinese-born American painter was born in Hong Kong and moved to New York in the late 60s, studying first at the School of Visual Arts and later majoring in oil painting at the Art Students League. While working at NBC, he was awarded the prestigious 1997 Emmy Award for Best Individual Art and Craft.
In the words of a second writer, “After twenty years in the New York art scene, George Tsui set out a creative journey into China in the pursuit of reaching the next level in his artistic career. The grand and splendid architect of the forbidden city and the mysterious and sensual character of the Dun Huang cave were the immediate inspiration for the first group of paintings George created. Always fascinated and attracted to the rare and exotic, elements of fantasy are often present in George’s work. Chinese themes filled his imagination. The idea of creating his own brand of classic romanticism, unrestrained by conventional reality, was deeply attractive to him. His models always dressed in exquisite beautiful silk gowns from the artist’s own collection of 20 authentic imperial dresses and posed in romantic, luxurious surroundings with a variety of antiques, artifacts, jewelry, and exotic landscapes and birds… George doesn’t pretend to be painting the real thing but draws us into a fantasy where the signs of subterfuge are plain to see, as the artist describes: these pieces ‘employ a dual technique of painting and sculpture that is traditionally ornate yet abstract in the most modern sense.’”
Musings in Winter: Dag Hammarskjold
“The light died in the low clouds. Falling snow drank in the dusk. Shrouded in silence, the branches wrapped me in their peace. When the boundaries were erased, once again the wonder: that ‘I’ exist.”
Here is the Artist Statement of New Zealand painter and sculptor Susan Saladino:
“An overview of my artwork reveals a diversity of materials and mediums I utilize to express a singular theme. I have examined the relationship we have with the natural world and all animal life, and invite the viewer to do the same. The work is strongly committed to the belief that we as humans have a kinship with all life; we are all connected.
A desperate concern for animal welfare is a sentiment patterned in the fabric of all my artwork. Over the years I have observed the human action as it roams between a celebration of animals and brutality towards them. I have drawn on this observation earlier in my career to create paintings expressing reverence for their lives and protesting cruelty. Recently I began an exploration using clay. The playful animal figures I built are seemingly amusing, yet a deeper look exposes a truth I want the viewer to look at.
In my current mixed media sculpture series, I employ materials from the earth to reference conservation concerns. Surface texture of the hand built clay figures is created using natural materials found in the environment. Twigs sheared from culled trees symbolically imply the loss of habitat. Birds in some of the work represent all animal life. My figures very often are blindfolded suggesting the human inclination to turn away from certain realities that perhaps are uncomfortable or may require change. Change is needed.
I have come to believe that as stewards of this planet we cannot afford to turn a blind eye. The kinship we have with all life ‘must be expressed in action, since belief is no longer enough.’”
Musings in Winter: Rebecca Solnit
“They are all beasts of burden in a sense,’ Thoreau once remarked of animals, ‘made to carry some portion of our thoughts.’ Animals are the old language of the imagination; one of the ten thousand tragedies of their disappearance would be a silencing of this speech.”
“All outward forms of religion are almost useless, and are the causes of endless strife. . . . Believe there is a great power silently working all things for good, behave yourself and never mind the rest.” – Beatrix Potter, English writer, illustrator, natural scientist, conservationist, and author of “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” who died 22 December 1943.
Some quotes from the work of Beatrix Potter:
“Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were–Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter. ”
“I hold that a strongly marked personality can influence descendants for generations.”
“Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.”
“I cannot rest, I must draw, however poor the result, and when I have a bad time come over me it is a stronger desire than ever.”
“The place is changed now, and many familiar faces are gone, but the greatest change is myself. I was a child then, I had no idea what the world would be like. I wished to trust myself on the waters and the sea. Everything was romantic in my imagination. The woods were peopled by the mysterious good folk. The Lords and Ladies of the last century walked with me along the overgrown paths, and picked the old fashioned flowers among the box and rose hedges of the garden.”
“I remember I used to half believe and wholly play with fairies when I was a child. What heaven can be more real than to retain the spirit-world of childhood, tempered and balanced by knowledge and common-sense.”
“Thank God I have the seeing eye, that is to say, as I lie in bed I can walk step by step on the fells and rough land seeing every stone and flower and patch of bog and cotton pass where my old legs will never take me again.”
“Sunday, January 27, 1884. — There was another story in the paper a week or so since. A gentleman had a favourite cat whom he taught to sit at the dinner table where it behaved very well. He was in the habit of putting any scraps he left onto the cat’s plate. One day puss did not take his place punctually, but presently appeared with two mice, one of which it placed on its master’s plate, the other on its own.”
“It sometimes happens that the town child is more alive to the fresh beauty of the country than a child who is country born. My brother and I were born in London…but our descent, our interest and our joy were in the north country.”
“I am aware these little books don’t last long even if they are a success.”
Musings in Winter: Robinson Jeffers
A Sixth Poem for Today
“The Iron Bridge,”
By Billy Collins
I am standing on a disused iron bridge
that was erected in 1902
according to the iron plaque bolted into a beam,
the year my mother turned one.
Imagine a mother in her infancy,
and she was a Canadian infant at that,
one of the great infants of the province of Ontario.
But here I am leaning on the rusted railing
looking at the water below,
which is flat and reflective this morning,
sky-blue and streaked with high clouds,
and the more I look at the water,
which is like a talking picture,
the more I think of 1902
when workmen in shirts and caps
riveted this iron bridge together
across a thin channel joining two lakes
where wildflowers now blow along the shore
and pairs of swans float in the leafy coves.
1902 my mother was so tiny
she could have fit into one of those oval
baskets for holding apples,
which her mother could have lined with a soft cloth
and placed on the kitchen table
so she could keep an eye on infant Katherine
while she scrubbed potatoes or shelled a bag of peas,
the way I am keeping an eye on that cormorant
who just broke the glassy surface
and is moving away from me and the bridge,
swiveling his curious head,
slipping out to where the sun rakes the water
and filters through the trees that crowd the shore.
And now he dives,
disappears below the surface,
and while I wait for him to pop up,
I picture him flying underwater with his strange wings,
as I picture you, my tiny mother,
who disappeared last year,
flying somewhere with your strange wings,
your wide eyes, and your heavy wet dress,
kicking deeper down into a lake
with no end or name, some boundless province of water.
Musings in Winter: Charlotte Eriksson
“I woke up early and took the first train to take me away from the city. The noise and all its people. I was alone on the train and had no idea where I was going, and that’s why I went there. Two hours later we arrived in a small town, one of those towns with one single coffee shop and where everyone knows each other’s name. I walked for a while until I found the water, the most peaceful place I know. There I sat and stayed the whole day, with nothing and everything on my mind, cleaning my head. Silence, I learned, is some times the most beautiful sound.”
American Art – Part V of VII: Ralph Grady James
Here is how one art historian describes the work of American painter Ralph Grady James: “Ralph has developed and refined his talents to include all genres of painting. Whether still life, figurative, landscape or wildlife, he describes the setting with a light infused atmosphere that forms his subjects. Indeed, the portrayal of light is of utmost importance to him. Inspiration comes from everyday life, urban settings, and also America’s natural habitat which Ralph has a deep love for.”
Musings in December: Roger Caras
A Seventh Poem for Today
“A Few Words on the Soul,”
By Wislawa Szymborska
We have a soul at times.
No one’s got it non-stop,
Day after day,
year after year
may pass without it.
it will settle for awhile
only in childhood’s fears and raptures.
Sometimes only in astonishment
that we are old.
It rarely lends a hand
in uphill tasks,
like moving furniture,
or lifting luggage,
or going miles in shoes that pinch.
It usually steps out
whenever meat needs chopping
or forms have to be filled.
For every thousand conversations
it participates in one,
if even that,
since it prefers silence.
Just when our body goes from ache to pain,
it slips off-duty.
it doesn’t like seeing us in crowds,
our hustling for a dubious advantage
and creaky machinations make it sick.
Joy and sorrow
aren’t two different feelings for it.
It attends us
only when the two are joined.
We can count on it
when we’re sure of nothing
and curious about everything.
Among the material objects
it favors clocks with pendulums
and mirrors, which keep on working
even when no one is looking.
It won’t say where it comes from
or when it’s taking off again,
though it’s clearly expecting such questions.
Musings in Winter: Wilhelm Reich
“Build your house on granite. By granite I mean your nature that you are torturing to death, the love in your child’s body, your wife’s dream of love, your own dream of life when you were sixteen. Exchange your illusions for a bit of truth. Throw out your politicians and diplomats! Take your destiny into your own hands and build your life on rock. Forget about your neighbor and look inside yourself! Your neighbor, too, will be grateful. Tell you’re fellow workers all over the world that you’re no longer willing to work for death but only for life. Instead of flocking to executions and shouting hurrah, hurrah, make a law for the protection of human life and its blessings. Such a law will be part of the granite foundation your house rests on. Protect your small children’s love against the assaults of lascivious, frustrated men and women. Stop the mouth of the malignant old maid; expose her publicly or send her to a reform school instead of young people who are longing for love. Don’t try to outdo your exploiter in exploitation if you have a chance to become a boss. Throw away your swallowtails and top hat, and stop applying for a license to embrace your woman. Join forces with your kind in all countries; they are like you, for better or worse. Let your child grow up as nature (or ‘God’) intended. Don’t try to improve on nature. Learn to understand it and protect it. Go to the library instead of the prize fight, go to foreign countries rather than to Coney Island. And first and foremost, think straight, trust the quiet inner voice inside you that tells you what to do. You hold your life in your hands, don’t entrust it to anyone else, least of all to your chosen leaders. BE YOURSELF! Any number of great men have told you that.”
American Art – Part VI of VII: Cesar Santos
In the words of one writer, “Cesar Santos is a Cuban-born American painter. He is best known for images that transmit the impression of paintings of the past, but are also imbued with contemporary, fresh concepts and his own philosophy.”
Musings in Winter: Beryl Markham
“To see ten thousand animals untamed and not branded with the symbols of human commerce is like scaling an unconquered mountain for the first time, or like finding a forest without roads or footpaths, or the blemish of an axe. You know then what you had always been told — that the world once lived and grew without adding machines and newsprint and brick-walled streets and the tyranny of clocks.”
An Eighth Poem for Today
“After Ikkyu – Number 20,”
By Jim Harrison
More lion prints in the creekbed.
Right now in the light, cool rain at midnight,
coyotes. Skunk stink laden in mist.
Hidden moon. I don’t want to go home yet.
Older, the flavors of earth are more delicious.
Musings in Winter: Craig Childs
“Coyotes move within a landscape of attentiveness. I have seen their eyes in the creosote bushes and among mesquite trees. They have watched me. And all the times that I saw no eyes, that I kept walking and never knew, there were still coyotes. When I have seen them trot away, when I have stepped from the floorboard of my truck, leaned on the door, and watched them as they watched me over their shoulders, I have been aware for that moment of how much more there is. Of how I have only seen only an instant of a broad and rich life.”
American Art – Part VII of VII: Michael Mao
In the words of one writer, “Michael Mao, Chinese-born painter, grew up in Shanghai, China. He began teaching himself drawing and painting at the young age of seven. He also learned painting through many workshops during the weekends when he was in middle school and high school. After graduated from Tongji University, one of the most prestigious architecture schools in China, Michael did many architectural renderings while working as an instructor in School of Architecture and Urban Design at Tongji University. In 1992, Michael moved to the United States to advance his architecture career by pursuing his Master of Architecture at University of Texas at Arlington.”
Friends: Two of my sons will be in town for a few days, and so I will not be posting for a time. I wish all of you the happiest of holidays, and I hope that everyone finds the perfect present under or next to the Christmas tree.