American Art – Part I of IV: Dorothy Churchill-Johnson
Artist Statement: “I call my paintings visual haiku after the Japanese poetic tradition of observing nature ‘ferociously’ until substance gives way to spirit. Like haiku, they are meant to represent moments of heightened awareness and existential beauty. I feel that focusing lavish attention on the mundane often elevates it to the sublime. Objects become complex in proportion to the attention one pays them.
I’ve used selected natural objects, exaggerated them, and isolated them in an otherworldly landscape, thus creating a realm of virtual reality. Looking at the paintings it is difficult to judge with certainty, the exact spatial relationships between the background and foreground. The physical perspectives are destabilizing, asking the viewer, in their momentary disorientation, to imagine a world governed by laws other than those we deem universal. For me, they evoke an alternative world, composed of imaginary elements and odd juxtapositions, and a sense of being an isolated consciousness in a beautiful, uninhabited universe which is chillingly indifferent to individuals.”
A Poem for Today
By A. H. Reginald Buller
From the Music Archives: – Part I of III: Joan Baez
“Action is the antidote to despair.” – Joan Baez, American folk singer, songwriter, musician, and activist, who was born 9 January 1941.
Musings in Autumn: Wendell Berry
“Once the creator was removed from the creation, divinity became only a remote abstraction, a social weapon in the hands of the religious institutions. This split in public values produced or was accompanied by, as it was bound to be, an equally artificial and ugly division in people’s lives, so that a man, while pursuing Heaven with the sublime appetite he thought of as his soul, could turn his heart against his neighbors and his hands against the world…
Though Heaven is certainly more important than the earth if all they say about it is true, it is still morally incidental to it and dependent on it, and I can only imagine it and desire it in terms of what I know of the earth.”
Here is how one writer describes the artistry of Dutch painter Peter Vaz Nunes (born 1955): “Since his childhood, Vaz has been intrigued by the works of the 17th-century masters. From the age of sixteen, he has drawn and painted portraits and landscapes, originally working with pencil and pastel.”
From the Music Archives: – Part II of III Crystal Gayle
Born 9 January 1951 – Crystal Gayle, an award-winning country music singer.
Musings in Autumn: Gretel Ehrlich
“The truest art I would strive for in any work would be to give the page the same qualities as earth: weather would land on it harshly, light would elucidate the most difficult truths; wind would sweep away obtuse padding. Finally, the lessons of impermanence taught me this: loss constitutes an odd kind of fullness; despair empties out into an unquenchable appetite for life.”
A Second Poem for Today
By April Halprin Wayland
The scruffy house cat
aches to fly—
she dreams all day of
wings and sky!
she climbs the ladder,
mounts a platform,
except to catch
a thin trapeze
then hold on tight
with grace and ease.
She swings herself
by both front paws
to wild applause
of kitchen mice,
who, though dizzy,
to keep her busy.
From the Music Archives: – Part III of III: The Beatles
9 January 1965 – The “Beatles ’65” album reaches number one on the popular music charts and remains there for nine weeks.
Musings in Autumn: Carl Safina
“Ethics that focus on human interactions, morals that focus on humanity’s relationship to a Creator, fall short of these things we’ve learned. They fail to encompass the big take-home message, so far, of a century and a half of biology and ecology: life is- more than anything else- a process; it creates, and depends on, relationships among energy, land, water, air, time and various living things. It’s not just about human-to-human interaction; it’s not just about spiritual interaction. It’s about all interaction. We’re bound with the rest of life in a network, a network including not just all living things but the energy and nonliving matter that flows through the living, making and keeping all of us alive as we make it alive. We can keep debating ideologies and sending entreaties toward heaven. But unless we embrace the fuller reality we’re in- and reality’s implications- we’ll face big problems.”
A Third Poem for Today
Ending the Estrangement,
By Ross Gay
from my mother’s sadness, which was,
to me, unbearable, until,
it felt to me
not like what I thought it felt like
to her, and so felt inside myself—like death,
like dying, which I would almost
have rather done, though adding to her sadness
would rather die than do—
but, by sitting still, like what, in fact, it was—
a form of gratitude
which when last it came
drifted like a meadow lit by torches
of cardinal flower, one of whose crimson blooms,
when a hummingbird hovered nearby,
I slipped into my mouth
thereby coaxing the bird
to scrawl on my tongue
its heart’s frenzy, its fleet
with whom, with you, dear mother,
I now sing along.
In the words of one critic, “Judy Drew (born 1951) is one of Australia’s most talented and exciting female artists, having a loyal and devoted following with a history of opening night sell out exhibitions. Drew’s images are infused with an impressionist sensibility towards colour and form and being a colourist work’s her medium of pastel to new limits. Drew’s paintings speak for themselves. The sensitive and intimate portrayal of her subjects will no doubt further cement her growing reputation as one of Australia’s leading traditional artists.”
9 January 1954 – The Bollingen Prize for poetry is awarded to Leonie Adams (shared with Louise Bogan).
“Alas, Kind Element!”
Then I was sealed, and like the wintering tree
I stood me locked upon a summer core;
Living, had died a death, and asked no more.
And I lived then, but as enduringly,
And my heart beat, but only as to be.
Ill weathers well, hail, gust and cold I bore,
I held my life as hid, at root, in store:
Thus I lived then, till this air breathed on me.
Till this kind air breathed kindness everywhere,
There where my times had left me I would stay.
Then I was staunch, I knew nor yes nor no;
But now the wishful leaves have thronged the air.
My every leaf leans forth upon the day;
Alas, kind element! which comes to go.
Musings in Autumn: Ralph Waldo Emerson
Musings in Autumn: Tracy L. Conway
9 January 1954 – The Bollingen Prize for poetry is awarded to Louise Bogan (shared with Leonie Adams).
To me, one silly task is like another.
I bare the shambling tricks of lust and pride.
This flesh will never give a child its mother,—
Song, like a wing, tears through my breast, my side,
And madness chooses out my voice again,
Again. I am the chosen no hand saves:
The shrieking heaven lifted over men,
Not the dumb earth, wherein they set their graves.
In the words of one critic, ”Linnea Strid is based in Uppsala, Sweden where she creates her hyper-realistic oil paintings that often feature the incorporation of water as a central element of the work. Strid renders water in a way that confuses the onlooker as to whether or not the image they are looking at is a photograph or indeed a painting. These works feature all the characteristics of water, from how it moves and why it moves and where, and in turn her work truly moves all that view it.”
Musings in Autumn: John Marsden
“You can never stay angry too long in the bush though. At least, that’s what I think. It’s not that it’s soothing or restful, because it’s not. What it does for me is get inside my body, inside my blood, and take me over. I don’t know that I can describe it any better than that. It takes me over and I become part of it and it becomes part of me and I’m not very important, or at least no more important than a tree or a rock or a spider abseiling down a long thread of cobweb. As I wandered around, on that hot afternoon, I didn’t notice anything too amazing or beautiful or mindbogglingly spectacular. I can’t actually remember noticing anything out of the ordinary: just the grey-green rocks and the olive-green leaves and the reddish soil with its teeming ants. The tattered ribbons of paperbark, the crackly dry cicada shell, the smooth furrow left in the dust by a passing snake. That’s all there ever is really, most of the time. No rainforest with tropical butterflies, no palm trees or Californian redwoods, no leopards or iguanas or panda bears.
Just the bush.”
9 January 1979 – The Bollingen Prize for poetry is awarded to W. S. Merwin.
“The Speed of Light”
So gradual in those summers was the going
of the age it seemed that the long days setting out
when the stars faded over the mountains were not
leaving us even as the birds woke in full song and the dew
glittered in the webs it appeared then that the clear morning
opening into the sky was something of ours
to have and keep and that the brightness we could not touch
and the air we could not hold had come to be there all the time
for us and would never be gone and that the axle
we did not hear was not turning when the ancient car
coughed in the roofer’s barn and rolled out echoing
first thing into the lane and the only tractor
in the village rumbled and went into its rusty
mutterings before heading out of its lean-to
into the cow pats and the shadow of the lime tree
we did not see that the swallows flashing and the sparks
of their cries were fast in the spokes of the hollow
wheel that was turning and turning us taking us
all away as one with the tires of the baker’s van
where the wheels of bread were stacked like days in calendars
coming and going all at once we did not hear
the rim of the hour in whatever we were saying
or touching all day we thought it was there and would stay
it was only as the afternoon lengthened on its
dial and the shadows reached out farther and farther
from everything that we began to listen for what
might be escaping us and we heard high voices ringing
the village at sundown calling their animals home
and then the bats after dark and the silence on its road
American Art – Part II of IV: Kathleen Morris
Artist Statement: “The imagery in my work has come to me, as much as I have called it out of that ‘vast silence’ of collectivity. The human figure holds a passionate centrality in my painting and has led me to place the archetypal figures in a setting that floats freely in time and space.”
Musings in Autumn: Clare B. Dunkle
“I had no fear of the stream’s perils, and I listened with the greatest contentment to the quiet slap of water on rocks, the running whisper of the current, and the taps and creaks and croaks that rose with the mist around me. Overhead swing the glittering stars, and the bright moon shone down and lit the curling ripples of the water. At no time in my life had I been in greater danger from the elements, and yet if I learned that heaven is such as that night was, I should deem it a joy worth the dying.”
A Fourth Poem for Today
By Jeredith Merrin
The divorced mother and her divorcing
daughter. The about-to-be ex-son-in-law
and the ex-husband’s adopted son.
The divorcing daughter’s child, who is
the step-nephew of the ex-husband’s
adopted son. Everyone cordial:
the ex-husband’s second wife
friendly to the first wife, warm
to the divorcing daughter’s child’s
great-grandmother, who was herself
long ago divorced. Everyone
grown used to the idea of divorce.
Almost everyone has separated
from the landscape of a childhood.
Collections of people in cities
are divorced from clean air and stars.
Toddlers in day care are parted
from working parents, schoolchildren
from the assumption of unbloodied
daylong safety. Old people die apart
from all they’ve gathered over time,
and in strange beds. Adults
grow estranged from a God
evidently divorced from History;
most are cut off from their own
histories, each of which waits
like a child left at day care.
What if you turned back for a moment
and put your arms around yours?
Yes, you might be late for work;
no, your history doesn’t smell sweet
like a toddler’s head. But look
at those small round wrists,
that short-legged, comical walk.
Caress your history–who else will?
Promise to come back later.
Pay attention when it asks you
simple questions: Where are we going?
Is it scary? What happened? Can
I have more now? Who is that?
Musings in Autumn: Annie Dillard
American Art – Part III of IV: Andrew Hem
Here is how one critic describes the artistry of Cambodian-American painter Andrew Hem: “Andrew Hem’s introspective, otherworldly paintings explore realities one step away from our everyday waking life. What if our thoughts flickered across the surface of our skin like ephemeral silent movies? What if spirits walked among us, trying to find their path? What if there were no racism, and even the most outlandish people were accepted? What if the children of Andrew’s native land had been allowed to live in peace and thrive?
Born during his parents’ flight from Cambodia in the wake of the Khmer Rouge genocide, Andrew grew up poised in the balance between two cultures — the gentle animistic society of his Khmer ancestors, and the dynamic urban arts of the tough Los Angeles neighborhood where his family eventually came to rest.
Fascinated by graffiti at an early age, he honed his skills with graphics and composition on the walls of the city before following a passion for figure drawing to a degree in illustration from Art Center College of Design. Working in gouache, oil and acrylic, he weaves atmospheric, richly textured narratives in a vivid palette of twilight blues enlivened by swaths of deep red and splashes of golden light. His haunting impressions of culture and landscape evoke the life of the spirit through the visionary manifestation of memories and dreams.”
A Fifth Poem for Today
“A New Law”
By Greg Delanty
Let there be a ban on every holiday.
No ringing in the new year.
No fireworks doodling the warm night air.
No holly on the door. I say
let there be no more.
For many are not here who were here before.
Musings in Autumn: Chief Standing River of the Lakota
“We did not think of the great open plains, the beautiful rolling hills and the winding streams with tangled growth, as ‘wild’. Only to the white man was nature a ‘wilderness’ and only to him was the land ‘infested’ with ‘wild’ animals and ‘savage’ people. To us it was home. Earth was beautiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery.”
A Sixth Poem for Today
“The Evening of the Mind,”
By Donald Justice
Now comes the evening of the mind.
Here are the fireflies twitching in the blood;
Here is the shadow moving down the page
Where you sit reading by the garden wall.
Now the dwarf peach trees, nailed to their trellises,
Shudder and droop. Your know their voices now,
Faintly the martyred peaches crying out
Your name, the name nobody knows but you.
It is the aura and the coming on.
It is the thing descending, circling, here.
And now it puts a claw out and you take it.
Thankfully in your lap you take it, so.
You said you would not go away again,
You did not want to go away—and yet,
It is as if you stood out on the dock
Watching a little boat drift out
Beyond the sawgrass shallows, the dead fish …
And you were in it, skimming past old snags,
Beyond, beyond, under a brazen sky
As soundless as a gong before it’s struck—
Suspended how?—and now they strike it, now
The ether dream of five-years-old repeats, repeats,
And you must wake again to your own blood
And empty spaces in the throat.
Musings in Autumn: Finis Mitchell
“A mountain is the best medicine for a troubled mind. Seldom does man ponder his own insignificance. He thinks he is master of all things. He thinks the world is his without bonds. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Only when he tramps the mountains alone, communing with nature, observing other insignificant creatures about him, to come and go as he will, does he awaken to his own short-lived presence on earth.”
American Art – Part IV of IV: Ian Hornak
Born 9 January 1944 – Ian Hornak, an American painter, draughtsman, sculptor, and one of the founding artists of the Hyperrealist and Photorealist art movements.
Below – “Marcia Sewing, Variation III”; “Hannah Tillich’s Mirror: Rembrandt’s Three Trees Transformed into The Expulsion From Eden”; “Asmodeus”; “Home of the South Wind”; “Golden Sunrise: The Bay in Winter”; “Echo Lake Loses Narcissus”: “Wordsworth in the Tropics”; “Persephone Leaving, Variation III.”