American Art – Part I of IV: George Pratt
In the words of one writer, “Born October 13, 1960, in Beaumont, Texas, George Pratt moved to New York City in 1980 to study Drawing and Painting at Pratt Institute, where he later taught Junior and Senior-level Methods and Media, as well as Sequential Storytelling for seven years. He also taught for two years at the Joe Kubert School in Dover, New Jersey; did per diem teaching for the Master Illustration program at SVA for Marshal Arisman; was Visiting Professor for ten weeks at Savannah College of Art and Design; and taught full-time at Virginia Commonwealth University for three years. He now teaches full-time at Ringling College of Art and Design.”
A Poem for Today
“Eclogue in Line to View ‘The Clock’ by Christian Marclay,”
By Brian Blanchfield
Okay, but now imagine someone,
one of fifty, say, in the queue, fiftieth first
and advancing little, somewhere within
the seventy-two-hour window of efficacy
for post-exposure prophylaxis, and, later,
in the screening room watching The Clock
with the few dozen others in rows behind and ahead
who had waited too. He knows he has to
but he hasn’t yet. We pick it up there.
It is two thousand eleven a few more days.
The movie tells what time it is.
In poetry too we all face forward.
Musings in Winter: Thomas Fuller
“You shall create beauty not to excite the senses
but to give sustenance to the soul. ” – Gabriela Mistral, Chilean poet, educator, diplomat, feminist, and recipient of the 1945 Nobel Prize in Literature “for her lyric poetry which, inspired by powerful emotions, has made her name a symbol of the idealistic aspirations of the entire Latin American world,” who died 10 January 1967.
She is harnessed for a long journey; on her back she carries an entire store of wool.
She walks without rest, and sees with eyes full of strangeness. The wool merchant has forgotten to come to get her, and she is ready.
In this world, nothing comes better equipped than the alpaca; ones is more burdened with rags than the next. Her sky-high softness is such that if a newborn is placed on her back, he will not feel a bone of the animal.
The weather is very hot. Today, large scissors that will cut and cut represent mercy for the alpaca.
When something is lost in the park, to whom do we look but this ever-prepared beast which seems to secretly carry all things?
And when children think about the objects they have lost—dolls, teddy bears, flying rats, trees with seven voices (they can be hidden in only one place)—they remember the alpaca, their infinitely prepared companion.
But look at those eyes, those astonished eyes without knowledge; they only ask why she has been harnessed for such a long trip and why no one comes to relieve her.
The high plateau is to blame for this tragedy—the mother alpaca incessantly stares at it. The mountain was also casting off burdens, and so its summit became clear, and filled the eyes of the mother alpaca.
She was taken down from the plateau and situated near a nonsensical horizon, and when she turns her neck, she continues looking for the older alpaca, for the one who sheds a pack on high, and returns to the sun’s radiance.
“What have you and I done to our Andean cordillera?” I ask the alpaca.
Dutch Art – Part I of II: Jos van Riswick
In the words of one critic, “The passion for painting developed in Jos van Riswick quite late in his life. Jos graduated as a physicist and worked at the university for a number of years. Science, however, turned out not to be his true calling and he decided to make the switch from science to art.”
Musings in Winter: Sally Andrew
“I felt the full breadth and depth of the ocean around the sphere of the Earth, back billions of years to the beginning of life, across all the passing lives and deaths, the endless waves of swimming joy and quiet losses of exquisite creatures with fins and fronds, tentacles and wings, colourful and transparent, tiny and huge, coming and going. There is nothing the ocean has not seen.”
“… the river sliding along its banks, darker now than the sky descending a last time to scatter its diamonds into these black waters that contain the day that passed, the night to come.” – From “The Mercy,” by Philip Levine, American poet and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, best known for his poems about working-class Detroit, who was born 10 January 1928.
The first purple wisteria
I recall from boyhood hung
on a wire outside the windows
of the breakfast room next door
at the home of Steve Pisaris.
I loved his tall, skinny daughter,
or so I thought, and I would wait
beside the back door, prostrate,
begging to be taken in. Perhaps
it was only the flowers of spring
with their sickening perfumes
that had infected me. When Steve
and Sophie and the three children
packed up and made the move west,
I went on spring after spring,
leaden with desire, half-asleep,
praying to die. Now I know
those prayers were answered.
That boy died, the brick houses
deepened and darkened with rain,
age, use, and finally closed
their eyes and dreamed the sleep
of California. I learned this
only today. Wakened early
in an empty house not lately
battered by storms, I looked
for nothing. On the surface
of the rain barrel, the paled,
shredded blossoms floated.
Dutch Art – Part II of II: Louis Nagelkerke
Here is one writer describing the artistry of Louis Nagelkerke (born 1949): “His paintings are unique through the expression of mysticism. He is inspired by his relation to Eastern people and cultures. He paints musicians and dancers, especially from the wonderful island Bali. His other major influence is the theatre.”
“Does it matter whether you hate yourself? At least love your eyes that can see, your mind that can hear the music, the thunder of the wings.” – Robinson Jeffers, American poet known for his work about the harsh beauties of the central California coast, who was born 10 January 1887.
The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder,
The wing trails like a banner in defeat,
No more to use the sky forever but live with famine
And pain a few days: cat nor coyote
Will shorten the week of waiting for death, there is game without talons.
He stands under the oak-bush and waits
The lame feet of salvation; at night he remembers freedom
And flies in a dream, the dawns ruin it.
He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.
The curs of the day come and torment him
At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head,
The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.
The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those
That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.
You do not know him, you communal people, or you have forgotten him;
Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;
Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying, remember him.
I’d sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk; but the great redtail
Had nothing left but unable misery
From the bones too shattered for mending, the wing that trailed under his talons when he moved.
We had fed him for six weeks, I gave him freedom,
He wandered over the foreland hill and returned in the evening, asking for death,
Not like a beggar, still eyed with the old
Implacable arrogance. I gave him the lead gift in the twilight. What fell was relaxed,
Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what
Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear at its rising
Before it was quite unsheathed from reality.
American Art – Part II of IV: Melissa Weinman
Musings in Winter: Lawrence Millman
“Once when I looked up, I happened to see a sea eagle poised on magisterial wings above the knurled summit of the mountain behind my tent. It was a scene of peerless tranquility, tossed out in Nature’s devil-may-care way, which says: Just open your eyes, my friend, and I’ll astonish you every minute of your life.”
A Second Poem for Today
By Michael Hofmann
It’s all right
Unless you’re either lonely or under attack.
That strange effortful
Repositioning of yourself. Laundry, shopping,
Hours, the telephone—unless misinformed—
Only ever ringing for you, if it ever does.
The night—yours to decide,
Among drink, or books, or lying there.
On your back, or curled up.
An embarrassment of poverty.
Musings in Winter: David Brendan Hopes
“I send my friends e-mail messages about the progress of my garden, especially of my roses. It left them with the impression, I think, that I was concerned with nothing else. I felt no urgency in correcting that notion. People obsessed with their gardens have probably caused the least suffering in the world of any category of men.”
From the Music Archives – Part I of II: Rod Stewart
“Listening to me has ruined a lot of other singers. A lot of singers who have tried to sound like me, they sound like they’re going through so much pain.” – Rod Stewart, British singer-songwriter and one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold over 100 million records worldwide, who was born 10 January 1945.
Here is the Artist Statement of Swedish painter Nick Alm: “What I aim for as a painter is to make my artwork vibrant with life. The human figure has always been at the center of my work which I try to capture with a great sense of light, atmosphere and texture. I prefer to work directly from life instead of using a camera. A photograph is just an interpretation of life that lacks the subtle colour and value shifts and the interesting changes in nature. Instead of copying the object in front of me, I simplify, rearrange and add my own vision.
My main source of inspiration comes from the contemporary world around me. I aim to communicate what is inherently and universally human, transcending cultural codes and specific trends. I interpret whatever awakens me to something extra in my surroundings, from the context itself to the details, the psychological tension between people, a state of mind, a mood or an opportunity to express painterly joy. It’s not my goal to criticize or change society; instead my work addresses itself primarily to the inner world of the individual. Hopefully my work will offer the viewer a break from everyday life, evoking a sense of recognition that leads to a moment of reflection, or perhaps inciting a creative urge.”
From the Music Archives – Part II of II: Pat Benatar
“Most chick singers say ‘If you hurt me, I’ll die’…I say, ‘if you hurt me, I’ll kick your ass.'” – Pat Benatar, American singer and four-time Grammy winner, who was born 10 January 1953.
A Third Poem for Today
“The Dogs at Live Oak Beach, Santa Cruz”
By Alicia Ostriker
As if there could be a world
Of absolute innocence
In which we forget ourselves
The owners throw sticks
And half-bald tennis balls
Toward the surf
And the happy dogs leap after them
As if catapulted—
Black dogs, tan dogs,
Tubes of glorious muscle—
More than obedience
They race, skid to a halt in the wet sand,
Sometimes they’ll plunge straight into
The foaming breakers
Like diving birds, letting the green turbulence
Toss them, until they snap and sink
Here is one critic describing the artistry of Hungarian painter Attila Adorjan: “The art of Attila Adorján is on the boarderline of reality and imagination. His foremost motivations are archaizing based on respect for painting traditions, and creative experimenting with metals, forms and artistic devices, for the revival of classic genres. The works being born evoke certain styles as a reference, but in truth they cannot be connected to any of them.”
Musings in Winter: Henry Beston
“I muse again on the dogmatic assertion which I often make that the countryman’s relation to Nature must never be anything else but an alliance… When we begin to consider Nature as something to be robbed greedily like an unguarded treasure, or used as an enemy, we put ourselves in thought outside of Nature, of which we are inescapably a part.”
From the American Old West – Part I of III: The Outlaw
From the American Old West – Part II of III: The Inventor
Died 10 January 1862 – Samuel Colt, the founder of Colt’s Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company, and the person who made the mass production of the revolver commercially viable.
A Fourth Poem for Today
By Bob Hicok
She does this thing. Our seventeen-
year-old dog. Our mostly deaf dog.
Our mostly dead dog, statistically
speaking. When I crouch.
When I put my mouth to her ear
and shout her name. She walks away.
Walks toward the nothing of speech.
She even trots down the drive, ears up,
as if my voice is coming home.
It’s like watching a child
believe in Christmas, right
before you burn the tree down.
Every time I do it, I think, this time
she’ll turn to me. This time
she’ll put voice to face. This time,
I’ll be absolved of decay.
Which is like being a child
who believes in Christmas
as the tree burns, as the drapes catch,
as Santa lights a smoke
with his blowtorch and asks, want one?
In the words of one critic, ”Carle Shi was born in Tinjin Province, China. In Chinese culture studying fine art painting is highly regarded and taken very seriously. At an early age students with artistic talent are taken under the wing of master art teachers. Carle was one of these prodigies. At the age of eight she began her life-long career of painting. Carle graduated from the Tian Jin art school and later from the Fine Arts Institute in Tian Jin. There she studied under the Master Jin Shang Yi learning the classical techniques of oil painting. Carle’s talent did not go unnoticed. Her paintings have been widely exhibited and enthusiastically received in China.”
From the American Old West – Part III of III: The Actor
Died 10 January 1981 – Richard Boone, an American actor best known for his portrayal of Paladin on the television series “Have Gun – Will Travel.”
A Fifth Poem for Today
“My Dog Practices Geometry”
By Cathryn Essinger
I do not understand the poets who tell me
that I should not personify. Every morning
the willow auditions for a new role
outside my bedroom window—today she is
Clytemnestra; yesterday a Southern Belle,
lost in her own melodrama, sinking on her skirts.
Nor do I like the mathematicians who tell me
I cannot say, “The zinnias are counting on their
fingers,” or “The dog is practicing her geometry,”
even though every day I watch her using
the yard’s big maple as the apex of a triangle
from which she bisects the circumference
of the lawn until she finds the place where
the rabbit has escaped, or the squirrel upped
the ante by climbing into a new Euclidian plane.
She stumbles across the lawn, eyes pulling
her feet along, gaze fixed on a rodent working
the maze of the oak as if it were his own invention,
her feet tangling in the roots of trees, and tripping,
yes, even over themselves, until I go out to assist,
by pointing at the squirrel, and repeating, “There!
There!” But instead of following my outstretched
arm to the crown of the tree, where the animal is
now lounging under a canopy of leaves,
catching its breath, charting its next escape,
she looks to my mouth, eager to read my lips,
confident that I—who can bring her home
Musings in Winter: Jack Kerouac
Here is how one critic describes the artistry of French painter Eugene Begarat (born 1943): “(He is) a post-impressionist painter, in the tradition of Seurat et Signac. The strong colours of his palette evoke the Fauve style. His canvasses are not lifeless. On the contrary, the people, the trees, the sea are very active. This mobility is the result of contrasting, side by side, primary colours : red – blue – yellow, and secondary colours : green – orange and violet.”
10 January 1953 – The Bollingen Prize for poetry is awarded to Archibald MacLeish.
The star dissolved in evening—the one star
and night O soon now, soon
And still the light now
and still now the large
and through the pools of blue
Still, still the swallows
and a wind now
and the tree
I was small. I lay
Beside my mother on the grass, and sleep
slow hooves and dripping with the dark
The velvet muzzles, the white feet that move
In a dream water
and O soon now soon
Sleep and the night.
And I was not afraid.
Her hand lay over mine. Her fingers knew
Darkness,—and sleep—the silent lands, the far
Far off of morning where I should awake.
10 January 1954 – The Bollingen Prize for poetry is awarded to W. H. Auden.
“The More Loving One”
Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.
How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.
Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.
Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.
A Sixth Poem for Today
“Tree At My Window,”
By Robert Frost
Tree at my window, window tree,
My sash is lowered when night comes on;
But let there never be curtain drawn
Between you and me.
Vague dream-head lifted out of the ground,
And thing next most diffuse to cloud,
Not all your light tongues talking aloud
Could be profound.
But tree, I have seen you taken and tossed,
And if you have seen me when I slept,
You have seen me when I was taken and swept
And all but lost.
10 January 1960 – The Bollingen Prize for poetry is awarded to Delmore Schwartz.
“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.
Musings in Winter: Arthur Henry King
“My first real discovery of nature in life came one morning in April 1916. My father put me on the back of his bike, where I had a little seat, and said, ‘Off we go.’ And then he turned in the wrong direction for I thought he was taking me down to Quakers’ meeting–it was a Sunday. ‘No,’ he said, ‘we are going somewhere else today.’ And we rode for about eight miles, and we stopped at a wood. . . . We went into the wood; and there, suddenly, was a great pool of bluebells stretching for perhaps a hundred yards in the shade of the oak trees. And I could scarcely breathe because the impression was so great. The experience then was just the bluebells and the scent; now, when I recall it, it is also the love of my father who chose to do that that morning–to give me that experience. I am sure he had been there the day before, found it, and thought, ‘I’ll take my son there.’ As we rode there and as we rode back, we heard the distant thud of the guns at the Battle of the Somme, where thousands were dying every day. That overwhelming experience of a natural phenomenon, a demonstration of beneficent creation, and at the same time hearing those guns on the Somme–that experience has remained with me almost more clearly than anything else in my life.”
10 January 1971 – The Bollingen Prize for poetry is awarded to Richard Wilbur.
“A Barred Owl”
The warping night air having brought the boom
Of an owl’s voice into her darkened room,
We tell the wakened child that all she heard
Was an odd question from a forest bird,
Asking of us, if rightly listened to,
“Who cooks for you?” and then “Who cooks for you?”
Words, which can make our terrors bravely clear,
Can also thus domesticate a fear,
And send a small child back to sleep at night
Not listening for the sound of stealthy flight
Or dreaming of some small thing in a claw
Borne up to some dark branch and eaten raw.
Musings in Winter: Hal Borland
“Here and there one sees the blush of wild rose haws or the warmth of orange fruit on the bittersweet, and back in the woods is the occasional twinkle of partridgeberries. But they are the gem stones, the rare decorations which make the grays, the browns and the greens seem even more quiet, more completely at rest.”
A Seventh Poem for Today
By Philip Levine
The new grass rising in the hills,
the cows loitering in the morning chill,
a dozen or more old browns hidden
in the shadows of the cottonwoods
beside the streambed. I go higher
to where the road gives up and there’s
only a faint path strewn with lupine
between the mountain oaks. I don’t
ask myself what I’m looking for.
I didn’t come for answers
to a place like this, I came to walk
on the earth, still cold, still silent.
Still ungiving, I’ve said to myself,
although it greets me with last year’s
dead thistles and this year’s
hard spines, early blooming
wild onions, the curling remains
of spider’s cloth. What did I bring
to the dance? In my back pocket
a crushed letter from a woman
I’ve never met bearing bad news
I can do nothing about. So I wander
these woods half sightless while
a west wind picks up in the trees
clustered above. The pines make
a music like no other, rising and
falling like a distant surf at night
that calms the darkness before
first light. “Soughing” we call it, from
Old English, no less. How weightless
words are when nothing will do.
Musings in Winter: Mark Helprin
American Art – Part III of IV: Alice Neel
In the words of one writer, “Alice Neel (January 28, 1900 – October 13, 1984) was an American artist known for her oil on canvas portraits of friends, family, lovers, poets, artists and strangers. Her paintings are notable for their expressionistic use of line and color, psychological acumen, and emotional intensity.”
An Eighth Poem for Today
“In Praise of Dogs Who Howl at the Moon,”
By John Brantingham
everything on Earth is loose,
and you feel yourself slipping off gravity’s
mooring, slipping off into
the night, feel the moon’s going to grab
you and pull you out into space
and slingshot you past Mars and Jupiter
out to where Pluto
and all the rest of the solar system’s losers live,
out where you will never see
you wife laugh the way she
laughs when you do your impression of her father,
laugh the way a person can laugh only
when it’s funny but she’s ashamed too,
laugh with the wild joy of a bear
waking up after months of sleep—
on those nights you want to grab onto something
wedged deep and tight as a burr in a furry ear
and scream your complaints at the moon
as the dogs howl
and the bears roar and everyone shouts
together—you want to yell that no one
belongs out there in the cold with Pluto
that we belong here where summer love is
and anyone who loves and howls
is one of Earth’s favorite children.
Musings in Winter: Loren Eiseley
“Though men in the mass forget the origins of their need, they still bring wolfhounds into city apartments, where dog and man both sit brooding in wistful discomfort.
The magic that gleams an instant between Argos and Odysseus is both the recognition of diversity and the need for affection across the illusions of form. It is nature’s cry to homeless, far-wandering, insatiable man: ‘Do not forget your brethren, nor the green wood from which you sprang. To do so is to invite disaster.’”
American Art – Part IV of IV: Bo Bartlett
In the words of one critic, “Bo Bartlett is an American Realist painter with a modernist vision. His paintings are within the tradition of American Realism as defined by artists such as Thomas Eakins and Andrew Wyeth. Like these artists, Bartlett looks at America’s land and people to describe the beauty he finds in everyday life. His paintings celebrate the underlying epic nature of the commonplace and the personal significance of the extraordinary.”