American Art – Part I of III: Duffy Sheridan
According to one art historian, “Duffy Sheridan (born 1947) has been painting since he was a child. His father, also an artist, encouraged him to learn to paint anything and everything. He has traveled the world and dedicated his artistic life to the discovery and expression of beauty as he sees it.” In Sheridan’s words, the purpose of his work should be “to magnify the dignity and nobility of the human spirit and the singular beauty of all things. When people look at one of my paintings, I’d like them to see that humans, indeed, are noble beings.”
A Poem for Today
By John Yau
The world weeps. There are no tears
To be found. It is deemed a miracle.
The president appears on screens
In villages and towns, in cities in jungles
And jungles still affectionately called cities.
He appears on screens and reads a story.
Whose story is he reading and why?
What lessons are to be learned from this story
About a time that has not arrived, will not arrive, is here?
Time of fire and images of fire climbing toward the sun
Time of precious and semi-precious liquids
Time of a man and a woman doused in ink
Rolling across streams and down valleys
Trying to leave some string of words behind.
Musings in Winter: Bryant McGill
Look Up – Part I of V: Carl Sagan
“Before we invented civilization our ancestors lived mainly in the open out under the sky. Before we devised artificial lights and atmospheric pollution and modern forms of nocturnal entertainment we watched the stars. There were practical calendar reasons of course but there was more to it than that. Even today the most jaded city dweller can be unexpectedly moved upon encountering a clear night sky studded with thousands of twinkling stars. When it happens to me after all these years it still takes my breath away.”
In the words of one writer, “Born in 1964 in Bulgaria, Ognian Zekoff moved to Montreal, Quebec where currently resides. Zekoff’s spiritual works communicate their messages through his use of orders of shapes and images, creating positive emotions within the viewer. The creative reality from which his artworks emerge exists in the realm between dreaming and wakefulness, allowing each person who approaches his works to experience their own individualized interpretation. Each painting promotes the recognition of the viewer’s internal longings and encourages the transformation of such transient notions into something lasting.
Zekoff achieves his powerful emotive range without forcing his content into a narrative, leaving the interpretation of his works unrestricted. In using the nude body, Zekoff imbues his pieces with an innocence and a tangible quality that strengthens the viewer’s response.”
Musings in Winter: Mishima Yukio
“The blossoms seem unusually lovely this year. There were none of the scarlet-and-white-striped curtains that are set up among the blossoming trees so invariably that one has to come to think of them as the attire of cherry blossoms; there were no bustling tea-stalls, no holiday crowds of flower-viewers, no one hawking balloons and toy windmills; instead there were only the cherry trees blossoming undisturbed among the evergreens, making one feel as though he were seeing the naked bodies of the blossoms. Nature’s free bounty and useless extravagance had never appeared so fantastically beautiful as it did this spring. I had an uncomfortable suspicion that Nature had come to reconquer the earth for herself.”
“Nobody said not to go.” – Emily Hahn, American journalist and author, who was born 14 January 1905.
Emily Hahn was the author of 52 books, many of them dealing with her tumultuous years in Shanghai, from 1935 until the Japanese invasion in 1941. In the opinion of one historian, “Her writings in the 20th century played a significant role in opening up Asia to the West.”
A few quotes from the work of Emily Hahn:
“The steward just asked me if I was not afraid to travel alone, and I said, ‘Why, it is life.’”
“The Bohemian who tires of life, who gives up by retirement into insanity or suicide, is not necessarily one who had failed in what he wants to express.”
“There had been a time, until 1422, when a number of both Gaelic and Anglo-Irish students attended Oxford and Cambridge in England. But fellow students had complained that Irish living together in large numbers sooner or later got noisy and violent and there was no handling them. Accordingly, the universities imposed a quota system on Irishman, and decreed that those admitted must be scattered around among non-compatriots: exclusively Irish halls of residence were banned.”
Musings in Winter: John Jeremiah Sullivan
“If we put aside the self-awareness standard — and really, how arbitrary and arrogant is that, to take the attribute of consciousness we happen to possess over all creatures and set it atop the hierarchy, proclaiming it the very definition of consciousness (Georg Christoph Lichtenberg wrote something wise in his notebooks, to the effect of: only a man can draw a self-portrait, but only a man wants to) — it becomes possible to say at least the following: the overwhelming tendency of all this scientific work, of its results, has been toward more consciousness. More species having it, and species having more of it than assumed. This was made boldly clear when the ‘Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness’ pointed out that those ‘neurological substrates’ necessary for consciousness (whatever ‘consciousness’ is) belong to ‘all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses.’ The animal kingdom is symphonic with mental activity, and of its millions of wavelengths, we’re born able to understand the minutest sliver. The least we can do is have a proper respect for our ignorance.”
Look Up – Part II of V: Kawabata Yasunari
Born 14 January 1945 – Einar Hakonarson, an Icelandic expressionistic and figurative painter.
Musings in Winter: Ludwig Feuerbach
“Though I myself am an atheist, I openly profess religion in the sense just mentioned, that is, a nature religion. I hate the idealism that wrenches man out of nature; I am not ashamed of my dependency on nature; I openly confess that the workings of nature affect not only my surface, my skin, my body, but also my core, my innermost being, that the air I breathe in bright weather has a salutary effect not only on my lungs but also on my mind, that the light of the sun illumines not only my eyes but also my spirit and my heart. And I do not, like a Christian, believe that such dependency is contrary to my true being or hope to be delivered from it. I know further that I am a finite moral being, that I shall one day cease to be. But I find this ‘very natural’ and am therefore perfectly reconciled to the thought.”
A Second Poem for Today
By James Lasdun
They peopled landscapes casually like trees,
being there richly, never having gone there,
and whether clanning in cities or village-thin stands
were reticent as trees with those not born there,
and their fate, like trees, was seldom in their hands.
Others to them were always one of two
evils: the colonist or refugee.
They stared back, half disdaining us, half fearing;
inferring from our looks their destiny
as preservation or as clearing.
I envied them. To be local was to know
which team to support: the local team;
where to drop in for a pint with mates: the local;
best of all to feel by birthright welcome
anywhere; be everywhere a local…
Bedouin-Brython-Algonquins; always there
before you; the original prior claim
that made your being anywhere intrusive.
There, doubtless, in Eden before Adam
wiped them out and settled in with Eve.
Whether at home or away, whether kids
playing or saying what they wanted,
or adults chatting, waiting for a bus,
or, in their well-tended graves, the contented dead,
there were always locals, and they were never us.
Musings in Winter: George Sand
In the words of one writer, “David Knowles is a leading Contemporary Romantic Realist Artist who paints the bright, intense light of New Zealand. David’s work is unusual in this era because he takes an unashamedly positive and romantic approach to his subjects and illustrates the idealistic beauty possible in the imagination. Many current artists choose to take the dark road, opening up their canvases to the inner pain and melancholy of the artist’s existence, but Knowles consciously chooses to take the path of beauty and light. From simplified geographical landscapes in perspective on open planes, to idealised depictions of human subjects and the theme of female beauty encompassing childhood, youth and maturity; all have a place and demonstrate a broad appreciation of humanity and the beauty that exists at each stage of life.”
Musings in Winter: Bill Bryson
“I know a man who drives 600 yards to work. I know a woman who gets in her car to go a quarter of a mile to a college gymnasium to walk on a treadmill, then complains passionately about the difficulty of finding a parking space. When I asked her once why she didn’t walk to the gym and do five minutes less on the treadmill, she looked at me as if I were being willfully provocative. ‘Because I have a program for the treadmill,’ she explained. ‘It records my distance and speed, and I can adjust it for degree of difficulty.’ It hadn’t occurred to me how thoughtlessly deficient nature is in this regard.”
Look Up – Part III of V: Antonio Porchia
Musings in Winter: Edward O. Wilson
“If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.”
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” – Anais Nin, American writer born to Spanish-Cuban parents in France, diarist, and author of “Delta of Venus,” who died 14 January 1977.
Some quotes from the work of Anais Nin:
“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”
“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.”
“I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naïve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.”
“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
“I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn’t impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls.”
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
“I am only responsible for my own heart, you offered yours up for the smashing my darling. Only a fool would give out such a vital organ.”
“Luxury is not a necessity to me, but beautiful and good things are.”
“I am lonely, yet not everybody will do. I don’t know why, some people fill the gaps and others emphasize my loneliness. In reality those who satisfy me are those who simply allow me to live with my ‘idea of them.’”
“There were always in me, two women at least, one woman desperate and bewildered, who felt she was drowning and another who would leap into a scene, as upon a stage, conceal her true emotions because they were weaknesses, helplessness, despair, and present to the world only a smile, an eagerness, curiosity, enthusiasm, interest.”
“From the backstabbing co-worker to the meddling sister-in-law, you are in charge of how you react to the people and events in your life. You can either give negativity power over your life or you can choose happiness instead. Take control and choose to focus on what is important in your life. Those who cannot live fully often become destroyers of life.”
“You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book… or you take a trip… and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. Some never awaken.”
“I must be a mermaid, Rango. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.”
“I hate men who are afraid of women’s strength.”
“People living deeply have no fear of death.”
“Do not seek the because – in love there is no because, no reason, no explanation, no solutions.”
“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.”
Musings in Winter: Christopher Paolini
“Unlike the majority of people, he did not hate or fear the wilderness; as harsh as the empty lands were, they possessed a grace and a beauty that no artifice could compete with and that he found restorative.”
Musings in Winter: Dejan Stojanovic
“Nothing is inanimate; what is the rest is our interpretation.”
Some quotes from “The Simpsons”:
“Homer: Donuts. Is there anything they can’t do?”
“Homer: Lisa, if I’ve learned anything, it’s that life is just one crushing defeat after another until you just wish Flanders was dead.”
“Lisa: Do we have any food that wasn’t brutally slaughtered?
Homer: Well, I think the veal might have died of loneliness.”
“Homer: Hello… My name is Mr. Burns. I believe you have a letter for me.
Postal Clerk: Okay, Mr. Burns, uhh, what’s your first name?
Homer: I don’t know…”
“Homer: To alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”
“Mr. Burns: “Oh, ‘meltdown.’ It’s one of those annoying buzzwords. We prefer to call it an ‘unrequested fission surplus.’”
“Homer: Pff, English. Who needs that? I’m never going to England.”
“Homer: Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It’s what separates us from the animals … except the weasel.”
“Homer: Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is: never try.”
“Kent Brockman: Things aren’t as happy as they used to be down here at the unemployment office. Joblessness is no longer just for philosophy majors. Useful people are starting to feel the pinch.”
“Homer: I’m normally not a praying man, but if you’re up there, please save me, Superman.”
Musings in Winter: Ursula K. Le Guin
“I went to the springs while the sun was still up, and sitting on a rocky outcrop above the cave mouth I watched the light grow reddish across the misty pools, and listened to the troubled voice of the water. After a while I moved farther up the hill, where I could hear birds singing near and far in the silence of the trees. The presence of the trees was very strong…The big oaks stood so many, so massive in their other life, in their deep, rooted silence: the awe of them came on me, the religion.”
A Third Poem for Today
“Smell and Envy,”
By Douglas Goetsch
You nature poets think you’ve got it, hostaged
somewhere in Vermont or Oregon,
so it blooms and withers only for you,
so all you have to do is name it: primrose
– and now you’re writing poetry, and now
you ship it off to us, to smell and envy.
But we are made of newspaper and smoke
and we dunk your roses in vats of blue.
Birds don’t call, our pigeons play it close
to the vest. When the moon is full
we hear it in the sirens. The Pleiades
you could probably buy downtown. Gravity
is the receiver on the hook. Mortality
we smell on certain people as they pass.
American Art – Part II of III: Will Barnet
According to one writer, “American painter and printmaker Will Barnet (born 1911) lived through every major artistic school in modern American art. He remembered watching John Singer Sargent paint murals on the ceiling of the Boston Public Library in the 1920s, and being the printmaker in New York for Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco. He remembered the explosion of Abstract Expressionism that would come to define the so-called New York School of artists.”
Musings in Winter: Bryant McGill
From the American History Archives: The Taos Revolt
14 January 1847 – During what came to be known as the Taos Revolt, Mexicans angered by the abusive behavior of American soldiers billeted in their city and opposed to the U.S. occupation of New Mexico during the Mexican-American War, assassinate Territorial Governor Charles Bent.
Look Up – Part IV of V: Loren Eiseley
“Lights come and go in the night sky. Men, troubled at last by the things they build, may toss in their sleep and dream bad dreams, or lie awake while the meteors whisper greenly overhead. But nowhere in all space or on a thousand worlds will there be men to share our loneliness.”
Here is one critic describing the background of Chilean painter Mario Pavez: “Since he was very young he showed a special interest for painting, increasing his fascination for the Realism, influenced by some temporary exhibitions which passed through Chile, like the one of the great Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla and especially the one of the famous Chilean realistic painter Claudio Bravo.
In 2000 he graduated in Fine Arts at the Universidad de Chile. In the following years he investigates the traditional techniques of the European painting, moving to Spain.”
A Fourth Poem for Today
By Todd Davis
On the ridge above Skelp Road
bears binge on blackberries and apples,
even grapes, knocking down
the Petersens’ arbor to satisfy the sweet
hunger that consumes them. Just like us
they know the day must come when
the heart slows, when to take one
more step would mean the end of things
as they should be. Sleep is a drug;
dreams its succor. How better to drift
toward another world but with leaves
falling, their warmth draping us,
our stomachs full and fat with summer?
Musings in Winter: Henry David Thoreau
“The trees and shrubs rear white arms to the sky on every side; and where were walls and fences, we see forms stretching in frolic gambols across the dusky landscape, as if Nature had strewn her fresh designs over the fields by night as models for man’s art.”
Musings in Winter: Michael D. O’Brien
“The mountains are intimations of transcendence, which he is now free to pursue, and the walking writes messages in every cell of his body, telling him that he is not locked inside a cement box, nor in a water drum, but is moving forward.”
A Fifth Poem for Today
“At the Post Office,”
By David Hernandez
The line is long, processional, glacial,
and the attendant a giant stone, cobalt blue
with flecks of white, I’m not so much
looking at a rock but a slab of night.
The stone asks if anything inside the package
is perishable. When I say no the stone
laughs, muted thunderclap, meaning
everything decays, not just fruit
or cut flowers, but paper, ink, the CD
I burned with music, and my friend
waiting to hear the songs, some little joy
after chemo eroded the tumor. I know flesh
is temporary, and memory a tilting barn
the elements dismantle nail by nail.
I know the stone knows a millennia of rain
and wind will even grind away
his ragged face, and all of this slow erasing
is just a prelude to when the swelling
universe burns out, goes dark, holds
nothing but black holes, the bones of stars
and planets, a vast silence. The stone
is stone-faced. The stone asks how soon
I want the package delivered. As fast
as possible, I say, then start counting the days.
Look Up – Part V of V: John Muir
“We all travel the Milky Way together, trees and men.”
Musings in Winter: Linda Hogan
“What finally turned me back toward the older traditions of my own [Chickasaw] and other Native peoples was the inhumanity of the Western world, the places–both inside and out–where the culture’s knowledge and language don’t go, and the despair, even desperation, it has spawned. We live, I see now, by different stories, the Western mind and the indigenous. In the older, more mature cultures where people still live within the kinship circles of animals and human beings there is a connection with animals, not only as food, but as ‘powers,’ a word which can be taken to mean states of being, gifts, or capabilities.
I’ve found, too, that the ancient intellectual traditions are not merely about belief, as some would say. Belief is not a strong enough word. They are more than that: They are part of lived experience, the on-going experience of people rooted in centuries-old knowledge that is held deep and strong, knowledge about the natural laws of Earth, from the beginning of creation, and the magnificent terrestrial intelligence still at work, an intelligence now newly called ecology by the Western science that tells us what our oldest tribal stories maintain–the human animal is a relatively new creation here; animal and plant presences were here before us; and we are truly the younger sisters and brothers of the other animal species, not quite as well developed as we thought we were. It is through our relationships with animals and plants that we maintain a way of living, a cultural ethics shaped from an ancient understanding of the world, and this is remembered in stories that are the deepest reflections of our shared lives on Earth.
That we held, and still hold, treaties with the animals and plant species is a known part of tribal culture. The relationship between human people and animals is still alive and resonant in the world, the ancient tellings carried on by a constellation of stories, songs, and ceremonies, all shaped by ‘lived’ knowledge of the world and its many interwoven, unending relationships. These stories and ceremonies keep open the bridge between one kind of intelligence and another, one species and another.”
American Art – Part III of III: Frederic Kellogg
In the words of one critic, “The art of Frederic Kellogg invites us to enter the private world of a highly sensitive, patient and focused observer. Kellogg’s gentle but persistent curiosity has been directed at a wonderful variety of objects and persons. His art is possessed of a spellbinding quietude. Its steady silence holds fragments of our familiar world in a realm of timelessness and carefully controlled psychological tension. Kellogg’s is an art independent of a particular and repetitive style. He is at heart a realist but is too much the poet to merely record the passing scene. He is a thoughtful man, one who probes and ponders, one who tries to uncover, albeit gently, the unseen character of everyday things.”