American Art – Part I of V: Joe Mancuso
In the words of one writer, “Some of Joe’s earliest memories are camping trips to the Eastern Sierras and taking walks with his father down the railroad tracks to the rabbit fields near his home. He credits his father for his early introduction to nature and the outdoors.
Joe’s first art instruction began early in catholic school when in the afternoon, the television would be turned on and he would receive instruction on how to create shadows on simple shapes. This really began Joe’s enthusiasm for drawing. One summer while visiting an art fair in Mammoth Lakes he came across some drawings by Helen Seal, a Southern California artist. The beautiful simplicity of her High Sierra sketches made a lasting impression on the young artist. At that moment he says, ‘This was something I knew I wanted to do.’ His mother recognizing his obvious enthusiasm purchased one of her drawings, which hangs in his studio today.”
A Poem for Today
“Trail of Tears: Our Removal”
By Linda Hogan
With lines unseen the land was broken.
When surveyors came, we knew
what the prophet had said was true,
this land with unseen lines would be taken.
So, you who live there now,
don’t forget to love it, thank it
the place that was once our forest,
our ponds, our mosses,
the swamplands with birds and more lowly creatures.
As for us, we walked into the military strength of hunger
and war for that land we still dream.
As the ferry crossed the distance,
or as the walkers left behind their loved ones,
think how we took with us our cats and kittens,
the puppies we loved. We were innocent of what we faced,
along the trail. We took clothing, dishes,
thinking there would be something to start a new life,
believing justice lived in the world,
and the horses, so many,
one by one stolen, taken by the many thieves
So have compassion for that land at least.
Every step we took was one away from the songs,
old dances, memories, some of us dark and not speaking English,
some of us white, or married to the dark, or children of translators
the half-white, all of us watched by America, all of us
longing for trees for shade, homing, rooting,
even more for food along the hunger way.
You would think those of us born later
would fight for justice, for peace,
for the new land, it’s trees being taken.
You would think
the struggle would be over
between the two worlds in this place
that is now our knowledge,
our new belonging, our being,
and we’d never again care for the notion of maps
or American wars, or the god of their sky,
thinking of those things we were forced to leave behind,
living country, stolen home,
the world measured inch by inch, mile by mile,
hectares, all measurements, even the trail of our tears.
With all the new fierce light, heat, drought
the missing water, you’d think
in another red century, the old wisdom
might exist if we considered enough
that even before the new beliefs
we were once whole,
but now our bodies and minds remain
the measured geography.
Musings in Winter: Helen Exley
In the words of one writer, “Ting Shao Kuang, a prominent contemporary Chinese painter in America, has produced works characterized by a combination of traditional Chinese painting techniques and the more expressive Western art forms. He has created a unique style that does not belong exclusively to the East or the West, but to the world. Ting Shao Kuang was born in Chenggu, a village located in the Northern province of Shanxi, China in 1939. In order to survive his loneliness and alienation, Ting turned to painting for solace. By age 11, he was painting every day, using cooking oil as a medium for his pigment. Despite his lack of adequate supplies, he evidenced such remarkable talent that, in 1954, he was given the opportunity to attend the prestigious high school affiliated with the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. In 1957, Ting was accepted at Jeijing’s Central Academy of Arts and Crafts. Although he was taught ‘socialist Realism’ in his classes, it was during this time that he discovered the works of Picasso, Matisse and Modigliani. The paintings of these artists inspired him to experiment with new themes and techniques.”
“I take my children everywhere, but they always find their way back home.” – Robert Orben, American author of books on comedy and magic, who was born 4 March 1927.
Some quotes from the astute and witty Robert Orben:
“Older people shouldn’t eat health food, they need all the preservatives they can get.”
“A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that ‘individuality’ is the key to success.”
“Every day I get up and look through the Forbes list of the richest people in America. If I’m not there, I go to work.”
“Never raise your hand to your children – it leaves your midsection unprotected.”
“A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in.”
“Life was a lot simpler when what we honored was father and mother rather than all major credit cards.”
“Do you ever get the feeling that the only reason we have elections is to find out if the polls were right?”
“Sometimes I get the feeling the whole world is against me, but deep down I know that’s not true. Some of the smaller countries are neutral.”
“Love is so confusing – you tell a girl she looks great and what’s the first thing you do? Turn out the lights!”
“To err is human – and to blame it on a computer is even more so.”
“Illegal aliens have always been a problem in the United States. Ask any Indian.”
“There are days when it takes all you’ve got just to keep up with the losers.”
“Time flies. It’s up to you to be the navigator.”
“I got a Valentine’s Day card from my girl. It said, ‘Take my heart! Take my arms! Take my lips!’ Which is just like her. Keeping the best part for herself.”
“Do your kids a favor – don’t have any.”
“Don’t think of it as failure. Think of it as time-released success.”
“In prehistoric times, mankind often had only two choices in crisis situations: fight or flee. In modern times, humor offers us a third alternative; fight, flee – or laugh.”
“Inflation is bringing us true democracy. For the first time in history, luxuries and necessities are selling at the same price.”
“Most people would like to be delivered from temptation but would like it to keep in touch.”
“More than ever before, Americans are suffering from back problems: back taxes, back rent, back auto payments.”
“Inflation is the crabgrass in your savings.”
“Quit worrying about your health. It will go away.”
“I remember when humor was gentle pokes. I used to call it ‘arm around the shoulder’ humor. Now they go for the jugular and they take no prisoners. It’s mean, mean stuff.”
“What bothers me about TV is that it tends to take our minds off our minds.”
Musings in Winter: Lily Tomlin
American Art – Part II of V: Shawn Zents
A Second Poem for Today
By Jackie Fox
From the Music Archives: Richard Manuel
Died 4 March 1986 – Richard Manuel, a Canadian composer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist best known for his contributions to and membership in The Band.
Musings in Winter: Mark Oliver Everett
“Life is so full of unpredictable beauty and strange surprises. Sometimes that beauty is too much for me to handle. Do you know that feeling? When something is just too beautiful? When someone says something or writes something or plays something that moves you to the point of tears, maybe even changes you.”
Here is the Artist Statement of Canadian painter Jean Paul Lemieux (1904-1990): “I paint because I like to paint. I have no theories. In my landscapes and my characters I try to express the solitude we all have to live with, and in each painting, the inner world of my memories. My external surroundings only interest me because they allow me to paint my inner world.”
Musings in Winter: Terry Pratchett
From the American History Archives: Vermont
4 March 1791 – The Vermont Republic is admitted to the Union as the fourteenth state.
Musings in Winter: Eric Wright
A Third Poem for Today
“Music at My Mother’s Funeral”
By Faith Shearin
During the weeks when we all believed my mother
was likely to die she began to plan
her funeral and she wanted us, her children,
to consider the music we would play there. We remembered
the soundtrack of my mother’s life: the years when she swept
the floors to the tunes of an eight track cassette called Feelings,
the Christmas when she bought a Bing Crosby album
about a Bright Hawaiian Christmas Day. She got Stravinsky’s
Rite of Spring stuck in the tape deck of her car and for months
each errand was accompanied by some kind
of dramatic movement. After my brother was born,
there was a period during which she wore a muumuu
and devoted herself to King Sunny Ade and his
African beats. She ironed and wept to Evita, painted
to Italian opera. Then, older and heavier, she refused
to fasten her seatbelt and there was the music
of an automated bell going off every few minutes,
which annoyed the rest of us but did not seem to matter
to my mother who ignored its relentless disapproval,
its insistence that someone was unsafe.
Musings in Winter: Jacques Cousteau
“Sometimes we are lucky enough to know that our lives have been changed, to discard the old, embrace the new, and run headlong down an immutable course. It happened to me … on that summer’s day, when my eyes were opened to the sea.”
Here is one critic describing the artistry of Welsh painter Mike Briscoe: “At first glance one might be forgiven for regarding Mike Briscoe, quite simply, as a realist painter of extraordinary skill. That he is, but there is more. At one level these paintings can be mesmerizing and uplifting, at another faintly disturbing. This creates a sense of unease, a rather unsettling feeling that something is about to happen – the calm before the storm. It is similar in mood to the paintings of that great American realist painter, Edward Hopper, and it is what makes Mike Briscoe’s work so fascinating.
Most of Mikes paintings revolve around his children, and the beach near his home in North Wales, where he was born in 1960. He studied at Wrexham College of Art and Sheffield College of Art.”
Musings in Winter: Brian Cox
From the American History/American Cinema Archives: Territory of Idaho
4 March 1863 – The United States Congress creates the Territory of Idaho.
Below – Some quotes from important personages in what is now the Gem State:
President Pedro: “Well, when I came home from school my head started to get really hot. So I drank some cold water, but it didn’t do nothing. So I laid in the bathtub for a while, but then I realized that it was my hair that was making my head hot. So I went into my kitchen and I shaved it all off. I don’t want anyone to see.”
Secretary of Art, Dance, and Romance Napoleon: “My old girlfriend from Oklahoma was gonna fly out for the dance but she couldn’t cause she’s doing some modeling right now.”
Secretary of Technology and Defense Kip: “Napoleon, don’t be jealous that I’ve been chatting online with babes all day. Besides, we both know that I’m training to be a cage fighter.”
Secretary of Commerce and Sport Rico: “How much you wanna make a bet I can throw a football over them mountains?… Yeah… Coach woulda put me in fourth quarter, we would’ve been state champions. No doubt. No doubt in my mind.”
Musings in Winter: Robert A. Heinlein
A Fourth Poem for Today
“The Story of Ferdinand the Bull”
By Matt Mason
Dad would come home after too long at work
and I’d sit on his lap to hear
the story of Ferdinand the Bull; every night,
me handing him the red book until I knew
every word, couldn’t read,
just recite along with drawings
of a gentle bull, frustrated matadors,
the all-important bee, and flowers—
flowers in meadows and flowers
thrown by the Spanish ladies.
Its lesson, really,
about not being what you’re born into
but what you’re born to be,
even if that means
not caring about the capes they wave in your face
or the spears they cut into your shoulders.
And Dad, wonderful Dad, came home
after too long at work
and read to me
the same story every night
until I knew every word, couldn’t read,
Musings in Winter: Edward Gorey
“I really think I write about everyday life. I don’t think I’m quite as odd as others say I am. Life is intrinsically, well, boring and dangerous at the same time. At any given moment the floor may open up. Of course, it almost never does; that’s what makes it so boring.”
Here is one critic describing the artistry of German painter Gernot Kissel (born 1939): “His still lifes and landscapes are strong and bold expressionist works with vibrant colour and stark line. Kissel is better known, however, for his female nudes or portraits which are painted with an almost disconcerting bold assurance. His female figures have a direct and powerful sensuality and force the observer to admire them. These paintings are like a love for women.”
Musings in Winter: Jeremy Aldana
William Carols Williams won the first National Book Award for Poetry in 1950 (for both the third volume of “Paterson” and “Selected Poems), the 1963 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (for “Pictures from Breughel and Other Poems” – awarded posthumously), and the 1963 Gold Medal for Poetry of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.
From “Book I, Paterson”
Paterson lies in the valley under the Passaic Falls
its spent waters forming the outline of his back. He
lies on his right side, head near the thunder
of the waters filling his dreams! Eternally asleep,
his dreams walk about the city where he persists
incognito. Butterflies settle on his stone ear.
Immortal he neither moves nor rouses and is seldom
seen, though he breathes and the subtleties of his machinations
drawing their substance from the noise of the pouring river
animate a thousand automations. Who because they
neither know their sources nor the sills of their
disappointments walk outside their bodies aimlessly
for the most part,
locked and forgot in their desires-unroused.
From above, higher than the spires, higher
even than the office towers, from oozy fields
abandoned to gray beds of dead grass,
black sumac, withered weed-stalks,
mud and thickets cluttered with dead leaves-
the river comes pouring in above the city
and crashes from the edge of the gorge
in a recoil of spray and rainbow mists-
(What common language to unravel?
. . .combed into straight lines
from that rafter of a rock’s
A man like a city and a woman like a flower
—who are in love. Two women. Three women.
Innumerable women, each like a flower.
American Art – Part III of V: Patti Warashina
Artist Statement: “We live in interesting times. At the turn of the millennium, there seemed to be a moment of optimism of what the future would bring. It is evident that all is not well in the world. I find as an artist it is hard to ignore the incompetence that has affected the future of our world.
In response to these immediate events, I have created works titled the ‘Drunken Power Series’ that imply political, social, and environmental scenarios that have effected the future and the quality of life. The use of the sake sets as a metaphor becomes the stage for the vignettes to appear. The symbolic act of sharing a cup of spirits sets the tone for this participatory act. The pouring vessels and cups are the subjects of conversation and act as conveyance for the discourse in this world that is drunk with power.”
Musings in Winter: Henry James
Here is the Artist Statement of Filipino painter Jef Cablog: “I have listened to the countless stories of Barlig, my hometown, as narrated by our village elders; and now I struggle to preserve these through my works and I know I will have to devote my entire life to this task.
I paint as my ancestors have built the rice terraces—stone by stone, piece by piece. My ancestors painstakingly crafted a grand cultural monument. Now I wish to do the same through my art.”
A Fifth Poem for Today
By Linda M. Hasselstrom
It’s not spring yet, but I can’t
wait anymore. I get the hoe,
pull back the snow from the old
furrows, expose the rich dark earth.
I bare my hand and dole out shriveled peas,
one by one.
I see my grandmother’s hand,
doing just this, dropping peas
into gray gumbo that clings like clay.
This moist earth is rich and dark
as chocolate cake.
Her hands cradle
baby chicks; she finds kittens in the loft
and hands them down to me, safe beside
the ladder leading up to darkness.
her smile, her blue eyes, her biscuits and gravy,
but mostly her hands.
I push a pea into the earth,
feel her hands pushing me back. She’ll come in May,
she says, in long straight rows,
dancing in light green dresses.
Musings in Winter: Helen Keller
American Art – Part IV of V: Brian Blood
In the words of one writer, “Some artists will spend weeks tediously holed up in their studio, pouring over the same painting, painstakingly attempting to mold it into a perfect gem. This, however, is not the case with Brian Blood. He is much more likely to be found hiking through the sun-kissed Northern Californian coastline, lugging around his painting easel and brushes in pursuit of just the right strip of beach, the perfect jagged rock-laden jetty, or the most picturesque harbor. This plein-air landscape artist thrives on the spontaneity of his work and the thrill of discovering the ever-changing beauty of his surroundings. ‘Plein-air painting is my biggest inspiration,’ says Blood. ‘Studio painting is too controlled. Plein-air is unpredictable because so many things can happen, and that spontaneity comes out in the work.’”
Below – “Hilltop Vineyard”; “Lost at Twilight”; “Coastal Cliffs”; “Cypress and Surf, Pt. Lobos”; “Big Sur Coast.”
Musings in Winter: Flannery O’Connor
“Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to was never there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it. Where is there a place for you to be? No place… Nothing outside you can give you any place… In yourself right now is all the place you’ve got.”
“I remember a hundred lovely lakes, and recall the fragrant breath of pine and fir and cedar and poplar trees. The trail has strung upon it, as upon a thread of silk, opalescent dawns and saffron sunsets.” – Hamlin Garland, American writer, novelist, and recipient of the 1922 Pulitzer Prize for Biography (for “A Daughter of the Middle Border”– the story of Zulime Taft, the artist who captured his heart and would become his wife), who died 4 March 1940.
Hamlin Garland spent his youth on various Midwestern farms, and his memories of those days brought him his first literary success with the publication of “Main-Traveled Roads” (1891), a collection of short stories inspired by his time in rural America. In 1898, Garland traveled to the Yukon to witness the Klondike Gold Rush, and the next year he published an account of his experiences in “The Trail of the Gold Seekers,” a creative meditation on the wilderness and the men drawn to it that will remind some readers of Jack London’s work.
Throughout his adult life, Garland campaigned for the rights of Native Americans, going so far as to have a series of meetings with President Theodore Roosevelt (who was to become a good friend) in an attempt to alter government policy toward Indians, which at the time was eradicating their customs, languages, and cultures in an effort to assimilate them into white civilization. This spirit of justice also animates both the enlightened cavalry officer who is the hero of Garland’s novel “The Captain of the Gray-Horse Troop” (1902) and the Native American characters in the short stories and novellas published as “The Book of the American Indian” (1923, with illustrations by Frederic Remington; a note: Harlan disliked both the man and the illustrations).
Here is one of my favorite Hamlin Garland quotes: “Whenever the pressure of our complex city life thins my blood and numbs my brain, I seek relief in the trail; and when I hear the coyote wailing to the yellow dawn, my cares fall from me – I am happy.”
Some quotes from the work of Hamlin Garland:
“I see a time when the farmer will not need to live in a lonely cabin on a lonely farm. I see the farmers coming together in groups. I see them with time to read, and time to visit with their fellows. I see them enjoying lectures in beautiful halls, erected in every village. I see them gather like the Saxons of old upon the green at evening to sing and dance. I see cities rising near them with schools, and churches, and concert halls, and theaters. I see a day when the farmer will no longer be a drudge and his wife a bond slave, but happy men and women who will go singing to their pleasant tasks upon their fruitful farms. When the boys and girls will not go west nor to the city; when life will be worth living. In that day the moon will be brighter and the stars more glad, and pleasure and poetry and love of life come back to the man who tills the soil.”
“There is no gilding of setting sun or glamour of poetry to light up the ferocious and endless toil of the farmers’ wives.”
“Do you fear the force of the wind,
The slash of the rain?
Go face them and fight them,
Be savage again.
Go hungry and cold like the wolf,
Go wade like the crane:
The palms of your hands will thicken,
The skin of your cheek will tan,
You’ll grow ragged and weary and swarthy,
But you’ll walk like a man!”
Back from the Territory – Art: The work of Alaska artist Constance Baltuck
In the words of one writer, “Constance Baltuck has been drawing, painting, and showing her work in Alaska since 1982. Her first show at Annie Kaill’s Gallery was in 1984. Since then she has worked with watercolors, pastels, oils, and, most recently, acrylics on canvas. She has shown her work in several Alaskan galleries and at the Juneau Douglas City and Alaska State Museums.”
Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.
Musings in Winter: Vikram Oberoi
American Art – Part V of V: Bryn Craig
In the words of one writer, “When Bryn Craig finds himself inspired by a dingy hotel in Los Angeles or a misty landscape in British Columbia, he stops whatever he’s doing to paint it. ‘I have no preconceptions,’ Craig says. ‘When I see something, I just do it.’ He laughs, ‘My wife is very patient–she’ll go shopping or something and come back later.’”