American Art – Part I of VI: Milton Avery
“Nature is my springboard. From her I get my initial impetus. I have tried to relate the visible drama of mountains, trees, and bleached fields with the fantasy of wind blowing and changing colors and forms.” – Milton Avery, American painter, who was born 7 March 1885.
Musings in Winter: R.A. Salvatore
“We are all dying, every moment that passes of every day. That is the inescapable truth of this existence. It is a truth that can paralyze us with fear, or one that can energize us with impatience, with the desire to explore and experience, with the hope- nay, the iron-will!- to find a memory in every action. To be alive, under sunshine, or starlight, in weather fair or stormy. To dance with every step, be they through gardens of flowers or through deep snows.”
“A sweet high treble threads its silvery song,
Voice of the restless aspen, fine and thin
It trills its pure soprano, light and long-
Like the vibretto of a mandolin.” – From “Aspens,” by Emily Pauline Johnson, Canadian writer whose work celebrated her First Nations heritage, who died 7 March 1913.
“The Song My Paddle Sings”
West wind, blow from your prairie nest,
Blow from the mountains, blow from the west
The sail is idle, the sailor too;
O! wind of the west, we wait for you.
I have wooed you so,
But never a favour you bestow.
You rock your cradle the hills between,
But scorn to notice my white lateen.
I stow the sail, unship the mast:
I wooed you long but my wooing’s past;
My paddle will lull you into rest.
O! drowsy wind of the drowsy west,
By your mountain steep,
Or down where the prairie grasses sweep!
Now fold in slumber your laggard wings,
For soft is the song my paddle sings.
August is laughing across the sky,
Laughing while paddle, canoe and I,
Where the hills uplift
On either side of the current swift.
The river rolls in its rocky bed;
My paddle is plying its way ahead;
While the water flip
In foam as over their breast we slip.
And oh, the river runs swifter now;
The eddies circle about my bow.
How the ripples curl
In many a dangerous pool awhirl!
And forward far the rapids roar,
Fretting their margin for evermore.
With a mighty crash,
They seethe, and boil, and bound, and splash.
Be strong, O paddle! be brave, canoe!
The reckless waves you must plunge into.
On your trembling keel,
But never a fear my craft will feel.
We’ve raced the rapid, we’re far ahead!
The river slips through its silent bed.
As the bubbles spray
And fall in tinkling tunes away.
And up on the hills against the sky,
A fir tree rocking its lullaby,
Its emerald wings,
Swelling the song that my paddle sings.
Musings in Winter: Philip Pullman
South African Art – Part I of II: Karin Preller
Here is how one critic describes the artistry of South African painter Karin Preller: “Her work can broadly be described as a specific kind of photo-based painting in oil on canvas. She uses photographs as source material mainly because of the particular visual ambiguities and ambivalences that occur both in the process of photography and in its translation into paint. The relation between painting and photography is reconsidered, not in an attempt to set them against each other, but to explore the discrepancies that arise in the interplay of different surface qualities.”
A Poem for Today
“An Old-Fashioned Song”
By John Hollander
(‘Nous n’irons plus au bois’)
No more walks in the wood:
The trees have all been cut
Down, and where once they stood
Not even a wagon rut
Appears along the path
Low brush is taking over.
No more walks in the wood;
This is the aftermath
Of afternoons in the clover
Fields where we once made love
Then wandered home together
Where the trees arched above,
Where we made our own weather
When branches were the sky.
Now they are gone for good,
And you, for ill, and I
Am only a passer-by.
“If you would understand your own age, read the works of fiction produced in it. People in disguise speak freely.” – Sir Arthur Helps, English writer, who was born 7 March 1813 and who died 7 March 1875.
Some quotes from the work of Sir Arthur Helps:
“Keep your feet on the ground, but let your heart soar as high as it will. Refuse to be average or to surrender to the chill of your spiritual environment.”
“Routine is not organization, any more than paralysis is order.”
“Wise sayings often fall on barren ground, but a kind word is never thrown away.”
“There are no better cosmetics than a severe temperance and purity, modesty and humility, a gracious temper and calmness of spirit; and there is no true beauty without the signatures of these graces in the very countenance.”
“Strength is born in the deep silence of long-suffering hearts; not amid joy.”
“A man’s action is only a picture book of his creed.”
“Having once decided to achieve a certain task, achieve it at all costs of tedium and distaste. The gain in self confidence of having accomplished a tiresome labor is immense.”
“Is boredom anything less than the sense of one’s faculties slowly dying?”
“Man ceased to be an ape, vanquished the ape, on the day the first book was written.”
“We all admire the wisdom of people who come to us for advice.”
“Choose an author as you choose a friend.”
“Every happiness is a hostage to fortune.”
“Everywhere I have sought rest and not found it, except sitting in a corner by myself with a little book.”
“Experience is the extract of suffering.”
“The greatest luxury of riches is that they enable you to escape so much good advice.”
“It has always appeared to me, that there is so much to be done in this world, that all self-inflicted suffering which cannot be turned to good account for others, is a loss – a loss, if you may so express it, to the spiritual world.”
South African Art – Part II of II: Diane McLean
“I am inspired by things that I see around me.” – South African painter Diane McLean (born 1963) who earned both a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (1984), with distinction in painting, and a Master of Fine Arts degree (1987) from Rhodes University.
A Second Poem for Today
“Figure of Aeolus,”
By Kevin Craft
They found you under twenty feet
of loose ash — one vowel
solo in an archipelago
of strung-out vowels and doting volcanoes —
‘Isole Eolie’ — O hoop
of exhilaration, O sigh of relief
softening your votive mouth
if not blowing off steam
at the crater rim, crystalizing sulfur,
poring over tomes, the trade winds
and furies that fan through your realm,
O citizen-king, O sonorous persona
Musings in Winter: E.M. Forster
American Art – Part II of VI: Dave Palumbo
Artist Statement: “As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be an artist. As a child, I enjoyed reading comic books that my father gave to me and watching hours and hours of science fiction movies. Not surprisingly, the subject matter of my drawings was mainly monsters, robots, superheroes, and spaceships. My mother and step father, both being fantasy artists themselves, were very encouraging and supportive for me to develop my skill in drawing and allowed me to start taking life drawing classes as early as twelve years old.”
A Third Poem for Today
“Rain on a Barn South of Tawas”
By William Jolliff
It may be as close as an old man in Michigan
comes to the sound of the sea. Call it thunder
if you want, but it’s not thunder, not at all.
It’s more like the rush of semis on a freeway
somewhere between Bay City and Flint,
the road a son will take when he learns,
sometime around the last taste of a strap,
that the life he was born to is nothing
at all like a life he’d ever bother to live.
There’s an anger in it, a tin-edged constancy
that has no rhythm, quite, something more
like white noise that still won’t let you sleep.
Think of some man, needing to get a crop in,
but the fields are sop, so he’s trying to find
something to fix, something to keep his hands
working, something to weld, something to pound,
something to wrap his calloused palms around
that might do less damage than a lead-rope
knotted and tossed over the limb of a tree.
If you ever decide to lose your years
Born 7 March 1602 – Kano Tanyu, a Japanese painter.
Musings in Winter: David Foster Wallace
“To me, at least in retrospect, the really interesting question is why dullness proves to be such a powerful impediment to attention. Why we recoil from the dull. Maybe it’s because dullness is intrinsically painful; maybe that’s where phrases like ‘deadly dull’ or ‘excruciatingly dull’ come from. But there might be more to it. Maybe dullness is associated with psychic pain because something that’s dull or opaque fails to provide enough stimulation to distract people from some other, deeper type of pain that is always there, if only in an ambient, low-level way, and which most of us spend nearly all our time and energy trying to distract ourselves from feeling, or at least from feeling directly or with our full attention. Admittedly, the whole thing’s pretty confusing, and hard to talk about abstractly…but surely something must lie behind not just Muzak in dull or tedious places any more but now also actual TV in waiting rooms, supermarkets’ checkouts, airport gates, SUVs’ backseats. Walkman, iPods, BlackBerries, cell phones that attach to your head. This terror of silence with nothing diverting to do. I can’t think anyone really believes that today’s so-called ‘information society’ is just about information. Everyone knows it’s about something else, way down.”
From the Music Archives: Ali “Farka” Toure
Died 7 March 2006 – Ali “Farka” Toure, Malian singer and multi-instrumentalist whose art is regarded as a synthesis of traditional Malian music and its North American cousin, the blues.
Born 7 March 1903 – Maud Lewis, a Canadian folk artist.
A Fourth Poem for Today
By Karla Huston
The cruelest thing I did to my dog
wasn’t to ignore his barking for water
when his tongue hung like a deflated balloon
or to disregard his chronic need for a belly rub
but to teach him to shake hands,
a trick that took weeks of treats, his dark eyes
like Greek olives, moist with desire.
I made him sit, another injustice,
and allowed him to want the nuggets enough
to please me. ‘Shake,’ I said. ‘Shake’?
touching the back of his right leg
until he lifted it, his saliva trickling
from soft jowls, my hand wet with his hunger.
Mistress of the biscuit, I ruffled his ears
and said ‘good dog’ until he got it. Before long,
American Art – Part III of VI: Michael Ward
Artist Statement: “I began my artistic career doing pen and ink renderings of historical architecture. I began painting in 1980, first in gouache, then in acrylics. Artists whose work I admire and draw inspiration from include Edward Hopper, Charles Sheeler, Richard Estes and Vermeer. I am most interested in depicting what Alan Watts called the mystery of the ordinary; the workaday world we live in without seeing until we are forced to focus upon it, as in a painting.”
“If I had been the Virgin Mary, I would have said ‘No.'” – Florence Margaret “Stevie” Smith, English poet, novelist, and author of “The Holiday” and “Our Bog Is Dood,” who died 7 March 1971.
“Not Waving But Drowning”
Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.
Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
Musings in Winter: Cormac McCarthy
“The truth about the world, he said, is that anything is possible. Had you not seen it all from birth and thereby bled it of its strangeness it would appear to you for what it is, a hat trick in a medicine show, a fevered dream, a trance bepopulate with chimeras having neither analogue nor precedent, an itinerant carnival, a migratory tentshow whose ultimate destination after many a pitch in many a mudded field is unspeakable and calamitous beyond reckoning.
The universe is no narrow thing and the order within it is not constrained by any latitude in its conception to repeat what exists in one part in any other part. Even in this world more things exist without our knowledge than with it and the order in creation which you see is that which you have put there, like a string in a maze, so that you shall not lose your way. For existence has its own order and that no man’s mind can compass, that mind itself being but a fact among others.”
Musings in Winter: Tonya Hurley
“We all like to think the world ends when we do. The truth is our acquaintances, our friends, and our loved ones all live on, and through them, so do we. It’s not about what you had, but what you gave. It’s not about how you looked, but how you lived. And it’s not just about being remembered. It’s about giving people a good reason to remember you.”
A Fifth Poem for Today
“I Ask My Mother to Sing”
By Li-Young Lee
She begins, and my grandmother joins her.
Mother and daughter sing like young girls.
If my father were alive, he would play
his accordion and sway like a boat.
I’ve never been in Peking, or the Summer Palace,
nor stood on the great Stone Boat to watch
the rain begin on Kuen Ming Lake, the picnickers
running away in the grass.
But I love to hear it sung;
how the waterlilies fill with rain until
they overturn, spilling water into water,
then rock back, and fill with more.
American Art – Part IV of VI: Chris Leib
Mission Arts: “Why are you an Artist?”
Chris Leib: “My father is an incredible artist, and I am very competitive. But it also became like an addiction. Once I started, I never wanted to do anything else. In college I studied anthropology and thought about applying to grad school, but I got hired as an artist by a local company. From then on I rejected all notions that I was supposed to do anything else. It is just something I have to do. I don’t like to be away from painting, even for a few days.”
Musings in Winter: Radiohead
A Sixth Poem for Today
“This Morning I Could Do/A Thousand Things”
By Robert Hedin
I could fix the leaky pipe
Under the sink, or wander over
And bother Jerry who’s lost
In the bog of his crankcase.
I could drive the half-mile down
To the local mall and browse
Through the bright stables
Of mowers, or maybe catch
The power-walkers puffing away
On their last laps. I could clean
The garage, weed the garden,
Or get out the shears and
Prune the rose bushes back.
Yes, a thousand things
This beautiful April morning.
But I’ve decided to just lie
Here in this old hammock,
Rocking like a lazy metronome,
And wait for the day lilies
To open. The sun is barely
Over the trees, and already
The sprinklers are out,
Raining their immaculate
Bands of light over the lawns.
From the Movie Archives: Stanley Kubrick
“If you can talk brilliantly about a problem, it can create the consoling illusion that it has been mastered.” – Stanley Kubrick, American film director, screenwriter, producer, cinematographer, and editor, who died 7 March 1999.
Some quotes from Stanley Kubrick:
“A film is – or should be – more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later.”
“The great nations have always acted like gangsters, and the small nations like prostitutes.”
“It’s a mistake to confuse pity with love.”
“You sit at the board and suddenly your heart leaps. Your hand trembles to pick up the piece and move it. But what chess teaches you is that you must sit there calmly and think about whether it’s really a good idea and whether there are other, better ideas.”
“The screen is a magic medium. It has such power that it can retain interest as it conveys emotions and moods that no other art form can hope to tackle.”
“If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed.”
“You’re an idealist, and I pity you as I would the village idiot.”
Above – Stanley Kubrick.
Below – Still shots from five of Kubrick’s movies: “Dr. Strangelove” (1964), “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968), “A Clockwork Orange” (1971), “The Shining” (1987), and “Full Metal Jacket” (1987).
American Art – Part V of VI: Douglas Morgan
In the words of one writer, “Douglas Morgan’s paintings evoke a feeling of warm familiarity, the intimacy found in everyday environments.
He has sensitive insight into applying a method for creating mood using color relationships with simple compositions.
He shows us the poetry found in a simple table setting; the comfort of home found on an empty porch; the quiet joy in a garden’s sunshine. His work is warm, inviting, accessible.
Doug is known for his ability to convey the distinct color personalities of direct and ambient light in both interior and outdoor scenes without losing a sense of mood. He retains the magic of luminosity in his paintings while avoiding the fantastic. His palette is drawn from nature, which allows his viewer to become engaged with each painting on a more personal level.
His work stands out among those of many of his contemporaries who also pursue the effect of light in narrative settings because he strives to endow each piece with an assumed personal invitation extended to the viewer. Each painting feels like a welcome home.”
A Seventh Poem for Today
By Amy Fleury
Up from wood rot,
wrinkling up from duff
and homely damps,
spore-born and cauled
like a meager seer,
it pushes aside earth
to make a small place
from decay. Bashful,
it brings honeycombed
news from below
of the coming plenty
and everything rising.
Musings in Winter: Kurt Vonnegut
“Do you realize that all great literature — ‘Moby Dick,’ ‘Huckleberry Finn,’ ‘A Farewell to Arms,’ ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ ‘The Red Badge of Courage,’ ‘The Iliad and The Odyssey,’ ‘Crime and Punishment,’ the Bible, and ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ — are all about what a bummer it is to be a …human being?”
Among medieval Muslim intellectuals, Aristotle was revered as “The First Teacher,” and to Dante Alighieri he was “the Master of those who know.”
Some quotes from Aristotle:
“A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side.”
“The soul never thinks without a picture.”
“Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.”
“Men create gods after their own image, not only with regard to their form but with regard to their mode of life.”
“Hope is the dream of a waking man.”
“Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”
“A friend to all is a friend to none.”
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
“I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.”
“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
“Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well.”
“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”
“Suffering becomes beautiful when anyone bears great calamities with cheerfulness, not through insensibility but through greatness of mind.”
“At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst.”
“Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.”
“Mothers are fonder than fathers of their children because they are more certain they are their own.”
“If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in government to the utmost.”
“What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.”
“A great city is not to be confounded with a populous one.”
“No excellent soul is exempt from a mixture of madness.”
“All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind.”
“Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.”
“The law is reason, free from passion.”
“The energy of the mind is the essence of life.”
“The ideal man bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of circumstances.”
“Wit is educated insolence.”
“Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, and history only the particular.”
“Youth is easily deceived because it is quick to hope.”
“Bad men are full of repentance.”
“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”
“The secret to humor is surprise.”
“Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in deserving them.”
“The end of labor is to gain leisure.”
“Well begun is half done.”
“It is best to rise from life as from a banquet, neither thirsty nor drunken.”
“The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living from the dead.”
“The one exclusive sign of thorough knowledge is the power of teaching.”
“Man is by nature a political animal.”
“Even when laws have been written down, they ought not always to remain unaltered.”
“Therefore, the good of man must be the end of the science of politics.”
“Of all the varieties of virtues, liberalism is the most beloved.”
“Men are swayed more by fear than by reverence.”
“Homer has taught all other poets the art of telling lies skillfully.”
“It is not once nor twice but times without number that the same ideas make their appearance in the world.”
“The whole is more than the sum of its parts.”
“You will find rest from vain fancies if you do every act in life as though it were your last.”
“What the statesman is most anxious to produce is a certain moral character in his fellow citizens, namely a disposition to virtue and the performance of virtuous actions.”
The young are permanently in a state resembling intoxication.”
“The gods too are fond of a joke.”
An Eighth Poem for Today
“Releasing a Tree”
By Thomas Reiter
Softly pummeled overnight, the lower
limbs of our Norway spruce
flexed and the deepening snow held them.
Windless sunlight now, so I go out
wearing hip waders and carrying
not a fly rod but a garden hoe. I begin
worrying the snow for the holdfast
of a branch that’s so far down
a wren’s nest floats above it like a buoy.
I work the hoe, not chopping but cradling,
then pull straight up. A current of air
as the needles loft their burden
over my head. Those grace notes
of the snowfall, crystals giving off
copper, green, rose—watching them
I stumble over a branch, go down
and my gloves fill with snow. Ah, I find
my father here: I remember as a child
how flames touched my hand the time
I added wood to the stove in our ice-fishing
shanty, how he plunged that hand
through the hole into the river, teaching me
one kind of burning can ease another.
The branch bobs then tapers into place
and composes itself, looking
unchanged though all summer
it will bring up this day from underfoot.
Musings in Winter: Carl Sagan
Back from the Territory – Art: The work of Alaska artist Ed Tussey
In the words of one writer, “Alaska is a never-ending source of inspiration for Ed Tussey. Winner of national and state awards, Ed is a full-time, freelance artist who captures on canvas the majesty of Alaska’s interior, coastal and marine environments and wildlife. A lifelong Alaskan, Ed lives on the Kenai Peninsula in the coastal town of Homer, Alaska, with his wife Jacki and their daughters Rachel and Rheanna.”
Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.
Musings in Winter: Raymond Carver
American Art – Part VI of VI: John Poon
In the words of one writer, “The paintings of John Poon reflect the personality of the artist himself. John has a quiet, sincere manner that is mirrored in his painting style, color palette and compositional choices.
His approach to painting is gentle and unhurried. He is inspired by the unpretentious and the often unnoticed. He works to portray the simple beauty of an unobstructed view across a meadow, clouds drifting quietly across the sky, a cluster of bushes tracing their way down a ravine, fishing boat resting listlessly in harbor, a common neighborhood street in an urban setting.
The result of his artistic effort is a body of work that has caused many aficionados to draw respectful comparisons to that aesthetic integrity of early California masters.
John’s love and respect for painting, along with his professional ethic, place him in an elite class of artists working today. His focus on fresh creativity, technical excellence and artistic growth endow each of his paintings with the power to effectively deliver on his artistic promise.”