American Art – Part I of VII: Marcel Dzama
Marcel Dzama is a contemporary artist from Winnipeg, Canada who currently lives and works in New York.
A Poem for Today
“A Chair in Snow”
By Jane Hirshfield
A chair in snow
like any other object whited
and yet a chair in snow is always sad
more than a bed
more than a hat or house
a chair is shaped for just one thing
a soul its quick and few bendable
perhaps a king
Musings in Winter: Martin Buber
“What a large volume of adventures may be grasped within the span of his little life by him who interests his heart in everything.” – Laurence Sterne, Anglo-Irish novelist, Anglican clergyman, and author of the delightful “The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman,” who died 18 March 1768.
Some quotes from the work of Laurence Sterne:
“Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners”
“Learning is the dictionary, but sense the grammar, of science.”
“Human nature is the same in all professions.”
“People who are always taking care of their health are like misers, who are hoarding a treasure which they have never spirit enough to enjoy.”
“I take a simple view of life. It is keep your eyes open and get on with it.”
“In solitude the mind gains strength and learns to lean upon itself.”
Here is the Artist Statement of Lithuanian painter Ramunas Grikevicius (born 1963): “I am a painter who also creates pastel and computer graphic works in my studio. I’m working as a teacher in the Art School, teaching painting and ceramics. I’ve been a member of the Lithuanian Artists Union since 1997.”
Musings in Winter: Neil deGrasse Tyson
“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.”
By Daniel J. Langton
I was sent home the first day
with a note: Danny needs a ruler.
My father nodded, nothing seemed so apt.
School is for rules, countries need rulers,
graphs need graphing, the world is straight ahead.
It had metrics one side, inches the other.
You could see where it started
and why it stopped, a foot along,
how it ruled the flighty pen,
which petered out sideways when you dreamt.
From the Music Archives: John Phillips
“If I told you the tragedy parts, we’d all sit here and cry.”- John Phillips, American singer and songwriter, who died 3 March 1981, talking about his vocal group, The Mamas and the Papas.
Musings in Winter: Pico Iyer
“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.”
Spanish painter Antonio Lopez Garcia (born 1936) is a master of realist style. In the words of one writer, “Though López García is devoted to the mundane—he depicts humble people, buildings, plants, and cluttered interiors—his portrayal of these subjects is compelling and beautiful. Starkly lit studies of his studio, bathroom, and the red brick wall in his backyard underscore an interest in prosaic subject matter. His deftness brings attention to these simple forms, encouraging the viewer to re-examine the presence of ordinary objects.”
A Third Poem for Today
By Kay Ryan
A pin hole
of light. We
more of it
a small act
Musings in Winter: Albert Einstein
“The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.”
American Art – Part II of VII: Stone Roberts
Here is one critic describing the artistry of painter Stone Roberts:
”The realist paintings of New York-based artist Stone Roberts resemble those of the Old Masters, yet his art is unmistakably contemporary. While his exquisitely detailed canvases—primarily still lifes and figural scenes—exhibit a wealth of narrative complexity and subtlety, it is his ability to inject into his work a mystery and commentary on modern society that sets him apart from other artists of his generation.”
“I’m an American, I’m a Jew, and I write for all men.” – Bernard Malamud, American author of novels and short stories, who died 18 March 1986.
Malamud’s short story collection “The Magic Barrel” won the 1959 National Book Award, and his 1966 novel “The Fixer” won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.
Some quotes from the work of Bernard Malamud:
“Where to look if you’ve lost your mind?”
“There comes a time in a man’s life when to get where he has to go–if there are no doors or windows–he walks through a wall.”
“Without heroes we’re all plain people and don’t know how far we can go.”
“Of course it would cost something, but he was an expert in cutting corners; and when there were no more corners left he would make circles rounder.”
“The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.”
“A man is an island in the only sense that matters, not an easy way to be. We live in mystery, a cosmos of separate lonely bodies, men, insects, stars. It is all loneliness and men know it best.”
“A meshummed gives up one God for another. I don’t want either. We live in a world where the clock ticks fast while he’s on his timeless mountain staring in space. He doesn’t see us and he doesn’t care. Today I want my piece of bread, not in Paradise.”
“Teach yourself to work in uncertainty.”
Musings in Winter: Lin Yutang
“Nationalism is our form of incest, is our idolatry, is our insanity. ‘Patriotism’ is its cult… Just as love for one individual which excludes the love for others is not love, love for one’s country which is not part of one’s love for humanity is not love, but idolatrous worship.” – Erich Fromm, German social psychologist, psychoanalyst, sociologist, humanistic philosopher, democratic socialist, and author of “The Sane Society” and “Escape from Freedom,” who died 18 March 1980.
Some quotes from the work of Erich Fromm:
“One cannot be deeply responsive to the world without being saddened very often.”
“A person who has not been completely alienated, who has remained sensitive and able to feel, who has not lost the sense of dignity, who is not yet ‘for sale,’ who can still suffer over the suffering of others, who has not acquired fully the having mode of existence – briefly, a person who has remained a person and not become a thing – cannot help feeling lonely, powerless, isolated in present-day society. He cannot help doubting himself and his own convictions, if not his sanity. He cannot help suffering, even though he can experience moments of joy and clarity that are absent in the life of his ‘normal’ contemporaries. Not rarely will he suffer from neurosis that results from the situation of a sane man living in an insane society, rather than that of the more conventional neurosis of a sick man trying to adapt himself to a sick society. In the process of going further in his analysis, i.e. of growing to greater independence and productivity, his neurotic symptoms will cure themselves.”
“Modern man thinks he loses something—time—when he does not do things quickly; yet he does not know what to do with the time he gains—except kill it.”
“If other people do not understand our behavior—so what? Their request that we must only do what they understand is an attempt to dictate to us. If this is being ‘asocial’ or ‘irrational’ in their eyes, so be it. Mostly they resent our freedom and our courage to be ourselves. We owe nobody an explanation or an accounting, as long as our acts do not hurt or infringe on them. How many lives have been ruined by this need to ‘explain,’ which usually implies that the explanation be ‘understood,’ i.e. approved. Let your deeds be judged, and from your deeds, your real intentions, but know that a free person owes an explanation only to himself—to his reason and his conscience—and to the few who may have a justified claim for explanation.”
“The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same form of mental pathology does not make these people sane.”
“Modern man has transformed himself into a commodity; he experiences his life energy as an investment with which he should make the highest profit, considering his position and the situation on the personality market. He is alienated from himself, from his fellow men and from nature. His main aim is profitable exchange of his skills, knowledge, and of himself, his ‘personality package’ with others who are equally intent on a fair and profitable exchange. Life has no goal except the one to move, no principle except the one of fair exchange, no satisfaction except the one to consume.
“The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers…Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.”
“To die is poignantly bitter, but the idea of having to die without having lived is unbearable.”
Musings in Winter: Douglas Adams
“The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.”
A Fourth Poem for Today
“From a Bridge”
By David St. John
I saw my mother standing there below me
On the narrow bank just looking out over the river
Looking at something just beyond the taut middle rope
Of the braided swirling currents
Then she looked up quite suddenly to the far bank
Where the densely twined limbs of the cypress
Twisted violently toward the storm-struck sky
There are some things we know before we know
Also some things we wish we would not ever know
Even if as children we already knew & so
Standing above her on that bridge that shuddered
Each time the river ripped at its wooden pilings
American Art – Part III of VII: Richard Diebenkorn
Artist Statement: “The pretty, initial position which falls short of completeness is not to be valued – except as a stimulus for further moves.”
Musings in Winter: Lao Tzu
Down the close, darkening lanes they sang their way
To the siding-shed,
And lined the train with faces grimly gay.
Their breasts were stuck all white with wreath and spray
As men’s are, dead.
Dull porters watched them, and a casual tramp
Stood staring hard,
Sorry to miss them from the upland camp.
Then, unmoved, signals nodded, and a lamp
Winked to the guard.
So secretly, like wrongs hushed-up, they went.
They were not ours:
We never heard to which front these were sent.
Nor there if they yet mock what women meant
Who gave them flowers.
Shall they return to beatings of great bells
In wild trainloads?
A few, a few, too few for drums and yells,
May creep back, silent, to still village wells
Up half-known roads.
“Anthem for Doomed Youth”
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
Move him into the sun —
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields unsown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.
Think how it wakes the seeds —
Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs so dear-achieved, are sides
Full-nerved, — still warm, — too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
– O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
to break earth’s sleep at all?
Musings in Winter: Anatole France
A Fifth Poem for Today
By Minnie Bruce
Leaving again. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t be
grieving. The particulars of place lodged in me,
like this room I lived in for eleven days,
how I learned the way the sun laid its palm
over the side window in the morning, heavy
light, how I’ll never be held in that hand again.
American Art – Part IV of VII: Michael Steinagle
Here is how one critic describes the artistry of painter Michael Steinagle: “Moving between left and right brain (form and content), Michael finds pleasure in both worlds. Usually utilizing the figure as his subject, Michael seeks to find a comfortable balance between these two opposing forces, unconsciously letting life events and emotions affect the end result. He finds the painting experience to be a total immersion in a sea of lush paint and color which, hopefully, evolve into a pleasurable and meaningful experience for the viewer.”
From the American History Archives – Part I of II: Wells, Fargo & Company
18 March 1852 – In response to the gold rush, Henry Wells and William Fargo organize Wells, Fargo & Company, a joint-stock association with an initial capitalization of $300,000, to provide express and banking services to California.
American Art – Part V of VIII: Brad Davis
Artist Statement: “I’ve taken motifs from something I saw and rearranged them to make an abstract composition. It relates to Chinese painting in that it is a poetic evocation of nature.”
Musings in Winter: Pablo Neruda
From the American History Archives – Part II of II: Lake Merritt Wildlife Refuge
18 March 1870 – The California Legislature passes a bill establishing the Lake Merritt Wildlife Refuge in Oakland – the first such refuge in North America.
A Sixth Poem for Today
By Douglas S. Jones
The spider living in the bike seat has finally spun
its own spokes through the wheels.
I have seen it crawl upside down, armored
black and jigging back to the hollow frame,
have felt the stickiness break
as the tire pulls free the stitches of last night’s sewing.
We’ve ridden this bike together for a week now,
two legs in gyre by daylight, and at night,
the eight converting gears into looms, handle bars
into sails. This is how it is to be part of a cycle—
to be always in motion, and to be always
woven to something else.
American Art – Part VI of VII: Michael Fitzpatrick
Artist Statement: “In my paintings I work to express beauty through the orchestration of two-dimensional elements – shape, value and temperature. I infuse randomness whenever possible and at every scale. Random is beauty: There are no ugly clouds.”
A Seventh Poem for Today
“Flathead Lake, October”
The eagle floats and glides,
circling the burnished aspen,
then takes the high pines
with a flash of underwing.
As surely as the eagle sails
toward the bay’s open curve,
as surely as he swoops and seizes
the struggling fish, pulling
it from an osprey’s beak;
so too, autumn descends,
Musings in Winter: Stephen Hawking
“One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away.”
Back from the Territory – Art: The work of Alaska artist Cheri Govertsen Greer
In the words of one writer, “Cheri Govertsen Greer has been an artist for thirty years. Living in Montana and Alaska, Cheri is surrounded by serenity and great people.”
Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.
Musings in Winter: Rainer Maria Rilke
“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”
An Eighth Poem for Today
“Finding the Scarf”
By Wyatt Townley
The woods are the book
we read over and over as children.
Now trees lie at angles, felled
by lightning, torn by tornados,
silvered trunks turning back
to earth. Late November light
slants through the oaks
as our small parade, father, mother, child,
shushes along, the wind searching treetops
for the last leaf. Childhood lies
on the forest floor, not evergreen
but oaken, its branches latched
to a graying sky. Here is the scarf
we left years ago like a bookmark,
meaning to return the next day,
having just turned our heads
toward a noise in the bushes,
toward the dinnerbell in the distance,
Musings in Winter: Carl Sagan
American Art – Part VIII of VIII: Elaine de Kooning
Artist Statement: “When I’m asked how I characterize myself, I say I’m an escape artist. Because I like the idea of escaping from style, but when I look at all of my work, there begins to be a unity…You don’t have to look for a style, you can’t escape a style.”