American Art – Part I of V: Judy Pfaff
Artist Statement: “I think the things about being an artist is that you should be allowed to test murky, unclear, unsure territory. Having it all together is the least interesting thing in art, in being alive.”
Below – “Half a Dozen of the Other – Che Cosa e Acqua”; “Half a Dozen of the Other – Del Lumi e Obra”; “Half a Dozen of the Other – Ognis Cosa so fa Ogni Cosa”; “Six of One – La Cena”; “Maize”; “Six of One – Melone”; “Yoyogi I.”
A Poem for Today
“Woman Feeding Chickens”
By Roy Scheele
Her hand is at the feedbag at her waist,
sunk to the wrist in the rustling grain
that nuzzles her fingertips when laced
around a sifting handful. It’s like rain,
like cupping water in your hand, she thinks,
the cracks between the fingers like a sieve,
except that less escapes you through the chinks
when handling grain. She likes to feel it give
beneath her hand’s slow plummet, and the smell,
so rich a fragrance she has never quite
got used to it, under the seeming spell
of the charm of the commonplace. The white
hens bunch and strut, heads cocked, with tilted eyes,
till her hand sweeps out and the small grain flies.
Fancies in Springtime: Neil deGrasse Tyson
Russian Art – Part I of II: Tatyana Markovtsev
Even though she began painting just a few years ago, Russian minimalist artist Tatyana Markovtsev is already quite accomplished. In the words of one critic, “She is able to express powerful and complex human feelings just via a few elegant lines, capturing a wide variety of human emotions with amazing simplicity and clarity.”
“We have not been scuffling in this waste-howling wildness for the right to be stupid.” – Toni Cade Bambara, African-American writer, documentary film-maker, social activist, professor, and author of “Gorilla, My Love,” who was born 25 March 1939.
Some quotes from Toni Cade Bambara:
“When you dream, you dialogue with aspects of yourself that normally are not with you in the daytime and you discover that you know a great deal more than you thought you did.”
“I’ll be damned if I want most folks out there to do unto me what they do unto themselves.”
“I’ve never been convinced that experience is linear, circular, or even random. It just is. I try to put it in some kind of order to extract meaning from it, to bring meaning to it.”
“Revolution begins with the self, in the self.”
Fancies in Springtime: Susanna Clarke
“Woods were ringed with a colour so soft, so subtle that it could scarcely be said to be a colour at all. It was more the idea of a colour – as if the trees were dreaming green dreams or thinking green thoughts.”
Russian Art – Part II of II: Serge Sologub
From the Music Archives – Part I of II: Aretha Franklin
“I’m a big woman. I need big hair.” – Aretha Franklin, American singer and the “Queen of Soul,” who was born 25 March 1942.
Fancies in Springtime: John Geddes
A Second Poem for Today
“Girls’ Middle School Orchestra”
By Michael Ryan
They’re all dressed up in carmine
floor-length velvet gowns, their upswirled hair
festooned with matching ribbons:
their fresh hopes and our fond hopes for them
infuse this sort-of-music as if happiness could actually be
Their hearts unscarred under quartz lights
beam through the darkness in which we sit
to show us why we endured at home
the squeaking and squawking and botched notes
that now in concert are almost beautiful,
almost rendering this heartrending music
composed for an archduke who loved it so much
he spent his fortune for the musicians
who could bring it brilliantly to life.
From the Music Archives – Part II of II: Cream
25 March 1967 – The group Cream makes its American debut. In the words of one historian, “Cream first visited the United States in March 1967 to play nine dates at the RKO Theater in New York. There was little impact, as impresario Murray the K placed them at the bottom of a six-act bill that performed five times per date, eventually reducing Cream to one song per concert.”
Fancies in Springtime: Knut Hamsun
According to one writer, “Artist and conservator Gyula Kalko received his art training at the Academy of Fine Arts and the Academy of Applied Arts in Budapest, Hungary. He studied drawing and painting under Professor Jeno Barcsay, the world-renown author of the authoritative book, Anatomy for the Artist. At the Academy of Applied Arts he studied graphic arts and conservation and received diplomas from both disciplines in 1970 and 1973 respectively.”
Gyula Kalko lives and works in Toronto.
A Third Poem for Today
By Daniel Nyikos
I set up my computer and webcam in the kitchen
so I can ask my mother’s and aunt’s advice
as I cook soup for the first time alone.
My mother is in Utah. My aunt is in Hungary.
I show the onions to my mother with the webcam.
“Cut them smaller,” she advises.
“You only need a taste.”
I chop potatoes as the onions fry in my pan.
When I say I have no paprika to add to the broth,
they argue whether it can be called potato soup.
My mother says it will be white potato soup,
my aunt says potato soup must be red.
When I add sliced peppers, I ask many times
if I should put the water in now,
but they both say to wait until I add the potatoes.
I add Polish sausage because I can’t find Hungarian,
and I cook it so long the potatoes fall apart.
“You’ve made stew,” my mother says
when I hold up the whole pot to the camera.
They laugh and say I must get married soon.
I turn off the computer and eat alone.
Fancies in Springtime: Lydia Davis
American Art – Part II of V: Gay Outlaw
Artist Statement: “What an artist needs, more than anything else, is a kind of faith in what you’re doing and the discipline to do it.”
Fancies in Springtime: Rebecca Harrington
“Springtime in Massachusetts is depressing for those who embrace a progressive view of history and experience. It does not gradually develop as spring is supposed to. Instead, the crocuses bloom and the grass grows, but the foliage is independent from the weather, which gets colder and colder and sadder and sadder until June when one day it becomes brutishly hot without warning…It was fitting, then, that the first people who chose to settle there were mentally suspect.”
From the American History Archives – Part I of II: Coxey’s Army
25 March 1894 – Jacob Coxey sets off from Massillon, Ohio for Washington, D.C. on a protest march with a group of unemployed workers known as Coxey’s Army. In keeping with their progressive ideology, Coxey and his supporters wanted the government to help create jobs during what was the worst economic depression in United States history to that time.
My favorite reference to Coxey’s Army:
“After the Industrial Revolution, All Things Happen At Once”
By Robert Bly
Now we enter a strange world,
where the Hessian Christmas
Still goes on, and Washington has not
reached the other shore;
The Whiskey Boys
Are gathering again on the meadows
And the Republic is still sailing
on the open sea.
I saw a black angel in Washington dancing
On a barge, saying, Let us now divide
kennel dogs and hunting dogs;
Henry Cabot Lodge, in New York,
Talking of sugar cane in Cuba; Ford,
In Detroit, drinking mother’s milk;
Henry Cabot Lodge, saying,
“Remember the Maine!”
Ford, saying, “History is bunk!”
And Wilson saying,
“What is good for General Motors … ”
Who is it, singing?
Don’t you hear singing?
It is the dead of Cripple Creek;
Coxey’s army like turkeys
are singing from the tops of trees!
And the Whiskey Boys are drunk
Spanish Art – Part I of II: Jorge Gallego Garcia:
Fancies in Springtime: Carl Sagan
“Every aspect of Nature reveals a deep mystery and touches our sense of wonder and awe. Those afraid of the universe as it really is, those who pretend to nonexistent knowledge and envision a Cosmos centered on human beings will prefer the fleeting comforts of superstition. They avoid rather than confront the world. But those with the courage to explore the weave and structure of the Cosmos, even where it differs profoundly from their wishes and prejudices, will penetrate its deepest mysteries.”
From the Movie Archives: “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”
“I absolutely adore working in the realms of fantasy.” – Richard Timothy Smith, better known under his stage name Richard O’Brien, New Zealand writer, actor, television presenter, and theater performer, who was born 25 March 1942.
Richard O’Brien wrote “The Rocky Horror Show,” co-wrote the screenplay for “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” and appeared in the film as the character Riff Raff.
“It’s just a jump to the left . . .”
Fancies in Springtime: John Stuart Mill
“It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, is of a different opinion, it is only because they only know their own side of the question.”
Spanish Art – Part II of II: Antonio Guzman Capel
Fancies in Springtime: Alain de Botton
A Fourth Poem for Today
By Judith Harris
I can hear him,
now, even in darkness,
a trickster under the moon,
bristling his feathers,
sounding as merry
as a man whistling in a straw hat,
or a squeaky gate
to the playground, left ajar
or the jingling of a star,
having wandered too far
from the pasture.
American Art – Part III of V: Tim Gaydos
Artist Statement: “I paint directly from life. For landscapes, this requires working in sometime arduous circumstances often requiring me to walk long distances carrying all my gear. I feel the emotional impact and energy of a place is best captured when one is experiencing it with all one’s senses.
For me, the composition of a painting is its most important technical aspect. The stronger the composition, the greater the impact.
In recent years, I have been moving more and more toward abstracting the landscape by eliminating detail, simplifying shapes, and exaggerating colors with the intent of creating stronger composition. In the studio, I study the paintings and often adjust the compositions. I will then go back to the actual scene and continue to work. This process may go on for some time.”
Fancies in Springtime: Edith Sodergran
“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” – Flannery O’Connor, American writer, essayist, author of “Wise Blood,” “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” and “The Violent Bear It Away,” and the recipient of the 1972 National Book Award for Fiction (for “Complete Stories”), who was born 25 March 1925.
Some quotes from the work of Flannery O’Connor:
“Art never responds to the wish to make it democratic; it is not for everybody; it is only for those who are willing to undergo the effort needed to understand it.”
“Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.”
“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.”
“Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one.”
“I write to discover what I know.”
“Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to never was there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it”
“People without hope not only don’t write novels, but what is more to the point, they don’t read them.”
“To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life and this is a softness that ends in bitterness.”
“Accepting oneself does not preclude an attempt to become better.”
“Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.”
“Total non-retention has kept my education from being a burden to me.”
“There is something in us, as storytellers and as listeners to stories, that demands the redemptive act, that demands that what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored. The reader of today looks for this motion, and rightly so, but what he has forgotten is the cost of it. His sense of evil is diluted or lacking altogether, and so he has forgotten the price of restoration. When he reads a novel, he wants either his sense tormented or his spirits raised. He wants to be transported, instantly, either to mock damnation or a mock innocence.”
“I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted.”
“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.”
“To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life and this is a softness that ends in bitterness.”
“At its best our age is an age of searchers and discoverers, and at its worst, an age that has domesticated despair and learned to live with it happily.”
“I preach there are all kinds of truth, your truth and somebody else’s. But behind all of them there is only one truth and that is that there’s no truth.”
“Conviction without experience makes for harshness.”
“Everywhere I go, I’m asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them. There’s many a best seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.”
“I don’t deserve any credit for turning the other cheek as my tongue is always in it.”
Fancies in Springtime: Forrest Carter
“Then sometime there in late March, after the Indian violets had come, we would be gathering on the mountain and the wind, raw and mean, would change for just a second. It would touch your face as soft as a feather. It had an earth smell. You knew springtime was on the way.
The next day, or the next (you would commence to hold your face out for the feel), the soft touch would come again. It would last a little longer and be sweeter and smell stronger.”
Here is one writer describing the background of Chinese painter Xi Pan: “Xi Pan, born in Wenzhou, China, began her first art studies in 1989 at the National Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou. One year later she transferred to the Moscow Academy of fine Arts where she earned a Master’s Degree in fine Art. Since then she has lived in Europe and the United States working as a professional artist. She is currently living in Hangzhou.”
Fancies in Springtime: Sara Teasdale
“It was a night of early spring,
The winter-sleep was scarcely broken;
Around us shadows and the wind
Listened for what was never spoken.
Though half a score of years are gone,
Spring comes as sharply now as then—
But if we had it all to do
It would be done the same again.
From the American History Archives – Part II of II: “Howl”
25 March 1955 – Officers of the United States Customs Department confiscate 520 copies of Allen Ginsberg’s book “Howl,” which had been printed in England. Officials alleged that the book was obscene.
In the words of one historian, “City Lights, a publishing company and bookstore in San Francisco owned by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, proceeded to publish the book in the fall of 1956. The publication led to Ferlinghetti’s arrest on obscenity charges. Ferlinghetti was bailed out by the American Civil Liberties Union, which led the legal defense. Nine literary experts testified at the trial that the poem was not obscene, and Ferlinghetti was found not guilty.”
From Part I of “Howl”
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull,
who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their money in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall,
who got busted in their pubic beards returning through Laredo with a belt of marijuana for New York,
who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in Paradise Alley, death, or purgatoried their torsos night after night
with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and cock and endless balls,
incomparable blind streets of shuddering cloud and lightning in the mind leaping toward poles of Canada & Paterson, illuminating all the motionless world of Time between,
Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops, storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brooklyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind,
who chained themselves to subways for the endless ride from Battery to holy Bronx on benzedrine until the noise of wheels and children brought them down shuddering mouth-wracked and battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliance in the drear light of Zoo,
who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford’s floated out and sat through the stale beer afternoon in desolate Fugazzi’s, listening to the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox,
who talked continuously seventy hours from park to pad to bar to Bellevue to museum to the Brooklyn Bridge,
a lost battalion of platonic conversationalists jumping down the stoops off fire escapes off windowsills off Empire State out of the moon,
yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts and memories and anecdotes and eyeball kicks and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars,
whole intellects disgorged in total recall for seven days and nights with brilliant eyes, meat for the Synagogue cast on the pavement,
who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a trail of ambiguous picture postcards of Atlantic City Hall . . .
Fancies in Springtime: Jane Mendelsohn
“The spring came suddenly; the rains stopped, the days grew noticeably longer, and the afternoon light felt powdery, as if it might blow away.”
In the words of one writer, “Chris Ofili was born in 1968 in Manchester, England and studied at London’s Chelsea School of Art from 1988 to 1991. He completed a Masters degree in painting at the Royal College of Art in 1993. Ofili’s paintings refer to aspects of his Nigerian background and tackle themes of love, gender, religion, death and race. In recent works he blends spirituality, music, and folk art into his diverse subject matter.”
Artist Statement: “In the process of making art the mind wanders and gives way to instinct, which feeds off areas the intellect doesn’t. The process is one of distillation to the point where it’s just essence, just itself.”
Fancies in Springtime: Jacqueline Carey
A Fifth Poem for Today
“Behind the Plow”
By Leo Dangel
I look in the turned sod
for an iron bolt that fell
from the plow frame
and find instead an arrowhead
with delicate, chipped edges,
still sharp, not much larger
than a woman’s long fingernail.
Pleased, I put the arrowhead
into my overalls pocket,
knowing that the man who shot
the arrow and lost his work
must have looked for it
much longer than I will
look for that bolt.
American Art – Part IV of V: David Jon Kassan
“Love is a cliff,
A clear, cold curve of stone, mottled by stars,
Smirched by the morning, carved by the dark sea
Till stars and dawn and waves can slash no more,
Till the rock’s heart is found and shaped again.” – James Wright, one of my favorite American poets, who died 25 March 1980.
“Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota”
Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.
Fancies in Springtime: Neil deGrasse Tyson
A Sixth Poem for Today
By Don Thompson
I used to think the land
had something to say to us,
back when wildflowers
would come right up to your hand
as if they were tame.
Sooner or later, I thought,
the wind would begin to make sense
if I listened hard
and took notes religiously.
That was spring.
Now I’m not so sure:
the cloudless sky has a flat affect
and the fields plowed down after harvest
seem so expressionless,
keeping their own counsel.
Fancies in Springtime: Vita Sackville-West
“She walks in the loveliness she made,
Between the apple-blossom and the water–
She walks among the patterned pied brocade,
Each flower her son, and every tree her daughter.”
Back from the Territory – Art: The work of artist Sydney Mortimer Laurence
In the words of one writer, “Sydney Mortimer Laurence (1865-1940) was the foremost painter of the Alaskan landscape and his work is so well known to Alaskans as to make him a legend in the forty-ninth state.
At the same time, his paintings of a romantic, unspoiled northern frontier – Mt. McKinley, trapper’s cabins and caches, quiet pools, rocky coasts, and totem poles – are little known beyond Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. Even in Alaska, where his work is known to virtually every resident, the artist’s life and early career have long been shrouded in mystery, and his work has never been placed in the larger context of the art of his time.”
Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.
Below – “Mount McKinley”; “The Silent Pool”; “Mount McKinley from the Tokositna River”; “Mount McKinley Rapids of the Tokacheetna”; “Mount McKinley at Midnight in June”; “Northern Lights”; “Northern Lights.”
Fancies in Springtime: Henry David Thoreau
“He who hears the rippling of rivers in these degenerate days will not utterly despair.”
American Art – Part V of V: Janis Provisor
Artist Statement: “I’ve been something of vagabond in my adult life, and this has affected how I think and what I do/make in my art. Living in China and being a witness to a culture moving and changing so quickly has led me to incorporate cultural events, along with personal ones, into my work, with abstraction as the device.”