American Art – Part I of IV: Rusty Wolfe
In the words of one writer, “Growing up in Lexington, Massachusetts Wolfe had little exposure to the prominent artists that shaped modern art as we know it today. His art practice was largely intuitive, inspired by natural elements such as science and the environment as well as man- made structures. The architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright was among his early interests. Wright was interested in building structures that complemented their natural environments, creating a harmony between nature and the man-made world. Wolfe was particularly intrigued with Wright’s cantilever elements whereby structures appeared with no visible means of support.”
American Heroes – Part I of III: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who died 4 April 1968.
A Poem for Today
By Jane Kenyon
Searching for pillowcases trimmed
with lace that my mother-in-law
once made, I open the chest of drawers
upstairs to find that mice
have chewed the blue and white linen
dishtowels to make their nest,
and bedded themselves
among embroidered dresser scarves
and fingertip towels.
Tufts of fibers, droppings like black
caraway seeds, and the stains of birth
and afterbirth give off the strong
unforgettable attar of mouse
that permeates an old farmhouse
on humid summer days.
A couple of hickory nuts
roll around as I lift out
the linens, while a hail of black
falls on the pillowcases,
yellow with age, but intact.
I’ll bleach them and hang them in the sun
to dry. There’s almost no one left
who knows how to crochet lace….
The bright-eyed squatters are not here.
They’ve scuttled out to the fields
for summer, as they scuttled in
for winter—along the wall, from chair
to skirted chair, making themselves
flat and scarce while the cat
dozed with her paws in the air,
and we read the mail
or evening paper, unaware.
“I have learned to live each day as it comes, and not to borrow trouble by dreading tomorrow. It is the dark menace of the future that makes cowards of us.” – Dorothea Dix, American social activist on behalf of the indigent insane, creator of the first generation of American mental asylums, and Superintendent of Army Nurses during the Civil War, who was born 4 April 1802.
Dorothea Dix convinced both houses of the U.S. Congress to pass the Bill for the Benefit of the Indigent Insane, legislation to set aside 12,225,000 acres of Federal land for the benefit of the insane, as well as the deaf, dumb, and blind, but in 1854 President Franklin Pierce vetoed it, arguing that the federal government should not commit itself to social welfare, which was properly the responsibility of the states.
A Second Poem for Today
By Thomas Reiter
We wear harnesses like crossing guards.
In a pouch over the heart,
over stent and bypass, a black
box with leads pressed onto metal
nipples. We pedal and tread and row
while our signals are picked up
by antennas on the ceiling, X’s
like the eyes cartoonists give the dead.
Angels of telemetry with vials of nitro
watch over us. We beam to their monitors
now a barn dance, now a moonwalk.
They cuff us and pump and we keep on
so tomorrow will live off today. Nurse,
we won’t forget the animated
video of our cholesterol highway
where LDL, black-hatted scowling
donut holes on wheels, blocked traffic.
But with muscles like gutta-percha,
can we leave time’s gurney in the dust?
By now only the dead know more about
gravity than we do. In reply, a tape
of Little Richard or Jerry Lee comes on
and we’re singing, aloud or not, all
pale infarcted pedalers, rowers, treadmillers,
and our hearts are rising in the east.
“The golf links lie so near the mill
that almost every day
the laboring children can look out
and watch the men at play.” – “The Golf Links,” by Sarah Norcliffe Cleghorn, American poet, Christian socialist, and author of “Portraits and Protests,” who died 4 April 1959.
Fancies in Springtime: Derrick Jensen
“Surely by now there can be few here who still believe the purpose of government is to protect us from the destructive activities of corporations. At last most of us must understand that the opposite is true: that the primary purpose of government is to protect those who run the economy from the outrage of injured citizens.”
A Third Poem for Today
“Fishing, His Birthday”
By Michael Sowder
With adams, caddis, tricos, light cahills,
blue-wing olives, royal coachmen, chartreuse trudes,
green drakes, blue duns, black gnats, Nancy quills,
Joe’s hoppers, yellow humpies, purple chutes,
prince nymphs, pheasant tails, Eileen’s hare’s ears,
telicos, flashbacks, Jennifer’s muddlers,
Frank bugs, sow bugs, zug bugs, autumn splendors,
woolly worms, black buggers, Kay’s gold zuddlers,
clippers, tippet, floatant, spools of leader,
tin shot, lead shot, hemostats, needle nose,
rod, reel, vest, net, boots, cap, shades and waders,
gortex shell and one bent Macanudo—
I wade in a swirl of May-colored water,
cast a fine gray quill, the last tie of my father.
From the Music Archives – Part I of III: Muddy Waters
“I was always singing the way I felt, and maybe I didn’t exactly know it, but I just didn’t like the way things were down there – in Mississippi.” – Muddy Waters, American blues singer and guitarist, who was born 4 April 1913.
Fancies in Springtime: Mehmet Murat Ildan
Here is one writer describing the artistry of Russian painter Ilya Zomb: “Occupying the shadowy space ‘between the possible and impossible, the real and unreal,’ Zomb’s works are reminiscent of such diverse masters as Botticelli, Degas, and Magritte—but perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of this Russian artist’s work is that, despite myriad tempting comparisons, it remains curiously unique.
Zomb’s images can be incredibly theatrical, recalling the dream sequences often found in productions of dance, or the nature-defying feats of circus performers. At other times the scenes have a mythical, literary feel, and we can easily imagine them as sumptuous illustrations for a lost book of parables penned by the likes of Scheherazade. An intensely perceptive artist, Zomb never fails to account for the contradictory emotions provoked by the uncertainty of reality. Like all great spinners of tales, Zomb is a superb sorcerer. He continually manipulates our most basic expectations by altering proportion, hinting at hidden allegory, and manifesting, through careful realism, scenes that barely perch on the possible.
Entreating viewers to ‘look at my paintings as you would travel to some exotic country and stare in amazement at the strange new world,’ Zomb deftly conjures a vision where man-sized fruit is perpetually ripe; where beasts and storms, purged of their minatory natures, are harbingers of peace and beauty. His dreamy, enchanting work allows for the kind of utopic harmony that is all but nonexistent in the realm of the brutally real. And his stirring messages, while rooted in an exploration of the ancient human longing to control circumstance and environment, bear relevance to the most contemporary of concerns.”
“Temptations come, as a general rule, when they are sought.” – Margaret Oliphant Wilson Oliphant, Scottish novelist and historical writer, who was born 4 April 1828.
Some quotes from the work of Margaret Oliphant:
“To have a man who can flirt is next thing to indispensable to a leader of society.”
“Oh, never mind the fashion. When one has a style of one’s own, it is always twenty times better.”
“For everybody knows that it requires very little to satisfy the gentlemen, if a woman will only give her mind to it.”
“It has been my fate in a long life of production to be credited chiefly with the equivocal virtue of industry, a quality so excellent in morals, so little satisfactory in art.”
“What happiness is there which is not purchased with more or less of pain?”
Fancies in Springtime: William Kean Seymour
A Fourth Poem for Today
By Ned Balbo
Once, boarding the train to New York City,
The aisle crowded and all seats filled, I glimpsed
An open space—more pushing, stuck in place—
And then saw why: a man, face peeled away,
Sewn back in haste, skin grafts that smeared like wax
Spattered and frozen, one eye flesh-filled, smooth,
One cold eye toward the window. Cramped, shoved hard,
I, too, passed up the seat, the place, and fought on
Through to the next car, and the next, but now
I wonder why the fire that could have killed him
Spared him, burns scarred over; if a life
Is what he calls this space through which he moves,
Dark space we dared not enter, and what fire
Burns in him when he sees us move away.
Fancies in Springtime: Guy Debord
From the Music Archives – Part II of III: Olga Lowina
To quote Monty Python – “And Now for Something Completely Different”:
Died 4 April 1994 – Olga Lowina, a Dutch singer who devoted most of her career to perfecting the art of yodeling. Ms Lowina was doubtless first inspired to yodel while wandering among the towering peaks and alpine meadows of Holland.
Here is the Artist Statement of Argentinean painter Sebastian Chillemi (born 1968): “Oil paint and graphite on hand-cut wood are my primary mediums, and I also occasionally work with colored pencils.”
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou, American writer, poet, and author of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” who was born 4 April 1928.
“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”
The free bird leaps
on the back of the win
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.
But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.
The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and is tune is heard
on the distant hill for the caged bird
sings of freedom
The free bird thinks of another breeze
an the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.
But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing
Here is the Artist Statement of Latvian painter Dace Liela (born 1957): “I can’t stop admiring nature. It has always been so truthful and fascinating. The light, feelings, sensations and human beings in this vibrating or sometimes calm world are the content of my paintings.”
Fancies in Springtime: Bill McKibben
“I think people who don’t know the woods very well sometimes imagine it as a kind of undifferentiated mass of greenery, an endless continuation of the wall of trees they see lining the road. And I think they wonder how it could hold anyone’s interest for very long, being all so much the same. But in truth I have a list of a hundred places in my own town I haven’t been yet. Quaking bogs to walk on; ponds I’ve never seen in the fall (I’ve seen them in the summer – but that’s a different pond). That list gets longer every year, the more I learn, and doubtless it will grow until the day I die. So many glades; so little time.”
“In the first six to twelve months of a war with the United States and Great Britain I will run wild and win victory upon victory.
But then, if the war continues after that, I have no expectation of success.” – Yamamoto Isoroku, Commander-In-Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet during World War II and the architect of the attack on Pearl Harbor, who was born on 4 April 1884, correctly foreseeing how events would unfold in the Pacific Theater.
After learning that the United States had not received Japan’s declaration of war until after the attack on Pearl Harbor had commenced, Admiral Yamamoto told his naval staff, again prophetically, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
Fancies in Springtime: Allison Pearson
A Fifth Poem for Today
By Jan Mordenski
Even after darkness closed her eyes
my mother could crochet.
Her hands would walk the rows of wool
turning, bending, to a woolen music.
The dye lots were registered in memory:
appleskin, chocolate, porcelain pan,
the stitches remembered like faded rhymes:
pineapple, sunflower, window pane, shell.
Fancies in Springtime: Jim Harrison
“His own life suddenly seemed repellently formal. Whom did he know or what did he know and whom did he love? Sitting on the stump under the burden of his father’s death and even the mortality inherent in the dying, wildly colored canopy of leaves, he somehow understood that life was only what one did every day…. Nothing was like anything else, including himself, and everything was changing all of the time. He knew he couldn’t perceive the change because he was changing too, along with everything else.”
“A line is a fuse
The line smolders,
the rhyme explodes—
and by a stanza
is blown to bits.” – Vladimir Mayakovsky, Russian poet, playwright, artist, and actor, who was born 4 April 1930.
“Past One O’Clock”
Past one o’clock.
You must have gone to bed.
The Milky Way streams silver through the night.
I’m in no hurry; with lightning telegrams
I have no cause to wake or trouble you.
And, as they say, the incident is closed.
Love’s boat has smashed against the daily grind.
Now you and I are quits. Why bother then
to balance mutual sorrows, pains, and hurts.
Behold what quiet settles on the world.
Night wraps the sky in tribute from the stars.
In hours like these, one rises to address
The ages, history, and all creation.
Fancies in Springtime: Amy Stewart
American Art – Part II of IV: Zofia Bogusz
Here is the Artist Statement of Polish-born artist Zofia Bogusz: “My paintings explore various constructs of identity through the depiction of individual histories, memories, and experiences. As a woman, I strive to render the remarkable balance of effortless beauty and vibrant strength that exists within the female form. I place individuals, generally women, against bold and dramatic landscapes, in which natural elements such as water and sunlight color the dynamic between the individual and the external world. Pop culture imagery also plays a crucial role in my work, creating a grounded sense of the everyday amidst often unusual milieus.
In all my work, a sense of fearless curiosity prevails, seeking to unlock new perspectives and ways of seeing the world.”
Zofia Bogusz lives and works in New York City.
Fancies in Springtime: Henry David Thoreau
“If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.”
“Television news is like a lightning flash. It makes a loud noise, lights up everything around it, leaves everything else in darkness and then is suddenly gone.” – Hodding Carter, II, American journalist and author, who died 4 April 1972.
Another quote from the work of Hodding Carter, II:
“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.”
From the Music Archives – Part III of III: Steve Miller
4 April 1975 – Police arrest guitarist and singer-songwriter Steve Miller for burning his girlfriend’s clothes. Since when is it a crime in America to burn your girlfriend’s – or your boyfriend’s – clothes? Fascists!
Fancies in Springtime: Nick Trout
“There are many reasons why so many of us choose to share our lives with a pet–it’s the perfect antidote for loneliness, providing an endless supply of smiles and the certainty of unwavering companionship, and many of us have seen the way a pet can make a family feel whole.”
From the American Old West: Richard Brewer
Died 4 April 1878 – Richard Brewer, American cowboy, gunslinger, and lawman. Brewer was the founder and leader of the Regulators, a deputized posse that fought in the Lincoln County War in the New Mexico Territory and that included in its membership Billy the Kid and notorious outlaw Jose Chavez y Chavez.
American Art – Part III of IV: Daniel E. Greene
Here is one critic describing the artistic accomplishments of painter Daniel E. Greene: “Daniel E. Greene is a former instructor of painting at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League of New York. He is the author of’ ‘Pastel’ that was in print for 25 years and ‘The Art of Pastel,’ which were published in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Chinese. In 1969, Mr. Greene was elected to the National Academy of Design. The Encyclopedia Britannica considers Mr. Greene the foremost pastelist in the United States and in 1983, the Pastel Society of America elected him to the Pastel Hall of Fame. In 2003, the Pastel Society of the West Coast named Mr. Greene a Pastel Laureate.”
Fancies in Springtime: D.H. Lawrence
A Sixth Poem for Today
“The Blessing of the Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog”
By Alicia Suskin Ostriker
To be blessed
said the old woman
is to live and work
washes right through you
like milk through a cow
To be blessed
said the dark red tulip
is to knock their eyes out
with the slug of lust
your up-ended skirt
Fancies in Springtime: Steven Pinker
“Many textbooks point out that no animal has evolved wheels and cite the fact as an example of how evolution is often incapable of finding the optimal solution to an engineering problem. But it is not a good example at all. Even if nature could have evolved a moose on wheels, it surely would have opted not to. Wheels are good only in a world with roads and rails. They bog down in any terrain that is soft, slippery, steep, or uneven. Legs are better. Wheels have to roll along an unbroken supporting ridge, but legs can be placed on a series of separate footholds, an extreme example being a ladder. Legs can also be placed to minimize lurching and to step over obstacles. Even today, when it seems as if the world has become a parking lot, only about half of the earth’s land is accessible to vehicles with wheels or tracks, but most of the earth’s land is accessible to vehicles with feet: animals, the vehicles designed by natural selection.”
From the Movie Archives: Robby Muller
Born 4 April 1940 – Robby Muller, a Dutch cinematographer.
Robby Muller has helped to craft many excellent movies, including “Repo Man” (1984 – starring Harry Dean Stanton and Emilio Estevez and directed by Alex Cross), “Paris, Texas” (1984 – starring Harry Dean Stanton and directed by Wim Wenders), “To Live and Die in L.A.” (1985 – starring William Petersen and Willem Dafoe and directed by William Friedkin), “Dead Man” (1995 – starring Johnny Depp and Gary Farmer and directed by Jim Jarmusch), and “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai” (starring Forest Whitaker and directed by Jim Jarmusch).
Fancies in Springtime: Pablo Neruda
From the American History Archives: Golden Gate Park
4 April 1870 – In accordance with City Order #800, San Francisco establishes Golden Gate Park.
Below – Some of the features of Golden Gate Park: San Francisco Botanical Garden; Japanese Tea Garden; de Young Museum; California Academy of Sciences; Conservatory of Flowers; Stow Lake; Bison Paddock; Disc Golf Course.
A Seventh Poem for Today
“The One Certain Thing”
By Peter Cooley
A day will come I’ll watch you reading this.
I’ll look up from these words I’m writing now—
this line I’m standing on, I’ll be right here,
alive again. I’ll breathe on you this breath.
Touch this word now, that one. Warm, isn’t it?
You are the person come to clean my room;
you are whichever of my three children
opens the drawer here where this poem will go
in a few minutes when I’ve had my say.
These are the words from immortality.
No one stands between us now except Death:
I enter it entirely writing this.
I have to tell you I am not alone.
Watching you read, Eternity’s with me.
We like to watch you read. Read us again.
Back from the Territory – Art: The work of Alaska artist Brenda Schwartz-Yeager
In the words of one writer, “Brenda’s Artwork is created on site. She can often be seen pulled up in a cove sketching a scene or in the center of a fishing opening catching the action as it unfolds. ‘I never know what awaits me when I head out of the harbor. I anticipate capturing a one of a kind scene, a moment in time that might never come again. And this incredible land never disappoints me.’”
Fancies in Springtime: Robert Graves
“But give thanks, at least, that you still have Frost’s poems; and when you feel the need of solitude, retreat to the companionship of moon, water, hills and trees. Retreat, he reminds us, should not be confused with escape. And take these poems along for good luck!”
An Eighth Poem for Today
By Donal Heffeman
Your village sleeps near the Missouri River
With your cousin Winnebago, both children of Lakotaland.
You kept your town at two stories, as flat as the surrounding prairie.
You taught the Iliad and Odyssey in honor of your namesake poet.
Your spirit outlasted the bleached fields of the Depression, and
Bravely swam against the raging Omaha Creek floods.
On warm, wet spring Saturday nights,
You provided dark places for your young
To launch your next generation
In pickups, unlighted.
Fancies in Springtime: Max DePree
American Art – Part IV of IV: Nicholas Wilton
In the words of one writer, “Nicholas Wilton lives and works in Northern California. He attended the College of Creative Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and graduated from Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, California. Rich in color, texture and symbols, Wilton’s work references a personal vocabulary of botanical forms, patterns and abstract designs.
Observing, photographing and sketching in wilderness areas of Northern California provide him with the studies that initiate and inform his work. Arranging and composing renderings from life into abstract compositions and groupings provides the underlying structure of his paintings. In them, natural forms are shown juxtaposed with abstract and spontaneous marks and shapes. His process combines intuitive painting with fundamental principles of color harmony, juxtaposition of form and excavated texture. The resulting work, often called “contemporary organic” addresses the spiritual potency of Nature, and celebrates the fragile balance between the natural and developed world in which we live.”