American Art – Part I of VII: Cynthia Bjorn
Artist Statement: “I want to be able to communicate on an emotional level and painting is my vehicle to do this. I feel that I am able to express through color and mark integrity.
I love the way paint goes on the canvas. I enjoy playing with the texture of the paint, the transparency and the energy of the brush strokes.
I am inspired by pivotal moments in time that are life changing. I feel that there is so much energy and awareness in times where fear gives way to faith…or despair is conquered by hope.
Painters such as Franz Kline, Gerhard Richter and Cy Twombly, as well as other artists who self-express through color, tone and texture have influenced me. I am also drawn to the composition and simplicity of Asian landscapes and nature studies.”
From the Music Archives – Part I of V: Ma Rainey
“You don’t sing to feel better. You sing ’cause that’s a way of understanding life.” – Ma Rainey (born Gertrude Pridgett), one of the earliest known American professional blues singers, who was born 26 April 1886.
Ma Rainey was billed as “The Mother of the Blues.”
American Art – Part II of VII: Gaela Erwin
Artist Statement: “Self-portraits are a recurrent theme in my work. This motif allows me the luxury of working from life without the worry of mounting model bills and the ease of working whenever and however long I feel without scheduling conflicts. After all, I am always available to model. Self-portraits also afford the possibilities not only of mirroring my own physical characteristics and psychology but, if the painting is truly successful, also a glimpse of the interior landscape of the viewer’s own psyche.”
A Poem for Today
“Old Woman With Protea Flowers, Kahalui Airport”
By Kathleen Flenniken
She wears the run-down slippers of a local
and in her arms, five rare protea
wrapped in newsprint, big as digger pine cones.
Our hands can’t help it and she lets us touch.
Her brother grows them for her, upcountry.
She’s spending the day on Oahu
with her flowers and her dogs. Protea
for four dogs’ graves, two for her favorite.
She’ll sit with him into the afternoon
and watch the ocean from Koolau.
An old woman’s paradise, she tells us,
and pets the flowers’ soft, pink ears.
Fancies in Springtime: Charles Finch
From the Music Archives – Part II of V: Count Basie
“I decided that I would be one of the biggest new names; and I actually had some little fancy business cards printed up to announce it, ‘Count Basie. Beware, the Count is Here.'” – William James “Count” Basie, American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer, who died 26 April 1984.
American Art – Part III of VII: John James Audubon
“A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.” –
John James Audubon, French-American ornithologist, naturalist, painter, and author of “The Birds of America” (1827-1839), who was born 26 April 1785.
From the Music Archives – Part III of V: Bobby Rydell
Born 26 April 1942 – Bobby Rydell, an American singer and, in the early 1960s, a teen idol.
Fancies in Springtime: Josh Stern
American Art – Part IV of VII: Frederick Law Olmsted
“The possession of arbitrary power has always, the world over, tended irresistibly to destroy humane sensibility, magnanimity, and truth.” – Frederick Law Olmsted, journalist, social critic, public administrator, one of the fathers of American landscape architecture, and, with his partner Calvert Vaux, the designer of New York City’s Central Park, who was born 26 April 1822.
A Second Poem for Today
“Climbing along the River,”
By William Stafford
Willows never forget how it feels
to be young.
Do you remember where you came from?
Even the upper end of the river
believes in the ocean.
Exactly at midnight
yesterday sighs away.
What I believe is,
all animals have one soul.
British Art – Part I of II: Charles Hazelwood Shannon
Born 26 April 1863 – Charles Hazelwood Shannon, an English artist.
From the Music Archives – Part IV of V: Gary Wright
Born 26 April 1943 – Gary Wright, an American singer, songwriter, and musician who is credited with helping establish the synthesizer as an instrument in popular music.
British Art – Part II of II: Raymond Leech
Here is one critic describing the background of British painter Raymond Leech (born 1949): “While he took a course in fine art and graphics at a local college of art, Raymond Leech considers himself mainly to be a self-taught artist. Originally he made his living in graphic design, but demand for his original art, prints and posters grew so great that he eventually made the decision to take up painting full time. He works in watercolour, oil and pastel, and his motivation as an artist is best illustrated by his affection for the figure-work of the Cornish Newlyn School of artists, which at the turn of the twentieth century included Stanhope Forbes and Dame Laura Knight. He admires their work because it provided ‘a breath of fresh air’ and Raymond Leech believes that a successful painting is not just a picture, but one that captures the air around the subject and the atmosphere as well.”
A Third Poem for Today
By David Baker
A short ride in the van, then the eight of us
there in the heat—white shirtsleeves sticking,
the women’s gloves off—fanning our faces.
The workers had set up a big blue tent
to help us at graveside tolerate the sun,
which was brutal all afternoon as if
stationed above us, though it moved limb
to limb through two huge, covering elms.
The long processional of neighbors, friends,
the town’s elderly, her beauty-shop patrons,
her club’s notables. . . The world is full of
prayers arrived at from afterwards, he said.
From the Music Archives – Part V of V: Roger Taylor
Born 26 April 1960 – Roger Taylor, an English musician best known as the drummer for the band Duran Duran.
“Nature is a dictionary; one draws words from it.” – Eugene Delacroix, a French Romantic painter, who was born 26 April 1798.
Below – “Massacre at Chios”; “Liberty Leading the People”; “The Barque of Dante”; “The Natchez”; “A Jewish Wedding in Morocco”; “Hamlet with Horatio”; “The Last Words of Emperor Marcus Aurelius”; “Portrait of George Sand”; “Self-Portrait.”
Fancies in Springtime: J.B. Priestley
“The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?”
26 April 1937 – The German Luftwaffe destroys Guernica, a Basque town in Spain. In the words of one historian, “The bombing is considered one of the first raids on a defenseless civilian population by a modern air force.”
Waxing Philosophical – Part I of III: Marcus Aurelius
“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” – Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor, philosophical stoic, and author of “Meditations,” who was born 26 April 121.
Some quotes from Marcus Aurelius:
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
“The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.”
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”
“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.”
“The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.”
“Confine yourself to the present.”
“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”
“A noble man compares and estimates himself by an idea which is higher than himself; and a mean man, by one lower than himself. The one produces aspiration; the other ambition, which is the way in which a vulgar man aspires.”
“The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing.”
“I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinions of himself than on the opinions of others.”
“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”
“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”
“How much time he saves who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks.”
“Adapt yourself to the things among which your lot has been cast and love sincerely the fellow creatures with whom destiny has ordained that you shall live.”
“Do every act of your life as if it were your last.”
“Because your own strength is unequal to the task, do not assume that it is beyond the powers of man; but if anything is within the powers and province of man, believe that it is within your own compass also.”
“How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.”
“Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.”
“He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.”
“Poverty is the mother of crime.”
“If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.”
“We ought to do good to others as simply as a horse runs, or a bee makes honey, or a vine bears grapes season after season without thinking of the grapes it has borne.”
“Death is a release from the impressions of the senses, and from desires that make us their puppets, and from the vagaries of the mind, and from the hard service of the flesh.”
“Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future, too.”
“Let men see, let them know, a real man, who lives as he was meant to live.”
“Nothing has such power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically and truly all that comes under thy observation in life.”
“A man should be upright, not be kept upright.”
“Such as are your habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of your mind; for the soul is dyed by the thoughts.”
“Life is neither good nor evil, but only a place for good and evil.”
“Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul.”
“Forward, as occasion offers. Never look round to see whether any shall note it.” “Be satisfied with success in even the smallest matter, and think that even such a result is no trifle.”
“We are too much accustomed to attribute to a single cause that which is the product of several, and the majority of our controversies come from that.”
“Each day provides its own gifts.”
“The only wealth which you will keep forever is the wealth you have given away.”
“To understand the true quality of people, you must look into their minds, and examine their pursuits and aversions.”
“Men exist for the sake of one another.”
“Begin – to begin is half the work, let half still remain; again begin this, and thou wilt have finished.”
“To refrain from imitation is the best revenge.”
“Everything that exists is in a manner the seed of that which will be.”
“The universal order and the personal order are nothing but different expressions and manifestations of a common underlying principle.”
Fancies in Springtime: Neil deGrasse Tyson
“I would request that my body in death be buried not cremated, so that the energy content contained within it gets returned to the earth, so that flora and fauna can dine upon it, just as I have dined upon flora and fauna during my lifetime”
“A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.” – David Hume, Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist known for his empiricism and skepticism, who was born 26 April 1711 (Old System).
Some quotes from the work of David Hume:
“Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous.”
“He is happy whose circumstances suit his temper, but he is more excellent who can suit his temper to his circumstance.”
“When men are most sure and arrogant they are commonly most mistaken, giving views to passion without that proper deliberation which alone can secure them from the grossest absurdities.”
“Epicurus’s old questions are still unanswered: Is he (God) willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence evil?”
“The life of man is of no greater importance to the universe than that of an oyster.”
“Liberty of any kind is never lost all at once.”
“Beauty in things exists in the mind which contemplates them”
“It is an absurdity to believe that the Deity has human passions, and one of the lowest of human passions, a restless appetite for applause”
“The life of man is of no greater importance to the universe than that of an oyster.”
“When anyone tells me that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself whether it be more probable that this person should either deceive or be deceived or that the fact which he relates should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other and according to the superiority which I discover, I pronounce my decision. Always I reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous than the event which he relates, then and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion.”
Fancies in Springtime: Barry Lopez
“I took several long walks in the Wright and adjacent Taylor Valleys. I did not feel insignificant on these journeys, dwarfed or shrugged off by the land, but superfluous. It is a difficult landscape to enter, and to develop a rapport with. It is not inimical or hostile, but indifferent, utterly remote, even as you stand in it. The light itself is aloof.”
“If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein, Austrian-English philosopher, who was born 26 April 1889.
Some quotes from the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein:
“Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving oneself.”
“A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes.”
“If people did not sometimes do silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done.”
“The real question of life after death isn’t whether or not it exists, but even if it does what problem this really solves.”
“Don’t for heaven’s sake, be afraid of talking nonsense! But you must pay attention to your nonsense.”
“The limits of my language are the limits of my mind. All I know is what I have words for.”
“A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that’s unlocked and opens inwards; as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push.”
“The problems are solved, not by giving new information, but by arranging what we have known since long.”
“Never stay up on the barren heights of cleverness, but come down into the green valleys of silliness.”
“If you and I are to live religious lives, it mustn’t be that we talk a lot about religion, but that our manner of life is different. It is my belief that only if you try to be helpful to other people will you in the end find your way to God.”
“How small a thought it takes to fill a life.”
“Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.”
“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”
Fancies in Springtime: Carl Sagan
“The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there’s little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.”
A Fourth Poem for Today
“The Garden Buddha”
By Peter Pereira
Gift of a friend, the stone Buddha sits zazen,
prayer beads clutched in his chubby fingers.
Through snow, icy rain, the riot of spring flowers,
he gazes forward to the city in the distance—always
the same bountiful smile upon his portly face.
Why don’t I share his one-minded happiness?
The pear blossom, the crimson-petaled magnolia,
filling me instead with a mixture of nostalgia
and yearning. He’s laughing at me, isn’t he?
The seasons wheeling despite my photographs
and notes, my desire to make them pause.
Is that the lesson? That stasis, this holding on,
American Art – Part V of VII: Piotr Antonow
Here is one critic describing the artistry of Polish-born painter Piotr Antonow (born 1965): “Known for his nudes but also creates portraits, still lifes and landscapes. After starting with more or less traditional drawing; I’m chasing after the abstract compositional elements that result. I’m very interested in human eye’s various ways of perception of the depth; and the ways of representing it in the three-dimensional medium.”
Antonow lives and works in Chicago.
“It ain’t so much the things we don’t know that get us in trouble. It’s the things we know that ain’t so.” – Charles Farrar Browne, better known by his pen name, Artemus Ward, American humorist, who was born 26 April 1834.
Artemus Ward was one of Mark Twain’s good friends, and he was President Abraham Lincoln’s favorite author.
Some quotes from the work of Artemus Ward:
“Let us all be happy and live within our means, Even if we have to borrow money to do it with.”
“I am not a politician, and my other habits are good, also.”
“The Puritans nobly fled from a land of despotism to a land of freedom, where they could not only enjoy their own religion, but could prevent everybody else from enjoying his.”
“I am happiest when I am idle. I could live for months without performing any kind of labor, and at the expiration of that time I should feel fresh and vigorous enough to go right on in the same way for numerous more months.”
Here is one critic describing the artistry of Italian symbolist painter Renzo Verdone (born 1939): “The dramatic violence of his figures told the desperation and anger of a generation. Those eyes lost, tired and empty. And those hands, those awful gnarled hands that are an essential part in his paintings. His painting, digging in the soul reveals that unconsciously we hid the infinite thirst for light.”
A Fifth Poem for Today
“A Ritual to Read to Each Other”
By William Stafford
If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.
And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.
And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider–
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.
Fancies in Springtime: Amruta Patil
“On my bedside table is a snow globe with a winterscape inside.
Church, park bench, girl standing shin-deep in snow. Tip the snow globe over and a blizzard of slow snow falls over church and bench and girl. What is it about snow globes that makes them fascinating and terrifying at once?
My heart lurches at the thought of the snow-globe girl waiting endlessly, with only the hope of a new snow blizzard to settle on her mantle when the next person tips her snow-globe world over. Not a gust of breeze may ruffle her skirt, not a bird may perch atop the steeple. The only way out of a snow globe is by shattering the glass dome that is its sky.”
Here is one writer describing the artistry of Indian painter Basudeb Pal Majumder (born 1970): “Basudeb, as a part of his work and also for his wildlife photography,
spends a lot of time in remote places, tribal villages & forests just to get in touch with another world. He has always been inspired by the sensuous beauty of life & living entities which provoke the visual philosophy of his canvases with images that are juxtaposed to the web of enigma illustrated by fragments of memory, visual humors & impressions of subconscious mind. In his words, ‘Living in a busy metro city, I always play a game of hiding in the inexplicable; find myself in the unknown, lost in canvas.’”
A Sixth Poem for Today
By Anne Pierson Wiese
Down at the end of Baxter Street, where Five Points
slum used to be, just north of Tombs, is a pocket park.
On these summer days the green plane trees’ leaves
linger heavy as a noon mist above
the men playing mah jongg—more Chinese
in the air than English. The city’s composed
of village greens; we rely on the Thai
place on the corner: Tom Kha for a cold,
jasmine tea for fever, squid for love, Duck Yum
for loneliness. Outside, the grove of heat,
narrow streets where people wrestle rash and unseen
angels; inside, the coolness of a glen and the wait staff
in their pale blue collars offering ice water.
Whatever you’ve done or undone, there’s a dish for you
to take out or eat in: spice for courage, sweet for chagrin.
American Art – Part VI of VII: Andrew Ek
Artist Statement: “I am a painter completely devoted to my work. I am primarily a self-taught artist and began drawing early on. In the beginning, dinosaurs and anthropomorphic creatures were my favorite subjects. In my teens, I became interested in special effects, frequently making Super-8 horror films, which eventually led to my enrollment in the Industrial Design Technology program at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. At school, I was introduced to a myriad of artistic disciplines and ultimately became obsessed with developing and nurturing my fascination with realistic figurative oil painting. Utilizing my immediate surroundings and friends as fodder for imagery, while incorporating strong emotional undercurrents, my work has culminated into a nexus of finely wrought, phantasmagorical sequences. My aim is to envelop the viewer into an unfolding narrative in a vivid cinematic context, similar to a movie still.
I live with my wife in Chicago.”
A Seventh Poem for Today
“A Dandelion for My Mother”
By Jean Nordhaus
How I loved those spiky suns,
rooted stubborn as childhood
in the grass, tough as the farmer’s
big-headed children—the mats
of yellow hair, the bowl-cut fringe.
How sturdy they were and how
slowly they turned themselves
into galaxies, domes of ghost stars
barely visible by day, pale
cerebrums clinging to life
on tough green stems. Like you.
Like you, in the end. If you were here,
I’d pluck this trembling globe to show
how beautiful a thing can be
a breath will tear away.
Fancies in Springtime: Carl Sagan
“A book is made from a tree. It is an assemblage of flat, flexible parts (still called “leaves”) imprinted with dark pigmented squiggles. One glance at it and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time ― proof that humans can work magic.”
Back from the Territory – Art: Gail Niebrugge (Part I)
In the words of one writer, “Gail Niebrugge (Knee-brew-ghe) born and raised in California has pursued art since childhood, winning a poster contest on the Johnny Jet television show at the age of twelve. The Niebrugge family fell in love with Alaska while on vacation in 1976 and never returned home, instead they established a residence in the remote interior settlement of Copper Center. Since 1995 Palmer has been home to the Niebrugges.
Traveling by mail plane, ski plane, helicopter, boat, raft, ATV, canoe, truck and camper as well as hiking on foot, enables her to gain first-hand knowledge and understanding of Alaska’s wilderness, wildlife, landscape and history. Returning home to work in the studio her love of these subjects is translated into colorful paintings.”
Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.
Fancies in Springtime: Robert Pirsig
“To the untrained eye ego-climbing and selfless climbing may appear identical. Both kinds of climbers place one foot in front of the other. Both breathe in and out at the same rate. Both stop when tired. Both go forward when rested. But what a difference! The ego-climber is like an instrument that’s out of adjustment. He puts his foot down an instant too soon or too late. He’s likely to miss a beautiful passage of sunlight through the trees. He goes on when the sloppiness of his step shows he’s tired. He rests at odd times. He looks up the trail trying to see what’s ahead even when he knows what’s ahead because he just looked a second before. He goes too fast or too slow for the conditions and when he talks his talk is forever about somewhere else, something else. He’s here but he’s not here. He rejects the here, he’s unhappy with it, wants to be farther up the trail but when he gets there will be just as unhappy because then *it* will be ‘here.’ What he’s looking for, what he wants, is all around him, but he doesn’t want that because it *is* all around him. Every step’s an effort, both physically and spiritually, because he imagines his goal to be external and distant.”
An Eighth Poem for Today
“A Message from the Wanderer”
By William Stafford
Today outside your prison I stand
and rattle my walking stick: Prisoners, listen;
you have relatives outside. And there are
thousands of ways to escape.
Years ago I bent my skill to keep my
cell locked, had chains smuggled to me in pies,
and shouted my plans to jailers;
but always new plans occured to me,
or the new heavy locks bent hinges off,
or some stupid jailer would forget
and leave the keys.
Inside, I dreamed of constellations—
those feeding creatures outlined by stars,
their skeletons a darkness between jewels,
heroes that exist only where they are not.
Thus freedom always came nibbling my thought,
just as—often, in light, on the open hills—
you can pass an antelope and not know
and look back, and then—even before you see—
there is something wrong about the grass.
And then you see.
That’s the way everything in the world is waiting.
Now—these few more words, and then I’m
gone: Tell everyone just to remember
their names, and remind others, later, when we
find each other. Tell the little ones
to cry and then go to sleep, curled up
where they can. And if any of us get lost,
if any of us cannot come all the way—
remember: there will come a time when
all we have said and all we have hoped
will be all right.
American Art – Part VII of VII: Sarah Bereza
Artist Statement: “I am drawn to people who reveal a double personality- a mix on innocence and a darker side. I find painting subjects of this sort a challenge that reveals as much about my own psychology as it does that of my subjects – who happen to be my friends. As part of a generation of painters who came of age in New York City, my paintings explore the range of personas from innocence to subtly perverse that they employ in their daily lives. I see my work as part of an ongoing tradition of revealing psychological portraiture. Using styrofoam and epoxy, I make frames that replicate 18th century picture frame motifs in an effort to link my work to that tradition.”