Welcoming May with a Song: Led Zeppelin
“If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now
It’s just a spring clean for the May queen.”
Fancies in Springtime: Ray Bradbury
“Lilacs on a bush are better than orchids. And dandelions and devil grass are better! Why? Because they bend you over and turn you away from all the people and the town for a little while and sweat you and get you down where you remember you got a nose again. And when you’re all to yourself that way, you’re really yourself for a little while; you get to thinking things through, alone. Gardening is the handiest excuse for being a philosopher. Nobody guesses, nobody accuses, nobody knows, but there you are, Plato in the peonies, Socrates force-growing his own hemlock. A man toting a sack of blood manure across his lawn is kin to Atlas letting the world spin easy on his shoulder.”
American Art – Part I of III: James Leonard
Artist Statement: My paintings are the attempt to integrate my profound respect for individuality with the process of making art . I work with in an introspective, intuitive fashion and strive to bring a personal sensibility to the work.
The process in which I work relies on developing a dialogue with the work. This dialogue allows the work to unfold in a non-judgmental way. Imposing my will upon the work does not allow the work to tell me how and where it wants to go. Standing back and entering into a relationship with the work based on respect and trust, allows for this inner dialogue to take place. I work at not trying to determine a specific outcome or predetermined idea, but through dialogue allowing for the emergence of the individuality of each painting. This is the only way I can create art.
The personal aspect of the work are the many influences that affect the relationship with the work. The aspect of layers is one that surfaces time and time again. Layering creates both a sense of personal emotional, physical and spiritual history in the work. Each layer reflects its own statement, compounded by the subsequent layer that adds to the visual story. Together a collective passage of time and place emerge to represent a collective idea that can only emerge from the viewer.
Years ago I came across a statement that has become a keystone for the meditation of my work. It is by Mathama Gandhi who said: ‘All true art must help the soul to realize its inner self. True art must be evident of the happiness, contentment, and purity of its author.’”
Fancies in Springtime: Julene Bair
“I’d forgotten how enlivening it could feel, seeing clearly and far. Aridity frees light. It also unleashes grandeur. The earth here wasn’t cloaked in forest, nor draped in green. Green was pastoral, peaceful, mild. Desert beauty was ‘sublime’ in the way that the romantic poets had used the word- not peaceful dales but rugged mountain faces, not reassuring but daunting nature, the earth’s skin and haunches, its spines and angles arching prehistorically in sunlight.”
A Poem for Today
By Naomi Shihab Nye
My brother, in his small white bed,
held one end.
I tugged the other
to signal I was still awake.
We could have spoken,
could have sung
to one another,
we were in the same room
for five years,
but the soft cord
with its little frayed ends
in the dark,
even if we had been bickering
When he fell asleep first
and his end of the cord
dropped to the floor,
I missed him terribly,
though I could hear his even breath
and we had such long and separate lives
Fancies in Springtime: Carl Sagan
“I worry that, especially as the Millennium edges nearer, pseudoscience and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive. Where have we heard it before? Whenever our ethnic or national prejudices are aroused, in times of scarcity, during challenges to national self-esteem or nerve, when we agonize about our diminished cosmic place and purpose, or when fanaticism is bubbling up around us – then, habits of thought familiar from ages past reach for the controls.
The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.”
From the “Some Things Never Change Department”:
Fancies in Springtime: Robert M. Pirsig
“We see much more of this loneliness now. It’s paradoxical that that where people are the most closely crowded in the big coastal cities in the East and West, the loneliness is greatest. Back where people are so spread out in Western Oregon and Idaho and Montana and the Dakotas you’d think the loneliness would have been greater, but we didn’t see it so much. The explanation, I suppose, is that the physical distance between people has nothing to do with loneliness. It’s the psychic distance, and in Montana and Idaho the physical distances are long but the psychic distances between people are small, and here, in primary America, it’s reversed.”
“I don’t know where my songs come from . . . If I knew, I’d know too much, more than we are allowed on this plane.” -Judy Collins, American singer, songwriter, and social activist, who was born 1 May 1939.
Fancies in Springtime: Neil deGrasse Tyson
Pulitzer Prize – Part I of II: Gwendolyn Brooks
“Art hurts. Art urges voyages – and it is easier to stay at home.” – Gwendolyn Brooks, who became the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize (for Poetry, for “Annie Allen”) on 1 May 1950.
“The Bean Eaters”
They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair.
Dinner is a casual affair.
Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,
Two who are Mostly Good.
Two who have lived their day,
But keep on putting on their clothes
And putting things away.
And remembering . . .
Remembering, with twinklings and twinges,
As they lean over the beans in their rented back room that
is full of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths,
tobacco crumbs, vases and fringes.
Fancies in Springtime: Barry Lopez
“How do people imagine the landscapes they find themselves in? How does the land shape the imaginations of the people who dwell in it? How does desire itself, the desire to comprehend, shape knowledge?”
American Art – Part II of III: Nancy Ortenstone
Artist Statement: “New Mexico landscapes inspire me, especially the light, the ever-changing colors on the mountains and mesas, the wide-open skies, and the embracing silence.
Rather than reproduce a landscape, I take what I see into my own psyche and dreamspace creating many layers of underpainting on each canvas until the final image emerges.
When I can dance with the colors and trust that each painting is the path to the next, my paintings undergo a transformative process. Acrylics are especially suited to my technique because of the speed with which images can emerge, be washed away and rapidly brought forth again with new resonance. I attempt to unite music, dance and color. Painting is my passion and my teacher.
My desire is to create inviting space that provides a place of reverie for the viewer.”
Fancies in Springtime: Marcus Tullius Cicero
A Second Poem for Today
“Catching the Moles”
By Judith Kitchen
First we tamp down the ridges
that criss-cross the yard
then wait for the ground
to move again.
I hold the shoe box,
you, the trowel.
When I give you the signal
you dig in behind
and flip forward.
Out he pops into daylight,
We nudge him into the box,
carry him down the hill.
Four times we’ve done it.
The children worry.
‘Have we let them all go
at the very same spot?
Will they find each other?’
We can’t be sure ourselves,
Pulitzer Prize – Part II of II: Wallace Stegner
“What do you mean, ‘Angle of Repose?’ she asked me when I dreamed we were talking about Grandmother’s life, and I said it was the angle at which a man or woman finally lies down. I suppose it is; and yet … I thought when I began, and still think, that there was another angle in all those years when she was growing old and older and very old, and Grandfather was matching her year for year, a separate line that did not intersect with hers. They were vertical people, they lived by pride, and it is only by the ocular illusion of perspective that they can be said to have met. But he had not been dead two months when she lay down and died too, and that may indicate that at that absolute vanishing point they did intersect. They had intersected for years, for more than he especially would ever admit.” – Wallace Stegner, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (for “Angle of Repose”) on 1 May 1972.
Some quotes from “Angle of Repose”:
“I wonder if ever again Americans can have that experience of returning to a home place so intimately known, profoundly felt, deeply loved, and absolutely submitted to? It is not quite true that you can’t go home again. I have done it, coming back here. But it gets less likely. We have had too many divorces, we have consumed too much transportation, we have lived too shallowly in too many places.”
“Towns are like people. Old ones often have character, the new ones are interchangeable.”
“[The modern age] knows nothing about isolation and nothing about silence. In our quietest and loneliest hour the automatic ice-maker in the refrigerator will cluck and drop an ice cube, the automatic dishwasher will sigh through its changes, a plane will drone over, the nearest freeway will vibrate the air. Red and white lights will pass in the sky, lights will shine along highways and glance off windows. There is always a radio that can be turned to some all-night station, or a television set to turn artificial moonlight into the flickering images of the late show. We can put on a turntable whatever consolation we most respond to, Mozart or Copland or the Grateful Dead.”
“Home is a notion that only nations of the homeless fully appreciate and only the uprooted comprehend.”
“Touch. It is touch that is the deadliest enemy of chastity, loyalty, monogamy, gentility with its codes and conventions and restraints. By touch we are betrayed and betray others … an accidental brushing of shoulders or touching of hands … hands laid on shoulders in a gesture of comfort that lies like a thief, that takes, not gives, that wants, not offers, that awakes, not pacifies. When one flesh is waiting, there is electricity in the merest contact.”
“Wisdom. . .is knowing what you have to accept.”
“It is an easy mistake to think that non-talkers are non-feelers.”
“Civilizations grow by agreements and accommodations and accretions, not by repudiations. The rebels and the revolutionaries are only eddies, they keep the stream from getting stagnant but they get swept down and absorbed, they’re a side issue. Quiet desperation is another name for the human condition. If revolutionaries would learn that they can’t remodel society by day after tomorrow — haven’t the wisdom to and shouldn’t be permitted to — I’d have more respect for them … Civilizations grow and change and decline — they aren’t remade.”
“The air is so crisp it gives me a brief, delusive sense of health and youth. Those I don’t have but I have learned not to scorn the substitutes: quiet, plenty of time, and a job to spend it on.”
“You can’t retire to weakness — you’ve got to learn to control strength.”
Fancies in Springtime: Barry Lopez
A Third Poem for Today
“How Are You Doing?”
By Rick Snyder
As much as you deserve it,
I wouldn’t wish this
Sunday night on you—
not the Osco at closing,
not its two tired women
and shaky security guard,
not its bin of flip-flops
and Tasmanian Devil
not its freshly mopped floors
and fluorescent lights,
not its endless James Taylor
song on the intercom,
and not its last pint of
chocolate mint ice cream,
which I carried
down Milwaukee Ave.
past a man in an unbuttoned
baseball shirt, who stepped
out of a shadow to whisper,
How are you doing?
Fancies in Springtime: Neil deGrasse Tyson
“There is a fundamental reason why we look at the sky with wonder and longing—for the same reason that we stand, hour after hour, gazing at the distant swell of the open ocean. There is something like an ancient wisdom, encoded and tucked away in our DNA, that knows its point of origin as surely as a salmon knows its creek. Intellectually, we may not want to return there, but the genes know, and long for their origins—their home in the salty depths. But if the seas are our immediate source, the penultimate source is certainly the heavens… The spectacular truth is—and this is something that your DNA has known all along—the very atoms of your body—the iron, calcium, phosphorus, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and on and on—were initially forged in long-dead stars. This is why, when you stand outside under a moonless, country sky, you feel some ineffable tugging at your innards. We are star stuff. Keep looking up.”
In the words of one critic, artist Aung Kyaw Htet “paints the faces of monks and nuns in great detail to show their humanity. This is in contradiction to most Burmese artists who usually omit facial details to focus on monks as symbols of religion rather than as human individuals. Aung Kyaw Htet’s use of bright colours is attractive and draws the viewer’s attention to the serenity in the paintings.”
A Fourth Poem for Today
“Where They Lived”
By Marjorie Saiser
One last time I unlock
the house where they lived
and fought and tried again:
the air of the place,
carpet with its unchanging green,
chair with its back to me.
On the TV set, the Christmas cactus
has bloomed, has spilled its pink flowers
down its scraggly arms
and died, drying into paper.
At the round oak table,
ghosts lean toward one another,
“I’m not a master; I’m just a hard-working filmmaker. I would like everyone to see me as a friend rather than a master.” – John Woo, Hong Kong film director, writer, producer, and director of “The Killer,” “Hard Boiled,” “Hard Target,” and “Red Cliff,” who was born 1 May 1946.
Some quotes from John Woo:
“’Hard Boiled’ is my last film in Hong Kong, before I moved to the U.S. It is the one film which is most accepted by the audience in the West.”
“I have found my heaven in musicals. When I watch a musical, it makes me believe life is still beautiful.”
“I like doves. They look so beautiful, like a woman. For me they represent peace and love and purity. And sometimes they’re seen as the messengers of God, so they’re important to me because I’m a Christian.”
“I think I have been stereotyped as an action director in Hollywood, so all I got were the action scripts.”
“It’s pretty easy to make a film in China. A few years ago I just walked into the office and let them know I wanted to make a movie called ‘Red Cliff’ and they were so excited. They said, ‘Let’s do it!’ It’s that simple.”
“My films are always concerned with family, friendship, honor, and patriotism.”
“The movies I like to make are very rich and full of passion. Some people see me as an action director, but action is not the only thing in my movies. I always like to show human nature – something deep inside the heart.”
“There is absolutely no Wuxia or martial arts in ‘Red Cliff.’ I want all the action to look realistic.”
“To be honest, I don’t have much time to watch any movies.”
“When I made ‘Hard Boiled,’ I had no idea that it would be released to an international audience. I just wanted to make a film to team up my two favorite actors, Tony Leung and Chow Yun-Fat.”
“When I was a kid I feel lonely; I have not many friends. If you make a movie, then you can work with different kinds of people and make different kinds of friends. That’s very important to me.”
“When I was young, I loved movies so much I wanted to make one.”
Fancies in Springtime: Rinsai Rossetti
“Pale sky, white land; like somewhere past the end of the world.”
At night we lighted the oil lamps
and took the roads asking the passers-by
She wore a dress we said
in the color of dreams Didn’t you see her?
She wore two light blue earrings
No one had seen her Only in the cabin at the end of the village
the old woman the lumberjack’s mother pointed her finger
and showed us the river behind the trees
Down to where two light blue stars flickered
Fancies in Springtime: Robert M. Pirsig
Back from the Territory – Art: Gail Niebrugge (Part VI)
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.
A Fifth Poem for Today
By Ruth Moose
All our life
so much laundry;
each day’s doing or not
flows off and away
to blend with other sins
of this world. Each day
begins in new skin,
blessed by the elements
charged to take us
out again to do or undo
what’s been assigned.
From socks to shirts
the selves we shed
lift off the line
as if they own
a life apart
from the one we offer.
There is joy in clean laundry.
All is forgiven in water, sun
and air. We offer our day’s deeds
to the blue-eyed sky, with soap and prayer,
our arms up, then lowered in supplication.
Fancies in Springtime: Carl Sagan
“Cosmos is a Greek word for the order of the universe. It is, in a way, the opposite of Chaos. It implies the deep interconnectedness of all things. It conveys awe for the intricate and subtle way in which the universe is put together.”
American Art – Part III of III: Joseph Lorusso
Artist Statement: “My philosophy on painting generally revolves around the idea that as part of the creative process, the viewer plays an integral role. I try to give the viewer a starting point, albeit sometimes a very detailed one. The work serves as a trigger. The viewer completes the narrative, one colored by his own experience. For me, this is the fun part about the end result of my work. At exhibition openings I may have people offer many interpretations of the same painting.
I have heard other artists say that they would paint even if they where a hermit or if no one was watching. In my approach, this just doesn’t make sense. My work is about others watching. It’s about people reflecting their experiences into what I have given them to start.
So examining this phenomenon, I asked myself, what is my role in all this? There is, of course, the immediate personal satisfaction of creating something from nothing. The craft making is a very visceral experience. Taking some oil, pigment and a canvas or panel and turning it into a work of art that has personal meaning is quite compelling. But beyond that, my goal is to create work that triggers a response.
I’ve often felt that most types of art, from music to poetry, to dance and the visual arts, are one in the same in the respect that they all trigger an emotional response in the viewer. However, in my opinion, this trigger is not unique to ‘art’ or the creative process.
For example, consider experiencing a beautiful sunset or seeing the Sistine chapel for the first time. I contend that on an emotional level both of these experiences are equal. What viewing both of these examples does is to trigger something within us, an emotional response. I believe viewing a moving piece of art, whatever that is to us, must be experiential. Art should speak to that part within us, that part we all share.
Carl Jung called this part that we share the ‘collective unconscious.’ It has been called other things in other traditions. The idea that people are connected by certain indefinable forces is quite profound. For me this concept becomes a critical part of the end result. I gain the biggest satisfaction when I see my work resonate with others. I strive for that universality that timelessness. I don’t always achieve it to be sure, but when I do, I feel connected.
So, in this sense, when someone looks at one of my paintings and adds their own interpretation, they then help complete the narrative. Ultimately, this completes the painting. As a result, the emotional response to the painting is now part of the viewer’s experience, and a new story begins.