American Art – Part I of IV: Rachel Stuart-Haas
Artist Statement: “This series of paintings portray my intuition towards the obvious and the ethereal. To me, both worlds are very real but cannot be perceived by everyone. I like to imagine that each of these pieces captures both reality and mystery via the subject’s ability to exist in both worlds at once.
These paintings were created spontaneously and I only planned the pose of each girl. I tried to use a watercolor effect and let the paint run in order to create a sense of dreaminess. I also played around with layering trees, vines and flowers to represent the merger of the two aforementioned worlds. Please enjoy!”
6 May 1861 – Arkansas secedes from the Union.
In the words of one historian, “On this day in 1861, Arkansas lawmakers voted 65-5 to become the ninth of 11 Southern states to join the Confederate States of America. Unlike South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas, Arkansas waited until after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, S.C., in Charleston Harbor on April 12, and President Abraham Lincoln’s subsequent call for troops on April 15, to take action.”
A Poem for Today
“The Evening of the Mind”
By Donald Justice
Now comes the evening of the mind.
Here are the fireflies twitching in the blood;
Here is the shadow moving down the page
Where you sit reading by the garden wall.
Now the dwarf peach trees, nailed to their trellises,
Shudder and droop. Your know their voices now,
Faintly the martyred peaches crying out
Your name, the name nobody knows but you.
It is the aura and the coming on.
It is the thing descending, circling, here.
And now it puts a claw out and you take it.
Thankfully in your lap you take it, so.
You said you would not go away again,
You did not want to go away—and yet,
It is as if you stood out on the dock
Watching a little boat drift out
Beyond the sawgrass shallows, the dead fish …
And you were in it, skimming past old snags,
Beyond, beyond, under a brazen sky
As soundless as a gong before it’s struck—
Suspended how?—and now they strike it, now
The ether dream of five-years-old repeats, repeats,
And you must wake again to your own blood
And empty spaces in the throat.
From the American History Archives – Part II of III: The Chinese Exclusion Act
6 May 1882 – President Chester A. Arthur signs the Chinese Exclusion Act into law. This bill was one of the most significant restrictions on free immigration in U.S. history, prohibiting all immigration of Chinese laborers. However, there was a ray of light in all the racist darkness. In the words of one historian, “One of the critics of the Chinese Exclusion Act was the anti-slavery/anti-imperialist Republican Senator George Frisbie Hoar of Massachusetts, who described the Act as ‘nothing less than the legalization of racial discrimination.’”
George Frisbie Hoar was born in Concord, Massachusetts. His fellow townsmen Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson would have been proud of him.
A Second Poem for Today
“My Father Holds the Door for Yoko Ono”
By Christopher Chambers
In New York City for a conference
on weed control, leaving the hotel
in a cluster of horticulturalists,
he alone stops, midwestern, crewcut,
narrow blue tie, cufflinks, wingtips,
holds the door for the Asian woman
in a miniskirt and thigh high
white leather boots. She nods
slightly, a sad and beautiful gesture.
Neither smile, as if performing
a timeless ritual, as if anticipating
the loss of a son or a lover.
Years later, Christmas, inexplicably
he dons my mother’s auburn wig,
my brother’s wire-rimmed glasses,
and strikes a pose clowning
with my second hand acoustic guitar.
He is transformed, a working class hero
and a door whispers shut,
like cherry blossoms falling.
From the American History Archives – Part III of III: The Hindenburg
6 May 1937 – The Hindenburg disaster takes place in Lakehurst, New Jersey.
In the words of one historian, “The Hindenburg disaster took place on Thursday, May 6, 1937, as the German passenger airship LZ 129 Hindenburg caught fire and was destroyed during its attempt to dock with its mooring mast at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station, which is located adjacent to the borough of Lakehurst, New Jersey. Of the 97 people on board (36 passengers and 61 crewmen), there were 35 fatalities. There was also one death of a ground crewman.”
Here is a link to Herbert Morrison’s famous broadcast of the event (“Oh, the humanity.”):
American Art – Part II of IV: Jack Beal
Pulitzer Prize – Part I of II: Audrey Wurdemann
6 May 1935 – The Pulitzer Prize for Poetry is awarded to Audrey Wurdemann for “Bright Ambush.”
The sweet wild dogwood wears its flowers
Through silent shadow-patterned hours,
And ivory cream-cups make a star
Where robin and wake-robin are.
The judas-trees let crimson drip
From each spire-pointed fingertip,
And bishop’s croziers unfold
To dust the ginger-root with gold.
Then, gathering all her loveliness,
Spring goes, and leaves us no address. – From “Bright Ambush”
Fancies in Springtime: Wilfred Thesiger
“In the desert I had found a freedom unattainable in civilization; a life unhampered by possessions, since everything that was not a necessity was an encumbrance. I had found too, a comradeship inherent in the circumstances, and the belief that tranquility was to be found there.”
6 May 1940 – The Pulitzer Prize is awarded to John Steinbeck for “The Grapes of Wrath.”
“A large drop of sun lingered on the horizon and then dripped over and was gone, and the sky was brilliant over the spot where it had gone, and a torn cloud, like a bloody rag, hung over the spot of its going. And dusk crept over the sky from the eastern horizon, and darkness crept over the land from the east.” – From “The Grapes of Wrath”
A Third Poem for Today
By Jeff Vande Zande
Her small body shines
with water and light.
Giggling, she squeals “daddy,”
splashes until his pants darken.
Five more minutes, he thinks,
stepping out quickly,
pouring himself a drink,
not expecting to return
to find her slipped under,
her tiny face staring up
through the undulating surface.
Before he can move,
or drop his scotch,
she raises her dripping head,
her mouth a perfect O.
The sound of her gulped breath
takes the wind out of him.
pale and awed,
understands the other side
of water and air.
His wife didn’t see,
Her feet pulse and fade
in the upstairs joists.
His daughter cries,
slips from him, not giggling.
She wants out.
He tries to keep her
in the tub, in the light.
He’s on his knees.
Here is one critic describing the artistry of Argentinean painter Ariel Gulluni (born 1978): “ His artistic career began with the stylus, drawing pure and simple, thanks to which discovered the importance of forms, tensions and contrasts. It was through the illustration he found the versatility sought by multiplying media and themes. Finally he found the painting, a territory now infinite in seeking that place where it crosses surreal expression. Preferences realistic and figurative, his themes have been mixed but with a clear tendency to give prominence to the symbolic-conceptual narrative above. It is the spectator, he says, who should narrate the play. Constantly exploring new locations, painted bodies and emotions wrapped in dark shadows and indirect lighting, using integrated ranges almost monochrome, but that show bulk-expressionist mode pure colors: red, green, blue and yellow.”
A few quotes from the work of Bret Harte:
“If, of all words of tongue and pen,
The saddest are, ‘It might have been,’
More sad are these we daily see:
‘It is, but hadn’t ought to be.’”
“A bird in hand is a certainty. But a bird in the bush may sing.”
“We begin to die as soon as we are born, and the end is linked to the beginning.”
“Man has the possibility of existence after death. But possibility is one thing and the realization of the possibility is quite a different thing.”
Fancies in Springtime: Cate Campbell Beatty
“During the night a fine, delicate summer rain had washed the plains, leaving the morning sky crisp and clean. The sun shone warm—soon to bake the earth dry. It cast a purple haze across the plain—like a great, dark topaz. In the trees the birds sang, while the squirrels jumped from branch to branch in seeming good will, belying the expected tension of the coming days.”
Born 6 May 1856 – Robert Peary, an American explorer who claimed to have reached the geographic North Pole with his expedition of 6 April 1909. In the words of one historian, “Based on an evaluation of Peary’s records by Wally Herbert, also a polar explorer, he concluded in a 1989 book that Peary did not reach the pole, although he may have been as close as 5 miles (8 km). His conclusions have been widely accepted.”
A Fourth Poem for Today
By Connie Wanek
A flower needs to be this size
to conceal the winter window,
and this color, the red
of a Fiat with the top down,
to impress us, dull as we’ve grown.
Months ago the gigantic onion of a bulb
half above the soil
stuck out its green tongue
and slowly, day by day,
the flower itself entered our world,
closed, like hands that captured a moth,
then open, as eyes open,
and the amaryllis, seeing us,
was somehow undiscouraged.
It stands before us now
Nobel Laureate – Part I of III: Maurice Maeterlinck
“At every crossroads on the path that leads to the future, tradition has placed 10,000 men to guard the past.” – Maurice Maeterlinck, Belgian playwright, poet, essayist, author of “The Life of the Bee,” and recipient of the 1911 Nobel Prize in Literature “in appreciation of his many-sided literary activities, and especially of his dramatic works, which are distinguished by a wealth of imagination and by a poetic fancy, which reveals, sometimes in the guise of a fairy tale, a deep inspiration, while in a mysterious way they appeal to the readers’ own feelings and stimulate their imaginations,” who died 6 May 1949.
Some quotes from the work of Maurice Maeterlinck:
“Remember that happiness is as contagious as gloom. It should be the first duty of those who are happy to let others know of their gladness.”
“All our knowledge merely helps us to die a more painful death than animals that know nothing.”
“When we lose one we love, our bitterest tears are called forth by the memory of hours when we loved not enough.”
“A truth that disheartens because it is true is of more value than the most stimulating of falsehoods.”
“How strangely do we diminish a thing as soon as we try to express it in words.”
“They believe that nothing will happen because they have closed their doors.”
“Do we not all spend the greater part of our lives under the shadow of an event that has not yet come to pass?”
“Happiness is rarely absent; it is we that know not of its presence.”
“Many a happiness in life, as many a disaster, can be due to chance, but the peace within us can never be governed by chance.”
“No great inner event befalls those who summon it not.”
“We are never the same with others as when we are alone. We are different, even when we are in the dark with them.”
“Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves.”
Fancies in Springtime: Carl Sagan
“The great radio telescopes of the world are constructed in remote locations for the same reason Paul Gauguin sailed to Tahiti: For them to work well they must be far from civilization.”
Nobel Laureate – Part II of III: Rabindranath Tagore
“We read the world wrong and say that it deceives us.” – Rabindranath Tagore, Bengali writer, poet, author of “Gitanjali,” and recipient of the 1913 Nobel Prize in Literature “”because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West,” who was born on 6 May 1861.
Some quotes from Rabindranath Tagore:
“We live in the world when we love it.”
“Bigotry tries to keep truth safe in its hand with a grip that kills it.”
“Do not say, ‘It is morning,’ and dismiss it with a name of yesterday. See it for the first time as a newborn child that has no name.”
“The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence.”
“Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time like dew on the tip of a leaf.”
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”
“Those who own much have much to fear.”
“The water in a vessel is sparkling; the water in the sea is dark. The small truth has words which are clear; the great truth has great silence.”
“What is Art? It is the response of man’s creative soul to the call of the Real.”
Fancies in Springtime: Neil deGrasse Tyson
“Perhaps these ancient observations perennially impress modern people because modern people have no idea how the sun, Moon, or stars move. We are too busy watching evening television to care what’s going on in the sky.”
Nobel Laureate – Part III of III: Harry Martinson
Born 6 May 1904 – Harry Martinson, Swedish author, poet, and joint winner of the 1974 Nobel Prize in Literature “for writings that catch the dewdrop and reflect the cosmos.”
In the gardens of the home village, where earthworms
loosen the soil, the columbine still grows
and grandfather clocks cluck old-fashionedly in each house.
Smoke rises from cottages like sacrificial pillars
and to those who come from afar, from the hard toils
of the world’s oceans and the brothel alleys of Barcelona,
this peaceful village is like a silent lie.
A lie one would willingly hang on to, a lie
for which one would trample down all evil truths.
“Far From Here”
I want to send a dream far from here.
The swallows fly high there.
Perhaps your wheat ripens
and through the yellow oceans of rye
a slow humming sound of bread can be heard.
This is a world of water and stones,
my hand is without bread and I count its lines.
Here is how Portuguese painter Martinho Dias (born 1968) describes his art: “The complexity and the multiple facets of the global world are my main fundamentals. Resorting to the paradox, contrariety, criticism or irony, what I do is unfold the reality, individual and collective, which is common to us, reconfiguring it in the plan of the canvas. Along my journey as a painter, I have also developed ways of communication with different cultures, as well as other areas, particularly the music and their players.”
A Fifth Poem for Today
By Dale Ritterbusch
There is this tea
I have sometimes,
Pan Long Ying Hao,
so tightly curled
it looks like tiny roots
gnarled, a greenish-gray.
When it steeps, it opens
the way you woke this morning,
stretching, your hands behind
your head, back arched,
toes pointing, a smile steeped
in ceremony, a celebration,
the reaching of your arms.
Fancies in Springtime: Neil deGrasse Tyson
“Knowledge of physical laws can, in some cases, give you the confidence to confront surly people. A few years ago I was having a hot-cocoa nightcap at a dessert shop in Pasadena, California. I had ordered it with whipped cream, of course. When it arrived at the table, I saw no trace of the stuff. After I told the waiter that my cocoa was plain, he asserted I couldn’t see the whipped cream because it sank to the bottom. Since whipped cream has a very low density and floats on all liquids that humans consume, I offered the waiter two possible explanations: either somebody forgot to add the whipped cream to my hot cocoa or the universal laws of physics were different in his restaurant. Unconvinced, he brought over a dollop of whipped cream to test for himself. After bobbing once or twice in my cup, the whipped cream sat up straight and afloat. What better proof do you need of the universality of physical laws?”
“It is impossible to escape the impression that people commonly use false standards of measurement — that they seek power, success and wealth for themselves and admire them in others, and that they underestimate what is of true value in life.” – Sigmund Freud, Austrian neurologist and the founding father of psychoanalysis, who was born 6 May 1856.
Some quotes from the work of Sigmund Freud:
“Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”
“Everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before me.”
“Religion is an attempt to get control over the sensory world, in which we are placed, by means of the wish-world, which we have developed inside us as a result of biological and psychological necessities. But it cannot achieve its end. Its doctrines carry with them the stamp of the times in which they originated, the ignorant childhood days of the human race. Its consolations deserve no trust. Experience teaches us that the world is not a nursery. The ethical commands, to which religion seeks to lend its weight, require some other foundations instead, for human society cannot do without them, and it is dangerous to link up obedience to them with religious belief. If one attempts to assign to religion its place in man’s evolution, it seems not so much to be a lasting acquisition, as a parallel to the neurosis which the civilized individual must pass through on his way from childhood to maturity.”
“Life, as we find it, is too hard for us; it brings us too many pains, disappointments and impossible tasks. In order to bear it we cannot dispense with palliative measures… There are perhaps three such measures: powerful deflections, which cause us to make light of our misery; substitutive satisfactions, which diminish it; and intoxicating substances, which make us insensible to it.”
“America is a mistake, a giant mistake.”
“In the depths of my heart I can’t help being convinced that my dear fellow-men, with a few exceptions, are worthless.”
Fancies in Springtime: Robert M. Pirsig
“There is a classic esthetic which romantics often miss because of its subtlety. The classic style is straightforward, unadorned, unemotional, economical and carefully proportioned. Its purpose is not to inspire emotionally, but to bring order out of chaos and make the unknown known.”
6 May 1970 – Japanese skier Yuchiro Miura skies down part of Mount Everest. In the words of one historian, “He descended nearly 4,200 vertical feet from the South Col (elevation over 8,000 m [26,000 ft]). This feat was documented in 1975, in the film ‘The Man Who Skied Down Everest.’ The film won the Academy Award for best documentary, the first sports film to do so.”
A Sixth Poem for Today
By Lisel Mueller
Outside the house the wind is howling
and the trees are creaking horribly.
This is an old story
with its old beginning,
as I lay me down to sleep.
But when I wake up, sunlight
has taken over the room.
You have already made the coffee
and the radio brings us music
from a confident age. In the paper
bad news is set in distant places.
Whatever was bound to happen
in my story did not happen.
But I know there are rules that cannot be broken.
Perhaps a name was changed.
A small mistake. Perhaps
a woman I do not know
is facing the day with the heavy heart
that, by all rights, should have been mine.
In the words of one critic, “Linnea Strid is based in Uppsala, Sweden, where she creates her hyper-realistic oil paintings that often feature the incorporation of water as a central element of the work. Strid renders water in a way that confuses the onlooker as to whether or not the image they are looking at is a photograph or indeed a painting. These works feature all the characteristics of water, from how it moves and why it moves and where, and in turn her work truly moves all that view it.”
Fancies in Springtime: Carl Sagan
“A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.”
Fancies in Springtime: Neil deGrasse Tyson
“The problem comes when religion enters the science classroom. There’s no tradition of scientists knocking down the Sunday school door, telling preachers what to teach. Scientists don’t picket churches. By and large—though it may not look this way today—science and religion have achieved peaceful coexistence for quite some time. In fact, the greatest conflicts in the world are not between religion and science; they’re between religion and religion.”
Here is the Artist Statement of Bulgarian painter Atanas Matsoureff: “Watercolour is a painting technique which offers an infinite scope of possibilities for artistic expression, demanding on the part of the artist concentration combined with passion. The beauty of watercolour painting lies in the white of the paper, the lightness, the movement, the transparency, the vibrant colours. I paint from nature, and I bow before the beauty and the forces of the Nature and the simple, ordinary things around us. I try to catch the spirit of each material and to touch the thing beyond reality.”
Fancies in Springtime: Carl Sagan
“Spaceflight, therefore, is subversive. If they are fortunate enough to find themselves in orbit, most people, after a little meditation, have similar thoughts. The nations that had instituted spaceflight had done so largely for nationalistic reasons; it was a small irony that almost everyone who entered space received a startling glimpse of a transnational perspective, of the Earth as one world.”
“One of the most obvious facts about grown-ups, to a child, is that they have forgotten what it is like to be a child.” – Randall Jarrell, American poet, literary critic, essayist, novelist, children’s author, United States Army Air Corps veteran of World War II, and recipient of the 1961 National Book Award for Poetry (for “The Woman at the Washington Zoo”), who was born 6 May 1914.
It was not dying: everybody died.
It was not dying: we had died before
In the routine crashes– and our fields
Called up the papers, wrote home to our folks,
And the rates rose, all because of us.
We died on the wrong page of the almanac,
Scattered on mountains fifty miles away;
Diving on haystacks, fighting with a friend,
We blazed up on the lines we never saw.
We died like aunts or pets or foreigners.
(When we left high school nothing else had died
For us to figure we had died like.)
In our new planes, with our new crews, we bombed
The ranges by the desert or the shore,
Fired at towed targets, waited for our scores–
And turned into replacements and woke up
One morning, over England, operational.
It wasn’t different: but if we died
It was not an accident but a mistake
(But an easy one for anyone to make.)
We read our mail and counted up our missions–
In bombers named for girls, we burned
The cities we had learned about in school–
Till our lives wore out; our bodies lay among
The people we had killed and never seen.
When we lasted long enough they gave us medals;
When we died they said, “Our casualties were low.”
The said, “Here are the maps”; we burned the cities.
“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.” – Henry David Thoreau, American writer, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, social critic, surveyor, transcendentalist, and author of “Walden” and “Resistance to Civil Government” (commonly called “Civil Disobedience”), who died 6 May 1862.
Some quotes from the work of Henry David Thoreau:
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”
“Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life so. Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.”
“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”
“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”
“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”
“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.”
“It’s not what you look at that matters; it’s what you see.
“Not till we are completely lost or turned around… do we begin to find ourselves.”
“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.”
Fancies in Springtime: Carl Sagan
“For thousands of years humans were oppressed— as some of us still are— by the notion that the universe is a marionette whose strings are pulled by a god or gods, unseen and inscrutable. Then, 2,500 years ago, there was a glorious awakening in Ionia: on Samos and the other nearby Greek colonies that grew up among the islands and inlets of the busy eastern Aegean Sea. Suddenly there were people who believed that everything was made of atoms; that human beings and other animals had sprung from simpler forms; that diseases were not caused by demons or the gods; that the Earth was only a planet going around the Sun. And that the stars were very far away.”
American Art – Part III of IV: Brian Keeler
Here is one critic speaking with painter Brian Keeler (born 1953): “One thing that struck me about your work is you don’t seem to fit into any known category. Your work is sort of like Academic Realism – sometimes even like Superrealism – it’s a little like Impressionism – but not really – occasionally you do a Magritte-like Surrealism, and there’s what I referred to at gallery night as that ‘hopped-up hyper-reality’ like Van Gogh’s work – a sort of hyper-awareness.”
“You must realize that no matter how intently you count your breaths you will still perceive what is in your line of vision, since your eyes are open, and you will hear the normal sounds about you, as your ears are not plugged. And since your brain likewise is not asleep, various thought forms will dart about your mind. Now, they will not hamper or diminish the effectiveness of zazen unless, evaluating them as ‘good,’ you cling to them or, deciding they are ‘bad,’ you try to check or eliminate them.” – Philip Kapleau, American writer, teacher of Zen Buddhism, and author of “The Three Pillars of Zen,” who died 6 May 2004.
One critic writing about “The Three Pillars of Zen” has stated (correctly) that, “It was one of the first English-language books to present Zen Buddhism not as philosophy, but as a pragmatic and salutary way of training and living.”
A few quotes from “The Three Pillars of Zen”:
“The patriarchal line is, then, a reminder of how deep cultural biases can run, in this case undercutting the core Buddhist teaching that all beings without exception are equally endowed with the true nature of enlightenment.”
“One day a man of the people said to Zen Master Ikkyu: ‘Master, will you please write for me some maxims of the highest wisdom?’ Ikkyu immediately took his brush and wrote the word ‘Attention.’ ‘Is that all?’ asked the man. ‘Will you not add something more?’ Ikkyu then wrote twice running: ‘Attention. Attention.’ ‘Well,’ remarked the man rather irritably, ‘I really don’t see much depth or subtlety in what you have just written.’ Then Ikkyu wrote the same word three times running: ‘Attention. Attention. Attention.’ Half angered, the man demanded: ‘What does that word “Attention” mean anyway?’ And Ikkyu answered gently: ‘Attention means attention.’”
A Seventh Poem for Today
By Linda Pastan
are heading south, pulled
by a compass in the genes.
They are not fooled
by this odd November summer,
though we stand in our doorways
wearing cotton dresses.
We are watching them
as they swoop and gather—
the shadow of wings
falls over the heart.
When they rustle among
the empty branches, the trees
must think their lost leaves
have come back.
Fancies in Springtime: Robert M. Pirsig
Back from the Territory – Art: Nathalie Parenteau (Part IV)
In the words of one writer, “When asked how her images take form, Northern artist Nathalie Parenteau promptly replies: ‘They take shape on their own. I just scratch the canvas with the paint brush and there they are.’ Or so it seems.”
Nathalie Parenteau lives and works in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.
Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.
An Eighth Poem for Today
By Tess Gallagher
The sleep of this night deepens
because I have walked coatless from the house
carrying the white envelope.
All night it will say one name
in its little tin house by the roadside.
I have raised the metal flag
so its shadow under the roadlamp
leaves an imprint on the rain-heavy bushes.
Now I will walk back
thinking of the few lights still on
in the town a mile away.
In the yellowed light of a kitchen
the millworker has finished his coffee,
his wife has laid out the white slices of bread
on the counter. Now while the bed they have left
is still warm, I will think of you, you
who are so far away
you have caused me to look up at the stars.
Tonight they have not moved
from childhood, those games played after dark.
Again I walk into the wet grass
toward the starry voices. Again, I
am the found one, intimate, returned
by all I touch on the way.
American Art – Part IV of IV: Sarah Williams
Artist Statement: “It is my belief that art should originate through a painter’s personal experiences in her home environment. I see my whole life as preparation for the way I paint and the work I am currently making. This body of work is closely focused on my roots in the rural American Midwest. Being raised in a small town and then moving to an urban setting has made me aware of the seemingly mundane, anonymous scenes existing on the periphery that tend to be ignored. Recently I have become conscious that I am compelled to paint what I know best which is the environment from which I come. My perception of a specific sense of place guides me while these local settings offer abundant material.
Strong emotions can be prompted by a place. Over time, ways of life shape and define the people and the spaces in which they live. I am drawn to areas and structures that show character acquired from the history and memory of the people that formed that environment. Aesthetically I am interested in light sources and the play of light on surfaces. This led me to paint nightscapes of familiar yet isolated and unremarkable buildings, rooms and scenes located in rural areas close to my home. I use darkness to edit out extraneous information and provide the viewer with the essence of the place. Portraying these settings as nightscapes allows me to convey the emotional tone of the painting. The viewer’s location is not specifically implied because of the light source within the paintings. They must find their own way and decide their own approach when out in the rural night depicted in these works.
While I render my subject in a representational manner I like to fracture the form and accentuate the light through brushwork. I believe this approach makes these settings visually captivating and eerily mysterious at the same time. The viewer starts to unravel the mood of the painting not only with the primary area of focus, but through the combination of the secondary and even tertiary areas of focus. A viewer’s eyes must adjust so they will be able to see these subtle nuances that complete the character of the place. The artistic language applied to slightly familiar yet hauntingly isolated areas permits me to transform the common place and make the insignificant significant.
Even though my connection to the small town farm culture that shaped me as I grew up played a major role in how I approach these works, I believe they can speak to people from a variety of places and experiences. Each viewer brings their own vantage point to the works. It could be that they are from similar environments and feel comforted by the imagery, or maybe it reminds them of cross country road trips. For some these desolate nightscapes may represent somewhere they hope to never find themselves alone. Whatever the case may be, it prompts viewers to draw upon the character and identity of their regional home when approaching these works.
I like the idea of bringing paintings of small town life to the contemporary art scene in urban settings. I hope my work allows people to think about where they come from and take pride in the collective identity of their home region. The ideologies and emotions I have developed around my life in the Midwest will continue to guide me on my artistic journey.”