American Art – Part I of IV: Rima Canaan Lee
Pulitzer Prize: John Gould Fletcher
Died 10 May 1950 – John Gould Fletcher, Arkansas poet and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize (for “Selected Poems”).
“Along the Highway, Rogers to Fayetteville”
Here did we travel on to clouds,
High pinnacles of eternal hope,
And rainstorms, too, that slashed the earth,
We, chasing fourteen changeful springs;
You still had guided me aright,
To heart’s full happiness. I had seen
The earth we traveled grow a home: –
A place to ream in and to know
Love of our kind, who, winter nights,
Know earth’s cold charity, numbing bone.
My dear, whatever halts us now
Is not reality but a ghost
From the grey past. Within our hands
We hold reality. It is ours.
And driving towards it we can find
Pinnacles of the eternal cloud,
And rainstorms sharking sunny earth,
And joys we never dreamed to know.
Fancies in Springtime: Carl Sagan
“When will I learn? The answer to life’s problems aren’t at the bottom of a bottle; they’re on TV!” – Homer Simpson, model husband, perfect father, and one of my personal heroes, who was born 10 May 1955.
Some quotes from the sagely Homer Simpson:
“Operator! Give me the number for 911!”
“Bart, with $10,000, we’d be millionaires! We could buy all kinds of useful things like…love!”
“Just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand.”
“I’m normally not a praying man, but if you’re up there, please save me Superman.”
“Son, if you really want something in this life, you have to work for it. Now quiet! They’re about to announce the lottery numbers.”
“Well, it’s 1 a.m. Better go home and spend some quality time with the kids.”
“Maybe, just once, someone will call me ‘Sir’ without adding, ‘You’re making a scene.’”
“Marge, don’t discourage the boy! Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It’s what separates us from the animals! Except the weasel.”
“Donuts. Is there anything they can’t do?”
“You know, boys, a nuclear reactor is a lot like a woman. You just have to read the manual and press the right buttons.”
“Lisa, if you don’t like your job you don’t strike. You just go in every day and do it really half-assed. That’s the American way.”
“Son, when you participate in sporting events, it’s not whether you win or lose: it’s how drunk you get.”
“Marriage is like a coffin and each kid is another nail.”
“Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.”
“When I look at the smiles on all the children’s faces, I just know they’re about to jab me with something.”
“Lisa, if the Bible has taught us nothing else, and it hasn’t, it’s that girls should stick to girls sports, such as hot oil wrestling and foxy boxing and such and such.”
“I want to share something with you: The three little sentences that will get you through life. Number 1: Cover for me. Number 2: Oh, good idea, Boss! Number 3: It was like that when I got here.”
“Old people don’t need companionship. They need to be isolated and studied so it can be determined what nutrients they have that might be extracted for our personal use.”
“Television! Teacher, mother, secret lover.”
“Beer: The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”
“If something’s hard to do, then it’s not worth doing.”
“I’m in no condition to drive…wait! I shouldn’t listen to myself, I’m drunk!”
“How is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain. Remember when I took that home winemaking course, and I forgot how to drive?”
Fancies in Springtime: Edmund Wilson
“While the romantic individualist deludes himself with unrealizable fantasies, in the attempt to evade bourgeois society, and only succeeds in destroying himself, he lets humanity fall a victim to the industrial-commercial processes, which, unimpeded by his dreaming, go on with their deadly work.”
A Poem for Today
By Keith Althaus
We drove through the gates
into a maze of little roads,
with speed bumps now,
that circled a pavilion,
field house, and ran past
the playing fields and wound
their way up to the cluster
of wood and stone buildings
of the school you went to once.
The green was returning to
the trees and lawn, the lake
was still half-lidded with ice
and blind in the middle.
There was nobody around
except a few cars in front
of the administration. It must
have been spring break.
We left without ever getting out
of the car. You were quiet
that night, the next day,
the way after heavy rain
that the earth cannot absorb,
the water lies in pools
in unexpected places for days
until it disappears.
Russian Art – Part I of II: Andre Ryabushkin
Died 10 May 1904 – Andrei Ryabushkin, a Russian painter.
Fancies in Springtime: Neil deGrasse Tyson
From the American History Archives – Part I of II: Benjamin Franklin
10 May 1752 – Ben Franklin conducts his kite-flying experiment with his son William Franklin. In the words of one historian, “ The experiment’s purpose was to uncover then unknown facts about the nature of lightning and electricity.”
Fancies in Springtime: William Kittredge
“Some of us yearn to return to the old simplicities and alertness of childhood, and see the world again, vividly, to listen and smell and finger the textures like natives as we imagine them, or like animals.”
Russian Art – Part II of II: Leon Bakst
Born 10 May 1866 – Leon Bakst, a Russian painter and scene and costume designer.
From the American History Archives – Part II of II: Fort Ticonderoga
10 May 1775 – The Green Mountain Boys capture Fort Ticonderoga. In the words of one historian, “Located on Lake Champlain in northeastern New York, Fort Ticonderoga served as a key point of access to both Canada and the Hudson River Valley during the French and Indian War. On May 10, 1775, Benedict Arnold of Massachusetts joined Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys of Vermont in a dawn attack on the fort, surprising and capturing the sleeping British garrison. Although it was a small-scale conflict, the Battle of Fort Ticonderoga was the first American victory of the Revolutionary War, and would give the Continental Army much-needed artillery to be used in future battles.”
American Art – Part II of IV: Patricia Watwood
In describing the work of artist Patricia Watwood (born 1971), one critic has stated that her “paintings travel through worlds of mythology, allegory, and contemporary human life. Her images are carefully designed to convey the beauty and stillness of the visual world. Philosophically, the paintings reflect the artist’s search for meaning and desire for spiritual connection with both subjects and viewers.”
A Second Poem for Today
“Grandmother Speaks of the Old Country”
By Lola Haskins
That year there were many deaths in the village.
Germs flew like angels from one house to the next
and every family gave up its own. Mothers
died at their mending. Children fell at school.
Of three hundred twenty, there were eleven left.
Then, quietly, the sun set on a day when no one
died. And the angels whispered among themselves.
And that evening, as he sat on the stone steps,
your grandfather felt a small wind on his neck
when all the trees were still. And he would tell us
always, how he had felt that night, on the skin
of his own neck, the angels, passing.
10 May 1940 – In the words of one historian, “Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, is called to replace Neville Chamberlain as British prime minister following the latter’s resignation after losing a confidence vote in the House of Commons.” His appointment helped save Western Civilization from one of the darkest barbarisms in human history.
The American Old West: The Golden Spike
10 May 1869 – The “Golden Spike” is driven at Promontory Point, Utah. In the words of one historian, “The ‘Golden Spike’ (also known as ‘The Last Spike’) is the ceremonial final spike driven by Leland Stanford to join the rails of the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United States connecting the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads on May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory.”
Fancies in Springtime: Robert M. Pirsig
“Coastal people never really know what the ocean symbolizes to landlocked inland people—what a great distant dream it is, present but unseen in the deepest levels of subconsciousness, and when they arrive at the ocean and the conscious images are compared with the subconscious dream there is a sense of defeat at having come so far to be so stopped by the mystery that can never be fathomed. The source of it all.”
American Art – Part III of IV: Corey Bond
Artist Statement: “As commentary on the reality of American culture, my work is inspired by my observations and experiences in New York City and Los Angeles. Influenced by German Avant-Garde cinema, late 19th and 20th century literature, painting, photography, fashion, and European design, my images occur in a stark theatrical atmosphere and capture a sense of decadence, emptiness, anxiety, want and need. Through the interaction of abstract spaces and realistic figurative painting apparent in my work, there exists a collapse of distinction between reality and dream, conscious and unconscious, past and future, emptiness and excess.
The subject matter and style found within my work both tests and reiterates the resilience of figure painting. Figures, excessively dressed, gaze vacantly toward the viewer and away from an infinite isolation. While seemingly wanting a more complete existence, their facial expressions portray an acceptance of their fate, never questioning the limitations of their world; they are as empty as the landscape that surrounds them. Several figures exist within a two-dimensional surface as a screen or backdrop onto which others can project their fantasies. A hologram of reality occurs as the image oscillates between the two-dimensional and three-dimensional realms.
These figures, women, project strength without purpose and a kind of power based sexuality. Combining vacancy and sexuality, my paintings are about individuals in relation to their surroundings and eventually to themselves. This breakdown creates an absurdly quiet yet resonant image. Confronted with empty decadence, the viewer is reminded of a certain sought after yet unattainable beauty.”
“Before, I wandered as a diversion. Now I wander seriously and sit and read as a diversion.” – Walker Percy, American writer and author of “The Moviegoer” (which won the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction) and “Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book,” who died 10 May 1990.
Some quotes from the work of Walker Percy:
“You can get all A’s and still flunk life.”
“The peculiar predicament of the present-day self surely came to pass as a consequence of the disappointment of the high expectations of the self as it entered the age of science and technology. Dazzled by the overwhelming credentials of science, the beauty and elegance of the scientific method, the triumph of modern medicine over physical ailments, and the technological transformation of the very world itself, the self finds itself in the end disappointed by the failure of science and technique in those very sectors of life which had been its main source of ordinary satisfaction in past ages.
As John Cheever said, the main emotion of the adult Northeastern American who has had all the advantages of wealth, education, and culture is disappointment.
Work is disappointing. In spite of all the talk about making work more creative and self-fulfilling, most people hate their jobs, and with good reason. Most work in modern technological societies is intolerably dull and repetitive.
Marriage and family life are disappointing. Even among defenders of traditional family values, e.g., Christians and Jews, a certain dreariness must be inferred, if only from the average time of TV viewing. Dreary as TV is, it is evidently not as dreary as Mom talking to Dad or the kids talking to either.
School is disappointing. If science is exciting and art is exhilarating, the schools and universities have achieved the not inconsiderable feat of rendering both dull. As every scientist and poet knows, one discovers both vocations in spite of, not because of, school. It takes years to recover from the stupor of being taught Shakespeare in English Lit and Wheatstone’s bridge in Physics.
Politics is disappointing. Most young people turn their backs on politics, not because of the lack of excitement of politics as it is practiced, but because of the shallowness, venality, and image-making as these are perceived through the media–one of the technology’s greatest achievements.
The churches are disappointing, even for most believers. If Christ brings us new life, it is all the more remarkable that the church, the bearer of this good news, should be among the most dispirited institutions of the age. The alternatives to the institutional churches are even more grossly disappointing, from TV evangelists with their blown-dry hairdos to California cults led by prosperous gurus ignored in India but embraced in La Jolla.
Social life is disappointing. The very franticness of attempts to reestablish community and festival, by partying, by groups, by club, by touristy Mardi Gras, is the best evidence of the loss of true community and festival and of the loneliness of self, stranded as it is as an unspeakable consciousness in a world from which it perceives itself as somehow estranged, stranded even within its own body, with which it sees no clear connection.
But there remains the one unquestioned benefit of science: the longer and healthier life made possible by modern medicine, the shorter work-hours made possible by technology, hence what is perceived as the one certain reward of dreary life of home and the marketplace: recreation.
Recreation and good physical health appear to be the only ambivalent benefits of the technological revolution.”
“The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life. To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.”
“It’s one thing to develop a nostalgia for home while you’re boozing with Yankee writers in Martha’s Vineyard or being chased by the bulls in Pamplona. It’s something else to go home and visit with the folks in Reed’s drugstore on the square and actually listen to them. The reason you can’t go home again is not because the down-home folks are mad at you–they’re not, don’t flatter yourself, they couldn’t care less–but because once you’re in orbit and you return to Reed’s drugstore on the square, you can stand no more than fifteen minutes of the conversation before you head for the woods, head for the liquor store, or head back to Martha’s Vineyard, where at least you can put a tolerable and saving distance between you and home. Home may be where the heart is but it’s no place to spend Wednesday afternoon.”
“Lucky is the man who does not secretly believe that every possibility is open to him.”
“You live in a deranged age – more deranged than usual, because despite great scientific and technological advances, man has not the faintest idea of who he is or what he is doing.”
“My mother refused to let me fail. So I insisted.”
“Lord, grant that my work increase knowledge and help other men. Failing that, Lord, grant that it will not lead to man’s destruction. Failing that, Lord, grant that my article in ‘Brain’ be published before the destruction takes place.”
“I have discovered that most people have no one to talk to, no one, that is, who really wants to listen. When it does at last dawn on a man that you really want to hear about his business, the look that comes over his face is something to see.”
“Whenever I feel bad, I go to the library and read controversial periodicals. Though I do not know whether I am a liberal or a conservative, I am nevertheless enlivened by the hatred which one bears the other. In fact, this hatred strikes me as one of the few signs of life remaining in the world.”
“What needs to be discharged is the intolerable tenderness of the past, the past gone and grieved over and never made sense of. Music ransoms us from the past, declares an amnesty, brackets and sets aside the old puzzles. Sing a new song. Start a new life, get a girl, look into her shadowy eyes, smile.”
“What is the nature of the search? you ask. The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life. To become aware of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.”
“I couldn’t stand it. I still can’t stand it. I can’t stand the way things are. I cannot tolerate this age.”
“Not to be onto something is to be in despair.”
“For the world is broken, sundered, busted down the middle, self ripped from self and man pasted back together as mythical monster, half angel, half beast, but no man…Some day a man will walk into my office as a ghost or beast or ghost-beast and walk out as a man, which is to say sovereign wanderer, lordly exile, worker and waiter and watcher.”
Here is the Artist Statement of the charming and talented English sculptor Kirsty Elson: “(I create) original unique sculpture from Cornwall, using driftwood, rusty nails and any other junk I come across! I am a multi-media artist lucky enough to live in beautiful Cornwall. I am inspired by my coastal surroundings, and my work is heavily influenced by the worn materials I discover washed up on local beaches. I love the idea of using found objects like driftwood and turning them into something beautiful and unique. I hope my work makes you smile!”
Fancies in Springtime: Carl Sagan
Died 10 May 1849 – Hokusai, a Japanese artist and woodblock printmaker best known as the author of the woodblock print series “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji.”
Below – “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”; “Landscape with Two Falconers”; “View of Lake Suwa”; Three prints from “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji”: “Ejiri in Saruga Province”; “Tea House at Koishikawa, The Morning After Snowfall”; “Mishima Pass in Kai Province.”
A Third Poem for Today
“The Copper Beech”
By Marie Howe
Immense, entirely itself,
it wore that yard like a dress,
with limbs low enough for me to enter it
and climb the crooked ladder to where
I could lean against the trunk and practice being alone.
One day, I heard the sound before I saw it, rain fell
darkening the sidewalk.
Sitting close to the center, not very high in the branches,
I heard it hitting the high leaves, and I was happy,
Fancies in Springtime: William Kittredge
“To love, someone once said, becomes more urgent as we grow older and the world fills up with death…Go long enough without being touched and you will come to exist almost entirely in visions. It’s always happening in country music.”
Back from the Territory – Art: Brenda Schwartz (Part I)
In the words of one writer, “Brenda tells us that her novel method of painting watercolors on marine charts began when she was a child and used her parent’s charts for her sketches. She has come a long way from those roots, and is now one of Southeast Alaska’s most famous and admired artists.”
Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.
A Fourth Poem for Today
By James McKean
There is little I can do
besides stoop to pluck them
one by one from the ground,
their roots all weak links,
this hoard of Lazaruses popping up
at night, not the Heavenly Blue
so like silk handkerchiefs,
nor the Giant White so timid
in the face of the moon,
but poor relations who visit
then stay. They sleep in my garden.
Each morning I evict them.
Each night more arrive, their leaves
small, green shrouds,
reminding me the mother root
waits deep underground
and I dig but will never find her
and her children will inherit
all that I’ve cleared
when she holds me tighter
and tighter in her arms.
Fancies in Springtime: Robert M. Pirsig
American Art – Part IV of IV: Melissa Miller
Painter Melissa Miller lives and works in Austin, Texas.