American Art – Part I of VIII: Todd Gordon
Artist Statement: “As a perceptual, realist painter, I am committed to the tradition and rigorous practice of working only from observation. The industrial zones in Brooklyn and Queens where I paint possess characteristics which are specifically urban and uniquely American, yet they could just as likely be neighborhoods in any of the Rust Belt towns I remember from my childhood in the Midwest. My personal relationship with each place begins with something I might see that initially interests me on a formal or compositional level – the way a straight road seemingly bends elliptically in space, the expansive curve or color of a bridge, the interplay of graffiti on a corrugated metal fence – and gradually develops or changes significance with each successive visit. Eventually, the focus, subject, or very meaning of the work might shift organically through the openness of the painting process itself. By including as much information as possible, both literally and physically, I attempt to avoid the typical sentimentality common, historically, in most conventional landscape painting.”
“I found nothing really wrong with this autobiography except poor choice of subject.” – Clifton Fadiman, American author, editor, and radio and television personality, who was born 15 May 1904, discussing Gertrude Stein’s autobiography.
Some quotes from the work of Clifton Fadiman:
“Insomnia is a gross feeder. It will nourish itself on any kind of thinking, including thinking about not thinking.”
“A sense of humor is the ability to understand a joke – and that the joke is oneself.”
“Cheese is milk’s leap towards immortality.”
“Experience teaches you that the man who looks you straight in the eye, particularly if he adds a firm handshake, is hiding something.”
“For most men, life is a search for the proper manila envelope in which to get themselves filed.”
“The German mind has a talent for making no mistakes but the very greatest.”
“When you read a classic, you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in you than there was before.”
Fancies in Springtime: Sherwood Smith
“The only noise now was the rain, pattering softly with the magnificent indifference of nature for the tangled passions of humans.”
American Art – Part II of VIII: Andrea Kemp
Here is the Artist Statement of American painter Andrea Kemp: “Painting had its way of creeping into my life. I do not know how or why, but I am so fortunate it did. Though it is a large part of who I am, its meaning is ever changing. My journey as a painter takes me to new places that end up either, presenting unique ideas and challenges, or paralleling other events in my life. Painting in itself is a teacher that if we pay attention to, we learn from and grow from, not only as an artist, but to be a better person. Its possibilities are boundless and the adventure of painting presents numerous challenges. It’s not always easy to meet those challenges.
A famous women writer, who I cannot recall, describes the experience of having a great idea and the desperate need to capture it by comparing it to train and how you can hear it approaching, which sends you into a fury preparing yourself for when it passes by so that you might capture its power and greatness, for when it is gone, it may be gone forever. Though writing and painting may be two different mediums of communication, I still could very much relate to this metaphor.”
A Poem for Today
By Alice Notley
The late Gracie Allen was a very lucid comedienne,
Especially in the way that lucid means shining and bright.
What her husband George Burns called her illogical logic
Made a halo around our syntax and ourselves as we laughed.
George Burns most often was her artful inconspicuous straight man.
He could move people about stage, construct skits and scenes, write
And gather jokes. They were married as long as ordinary magic
Would allow, thirty-eight years, until Gracie Allen’s death.
In her fifties Gracie Allen developed a heart condition.
She would call George Burns when her heart felt funny and fluttered
He’d give her a pill and they’d hold each other till the palpitation
Stopped—just a few minutes, many times and pills. As magic fills
Then fulfilled must leave a space, one day Gracie Allen’s
And hurt and stopped. George Burns said unbelievingly to the doctor,
“But I still have some of the pills.”
Fancies in Springtime: Robert Pirsig
“The world comes to us in an endless stream of puzzle pieces that we would like to think all fit together somehow, but that in fact never do.”
British Art – Part I of II: Ralph Steadman
“Governments are not running the show anymore. Scumbag Entrepreneurs are, and they have a harsh and ruthless agenda.” – Ralph Steadman, British cartoonist best known for his work with Hunter S. Thompson, who was born 15 May 1936.
From the Music Archives: Peter, Paul & Mary
15 May 1963 – Peter, Paul & Mary win their first Grammy Award for “If I Had a Hammer.”
Fancies in Springtime: Carl Sagan
“The Cosmos may be densely populated with intelligent beings. But the Darwinian lesson is clear: There will be no humans elsewhere. Only here. Only on this small planet. We are a rare as well as an endangered species. Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.”
Fancies in Springtime: Philip Levine
“They Feed They Lion”
Out of burlap sacks, out of bearing butter,
Out of black bean and wet slate bread,
Out of the acids of rage, the candor of tar,
Out of creosote, gasoline, drive shafts, wooden dollies,
They Lion grow.
Out of the gray hills
Of industrial barns, out of rain, out of bus ride,
West Virginia to Kiss My Ass, out of buried aunties,
Mothers hardening like pounded stumps, out of stumps,
Out of the bones’ need to sharpen and the muscles’ to stretch,
They Lion grow.
Earth is eating trees, fence posts,
Gutted cars, earth is calling in her little ones,
“Come home, Come home!” From pig balls,
From the ferocity of pig driven to holiness,
From the furred ear and the full jowl come
The repose of the hung belly, from the purpose
They Lion grow.
From the sweet glues of the trotters
Come the sweet kinks of the fist, from the full flower
Of the hams the thorax of caves,
From “Bow Down” come “Rise Up,”
Come they Lion from the reeds of shovels,
The grained arm that pulls the hands,
They Lion grow.
From my five arms and all my hands,
From all my white sins forgiven, they feed,
From my car passing under the stars,
They Lion, from my children inherit,
From the oak turned to a wall, they Lion,
From they sack and they belly opened
And all that was hidden burning on the oil-stained earth
They feed they Lion and he comes.
British Art – Part II of II: Philip Harris
Here is one critic describing the artistry of painter
Philip Harris (born 1965): “He specialises in photorealistic figurative painting and portraiture, rendered in oils or pencil drawing. Despite the extraordinarily technical approach to his work he is a highly personal, idiosyncratic, expressive artist whose paintings may be disturbing and confrontational.”
A Second Poem for Today
“Some Boys are Born to Wander”
By Walt McDonald
From Michigan our son writes, How many elk?
How many big horn sheep? It’s spring,
and soon they’ll be gone above timberline,
climbing to tundra by summer. Some boys
are born to wander, my wife says, but rocky slopes
with spruce and Douglas fir are home.
He tried the navy, the marines, but even the army
wouldn’t take him, not with a foot like that.
Maybe it’s in the genes. I think of wild-eyed years
till I was twenty, and cringe. I loved motorcycles,
too dumb to say no to our son—too many switchbacks
in mountains, too many icy spots in spring.
Doctors stitched back his scalp, hoisted him in traction
like a twisted frame. I sold the motorbike to a junkyard,
but half his foot was gone. Last month, he cashed
Fancies in Springtime: Alan Watts
“It is interesting that Hindus, when they speak of the creation of the universe do not call it the work of God, they call it the play of God, the Vishnu lila, lila meaning play. And they look upon the whole manifestation of all the universes as a play, as a sport, as a kind of dance — lila perhaps being somewhat related to our word lilt.”
American Art – Part III of VIII: Richard Avedon
“All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.” – Richard Avedon, American photographer, who was born 15 May 1923.
The author of an obituary in “The New York Times” wrote of Avedon that “his fashion and portrait photographs helped define America’s image of style, beauty and culture for the last half-century.” While most critics are likely to agree with that assessment, I have decided to post not only some of Avedon’s “fashionable” work but also several poignant photographs from his collection “In The American West.”
Fancies in Springtime: Robert Pirsig
“The world has no existence whatsoever outside the human imagination. It’s all a ghost, and in antiquity was so recognized as a ghost, the whole blessed world we live in. It’s run by ghosts. We see what we see because these ghosts show it to us, ghosts of Moses and Christ and the Buddha, and Plato, and Descartes, and Rousseau and Jefferson and Lincoln, on and on and on. Isaac Newton is a very good ghost. One of the best. Your common sense is nothing more than the voices of thousands and thousands of these ghosts from the past. Ghosts and more ghosts. Ghosts trying to find their place among the living.”
A Third Poem for Today
By Robert Morgan
When the most intense revivals swept
the mountains just a century ago,
participants described the shouts and barks
in unknown tongues, the jerks of those who tried
to climb the walls, the holy dance and laugh.
But strangest are reports of what was called
the holy cuss. Sometimes a man who spoke
in tongues and leapt for joy would break into
an avalanche of cursing that would stun
with brilliance and duration. Those that heard
would say the holy spirit spoke as from
a whirlwind. Words burned on the air like chains
of dynamite. The listeners felt transfigured,
and felt true contact and true presence then,
as if the shock of unfamiliar
and blasphemous profanity broke through
beyond the reach of prayer and song and hallo
to answer heaven’s anger with its echo.
American Art – Part IV of VIII: Edward Hopper
“What I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house.” – Edward Hopper, American painter and printmaker, who died 15 May 1967.
“I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –“
I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air –
Between the Heaves of Storm –
The Eyes around – had wrung them dry –
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last Onset – when the King
Be witnessed – in the Room –
I willed my Keepsakes – Signed away
What portion of me be
Assignable – and then it was
There interposed a Fly –
Fancies in Springtime: Carl Sagan
“I can talk about my father in ordinary conversation without feeling more than the slightest pang of loss. But if I permit myself to remember him closely—his sense of humor, say, or his passionate egalitarianism—the facade crumbles and I want to weep because he is gone. There is no question that language can almost free us of feeling. Perhaps that is one of its functions—to let us consider the world without in the process becoming entirely overwhelmed by feeling. If so, then the invention of language is simultaneously a blessing and a curse.”
A Fourth Poem for Today
“Sunday Brunch at the Old Country Buffet”
By Anne Caston
Here is a genial congregation,
well fed and rosy with health and appetite,
robust children in tow. They have come
and all the generations of them, to be fed,
their old ones too who are eligible now
for a small discount, having lived to a ripe age.
Over the heaped and steaming plates, one by one,
heads bow, eyes close; the blessings are said.
Here there is good will; here peace
on earth, among the leafy greens, among the fruits
of the gardens of America’s heartland. Here is abundance,
here is the promised
land of milk and honey, out of which
a flank of the fatted calf, thick still
on its socket and bone, rises like a benediction
over the loaves of bread and the little fishes, belly-up in butter.
Fancies in Springtime: William Kittredge
“We know the story of civilization; it can be understood as a history of conquest, law-bringing and violence. We need a new story, in which we need to value intimacy. Somebody should give us a history of compassion, which would become a history of forgiveness and care-taking.”
American Art – Part V of VIII: Sharon Allicotti
Here is the Artist Statement of American painter Sharon Allicotti: “I have found that contemplating the spare beauty and silence of the desert region east of my home in Los Angeles seems to empty the mind of the trivial, with the poetic taking its place. These vast, abandoned landscapes inspire a state of creative reverie and, as featured in my work, are evocative of the profound mystery of the mind. Verisimilitude is crucial to the effectiveness of the work. The high degree of detailed pictorial realism engages the viewer in a resonant illusion meant to convey stillness and timelessness– as well as a sensation of subtle, inward intensity. The painstaking technique is employed to produce a compelling equivalence of observed appearances and a restrained surface quality appropriate to the works’ quiet, meditative expression. The dry, elemental properties of pastel, charcoal, and chalk feel particularly well-suited to describing features of an arid environment. The city-dweller must travel ever-increasing distances to find the rewards of relative solitude. The automobile, although a product of advanced technology, can privately convey us away from civilization and its material distractions. In the West, it is the largely undeveloped desert where we may find a renewed connection with what often remains elusive: our essential self.”
Fancies in Springtime: Alan Watts
“The past is never where you think you left it.” – Katherine Anne Porter, American journalist, essayist, short story writer, novelist, political activist, and recipient of the 1966 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (for “The Collected Stories”), who was born 15 May 1890.
Some quotes from the work of Katherine Anne Porter:
“There seems to be a kind of order in the universe…in the movement of the stars and the turning of the Earth and the changing of the seasons. But human life is almost pure chaos. Everyone takes his stance, asserts his own right and feelings, mistaking the motives of others, and his own.”
“I shall try to tell the truth, but the result will be fiction.”
“I get so tired of moral bookkeeping.”
“Love must be learned and learned again. There is no end.”
“Trust your happiness and the richness of your life at this moment. It is as true and as much yours as anything else that ever happened to you.”
“The trial of Jesus of Nazareth, the trial and rehabilitation of Joan of Arc, any one of the witchcraft trials in Salem during 1691, the Moscow trials of 1937 during which Stalin destroyed all of the founders of the 1924 Soviet Revolution, the Sacco-Vanzetti trial of 1920 through 1927- there are many trials such as these in which the victim was already condemned to death before the trial took place, and it took place only to cover up the real meaning: the accused was to be put to death. These are trials in which the judge, the counsel, the jury, and the witnesses are the criminals, not the accused. For any believer in capital punishment, the fear of an honest mistake on the part of all concerned is cited as the main argument against the final terrible decision to carry out the death sentence. There is the frightful possibility in all such trials as these that the judgment has already been pronounced and the trial is just a mask for murder.”
“The thought of him was a smoky cloud from hell that moved and crept in her head.”
“You waste life when you waste good food.”
“It is a simple truth that the human mind can face better the most oppressive government, the most rigid restrictions, than the awful prospect of a lawless, frontierless world. Freedom is a dangerous intoxicant and very few people can tolerate it in any quantity; it brings out the old raiding, oppressing, murderous instincts; the rage for revenge, for power, the lust for bloodshed. The longing for freedom takes the form of crushing the enemy- there is always the enemy! – into the earth; and where and who is the enemy if there is no visible establishment to attack, to destroy with blood and fire? Remember all that oratory when freedom is threatened again. Freedom, remember, is not the same as liberty.”
“The Grandmother always treated her animal friends as if they were human beings temporarily metamorphosed.”
“The whole effort for the past one hundred years has been to remove the moral responsibility from the individual and make him blame his own human wickedness on his society, but he helps to make his society, you see, and he will not take his responsibility for his part in it.”
“The road to death is a long march beset with all evils, and the heart fails little by little at each new terror, the bones rebel at each step, the mind sets up its own bitter resistance and to what end? The barriers sink one by one, and no covering of the eyes shuts out the landscape of disaster, nor the sight of crimes committed there.”
“It’s a man’s world, and you men can have it.”
American Art – Part VI of VIII: Rose Frantzen
American artist Rose Frantzen (born 1965) trained at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, and her paintings have been featured in many art magazines and journals.
From the American History Archives: Las Vegas
15 May 1905 – Las Vegas, Nevada is founded when 110 acres, in what would become downtown, are auctioned off.
Fancies in Springtime: Alan Watts
“You have seen that the universe is at root a magical illusion and a fabulous game, and that there is no separate ‘you’ to get something out of it, as if life were a bank to be robbed. The only real ‘you’ is the one that comes and goes, manifests and withdraws itself eternally in and as every conscious being. For ‘you’ is the universe looking at itself from billions of points of view, points that come and go so that the vision is forever new.”
American Art – Part VII of VIII: Seamus Conley
A Fifth Poem for Today
By Bob King
I know the origin of rocks, settling
out of water, hatching crystals
from fire, put under pressure
in various designs I gathered
pretty, picnic after picnic.
And I know about love, a little,
igneous lust, the slow affections
of the sedimentary, the pressure
on earth out of sight to rise up
into material, something solid
you can hold, a whole mountain,
for example, or a loose collection
of pebbles you forgot you were keeping.
Fancies in Springtime: Jack Gilbert
Suddenly this defeat.
The blues gone gray
And the browns gone gray
A terrible amber.
In the cold streets
Your warm body.
In whatever room
Your warm body.
Among all the people
The people who are always
I am interested in all the expressions of human culture: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly:
Back from the Territory – Art: Katie Sevigny (Part III)
In the words of one writer, “Katie moved to Haines, Alaska in 1994 as a young adult in search of a better life. She met her husband, Craig, in 1997. Katie and Craig moved to Anchorage in 2000 and married in 2002. Katie gave birth to their first son, Cooper, in 2003 and second son, Rowan, in 2005. Katie and Craig started to see the freedom of having two sons off to school and then they decided to throw themselves back into the trenches and gave birth to their third son, Satchel, in 2011!!
Katie has two great loves, her family and Art. One brings her joy and the other sanity! Between her three sons and a busy schedule, Katie tries to live her dream of being a successful artist.”
Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.
Fancies in Springtime: Robinson Jeffers
The Atlantic is a stormy moat; and the Mediterranean,
The blue pool in the old garden,
More than five thousand years has drunk sacrifice
Of ships and blood, and shines in the sun; but here the Pacific–
Our ships, planes, wars are perfectly irrelevant.
Neither our present blood-feud with the brave dwarfs
Nor any future world-quarrel of westering
And eastering man, the bloody migrations, greed of power, clash of faiths–
Is a speck of dust on the great scale-pan.
Here from this mountain shore, headland beyond stormy headland
plunging like dolphins through the blue sea-smoke
Into pale sea–look west at the hill of water: it is half the
this dome, this half-globe, this bulging
Eyeball of water, arched over to Asia,
Australia and white Antarctica: those are the eyelids that never close;
this is the staring unsleeping
Eye of the earth; and what it watches is not our wars.
American Art – Part VIII of VIII: David FeBland
Artist Statement: “My work explores the ever-modulating space between aspiration and reality. It’s an uncomfortable place for some, that sense of not quite being where or what you think you are – a mental state filled with frisson that approximates the combustible edge of colliding urban neighborhoods, its corporeal equivalent. After observing just such city spaces for many years, I have grown to realize that the concept of an Edge – or more precisely the turmoil where they collide – is as much a state of mind as a physical reality and therefore eminently transportable.
This isn’t a view I have come to quickly. For years, I embraced the boast that “it can only happen here”, as New Yorkers are fond of saying, and, truly, it has always been convenient for me to mine for inspiration from the perch of a densely populated Island, my home in Manhattan, where everything happens at a stone’s throw. Living in New York, I appropriated the common phrase, “living on the edge”, making it a Cardinal Rule of Survival at home but applying a second, more literal, meaning. Surviving here meant staying as close to the water as possible, far from Midtown, thus avoiding the City’s crushing and overheated core. The natural extension of such a strategy was eventually to CROSS the water entirely, leaving the Island to observe new places and subjects. I learned that interpreting the life I lived and observed in New York was certainly expedient but by no means necessary.
When I was given the opportunity to exhibit in Los Angeles, it seemed the perfect time to decisively step across that water, with its implied risk in crossing swift currents, to view an entirely different city and its culture. While the model of life is vastly more expansive than the compact, pedestrianized cities of Europe – or even of Manhattan – my observation of this city confirms my belief that whatever the nature of our lives in urban areas, most human interaction is universal.
In fact, I have always traveled extensively, long before I began making art, and mostly by bicycle. When venturing across the great mass of development we call LA, I adopted the local mode of transport, the automobile, and many of the paintings that came from this experience were made after observing life in a multitude of far-flung neighborhoods accessible in a short time only by traveling that way. The result is a series of paintings that are less direct observations than they are studio inventions that express my interpretation of the unique qualities of light and space I discovered in the context of this city’s culture.
Over a period of 35 years, I’ve often lived as both an insider and outsider, witnessing patterns of human behavior across cultural frontiers. These paintings express both roles for me: a city dweller traveling in a place both familiar and strange.”