American Art – Part I of IV: Gordon Mortensen
In the words of one writer, “Gordon Mortensen (b. 1938) is one of the best known reduction woodcut print artists working in the U.S today. He works from watercolor studies to understand the color dynamics needed for the woodcut. The artist uses up to sixty-four colors and takes as long as three months to create the woodblock image. Although the final outcome has a painterly feel, it is unmistakably a woodcut with rich layered colors and wood grain textures. His early images mostly represent the upper Midwest landscape, and areas around where he lived in North Dakota. His color preferences in these early works is more muted compared to the brighter colors he favors to present his current home in California.”
Reflections in Summer: John Bohrn
“Let me enjoy this late-summer day of my heart while the leaves are still green and I won’t look so close as to see that first tint of pale yellow slowly creep in. I will cease endless running and then look to the sky ask the sun to embrace me and then hope she won’t tell of tomorrows less long than today. Let me spend just this time in the slow-cooling glow of warm afternoon light and I’d think I will still have the strength for just one more last fling of my heart.”
A Poem for Today
By David M. Starkey
When I was young, I’d stay awake
The night before we were to fly.
I studied maps with a penlight,
Plotting the likely route we’d taken,
Charting the details of our flight.
But when the plane had cleared the ground,
I’d drowse until the journey’s end.
I never cared for what occurred
Beyond imagination’s bounds:
My dreams expired just when they stirred.
Reflections in Summer: Joseph Wood Krutch
“August creates as she slumbers, replete and satisfied.”
In 1902, Mother Jones was called “the most dangerous woman in America” for her success in organizing workers and their families against mine owners. She would be just as dangerous today, since her edgy eloquence might help awaken Americans to the fact that they are in thrall to McWorld – a trance-like condition in which they have been tricked into believing that buying things is synonymous with having a happy, fulfilling, and meaningful life – and that this state of affairs helps allow the greedy few to exploit the impoverished many.
Some quotes from the work of Mother Jones:
“I am not afraid of the pen, or the scaffold, or the sword. I will tell the truth wherever I please.”
“I believe that no man who holds a leader’s position should ever accept favors from either side. He is then committed to show favors. A leader must stand alone.”
“I learned in the early part of my career that labor must bear the cross for others’ sins, must be the vicarious sufferer for the wrongs that others do.”
“I’m not a humanitarian; I’m a hell-raiser.”
“If they want to hang me, let them. And on the scaffold I will shout Freedom for the working class!”
“Injustice boils in men’s hearts as does steel in its cauldron, ready to pour forth, white hot, in the fullness of time.”
“My address is like my shoes. It travels with me. I abide where there is a fight against wrong.”
“Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”
“Some day the workers will take possession of your city hall, and when we do, no child will be sacrificed on the altar of profit!”
“The miners lost because they had only the constitution. The other side had bayonets. In the end, bayonets always win.”
Reflections in Summer: William Carlos Williams
American Art – Part II of IV: Suzi Mather
In the words of one critic, “Suzi Mather is not the product of any art school or college. There are no degrees hanging on her walls, only the multitude of awards and ribbons given to her by those with degrees in the arts. She is truly the epitome of the born artist.
From the first, Suzi has painted what she knows and loves. A great animal lover and horsewoman, her paintings evolved from horses, cowboys and Indians, through farm animals and children to her current passion – cats.
Suzi has developed a method almost unheard of in the use of water colors, painting from dark to light rather than light to dark as virtually all other watercolorists do. This enables Suzi to achieve the deep, rich colors and brilliant highlights that draw the eye to her paintings.
Mellowed and tamed by years of struggle, her eye now sought that which was pleasing and healing. The result has been watercolor paintings of cats which are neither cutesy nor stylized, but very real in a warm, almost touchable sense.”
Reflections in Summer: Sylvia Plath
“August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.”
A Second Poem for Today
“The Map of the Hand”
By Al Zolynas
What territory is this?
What rivers, what boundaries?
Whose bones beneath the ancient mounds?
Life, head, heart, fate–
the lines that hold us up,
that cradle us in the deep,
rocking wind of our lives.
Reflections in Summer: Wendell Berry
“When I rise up
let me rise up joyful
like a bird.
“Art is the means we have of undoing the damage of haste. It’s what everything else isn’t.” – Theodore Roethke, American poet and winner of both the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the National Book Award for Poetry (twice), who died on 1 August 1963.
Now as the train bears west,
Its rhythm rocks the earth,
And from my Pullman berth
I stare into the night
While others take their rest.
Bridges of iron lace,
A suddenness of trees,
A lap of mountain mist
All cross my line of sight,
Then a bleak wasted place,
And a lake below my knees.
Full on my neck I feel
The straining at a curve;
My muscles move with steel,
I wake in every nerve.
I watch a beacon swing
From dark to blazing bright;
We thunder through ravines
And gullies washed with light.
Beyond the mountain pass
Mist deepens on the pane;
We rush into a rain
That rattles double glass.
Wheels shake the roadbed stone,
The pistons jerk and shove,
I stay up half the night
To see the land I love.
Reflections in Summer: Georgia O’Keeffe
“To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.”
American Art – Part III of IV: Sanna Tomac
Artist Statement: “Painting is a means for me to contribute something of beauty to the lives of others and express the loveliness, mystery and wonder of the world around us (without the use of words). Outside of motherhood, it is what gives my life value and purpose.”
Reflections in Summer: Dana Gioia
“And hate the bright stillness of the noon
without wind, without motion.
the only other living thing
a hawk, hungry for prey, suspended
in the blinding, sunlit blue.
And yet how gentle it seems to someone
raised in a landscape short of rain—
the skyline of a hill broken by no more
trees than one can count, the grass,
the empty sky, the wish for water.”
A Third Poem for Today
By Robert Winner
Surviving in its fragile skin,
a white egret rises
from the gulf of its strength.
I want the lightest needle of a pine
to fall on my hand,
a pine with ravaged limbs.
Reflections in Summer: Joseph Campbell
”If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”
“Queequeg was a native of Kokovoko, an island far away to the West and South. It is not down in any map; true places never are.” – Herman Melville, novelist, short story writer, essayist, poet, and author of “Moby-Dick,” the most brilliant and instructive work of fiction yet written by an American, who was born on 1 August 1819, stating a truth that every child knows and most adults have forgotten.
Anyone who wants to better understand what Henry James called the “complex fate” it is to be an American should read “Moby-Dick.” It’s all there: the promise and the peril, the wisdom and the ignorance, the good sense and the superstition, the pragmatism and the nihilism, the poetry and the vulgarity, the love of life and the unholy war on nature, the feeling of seemingly limitless possibility and the sense of impending doom. The Pequod and its crew offer the attentive reader a series of profoundly edifying insights into the myths that inform and shape the paradox that is American national character.
Some quotes from Herman Melville:
“At sea a fellow comes out. Salt water is like wine, in that respect.”
“Faith, like a jackal, feeds among the tombs, and even from these dead doubts she gathers her most vital hope.”
“He who has never failed somewhere, that man can not be great.”
“There are hardly five critics in America; and several of them are asleep.”
“He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.”
“There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true method.”
“In this world, shipmates, sin that pays its way can travel freely, and without passport; whereas Virtue, if a pauper, is stopped at all frontiers.”
“There is one knows not what sweet mystery about this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath.”
Reflections in Summer: Rachel Carson
“One summer night, out on a flat headland, all but surrounded by the waters of the bay, the horizons were remote and distant rims on the edge of space.”
Back from the Territory – Art: Allan Sheutiapik
Allan Sheutiapik is an Inuit sculptor.
Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.
Reflections in Summer: Ernest J. Berry
A Fourth Poem for Today
“Failing and Flying”
By Jack Gilbert
Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It’s the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.
Reflections in Summer: Elizabeth Maua Taylor
“August rushes by like desert rainfall,
A flood of frenzied upheaval,
But still catching me unprepared.
Like a matchflame
Bursting on the scene,
Heat and haze of crimson sunsets.
Like a dream
Of moon and dark barely recalled,
Shadows caught in a blink.
Like a quick kiss;
One wishes for more
But it suddenly turns to leave,
Dragging summer away.”
American Art – Part IV of IV: Malcolm T. Leipke
Largely self-taught, Malcolm T. Leipke paints in a style that synthesizes the work of other artists – John Singer Sargent, Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Diego Velazquez, and James McNeill Whistler, among others – to create portraits that are both visually familiar and wholly unique. Liepke favors portraits of ordinary women in glamorous contexts, producing voyeuristic nudes that are sexualized through a realistic lens rather than a pornographic one. Loose brushstrokes and dusty gray-green skin tones imbue his subjects with a fleshy sensuality, while simple gestures and expressions convey emotions. Leipke paints from photographs and works in a wet-on-wet technique, borrowed from artists like Sargent and Velázquez, in which layers of oil paint are built up without drying in between.”