American Art – Part I of III: Sean Beavers
In the words of one writer, “Drawing on the long-standing traditions of landscape and still-life painting, Sean Beavers creates meticulous realist paintings in an attempt to understand the subtleties of color and light that render the ocean or a piece of fruit beautiful. “Painting forces me to study and understand a thing or an idea, to spend so much time with something that I can really begin to see it,” Beavers has said. Whether painting a single apple or a seascape, he renders each detail in stunning and luminous detail. Although his still-life works eschew location, Beavers’s land and seascapes are direct responses to his adopted home in Maine.”
Reflections in Summer: Henri Matisse
“There are always flowers for those who want to see them.”
Died 12 August 30 B.C.E. – Cleopatra, member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, consort of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, and one of history’s most famous and celebrated women. According to the traditional story, after her forces lost the Battle of Actium, Cleopatra committed suicide by allowing an asp to bite her – an event immortalized by numerous artists.
A Poem for Today
By Jay Parini
Days come and go:
this bird by minute, hour by leaf,
a calendar of loss.
I shift through woods, sifting
the air for August cadences
and walk beyond the boundaries I’ve kept
for months, past loose stone walls,
the fences breaking into sticks,
the poems always spilling into prose.
A low sweet meadow full of stars
beyond the margin
fills with big-boned, steaming mares.
The skies above are bruised like fruit,
their juices running,
black-veined marble of regret.
The road gusts sideways:
sassafras and rue.
A warbler warbles.
Did I wake the night through?
Walk through sleeping?
Shuffle for another way to mourn?
Dawn pinks up.
In sparking grass I find beginnings.
I was cradled here.
I gabbled and I spun.
And gradually the many men inside me
found their names,
acquired definition, points of view.
There was much to say,
not all of it untrue.
As the faithful seasons fell away,
I followed till my thoughts
inhabited a tree of thorns
that grew in muck of my own making.
Yet I was lifted and laid bare.
I hung there weakly: crossed, crossed-out.
At first I didn’t know
a voice inside me speaking low.
I stumbled in my way.
But now these hours that can’t be counted
find me fresh, this ordinary time
like kingdom come.
In clarity of dawn,
I fill my lungs, a summer-full of breaths.
The great field holds the wind, and sways.
Reflections in Summer: Tennessee Williams
From the Movie Archives: “Wings”
12 August 1927 – The silent movie “Wings” opens in the United States. In the words of one historian, “‘Wings’ is a 1927 American silent war film set during the First World War produced by Lucien Hubbard, directed by William A. Wellman and released by Paramount Pictures. It stars Clara Bow, Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers, and Richard Arlen, and Gary Cooper appears in a role which helped launch his career in Hollywood. It went on to win the first Academy Award for Best Picture at the first annual Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences award ceremony in 1929, the only silent film to do so.”
Reflections in Summer: W.E.B du Bois
“A wise man travels to discover himself.” – James Russell Lowell, American Romantic poet, critic, editor, and diplomat, who died 12 August 1891.
Some quotes from the work of James Russell Lowell:
“Men in earnest have no time to waste in patching fig leaves for the naked truth.”
“Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind.”
“Solitude is as needful to the imagination as society is wholesome for the character.”
“All the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action.”
“Democracy gives every man the right to be his own oppressor.”
“Things always seem fairer when we look back at them, and it is out of that inaccessible tower of the past that Longing leans and beckons.”
“A weed is no more than a flower in disguise.”
“A wise skepticism is the first attribute of a good critic.”
“Mishaps are like knives, that either serve us or cut us, as we grasp them by the blade or by the handle.”
“The nurse of full-grown souls is solitude.”
Reflections in Summer: Antoine de Saint-Exupery
From the Music Archives: Mark Knopfler
“I don’t like definitions, but if there is a definition of freedom, it would be when you have control over your reality to transform it, to change it, rather than having it imposed upon you. You can’t really ask for more than that.” – Mark Knopfler, British songwriter, film score composer, guitarist, and record producer best known as the lead guitarist, songwriter, and vocalist for Dire Straits, which he co-founded with his brother David in 1977, who was born 12 August 1949.
Reflections in Summer: Anthony Burgess
A Second Poem for Today
By Edna St. Vincent Millay
If it were only still!—
With far away the shrill
Crying of a cock;
Or the shaken bell
From a cow’s throat
Moving through the bushes;
Or the soft shock
Of wizened apples falling
From an old tree
In a forgotten orchard
Upon the hilly rock!
Oh, grey hill,
Where the grazing herd
Licks the purple blossom,
Crops the spiky weed!
Oh, stony pasture,
Where the tall mullein
Stands up so sturdy
On its little seed!
“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.” – William Blake, English painter, printmaker, poet, and genius, who died 12 August 1827.
Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!
When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
Reflections in Summer: Andre Gide
Nobel Laureate: Thomas Mann
“A man’s dying is more the survivors’ affair than his own.” – Thomas Mann, German novelist, short story writer, social critic, essayist, author of “Buddenbrooks,” “Death in Venice,” and “The Magic Mountain,” and winner of the 1929 Nobel Prize in Literature “”principally for his great novel, ‘Buddenbrooks,’ which has won steadily increased recognition as one of the classic works of contemporary literature,” who died on 12 August 1955.
Some quotes from the work of Thomas Mann:
“A man lives not only his personal life, as an individual, but also, consciously or unconsciously, the life of his epoch and his contemporaries.”
“But my deepest and most secret love belongs to the fair-haired and the blue-eyed, the bright children of life, the happy, the charming and the ordinary.”
“Democracy is timelessly human, and timelessness always implies a certain amount of potential youthfulness.”
“Every reasonable human being should be a moderate Socialist.”
“For I must tell you that we artists cannot tread the path of Beauty without Eros keeping company with us and appointing himself as our guide.”
“Everything is politics.”
“For the myth is the foundation of life; it is the timeless schema, the pious formula into which life flows when it reproduces its traits out of the unconscious.”
“Has the world ever been changed by anything save the thought and its magic vehicle the Word?”
“I don’t think anyone is thinking long-term now.”
“It is a strange fact that freedom and equality, the two basic ideas of democracy, are to some extent contradictory. Logically considered, freedom and equality are mutually exclusive, just as society and the individual are mutually exclusive.”
“Literature… is the union of suffering with the instinct for form.”
“Reduced to a miserable mass level, the level of a Hitler, German Romanticism broke out into hysterical barbarism.”
“Solitude gives birth to the original in us, to beauty unfamiliar and perilous – to poetry. But also, it gives birth to the opposite: to the perverse, the illicit, the absurd.”
“War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.”
A Third Poem for Today
By Jay Parini
It’s true I never loved my country
in the abstract sense: red, white, or blue.
I have only this black waving flag,
Stars, bold stripes,
remind me of a million dead young men
in far-off ditches,
remind me of the innocents who fell,
wild-eyed, blazing: each of them
a universe unmade.
I say that I have never loved my country,
but I’d surely die
for several good friends, my wife and sons.
I’d sacrifice a number of pink toes
and fingers, too (my own)
for Emerson, for Whitman and Thoreau.
I’d give an eye for one deep lake,
for several good streams,
at least one waterfall,
a lovely stand of Norway pines
just east of here, not far away.
Reflections in Summer: Franz Kafka
“You need not leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You need not even listen, simply wait, just learn to become quiet, and still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
American Art – Part II of III: Zak Barnes
Artist Statement: “Born and raised in Kansas, I feel a deep connection to the prairie landscape and to the people of this land. These are the base and anchor of my work, and set the emotional tone for any narrative that plays itself out in the paintings. My strongest influences are my immediate environment, life experience, and the way my mind interprets this information. I live alternatively within remote and more cosmopolitan settings, working both in the studio and in the landscape. In this way I am able to explore a wide range of physical and emotional experience.”
“Theories that go counter to the facts of human nature are foredoomed.” – Edith Hamilton, German-American educator, Classical scholar, and author of “Mythology” and “The Greek Way,” who was born on 12 August 1867.
Some quotes from the work of Edith Hamilton:
“When the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again.”
“When the mind withdraws into itself and dispenses with facts it makes only chaos.”
“A people’s literature is the great textbook for real knowledge of them. The writings of the day show the quality of the people as no historical reconstruction can.”
“None but a poet can write a tragedy. For tragedy is nothing less than pain transmuted into exaltation by the alchemy of poetry.”
“The fullness of life is in the hazards of life.”
“The power of good is shown not by triumphantly conquering evil, but by continuing to resist evil while facing certain defeat.”
“The modern mind is never popular in its own day. People hate being made to think.”
“It has always seemed strange to me that in our endless discussions about education so little stress is laid on the pleasure of becoming an educated person, the enormous interest it adds to life. To be able to be caught up into the world of thought—that is to be educated.”
A Fourth Poem for Today
“For the Graduation [Bolinas School, June 11, 1971]”
By Robert Creeley
Pretension has it
what’s gone by.
Yet I don’t believe it.
in this place
and the sun
comes, or goes
and comes again,
on the same day.
We live in a circle,
older or younger,
we go round
and around on this earth.
Reflections in Summer: Paul Gauguin
“I shut my eyes in order to see.”
Back from the Territory – Art: David Qimirpik
David Qimirpik is an Inuit sculptor.
Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.
Reflections in Summer: Henry David Thoreau
American Art – Part III of III: David Graeme Baker
In the words of one writer, “South African-born, Maine-based painter David Graeme Baker depicts contemporary domestic genre scenes with implied narratives. Approaching his paintings with a meticulous eye for detail, Baker focuses on mundane moments that he grants heightened importance and emotional resonance, drawing viewers into his constructed world. His subjects stem from photographs and extensive drafting based on the images, as well as art history, pop culture, and literature—all of which he draws on for inspiration, collecting and cataloging narratives around the particular theme that ultimately becomes the primary focus of his painting.”