“Gardening is one of the rewards of middle age, when one is ready for an impersonal passion, a passion that demands patience, acute awareness of a world outside oneself, and the power to keep on growing through all the times of drought, through the cold snows, toward those moments of pure joy when all failures are forgotten and the plum tree flowers.”
Below – Vincent van Gogh: “Japonaiserie: Flowering Plum Tree (after Hiroshige)”
Art for Winter – Part I of IV: Brett Livingstone Strong (Australian, contemporary)
Below – “Tree of Life”; “Ayers Rock, Australia”; “Tiger”; “Cheetahs Running”
Remembering a Writer on the Date of His Death: Died 7 March 2014 – Ned O’Gorman, an American poet and educator.
“Peace, after Long Madness”
By Ned O’Gorman
After a long madness peace is an assassin in the heart. Where there had been the clenched fist, the strung out sinew, the hamstrung grin, the erect eye and hand on every shadow like a spy, now the river springs from the crystal of its sleep in a sapphire lunge to the sea. A year of madness is a libation poured out of nettles and boiled herbs, of knives oiled with honey that cut silently to the spine. I was madness’s kin, no, more its parent blood, its coursing lymph, its skeleton. I kept company with lunacy, broke bread with him, lay beside him, my head in his arms, felt him draw down the sheet to watch me as I shook and so it was one year till now. Now the rocks become a sweetness in the listless meadow, the lutist brays to the ashes, flowers in the red crystal bowl push against the windowpane and I sleep again, my hands beneath my cheek, legs straight out, eyes shut against the inward stratagem of dream and the bedsheets and counterpane lie upon me no more leaded capes of knobbed steel, but companions of my skin, like the surface of my river is kindred balm to the volcanoes and riven headlands that lie beneath it like pain.
Art for Winter – Part II of IV: Jimmy Lee Sudduth (American, 1910-2007)
“We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.”
Art for Winter – Part IIII of IV: Vadik Suljakov (Russian, contemporary)
Below – “Parisian Lunch”; “Texture of Love”; Untitled
Worth a Thousand Words: Still life of plums; photograph by Masumi Shiohara.
Art for Winter – Part IV of IV: Donald Sultan (American, contemporary)
Below – “Mimosa”; “Monarchs”; “Acanthus”
Musings in Winter: Richard Dawkins
“The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable. It is a deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that music and poetry can deliver. It is truly one of the things that make life worth living and it does so, if anything, more effectively if it convinces us that the time we have for living is quite finite.”
This Date in Art History: Born 7 March 1885 – Milton Avery, an American painter.
Below – “Grazing Brahmins”; “Spotlight or Singing Trio, from the Theater Series”; Untitled (Lavender Farm and Hills); “Horses in a Landscape”; “Brook Bathers”; “Resting Gulls.”
Remembering a Nobel Laureate on the Date of Her Death: Died 6 March 1973 – Pearl S. Buck, an American novelist, essayist, short story writer, and recipient of both the 1932 Pulitzer Prize and the 1938 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Some quotes from the work of Pearl S. Buck:
“To find joy in work is to discover the fountain of youth.”
“The test of a civilization is in the way that it cares for its helpless members.”
“The lack of emotional security of our American young people is due, I believe, to their isolation from the larger family unit. No two people – no mere father and mother – as I have often said, are enough to provide emotional security for a child. He needs to feel himself one in a world of kinfolk, persons of variety in age and temperament, and yet allied to himself by an indissoluble bond which he cannot break if he could, for nature has welded him into it before he was born.”
“Truth is always exciting. Speak it, then; life is dull without it.”
“When good people in any country cease their vigilance and struggle, then evil men prevail.”
“You cannot make yourself feel something you do not feel, but you can make yourself do right in spite of your feelings.”
“Inside myself is a place where I live all alone and that is where I renew my springs that never dry up.”
“It is good to know our universe. What is new is only new to us.”
Art for Winter – Part I of IV: Zamy Steynovitz (Israeli, 1951-2000)
Below – Untitled Three Women; “A Ride into the Country”; “Essence of Time”
Remembering a Comic Genius on the Date of His Birth: Born 6 March 1906 – Lou Costello, an American actor of radio stage, television, and film, a burlesque comedian, and member often Abbott and Costello comedy team.
Art for Winter – Part II of IV: Thomas Stockett (American, 1924-2007)
Remembering the Alamo: On 6 March 1836 the Battle of the Alamo, which began on 23 February 1836, concluded with the death of the defenders. The following five prominent men were among the casualties: James Bonham, American lawyer and soldier; James Bowie, American colonel; Davy Crockett, American soldier and politician; William B. Travis, American lieutenant colonel and lawyer.
Below – “The Alamo,” as drawn in 1854.
Art for Winter – Part III of IV: Rolinda Stotts (American, contemporary)
Below – “Purple Mountain Majesty”; “Color of Winter”; “End of a Great Day”
Remembering an Important Thinker and Writer on the Date of His Death: Died 6 March 1974 – Ernest Becker, an American cultural anthropologist, author of “The Denial of Death,” and recipient of the 1974 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction.
Some quotes from “The Denial of Death”:
“When we are young we are often puzzled by the fact that each person we admire seems to have a different version of what life ought to be, what a good man is, how to live, and so on. If we are especially sensitive it seems more than puzzling, it is disheartening. What most people usually do is to follow one person’s ideas and then another’s depending on who looms largest on one’s horizon at the time. The one with the deepest voice, the strongest appearance, the most authority and success, is usually the one who gets our momentary allegiance; and we try to pattern our ideals after him. But as life goes on we get a perspective on this and all these different versions of truth become a little pathetic. Each person thinks that he has the formula for triumphing over life’s limitations and knows with authority what it means to be a man, and he usually tries to win a following for his particular patent. Today we know that people try so hard to win converts for their point of view because it is more than merely an outlook on life: it is an immortality formula.”
“The irony of man’s condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation; but it is life itself which awakens it, and so we must shrink from being fully alive.”
“Yet, at the same time, as the Eastern sages also knew, man is a worm and food for worms. This is the paradox: he is out of nature and hopelessly in it; he is dual, up in the stars and yet housed in a heart-pumping, breath-gasping body that once belonged to a fish and still carries the gill-marks to prove it. His body is a material fleshy casing that is alien to him in many ways—the strangest and most repugnant way being that it aches and bleeds and will decay and die. Man is literally split in two: he has an awareness of his own splendid uniqueness in that he sticks out of nature with a towering majesty, and yet he goes back into the ground a few feet in order to blindly and dumbly rot and disappear forever. It is a terrifying dilemma to be in and to have to live with. The lower animals are, of course, spared this painful contradiction, as they lack a symbolic identity and the self-consciousness that goes with it. They merely act and move reflexively as they are driven by their instincts. If they pause at all, it is only a physical pause; inside they are anonymous, and even their faces have no name. They live in a world without time, pulsating, as it were, in a state of dumb being. This is what has made it so simple to shoot down whole herds of buffalo or elephants. The animals don’t know that death is happening and continue grazing placidly while others drop alongside them. The knowledge of death is reflective and conceptual, and animals are spared it. They live and they disappear with the same thoughtlessness: a few minutes of fear, a few seconds of anguish, and it is over. But to live a whole lifetime with the fate of death haunting one’s dreams and even the most sun-filled days—that’s something else.”
“Modern man is drinking and drugging himself out of awarness, or he spends his time shopping, which is the same thing. As awarness calls for types of heroic dedication that his culture no longer provides for him, society contrives to help him forget. In the mysterious way in which life is given to us in evolution on this planet, it pushes in the direction of its own expansion. We don’t understand it simply because we don’t know the purpose of creation; we only feel life straining in ourselves and see it thrashing others about as they devour each other. Life seeks to expand in an unknown direction for unknown reasons.”
“‘Civilized’ society is a hopeful belief and protest that science, money and goods make man count for more than any other animal. In this sense everything that man does is religious and heroic, and yet in danger of being fictitious and fallible.”
“People create the reality they need in order to discover themselves.”
Art for Winter – Part IV of IV: James Strombotne (American, contemporary)
Worth a Thousand Words: An isolated group of pine trees, shrouded in mist and rain in The Trossachs, Stirling, Scotland. Photograph by William Dore.
This Date in Art History: Born 6 March 1475 – Michelangelo, an Italian painter and sculptor.
Below – “The Creation of Adam”; “The Last Judgement”; “The Libyan Sibyl”; “Statue of David”; “Pieta”; “Bacchus.”
Remembering an Actress on the Date of Her Death: Died 6 March 1965 – Margaret Dumont, an American stage an film actress best remembered as the comic foil to the Marx Brothers. Grouch Marx called Dumont “practically the fifth Marx brother.”
This Date in Art History – Died 6 March 1986 – Georgia O’Keeffe, an American painter.
Below – “Ram’s Head, White Hollyhock, and Little Hills”; “Oriental Poppies”; “Horse’s Skull with Pink Rose”; “Jimson Weed”; “Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses”; “Yellow Hickory Leaves and Daisy.”
Remembering a Writer on the Date of Her Birth: Born 6 March 1806 – Elizabeth Barrett Browning, an English poet.
“How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)”
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
American Art – Mark Stock (1951-2014)
In the words of one writer, “Mark Stock was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1951. The son of an Army officer, Stock lived in many states across America before settling in St. Petersburg, Florida. He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of South Florida in Tampa where he studied under Theo Wujcik. Upon graduating in 1976, Stock was hired to work at Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles as a lithographer. In 1977, Stock began studying ballet and modern dance. His work expanded to include designing sets for various Los Angeles-based dance companies. Stock started to paint the figure in 1983 and has become widely known for his narrative paintings”.
Below- “Wynn”; “Candace 2”; “The Butler in Love”; “Impulse”; “The Gift”; “Elena in Rapture.”
Tell me about the train that people say got buried
By the avalanche–was it snow?–It was
In Colorado, and no one saw it happen.
There was smoke from the engine curling up
Lightly through fir tops, and the engine sounds.
There were all those people reading–some
From Thoreau, some from Henry Ward Beecher.
And the engineer smoking and putting his head out.
I wonder when that happened. Was it after
High School, or was it the year we were two?
We entered this narrow place, and we heard the sound
Above us–the train couldn’t move fast enough.
It isn’t clear what happened next. Are you and I
Still sitting there in the train, waiting for the lights
To go on? Or did the real train get really buried;
So at night a ghost train comes out and keeps going…
Art for Winter – Part I of IV: Simeon Stafford (British, contemporary)
Below – “St. Ives”; “Still Life”; “A Day in Town, Cornwall”
Remembering a Composer on the Date of His Death: Died 5 March 1953 – Sergei Prokofiev, a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor.
Art for Winter – Part II of IV: Leo Stans (American, contemporary)
Remembering an Uncommonly Talented Performer on the Date of His Birth: Born 5 March 1955 – Penn Jillette, an American magician/illusionist, juggler, comedian, musician, actor, best-selling author, filmmaker, television personality, and member of the Penn & Teller magic team.
Some quotes from the work of Penn Jillette:
“If there’s something you really want to believe, that’s what you should question the most.”
“Luck is statistics taken personally.”
“If every trace of any single religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.”
“It’s not arrogant to say that you can’t figure out the answers to the universe with your internal faith. It’s not arrogant to know that there’s no omniscient, omnipotent prime mover in the universe who loves you personally. It’s not sad to feel that life and the love of your real friends and family is more than enough to make life worth living. Isn’t it much sadder to feel that there is a more important love required than the love of the people who have chosen to spend their limited time with you?”
“I, my own damn self, am not a Tea Party supporter. I disagree with them on social liberties, our overseas wars, Obama’s birthplace, Sarah Palin, and the conspicuous absence of tea at their rallies.”
“I don’t think anything gives your life joy and meaning. I think your life simply has joy and meaning. The love for my children, the love for my parents and the love for my friends is the end in itself. The meaning is life.”
“Read everything and be kind.”
Art for Winter – Part III of IV: Stephen Stavast (American, contemporary)
Below – “First to Fall”; “Daisies”; “Leavings”
Worth a Thousand Words: Photographer Frantisek Rerucha received much praise for this composition of dried flowers.
Art for Winter – Part IV of IV: Barry Stein (American, contemporary)
Below (all bronze) – “Red-Tailed Hawk”; “Spirit of the Wind”; “In Living Color”
Musings in Winter: Marcel Proust
“Sometimes in the afternoon sky the moon would pass white as a cloud, furtive, lusterless, like an actress who does not have to perform yet and who, from the audience, in street clothes, watches the other actors for a moment, making herself inconspicuous, not wanting anyone to pay attention to her.”
Contemporary American Art – Pat Steir
In the words of one writer, “Pat Steir’s complex paintings, prints, and drawings, encompass a lexicon of marks and signs. Born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1940, Steir developed an interest in art at a young age. She began her formal art training in 1956, studying graphic arts at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where she eventually received her B.F.A. in 1962. There, she was influenced by her teachers Richard Lindner and Phillip Guston, who encouraged her to find her own style rather than following popular ideas and techniques. It was Pat Steirs’ training in graphic arts and illustration that allowed her to develop her eclectic visual vocabulary. Pat Steir rejected traditional forms of composition in favor of seemingly unrelated shapes and forms. Pat Steir composed her works in combinations of random brushstrokes, grid lines, color charts, signs, color fields and pictorial elements to create canvases that display a self-conscious symbolism. Drips of paint in the works can refer to the actual process of painting. Within Steir’s works there is no fixed meaning, as the artist allows her viewers to draw their own inferences based on their personal history and associations. In process, Pat Steir starts with a mark that is developed into a unit of signs and symbols.”
Below -“Breadfruit”; “Self Becoming Van Gogh in a Yellow Hat”; “Wave After Hiroshima”; “Smaller Yellow on Blue Waterfall”; “Blue”; “Self After Self By Rembrandt.”
Remembering a Writer on the Date of Her Death: Died 4 March 1986 – Elizabeth Smart, a Canadian writer and poet.
by Elizabeth Smart
Why did Blake say
‘Sunflower weary of time’?
Every time I see them
they seem to say
Now! with a crash
and absolutely delighting
in their own round brightness.
Now I see what you mean.
Storms and frost have battered
their bright delight
and though they are still upright
nothing could say dejection
more than their weary
Below – Elizabeth Smart; “disillusioned” sunflowers.
This Date in Art History: Born 4 March 1912 – Afro Basaldella, an Italian painter.
For Your Information: 4 March is National Grammar Day in the United States. In the words of one writer, “National Grammar Day was established by Martha Brockenbrough, author of ‘Things That Make Us [Sic]’ (2008) and founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar.
This Date in Art History: Born 4 March 1952 – Peter Kuhfeld, an English figurative painter.
Below- “Mother and Child”; “The Countess”; “High Summer, Cornwall”; “The Final Touch”; “Andromeda, Vasca dell’Isola, Boboli Gardens”; “November Morning”; “River Gods, Villa Real.”
Remembering a Writer on the Date of His Death: Died 4 March 1963 – William Carlos Williams, an American poet, short story writer, essayist, recipient of the first National Book Award for Poetry (1949), and recipient of the 1963 Pulitzer Prize (awarded posthumously).
From “Book I, Paterson”
by William Carlos Williams
Paterson lies in the valley under the Passaic Falls
its spent waters forming the outline of his back. He
lies on his right side, head near the thunder
of the waters filling his dreams! Eternally asleep,
his dreams walk about the city where he persists
incognito. Butterflies settle on his stone ear.
Immortal he neither moves nor rouses and is seldom
seen, though he breathes and the subtleties of his machinations
drawing their substance from the noise of the pouring river
animate a thousand automations. Who because they
neither know their sources nor the sills of their
disappointments walk outside their bodies aimlessly
for the most part,
locked and forgot in their desires-unroused.
—Say it, no ideas but in things—
nothing but the blank faces of the houses
and cylindrical trees
bent, forked by preconception and accident—
split, furrowed, creased, mottled, stained—
secret—into the body of the light!
From above, higher than the spires, higher
even than the office towers, from oozy fields
abandoned to gray beds of dead grass,
black sumac, withered weed-stalks,
mud and thickets cluttered with dead leaves-
the river comes pouring in above the city
and crashes from the edge of the gorge
in a recoil of spray and rainbow mists-
(What common language to unravel?
. . .combed into straight lines
from that rafter of a rock’s
A man like a city and a woman like a flower
—who are in love. Two women. Three women.
Innumerable women, each like a flower.
only one man—like a city.
Below – William Carlos Williams; the Passaic Falls in Paterson, New Jersey.
This Date in Art History: Died 4 March 1987 – Seibo Kitamura, a Japanese sculptor.
Worth a Thousand Words: Wisteria in full bloom in Germany. Photograph by Volker Michael.
This Date in Art History: Died 4 March 1974 – Adolphe Gottlieb, an American painter and sculptor.
Below- “Compartments of Memory”; “Brown on Black”; “The Cage”; “Black Field”; “Vertical.”
Remembering a Writer on the Date of His Death: Died 4 March 2016 – Pat Conroy, American novelist, memoirist, and author of “The Prince of Tides.”
Some quotes from the work of Pat Conroy:
“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”
“Happiness is an accident of nature, a beautiful and flawless aberration.”
“You get a little moody sometimes but I think that’s because you like to read. People that like to read are always a little fucked up.”
“American men are allotted just as many tears as American women. But because we are forbidden to shed them, we die long before women do, with our hearts exploding or our blood pressure rising or our livers eaten away by alcohol because that lake of grief inside us has no outlet. We, men, die because our faces were not watered enough.”
“I don’t know why it is that I have always been happier thinking of somewhere I have been or wanted to go, than where I am at the time. I find it difficult to be happy in the present.”
“I wanted to become the seeker, the aroused and passionate explorer, and it was better to go at it knowing nothing at all, always choosing the unmarked bottle, always choosing your own unproven method, armed with nothing but faith and a belief in astonishment.”
I do not have any other way of saying it. I think it happens but once and only to the very young when it feels like your skin could ignite at the mere touch of another person. You get to love like that but once.”
“The world of literature has everything in it, and it refuses to leave
anything out. I have read like a man on fire my whole life because the
genius of English teachers touched me with the dazzling beauty of language. Because of them I rode with Don Quixote and danced with Anna
Karenina at a ball in St. Petersburg and lassoed a steer in ‘Lonesome Dove’ and had nightmares about slavery in ‘Beloved’ and walked the streets of Dublin in ‘Ulysses’ and made up a hundred stories in the Arabian nights and saw my mother killed by a baseball in ‘A Prayer for Owen Meany.’ I’ve been in ten thousand cities and have introduced myself to a hundred thousand strangers in my exuberant reading career, all because I listened to my fabulous English teachers and soaked up every single thing those magnificent men and women had to give. I cherish and praise them and thank them for finding me when I was a boy and presenting me with the precious gift of the English language.”
This Date in Art History: Born 4 March 1889 – Robert William Wood, an American painter.
Below – “Snake River”; “Bluebonnet Landscape”; “Seascape”; “Golden Hour”; “Smokies”; “Mount Moran from Spring Lake.”
“The capacity for love that makes dogs such rewarding companions has a flip-side: They find it difficult to cope without us. Since we humans programmed this vulnerability, it’s our responsibility to ensure that our dogs do not suffer as a result.”
Art for Winter – Part I of II: Luis Sottil (American, contemporary)
Worth a Thousand Words: Sunlit Pulsatilla flowers at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London. Photograph by Alison Staite.
Art for Winter – Part II of II: Raphael Soyer (American, 1899-1987)
Below – “Woman on Street”; “Portrait of Rebecca Soyer”; “City Street”
Musings in Winter: T.S. Eliot
“Where does one go from a world of insanity? Somewhere on the other side of despair.”
This Date in Art History: Born 3 March 1914 – Asger Jorn, a Danish painter and sculptor.
Below – “Letter to My Son”; “Disquieting Ecstasy”; “The Moon and the Animals”; “Paris by Night”; “Stalingrad.”
Remembering a Writer on the Date of His Birth: Born 3 March 1926 – James Merrill, an American poet and playwright.
“The Candid Decorator”
by James Merrill
I thought I would do over
All of it. I was tired
Of scars and stains, of bleared
Panes, tinge of the liver.
The fuchsia in the center
Looked positively weird
I felt it—dry as paper.
I called a decorator.
In next to no time such
A nice young man appeared.
What had I in mind?
Oh, lots and lots of things—
Fresh colors, pinks and whites
That one would want to touch;
The windows redesigned;
The plant thrown out in favor,
Say, of a small tree,
An orange or a pear . . .
He listened dreamily.
Combing his golden hair
He measured with one glance
The distance I had come
To reach this point. And then
He put away his comb
He said: “Extravagance!
Suppose it could be done.
You’d have to give me carte
Blanche and an untold sum.
But to be frank, my dear,
Living here quite alone
(Oh I have seen it, true,
But me you needn’t fear)
You’ve one thing to the good:
While not exactly smart,
Your wee place, on the whole
It couldn’t be more ‘you.’
Still, if you like—” I could
Not speak. He had seen my soul,
Had said what I dreaded to hear.
Ending the interview
I rose, blindly. I swept
To show him to the door,
And knelt, when he had left,
By my Grand Rapids chair,
And wept until I laughed
And laughed until I wept.
This Date in Art History: Born 3 March 1893 – Beatrice Wood, an American potter and illustrator.
Below – Riding figure; Fish platter; “Woman with Flowers” (colored clay); Ceramic bowl; Gold Lustre Teapot (earthenware with lustrous); “Beato” (pottery pedestal bowl).
Musings in Winter: Annie Dillard
“No one ever said it would be easy.”
American Art – Moses Soyer (1899-1974)
In the words of one writer, “Moses Soyer was a Russian-American painter, best known for his Social Realist portraits of Depression-Era Americans. Born on December 25, 1899 in Borisoglebsk, Russia, Soyer was a key figure in the early 20th-century American realist movement. His stylized and moody portraits, usually of women, sought to provide a representative depiction of daily American psychology and struggle during a period of economic turmoil.”
Below – “Dancers”; Untitled; “Two Dancers”; “White Chemise”; “Girl in Green”; “H.G. with Standing Nude.”