American Art – Part I of V: Alexander Stirling Calder
Born 11 January 1870 – Alexander Stirling Calder, an American sculptor.
“The Cat’s Song,”
By Marge Piercy
Mine, says the cat, putting out his paw of darkness.
My lover, my friend, my slave, my toy, says
the cat making on your chest his gesture of drawing
milk from his mother’s forgotten breasts.
Let us walk in the woods, says the cat.
I’ll teach you to read the tabloid of scents,
to fade into shadow, wait like a trap, to hunt.
Now I lay this plump warm mouse on your mat.
You feed me, I try to feed you, we are friends,
says the cat, although I am more equal than you.
Can you leap twenty times the height of your body?
Can you run up and down trees? Jump between roofs?
Let us rub our bodies together and talk of touch.
My emotions are pure as salt crystals and as hard.
My lusts glow like my eyes. I sing to you in the mornings
walking round and round your bed and into your face.
Come I will teach you to dance as naturally
as falling asleep and waking and stretching long, long.
I speak greed with my paws and fear with my whiskers.
Envy lashes my tail. Love speaks me entire, a word
of fur. I will teach you to be still as an egg
and to slip like the ghost of wind through the grass.
In the words of one critic, Czech artist Jakub Schikaneder (1855-1924) “is known for his soft paintings of the outdoors, often lonely in mood. His paintings often feature poor and outcast figures. Other motifs favoured by Schikaneder were autumn and winter, corners and alleyways in the city of Prague and the banks of the Vltava – often in the early evening light, or cloaked in mist.”
Our Good Companions – Part II of II: Edward Lear
“The Owl and the Pussy-Cat,”
By Edward Lear
The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are!”
Pussy said to the Owl, “You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?”
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-Tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.
“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.”
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.
Born 11 January 1911 – Nora Heysen, an Australian artist, the first woman to win the prestigious Archibald Prize for Portraiture in 1937, and the first Australian woman appointed as an official war artist.
Our Good Companions – Part III of III: Robin Robertson
By Robin Robertson
A figment, a thumbed
maquette of a cat, some
ditched plaything, something
brought in from outside:
his white fur stiff and grey,
coming apart at the seams.
I study the muzzle
of perished rubber, one ear
eaten away, his sour body
lumped like a bean-bag
into a grim towel. I sit
and watch the light
degrade in his eyes.
He tries and fails
to climb to his chair, shirks
in one corner of the kitchen,
cowed, denatured, ceasing to be
anything like a cat,
and there’s a new look
in those eyes
that refuse to meet mine
and it’s the shame of being
found out. Just that.
And with that
loss of face
his face, I see,
has turned human.
Below – “Cat,” by Martin Maloney.
From the Music Archives: Terry Williams
Born 11 January 1948 – Terry Williams, a British rock drummer best known for being a member of Dire Straits from 1982 until 1988.
Died 11 January 1957 – Edgard Tytgat, a Flemish painter.
Below (left to right) – “Woman with Straw Hat”; “A Girl With a Cat”; “Awakening of Spring”; “Girl With Her Doll”; “Four Naked Girls on a Boat at Sea”; “Self-Portrait.”
“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” – Sir Edmund Hillary, New Zealand mountaineer, explorer, philanthropist who, with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, became the first climbers confirmed as having reached the summit of Mount Everest, who died 11 January 2008.
Some quotes from the work of Sir Edmund Hillary:
“While on top of Everest, I looked across the valley towards the great peak Makalu and mentally worked out a route about how it could be climbed. It showed me that even though I was standing on top of the world, it wasn’t the end of everything. I was still looking beyond to other interesting challenges.”
“Nobody climbs mountains for scientific reasons. Science is used to raise money for the expeditions, but you really climb for the hell of it.”
“People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.”
“Human life is far more important than just getting to the top of a mountain.”
“I don’t know if I particularly want to be remembered for anything. I personally do not think I’m a great gift to the world. I’ve been very fortunate.”
“Life’s a bit like mountaineering – never look down.”
“Many people have been getting too casual about climbing Everest. I forecast a disaster many times.”
“There is precious little in civilization to appeal to a Yeti.”
“Despite all I have seen and experienced, I still get the same simple thrill out of glimpsing a tiny patch of snow in a high mountain gully and feel the same urge to climb towards it.”
“I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about dying, but I like to think that I’ve – if it did occur – that I would die peacefully and not make too much of a fuss about it.”
“I think the really good mountaineer is the man with the technical ability of the professional and with the enthusiasm and freshness of approach of the amateur.”
“I’m sure the feeling of fear, as long as you can take advantage of it and not be rendered useless by it, can make you extend yourself beyond what you would regard as your capacity. If you’re afraid, the blood seems to flow freely through the veins, and you really do feel a sense of stimulation.”
“My most important projects have been the building and maintaining of schools and medical clinics for my dear friends in the Himalaya and helping restore their beautiful monasteries, too.”
“When I was 50 years old, I actually decided to draw up a list of half a dozen things that I really hadn’t done very well, and I was going to make efforts to improve. One of them was skiing, and I really did become a very much better skier.”
11 January 1952 – The Bollingen Prize for poetry is awarded to Marianne Moore.
Man, looking into the sea—
taking the view from those who have as much right to it as you have it to yourself—
it is human nature to stand in the middle of a thing
but you cannot stand in the middle of this:
the sea has nothing to give but a well excavated grave.
The firs stand in a procession—each with an emerald turkey-foot at the top—
reserved as their contours, saying nothing;
repression, however, is not the most obvious characteristic of the sea;
the sea is a collector, quick to return a rapacious look.
There are others besides you who have worn that look—
whose expression is no longer a protest; the fish no longer investigate them
for their bones have not lasted;
men lower nets, unconscious of the fact that they are desecrating a grave,
and row quickly away—the blades of the oars
moving together like the feet of water-spiders as if there were no such thing as death.
The wrinkles progress upon themselves in a phalanx—beautiful under networks of foam,
and fade breathlessly while the sea rustles in and out of the seaweed;
the birds swim through the air at top speed, emitting cat-calls as heretofore—
the tortoise-shell scourges about the feet of the cliffs, in motion beneath them
and the ocean, under the pulsation of light-houses and noise of bell-buoys,
advances as usual, looking as if it were not that ocean in which dropped things are bound to sink—
in which if they turn and twist, it is neither with volition nor consciousness.
American Art – Part II of V: Anne Meyer
Artist Statement: “I am an artist who has worked in several mediums and has been focused on art-making since I could talk. My pieces are the physical evidence left by an on-going inquiry into who I am and my relationship to the world, and they allow me to see change in myself.
Making art for me is like breathing: underpinning my day-to-day concerns are cycles of inspiration and expression. I look to art for evidence of human awareness and concern, and I invest my own thoughts and caring into my art-work. My measure of my work is if others are moved by it, and I value my work for the dialogue it creates between me and its viewers. I am continually amazed at the stories that my pieces draw out of others, deepening my understanding of the images I’ve made.
I believe that by choosing to engage with something, we encounter an opportunity to develop and to become. Art is the language I understand with which to engage the world.”
11 January 1959 – The Bollingen Prize for poetry is awarded to Theodore Roethke.
“I Knew a Woman”
I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:
The shapes a bright container can contain!
Of her choice virtues only gods should speak,
Or English poets who grew up on Greek
(I’d have them sing in chorus, cheek to cheek).
How well her wishes went! She stroked my chin,
She taught me Turn, and Counter-turn, and Stand;
She taught me Touch, that undulant white skin;
I nibbled meekly from her proffered hand;
She was the sickle; I, poor I, the rake,
Coming behind her for her pretty sake
(But what prodigious mowing we did make).
Love likes a gander, and adores a goose:
Her full lips pursed, the errant note to seize;
She played it quick, she played it light and loose;
My eyes, they dazzled at her flowing knees;
Her several parts could keep a pure repose,
Or one hip quiver with a mobile nose
(She moved in circles, and those circles moved).
Let seed be grass, and grass turn into hay:
I’m martyr to a motion not my own;
What’s freedom for? To know eternity.
I swear she cast a shadow white as stone.
But who would count eternity in days?
These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:
(I measure time by how a body sways).
American Art – Part III of V: Laurie Lee Brom
Here is how one writer describes the artistry of American painter Laurie Lee Brom: “Laurie Lee grew up in the historical town of Charleston, South Carolina, the local ghost stories and folk tales of the swampy Low County, and rich Gullah culture stirring her imagination. She spent untold hours pursuing pixies and tree frogs in the hollow logs and Pluff Mud of her own backyard. Today she still pursues magical fairy folk along with all manner of curious ghosts and odd characters in her enchanting portraits and paintings.”
11 January 1977 – The Bollingen Prize for poetry is awarded to David Ignatow.
“Against the Evidence”
As I reach to close each book
lying open on my desk, it leaps up
to snap at my fingers. My legs
won’t hold me, I must sit down.
My fingers pain me
where the thick leaves snapped together
at my touch.
All my life
I’ve held books in my hands
like children, carefully turning
their pages and straightening out
their creases. I use books
almost apologetically. I believe
I often think their thoughts for them.
Reading, I never know where theirs leave off
and mine begin. I am so much alone
in the world, I can observe the stars
or study the breeze, I can count the steps
on a stair on the way up or down,
and I can look at another human being
and get a smile, knowing
it is for the sake of politeness.
Nothing must be said of estrangement
among the human race and yet
nothing is said at all
because of that.
But no book will help either.
I stroke my desk,
its wood so smooth, so patient and still.
I set a typewriter on its surface
and begin to type
to tell myself my troubles.
Against the evidence, I live by choice.
In the words of one writer, “Juan Naranjo-Torres was born in Madrid, Spain in 1974 and studied at the prestigious Escuela Oficial de Bellas Artes de Madrid. In spite of his young age he has achieved much in the world of art.
In 2001 he garnered the best decorative mural award from the City Council of Madrid for his mural in the Plaza de Moros. Again in 2002 he was recognized by the Ministry of Urbanism for his murals in government buildings in Madrid. More recently he was selected by the Prado Museum to do painting in the style of the 18th century old masters.
Naranjo-Torres is collected in Spain and throughout Europe where his art work can be found in private collections and galleries. He has been commissioned by leading international companies like Coca-Cola for their conventions in Paris and Germany.”
“The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land… In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.” – Aldo Leopold, American writer, scientist, ecologist, forester, environmentalist, professor, and author of “A Sand County Almanac,” who was born 11 January 1887.
Some quotes from the work of Aldo Leopold:
“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.”
“I am glad I will not be young in a future without wilderness.”
“Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land. We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
“There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot.”
“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”
“Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching- even when doing the wrong thing is legal.”
“The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, “What good is it?” If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”
“Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language.”
“We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes – something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.”
“Cease being intimidated by the argument that a right action is impossible because it does not yield maximum profits, or that a wrong action is to be condoned because it pays.”
“Examine each question in terms of what is ethically and aesthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient. A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
“To those devoid of imagination a blank place on the map is a useless waste; to others, the most valuable part.”
“Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of the wolf.”
“Civilization has so cluttered this elemental man-earth relationship with gadgets and middlemen that awareness of it is growing dim. We fancy that industry supports us, forgetting what supports industry.”
“Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher ‘standard of living’ is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television.”
“Nonconformity is the highest evolutionary attainment of social animals.”
“Is education possibly a process of trading awareness for things of lesser worth?”
“All conservation of wildness is self-defeating, for to cherish we must see and fondle, and when enough have seen and fondled, there is no wilderness left to cherish.”
“A conservationist is one who is humbly aware that with each stroke [of the axe] he is writing his signature on the face of the land.”
“The modern dogma is comfort at any cost.”
“One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of a March thaw, is the spring.”
“We all strive for safety, prosperity, comfort, long life, and dullness.”
“On motionless wing they emerge from the lifting mists, sweep a final arc of sky, and settle in clangorous descending spirals to their feeding grounds. A new day has begun on the crane marsh.”
“But wherever the truth may lie, this much is crystal-clear: our bigger-and-better society is now like a hypochondriac, so obsessed with its own economic health as to have lost the capacity to remain healthy. . . . Nothing could be more salutary at this stage than a little healthy contempt for a plethora of material
American Art – Part IV of V: Dan Griggs
Artist statement: “I was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico. For as long as I can remember I have always been fascinated by the process of drawing and painting. In 1974 I met two well respected artists: Siegfried Hahn and Howard Wexler, with whom I trained and studied over the next few years. Mr. Hahn studied at the Royal Academy in London and the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris in the 1930’s, and Mr. Wexler at the Pratt Institute. Through them, I was exposed to the drawing precepts of Lecoq de Boisbaudan, whose disciples included Rodin, Monet, Whistler, and Degas as well as the oil painting mediums of the late Jacques Maroger. I was trained both in oil and watercolor. The watercolor approach I employ arose from the 18th century Norwich School in England, and produced such great watercolorists as Cotman, Turner, and Girtin. I was also trained to use the Maroger mediums with my oils. The mediums were developed by Jacques Maroger who spent most of his life dedicated to reconstituting the lost painting mediums of the Renaissance and Baroque painters.
I have always drawn and painted exclusively from life whether it be a model, still life, or landscape. I do not work from photographs. My procedure is to establish the composition in the first one or two sittings with the model. This will involve several small pencil sketches to establish the flow of the composition—the major lines and shapes, both positive and negative. After the composition is established I execute a drawing in pencil on butcher paper. This is done quickly, with no thought to detail, to basically establish the size of the canvas. After the canvas is prepared with a tinted lead ground, I begin drawing again on the prepared canvas with charcoal. After the charcoal drawing is finished, I go over the drawing again with pencil trying to improve the charcoal. Once this is done, I begin laying in the paint again trying to improve upon what has gone before. I try to impart the illusion of detail with as few brushstrokes as possible. I think that ‘less is more.’
I believe that working from life imparts a greater vitality to one’s work. I admire greatly the old Masters and their love of painting and dedication to the job—painters such as Velasquez, Titian, and Mantegna. I feel that many of the sound principles of draughtsmanship and painting from that era have been lost or forgotten. I also believe that they could extract, paradoxically, the widest range of expression from the simplest of means. They were masters of color, form, tonality, and draughtsmanship. I, in my own working habits and in my own very small way, am trying to emulate their example.
I’m interested in exploring the human form in different manifestations using veils, masks, and other props combined with dramatic lighting to slightly skew the visual experience. I suppose I’m trying to paint what’s inside the model, i.e., the emotional and psychological underpinnings. I also hope my work evokes emotions within the viewer, a visceral and/or intellectual response which at times might even be disturbing.
I feel myself to be in a long line of painters, beginning around the 15th century, who have employed the same materials and techniques. I relate to the ‘Old Masters’ and Renaissance painters. Perhaps one could say that I am trying to explore the psychology of the modern day via the Old Masters’ approach and palette.”
A Poem for Today
“In Praise of Dogs Who Howl at the Moon,”
By John Brantingham
everything on Earth is loose,
and you feel yourself slipping off gravity’s
mooring, slipping off into
the night, feel the moon’s going to grab
you and pull you out into space
and slingshot you past Mars and Jupiter
out to where Pluto
and all the rest of the solar system’s losers live,
out where you will never see
you wife laugh the way she
laughs when you do your impression of her father,
laugh the way a person can laugh only
when it’s funny but she’s ashamed too,
laugh with the wild joy of a bear
waking up after months of sleep—
on those nights you want to grab onto something
wedged deep and tight as a burr in a furry ear
and scream your complaints at the moon
as the dogs howl
and the bears roar and everyone shouts
together—you want to yell that no one
belongs out there in the cold with Pluto
that we belong here where summer love is
and anyone who loves and howls
is one of Earth’s favorite children.
American Art – Part V of V: Kimberly Brooks
In the words of one writer, “Kimberly Brooks is a Contemporary American Painter, new media artist and founder/curator of the Huffington Post Arts Section. As a painter, Brooks’ work is collected internationally and has been featured numerous publications worldwide including Art Ltd., The LA Times, Vanity Fair, Vogue (Spain), Elle, Pen (Japan) and New American Paintings. She has also been showcased in numerous juried exhibitions including curators from Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Modern Art, California Institute of the Arts and LACMA.”