American Art – Part I of VII: Frank Stella
Born 12 May 1936 – Frank Stella, an American painter and printmaker.
American Art – Part II of VII: Angela Bentley Fife
Artist Statement: “Much of my work is created out of my own confusion of stereotypes, roles, and expectations that surround us and shift with time. I question our cultural ideals, why we place emphasis on certain characteristics both male and female, and I express my own weaknesses and insecurities through painting. In grouping symbols that are similar or contrasting, I can present an idea as concretely as I choose, while allowing space for interpretation. The underlying drive is that I have an urge to paint because of the physical process as well as the emotional development of an idea.”
From the Music Archives – Part I of II: Duke Ellington
12 May 1934 – “Cocktails For Two,” by Duke Ellington, reaches number one on American popular music charts.
American Art – Part III of VII: Saul Steinberg
“People who see a drawing in ‘The New Yorker’ will think automatically that it’s funny because it is a cartoon. If they see it in a museum, they think it is artistic; and if they find it in a fortune cookie they think it is a prediction.” – Saul Steinberg, Romanian-born American cartoonist and illustrator best known for his work for “The New Yorker,” who died 12 May 1999.
From the Music Archives – Part II of II: Will Parnell
Born 12 May 1945 – William Parnell, an American singer and member of Archie Bell & the Drells.
In the words of one historian, “‘Tighten Up’ is a 1968 song by Houston, Texas–based R&B vocal group Archie Bell & the Drells. It reached #1 on both the Billboard R&B and pop charts in the spring of 1968. It is ranked #265 on ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and is one of the earliest funk hits in music history.”
American Art – Part IV of VII: Katie Wilson
Artist Statement (partial): “Working with collage pushes me to be more innovative. It allows me to put down color, pattern and texture where I wouldn’t have otherwise with any other medium. I am intrigued by the imagined drama or peace of a past moment. My desire is to translate that moment through my own interpretation of the subject’s inner person by creating the drama and mood with color, texture and facial expression.”
“The normal is psychotic. Normal means lack of imagination, lack of creativity.” Jean Dubuffet, French painter and sculptor, who died 12 May 1985.
Below (left to right) – “Court les rues”; “Fete Villageoise”; “Element Historie.”
12 May 1970 – Harry A. Blackmun is confirmed as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Some quotes from Harry A. Blackmun, who served on the Supreme Court until 1994:
“By placing discretion in the hands of an official to grant or deny a license, such a statute creates a threat of censorship that by its very existence chills free speech.”
“Disapproval of homosexuality cannot justify invading the houses, hearts and minds of citizens who choose to live their lives differently.”
“It is precisely because the issue raised by this case touches the heart of what makes individuals what they are that we should be especially sensitive to the rights of those whose choices upset the majority.”
“The right of an individual to conduct intimate relationships in the intimacy of his or her own home seems to me to be the heart of the Constitution’s protection of privacy.”
“The states are not free, under the guise of protecting maternal health or potential life, to intimidate women into continuing pregnancies.”
“What the Court really has refused to recognize is the fundamental interest all individuals have in controlling the nature of their intimate associations.”
From the Movie Archives: Katharine Hepburn
“If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” – Katharine Hepburn, American actress of film, stage, and television, who was born 12 May 1907.
Katharine Hepburn won four Academy Awards, the record number for an actor or actress. She received the Best Actress Oscar for her performances in “Morning Glory,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” “The Lion in Winter,” and “On Golden Pond.” In the words of one historian, “In 1999, Hepburn was named by the American Film Institute as the greatest female star in Hollywood history.”
Born 12 May 1902 – Heinrich Kirchner, a German sculptor.
Pulitzer Prize – Part I of II: Julia Peterkin
12 May 1929 – The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is awarded to Julia Peterkin for “Scarlet Sister Mary.”
“Everything has its way of speaking and telling things worth knowing. Even the little grass-blades have their way of saying things as plain as words when human lips let them fall…the choice bits of wisdom…were never written down in any books.” – From “Scarlet Sister Mary”
Italian artist Ademaro Bardelli was born in Florence in 1934, attended the Art Institute of Florence from 1949-1953, and then, after a stint traveling and working abroad, returned to Tuscany, where he lived and painted from 1956 until his death in 2010.
Pulitzer Prize – Part II of II: John Updike
12 May 1982 – The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is awarded to John Updike for “Rabbit Is Rich.”
“You have a life and there are these volumes on either side that go unvisited; some day soon as the world winds he will lie beneath what he now stands on, dead as those insects whose sound he no longer hears, and the grass will go on growing, wild and blind.” – From “Rabbit Is Rich”
In the words of one critic, Polish painter Andrzej Borowski (born 1969) “focuses on traveling, and not only to different places in Europe, but to study the work of classic artists who are the sources of European art.”
British Art – Part I of III: Edward Lear
“There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, ‘It is just as I feared!
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!’” – Edward Lear, English artist, illustrator, author, and poet, who was born 12 May 1812.
Edward Lear is best known as a writer of witty limericks, but he was also an accomplished and widely traveled landscape painter.
“In this life he laughs longest who laughs last.” – John Masefield, English poet, writer, and Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1930 until his death on 12 May 1967.
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking,
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
British Art – Part II of III: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
“Love is the last relay and ultimate outposts of eternity.” – Dante Gabriel Rossetti, English poet, illustrator, translator, painter, and one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, who was born 12 May 1828.
I have been here before,
But when or how I cannot tell:
I know the grass beyond the door,
The sweet keen smell,
The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.
You have been mine before,—
How long ago I may not know:
But just when at that swallow’s soar
Your neck turn’d so,
Some veil did fall,—I knew it all of yore.
Has this been thus before?
And shall not thus time’s eddying flight
Still with our lives our love restore
In death’s despite,
And day and night yield one delight once more?
Below – “The Blessed Damozel”; “Proserpine”; “Lady Lilith”; “The Daydream”; “The Blue Bower.”
“I am tired, Beloved,
of chafing my heart against
the want of you;
of squeezing it into little inkdrops,
And posting it.” – Amy Lowell, American poet and posthumous recipient of the 1926 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (for “What’s O’Clock”), who died 12 May 1925.
British Art – Part III of III: Andrew Hemingway
Here is one critic describing the artistry of Andrew Hemingway: “Born in Yorkshire, where he still lives, Andrew Hemingway works in pastel and egg tempera, producing images, particularly in pastel, of remarkable precision and depth. He is probably one of the most important still life artists in pastel working today.
He attended the Barnsley School of Art and took a degree in Fine Art and the History of Art at Camberwell. He studied in Italy and Norway and visits Holland regularly; the Dutch Old Masters, he freely acknowledges, have been an influence on his own painting.”
From the American History Archives: The Battle of Palmito Ranch
12 May 1865 – The Battle of Palmito Ranch begins. In the words of one historian, “The Battle of Palmito Ranch, also known as the Battle of Palmito Hill and the Battle of Palmetto Ranch, was fought between Union Army and Confederate States Army forces on May 12–13, 1865 near Brownsville, Texas. It was the last land battle of any size or significance of the American Civil War. The battle was fought on the banks of the Rio Grande about 12 miles (19 km) east of Brownsville, Texas, and a few miles from the seaport of Los Brazos de Santiago, which was located on the present-day ship channel of the Port of Brownsville.”
The battle concluded the next day. Private John J. Williams of the 34th Indiana was the last man killed.
Above – A map showing the location of the battle.
Below – John J. Williams, the presumed last soldier to die in the American Civil War; diorama depicting the battle in the Texas Military Forces Museum, Camp Mabry, Austin; the site of the battle today.
Here is the Artist Statement of Canadian painter Mary Reardon: “While attending the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design I became intrigued with the intangible process of memory and have tried, through my art, to give form to the process of remembering or forgetting – the essence of who we are.
In order to effect this description, I have turned to one of the traditions of the still life – the use of objects as symbols. The bird has been used throughout the history of the visual arts to represent the human soul. Following in this tradition, I use the feather to represent the human soul or, in psychological terms, our memories. The containers, nests, and branches I have depicted are meant to represent the physical mind and how it functions as it holds, or fails to hold, those memories. The finished composition is intended to be a metaphor for how the mind looks at the moment when something is remembered or forgotten.”
“We have doomed the wolf not for what it is, but for what we deliberately and mistakenly perceive it to be –the mythologized epitome of a savage ruthless killer – which is, in reality, no more than a reflected image of ourself.” – Farley Mowat, Canadian writer, naturalist, environmentalist, and author of “Never Cry Wolf,” “A Whale for the Killing,” and “People of the Deer,” who was born 12 May 1921.
Farley Mowat’s “And No Birds Sang” and “My Father’s Son: Memories of War and Peace” are among the finest memoirs written by a combatant in World War II.
A few quotes from the work of Farley Mowat:
“Whenever and wherever men have engaged in the mindless slaughter of animals (including other men), they have often attempted to justify their acts by attributing the most vicious or revolting qualities to those they would destroy; and the less reason there is for the slaughter, the greater the campaign for vilification. ”
“It is to this new-found resolution to reassert our indivisibility with life, to recognize the obligations incumbent upon us as the most powerful and deadly species ever to exist, and to begin making amends for the havoc we have wrought, that my own hopes for a revival and continuance of life on earth now turn. If we persevere in this new way we may succeed in making man humane … at last.”
“I wonder now… were my tears for Alex and Al and all the others who had gone and who were yet to go? Or was I weeping for myself…and those who would remain?”
“Whenever and wherever men have engaged in the mindless slaughter of animals (including other men), they have often attempted to justify their acts by attributing the most vicious or revolting qualities to those they would destroy; and the less reason there is for the slaughter, the greater the campaign for vilification.”
American Art – Part V of VII: Ellen Eagle
Artist Statement: “I paint portraits in pastel. My portraits evolve slowly, during a series of sittings. I don’t like to talk much when I work. I like my model to almost forget I am there. Inevitably, during the course of the sittings as the model drifts deeper into his or her own thoughts, he or she experiences deeply felt emotions. And though I respond to the body’s genuine expression of those emotions, I am aware that he or she is engaged in private thoughts to which I am not privy.
I strive to express my response through acute observation. Fidelity to my subject’s particular qualities is very important to me. Of course, I see through the filter of my own temperament.
I always work in natural light. The most exquisite expression of light I have seen is in the radiance of flesh. The timeless and fleeting human subject as seen in the eternal and ever-changing natural light.”
“If you can’t beat them, arrange to have them beaten.” – George Carlin, American stand-up comedian, social critic, satirist, and author, who was born on 12 May 1937.
If you have watched any of Carlin’s HBO specials, you have witnessed a character type that our culture produces in sad abundance: The disappointed idealist. In measuring the yawning disparity between America’s lofty view of itself and the often fatuous and grubby actualities that attend life in our Republic, George Carlin is in the ranks of such luminaries as Herman Melville, Ernest Hemingway, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., and Hunter S. Thompson. In his brilliant and savagely witty indictments of our collective follies, he is perhaps closest in spirit to Mark Twain, and it is therefore decidedly appropriate that George Carlin was the recipient of the 2008 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
Some quotes from George Carlin:
“Atheism is a non-prophet organization.”
“Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.”
“‘I am’ is reportedly the shortest sentence in the English language. Could it be that ‘I do’ is the longest sentence?”
“I’m completely in favor of the separation of Church and State. My idea is that these two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together is certain death.”
“The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.”
“If it’s true that our species is alone in the universe, then I’d have to say the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little.”
“Religion is just mind control.”
“Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”
“People who say they don’t care what people think are usually desperate to have people think they don’t care what people think.”
“When you’re born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you’re born in America, you get a front row seat.”
American Art – Part VI of VII: Caroline Douglas
Artist Statement: “I became enchanted with clay when I spent summers as a teen at Penland School of Crafts in the mountains of North Carolina. Then, for many years, I had a business called Cerantics, and I traveled all around doing shows with my clay jungle gyms and fish bowls. Family life took over and I taught children for years as my children were growing up.
I received a BFA in ceramics at the University of North Carolina and have worked with clay for 30 years. Currently, my figurative sculptures are evocations of a dream world. Inspiration comes from mythology, fairy tales, and dreams, as well as the antics of animals and children.”
A Poem for Today
“The Night of the Snowfall,”
By Mo H. Saidi
Snow falls gently in the Hill Country
covering the meadows and the valleys.
The sluggish streaks of smoke climb quietly
from the roofs but fail to reach the lazy clouds.
On Alamo Plaza in the heart of the night
and under the flood of lights, the flakes float
like frozen moths and glow like fireflies.
They drop on the blades of dormant grass.
American Art – Part VII of VII: Susie Pryor
Artist Statement (partial): “In every artistic effort, it’s most important to embark on something unknown either in process, materials, or in subject. The result will be fresh, genuine and contain an electric charge that can’t be found in work that is approached with over confidence.”