December Offerings – Part XVI: Something to Delight both Head and Heart

American Art – Part I of IV: Sadie Valeri

Artist Statement: “I am a classical realist oil painter currently creating a series of still lifes of transparent and reflective objects in my San Francisco, California studio.
Raised in Salem, Massachusetts, I graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in Illustration in 1993. I have since studied with some of the most important realist artists working today, including Juliette Aristides, Michael Grimaldi, Ted Seth Jacobs, and Dan Thompson at BACAA; Timothy Stotz and Michelle Tully at Studio Escalier; and Jacob Collins at the Hudson River Fellowship.
Travel has been fundamental to my development as an artist ever since I lived in Paris for 6 months as an art student attending Parsons Paris. Since then I have traveled to Greece and Italy in addition to many trips back to France. All of my travels are art trips, focused on visiting the museums of the world.”









A Poem for Today

“Mount Kearsarge Shines,”
By Donald Hall

Mount Kearsarge shines with ice; from hemlock branches
snow slides onto snow; no stream, creek, or river
budges but remains still. Tonight
we carry armloads of logs

from woodshed to Glenwood and build up the fire
that keeps the coldest night outside our windows.
Sit by the woodstove, Camilla,
while I bring glasses of white,

and we’ll talk, passing the time, about weather
without pretending that we can alter it:
Storms stop when they stop, no sooner,
leaving the birches glossy

with ice and bent glittering to rimy ground.
We’ll avoid the programmed weatherman grinning
from the box, cheerful with tempest,
and take the day as it comes,

one day at a time, the way everyone says,
These hours are the best because we hold them close
in our uxorious nation.
Soon we’ll walk — when days turn fair

and frost stays off — over old roads, listening
for peepers as spring comes on, never to miss
the day’s offering of pleasure
for the government of two.

Musings in December: Andrew Wyeth

“I love to study the many things that grow below the corn stalks and bring them back to the studio to study the color. If one could only catch that true color of nature – the very thought of it drives me mad.”

Below – Andrew Wyeth: “November 1, 1950.”

From the Music Archives – Part I of III: Ludwig van Beethoven

“Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.” – Ludwig van Beethoven, German composer and pianist, who was born 16 December 1770.

A lovely rendition of a Beethoven classic:

Musings in December: Ralph Waldo Emerson

“In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child. In the woods, is perpetual youth.”

Honduran painter Juan Ramon Lainez (born 1939) studied in both the National University of Fine Arts in Tegucigalpa and the San Fernando Academy of Madrid.








A Second Poem for Today

“My Mother Worries About My Hat,”
By Richard Jarrette

Every spring my mother says I should buy a straw
hat so I won’t overheat in summer.

I always agree but the valley’s soon cold, and besides
my old Borsalino is nearly rain-proof.

She’s at it again, it’s August, the grapes are sugaring.
I say, Okay, and pluck a little spider from her hair—

hair so fine it can’t hold even one of her grandmother’s
tortoise shell combs.

Below – Vincent van Gogh: “Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat.”

Died 16 December 1928 – Elinor Wylie, an American poet and novelist. In the words of one critic, “She was famous during her life almost as much for her ethereal beauty and personality as for her melodious, sensuous poetry.”

“Sea Lullaby”

The old moon is tarnished 

With smoke of the flood, 

The dead leaves are varnished 

With colour like blood. 

A treacherous smiler 

With teeth white as milk, 

A savage beguiler 

In sheathings of silk 

The sea creeps to pillage, 

She leaps on her prey; 

A child of the village 

Was murdered today. 

She came up to meet him 

In a smooth golden cloak, 

She choked him and beat him 

to death, for a joke. 

Her bright locks were tangled, 

She shouted for joy 

With one hand she strangled 

A strong little boy. 

Now in silence she lingers 

Beside him all night 

To wash her long fingers 

In silvery light.

Musings in December: Henry David Thoreau

“This curious world we inhabit is more wonderful than convenient; more beautiful than it is useful; it is more to be admired and enjoyed than used.”

Below – Looking in the direction of Walden Pond from the site of Thoreau’s cabin.

Russian painter Misha Pivovarov graduated from Kazan State University in 1989.









Musings in December: Michael Parenti

“The essence of capitalism is to turn nature into commodities and commodities into capital. The live green earth is transformed into dead gold bricks, with luxury items for the few and toxic slag heaps for the many. The glittering mansion overlooks a vast sprawl of shanty towns, wherein a desperate, demoralized humanity is kept in line with drugs, television, and armed force.”

Below – The Alberta Tar Sands.

From the Music Archives – Part II of III: Jimi Hendrix

16 December 1966 – The Jimi Hendrix Experience releases its first single, “Hey Joe,” in the United Kingdom.

Musings in December: Ralph Waldo Emerson

“To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars.”

A Third Poem for Today

“Edward Hopper Study: Hotel Room,”
By Victoria Chang

While the man is away
telling his wife
about the red-corseted woman,
the woman waits
on the queen-sized bed.
You’d expect her quiet
in the fist of a copper
statue. Half her face,
a shade of golden meringue,
the other half, the dark
of cattails. Her mouth even—
too straight, as if she doubted
her made decision, the way
women do. In her hands,
a yellow letter creased,
like her hunched back.
Her dress limp on a green chair.
In front, a man’s satchel
and briefcase. On a dresser,
a hat with a ceylon
feather. That is all
the artist left us with,
knowing we would turn
the woman’s stone into ours,
a thirst for the self
in everything—even
in the sweet chinks
of mandarin.

Below – Edward Hopper: “Hotel Room.”

Here is the Artist Statement of Brazilian painter Tania Leal: “I have been drawing since I was a child. It seemed easier and more interesting to me to communicate with the world using traces and colours. These traces and colours have been the joy of my life. They are the ones who full fill me and give me the chance to share with friends the most intense feelings.
I like people. I have already painted things, animals, flowers and landscapes, but it is the human being that fascinates me. I like the looks, the gestures, the movements. These are the things I try to capture.
Through these looks, gestures and movements I see the hope, sadness and loneliness of mankind. Women that love, suffer, simple people, eyes lost in memories and dreams. Men behind their truths and illusions.
These are the constant elusive moments that I offer you with my work.”






Musings in December: Wendell Berry

“But even in the much-publicized rebellion of the young against the materialism of the affluent society, the consumer mentality is too often still intact: the standards of behavior are still those of kind and quantity, the security sought is still the security of numbers, and the chief motive is still the consumer’s anxiety that he is missing out on what is ‘in.’ In this state of total consumerism – which is to say a state of helpless dependence on things and services and ideas and motives that we have forgotten how to provide ourselves – all meaningful contact between ourselves and the earth is broken. We do not understand the earth in terms either of what it offers us or of what it requires of us, and I think it is the rule that people inevitably destroy what they do not understand.”

A Fourth Poem for Today

By Susan Aizenberg

Before the train screamed him through tunnels
to his windowless office, the idiots
he had to “sir,” my father needed a space
without us, so in a crack of light from the bathroom,
he dressed, held his shoes by two fingers,
and left us sleeping. That walk

to the diner, the last stars fading out,
the sky lightening from black to blue to white,
was his time. He walked in all weather,
let each season touch him all over,
lifted his face to rain and sun. He liked
to watch the old houses stir awake
and nod to the woman in her slippers on 27th,
smoking as she strolled her little mutt.
To step back, smooth as Fred Astaire,
from the paperboy’s wild toss.

Milk bottles sweated on doorsteps,
sweet cream on top, and once, he lifted a quart
from its wire basket, drank it down
beneath our neighbor’s winking porch light,
and left the empty on the stoop.


“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” – Jane Austen, English novelist and author of “Pride and Prejudice” and “Emma,” who was born 16 December 1775.

Some quotes from the work of Jane Austen:

“A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.”
“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
“I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.”
“The more I know of the world, the more I am convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!”
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
“There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.”
“Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”
“It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.”
“For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”


Musings in December: Aldo Leopold

“I am glad I will not be young in a future without wilderness.”

British Art – Part I of II: Simon Garden

Here is what one critic has written about the work of painter Simon Garden (born 1960): “ Garden succeeds in mapping the landscapes of our dreams. He communicates directly to our subconscious, unhindered by rationality. His paintings invite a gut-wrenching sense of personal familiarity and recognition.”









Musings in December: Andrew Wyeth

“One’s art goes as far and as deep as one’s love goes.”

Below – Andrew Wyeth: From the Helga series – “Crown of Flowers.”

“I left in love, in laughter, and in truth, and wherever truth, love and laughter abide, I am there in spirit.” – The last words of Bill Hicks, American comedian, social critic, satirist, musician, and the writer, director and star of the movie “Ninja Bachelor Party” (there is a link to the trailer below), who was born 16 December 1961.

Here is how one critic describes the career of Bill Hicks: “His material, encompassing a wide range of social issues as well as religion, politics, and philosophy, was controversial, and often steeped in dark comedy. He criticized consumerism, superficiality, mediocrity, and banality within the media and popular culture, which he characterized as oppressive tools of the ruling class that ‘keep people stupid and apathetic.’”

Some quotes from the work of Bill Hicks:

“They lie about marijuana. Tell you pot-smoking makes you unmotivated. Lie! When you’re high, you can do everything you normally do just as well — you just realize that it’s not worth the fucking effort. There is a difference.”
“Ever notice that people who believe in Creationism look really unevolved?”
“Here is my final point…About drugs, about alcohol, about pornography…What business is it of yours what I do, read, buy, see, or take into my body as long as I do not harm another human being on this planet? And for those who are having a little moral dilemma in your head about how to answer that question, I’ll answer it for you. NONE of your fucking business. Take that to the bank, cash it, and go fucking on a vacation out of my life.”
“I’m glad mushrooms are against the law, because I took them one time, and you know what happened to me? I laid in a field of green grass for four hours going, ‘My God! I love everything.’ Yeah, now if that isn’t a hazard to our country … how are we gonna justify arms dealing when we realize that we’re all one?”
“We all pay for life with death, so everything in between should be free.”
“If you want to understand a society, take a good look at the drugs it uses. And what can this tell you about American culture? Well, look at the drugs we use. Except for pharmaceutical poison, there are essentially only two drugs that Western civilization tolerates: Caffeine from Monday to Friday to energize you enough to make you a productive member of society, and alcohol from Friday to Monday to keep you too stupid to figure out the prison that you are living in.”
“Eternal suffering awaits anyone who questions god’s infinite love.”
“Folks, it’s time to evolve. That’s why we’re troubled. You know why our institutions are failing us, the church, the state, everything’s failing? It’s because, um – they’re no longer relevant. We’re supposed to keep evolving. Evolution did not end with us growing opposable thumbs. You do know that, right?”
“It’s always funny until someone gets hurt. Then it’s just hilarious.”
“Go back to bed, America. Your government has figured out how it all transpired. Go back to bed, America. Your government is in control again. Here. Here’s American Gladiators. Watch this, shut up. Go back to bed, America. Here is American Gladiators. Here is 56 channels of it! Watch these pituitary retards bang their fucking skulls together and congratulate you on living in the land of freedom. Here you go, America! You are free to do what we tell you! You are free to do what we tell you!”
“This is where we are at right now, as a whole. No one is left out of the loop. We are experiencing a reality based on a thin veneer of lies and illusions. A world where greed is our God and wisdom is sin, where division is key and unity is fantasy, where the ego-driven cleverness of the mind is praised, rather than the intelligence of the heart.”
“The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly colored, and it’s very loud, and it’s fun for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, ‘Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?’ And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, ‘Hey, don’t worry; don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.’ And we kill those people. ‘Shut him up! I’ve got a lot invested in this ride, shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my big bank account, and my family. This has to be real.’ It’s just a ride. But we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok. But it doesn’t matter, because it’s just a ride. And we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.”
“I never got along with my dad. Kids used to come up to me and say, ‘My dad can beat up your dad.’ I’d say ‘Yeah? When?’”
“I can’t watch TV longer than five minutes without praying for nuclear holocaust.”
“You see, I think drugs have done some good things for us. I really do. And if you don’t believe drugs have done good things for us, do me a favor. Go home tonight. Take all your albums, all your tapes and all your CDs and burn them. ‘Cause you know what, the musicians that made all that great music that’s enhanced your lives throughout the years were real fucking high on drugs. The Beatles were so fucking high they let Ringo sing a few tunes.”
“This is the material, by the way, that has kept me virtually anonymous in America for the past 15 years. Gee, I wonder why we’re hated the world over? Look at these fat Americans in the front row – ‘Why doesn’t he just hit fruit with a hammer?’ Folks, I could have done that, walked around being a millionaire and franchising myself but no, I had to have this weird thing about trying to illuminate the collective unconscious and help humanity. Fucking moron.”
“Wouldn’t you like to see a positive LSD story on the news? To base your decision on information rather than scare tactics and superstition? Perhaps? Wouldn’t that be interesting? Just for once?
‘Today, a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration – that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There’s no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we’re the imagination of ourselves. Here’s Tom with the weather.’”
“It’s not a war on drugs, it’s a war on personal freedom.”
“We are the facilitators of our own creative evolution.”

Musings in December: Dodie Smith

“He stood staring into the wood for a minute, then said: ‘What is it about the English countryside — why is the beauty so much more than visual? Why does it touch one so?’
He sounded faintly sad. Perhaps he finds beauty saddening — I do myself sometimes. Once when I was quite little I asked father why this was and he explained that it was due to our knowledge of beauty’s evanescence, which reminds us that we ourselves shall die. Then he said I was probably too young to understand him; but I understood perfectly.”

Below – Blair Goold: “English Countryside.”

British Art – Part II of II: Laurence Kell:

Here is the Artist Statement of painter Laurence Kell: “My interest in painting portraits became the main focus in 2003, while I was helping to run the family business. We ran a Georgian hotel/ restaurant located on the wild north coast of Cornwall. I painted in my room and used the hotel as a gallery for my work. One of these paintings was a portrait of the chef which was exhibited at the BP Portrait awards at the National Portrait Gallery.
Since then I have exhibited regularly with the Royal Society of Portrait Painters at the Mall Galleries and have been commissioned by London Business School and Bristol University as well as painting numerous private portraits.”




Laurence Kell

A Fifth Poem for Today

“Playing His Heart Out,”
By Ken Smith

That day we were trapped
between chartreuse living
room walls and the godly
cleanliness of afghans
saving sofas and chairs.

We were talking about
anything except Uncle Carl—
gone, how we’d miss him—
when Uncle Gus came down
the hall and stood in

the archway, his wiry
body strapped under a black
accordion. “Haven’t played,”
he said, “for a long time.”
So he played a waltz and I

squirmed in my chair under
the slow flow of grief. He
played a polka and I heard
my sister clapping lightly
for the mourner bending over

the keys. His cheek-bones,
red as Helgoland’s
cliffs on the North Sea. Gulls
whirled and screamed around
the black load on his heart.

Below – Juliette Belmonte: “Man with Accordion.”

Self-taught Spanish painter Adela Abos was born in Zaragoza.





From the Music Archives – Part III of III: Don McLean

16 December 1971 – Don McLean releases the eight-minute version of “American Pie.”

Musings in December: Pete Hamill

“I don’t ask for the meaning of the song of a bird or the rising of the sun on a misty morning. There they are, and they are beautiful.”

American Art – Part II of IV: Jeannie McGuire

In the words of one writer, “Jeannie McGuire, a Pittsburgh-based watercolor artist, strives to invoke individual interpretation through her artwork, which impressively utilizes a free application of paint and stylistic forms of expression. McGuire uses her own photography, acquired snapshots and life drawings to spark her creativity. Her work has been described as a brilliant combination of emotion, movement, natural design, and sheer artistry that has been expanded upon from her days as a commercial graphic designer and photographer. Impressionistic in nature with an identifiable subject, her strong, figurative approaches are unique in more ways than one.”

A Sixth Poem for Today

By Yosa Buson

Calligraphy of geese
against the sky-
the moon seals it.

Below – Lisa Graa Jensen: “Snow Geese”

“Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.” – Arthur C. Clarke, British science fiction writer, undersea explorer, television series host, science writer, inventor, and co-writer of the screenplay for the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey,” who was born 16 December 1917.

Some quotes from the work of Arthur C. Clarke:

“One of the great tragedies of mankind is that morality has been hijacked by religion. So now people assume that religion and morality have a necessary connection. But the basis of morality is really very simple and doesn’t require religion at all.”
“The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.”
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
“I’m sure the universe is full of intelligent life. It’s just been too intelligent to come here.
“How inappropriate to call this planet ‘Earth,’ when it is clearly ‘Ocean.’”
“Before you become too entranced with gorgeous gadgets and mesmerizing video displays, let me remind you that information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom, and wisdom is not foresight. Each grows out of the other, and we need them all.”
“It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value.”
“In my life I have found two things of priceless worth – learning and loving. Nothing else – not fame, not power, not achievement for its own sake – can possible have the same lasting value. For when your life is over, if you can say ‘I have learned’ and ‘I have loved,’ you will also be able to say ‘I have been happy.’”
“I am an optimist. Anyone interested in the future has to be otherwise he would simply shoot himself.”
“Magic’s just science that we don’t understand yet.”
“A faith that cannot survive collision with the truth is not worth many regrets.”
“Science is the only religion of mankind.”
“This is the first age that’s ever paid much attention to the future, which is a little ironic since we may not have one.”
“I would defend the liberty of consenting adult creationists to practice whatever intellectual perversions they like in the privacy of their own homes; but it is also necessary to protect the young and innocent. ”
“The more wonderful the means of communication, the more trivial, tawdry, or depressing its contents seemed to be.”

A Seventh Poem for Today

“Deer Descending,”
By Philip Terman

Perhaps she came down for the apples,
or was flushed out by the saws powering
the far woods, or was simply lost,
or was crossing one open space for another.

She was a figure approaching, a presence
outside a kitchen window, framed
by the leafless apple trees, the stiff blueberry bushes,
the after-harvest corn, the just-before-rain sky,

a shape only narrow bones could hold,
turning its full face upward, head tilted to one side, as if to speak.

I want my life back.

Morning settles around her like a silver coat.
Rustling branches, hooves in flight.

Below – Raymond Gehman White: “White Tailed Doe in a Foggy Forest Clearing in Autumn.”

American Art – Part III of IV: Maureen Hyde

Artist Statement: “I began my art career in the publishing field as an illustrator for children’s picture books and cover art for historical novels. My interest in the classical foundations of art lead me to study with Daniel Graves, the director of the Florence Academy of Art. I am currently teaching at the academy, where a rich heritage originating from the Renaissance and revival of the humanist tradition is kept alive.
My painting is approached in pursuit of fine craftsmanship and draughtsmanship. The colors, which are hand ground, and materials used are based on centuries of applied wisdom.
In living and working in Florence, Italy my creative spirit feels at home. The warmth of the human touch in the handmade aspects of living gives visual credence to a realization that pleasure comes from simple things.
I am also surrounded by a rich cultural presentation of timeless masterpieces, which keeps my own relationship with my work honest. The light and natural beauty of the Italian landscape is providing me a lifetime of inspiration. I am engaged in an endless dance, chasing and choreographing light as it illuminates the natural world with glimpses of beauty.”

Musings in December: John Muir

“How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains!”

An Eighth Poem for Today

By Robert Frost

The rain to the wind said,
‘You push and I’ll pelt.’
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged – though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.

American Art – Part IV of IV: Jane Aukshunas

Artist Statement: “The soothing and regenerative power of nature has had a profound influence on me throughout my life. I find a deep sense of serenity in the natural world. As an artist, I attempt to convey that by capturing the serenity that is so often lacking in our frantic mobile phone and email culture. That many of my works are displayed in hospitals and the offices of health professionals leads me to believe that I have captured that essence of tranquility and that the feeling tones in my art help to soothe people’s emotions.
I live in the Northwest in a region with diverse terrain that is rich with what may be the widest variety of crops in the world. Consequently there is much in my environment to inspire the landscapes I create.
Imbued at once with both a lush sensuality and an edgy geometry, my colorful, graphic landscapes hearken back to the 1930s’ mid western regionalist style of such artists as Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood. My work has been likened to ‘Grant Wood on acid.’ In my use of color, I identify with the early 1900s European artists who were dubbed the Fauves (wild beasts) whose leading member was Henri Matisse.
I use thick applications of richly colored oil pastels to create works reflecting my love of rhythm, music, and movement. Vibrant color and sensuality of line give my work a playful and contemporary feeling. Maybe because my formal art education is rooted in design, I like to pare down the world around me to the essential elements, shapes, and colors that are the crux of my imagery.
I want my art to grab people, to get an emotional hold on them. Because I feel spiritually and emotionally well-balanced, I place a high value on calm, order, and beauty.”





Remote Beauty


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