American Art – Part I of III: Robert Hunt
Robert Hunt received a Bachelor’s degree in Art History from the University of California and a Master’s degree in Illustration from the Academy of Art in San Francisco. As described by Walt Reed in the 2003 edition of “The Illustrator in America,” “His work reflects his classical training, but with a contemporary take.”
A Poem for Today
From “Manfred: A Dramatic Poem,”
By George Gordon Byron
The stars are forth, the moon above the tops
Of the snow-shining mountains.—Beautiful!
I linger yet with Nature, for the night
Hath been to me a more familiar face
Than that of man; and in her starry shade
Of dim and solitary loveliness,
I learn’d the language of another world.
French Art – Part I of II: Pierre-Auguste Renoir
“The pain passes, but the beauty remains.” – Pierre Auguste Renoir, French artist and a leading painter in the development of Impressionism, who died on 17 December 1919.
French Art – Part II of II: Daniel Bouvard
In the words of one critic, French painter Jean-Daniel Bouvard’s work “is all about composition. He is an artist who creates his imagery with infinite precision, tempered with a gentle soul. To avoid being ‘a slave to the subject,’ Bouvard prefers to forget the actual topic at hand to seek inspiration from the laws of composition. When one looks at a Bouvard painting, the artist wants him or her to feel good, to feel the equilibrium and the harmony, and to purify the subject as much as possible. ‘The subject doesn’t matter,’ claims Bouvard, ‘what does is light, shadow, mood, ambiance; and imagining what is beyond the painting.’”
“An ignorant people is the blind instrument of its own destruction.” – Simon Bolivar, South American revolutionary, political leader, and one of the most influential politicians in the history of the Americas, who died on 17 December 1830.
Simon Bolivar obviously possessed keen political insight, but he was also uncommonly prescient, as is evident in this statement: “The Unites States appear to be destined by Providence to plague America with misery in the name of liberty.”
A Second Poem for Today
By Pablo Neruda
Musings in December: Jacques-Yves Cousteau
From the Music Archives – Part I of II: Eddie Kendrick
Born 17 December 1939 – Eddie Kendrick, an American singer, songwriter, and co-founder of the Motown singing group The Temptations.
Musings in December: Wendell Berry
From the Movie Archives: Wes Studi
“I’ve been on the trail for many moons to arrive at this place.” – Wes Studi, Native American actor, who was born on 17 December 1947.
Wes Studi has appeared in many fine films, including “Dances with Wolves,” “The Last of the Mohicans,” “Pow-Wow Highway,” “Geronimo: An American Legend,” and “The New World,” but his most accomplished cinematic performance has been largely neglected by both critics and movie fans. I am referring, of course, to his portrayal of the evil hijacker Hanover in the 1998 science fiction classic “Deep Rising,” which, in addition to featuring an uncommonly ravenous monster, also allows viewers to enjoy the vastly talented Treat Williams and the flawlessly beautiful Una Damon. Please consider this almost Shakespearean dialogue from the film:
Hanover: You wanna wind up in jail, Mulligan?
Mulligan (an assistant hijacker): Better there then in the belly of one of those things!
And yet, despite its obvious greatness, “Deep Rising” did not receive a single Academy Award nomination. We live in an aesthetically degenerate time.
Musings in December: Aldo Leopold
Musings in December: David Orr
“Were we to confront our creaturehood squarely, how would we propose to educate? The answer, I think is implied in the root of the word education, educe, which means “to draw out.” What needs to be drawn out is our affinity for life. That affinity needs opportunities to grow and flourish, it needs to be validated, it needs to be instructed and disciplined, and it needs to be harnessed to the goal of building humane and sustainable societies. Education that builds on our affinity for life would lead to a kind of awakening of possibilities and potentials that lie dormant and unused in the industrial-utilitarian mind. Therefore the task of education, as Dave Forman stated, is to help us ‘open our souls to love this glorious, luxuriant, animated, planet.’ The good news is that our own nature will help us in the process if we let it.”
17 December 2007 – The Republic of Lakotah declares its independence from the United States. The boundaries of this nation are those established in the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie between the United States government and the Lakota tribe. Here is a brief description of some of its governing principles:
“Citizenship is open to people of all races and to any resident of the land Lakotah claims. The group plans to issue its own passports and driving licenses in the name of the proposed nation.”
“The Republic of Lakotah proposes that the nation be organized as a confederation that would respect the libertarian principles of posse comitatus and caveat emptor, would offer ‘individual liberty through community rule,’ and would collect no nationwide taxes. However, individual communities within the proposed nation would be allowed to levy taxes with the consent of the taxed.”
Musings in December: Charlotte Eriksson
“Go outside. Don’t tell anyone and don’t bring your phone. Start walking and keep walking until you no longer know the road like the palm of your hand, because we walk the same roads day in and day out, to the bus and back home and we cease to see. We walk in our sleep and teach our muscles to work without thinking and I dare you to walk where you have not yet walked and I dare you to notice. Don’t try to get anything out of it, because you won’t. Don’t try to make use of it, because you can’t. And that’s the point. Just walk, see, sit down if you like. And be. Just be, whatever you are with whatever you have, and realise that that is enough to be happy.
There’s a whole world out there, right outside your window. You’d be a fool to miss it.”
A Third Poem for Today
By Ted Kooser
What once was meant to be a statement—
a dripping dagger held in the fist
of a shuddering heart—is now just a bruise
on a bony old shoulder, the spot
where vanity once punched him hard
and the ache lingered on. He looks like
someone you had to reckon with,
strong as a stallion, fast and ornery,
but on this chilly morning, as he walks
between the tables at a yard sale
with the sleeves of his tight black T-shirt
rolled up to show us who he was,
he is only another old man, picking up
broken tools and putting them back,
his heart gone soft and blue with stories.
Musings in December: Linda Hogan
“Walking, I can almost hear the redwoods beating. And the oceans are above me here, rolling clouds, heavy and dark. It is winter and there is smoke from the fires. It is a world of elemental attention, of all things working together, listening to what speaks in the blood. Whichever road I follow, I walk in the land of many gods, and they love and eat one another. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.”
From the Music Archives – Part II of II: Johannes Brahms
“Leaving New Orleans also frightened me considerably. Outside of the city limits the heart of darkness, the true wasteland begins.” – John Kennedy Toole, American writer whose posthumously published novel “A Confederacy of Dunces” won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, who was born 17 December 1937.
If you have not read “A Confederacy of Dunces,” you should do so as soon as possible, since it is a literary gem.
Some quotes from the work of John Kennedy Toole:
“I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.”
“‘I doubt very seriously whether anyone will hire me.’
‘What do you mean, babe? You a fine boy with a good education.’
‘Employers sense in me a denial of their values.’ He rolled over onto his back. ‘They fear me. I suspect that they can see that I am forced to function in a century I loathe. This was true even when I worked for the New Orleans Public Library.’”
“Apparently I lack some particular perversion which today’s employer is seeking. ”
“You could tell by the way he talked, though, that he had gone to school a long time. That was probably what was wrong with him.”
“When Fortuna spins you downward, go out to a movie and get more out of life.”
“‘Canned food is a perversion,’ Ignatius said. ‘I suspect that it is ultimately very damaging to the soul.’”
“‘I suspect that beneath your offensively and vulgarly effeminate façade there may be a soul of sorts. Have you read widely in Boethius?’
‘Who? Oh, heavens no. I never even read newspapers.’
‘Then you must begin a reading program immediately so that you may understand the crises of our age,’ Ignatius said solemnly. ‘Begin with the late Romans, including Boethius, of course. Then you should dip rather extensively into early Medieval. You may skip the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. That is mostly dangerous propaganda. Now that I think of it, you had better skip the Romantics and the Victorians, too. For the contemporary period, you should study some selected comic books.’
‘I recommend Batman especially, for he tends to transcend the abysmal society in which he’s found himself. His morality is rather rigid, also. I rather respect Batman.’”
“My mother is currently associating with some undesirables who are attempting to transform her into an athlete of sorts, depraved specimens of mankind who regularly bowl their way to oblivion.”
“The only excursion of my life outside of New Orleans took me through the vortex to the whirlpool of despair: Baton Rouge. . . . New Orleans is, on the other hand, a comfortable metropolis which has a certain apathy and stagnation which I find inoffensive.”
“A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head. The green earflaps, full of large ears and uncut hair and the fine bristles that grew in the ears themselves, stuck out on either side like turn signals indicating two directions at once. Full, pursed lips protruded beneath the bushy black moustache and, at their corners, sank into little folds filled with disapproval and potato chip crumbs. In the shadow under the green visor of the cap Ignatius J. Reilly’s supercilious blue and yellow eyes looked down upon the other people waiting under the clock at the D.H. Holmes department store, studying the crowd of people for signs of bad taste in dress. Several of the outfits, Ignatius noticed, were new enough and expensive enough to be properly considered offenses against taste and decency. Possession of anything new or expensive only reflected a person’s lack of theology and geometry; it could even cast doubts upon one’s soul.”
“I was getting tired about what the preacher called Christian. Anything he did was Christian, and the people in his church believed it, too. If he stole some book he didn’t like from the library, or made the radio station play only part of the day on Sunday, or took somebody off to the state poor home, he called it Christian. I never had much religious training, and I never went to Sunday school because we didn’t belong to the church when I was old enough to go, but I thought I knew what believing in Christ meant, and it wasn’t half the things the preacher did.”
“‘Ignatius, what’s all this trash on the floor?’
‘That is my worldview that you see. It still must be incorporated into a whole, so be careful where you step.’”
Musings in December: Lorraine Anderson
American Art – Part II of III: Bill White
Artist Statement: “I am a portrait painter and figurative artist living in Puerto Vallarta Mexico. I paint my friends and acquaintances and include them in scenes of contemporary Mexico. I attempt to paint the beauty and emotion of the people I meet. Every picture really does have a story.”
Musings in December: John Muir
“Another glorious Sierra day in which one seems to be dissolved and absorbed and sent pulsing onward we know not where. Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality.”
A Fourth Poem for Today
“How To Be a Poet,”
By Wendell Berry
(to remind myself)
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.
American Art – Part III of III: Susan Bennerstrom
Artist Statement: “Since the early 1980’s my main theme has been the exploration and depiction of light. I began with landscape as a foil. Gradually, buildings started to enter the compositions, at first far away and tiny, then closer and larger, until the buildings became the main focus and the landscape shrank. Finally, I concentrated on details of the buildings and the objects within them. Always, however, the structures and objects are stage sets for light with its transformative power and ability to affect emotions. I rarely put figures in my paintings, as I find that they tend to take over; I prefer to let light and shadow imply the narrative and carry the emotional weight. In addition to the dearth of human figures, I also choose to paint quite ordinary scenes, and for the same reason: by focusing on the easily ignorable architectural detail, washbasin, household appliance, piece of furniture, or houseplant, I like to explore how a fall of light can turn a humble item into something poignant and worthy of lasting attention.
I don’t think of myself as a realist painter in the currently accepted sense. I work from photographs, which are themselves abstractions – one step removed from reality. I travel further into abstraction by removing details, shifting things around, changing perspective, exaggerating the quality, color, and direction of light, investing the shadows with greater emotional intensity. The paintings wander far afield of straightforward observations of reality, and instead become my own emotional response to the places and objects depicted.”