American Art – Part I of XI: Susan Grossman
In the words of one writer, “Grossman’s most recent charcoal and pastel drawings include large-scale views of downtown New York street life and quietly dramatic rural landscapes.
Susan Grossman’s mostly monochromatic images and black frames initially suggest photography, while capturing the kinetic energy of film. As critic Gerard Haggerty wrote about Grossman’s drawings: Writ large, their scale is cinematic. …Like a single frame snipped out of a film, her works arrest an instant in an unfolding story. The question of precisely what may happen next is left to the viewer’s imagination, and so her pictures linger in the mind. Grossman’s subtle use of color guides the eye through the scene and helps propel the implied narrative.
Her urban and rural scenes juxtapose the human with the natural. Traffic signs, telephone poles, and wires inhabit the landscapes, while clouds, sunlight, and wind are essential components of the city scenes.”
From the Music Archives – Part I of II: The Beatles
20 February 1965 – The Beatles record “That Means a Lot,”
a song with which they were dissatisfied and that was not released until the “Anthology 2” CD in 1996.
Musings in Winter: Nicole Sobon
American Art – Part II of XI: Katy Unger
Artist Statement: “My recent paintings are about personal space. They are a window into those intimate moments that from the viewpoint of the observer can only be left to the imagination.
Absorbed in moments of creation and reflection, the individuals exist for themselves, unaware that they are being watched. The subject of my work is not so much the individuals that I paint, but the dialog between themselves and their surroundings.”
Musings in Winter: Paulo Coelho
A Poem for Today
“Epigram for Wall Street”
By Edgar Allan Poe
I’ll tell you a plan for gaining wealth,
Better than banking, trade or leases —
Take a bank note and fold it up,
And then you will find your money in creases!
This wonderful plan, without danger or loss,
Keeps your cash in your hands, where nothing can trouble it;
And every time that you fold it across,
‘Tis as plain as the light of the day that you double it!
Here is how one critic describes the artistry of Malaysian painter Tan Wei Kheng: “The artist Tan Wei Kheng is specialized in portraits from the indigenous communities living in the interior of Sarawak. Sarawak is situated along the northeast coast of the island Borneo and is beside Sabah, the second state which belongs to Malaysia. The large expanse of rainforest in Sarawak’s interior is crisscrossed by many winding rivers, which are often the only way to the places where the natural tribes are living.”
In Kheng’s words, “I travel into the dense interior and spend time time with the people of the interior known as the Orang Ulu. I study and photograph them and paint people from the Kayan, Kenyah, Penan, Kelabit und Iban communities.”
Musings in Winter: John Steinbeck
A Second Poem for Today
By Kathy Fagan
It would have been a fine path for a lizard to cross
but I saw none. Brambles and sweet briar grew
on the town side, poppies and wild grasses on the river.
Too hot for birds, the ducks were out, in water and mud,
and frogs were out, by the hundreds it seemed, saying,
Way, Way, in their deepest voices. It was beautiful there
but I’d seen beauty and its opposite so often
that when warmth broke over my skin I remembered winter,
the way fresh grief undoes you the moment you’re fully awake.
When she turned two, I asked my young friend
what she would serve at her birthday party and she said,
Tofu and cupcakes. When she was three and I was very sad
she called and said, What are you doing? Picking flowers?
She talked in poems like she was dreaming all the time
or very old or Virginia Woolf. More often in the first world
one wakes from not to the nightmare. When I dreamed I lost
my love I willed myself awake because I would not
survive the pain again, even dreaming. Which is responsible
for that mercy, Doktor, the conscious or the un-? I want
the poppies picked and I want the poppies left where they grow.
Like looking through the window of a moving train
at someone walking up a road lined with poplars
and being someone walking up a road lined with poplars.
The train and the trees, a shower of petals and bees,
sun on the glass and the train perpendicular to the road.
Things entirely themselves arriving in the deep
double shadows of the grass and passersby.
Here is the Artist Statement of British Painter Paul Coventry-Brown: ”I’m from Liverpool in the UK and am a self taught artist (when I was eighteen I did a one year pre-diploma course at Liverpool Art College – I didn’t continue to the diploma course, it’s a decision I regretted later but, hey, I was young ;-). I spent 17 years working in Japan before settling down in S. W. France 4 years ago to become a full time artist. I have always been more drawn to the old masters like Vermeer, Caravaggio and Velazquez as far as my painting style goes but I love art in all it’s forms. Art is a never ending journey and although I like to think that I have improved immensely in the last four years I feel as though I am still a beginner with so much to learn.”
A Third Poem for Today
“This Was Once a Love Poem”
By Jane Hirshfield
This was once a love poem,
before its haunches thickened, its breath grew short,
before it found itself sitting,
perplexed and a little embarrassed,
on the fender of a parked car,
while many people passed by without turning their heads.
It remembers itself dressing as if for a great engagement.
It remembers choosing these shoes,
this scarf or tie.
Once, it drank beer for breakfast,
drifted its feet
in a river side by side with the feet of another.
Once it pretended shyness, then grew truly shy,
dropping its head so the hair would fall forward,
so the eyes would not be seen.
IT spoke with passion of history, of art.
It was lovely then, this poem.
Under its chin, no fold of skin softened.
Behind the knees, no pad of yellow fat.
What it knew in the morning it still believed at nightfall.
An unconjured confidence lifted its eyebrows, its cheeks.
The longing has not diminished.
Still it understands. It is time to consider a cat,
the cultivation of African violets or flowering cactus.
Yes, it decides:
Many miniature cacti, in blue and red painted pots.
When it finds itself disquieted
by the pure and unfamiliar silence of its new life,
it will touch them—one, then another—
with a single finger outstretched like a tiny flame.
American Art – Part III of XI: Christopher Cart
According to one writer, “American painter Christopher Cart studied art and art history at the University of Washington, Seattle and Coker College, South Carolina. Throughout his career he has painted murals, countless watercolors and oils, portraits in both oils and watercolors and illustrations for many books and periodicals.”
Musings in Winter: Soren Kierkegaard
From the Music Archives – Part II of II: Buffy Sainte-Marie
“You have to leave room in life to dream.” – Buffy Sainte-Marie, Canadian-American Cree singer-songwriter, musician, composer, visual artist, educator, pacifist, and social activist, who was born 20 February 1941.
Musings in Winter: Robert Macfarlane
“Mountains seem to answer an increasing imaginative need in the West. More and more people are discovering a desire for them, and a powerful solace in them. At bottom, mountains, like all wildernesses, challenge our complacent conviction – so easy to lapse into – that the world has been made for humans by humans. Most of us exist for most of the time in worlds which are humanly arranged, themed and controlled. One forgets that there are environments which do not respond to the flick of a switch or the twist of a dial, and which have their own rhythms and orders of existence. Mountains correct this amnesia. By speaking of greater forces than we can possibly invoke, and by confronting us with greater spans of time than we can possibly envisage, mountains refute our excessive trust in the man-made. They pose profound questions about our durability and the importance of our schemes. They induce, I suppose, a modesty in us.”
American Art – Part IV of XI: Ivan Le Lorraine Albright
Born 20 February 1897 – Ivan Le Lorraine Albright, a magical realist painter.
Below – “Memories of the Past”; “The Farmer’s Kitchen”; “Self-Portrait in Georgia”; “Ah God, Herrings, the Glittering Sea”; “I Slept with the Starlight on My Face”; “There Were No Flowers Tonight”; “Divided and Divided.”
Musings in Winter: e e cummings
Musings in Winter: Lucy Maud Montgomery
A Fourth Poem for Today
By Lia Purpura
No one home.
the morning in.
nothing filling up.
A V of birds
until some dog
across the street
barks, and breaks
what I call my peace.
What a luxury
It bites off
just enough of
what I think
I want to be endless.
American Art – Part V of XI: Ansel Adams
“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.” – Ansel Adams, American photographer and environmentalist, who was born 20 February 1902.
Below – “Close-up of leaves in Glacier National Park”; “The Tetons and the Snake River”; “Baton practice at the Manzanar War Relocation Center, 1943”; “Jeffrey Pine, Sentinel Dome”; “Moon and Half Dome”; “Church, Taos Pueblo”; “Self-Portrait.”
Musings in Winter: Stephen Chbosky
“I walked over to the hill where we used to go and sled. There were a lot of little kids there. I watched them flying. Doing jumps and having races. And I thought that all those little kids are going to grow up someday. And all of those little kids are going to do the things that we do. And they will all kiss someone someday. But for now, sledding is enough. I think it would be great if sledding were always enough, but it isn’t.”
From the Cinema Archives: “The African Queen”
20 February 1952 – “The African Queen” opens at the Capitol Theater in New York City.
“The African Queen” won four Academy Awards: Best Actor in a Leading Role – Humphrey Bogart; Best Actress in a Leading Role – Katharine Hepburn; Best Adapted Screenplay – James Agee and John Huston; and Best Director – John Huston.
American Art – Part VI of XI: Damian Loeb
Musings in Winter: Terry Pratchett
“The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it’s as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues.”
In the words of one critic, “James Shilaimon is an embodiment of the self-taught artist who is continually searching for ways to express the artistic voice that has been with him his entire life. This inner voice has lead James to develop his artistry in several different mediums. Whether painting in oils or watercolor or sculpting in stone, James is always exploring ways to convey his stylized expression.
Growing up in Greece, the cradle of the Masters, you begin to understand this passion and some of the influence that has shaped as well as guided James and his creations. James is driven by a need to be honest with his creative voice and also to be recognized by his artistic peers for his artistry and his respect for those that came before him. James has spent a considerable amount of his artistic life pursuing commission work while developing his craft.”
A Fifth Poem for Today
“Landscape Without You”
By Cate Marvin
Roofers scrape the scaly lid
of an auto shop beside the house
where I live. Where I live
shirtless men tear at the black
scabs of a roof’s old flesh, toss
scraps into the back of a truck
parked in the lot next to a house
where I live. Where I live
a tarp rattles at night, plastic
rustles, and trash is kicked along
pavement by wind. Roofers
curse and shell the tire shop’s
peeling lid beside the house
where I live. Where I live
a tarp shakes all night; cans
land on pavement, tossed from
windows of cars that blur by
where I live. Where I live
windows are ladled red with
light your sun leaves me with.
Repairs are made to roofs which
will never cover me. As I read
the road between us, tire tracks
unscroll their tawdry calligraphy.
American Art – Part VII of XI: Aaron Westerberg
In the words of one writer, “Native Californian Aaron Westerberg grew up in San Diego. It was a class in traditional life drawing that drew him to continue his art training. He studied with Jeff Watts and attended the California Art Institute, where he later taught, and expanded his focus to include the works of nineteenth century American and European Masters. Aaron feels a connection to these great painters of form and light. In his paintings, he strives for elegance and timelessness while striking a balance between classic techniques and contemporary subject matter.”
Musings in Winter: Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
American Art – Part VIII of XI: Gail Chase-Bien
Artist Statement: “Painting is additive and reductive. You have an impulse.
It drives you to act, and the first stage is a thin veneer of self.
As the work moves forward, so does the deepening of your investigation, and daily histories.
I use landscape as a signifier for the human spirit. It can hold you in the light, or send you
packing into dense foliage.
But In my emotional life, I seek for the honesty of a one way ticket, with no guarantees, and a few great journeys.”
“Let us toast to animal pleasures, to escapism, to rain on the roof and instant coffee, to unemployment insurance and library cards, to absinthe and good-hearted landlords, to music and warm bodies and contraceptives… and to the ‘good life,’ whatever it is and wherever it happens to be.” – Hunter S. Thompson, American journalist, writer, and author of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream,” who died 20 February 2005.
Some quotes from the work of Hunter S. Thompson:
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!’”
“I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”
“A man who procrastinates in his choosing will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.”
“We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and — in spite of True Romance magazines — we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely — at least, not all the time — but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.”
“So we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?”
“Sex without love is as hollow and ridiculous as love without sex.”
“Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.”
“THE EDGE, there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.”
“Music has always been a matter of Energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel. I have always needed Fuel. I am a serious consumer. On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio.”
“When the going gets weird, the weird turn professional.”
“If you’re going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it or else you’re going to be locked up.”
“In a closed society where everybody’s guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity.”
“I was not proud of what I had learned but I never doubted that it was worth knowing.”
“There are times, however, and this is one of them, when even being right feels wrong. What do you say, for instance, about a generation that has been taught that rain is poison and sex is death? If making love might be fatal and if a cool spring breeze on any summer afternoon can turn a crystal blue lake into a puddle of black poison right in front of your eyes, there is not much left except TV and relentless masturbation. It’s a strange world. Some people get rich and others eat shit and die.”
“Good people drink good beer.”
“Freedom is something that dies unless it’s used.”
“‘All my life, my heart has sought a thing I cannot name.’ – Remembered line from a long-forgotten poem.”
“Like most others, I was a seeker, a mover, a malcontent, and at times a stupid hell-raiser. I was never idle long enough to do much thinking, but I felt somehow that some of us were making real progress, that we had taken an honest road, and that the best of us would inevitably make it over the top. At the same time, I shared a dark suspicion that the life we were leading was a lost cause, that we were all actors, kidding ourselves along on a senseless odyssey. It was the tension between these two poles – a restless idealism on one hand and a sense of impending doom on the other – that kept me going.”
“Yesterday’s weirdness is tomorrow’s reason why.”
“Every now and then when your life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in, the only cure is to load up on heinous chemicals and then drive like a bastard from Hollywood to Las Vegas … with the music at top volume and at least a pint of ether.”
THESE ARE SOME OF THE SADDEST AND BEST-WRITTEN LINES IN THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN LETTERS:
“It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era — the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run… but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant…
There was madness in any direction, at any hour. You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning…
And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply PREVAIL. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave…
So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high water mark — that place where the wave finally broke, and rolled back.”
Musings in Winter: Leo Tolstoy
“A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor — such is my idea of happiness.”
American Art – Part IX of XI: John Goodman
In the words of one writer, “A self-taught artist, Goodman draws inspiration from the early modernists and the Bay Area Figurative Movement. He has exhibited in New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Goodman’s paintings reside in numerous collections in the United States and Europe.
Roberta Carasso wrote of Goodman’s work, ‘John Goodman’s paintings are a dichotomy of understated minimalism with reductive use of color that conveys a subtle, but evident sense of smoldering energy. The artist uses very thick paint that he sculpts, and draws in to, as he forms a rich tactile field of painterly surfaces. His images are consistently figurative, yet in each, there is a strong pull towards abstraction.’”
A Sixth Poem for Today
“Nature Knows Its Math”
By Joan Graham
Musings in Winter: Henry David Thoreau
American Art – Part X of XI: Gary Komarin
In the words of one writer, “A risk taker in the Abstract Expressionist tradition, Gary Komarin was born in New York City, the son of a Czech architect and Viennese writer.
Komarin’s stalwart images have an epic quality that grip the viewer with the idea that he or she is looking at a contemporary description of something timeless. For painter Gary Komarin, abstraction has never been a formal dead end. Rather, it has allowed him to challenge the limitations of the style to make painting ‘include more’ precisely because a recognizable image excludes too much.”
Musings in Winter: Alexander Smith
A Seventh Poem for Today
“A Walk to Wachusett”
By Alice D’Alessio
H.D.T. from Excursions
May I join you, Henry,
to hike the Massachusetts hills?
The country open and fresh
the morning exuberant with birds:
a place where gods might wander
so solemn and solitary.
You are seeking that blue boundary
of distant mountains, with only
your stout staff, a tent
and Virgil tucked under one arm.
I would come along.
We’ll drink from springs
and scavenge wild berries,
unhurried for appointments.
We’ll pause to contemplate
our natural world, ample, roomy,
with time bounded by wide margins.
Only an occasional farmer
to share his bread and milk,
and pique our interest with his strange accent-
in that halcyon time before trucks
when travelers had no fellow travelers
for miles, before or behind!
And I know I was born too late
or that we’ll have to find each other
in some warp of time. You
and I and Virgil, perhaps, can strike off
to see those undiscovered
beyond wild fields and forests.
Musings in Winter: Rene Daumal
“You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place ? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.”
Back from the Territory – Art: The work of Alaska artist Earl Atchak
Artist Statement: “I have been an artist ever since I can remember, making art to sell with my aunties as well as toys for myself. In growing up, I’ve always believed in four things: I could support myself without any help from anyone, no food stamps, no free housing from the government, just me. I am a good hunter; I’ve always known who I am; I always remember where I’m from; and, to know where I’m going. Living the life of an artist allows me to do that.
I have made various items since my career began in 1980—especially masks, detailed Cupik figures, and composite sculptures—using such materials as driftwood, ivory, baleen, whalebone, furs, and skins. My partner Lisa Unwin does the sewing for these. In making my ‘doll’ sculptures I am particularly concerned with the realism of the hands and faces and the accuracy of my representation. The sculptures have gradually become more and more complex in recent years; for example, one shows a group of people of different ages and personalities riding in a boat made out of whale jawbone. Another shows a shaman helping to find seals for the hunters; supported by a whale vertebrae she is shown diving down toward a small carved seal that is suspended beneath her at the open center of the vertebrae.
I still live in Chevak and I make my art using traditional tools and methods with the knowledge I have acquired from years of carving and listening to the stories of my elders. Every single piece of art requires my spirit, my body, and my mind to be one, to be able to see clearly the end result of my work.
I try to bring something from the past to share and preserve my culture for the future. I follow my people’s traditions of carving, but my interpretation is personal. I watched my grandfather Joe Friday carve ceremonial masks and listened to his stories. I gain insights, direction, and strength through the stories of how my people lived their total subsistence lifestyle. Through my work, I can express my ideas of tradition—those feelings of being part of a culture that is thousands of years old.”
Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.
American Art – Part XI of XI: William Theophilus Brown (1919-2012)
In the words of one writer, “Brown, a painter, was featured prominently in the Bay Area Figurative Art 1950-1965 show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Brown attended graduate school in painting at the University of California, Berkeley.
He matured as an artist in a climate of artistic ferment, experimentation, and idealism, much of it centered around the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute). There, several young painters, energized by David Park’s rejection of abstraction in 1950, laid the groundwork for what became the first postwar modern movement to bring Northern California artists to national attention.”