American Art – Part I of V: Gideon Jacques Denny
In the words of one writer, “Gideon Jacques Denny was born in Wilmington, Delaware on July 15, 1830. As a young man he worked as a sailor of small craft on Chesapeake Bay and his enthusiasm for ships never waned. Arriving in San Francisco with the Gold Rush in 1849, he worked as a teamster on the waterfront and was a member of the Vigilance Committee. After two years in California, he opted for an art career and then traveled to Milwaukee where he was a pupil of Samuel Marsden Brookes. After six years of study there, he returned to San Francisco and established a studio on Bush Street. When Brookes moved to San Francisco in 1862, the two friends shared a studio for many years. Although he did a few portraits and landscapes, it was his paintings of the clippers and shipping activities on San Francisco Bay that were to bring him success and fame. These views often include ship wrecks along the West Coast done in a Turneresque manner with vaporous effects of smoke, steam, and clouds. Denny died of malaria while a member of a surveying party in Cambria, California in 1886. Upon his death a memorial exhibition of his works was held at the Society of California Pioneers.”
I saw a shadow on the ground
And heard a bluejay going by;
A shadow went across the ground,
And I looked up and saw the sky.
It hung up on the poplar tree,
But while I looked it did not stay;
It gave a tiny sort of jerk
And moved a little bit away.
And farther on and farther on
It moved and never seemed to stop.
I think it must be tied with chains
And something pulls it from the top.
Musings in Winter: Mary Stuart
A Poem for Today
By Laura Kasischke
One night from the other side
of a motel wall made of nothing but
sawdust and pink stuff, I
listened as a man cried
to someone on the telephone
that all he wanted
to do before he died
was to come home.
“I want to come home!”
That night a man cried
until I was ankle-deep in sleep,
and then up to my neck, wading
like a swimmer
or like a suicide
through the waves
of him crying
and into the deep
as icebergs cracked into halves,
as jellyfish, like thoughts, were
passed secretly between people.
And the seaweed, like
the sinuous soft green hair
of certain beauty queens,
washed up by the sea.
Except that we
were in Utah, and one of us
while the other one
was sleeping, with
nothing but a thin, dry
wall between us.
Musings in Winter: Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
“It is only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth – and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up – that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.”
“Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all the thousand small uncaring ways.” – Stephen Vincent Benet, American poet, short story writer, novelist, and recipient of the 1929 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (for “John Brown’s Body”), who died 13 March 1943.
My mind’s a map. A mad sea-captain drew it
Under a flowing moon until he knew it;
Winds with brass trumpets, puffy-cheeked as jugs,
And states bright-patterned like Arabian rugs.
“Here there be tygers.” “Here we buried Jim.”
Here is the strait where eyeless fishes swim
About their buried idol, drowned so cold
He weeps away his eyes in salt and gold.
A country like the dark side of the moon,
A cider-apple country, harsh and boon,
A country savage as a chestnut-rind,
A land of hungry sorcerers.
—Your mind is water through an April night,
A cherry-branch, plume-feathery with its white,
A lavender as fragrant as your words,
A room where Peace and Honor talk like birds,
Sewing bright coins upon the tragic cloth
Of heavy Fate, and Mockery, like a moth,
Flutters and beats about those lovely things.
You are the soul, enchanted with its wings,
The single voice that raises up the dead
To shake the pride of angels.
I have said.
A Second Poem for Today
By Oliver de la Paz
The wind shakes the chimes
into the siding, and the dog shakes too
though he doesn’t wake you
as I carry you to the bedroom. Small mouth
sipping breath, you are fish-strange,
bejeweled in the dimness of the microwave’s
nightlight. As I turn my back to the bulb
I make your form in my arms a dark weight
but you are no anchor. Together
we are sloops trailing a tiny wake in the carpet.
In the dark it’s hard to navigate the furniture
so I count distance—five paces
from the tile to the sofa. From the sofa,
twelve to the hall. I’m subtracting
my steps to see what’s left. The things
that burden me, like our lame dog’s shattered nail,
blood on the carpet from his paces
to the food dish, our drafty house, all are outpaced.
There are no barriers, and I step over
the hound’s dozing form as a quick gust cuts
dead branches from the pine and the drifts
lock our cars in. But I’m still counting—
the none-stars in the winter sky,
each hazily wrapped and strobing. The far bell
over the deep waters of your sleep. Two steps to the corner
where there are no animals nor animal danger. Two
to the bed where behind us the shadow of the dog
could be distant hills, where the clouds disassemble,
where your breaths pull the warmth of the room in
and where my face, my eyes are the glint of ore
from a country far away and known only in a language,
light as the syllables of exhalation.
From the “He Should Certainly Know Department”: L. Ron Hubbard
Musings in Winter: E. Joseph Cossman
Here is how one writer describes the artistry of Portuguese painter Isabel Contreras Botelho: “Born in Lisbon, Isabel Maria Contreras do Botelho has been painting and drawing for some time. Works in a primate organization as teacher of Arts in Painting and Drawing.
Although personally assumed as figurative, her paintings have a personal life, gestural and intuitive but, simultaneously, conceptual and marked by symbologies.”
Musings in Winter: Marthe Troly-Curtin
“The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.” – Joseph Priestley, English Dissenting clergyman, chemist, natural philosopher, political theorist, and educator, who was born 13 March 1733.
Some quotes from Joseph Priestley:
“Like its politicians and its war, society has the teenagers it deserves.”
“We should like to have some towering geniuses, to reveal us to ourselves in color and fire, but of course they would have to fit into the pattern of our society and be able to take orders from sound administrative types.”
“As we read the school reports on our children, we realize a sense of relief that can rise to delight that thank Heaven nobody is reporting in this fashion on us.”
“It is no use speaking in soft, gentle tones if everyone else is shouting.”
“What I have known with respect to myself, has tended much to lessen both my admiration, and my contempt, of others.”
“The only reason some people get lost in thought is because it’s unfamiliar territory.” – Paul Fix, American film and television actor best known for his work in Westerns, who was born 13 March 1901.
American Art – Part II of V: Jonathan Viner
In the words of one writer, “Jonathan Viner was born in 1976 in New York, and was raised up and down the east coast of the United States. After receiving a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1998, he moved to New York City where he continues to live today.”
A Third Poem for Today
“In the Planetarium”
By James Doyle
I read the palms of the other
kids on the field trip to see
which ones would grow up
to be astronauts. The lifeline
on Betty Lou’s beautiful hand
ended the day after tomorrow,
so I told her how the rest
of our lives is vastly over-rated,
even in neighboring galaxies.
When she asked me how I knew
so much, I said I watched
‘War of the Worlds’ six times
and, if she went with me to
the double-feature tomorrow,
I’d finish explaining the universe.
“I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth will starve in the process.” – Benjamin Harrison, twenty-third President of the United States, supporter of both the McKinley Tariff and the Sherman Antitrust Act, and advocate for federal legislation to protect the voting rights of African-Americans, who died 13 March 1901.
Benjamin Harrison was a Republican, though his views on issues both foreign and domestic would find little support among today’s GOP ideologues.
Some quotes from the work of Benjamin Harrison:
“We Americans have no commission from God to police the world.”
“Great lives never go out; they go on.”
“No other people have a government more worthy of their respect and love or a land so magnificent in extent, so pleasant to look upon, and so full of generous suggestion to enterprise and labor.”
“There never has been a time in our history when work was so abundant or when wages were as high, whether measured by the currency in which they are paid or by their power to supply the necessaries and comforts of life.”
“This Government has found occasion to express, in a friendly spirit, but with much earnestness, to the Government of the Czar, its serious concern because of the harsh measures now being enforced against the Hebrews in Russia.”
“When and under what conditions is the black man to have a free ballot? When is he in fact to have those full civil rights which have so long been his in law?”
A Fourth Poem for Today
By Tami Haaland
She’s with Grandma in front
of Grandma’s house, backed
by a willow tree, gladiola and roses.
Who did she ever want
to please? But Grandma
seems half-pleased and annoyed.
No doubt Mother frowns
behind the lens, wants
to straighten this sassy face.
Maybe laughs, too.
Little girl with her mouth wide,
tongue out, yelling
at the camera. See her little
white purse full of treasure,
her white sandals?
She has things to do,
you can tell. Places to explore
beyond the frame,
Musings in Winter: Denis Waitley
“Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day. Rich people can’t buy more hours. Scientists can’t invent new minutes. And you can’t save time to spend it on another day. Even so, time is amazingly fair and forgiving. No matter how much time you’ve wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow.”
Here is the Artist Statement of Polish painter Grzegorz Wrobel (born 1983): “During my studies at the Warsaw University of Technology, Poland, I learnt a lot about watercolors. Although the faculty of Architecture at this university has a strong tradition in drawings and watercolors, but most of my skills are gained from my own study and personal interest in this medium, and from friends who also work with watercolors.”
A Fifth Poem for Today
“School photo, found after the Joplin tornado”
By Laura Dimmit
“Joey, 4th grade, 1992”
He’s been on the fridge since it happened,
sneaking glances from underneath the cat
magnet at our dinners, coffee habits, arguments.
We posted him on the database of ‘items found,’
hoping that someone would recognize his messy
hair, Batman t-shirt, blue eyes, but no one
answered the post or claimed him.
Somewhere a childhood photo album is not
quite complete, or a grandmother’s mantelpiece;
an uncle’s wallet. One afternoon I got restless,
flipped through my old yearbooks, trying to find him,
looking to see how he might have aged: did he lose
the chubby cheeks? dye his hair? how long
did he have to wear braces? But he’s too young
to have passed me in the halls, the picture just
a stranger, a small reminder of the whirling aftermath
when Joplin was clutching at scraps: everything displaced,
even this poor kid who doesn’t even know he’s lost.
Musings in Winter: Carl Gustav Jung
“I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.” – Susan B. Anthony, American civil rights leader who played a pivotal role in the 19th century movement to introduce women’s suffrage into the United States, who died 13 March 1906.
Some quotes from Susan B. Anthony:
“If all the rich and all of the church people should send their children to the public schools they would feel bound to concentrate their money on improving these schools until they met the highest ideals.”
I declare to you that woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself, and there I take my stand.”
“I think the girl who is able to earn her own living and pay her own way should be as happy as anybody on earth. The sense of independence and security is very sweet.”
“Organize, agitate, educate, must be our war cry.”
“Oh, if I could but live another century and see the fruition of all the work for women! There is so much yet to be done.”
“Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputations… can never effect a reform.”
“The older I get, the greater power I seem to have to help the world; I am like a snowball – the further I am rolled the more I gain.”
“Join the union, girls, and together say Equal Pay for Equal Work.”
“Trust me that as I ignore all law to help the slave, so will I ignore it all to protect an enslaved woman.”
“This is rather different from the receptions I used to get fifty years ago. They threw things at me then but they were not roses.”
American Art – Part III of V: Sarah Stieber
A Sixth Poem for Today
By George Bilgere
The sun is still burning in my skin
even though it set half-an-hour ago,
and Cindy and Bob and Bev and John
are pulling on their sweatshirts
and gathering around the fire pit.
John hands me a cold one
and now Bev comes into my arms
and I can feel the sun’s heat,
and taste the Pacific on her cheek.
I am not in Vietnam,
nor is John or Bob, because
our deferments came through,
and we get to remain boys
for at least another summer
like this one in Santa Cruz,
surfing the afternoons in a sweet
blue dream I’m remembering now,
Musings in Winter: Hermann Hesse
“Among the many worlds which man did not receive as a gift of nature, but which he created with his own mind, the world of books is the greatest. Every child, scrawling his first letters on his slate and attempting to read for the first time, in so doing, enters an artificial and complicated world; to know the laws and rules of this world completely and to practice them perfectly, no single human life is long enough. Without words, without writing, and without books there would be no history, there could be no concept of humanity. And if anyone wants to try to enclose in a small space in a single house or single room, the history of the human spirit and to make it his own, he can only do this in the form of a collection of books.”
“If people would know how little brain is ruling the world, they would die of fear.” – Ivo Andric, Bosnian novelist, short story writer, author of “The Bridge on the Drina,” and recipient of the 1961 Nobel Prize in Literature “for the epic force with which he has traced themes and depicted human destinies drawn from the history of his country,” who died 13 March 1975.
Ivo Andric donated all his Nobel Prize money to the improvement of libraries in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Some quotes from Ivo Andric:
“One shouldn’t be afraid of the humans. Well, I am not afraid of the humans, but of what is inhuman in them.”
“Searching for what I need, and I don’t even know precisely what that is, I was going from a man to a man, and I saw that all of them together have less than me who has nothing, and that I left to each of them a bit of that what I don’t have and I’ve been searching for.”
“Between the fear that something would happen and the hope that still it wouldn’t, there is much more space than one thinks. On that narrow, hard, bare and dark space a lot of us spend their lives.”
“Sadness is also a kind of defense.”
“Lands of great discoveries are also lands of great injustices.”
American Art – Part IV of V: Maurice Del Mue
In the words of one writer, “Painter, illustrator, muralist. Maurice Del Mue was born in Paris, France on November 24, 1875. About 1880 Del Mue moved with his family to San Francisco where he later studied art at the Mark Hopkins Institute under Arthur Mathews and Amedee Joullin. In the late 1890’s he returned to Paris for further study under Gerome at Ecole des Beaux Arts. Upon returning to San Francisco, he established a studio and began receiving favorable reviews for his paintings by the local press. In 1902 he joined fellow artists Piazzoni, Putnam, C.P. Neilson, W.H. Bull, M. Sandona and Blendon Campbell in forming the California Society of Artists as protest to the conservative attitudes of the San Francisco Art Association. During the 1920’s Del Mue was a staff artist for the San Francisco Chronicle and later worked for Foster & Kleiser (billboards). His commercial art includes many prominent logos which are still in use (Hills Brothers Coffee, Schillings Coffee, Southern Pacific Railroad). In 1941 he moved across the Golden Gate to Marin County and lived in Kentfield until his death on January 24, 1955. Painting in a style that evolved from the Post-Impressionists, Del Mue was motivated by color and often boasted that he had his own blue. Best known for his landscapes, many of the High Sierra, he also painted still lifes and portraits.”
Musings in Winter: Anais Nin
“I am an agnostic; I do not pretend to know what many ignorant men are sure of.” – Clarence Darrow, American lawyer, civil libertarian, leading member of the American Civil Liberties Union, and attorney for John T. Scopes at the infamous Scopes “Monkey” Trial, who died 13 March 1938.
Some quotes from Clarence Darrow:
“True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else.”
“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.”
“I have suffered from being misunderstood, but I would have suffered a hell of a lot more if I had been understood.”
“Chase after the truth like all hell and you’ll free yourself, even though you never touch its coat tails.”
“When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President; I’m beginning to believe it.”
“The first half of our lives is ruined by our parents and the second half by our children.”
“As long as the world shall last there will be wrongs, and if no man objected and no man rebelled, those wrongs would last forever.”
“If you lose the power to laugh, you lose the power to think.”
“The law does not pretend to punish everything that is dishonest. That would seriously interfere with business.”
“You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man’s freedom.”
“History repeats itself, and that’s one of the things that’s wrong with history.”
“I do not believe in God because I do not believe in Mother Goose.”
“The world is made up for the most part of morons and natural tyrants, sure of themselves, strong in their own opinions, never doubting anything.”
“The trouble with law is lawyers.”
“Even if you do learn to speak correct English, whom are you going to speak it to?”
“No other offense has ever been visited with such severe penalties as seeking to help the oppressed.”
“The origin of the absurd idea of immortal life is easy to discover; it is kept alive by hope and fear, by childish faith, and by cowardice.”
“To think is to differ.”
“Depressions may bring people closer to the church but so do funerals.”
“If a man is happy in America, it is considered he is doing something wrong.”
“Laws should be like clothes. They should be made to fit the people they serve.
“There is no such thing as justice – in or out of court.”
“I am a friend of the working man, and I would rather be his friend, than be one.”
“In spite of all the yearnings of men, no one can produce a single fact or reason to support the belief in God and in personal immortality.”
“Just think of the tragedy of teaching children not to doubt.”
“Justice has nothing to do with what goes on in a courtroom; Justice is what comes out of a courtroom.”
“None meet life honestly and few heroically.”
“Some of you say religion makes people happy. So does laughing gas.”
“The best that we can do is to be kindly and helpful toward our friends and fellow passengers who are clinging to the same speck of dirt while we are drifting side by side to our common doom.”
Musings in Winter: James Hillman
“I like to imagine a person’s psyche to be like a boardinghouse full of characters. The ones who show up regularly and who habitually follow the house rules may not have met other long-term residents who stay behind closed doors, or who only appear at night. An adequate theory of character must make room for character actors, for the stuntmen and animal handlers, for all the figures who play bit parts and produce unexpected acts. They often make the show fateful, or tragic, or farcically absurd.”
A Seventh Poem for Today
By Robin Chapman
My neighbor, 87, rings the doorbell to ask
if I might have seen her clipping shears
that went missing a decade ago,
with a little red paint on their shaft,
or the iron turkey bank and the porcelain
coffee cup that disappeared a while back
when her friend, now dead, called the police
to break in to see if she were ill, and have we
had trouble with our phone line, hers
is dead and her car and driver’s license
are missing though she can drive perfectly
well, just memory problems, and her son
is coming this morning to take her up
to Sheboygan, where she was born
and where the family has its burial lots,
to wait on assisted living space, and she
just wanted to say we’d been good neighbors
all these how many? years, and how lucky
I am to have found such a nice man
and could she borrow a screwdriver,
the door lock to her house is jammed.
Musings in Winter: Pablo Neruda
“I consider myself one of the most fortunate of men, to have lived at a time when some of the old Haidas and their peers among the Northwest Coast peoples were still alive, and to have had the privilege of knowing them.” – Bill Reid, Canadian artist whose works included jewelry, sculpture, screen-printing, and painting, who died 13 March 1998.
Below – “Raven and the First Men”; “Xhuwaji/Haida Grizzly Bear”; “Chief of the Undersea World”; “Sockeye Salmon”; “Bear Mother”; “Haida Eagle-Gut”; “Haida Dog Salmon”; “Beaver Bracelet with Multiple Faces”; “Haida Wolf.”
An Eighth Poem for Today
“A Knot of Worms”
By Marsha Truman Cooper
As day began to break, we passed
the “honk for worms” sign,
passed it honking again
and again, to wake up the worms
my dad said. It was only
about another half mile to
the aspen grove and our worm digs.
The humus, spongy and almost
black, turned over easily.
I used my bare hands to put
some moist earth into a coffee can
and, as the aspen glittered
in the risen sun, I gently
slid the fresh, fat bait into my container.
I heard the worms still in the ground
gurgle as they tried to escape,
while the ones in the can began
to ball up as their numbers grew.
Streamside, surrounded by mountains
with snow lingering into summer,
I picked out a worm and my dad
arranged it on the hook to save
my small fingers. Now you can purchase
a time-share on that land.
The colony of aspen, thinned
by the builders, continues to
tremble. No amount of honking
brings back the worms.
Musings in Winter: Ashley Montagu
Back from the Territory – Art: The work of Alaska artist V Rae
In the words of one writer, “Whether sailing Alaska coastal waters or snorkeling Hawaiian shores, V Rae chronicles natural life through bold portraits that leap from the canvas to your heart. Defying convention with a startling fusion of color and negative space, V paints what she calls Freestyle Expressions to transport each personal encounter through time and space, and share with the world a seamless blend of art, nature and individual personality.”
Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.
Musings in Winter: Joseph Campbell
“The Hero Path”
We have not even to risk the adventure alone
for the heroes of all time have gone before us.
The labyrinth is thoroughly known …
we have only to follow the thread of the hero path.
And where we had thought to find an abomination
we shall find a God.
And where we had thought to slay another
we shall slay ourselves.
Where we had thought to travel outwards
we shall come to the center of our own existence.
And where we had thought to be alone
we shall be with all the world.
American Art – Part V of V: Edwin Deakin
In the words of one writer, “Edwin Deakin was born in Sheffield, England on May 21, 1838. After moving to America in 1856, Deakin settled in Chicago where his professional career began in 1869 with portraits of Northern Civil War heroes. Little is known of Deakin’s education or art training; he is said to have been a self-taught artist. In 1870 he moved to San Francisco and established a studio. Within a few years Deakin had gained a fine reputation as a painter while exhibiting regularly with the San Francisco Art Association and at the Mechanics’ Institute Fairs. He was a member of the Bohemian Club and a close friend of Samuel Brookes with whom he shared a studio. Deakin traveled and sketched in Europe during 1887-90. While there, he exhibited at the Paris Salon. Most of his paintings are characterized by the skillful rendering of architectural surfaces. Most famous for his series of 21 mission paintings, he also painted grapes, Chinatown genre and scenes of the 1906 disaster. His last years were spent in Berkeley California where in 1890 he purchased a large tract of land, which was a portion of the old Peralta land grant. He built a mission-style studio on the property and remained there until his death on May 11, 1923. Later the property was subdivided and a street named for him there.”