American Art – Part I of V: Sherrie Levine
Artist Statement: “I’m not making the art to make a point or to illustrate a theory. I’m making the picture I want to look at which is what I think everybody does. The desire comes first.”
A Poem for Today
“Archaeopteryx, An Elegy”
By Gina Franco
As soon as possible, I will confront the wren’s
doings, rinse the white streaks from the porch bricks
drawing lizards from their shade, the immediate
smell of water too much for all of us.
But first is lunch. The remains we’ll scatter over
the driveway away from the bricks. Wrens come,
crusts from our dishes make drama. Then history.
What is possible in memory is disingenuous.
Limestone, impressed with the archaic smile
of bone and reptilian wrists, wishbones and feathers,
describes. It cups the transitional form,
naturally selecting one’s best side. There was
the time you forgot your legs no longer
could recall how to stand—then rose up straight and sang
‘You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me’
Probably I’ve been thinking of that since August.
The indelible wrens grate like shovels
outside—exhumed, one voice rises from wilderness,
—then another, and,
between them, the keep of an unerring quiet.
Fancies in Springtime: Albert Einstein
“The distance between one historical period and another is a very small step in comparison to the huge metaphysical gap we must leap to understand the perspective of another person in any time or place.” – Eric Donald Hirsch, Jr., American educator and academic literary critic best known for his writings about cultural literacy, who was born 22 March 1928.
Some quotes from the work of E.D. Hirsch:
“The achievement of high universal literacy is the key to all other fundamental improvements in American education.”
“Cafeteria-style education, combined with the unwillingness of our schools to place demands on students, has resulted in a steady diminishment of commonly shared information between generations and between young people themselves.”
“Consider now the primal scene of education in the modern elementary school. Let us assume that a teacher wishes to inform a class of some 20 pupils about the structure of atoms, and that she plans to base the day’s instruction on an analogy with the solar system. She knows that the instruction will be effective only to the extent that all the students in the class already know about the solar system. A good teacher would probably try to find out. ‘Now, class, how many of you know about the solar system?’ Fifteen hands go up. Five stay down. What is a teacher to do in this typical circumstance in the contemporary American school?
If he or she pauses to explain the solar system, a class period is lost, and 15 of the 20 students are bored and deprived of knowledge for that day. If the teacher plunges ahead with atomic structure, the hapless five—they are most likely to be poor or minority students—are bored, humiliated and deprived, because they cannot comprehend the teacher’s explanation.”
“We will be able to achieve a just and prosperous society only when our schools ensure that everyone commands enough shared background knowledge to be able to communicate effectively with everyone else.”
Fancies in Springtime: Walter de la Mare
“A poor old Widow in her weeds
Sowed her garden with wild-flower seeds;
Not too shallow, and not too deep,
And down came April — drip — drip — drip.
Up shone May, like gold, and soon
Green as an arbour grew leafy June.
And now all summer she sits and sews
Where willow herb, comfrey, bugloss blows,
Teasle and pansy, meadowsweet,
Campion, toadflax, and rough hawksbit;
Brown bee orchis, and Peals of Bells;
Clover, burnet, and thyme she smells;
Like Oberon’s meadows her garden is
Drowsy from dawn to dusk with bees.
Weeps she never, but sometimes sighs,
And peeps at her garden with bright brown eyes;
And all she has is all she needs —
A poor Old Widow in her weeds.”
A Second Poem for Today
By D. Nurkse
Death is coming
and you must build a starship
to take you to Venus.
Make it from a catsup bottle,
a flashlight coil,
a penny, the cat’s bell,
Mom’s charm bracelet.
They say that planet is torment,
whipped by circular wind,
choked in vitriol clouds.
But no. When you get there
it is a light in the sky
and I am with you.
Fancies in Springtime: Plato
American Art – Part II of V: Robert Graham
Here is one critic describing the background of sculptor Robert Graham (1938-2008): “Graham was born in Mexico City, Mexico on Aug. 19, 1938, to Roberto Pena and Adelina Graham. Roberto Pena died when his son was six years old, and the boy, his mother Adelina, his grandmother Ana, and his aunt Mercedes left Mexico and moved to San Jose, California. Robert Graham began his formal art training at San Jose State University, where he was taught by artist Frederick Spratt. He continued his studies at the San Francisco Art Institute in California, finishing in 1964. Within five years he had one-man exhibitions of his sculpture at important contemporary art galleries in Palo Alto, Los Angeles, New York City, London, Cologne, and Essen, Germany. He, along with Joey and Steven lived in London for a period before settling in Los Angeles in the early 1970s. His first solo exhibition in a museum was at the Dallas Museum of Art in 1972. Since then he has had dozens of one-man shows, including several at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.”
Fancies in Springtime: Elyne Mitchell
“Here, also, the future was cried aloud by the wind through the rocks, so that all those who heard would shiver, and then the liquid spring song of the thrush would make all the beauty of moonlight and sunlight blend together, making it true, so true, that happiness must come again”
“The mind can be trained to relieve itself on paper.” – Billy Collins, American poet and teacher, who was born 22 March 1941.
“The History Teacher”
Trying to protect his students’ innocence
he told them the Ice Age was really just
the Chilly Age, a period of a million years
when everyone had to wear sweaters.
And the Stone Age became the Gravel Age,
named after the long driveways of the time.
The Spanish Inquisition was nothing more
than an outbreak of questions such as
‘How far is it from here to Madrid?’
‘What do you call the matador’s hat?’
The War of the Roses took place in a garden,
and the Enola Gay dropped one tiny atom on Japan.
The children would leave his classroom
for the playground to torment the weak
and the smart,
mussing up their hair and breaking their glasses,
while he gathered up his notes and walked home
past flower beds and white picket fences,
wondering if they would believe that soldiers
in the Boer War told long, rambling stories
designed to make the enemy nod off.
From the Music Archives – Part I of III: Keith Reif
Born 22 March 1943 – Keith Reif, an English musician best known as the lead singer and harmonica player of The Yardbirds.
American Art – Part III of V: Joseph Henry Sharp
Joseph Henry Sharp (1859-1953) was a painter and a founding member of the Taos Society of Artists.
A Third Poem for Today
“My mother was like the bees”
By Jeanne Wagner
because she needed a lavish taste
on her tongue,
a daily tipple of amber and gold
to waft her into the sky,
a soluble heat trickling down her throat.
Who could blame her
for starting out each morning
with a swig of something furious
in her belly, for days
when she dressed in flashy lamé
leggings like a starlet,
for wriggling and dancing a little madly,
her crazy reels and her rumbas,
for coming home wobbly
with a flicker of clover’s inflorescence
still clinging to her clothes,
enough to light the darkness
of a pitch-black hive.
Fancies in Springtime: John Burroughs
“To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter… to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring — these are some of the rewards of the simple life.”
From the Music Archives – Part II of III: Jeremy Clyde
Born 22 March 1945 – Jeremy Clyde, an English actor, musician, and member of the folk duo Chad & Jeremy.
“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German writer, politician, and author of “The Sorrows of Young Werther” and “Faust,” who died 22 March 1832.
Some quotes from the work of Goethe:
“We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe.”
“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”
“If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.”
“There is nothing worse than aggressive stupidity.”
“If children grew up according to early indications, we should have nothing but geniuses.”
“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”
“Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward. They may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.”
“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”
“If you’ve never eaten while crying you don t know what life tastes like.”
“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”
“To think is easy. To act is hard. But the hardest thing in the world is to act in accordance with your thinking.”
“A man sees in the world what he carries in his heart.”
“There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.”
“Nothing shows a man’s character more than what he laughs at.”
“By seeking and blundering we learn.”
“Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for changes.”
“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”
“I love those who yearn for the impossible.”
“Enjoy when you can, and endure when you must.”
“The human race is a monotonous affair. Most people spend the greatest part of their time working in order to live, and what little freedom remains so fills them with fear that they seek out any and every means to be rid of it.”
“Nothing is worth more than this day.”
From the Music Archives – Part III of III: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Born 22 March 1948 – Andrew Lloyd Webber, a British composer and impresario of musical theater.
Fancies in Springtime: Percy Bysshe Shelley
By Sarah A. Chavez
In childhood Christy and I played in the dumpster across the street
from Pickett & Sons Construction. When we found bricks, it was best.
Bricks were most useful. We drug them to our empty backyard
and stacked them in the shape of a room. For months
we collected bricks, one on top another. When the walls
reached as high as my younger sister’s head, we laid down.
Hiding in the middle of our room, we watched the cycle
of the sun, gazed at the stars, clutched hands and felt at home.
Fancies in Springtime: Margaret Wise Brown
Died 22 March 1934 – Theophilos Hatzimihail a Greek folk painter of Neo-Hellenic art.
Fancies in Springtime: Bertrand Russell
“Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cozy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigor, and the great spaces have a splendor of their own.”
From the Movie Archives: Chico Marx
Ravelli (Chico): “How is it you got to be Roscoe W. Chandler?”
Chandler: “Say, how did you get to be Italian?”
Ravelli: “Never mind—whose confession is this?” – Leonard “Chico” Marx,
American comedian, film star, and member of the Marx Brothers, who was born 22 March 1887, engaging in his usual witty repartee in “Animal Crackers.”
Fancies in Springtime: Richard Dawkins
“The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable. It is a deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that music and poetry can deliver. It is truly one of the things that make life worth living and it does so, if anything, more effectively if it convinces us that the time we have for living is quite finite.”
Here is one critic describing the artistry of Italian painter Max Gasparini (born 1970): “Starting from a classical and realistic painting of objects, landscapes, and portraits, made through a minute technique, he them came to realize the act almost by chance, using colors and materials coming from his job: acrylic varnish, lacquer, shellac, and alcohol. It was an epiphany. The paintings started to take shape by themselves, without will or plans, removing the process of ideation, project and sketch. The work rises by itself, taking a shape not entirely under control. The use of poor materials, such as packing carton, bagging, unprepared canvas, gives the painter the battlefield in which colors will have different reaction. The materials meet in new vibrations every time.”
A Fifth Poem for Today
By Penelope Scambly Schott
While my husband packed to fly back to Vietnam,
this time as a tourist instead of a soldier,
I drove to the zoo to say goodbye to the musk oxen
who were being shipped out early next morning
to Tacoma. We were getting lions instead.
When I got there, it was too easy to park.
The zoo was closing early so they wouldn’t let me in.
I went back to my car and slid into the driver’s seat.
From the American History Archives – Part I of II: Jamestown Massacre
22 March 1622 – Native American braves of the Powhatan Confederacy attack white settlers near Jamestown, Virginia, killing 347 people, a quarter of the English population of the settlement.
Fancies in Springtime: Willa Cather
“After that hard winter, one could not get enough of the nimble air. Every morning I wakened with a fresh consciousness that winter was over. There were none of the signs of spring for which I used to watch in Virginia, no budding woods or blooming gardens. There was only—spring itself; the throb of it, the light restlessness, the vital essence of it everywhere: in the sky, in the swift clouds, in the pale sunshine, and in the warm, high wind—rising suddenly, sinking suddenly, impulsive and playful like a big puppy that pawed you and then lay down to be petted. If I had been tossed down blindfold on that red prairie, I should have known that it was spring.”
American Art – Part IV of V: Li Lin Lee
In the words of one writer, “In these prints, Lee works with his distinct visual vocabulary of symbols and forms. Twisting ribbons, vessels, crosses and blossoms—which often represent spritual ideas— evoke tableaux of the imagination. Like his paintings, the prints are in a square format and are created with a vivid palette. Because of the woodblock printing process, the prints posses a translucence and explicitness that differ from his other work, which is made of layered enamel on copper or on wood panels.”
Fancies in Springtime: Shushiki
From the American History Archives – Part II of II: Robert Frost Plaza
22 March 1978 – San Francisco dedicates Robert Frost Plaza at the intersection of California and Drumm Streets.
In the words of one historian, “Though he’s a quintessential New Englander, Robert Frost lived in the northeast corner of San Francisco for the first eleven years of his life–spread over twelve different addresses.”
A marker at the Plaza quotes from Frost’s 1928 poem “A Peck of Gold”:
Dust always blowing about the town,
Except when sea-fog laid it down,
And I was one of the children told
Some of the blowing dust was gold.
All the dust the wind blew high
Appeared like gold in the sunset sky,
But I was one of the children told
Fancies in Springtime: Roman Payne
“So the nymphs they spoke,
we kissed and laid.
By noontime’s hour
our love was made.
Like braided chains of crocus stems,
we lay entwined, I laid with them.
Our breath, one glassy, tideless sea,
our bodies draping wearily,
we slept, I slept so lucidly,
with hopes to stay this memory.”
Here is one writer describing the artistry of Chilean painter Guillermo Munoz Vera (born 1956): ”Painting his own interpretations of the human condition, the artist confronts reality both with conviction and subtlety. Muñoz Vera employs great technical skill to outline, conceptually and actually, his scenes and their accompanying concepts. Whether contemplative still lifes, expansive city vistas, or interactive human presences, his subjects are uncontrived, direct and honest.”
“I would read accounts of so-called battles I had been in, and they had no relation whatever to what had happened. So I began to perceive that anything written was fiction to various degrees. The whole subject– the difference between actuality and representation–was an interesting one. And that’s what brought me to literature in the first place.” – Paul Fussell, American cultural and literary historian, university professor, World War II combat veteran, and author of “The Great War and Modern Memory” and “Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War,” who was born 22 March 1924.
Some quotes from the work of Paul Fussell:
“I find nothing more depressing than optimism.”
“Americans are the only people in the world known to me whose status anxiety prompts them to advertise their college and university affiliations in the rear window of their automobiles.”
“Every war is ironic because every war is worse than expected. Every war constitutes an irony of situation because its means are so melodramatically disproportionate to its presumed ends.”
“If I didn’t have writing, I’d be running down the street hurling grenades in people’s faces.”
“If truth is the main casualty in war, ambiguity is another.”
“Wars damage the civilian society as much as they damage the enemy. Soldiers never get over it.”
“If we do not redefine manhood, war is inevitable.”
“The day after the British entered the war Henry James wrote a friend: ‘The plunge of civilization into this abyss of blood and darkness… is a thing that so gives away the whole long age during which we have supposed the world to be, with whatever abatement, gradually bettering, that to have to take it all now for what the treacherous years were all the while really making for and meaning is too tragic for any words.’”
“When … asked what I am writing, I have answered, ‘A book about social class in America,’ … It is if I had said, ‘I am working on a book urging the beating to death of baby whales using the dead bodies of baby seals.’”
“So many bright futures consigned to the ashes of the past. So many dreams lost in the madness that had engulfed us. Except for a few widely scattered shouts of joy, the survivors of the abyss sat hollow-eyed and silent, trying to comprehend a world without war.”
“Chickenshit refers to behavior that makes military life worse than it need be: petty harassment of the weak by the strong; open scrimmage for power and authority and prestige; sadism thinly disguised as necessary discipline; a constant ‘paying off of old scores’; and insistence on the letter rather than the spirit of ordinances.”
“Today the Somme is a peaceful but sullen place, unforgetting and unforgiving. … To wander now over the fields destined to extrude their rusty metal fragments for centuries is to appreciate in the most intimate way the permanent reverberations of July, 1916. When the air is damp you can smell rusted iron everywhere, even though you see only wheat and barley.”
“Irony is the attendant of hope and the fuel of hope is innocence.”
Fancies in Springtime: Mary Oliver
Here is one writer describing the background of Spanish artist Raimundo Folch:
“(Folch was) born in Manila in 1960. He arrived in Valencia, Spain in 1975, where much later studied a course of modeling and molding at the School of Arts and Trade of Valencia and later at the Manises School of Ceramics. Since 1976 he has lived and worked in Mislata, Valencia.”
A Sixth Poem for Today
“Fish Fry Daughter”
By Sara Ries
Holiday Inn kitchen, the day I am born:
My father is frying fish for a party of seventeen
when the call comes from the hospital. He stays
until the batter is crispy, cold salads scooped
on platters, rye bread buttered.
Dad never told me this story.
He told my boyfriend, one short order cook to another.
Mom doesn’t know why Dad was late
for her screams and sweat on the hospital bed.
Once, when she was angry with him, she told me:
When your father finally got there, the nurse had to tell
him to get upstairs, “Your wife is having that baby ‘now.’”
I hope that when Dad first held me,
it was with haddock-scented hands, apron
over his black pants still sprinkled with flour,
forehead oily from standing over the deep fryer,
telling the fish to hurry ‘hurry.’
Fancies in Springtime: Terry Johnson
Back from the Territory – Art: The work of Alaska artist Holly Hudson
In the words of one writer, “Holly Hudson was born in Ketchikan, AK to two dynamic artists and one multi-talented older brother. At a young age she discovered Norman Rockwell and Michelangelo: it was love at first sight. She now lives in Seattle, WA and is attempting to paint simultaneously with passion, skill and a sense of humor.”
Holly Hudson is the daughter of Doug Hudson, whose work I posted yesterday.
Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.
A Seventh Poem for Today
“Leaving the Hospital”
By Anya Silver
As the doors glide shut behind me,
the world flares back into being—
I exist again, recover myself,
sunlight undimmed by dark panes,
the heat on my arms the earth’s breath.
The wind tongues me to my feet
like a doe licking clean her newborn fawn.
At my back, days measured by vital signs,
my mouth opened and arm extended,
the nighttime cries of a man withered
child-size by cancer, and the bells
of emptied IVs tolling through hallways.
Before me, life—mysterious, ordinary—
holding off pain with its muscular wings.
As I step to the curb, an orange moth
dives into the basket of roses
that lately stood on my sickroom table,
and the petals yield to its persistent
nudge, opening manifold and golden.
Fancies in Springtime: Albert Einstein
American Art – Part V of V: Robert Kushner
Artist Statement: “Here we are in 1980 with people struggling to maintain the idea of the avant garde but nowhere else to go. It just seems much more comfortable to say: well, I don’t care. I can view what I’m doing as a continuation and a slight update of a vast conservative tradition. The traditional, as I would contrast it to the avant garde, is behind the theme of decoration.”