American Art – Part I of IV: Dan Landrum
Artist’s Statement: “My art making is concerned with coming back to the thing itself living in the present tense, an interactive experience in which action, feeling, and meaning are one. A direct experience that is constantly transforming. Prompted by an idea, a feeling, my body begins to move. The paint records my movements making lines, which divide fields, repeat patterns, form clusters of shapes, textures, colors. My body delights in the going. “Ah, now that was a moment!” My process is the art. It’s a process of evolving liberation — no rules, no obligations. The mystery of being with what’s next. Not in control. Not out of control. Not fixed or defined, but changing the way clouds change, the way water swirls, rivers flow, never the same twice, always something else, but always water, always wet. True to itself.”
A Poem for Today
“A Marriage in the Dolomites”
By D. Nurkse
We communicated by cheeses,
unwrapping them gingerly,
parting the crust with a fork,
tasting dew, must, salt,
raising an eyebrow,
or we let chianti talk for us,
rolling it in the glass,
staring—it was dark and shiny
as the pupil, and stared back—
or we undressed each other;
In the words of one writer, “‘Beyond Beauty’ is the latest solo exhibition by Chairat Sangthong, the national awarded artist. With the strong determination to present portraits of people in the south of Thailand, the artist creates a series of realistic painting portray way of life in the countryside. Outside, traces of experience such as rough hands and wrinkle complexions reflect the truest truth of nature; the impermanence. But beyond those surfaces lies the eternal beauty that is love, compassionate and goodwill in which would be transferred to those of the next generation.”
“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine to the soul.” – Luther Burbank, American botanist, horticulturalist, agricultural scientist, and the creator of the lovely Shasta daisy, who died 11 April 1926.
A Second Poem for Today
By Alexandra Teague
The carpet in the kindergarten room
was alphabet blocks; all of us fidgeting
on bright, primary letters. On the shelf
sat that week’s inflatable sound. The ‘th’
was shaped like a tooth. We sang
about brushing up and down, practiced
exhaling while touching our tongues
to our teeth. Next week, a puffy ‘U’
like an upside-down umbrella; the rest
of the alphabet deflated. Some days,
we saw parents through the windows
to the hallway sky. ‘Look, a fat lady,’
a boy beside me giggled. Until then
I’d only known my mother as beautiful.
Fancies in Springtime: Gregor Collins
Fancies in Springtime: Neil deGrasse Tyson
“Only a few centuries ago, a mere second in cosmic time, we knew nothing of where or when we were. Oblivious to the rest of the cosmos, we inhabited a kind of prison, a tiny universe bounded by a nutshell.
How did we escape from the prison? It was the work of generations of searchers who took five simple rules to heart:
1. Question authority. No idea is true just because someone says so, including me.
2. Think for yourself. Question yourself. Don’t believe anything just because you want to. Believing something doesn’t make it so.
3. Test ideas by the evidence gained from observation and experiment. If a favorite idea fails a well-designed test, it’s wrong. Get over it.
4. Follow the evidence wherever it leads. If you have no evidence, reserve judgment.
And perhaps the most important rule of all…
5. Remember: you could be wrong. Even the best scientists have been wrong about some things. Newton, Einstein, and every other great scientist in history — they all made mistakes. Of course they did. They were human.
In the words of one critic, Greek painter Stefanos Daskalakis (born 1952) “reaches significant aesthetic results by combining austere, almost photographic design with warm sensitivity giving emphasis to earthly subjects and shadows. His careful synthetic ability is calculated to balance and hold in balance the variety of colors.”
A few quotes from the work of Charles Reade:
“The joys we expect are not so bright, nor the troubles so dark as we fancy they will be.”
“The absent are like children, helpless to defend themselves.”
“Not a day passes over the earth, but men and women of no note do great deeds, speak great words and suffer noble sorrows.”
A Third Poem for Today
By Coleman Barks
In the glory of the gloaming-green soccer
field her team, the Gladiators, is losing
ten to zip. She never loses interest in
the roughhouse one-on-one that comes
every half a minute. She sticks her leg
in danger and comes out the other side running.
Later a clump of opponents on the street is chant-
ing, WE WON, WE WON, WE . . . She stands up
on the convertible seat holding to the wind-
shield. WE LOST, WE LOST BIGTIME, TEN TO
NOTHING, WE LOST, WE LOST. Fist pumping
air. The other team quiet, abashed, chastened.
Fancies in Springtime: Jostein Gaarder
Born 11 April 1876 – Paul Henry, a Northern Irish artist noted for depicting the West of Ireland landscape in a spare post-impressionist style.
“The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.” – Theodore Isaac Rubin, American psychiatrist and author of “Compassion and Self-Hate: An Alternative To Despair,” who was born 11 April 1923.
A few quotes from Theodore Isaac Rubin:
“Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.”
“Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best.”
“Have you considered that if you don’t make waves, nobody including yourself will know that you are alive?”
Italian Art – Part I of II: Valerio D’Ospina
A Fourth Poem for Today
“This Morning in a Morning Voice”
By Todd Boss
to beat the froggiest
of morning voices,
my son gets out of bed
and takes a lumpish song
along—a little lyric
learned in kindergarten,
something about a
boat. He’s found it in
the bog of his throat
before his feet have hit
the ground, follows
its wonky melody down
the hall and into the loo
as if it were the most
natural thing for a little
boy to do, and lets it
loose awhile in there
to a tinkling sound while
I lie still in bed, alive
like I’ve never been, in
love again with life,
afraid they’ll find me
drowned here, drowned
in more than my fair
share of joy.
Italian Art – Part II of II: Cynthia Bassan
“I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.” – Leo Rosten, American teacher, academic, and humorist, who was born 11 April 1908.
Some quotes from the work of Leo Rosten:
“O, to be sure, we laugh less and play less and wear uncomfortable disguises like adults, but beneath the costume is the child we always are, whose needs are simple, whose daily life is still best described by fairy tales.”
“If you are going to do something wrong, at least enjoy it.”
“People say: idle curiosity. The one thing that curiosity cannot be is idle.”
“Everyone, in some small sacred sanctuary of the self, is nuts.”
“A conservative is one who admires radicals centuries after they’re dead.”
“Proverbs often contradict one another, as any reader soon discovers. The sagacity that advises us to look before we leap promptly warns us that if we hesitate we are lost; that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but out of sight, out of mind.”
Fancies in Springtime: Derrick Jensen
“I wondered what it does to each of us to spend the majority of our waking hours doings things we’d rather not do, wishing we were outside or simply elsewhere, wishing we were reading, thinking, making love, fishing, sleeping, or simply having time to figure out who the hell we are and what the hell we’re doing.”
A Fifth Poem for Today
By Deborah Warren
Finding an old book on a basement shelf—
gray, spine bent—and reading it again,
I met my former, unfamiliar, self,
some of her notes and scrawls so alien
that, though I tried, I couldn’t get (behind
this gloss or that) back to the time she wrote
to guess what experiences she had in mind,
the living context of some scribbled note;
or see the girl beneath the purple ink
who chose this phrase or that to underline,
the mood, the boy, that lay behind her thinking—
but they were thoughts I recognized as mine;
and though there were words I couldn’t even read,
blobs and cross-outs; and though not a jot
remained of her old existence—I agreed
with the young annotator’s every thought:
“When we lose the right to be different, we lose the privilege to be free.” – Charles Evans Hughes, American lawyer, Governor of New York (1907-1910), Associate Justice of the Supreme Court (1928-1930), United States Secretary of State (1921-1925), and Chief Justice of the United States (1930-1941), who was born 11 April 1862.
Some quotes from Charles Evans Hughes:
“War should be made a crime, and those who instigate it should be punished as criminals.”
“A man has to live with himself, and he should see to it that he always has good company.”
“I believe in work, hard work, and long hours of work. Men do not breakdown from overwork, but from worry and dissipation.”
“The United States is the greatest law factory the world has ever known.”
“Dissents are appeals to the brooding spirit of the law, to the intelligence of another day.”
“The first lesson in civics is that efficient government begins at home.”
“When we deal with questions relating to principles of law and their applications, we do not suddenly rise into a stratosphere of icy certainty.”
“While democracy must have its organization and controls, its vital breath is individual liberty.”
Here is one critic describing the artistry of Austrian painter Xenia Hausner (born 1951): “Xenia Hausner’s current ‘mixed media’ works are unique, full-scale paintings that incorporate working photographs, collage elements and her signature acrylic painting into their complex and involving surfaces. Xenia Hausner has long taken many working photographs of each model that poses for her and she has often employed pieces of fabric, packing tape, wood pieces and other ‘props’ as models for the backgrounds of her paintings. Now she incorporates the actual elements into the paintings, thus the term ‘mixed media.’”
Fancies in Springtime: Barry Lopez
“How is one to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherent in life, when one finds darkness not only in one’s culture but within oneself? If there is a stage at which an individual life becomes truly adult, it must be when one grasps the irony in its unfolding and accepts responsibility for a life lived in the midst of such paradox. One must live in the middle of contradiction, because if all contradiction were eliminated at once life would collapse. There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light.”
From “Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair”
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
Write, for example, ‘The night is starry and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance.’
The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines. I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.
Through nights like this one I held her in my arms. I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.
She loved me, sometimes I loved her too. How could one not have loved her great still eyes.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines. To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.
To hear the immense night, still more immense without her. And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.
What does it matter that my love could not keep her. The night is starry and she is not with me.
This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance. My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.
My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer. My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.
The same night whitening the same trees. We, of that time, are no longer the same.
I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her. My voice tries to find the wind to touch her hearing.
Another’s. She will be another’s. As she was before my kisses. Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.
I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her. Love is so short, forgetting is so long.
Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.
Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer and these the last verses that I write for her.
American Art – Part II of IV: Gina Higgins
Here is painter Gina Higgins describing her artistic intentions in the exhibition American Noir: “American Noir is my modern interpretation of the movie genre of the 40s and 50s. I’m incorporating the aesthetic aspects of film noir and making them current. When most people hear the term ‘film noir’ they think of retro black and white melodramas, low-key lighting, crime dramas and such; but actually film noir’s influence has never really left. Directors like David Lynch, Quentin Tarantino, and Jim Jarmusch were obviously influenced by film noir. To me, it’s an intoxicating art form, not only visually, in terms of the lighting and camera angles, but also the archetypal characters and moral dilemmas in these movies leave a powerful impact on the viewer. American Noir is my personal representation of some of these elements that have touched me as an artist.”
“Monsters exist, but they are too few in numbers to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are…the functionaries ready to believe and act without asking questions.” – Primo Levi, Italian chemist, writer, concentration camp survivor, and author of “Survival in Auschwitz,” “The Periodic Table,” and “The Drowned and the Saved,” who died 11 April 1987.
Some quotes from the work of Primo Levi:
“Auschwitz is outside of us, but it is all around us, in the air. The plague has died away, but the infection still lingers and it would be foolish to deny it. Rejection of human solidarity, obtuse and cynical indifference to the suffering of others, abdication of the intellect and of moral sense to the principle of authority, and above all, at the root of everything, a sweeping tide of cowardice, a colossal cowardice which masks itself as warring virtue, love of country and faith in an idea.”
“I am constantly amazed by man’s inhumanity to man.”
“Sooner or later in life everyone discovers that perfect happiness is unrealizable, but there are few who pause to consider the antithesis: that perfect unhappiness is equally unattainable. The obstacles preventing the realization of both these extreme states are of the same nature: they derive from our human condition which is opposed to everything infinite.”
“Those who deny Auschwitz would be ready to remake it.”
“A country is considered the more civilised the more the wisdom and efficiency of its laws hinder a weak man from becoming too weak and a powerful one too powerful.”
“This cell belongs to a brain, and it is my brain, the brain of me who is writing; and the cell in question, and within it the atom in question, is in charge of my writing, in a gigantic minuscule game which nobody has yet described. It is that which at this instant, issuing out of a labyrinthine tangle of yeses and nos, makes my hand run along a certain path on the paper, mark it with these volutes that are signs: a double snap, up and down, between two levels of energy, guides this hand of mine to impress on the paper this dot, here, this one.”
“I live in my house as I live inside my skin: I know more beautiful, more ample, more sturdy and more picturesque skins: but it would seem to me unnatural to exchange them for mine.”
“I see and hear old Kuhn praying aloud, with his beret on his head, swaying backwards and forwards violently. Kuhn is thanking God because he has not been chosen.
Kuhn is out of his senses. Does he not see Beppo the Greek in the bunk next to him, Beppo who is twenty years old and is going to the gas chamber the day after tomorrow and knows it and lies there looking fixedly at the light without saying anything and without even thinking any more? Can Kuhn fail to realize that next time it will be his turn? Does Kuhn not understand that what has happened today is an abomination, which no propitiatory prayer, no pardon, no expiation by the guilty, which nothing at all in the power of man can ever clean again?
If I was God, I would spit at Kuhn’s prayer.”
“We must be listened to: above and beyond our personal experience, we have collectively witnessed a fundamental unexpected event, fundamental precisely because unexpected, not foreseen by anyone. It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say. It can happen, and it can happen everywhere.”
“The aims of life are the best defense against death.”
“The future of humanity is uncertain, even in the most prosperous countries, and the quality of life deteriorates; and yet I believe that what is being discovered about the infinitely large and infinitely small is sufficient to absolve this end of the century and millennium. What a very few are acquiring in knowledge of the physical world will perhaps cause this period not to be judged as a pure return of barbarism.”
American Art – Part III of IV: Cuauhtemoc Q. Kish
Cuauhtemoc Q. Kish is a fabric artist living in San Diego.
Fancies in Springtime: James Hillman
“It helps to regard soul as an active intelligence, forming and plotting each person’s fate. Translators use ‘plot’ to render the ancient Greek word ‘mythos’ in English. The plots that entangle our souls and draw forth our characters are the great myths. That is why we need a sense of myth and knowledge of different myths to gain insight into our epic struggles, our misalliances, and our tragedies. Myths show the imaginative structures inside our messes, and our human characters can locate themselves against the background of the characters of myth.”
“Still and all, why bother? Here’s my answer. Many people need desperately to receive this message: I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., American writer, humanist, and author of “Slaughterhouse-Five, Or The Children’s Crusade” and “A Man Without a Country,” who died 11 April 2007.
Some quotes from the work of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.:
“For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes (Matthew 5). But, often with tears in their eyes, the demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course, that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.
‘Blessed are the merciful’ in a courtroom? ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ in the Pentagon? Give me a break!”
“If you want to really hurt you parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”
“True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.”
“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.”
“I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.”
“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”
“Be careful what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be.”
“Human beings will be happier – not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again. That’s my utopia.”
“People have to talk about something just to keep their voice boxes in working order so they’ll have good voice boxes in case there’s ever anything really meaningful to say.”
“Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.”
“I really wonder what gives us the right to wreck this poor planet of ours.”
“Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter could be said to remedy anything.”
“If you can do a half-assed job of anything, you’re a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind.”
“Beware of the man who works hard to learn something, learns it, and finds himself no wiser than before.”
“We could have saved the Earth but we were too damned cheap.”
“I was taught that the human brain was the crowning glory of evolution so far, but I think it’s a very poor scheme for survival.”
“To whom it may concern: It is springtime.”
Fancies in Springtime: From the “Let’s Be Honest Department”
Yes, it’s Springtime, but this is America, and so, regardless of the season or the date, when the bell tolls midnight, it’s Halloween.
A Sixth Poem for Today
By Kevin Griffith
I hold my two-year-old son
under his arms and start to twirl.
His feet sway away from me
and the day becomes a blur.
Everything I own is flying into space:
yard toys, sandbox, tools,
garage and house,
and, finally, the years of my life.
Fancies in Springtime: Bia Lowe
“So there were two worlds: the perceived world, a dimension of adjectives, equations and brush strokes, a surface dazzling with our efforts to render it, but ultimately bearing only our own reflections; and the impenetrable world, the plumbless dark full of latent particles, the primordial cauldron which, like a mother, gives us our being but is a lifelong riddle.”
Back from the Territory – Art: Byron Birdsall (Part III)
In the words of one writer, “Byron Birdsall is one of Alaska’s most renowned artists…His paintings feature brilliant landscapes, as well as uniquely Alaskan images such as puffins, eagles, and fishing boats.”
Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.
Fancies in Springtime: Norman Maclean
A Seventh Poem for Today
“Night in Day”
The night never wants to end, to give itself over
to light. So it traps itself in things: obsidian, crows.
Even on summer solstice, the day of light’s great
triumph, where fields of sunflowers guzzle in the sun—
we break open the watermelon and spit out
black seeds, bits of night glistening on the grass.
Fancies in Springtime: Truth
Daniel Dust is a self-taught hyperrealist painter. He lives and works in San Diego.