American Art – Part I of III: Stephen Magsig
Artist Statement: “When I think about the conventions of painting — a tradition I respect immensely — I notice that my concern has always been with the interplay of light and structure. Light, since it defines everything, is what my work is about — how light changes things, how it inflects the surfaces of places we imagine for ourselves and inhabit, like sunlight touching a window sill, illuminating and creating contrasts and shadows.”
A Poem for Today
By Mary Karr
On the mudroad of plodding American bodies,
my son wove like an antelope from stall
to stall and want to want. I no’ed it all: the wind-up
killer robot and winged alien; knives
hierarchical in a glass case; the blow-up vinyl wolf
bobbing from a pilgrim’s staff.
Lured as I was by the bar-b-que’s black smoke,
I got in line. A hog carcass,
blistered pink on a spit, made its agonized slow roll,
a metaphor, I thought, for anyone
ahead of me—the pasty-faced and broad. I half-longed
for the titanium blade I’d just seen
curved like a falcon’s claw. Some truth wanted cutting
in my neighbors’ impermanent flesh.
Or so my poisoned soul announced, as if scorn
for the body politic
weren’t some outward form of inner scorn,
as if I were fit judge.
Lucky my son found the bumper cars. Once I’d hoped
only to stand tall enough
to drive my own. Now when the master switch got thrown
and sparks skittered overhead
in a lightning web, I felt like Frankenstein or some
newly powered monster.
Plus the floor was glossy as ice. Even rammed head-on,
the rubber bumper bounced you off unhurt
and into other folks who didn’t mind the jolt, whose faces
all broke smiles, in fact,
till the perfect figure-eight I’d started out to execute
became itself an interruption. One face
after another wheeled shining at me from the dark,
each bearing the weight of a whole self.
What pure vessels we are, I thought, once our skulls
shut up their nasty talk.
We drove home past corn at full tassel, colossal silos,
a windmill sentinel. Summer was starting.
My son’s body slumped like a grain sack against mine.
My chest was all thunder.
On the purple sky in rear view, fireworks unpacked—silver
chrysanthemum, another in fuchsia,
then plum. Each staccato boom shook the night. My son
jerked in his sleep. I prayed hard to keep
the frail peace we hurtled through, to want no more
than what we had. The road
rushed under us. Our lush planet heaved toward day.
Inside my hand’s flesh,
anybody’s skeleton gripped the wheel.
Fancies in Springtime: Sherwood Anderson
“The fruition of the year had come and the night should have been fine with a moon in the sky and the crisp sharp promise of frost in the air, but it wasn’t that way. It rained and little puddles of water shone under the street lamps on Main Street. In the woods in the darkness beyond the Fair Ground water dripped from the black trees.”
“It will all go on as long as women are stupid enough to go on bringing men into the world.” – Dorothy Miller Richardson, English writer, journalist, and feminist, who was born 17 May 1873.
Here is how Swiss photographer William Dalton describes his artistic genesis: “For many years I traveled the world as a global VP for a fortune 500 fragrance and flavor company. I witnessed first-hand the wonders and beauty of our world. I have attempted to photograph some of the beauty of our world to share with others. Many years ago I came across a wonderful French term, ‘objet trouve.’ Webster’s Dictionary defines the term as, ‘a natural object found by chance and held to have aesthetic value, (e.g. driftwood) especially though the working of natural forces.’ I attempt to create ‘objet trouve’ in my photographs. The wonders I find in nature are photographed in an attempt to create art.”
Fancies in Springtime: Alan Watts
“The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be experienced.”
“I did not fully understand the dread term ‘terminal illness’ until I saw Heathrow Airport for myself.” – Dennis Potter, English writer and creator of the remarkably intelligent BBC television drama “The Singing Detective,” who was born 17 May 1935.
Some quotes from the work of Dennis Potter:
“The trouble with words is that you never know whose mouths they have been in.”
“To love it too much is to obscure and not see what is there.”
“I think childhood is to everyone a lost land.”
“You have to assert something about yourself in order to be yourself.”
“A bad act done will fester and create in its own way. It’s not only goodness that creates. Bad things create. They have their own yeast.”
“I believe everybody is responsible for what they do themselves.”
“Ideals jump across the hierarchies of the printed word.”
“It is a dangerous thing to have instant access to your emotions.”
“Just letting it out is one of the definitions of bad art.”
“That vision of a common culture is now simply a remote wistfulness.”
“The loss of Eden is personally experienced by every one of us as we leave the wonder and magic and also the pains and terrors of childhood.”
“The strangest thing that human speech and human writing can do is create a metaphor. That is an amazing leap, is it not?”
“The thing about imagination is that by the very act of putting it down, there must be some truth in one’s own imagination.”
Fancies in Springtime: Ray Bradbury
“Why the Egyptian, Arabic, Abyssinian, Choctaw? Well, what tongue does the wind talk? What nationality is a storm? What country do rains come from? What color is lightning? Where does thunder go when it dies?”
American Art – Part II of III: Walasse Ting
Died 17 May 2010 – Walasse Ting, a Chinese-American visual artist and poet.
Below – “I Love You”; “I See You”; “Look at Me Twice”; “Two Ladies with Flowers”; “I Love Chrysanthemums”; “Three Geishas with Horse (Blue)”; “Cat in the Garden”; “Three Women, Birds, and Fruit”; “My New Girlfriend”; “Beautiful Lady, Red Hair.”
A Second Poem for Today
By Leslie Monsour
The boys who fled my father’s house in fear
Of what his wrath would cost them if he found
Them nibbling slowly at his daughter’s ear,
Would vanish out the back without a sound,
And glide just like the shadow of a crow,
To wait beside the elm tree in the snow.
Something quite deadly rumbled in his voice.
He sniffed the air as if he knew the scent
Of teenage boys, and asked, “What was that noise?”
Then I’d pretend to not know what he meant,
Stand mutely by, my heart immense with dread,
As Father set the traps and went to bed.
Fancies in Springtime: Carl Sagan
“A handful of sand contains about 10,000 grains, more than the number of stars we can see with the naked eye on a clear night. But the number of stars we can see is only the tiniest fraction of the number of stars that are. What we see at night is the merest smattering of the nearest stars. Meanwhile the Cosmos is rich beyond measure: the total number of stars in the universe is greater than all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the planet Earth.”
From the Movie Archives: Dennis Hopper
“’Easy Rider’ was never a motorcycle movie to me. A lot of it was about politically what was going on in the country.” – Dennis Hopper, American actor, filmmaker, and artist, who was born 17 May 1936.
Dennis Hopper delivered brilliant performances in several movies, including “Easy Rider” and “True Romance” (an underrated gem of a film), but some of his great on-screen moments came in “Apocalypse Now,” including this one:
“I had to develop my own style. I began to dig out places of my own . . . I loved to paint villages, and I’m glad, because they’re pretty much gone now. They’ve all changed, fallen down, or been destroyed.” – Alfred Joseph Casson, Canadian painter, who was born 17 May 1898.
Below – “White Pine”; “Country Store, McMichael”; “Birches in the Winter”; “Rain, Mist, and Sun”; “Summer Hillside, Kamaniskeg”; “Sunset, Algonquin Park”; “Hillside Village”; “Old House, Haliburton”; “Village at Sundown”; “Pike Lake.”
Fancies in Springtime: Jack Kerouac
A Third Poem for Today
“In The Black Rock Tavern”
By Judith Slater
The large man in the Budweiser tee
with serpents twining on his arms
has leukemia. It doesn’t seem right
but they’ve told him he won’t die for years
if he sticks with the treatment.
He’s talking about his years in the foundry,
running a crane on an overhead track in the mill.
Eight hours a day moving ingots into rollers.
Sometimes without a break
because of the bother of getting down.
Never had an accident.
Never hurt anyone. He had that much control.
His problem is that electricity
arced through his body and accumulated.
When he got down at the end of a shift
he could squeeze a forty-watt light bulb
between thumb and finger and make it flare.
All the guys came around to see that.
Fancies in Springtime: Roman Krznaric
“An even more insidious effect of capitalist love is how we increasingly market ourselves as objects of desire. Although human beings have been preening themselves with fine clothes and makeup since at least the time of the ancient Egyptians, it was in the twentieth century that they most fully became commodities, spending vast amounts on making themselves attractive to prospective partners. This began with a fashion for designer clothes in the economic boom years following the Second World War, and is now most apparent in the cosmetic surgery industry: around 10 million operations are performed in the United States each year, from breast enlargements and nose jobs to liposuction and abdominoplasty.”
“It is not so important to be serious as it is to be serious about the important things. The monkey wears an expression of seriousness which would do credit to any college student, but the monkey is serious because he itches.” – Robert Hutchins, American educator, philosopher, Dean of Yale Law School, and Chancellor of the University of Chicago, who died 17 May 1977.
Before anyone reads the quotes below, there is something he or she should know: When he was the Chancellor of the University of Chicago, Robert Hutchins not only eliminated varsity football but also forced undergraduates to complete “The Hutchins Plan,” a program based on Great Books, Socratic dialogue, and comprehensive examinations. The man was clearly a politically incorrect fascist. He is also one of my intellectual heroes.
Some quotes from the work of Robert Hutchins:
“A liberal education… frees a man from the prison-house of his class, race, time, place, background, family and even his nation.”
“Education is not to reform students or amuse them or to make them expert technicians. It is to unsettle their minds, widen their horizons, inflame their intellects, and teach them to think straight, if possible.”
“The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.”
“This is a do-it-yourself test for paranoia: you know you’ve got it when you can’t think of anything that’s your fault.”
“The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.”
“When I feel like exercising I just lie down until the feeling goes away.”
“A world community can exist only with world communication, which means something more than extensive short-wave facilities scattered about the globe. It means common understanding, a common tradition, common ideas, and common ideals.”
“Education is a kind of continuing dialogue, and a dialogue assumes different points of view.”
“The college graduate is presented with a sheepskin to cover his intellectual nakedness.”
“The three major administrative problems on a campus are sex for the students, athletics for the alumni, and parking for the faculty.”
“There is only one justification for universities, as distinguished from trade schools. They must be centers of criticism.”
“To solve a problem it is necessary to think. It is necessary to think even to decide what facts to collect.”
“We can put television in its proper light by supposing that Gutenberg’s great invention had been directed at printing only comic books.”
Fancies in Springtime: Carl Sagan
“The development of objective thinking by the Greeks appears to have required a number of specific cultural factors. First was the assembly, where men first learned to persuade one another by means of rational debate. Second was a maritime economy that prevented isolation and parochialism. Third was the existence of a widespread Greek-speaking world around which travelers and scholars could wander. Fourth was the existence of an independent merchant class that could hire its own teachers. Fifth was the Iliad and the Odyssey, literary masterpieces that are themselves the epitome of liberal rational thinking. Sixth was a literary religion not dominated by priests. And seventh was the persistence of these factors for 1,000 years.”
A Fourth Poem for Today
“A Yellow Leaf”
By Alberto Rios
A yellow leaf in the branches
Of a shamel ash
In the front yard;
I see it, a yellow leaf
Among so many.
Nothing distinguishes it,
Nothing striking, striped, stripped,
More than its yellow
On this day,
Which is enough, which makes me
Think of it later in the day,
Remember it in conversation
With a friend,
Though I do not mention it—
A yellow leaf on a shamel ash
On a clear day
In an Arizona winter,
A January like so many.
Fancies in Springtime: William Kittredge
“There’s a darker problem with the Western. It’s a story inhabited by a mythology about power and the social utility of violence, an American version of an ancient dream of warrior righteousness. Because of that, it’s a story many of us find threatening. We don’t want to live in a society fascinated by fantasies of killer wish-fulfillment. We keep hoping the Western will just go away. But it won’t. From ‘The Song of Roland’ to ‘Shane’ to ‘Star Wars,’ these hero stories just duck out of sight, like Clark Kent stepping into a telephone booth, and reemerge with renewed vitality.
The dreaming goes on. We all know how Westerns proceed. There is the society of good simple folk who only want to live decent lives, and there are the evil unshaven bad guys, driven by undisciplined lusts and greed. And there is the hero, who cuts through the shit. Shane straps on his sixguns and solves the problem of Jack Palance. The obvious implications, taken seriously by a society like ours, so deeply and often frustrated, and so adept in the sciences of destruction, are literally unthinkable. Nuke the bastards.”
Back from the Territory – Art: Katie Sevigny (Part V)
In the words of one writer, “Katie moved to Haines, Alaska in 1994 as a young adult in search of a better life. She met her husband, Craig, in 1997. Katie and Craig moved to Anchorage in 2000 and married in 2002. Katie gave birth to their first son, Cooper, in 2003 and second son, Rowan, in 2005. Katie and Craig started to see the freedom of having two sons off to school and then they decided to throw themselves back into the trenches and gave birth to their third son, Satchel, in 2011!!
Katie has two great loves, her family and Art. One brings her joy and the other sanity! Between her three sons and a busy schedule, Katie tries to live her dream of being a successful artist.”
Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.
Fancies in Springtime: Carl Sagan
A Fifth Poem for Today
“The Wind Chimes”
By Shirley Buettner
Two wind chimes,
one brass and prone to anger,
one with the throat of an angel,
swing from my porch eave,
sing with the storm.
Last year I lived five months
under that shrill choir,
boxing your house, crowding books
into crates, from some pages
your own voice crying.
Some days the chimes raged.
Some days they hung still.
They fretted when I dug up
the lily I gave you in April,
blooming, strangely, in fall.
Together, they scolded me
when I counted pennies you left
in each can, cup, and drawer,
when I rechecked the closets
for remnants of you.
The last day, the house empty,
resonant with space, the two chimes
had nothing to toll for.
I walked out, took them down,
carried our mute spirits home.
Fancies in Springtime: George Lukacs
“Happy are those ages when the starry sky is the map of all possible paths – ages whose paths are illuminated by the light of the stars. Everything in such ages is new and yet familiar, full of adventure and yet their own. The world is wide and yet it is like a home, for the fire that burns in the soul is of the same essential nature as the stars.”
American Art – Part III of III: Patricia Chidlaw
Artist Statement: “When asked what kind of paintings I make, I usually call my work ‘Urban Landscapes’ to distinguish them as paintings about areas of human habitation rather than landscapes that reference the natural world. But my subjects are certainly not all urban – some are suburban, some small towns and some are ruins, such as a faded sign and abandoned business bleaching in the desert sun as once populated areas return to their former empty silence. While I often treat older architectural forms, I want to make it clear these are not paintings about nostalgia – all are contemporary scenes, recently observed. Currently I’ve painted a number of pictures which seem neither urban nor rural but are set in that particular non-space that now covers so much of the landscape – the limbo of freeway exits and on-ramps and their attendant fast-food franchises.
What I feel these mostly unpopulated places I choose to paint have in common is a potency, some kind of emotional charge that enables them to function as settings for a subjective fictional narrative. As the artist I choose and edit the scenes, setting the stage for viewers to bring their imaginations and private meanings to these places made special by my selection and attention.”