American Art – Part I of V: Matt Condron
Artist Statement: “I am a self-taught oil painter working in the realist style. I work from photos I take during my travels largely throughout the U.S.; though lately, some photographs from a recent trip to Chile have made the cut. Instinctually, the subject matter I gravitate towards has a lot to do with growing up in L.A. during the 70’s. A deep sense of nostalgia ignites in me over the style of that decade…the design, the music and the manufacturing palette. It was the first visual language I understood in terms of the objective world around me and feels comforting and familiar to me whenever I see it today. Moreover, I hope to capture that still point between hurried activity whereby the viewer alone might remain, suspended in some reverie or another of his or her own.”
“And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky,
Whereunder crawling coop’t we live and die,
Lift not thy hands to It for help—for It
Rolls impotently on as Thou or I.” – From “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam” (Edward Fitzgerald translation), by Omar Khayyam, Persian poet, philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer, who was born 18 May 1048.
A few more verses from the great poem:
“A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread–and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness–
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!”
“Some for the glories of this world; and some
Sigh for The Prophet’s Paradise to come;
Ah, take the cash and let the credit go,
Nor heed the rumble of a distant drum.”
“The Moving Finger writes: and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”
Born 18 May 1822 – Mathew Brady, one of the first American photographers, best known for his scenes of the Civil War.
Above – Mathew Brady in 1875.
Below – Portrait of President Lincoln; Portrait of Walt Whitman; Portrait of Frederick Douglass; Portrait of Robert E. Lee (taken just days after the surrender at Appomattox); Portrait of General George Armstrong Custer; Antietam; Cold Harbor; General Grant at Cold Harbor; Chickamauga; Gettysburg – Three Captured Confederate Soldiers.
Fancies in Springtime: Robert Louis Stevenson
“Dirge in Woods*
A wind sways the pines,
Not a breath of wild air;
Still as the mosses that glow
On the flooring and over the lines
Of the roots here and there.
The pine-tree drops its dead;
They are quiet, as under the sea.
Rushes life in a race,
As the clouds the clouds chase;
And we go,
And we drop like the fruits of the tree,
American Art – Part III of V: Akio Takamori
In the words of one writer, “Akio Takamori’s ceramic sculptures evoke an eerie sense of reality and presence. Often drawn from childhood memories of small-village life in Japan, his standing and sleeping figures depict ordinary people going about their day-to-day existence.”
Takamori was born in 1950 in Nobeoka, Miyazaki, Japan. He studied art at Masashino Art College, Tokyo, before moving to the U.S. in 1974. He received a BFA at the Kansas City Art Institute in 1976 and an MFA at Alfred University in New York in 1978. Since 1993 he has been a faculty member in the University of Washington School of Art.
Fancies in Springtime: Alan Watts
“These days, what isn’t worth saying is sung.” – Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, French musician, playwright, satirist, and revolutionary, who died 18 May 1799, making an observation that is decidedly apt for our time.
A few quotes from the work of Beaumarchais:
“I quickly laugh at everything for fear of having to cry.”
“Where love is concerned, too much is never enough.”
“It is not necessary to understand things in order to argue about them.”
“Drinking when we are not thirsty and making love at all seasons, madam: that is all there is to distinguish us from other animals.”
A Poem for Today
“Everything Good between Men and Women”
By C. D. Wright
has been written in mud and butter
and barbecue sauce. The walls and
the floors used to be gorgeous.
The socks off-white and a near match.
The quince with fire blight
but we get two pints of jelly
in the end. Long walks strengthen
the back. You with a fever blister
and myself with a sty. Eyes
have we and we are forever prey
to each other’s teeth. The torrents
go over us. Thunder has not harmed
anyone we know. The river coursing
through us is dirty and deep. The left
hand protects the rhythm. Watch
your head. No fires should be
unattended. Especially when wind. Each
receives a free swiss army knife.
The first few tongues are clearly
preparatory. The impression
made by yours I carry to my grave. It is
just so sad so creepy so beautiful.
Bless it. We have so little time
to learn, so much… The river
courses dirty and deep. Cover the lettuce.
Call it a night. O soul. Flow on. Instead.
In the words of one writer, “Alexander Novoselov was born in Leningrad, Russia. He studied at the N.K. Roerich Art College from 1995-2000. From 2001-2007 he studied at the Repin Academy in St.Petersburg where he graduated from the studio of renowned Professor Andrei A. Mylnikov in monumental painting, which included training in mural painting, fresco, mosaic, and sgraffitto. During his studies he was awarded medals, including the Gold Medal of the Russian Academy of Art, and was honored as ‘Best Graduate of 2007’ of the Russian Academy of Art. In 2008, Alexander was accepted as a member of the Union of Artists of Russia.”
“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne, American novelist, short story writer, and author of “The Scarlet Letter,” who died 19 May 1864.
Some quotes from the work of Nathaniel Hawthorne:
“It contributes greatly towards a man’s moral and intellectual health, to be brought into habits of companionship with individuals unlike himself, who care little for his pursuits, and whose sphere and abilities he must go out of himself to appreciate.”
“No man for any considerable period can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.”
“We must not always talk in the market-place of what happens to us in the forest.”
“Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”
“Every individual has a place to fill in the world and is important in some respect whether he chooses to be so or not.”
“Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.”
“Love, whether newly born, or aroused from a deathlike slumber, must always create sunshine, filling the heart so full of radiance, that it overflows upon the outward world.”
“Religion and art spring from the same root and are close kin. Economics and art are strangers.”
“Nobody, I think, ought to read poetry, or look at pictures or statues, who cannot find a great deal more in them than the poet or artist has actually expressed. Their highest merit is suggestiveness.”
“Selfishness is one of the qualities apt to inspire love.”
“The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognized it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison.”
“A hero cannot be a hero unless in a heroic world.”
“Life is made up of marble and mud.”
“The world owes all its onward impulses to men ill at ease. The happy man inevitably confines himself within ancient limits.”
“You can get assent to almost any proposition so long as you are not going to do anything about it.”
“Mountains are earth’s undecaying monuments.:
“Sunlight is painting.”
“Moonlight is sculpture.”
A Second Poem for Today
“Tintype on the Pond, 1925”
By J. Lorraine Brown
Believe it or not,
the old woman said,
and I tried to picture it:
the polished white ribs of a roast
tied to her boots with twine,
the twine coated with candle wax
so she could glide
across the ice—
skating on bones.
18 May 1897 – Bram Stoker publishes “Dracula,” and thirty-four years later, the novel finds its perfect cinematic expression.
Fancies in Springtime: Carl Sagan
A Third Poem for Today
By Katy Giebenhain
A stabbing in miniature, it is,
a tiny crime,
my own blood parceled
drop by drop and set
on the flickering tongue
of this machine.
It is the spout-punching of trees
for syrup new and smooth
than nature ever intended.
It is Sleeping Beauty’s curse
It is the dipstick measuring of oil
from the Buick’s throat,
the necessary maintenance.
It is every vampire movie ever made.
Hand, my martyr without lips,
my quiet cow.
I’ll milk your fingertips
for all they’re worth.
For what they’re worth.
Something like a harvest, it is,
a tiny crime.
Some quotes from the work of Wilson Mizner:
“Be nice to people on your way up because you’ll meet them on your way down.”
“Don’t talk about yourself; it will be done when you leave.”
“Gambling: The sure way of getting nothing for something.”
“God help those who do not help themselves.”
“If you steal from one author it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many it’s research.”
“There is something about a closet that makes a skeleton terribly restless.”
“I hate careless flattery, the kind that exhausts you in your efforts to believe it.”
“Art is science made clear.”
“A fellow who is always declaring he’s no fool usually has his suspicions.”
“A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while, he knows something.”
“To profit from good advice requires more wisdom than to give it.”
“I respect faith, but doubt is what gives you an education.”
“I can usually judge a fellow by what he laughs at.”
“In the battle of existence, Talent is the punch; Tact is the clever footwork.”
“Life’s a tough proposition, and the first hundred years are the hardest.”
“Do not be desirous of having things done quickly. Do not look at small advantages. Desire to have things done quickly prevents their being done thoroughly. Looking at small advantages prevents great affairs from being accomplished.”
“Hollywood is a sewer with service from the Ritz Carlton.”
“The difference between chirping out of turn and a faux pas depends on what kind of a bar you’re in.”
“Those who welcome death have only tried it from the ears up.”
“If you count all your assets you always show a profit.”
A Fourth Poem for Today
By Jim Daniels
Today my son realized someone’s smarter
than him. Not me or his mom —
he still thinks we know everything —
one of the other kids, Nathan. Making fun
of him at the computer terminal
for screwing up at the math game.
Other kids laughing at him. Second grade.
I’m never gonna be as smart as him,
I’m never gonna be as smart
as half my students if we’re talking
IQs. He doesn’t want me to explain.
He wants me to acknowledge
that he’s dumb. He’s lying in bed
and taking his glasses off and on,
trying to get them perfectly clean
for the morning. I’m looking around
his dark room for a joke or some
decent words to lay on him. His eyes
are glassy with almost-tears. Second grade.
The world wants to call on him.
I take his hand in mine.
From the Cinema Archives: Chow Yun-Fat
“You see I am very stupid. I don’t understand or talk well. I take it easy every day. I am like an idiot. Be like this every day, and then you’ll look young.” – Chow Yun-Fat, Hong Kong actor, who was born 19 May 1955, waxing philosophical.
Chow Yun-Fat is justifiably praised for his roles in films such as “The Killer,” “Hard Boiled,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” and “The Replacement Killers,” but his greatest performance to date is inarguably as the Monk With No Name in “Bulletproof Monk.” In fact, this film has almost everything requisite to qualify for cinematic greatness: a plot nearly Shakespearean in its complexity, a deeply spiritual theme, emotionally nuanced characters played by vastly talented actors, and weapons – lots of weapons – as well as a flock of cranes. And a bulletproof monk.
Three quotes from “Bulletproof Monk” (feel free to meditate on them, Grasshopper):
Monk With No Name: “Why do hot dogs come in packages of ten, but hot dog buns only come in packages of just eight?”
Monk With No Name: “An enlightened man would offer a weary traveler a bed for the night, and invite him to share a quiet conversation over a bowl of Cocoa Puffs.”
Monk With No Name: “Water which is too pure has no fish.”
Fancies in Springtime: Mary Oliver
spoke to me
to come falling
out of the brisk cloud,
to be happy again
in a new way
on the earth!
That’s what it said
as it dropped,
smelling of iron,
like a dream of the ocean
into the branches
and the grass below.
Then it was over.
The sky cleared.
I was standing
under a tree.
The tree was a tree
with happy leaves,
and I was myself,
and there were stars in the sky
that were also themselves
at the moment
at which moment
my right hand
was holding my left hand
which was holding the tree
which was filled with stars
and the soft rain –
the long and wondrous journeys
still to be ours.”
Here is one writer describing the artistry of Chinese painter and printmaker Zhang LiuFeng: “Mr. Zhang Liufeng’s art works are characterized by a very distinctive style. These lithographs have an atmosphere of their own. The people that are shown look so real but somehow lost and left alone. For many people, these images cannot be interpreted, but they have a mesmerizing charm that is hard to describe.”
Nobel Laureate: Bertrand Russell
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.” Bertrand Russell, British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic, who was born on 18 May 1872.
When Russell won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1950, it was, in the Nobel Committee’s words, “in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought.” Russell spent the majority of his career defending individuals from pernicious threats to their political, social, moral, and intellectual liberty, including Nazism, Stalinist totalitarianism, the Vietnam War, the nuclear arms race, and organized religion.
Some quotes from the work of Bertrand Russell:
“Democracy is the process by which people choose the man who’ll get the blame.”
“Dogmatism and skepticism are both, in a sense, absolute philosophies; one is certain of knowing, the other of not knowing. What philosophy should dissipate is certainty, whether of knowledge or ignorance.”
“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.”
“I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its Churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.”
“I think we ought always to entertain our opinions with some measure of doubt. I shouldn’t wish people dogmatically to believe any philosophy, not even mine.”
“I’ve made an odd discovery. Every time I talk to a savant I feel quite sure that happiness is no longer a possibility. Yet when I talk with my gardener, I’m convinced of the opposite.”
“If there were in the world today any large number of people who desired their own happiness more than they desired the unhappiness of others, we could have a paradise in a few years.”
“What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite.”
“In America everybody is of the opinion that he has no social superiors, since all men are equal, but he does not admit that he has no social inferiors, for, from the time of Jefferson onward, the doctrine that all men are equal applies only upwards, not downwards.”
“The secret to happiness is to face the fact that the world is horrible.”
“Why is propaganda so much more successful when it stirs up hatred than when it tries to stir up friendly feeling?”
“Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.”
“It is possible that mankind is on the threshold of a golden age; but, if so, it will be necessary first to slay the dragon that guards the door, and this dragon is religion.”
Fancies in Springtime: Roman Krznaric
“Our culturally inherited vision of perfect romantic love is symbolized by Constantin Brancusi’s sculpture ‘The Kiss.’ There is no doubt that it embodies the romantic ideal: the lovers see completely eyet-to-eye, wrapped in an all-encompassing embrace. They are soulmates, united into an inseparable fused form. But ‘The Kiss’ also embodies everything that is wrong about romantic love. These lovers are locked into a relationship that allows no breathing space between them. Their independence and uniqueness as individuals have disappeared, and they have turned their backs on the rest of the world, oblivious to the lives of others. They have become captives of their own love, trapped by an emotional myopia.”
American Art – Part IV of V: Dan Beck
According to Dan Beck, painting is “a balancing act between opposite ideas – direct observation and instinct, control and spontaneity, even between the literal and the symbolic. It seems to me that although a painter is deeply involved with his own private investigation, his real aim is to communicate something that only the person looking at the painting really understands.”
Fancies in Springtime: Mark Edmundson
“When the goals of the Self are the only goals a culture makes available, spirited men and women will address them with the energy that they would have applied to the aspirations of the Soul. The result is lives that are massively frustrating and not a little ridiculous. People become heroically dedicated to middle-class ends – getting a promotion, getting a raise, taking immeasurably interesting vacations, getting their children in the right colleges, finding the best retirement spot, fattening their portfolios. Lives without courage, contemplation, compassion, and imagination are lives sapped of significant meaning. In such lives, the Self cannot transcend itself.”
From the American History Archives: Mount St. Helens
18 May 1980 – Mount St. Helens erupts, resulting in the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States.
Fancies in Springtime: William Kittredge
“On the wall above the place where I write there is a bedspread embroidered by a Hmong woman, imaginary animals on a field of tropical green, a royal red elephant with black ears, a turtle with yellow-and-blue-and-red checkered shell, a blackrabbit, an orange monkey on a branch, a parrot, a peacock, and a green prehistoric creature with white horns. It is the work of a woman transported a long way from her homeland, who stayed tough enough to dream up another story. It gives me hope.”
Back from the Territory – Art: Arnie Weimer (Part I)
In the words of one writer, “Even though Arnie Weimer holds the Master of Fine Arts Degree from the University of Cincinnati, he contends that experience has been his best teacher. During his over 30 years in Alaska, he has experimented with many styles and mediums. Bronze, oil, stone, wood, watercolor, printmaking, and jewelry are some of the many mediums in which Arnie has worked.
Arnie also has experience with the uniquely northern art of snow sculpting. He captained teams that placed in the Capital City Snow Sculpting Competition, winning first and second place in consecutive years. His first place team represented the state of Alaska at the National Snow Sculpting Competition, where they won a Spectators Choice Award for their sculpture, the bust of a Tlingit Chief.
Arnie worked with many native artists while he was employed by the Indian Studies Program in the public schools. He also operated a studio for several years where many Alaskan artists gathered to practice their work. Consequently, Arnie’s work shows influences from the many forms of art indigenous to Alaska.
Recently, Arnie has focused his talents on creating watercolor originals and reproduction prints, as well as embossed etchings featuring heavy influence of traditional Alaska native artwork. Arnie now lives in Juneau with his two cats and his dog Zorro. On many a summer day, Arnie can be spotted on a sidewalk or in a park, sketching or painting his next work of art.”
Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.
Below – “Alaska Bear Fare”; “Bear Legend”; “Feather Dancer”; “Fog Woman Legend”; “Legend of Light”; “Legend of the Human Mother and Bear Father.”
A Fifth Poem for Today
By Kurt Brown
Driving west through sandstone’s
red arenas, a rodeo of slow erosion
cleaves these plains, these ravaged cliffs.
This is cowboy country. Desolate. Dull. Except
on weekends, when cafés bloom like cactus
after drought. My rented Mustang bucks
the wind—I’m strapped up, wide-eyed,
busting speed with both heels, a sure grip
on the wheel. Black clouds maneuver
in the distance, but I don’t care. Mileage
is my obsession. I’m always racing off,
passing through, as though the present
were a dying town I’d rather flee.
What matters is the future, its glittering
Hotel. Clouds loom closer, big as Brahmas
in the heavy air. The radio crackles
like a shattered rib. I’m in the chute.
I check the gas and set my jaw. I’m almost there.
American Art – Part V of V: Sharon Feder
Artist Statement: “Humanity is archival, like the strata that compose the earth. Our structures and art, superfund sites to cathedrals, exist because of us. The things we create form layers upon the earth, reflecting humankind, interwoven with the natural world that birthed us. We make the marks we make, like creases in one’s face, witnessing and demonstrating the story of each life.
We won’t be here forever. We can’t be. It is not tragic. Our choice is whether to exist in fear, or to see our existence as a celebration of our existence. Life is archival.
My paintings contemplate the geometry and emptiness of structures, visually and metaphorically. Like silent sentries, structures observe, record and imply change in time. Buildings, as elements in the gigantic still life constructions that form our urban environment inform both an understanding and unity with the made and natural world.”