American Art – Part I of III: Joel Brock
In the words of one writer, “Utilizing pastel, charcoal, graphite, acrylic, and gesso, Joel Brock (1961- 2013) created light-filled compositions based upon observations of architecture, still life, and the landscape. Inspired by local gems such as the Samish River Valley, Brock focused on horizontal expanses that emphasize tranquility and soft haze. His architectural scenes often feature the vacant homes of farm workers highlighting the sculptural qualities and emptiness of these uninhabited spaces. Brock’s still life works fuse natural and interior spaces with a minimalist tendency. Important to him were the possibilities a given subject affords to play with light, shape, and form. His tendency toward abstraction is evident in his compositions with strong geometry and gestural mark making.”
8 September 1952 – Ernest Hemingway publishes “The Old Man and the Sea.” In the words of one literary historian, “It was the last major work of fiction to be produced by Hemingway and published in his lifetime…’The Old Man and the Sea’ was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953 and was cited by the Nobel Committee as contributing to the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Hemingway in 1954.”
A few quotes from “The Old Man and the Sea”:
“‘But man is not made for defeat,’ he said. ‘A man can be destroyed but not defeated.’”
“I may not be as strong as I think, but I know many tricks and I have resolution.”
“He always thought of the sea as ‘la mar’ which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her. Sometimes those who love her say bad things of her but they are always said as though she were a woman. Some of the younger fishermen, those who used buoys as floats for their lines and had motorboats, bought when the shark livers had brought much money, spoke of her as ‘el mar’ which is masculine. They spoke of her as a contestant or a place or even an enemy. But the old man always thought of her as feminine and as something that gave or withheld great favours, and if she did wild or wicked things it was because she could not help them. The moon affects her as it does a woman, he thought.”
“He rested sitting on the un-stepped mast and sail and tried not to think but only to endure.”
Humberto Castro (born 1957) is a highly regarded Cuban artist. I have selected six of his works that in some measure complement the previous Hemingway post.
From the American Old West: Joaquin Miller
“Let us go and talk with the poets.” – The first words spoken by Joaquin Miller, American poet, who was born 8 September 1837, upon arriving in San Francisco.
Joaquin Miller was called the “Poet of the Sierras” and “The Byron of the Rockies,” though he had no delusions about being a great writer (“I’m damned if I could tell the difference between a hexameter and a pentameter to save my scalp.”). Nonetheless, his poetry was very popular in both the United States and Britain, and generations of American schoolchildren memorized and recited “Columbus.”
Behind him lay the gray Azores,
Behind the Gates of Hercules;
Before him not the ghost of shores,
Before him only shoreless seas.
The good mate said: “Now we must pray,
For lo! the very stars are gone.
Brave Admiral, speak, what shall I say?”
“Why, say, ‘Sail on! sail on! and on!’ ”
“My men grow mutinous day by day;
My men grow ghastly wan and weak.”
The stout mate thought of home; a spray
Of salt wave washed his swarthy cheek.
“What shall I say, brave Admiral, say,
If we sight naught but seas at dawn?”
“Why, you shall say at break of day,
‘Sail on! sail on! and on!’ ”
They sailed and sailed, as winds might blow,
Until at last the blanched mate said:
“Why, now not even God would know
Should I and all my men fall dead.
These very winds forget their way,
For God from these dead seas is gone.
Now speak, brave Admiral, speak and say” —
He said, “Sail on! sail on! and on!”
They sailed. They sailed. Then spake the mate:
“This mad sea shows his teeth tonight.
He curls his lip, he lies in wait,
With lifted teeth, as if to bite!
Brave Admiral, say but one good word:
What shall we do when hope is gone?”
The words leapt like a leaping sword:
“Sail on! sail on! sail on! and on!”
Then pale and worn, he kept his deck,
And peered through darkness. Ah, that night
Of all dark nights! And then a speck —
A light! a light! at last a light!
It grew, a starlit flag unfurled!
It grew to be Time’s burst of dawn.
He gained a world; he gave that world
Its grandest lesson: “On! sail on!”
“California’s Cup Of Gold”
The golden poppy is God’s gold,
The gold that lifts, nor weighs us down,
The gold that knows no miser’s hold
The gold that banks not in the town,
But singing, laughing, freely spills
Its hoard far up the happy hills;
Far up, far down, at every turn,–
What beggar has not gold to burn!
Reflections in Summer: Randall Jarrell
From the Movie Archives: Robert Cox
Died 8 September 1974 – Robert Cox, an American actor and the last surviving member of the Keystone Kops.
The video tribute to the Keystone Kops and Robert Cox posted below is definitely worth watching.
A Poem for Today
By Jeff Holt
The doctors know I dream when I’m awake.
I’ve smoked until my fingertips are brown.
Watching the door, I sit alone and shake.
My sister and her kids, Kelly and Jake,
Played games with me when I’d sink this far down
Until they knew I dream when I’m awake.
When Beth comes now, her smile is bright and fake.
She doesn’t want to bring the kids downtown.
She leaves too soon. I sit alone and shake.
The voice is back. It whispers till I ache.
I’m soaked in sweat and tangled in my gown
When they catch me dreaming while still awake.
They’ve brought more pills that they must watch me take.
They’re lifeguards staring at me as I drown.
They leave again. I sit alone and shake.
Reflections in Summer: Jeffrey R. Anderson
Here is the Artist Statement of Spanish Painter Jose Sanchez Parrales: “I am self-taught. I have won two prizes in my life, and I felt the same bad impression we all we do in this country of hyperrealism. We are surrounded by detractors who want to simplify our work to nothing – at least until recently. If a camera could paint, I would understand, but to my knowledge it still cannot. My passion for this noble art of painting craft keeps me on the road. No more words.”
“You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.” – From “Suicide in the Trenches,” by Siegfried Sassoon, English poet, writer, and soldier. In the words of one literary historian, “Decorated for bravery on the Western Front, he became one of the leading poets of the First World War. His poetry both described the horrors of the trenches, and satirized the patriotic pretensions of those who, in Sassoon’s view, were responsible for a jingoism-fuelled war.”
“Does It Matter?”
Does it matter? -losing your legs?
For people will always be kind,
And you need not show that you mind
When others come in after hunting
To gobble their muffins and eggs.
Does it matter? -losing you sight?
There’s such splendid work for the blind;
And people will always be kind,
As you sit on the terrace remembering
And turning your face to the light.
Do they matter-those dreams in the pit?
You can drink and forget and be glad,
And people won’t say that you’re mad;
For they know that you’ve fought for your country,
And no one will worry a bit.
Reflections in Summer: Soren Kierkegaard
“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.”
Reflections in Summer: Grace Lichtenstein
“Landscapes have a language of their own, expressing the soul of the things, lofty or humble, which constitute them, from the mighty peaks to the smallest of the tiny flowers hidden in the meadow’s grass.” – Alexandra David-Neel, Belgian-French explorer, spiritualist, Buddhist, anarchist, and writer, who died 8 September 1969. In the words of one historian, “She is most known for her 1924 visit to Lhasa, Tibet when it was forbidden to foreigners. David-Néel wrote over 30 books about Eastern religion, philosophy, and her travels. Her teachings influenced beat writers Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, philosopher Alan Watts, and esotericist Benjamin Creme.”
Some quotes from the work of Alexandra David-Neel:
“To the one who knows how to look and feel, every moment of this free wandering life is an enchantment.”
“Landscapes have a language of their own, expressing the soul of the things, lofty or humble, which constitute them, from the mighty peaks to the smallest of the tiny flowers hidden in the meadow’s grass.”
“Work cannot convey the almost voluptuous sweetness of the feelings experienced . . . in solitude.”
“Guard against idols – yes, guard against all idols, of which surely the greatest is oneself.”
“Nature has a language of its own, or maybe those who have lived long in solitude read it in their own unconscious inner feelings and mysterious foreknowledge.”
Reflections in Summer: Sigmund Freud
A Second Poem for Today
By Jim Harrison
A cold has put me on the fritz, said Eugene O’Neill,
how can I forget certain things?
Now I have thirteen bottles of red wine
where once I had over a thousand.
I know where they went but why should I tell?
Every day I feed the dogs and birds.
The yard is littered with bones and seed husks.
Hearts spend their entire lives in the dark,
but the dogs and birds are fond of me.
I take a shower frequently but still
women are not drawn to me in large numbers.
Perhaps they know I’m happily married
and why exhaust themselves vainly to seduce me?
I loaned hundreds of thousands of dollars
and was paid back only by two Indians.
If I had known history it was never otherwise.
This is the song of the cold when people
are themselves but less so, people
who haven’t listened to my unworded advice.
I was once described as “immortal”
but this didn’t include my mother who recently died.
And why go to New York after the asteroid
and the floods of polar waters, the crumbling
buildings, when you’re the only one there
in 2050? Come back to earth.
Blow your nose and dwell on the shortness of life.
Lift up your dark heart and sing a song about
how time drifts past you like the gentlest, almost imperceptible breeze.
Reflections in Summer: Thomas Henry Huxley
“We live in a world which is full of misery and ignorance, and the plain duty of each and all of us is to try to make the little corner he can influence somewhat less miserable and somewhat less ignorant than it was before he entered.”
From the Music Archives – Part I of II: Patsy Cline
“Jimmy Dean dropped by my session the other night and said, ‘I see you’re still singing your ass off,’ and I said to him, ‘I see you’re still as big headed as you Texans always are.'” – Patsy Cline, born Virginia Patterson Hensley, country music singer and one of the greatest American vocalists, who was born 8 September 1932.
Reflections in Summer: Jack Kerouac
American Art – Part II of III: David Edward Kucera
After pursuing a career in music, painter David Edward Kucera enrolled at the Colorado Institute of Art, graduating with honors in 1991. In the words of one critic, “Kucera finds people of the Old West to be visually and spiritually fascinating subject matter. Through a colorfully rich palette, clever composition, and perspective his work comes alive.”
Reflections in Summer: Maurice Maeterlinck
Died 8 September 1999 – Moondog, born Louis Thomas Hardin, blind American musician, composer, poet, and inventor of several musical instruments.
Reflections in Summer: Federico Fellini
A Third Poem for Today
“Prayer for His Lady’s Life”
By Ezra Pound
From ‘Propertius, Elegiae, Lib. III, 26’
Here let thy clemency, Persephone, hold firm,
Do thou, Pluto, bring here no greater harshness.
So many thousand beauties are gone down to Avernus,
Ye Might let one remain above with us.
With you is Iope, with you the white-gleaming Tyro,
With you is Europa and the shameless Pasiphae,
And all the fair from Troy and all from Achaia,
From the sundered realms, of Thebes and of aged Priamus;
And all the maidens of Rome, as many as they were,
They died and the greed of your flame consumes them.
‘Here let thy clemency, Persephone, hold firm,
Do thou, Pluto, bring here no greater harshness.
So many thousand fair are gone down to Avernus,
Ye might let one remain above with us.’
Reflections in Summer: Rabindranath Tagore
Back from the Territory – Art: Jana Bidrman
Jana Bidrman is a jewelry maker who uses gold in the crafting of most of her work.
Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.
Reflections in Summer: Henry David Thoreau
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”
American Art – Part III of III: John Cole
In the words of one writer, “Recognized as one of the Pacific Northwest’s pre-eminent landscape painters, John D. Cole (1937-2007) was a British-born American painter who made his home in Bellingham, Washington for over 30 years. Favoring abstraction over literal description, Cole’s distinctive, muscular style, which evolved out of his European background and American modernist influences, sublimely expresses the key features of the majestic Northwest landscape— water, mountains, and trees.
The artist’s approach to painting nurtures a captivating tension between abstraction and representation. Broadly applied opaque color, simplified shapes suggesting massive forms, and superbly constructed compositions are the hallmarks of Cole’s style. While marked European influences from German Expressionists, Cubists, Fauves are present in Cole’s paintings, it was the reverent representations of nature by the Canadian Group of Seven that drew him to make his home in Washington, within easy driving distance of British Columbia and Oregon. The artist also painted on Long Island (NY) as a youth, and in Southern California, New Mexico and Florida.”