From the Pacific Northwest – Part LXXXV

Musings in Winter: W. Somerset Maugham

“I have an idea that some men are born out of their due place. Accident has cast them amid certain surroundings, but they have always a nostalgia for a home they know not. They are strangers in their birthplace, and the leafy lanes they have known from childhood or the populous streets in which they have played, remain but a place of passage. They may spend their whole lives aliens among their kindred and remain aloof among the only scenes they have ever known. Perhaps it is this sense of strangeness that sends men far and wide in the search for something permanent, to which they may attach themselves. Perhaps some deep-rooted atavism urges the wanderer back to lands which his ancestors left in the dim beginnings of history.”

A Poem for Today

“The Cold Heaven”
By William Butler Yeats

Suddenly I saw the cold and rook-delighting heaven
That seemed as though ice burned and was but the more ice,
And thereupon imagination and heart were driven
So wild that every casual thought of that and this
Vanished, and left but memories, that should be out of season
With the hot blood of youth, of love crossed long ago;
And I took all the blame out of all sense and reason,
Until I cried and trembled and rocked to and fro,
Riddled with light. Ah! when the ghost begins to quicken,
Confusion of the death-bed over, is it sent
Out naked on the roads, as the books say, and stricken
By the injustice of the skies for punishment?

Art for Winter – Part I of II: Charles Wilson Knapp (American, 1823-1900)

Below – “View in the Susquehanna Valley”

Musings in Winter: Suzy Kassem

“They say that animals are incapable of feelings and reasoning. This is false. No living thing on earth is void of either. They also say that man is the most intelligent — and the most superior — species on earth. This is also false. It is very arrogant to assume that we are the most intelligent species when we keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. It has been shown that both rats and monkeys learn from making errors, yet we have not. Our history proves this. All creatures on earth have the capacity to love and grieve the same way we do. No life on the planet is more deserving than another. Those who think so, are the true savages.”

A Second Poem for Today

“Happy first anniversary (in anticipation of your thirty-ninth)”
By Bob Hicok

I don’t have much time. I’m an important person
to chickadees and mourning doves, whose feeder
was smashed last night by a raccoon. Soon
I’ll be wielding duct tape, noticing the dew,
wanting to bathe in it, hoping the awkwardness
of yesterday (three instances of people talking
with bear traps for mouths) never repeats itself
and we all go forward as if to a party
for a five year old who refuses to smash candy
out of a burro. It’s too cute, the burro, too real
for him not to ask his mother, can I keep it,
and when the other children cry, they’re given
lake front property, it works out, this
is what I see for you, the working out. Think of the year
behind you as a root or think of going to Spain
and feeling sorry for bulls or don’t think,
this isn’t the SATs, don’t think but stay.
Stay happy, honest, stay as tall as you are
as long as you can using giraffes if you need to
to see each other above the crowd. I have these moments
when I realize I’m not breathing, my wife
is never why I’m not breathing and always why
I want to lick a human heart, remember that each of you
is half of why your bed will sag toward the middle
of being a boat and that you both will sag
if you’re lucky together, be lucky together
and acquire in sagging more square footage
to kiss and to hold. And always remember
that I hate you for being so much closer
than I am to where none of us ever get to go
again – first look, first touch, first
inadvertent brush of breath or hair, first time
you turned over and looked at who was surprising
you by how fully she was there.

Art for Winter – Part II of II: Richard Haley Lever (British, 1876-1958)

Below – “On the Sound, Long Island”

Musings in Winter: David Pearce

“It’s not that there are no differences between human and non-human animals, any more than there are no differences between black people and white people, freeborn citizens and slaves, men and women, Jews and gentiles, gays or heterosexuals. The question is rather: are they morally relevant differences? This matters because morally catastrophic consequences can ensue when we latch on to a real but morally irrelevant difference between sentient beings.”

A Third Poem for Today

“real poem (personal statement)”
By Rachel Zucker

I skim sadness like fat off the surface
of cooling soup. Don’t care about
metaphor but wish it would arrive
me. There’s a cool current of air
this hot day I want to ride.
I have no lover, not even my love.
I have no other, not even I.

Musings in Winter: Joanne Harris

“I let it go. It’s like swimming against the current. It exhausts you. After a while, whoever you are, you just have to let go, and the river brings you home.”

Italian Art – Tindaro Calia

In the words of one writer, “Tindaro Calia was born in Segrate in 1956, where he habitually lives. He works as an artist in his studio in Volpara, an evocative village in the Oltrepò Pavese area.”

Musings in Winter: Terry Kaye

“Opposable thumbs are overrated.”

A Fourth Poem for Today

By Mark Irwin

A shark swims into the bay, swirls, and then rises with the ugly grin of millennia.

A match flame to a cigar, years later a campfire, and long after a house on fire.

‘Love’—to forget language and act on instinct, its indestructible form.

—Something written on a piece of paper after an astonishing event. That paper
found a long time later.

‘I am, I am,’ she said, licking a grape Popsicle in July. ‘Make it last,’ he said right after.

It seemed as though she had leapt toward her own cremation.

A few books shining like the wood of trees. —Ones that I’ve climbed or held.

Musings in Winter: Thomas Wolfe

“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to romantic love, back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile, to escape to Europe and some foreign land, back home to lyricism, to singing just for singing’s sake, back home to aestheticism, to one’s youthful idea of ‘the artist’ and the all-sufficiency of ‘art’ and ‘beauty’ and ‘love,’ back home to the ivory tower, back home to places in the country, to the cottage in Bermude, away from all the strife and conflict of the world, back home to the father you have lost and have been looking for, back home to someone who can help you, save you, ease the burden for you, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time–back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”

British Art – Al Saralis: Part I of II

In the words of one writer, “Al Saralis has been a professional artist and art teacher since graduating from Newport in 1977 with an Honours degree in Fine Art. This was followed by a post graduate teaching course in Cardiff in 1978. Hie lives and works in Hampshire where he is Head of Art at Churcher’s College in Petersfield and has a studio next to his home in Four Marks. His surname derives from his Greek grandfather who settled in South Wales and worked in the coal mining industry during the first half of the 20th century. Al was brought up in this working class environment of The Rhymney Valley, where his father and many relatives also worked in the colliery. He was fortunate in that his education, and family, provided him with the opportunity to study Fine Art and thus began his career as a painter.
The human figure has always been his main source of inspiration, since his early life drawing sessions at Art college. This fascination in the form, structure and movement of the figure continues to be central to Al Saralis’s work. The paintings usually consist of a single figure, which is stripped of any narrative reference. Over the years his painting style has moved from a semi abstract style to a more traditional form of painting. Recent works have included a series of paintings where the figure has been fragmented or left incomplete. These were in part inspired by a trip to Florence where Al saw the unfinished ‘Prigioni’ sculptures of Michelangelo. While the paintings reflect the classical beauty of the human figure the dramatic use of light, coupled with the directness of the pose, results in images that are powerful and sometimes confrontational and which also echo the fragility and vulnerability of contemporary man.”

Musings in Winter: Carole Rifka Brunt

“There’s just something beautiful about walking on snow that nobody else has walked on. It makes you believe you’re special, even though you know you’re not.”

A Fifth Poem for Today

By Fady Joudah

Days been dark
don’t say “in these dark days”
done changed my cones and rods

Sometimes I’m the country
other times the countryside

I put my clothes back on
to take them off again

British Art – Al Saralis: Part II of II

Artist Statement: “As an artist one is forever making decisions, re-considering directions and reflecting on one’s work as part of the creative process. I have always been interested in the classical beauty of Renaissance painting, and this alongside my fascination with the human form has led my work to develop to where it is now. I feel that recent paintings are in a sense, indulgent. They allow me to explore the complexities of painting skin and its subtlety of colour, to create something that exists in its own right. Many recent paintings have featured heads and faces, but I am not a portrait painter. I use a restricted number of models to try to achieve my aim, which is to create something that is beautiful as well as being interesting; contemporary as well as being classical and something stripped of any narrative, that is timeless,”

Musings in Winter: Ari Berk

“In life, a person will come and go from many homes. We may leave a house, a town, a room, but that does not mean those places leave us. Once entered, we never entirely depart the homes we make for ourselves in the world. They follow us, like shadows, until we come upon them again, waiting for us in the mist.”

A Sixth Poem for Today

By Nick DePascal

The pigeons ignore us gently as we
scream at one another in the parking
lot of an upscale grocer. The cicadas
are numbed by their own complaints,
so numbed I won’t even try to describe
the noise and tenor of their hum, but hum
they do like a child humming with his
fingers in his ears. Which, coincidentally,
is what our son is doing. Red shopping
carts crash together, and even the humans
walking by do so dumbly, as if to say,
‘no comment.’ As if two red-faced adults
in tears is as common as the polluted air
they breathe and keep reading about in
‘Time’ and ‘Newsweek,’ but are clueless
as to what to do about it. Is this why we’re
separating our recycling by glass, by plastic,
by paper? Or why we’re buying organic
produce at a place that smells like patchouli
and port-o-potties? I ask you. Pigeons scoot,
and finches hop, and cicadas shout and shed
themselves into loose approximations of what
we might have in a different time called heaven.

American Art – Part I of II: Tor Lundvall

Artist Statement: “I’ve been painting and drawing as far back as I remember. My childhood fascination with cuckoo clocks and dinosaurs led to several crayon drawings which I’ve recently rediscovered in my parent’s attic. My interest in art truly blossomed between 1987 and 1991 when I studied painting and drawing at The American University in Washington D.C.. Although AU had a smaller art program than most universities, the teachers were excellent. I learned how to utilize light, color, composition and learned how to work from life, or as they like to call it, “seeing”. This was a challenging and sometimes frustrating process, especially since I had been working strictly from my imagination up to that point. Although I resented the rigidness and close-mindedness of the academic world for several years afterwards, I eventually gained a profound respect and appreciation for what I had been taught. My imagination now had the backbone and foundation it needed to run free.
My paintings are centered around three basic elements – the landscape, memory and imagination. I usually start a painting from some event in nature. Once a basic surface is established, my creative instincts kick in and a new direction is taken. Nothing is ever planned in advance. Once the paint hits the canvas, figures and landscapes are gradually pulled out of the crude mess until there is finally a sense of resolution. I never paint from photographs which I consider to be a pointless and obvious method.
I exhibited my paintings at various galleries for about 13 years. Although showing my work was necessary in order to gain initial exposure, I found the experience to be ultimately unrewarding. Most of the galleries I’ve dealt with followed their own agendas, using stockbroker tactics to make as much money as possible. Little effort was devoted to promoting the work and the obligatory framing costs were never shared. This ‘gallery vs. artist’ conflict is ageless, however. Most galleries throughout history have been afraid of supporting genuine artists and are still content settling for mediocre commercialism.
My artwork has naturally evolved over the years, although the atmosphere remains relatively constant. I view each of my paintings as part of an unfolding story, although the story often takes unexpected twists and turns. I find it difficult describing my work to others and I have little patience for those who attempt to intellectually dissect art. I’m much more comfortable discussing the technical aspects of my work.
I paint exclusively in oils. There’s something about the feel of it and the smell of it that I love. I avoid using acrylics in spite of their faster drying speed. Although I occasionally use acrylics for drawing, I feel that oils ultimately have more life on the canvas.
Between 1991 and 1995, I utilized larger plains of color in my paintings with ambiguous figures drifting in and out of hazy landscapes. In late 1996, my canvases became increasingly more detailed and animated. The stark planes of the past were reintroduced a few years later, merging with the more fluid and detailed line of the present. My iconography is constantly changing as well, with the earlier, isolated figures giving way to more outlandish beings. Regardless of what I’m painting, the imagery will always remain secondary to the timeless laws of painting. The figures are merely passing through the mystery and silence of the landscape.”

Musings in Winter: Virginia Woolf

“They say the sky is the same everywhere. Travellers, the shipwrecked, exiles, and the dying draw comfort from the thought, and no doubt if you are of a mystical tendency, consolation, and even explanation, shower down from the unbroken surface.”

American Art – Part II of II: Jay J. Johnson

In the words of one writer, “Jay J. Johnson resides in America’s northeast and travels widely across the North American continent. His family ancestry includes close ties to the Maine woods, and the Atlantic seacoast of Massachusetts (where he grew up on a wave-bound peninsula). His knowledge of wildlife comes from traversing thousands of miles of American wilderness.”

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