This Date in Art History: Born 23 November 1868 – Mary Brewster Hazelton, an American painter.
Below – “The Letter”; “Two Sisters at a Piano”; “Woman in White”; “Impressionist Landscape”; “The Blue Shawl”; “Woman in Greco-Roman Dress.”
“We seldom think of November in terms of beauty or any other specially satisfying tribute. November is simply that interval between colorful and dark December. Then, nearly every year, come a few November days of clear, crisp weather that makes one wonder why November seldom gets its due. There is the November sky, clean of summer dust, blown clear this day of the urban smog that so often hazes autumn…. There is the touch of November in the air, chill enough to have a slight tang, like properly aged cider. Not air that caresses, nor yet air that nips. Air that makes one breathe deeply and think of spring water and walk briskly.”
Below – “Pastorale”; “Coastline from Riomaggiore”; “Lifeforce II”; “Burnt Coastline III”; “The ABC Range”; “A Road From Light.”
Remembering a Writer on the Date of Her Birth: Born 23 November 1965: Jennifer Michael Hecht, an American writer, historian, poet, and author of “Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson” and “The Happiness Myth: Why What We Think Is Right Is Wrong.”
Some quotes from the work of Jennifer Michael Hecht:
“Like belief, doubt takes a lot of different forms, from ancient “Skepticism to modern scientific empiricism, from doubt in many gods to doubt in one God, to doubt that recreates and enlivens faith and doubt that is really disbelief.”
“If you look at a testimony of love from 2,000 years ago it can still exactly speak to you, whereas medical advice from only 100 years ago is ridiculous.”
“How was life before Pop-Tarts, Prozac and padded playgrounds? They ate strudel, took opium and played on the grass.”
“Prayer is based on the remote possibility that someone is actually listening; but so is a lot of conversation. If the former seems far-fetched, consider the latter: even if someone is listening to your story, and really hearing, that person will disappear from existence in the blink of a cosmic eye, so why bother to tell this perhaps illusory and possibly un-listening person something he or she is unlikely to truly understand, just before the two of you blip back out of existence? We like to talk to people who answer us, intelligently if possible, but we do talk without needing response or expecting comprehension. Sometimes, the event is the word, the act of speaking. Once we pull that apart a bit, the action of talking becomes more important than the question of whether the talking is working-because we know, going in, that the talking is not working. That said, one might as well pray.”
“Plato offers the amazing idea that contemplation of the way things really are is, in itself, a purifying process that can bring human beings into the only divinity there is.”
“None of us can truly know what we mean to other people, and none of us can know what our future self will experience. History and philosophy ask us to remember these mysteries, to look around at friends, family, humanity, at the surprises life brings — the endless possibilities that living offers — and to persevere. There is love and insight to live for, bright moments to cherish, and even the possibility of happiness, and the chance of helping someone else through his or her own troubles. Know that people, through history and today, understand how much courage it takes to stay. Bear witness to the night side of being human and the bravery it entails, and wait for the sun. If we meditate on the record of human wisdom we may find there reason enough to persist and find our way back to happiness. The first step is to consider the arguments and evidence and choose to stay. After that, anything may happen. First, choose to stay.”
“Epistemology is still a central issue in philosophy, and we moderns are particularly vexed with the question of how we can come to know anything outside what we already know, that is, how we can climb out of our own culture’s basic assumptions, and how we can hope to see beyond our brains’ basic formation.”
Yet one of the most important things we have to learn is how to cope with abundance and with our hunger for yet more abundance.”
“The sacrificial part of the Greek religion had to do with submitting to the wild chaotic world beyond one’s own will; getting used to the idea that your rational plans will be knocked around by larger forces. The ecstatic-ritual part of ancient Greek religion was a kind of throwing oneself into the chaos, not pitting your rationality against the tempestuous world, but rather leaving your rationality on the shore, letting the waves toss you about, and coming to identify with the waves, with the storm, with the weather.”
“Expect change. Accept death. Enjoy life. As Marcus Aurelius explained, the brains that got you through the troubles you have had so far will get you through any troubles yet to come.”
“For Epicurus, living prudently, in deep appreciation of modest pleasures, was not just the route to happiness, it was happiness.”
“The history of doubt is not only a history of the denial of God; it is also a history of those who have grappled with the religious questions and found the possibility of other answers.”
“One must devote oneself to figuring out that one must live for the good, for its own sake. It was a secular morality. Contemporaries did not know what to call a thing like that—he questioned their every faith, their every way of life—so they called it atheism.”
“If humanity’s central existential difficulty comes from the fact that we have humanness—consciousness, hopes, dreams, loneliness, shame, plans, memory, a sense of fairness, love—and the universe does not, that means that we are constantly trying to wrangle our needs out of a universe that does not tend in such directions.”
“We did not make this world…and our childhood inclinations about how to succeed in it turn out to be wrong: often our courage is needed not to dramatically change reality but to accept it and persist in it.”
Below – “Tokyo Suburb”; “North Virginia Cul-de-Sac”; “Coal Mine Tower”; “Czech Republic Rooftops”; “Blue City Jodhpur”; “Midtown NYC Rooftop.”
A Poem for Today
“How It Worked”
by Jeffrey Harrison
It was hard to sit there with my father,
watching one of my sister’s girls playing
a set of tennis against my son or daughter
because he’d forget himself and with a groan
of disappointment or a grunt
of sympathetic exertion make it clear
that he was rooting for my sister’s child
and against mine. There was no use
calling him on it, because he’d deny it
and get angry. So I would get angry
but try not to show it, until I couldn’t
stand it any longer and would get up
and walk away. That was how it worked
between us, the unspoken building up
like thunderheads above the tennis court,
where the kids played on, not caring who won
and hardly noticing the sky had darkened.
Below – “Tilt a Whirl”; “New Kicks I”; “Solstice Picnic”; “Atmospheres I”; “Day Wide Open”; “Autumnal Reflections.”
Remembering a Writer on the Date of His Birth: Born 23 November 1927 – Guy Davenport, an American writer, translator, public intellectual, scholar, and author of “The Geography of the Imagination: Forty Essays.”
Some quotes from the work of Guy Davenport:
“Art is always the replacement of indifference by attention.”
“The poet is at the edge of our consciousness of the world, finding beyond the suspected nothingness which we imagine limits our perception another acre or so of being worth our venturing upon.”
“When Heraclitus said that everything passes steadily along, he was not inciting us to make the best of the moment, an idea unseemly to his placid mind, but to pay attention to the pace of things. Each has its own rhythm: the nap of a dog, the procession of the equinoxes, the dances of Lydia, the majestically slow beat of the drums at Dodona, the swift runners at Olympia.”
“It is worthwhile adding that the power of the poem to teach not only sensibilities and the subtle movements of the spirit but knowledge, real lasting felt knowledge, is going mostly unnoticed among our scholars. The body of knowledge locked into and releasable from poetry can replace practically any university in the Republic. First things first, then: the primal importance of a poem is what it can add to the individual mind. Poetry is the voice of a poet at its birth, and the voice of a people in its ultimate fulfillment as a successful and useful work of art.”
“A work of art is a form that articulates forces, making them intelligible.”
“Art is the attention we pay to the wholeness of the world.”
“We will always return to the private and inviolable act of reading as our culture’s way of developing an individual.”
“Originality houses many rooms, and the views from the windows are all different.”
“The birds suffer their suffering each in a lifetime, forgetting it as they go.”
“Imagination is like the drunk man who lost his watch and must get drunk again to find it.”
Contemporary Italian Art – Marco Battaglini
Below – “There should be a place for us”; “El miedo es solo una fantasia”; “Gentlemen prefer blondes”; “Unhappy ending”; “As Within So Without”; “Back to nature”; “Slave to the system.”
A Poem for Today
“The Sanitarium Window”
by Leland James
A small stand of trees, unremarkable.
I don’t know their names.
They’re like a knot of folks waiting
for a train, or for a store to open
—a gathering, that’s all. They don’t
seem to know each other. They didn’t
plan to be together there in a field of weeds.
Yet, on second look, they are remarkable,
having stood the invisible winds of winter,
stood the bitter season that comes
to each alone, that separateness of sickness
—mind and soul—there in the bent of trees.
The trees seem to know all about winter.
Seem to have winter in their bones.
Perhaps someone else would see them
differently, a different reflection,
a family gathering, not just a knot.
Some might see them that way.
Some might see them differently.
And I too, perhaps, on a different day.
The others around me, others
by the window, silently looking out
—I can see us reflected in the window
when the light is just right. Another
stand of trees, a knot, not planning
to be together here in a field of weeds.