Sentient in San Francisco – 11 April 2019

This Date in Art History: Born 11 April 1876 – Paul Henry, an Irish painter.

Below – “A Krry Bog”; “Achill”; “Waterville, Co Kerry”; “The Only Tree in the Burren”; “Cottages on a Hill”; “Evening on Killary Bay.”

A Poem for Today

“Little Girl”
by Tami Haaland

She’s with Grandma in front
of Grandma’s house, backed
by a willow tree, gladiola and roses.

Who did she ever want
to please? But Grandma
seems half-pleased and annoyed.

No doubt Mother frowns
behind the lens, wants
to straighten this sassy face.

Maybe laughs, too.
Little girl with her mouth wide,
tongue out, yelling

at the camera. See her little
white purse full of treasure,
her white sandals?

She has things to do,
you can tell. Places to explore
beyond the frame,

and these women picking flowers
and taking pictures.
Why won’t they let her go?

Below – Paula Bullwinkel: “Angry Little Girl”

This Date in Art History: Died 11 April 1858 – Konstantin Yuon, a Russian painter.

Below – “Spring Sunny Day”; “The blue bush”; “Tverskoy Boulevard”; “Soft goods”; “Construction of the house”; “Self-Portrait.”

This Date in Literary History: Died 11 April 1987 – Primo Levi, an Italian Jewish chemist, writer, Holocaust survivor, and author of “The Drowned and the Saved” and “The Periodic Table,” which the Royal Institution of Great Britain named the best science book ever written.

Some quotes from the work of Primo Levi:

“We must be listened to: above and beyond our personal experience, we have collectively witnessed a fundamental unexpected event, fundamental precisely because unexpected, not foreseen by anyone. It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say. It can happen, and it can happen everywhere.”
“Monsters exist, but they are too few in numbers to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are…the functionaries ready to believe and act without asking questions.”
“Auschwitz is outside of us, but it is all around us, in the air. The plague has died away, but the infection still lingers and it would be foolish to deny it. Rejection of human solidarity, obtuse and cynical indifference to the suffering of others, abdication of the intellect and of moral sense to the principle of authority, and above all, at the root of everything, a sweeping tide of cowardice, a colossal cowardice which masks itself as warring virtue, love of country and faith in an idea.”
“We who survived the Camps are not true witnesses. We are those who, through prevarication, skill or luck, never touched bottom. Those who have, and who have seen the face of the Gorgon, did not return, or returned wordless.”
“I am constantly amazed by man’s inhumanity to man.”
“Everybody is somebody’s Jew.”
“A country is considered the more civilised the more the wisdom and efficiency of its laws hinder a weak man from becoming too weak and a powerful one too powerful.”
“It is neither easy nor agreeable to dredge this abyss of viciousness, and yet I think it must be done, because what could be perpetrated yesterday could be attempted again tomorrow, could overwhelm us and our children. One is tempted to turn away with a grimace and close one’s mind: this is a temptation one must resist. In fact, the existence of the death squads had a meaning, a message: ‘We, the master race, are your destroyers, but you are no better than we are; if we so wish, and we do so wish, we can destroy not only your bodies, but also your souls, just as we have destroyed ours.’”
“The future of humanity is uncertain, even in the most prosperous countries, and the quality of life deteriorates; and yet I believe that what is being discovered about the infinitely large and infinitely small is sufficient to absolve this end of the century and millennium. What a very few are acquiring in knowledge of the physical world will perhaps cause this period not to be judged as a pure return of barbarism.”
“Darwin was not afraid to look deeply into the void. His bold view can be seen as either noble and pessimistic or noble and admirable. For people of science, he is a hero. Denying man a privileged place in creation, .. he reaffirms with his own intellectual courage the dignity of man.”
“Man is a centaur, a tangle of flesh and mind, divine inspiration and dust.”
“The aims of life are the best defense against death.”

This Date in Art History: Died 11 April 2014 – Rolf Brem, a Swiss sculptor.

Below – “Giovanna”; “Shepherd and flock”; “Ulla”; “Widder”; “Young Woman in a Deck Chair”; “Susi with Mirror.”

This Date in Literary History: Died 11 April 2007 – Kurt Vonnegut Jr., an American novelist, short story writer, playwright, non-fiction writer, and author of “Slaughterhouse-Five” and “A Man Without a Country.”

Some quotes from the work of Kurt Vonnegut:

“Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.”
“For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes (Matthew 5). But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course, that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere. ‘Blessed are the merciful’ in a courtroom? ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ in the Pentagon? Give me a break!”
“You meet saints everywhere. They can be anywhere. They are people behaving decently in an indecent society.”
“I still catch myself feeling sad about things that don’t matter anymore.”
“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”
“Do you realize that all great literature is all about what a bummer it is to be a human being? Isn’t it such a relief to have somebody say that?”
“Doesn’t anything socialistic make you want to throw up? Like great public schools, or health insurance for all?”
“About belief or lack of belief in an afterlife: Some of you may know that I am neither Christian nor Jewish nor Buddhist, nor a conventionally religious person of any sort. I am a humanist, which means, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without any expectation of rewards or punishments after I’m dead.”
“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”
“As stupid and vicious as men are, this is a lovely day.”

Contemporary Spanish Art – Oscar Alvarez

Below – “Romantic 16”; “10 – beach”; “C-20”; “9 – Beach.”

A Poem for Today

“in the Planetarium”
by James Doyle

I read the palms of the other
kids on the field trip to see
which ones would grow up

to be astronauts. The lifeline
on Betty Lou’s beautiful hand
ended the day after tomorrow,

so I told her how the rest
of our lives is vastly over-rated,
even in neighboring galaxies.

When she asked me how I knew
so much, I said I watched
‘War of the Worlds’ six times

and, if she went with me to
the double-feature tomorrow,
I’d finish explaining the universe.

I smiled winningly. The Halley’s Comet
lecture by our teacher whooshed in
my one ear and out the other.

Below – Illustration by Anders Rokkum.

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