Sentient in San Francisco – 19 May 2019

This Date in Art History: Born 19 May 1871 – Walter Russell, an American painter.

Below – “Solitude (Rocky Mountains)”; “The Wave”; Untitled; “Bermuda Cottage.”

This Date in Literary History: Died 19 May 1864 – Nathaniel Hawthorne, an American novelist, short story writer, and author of “The Scarlet Letter.”

Some quotes from the work of Nathaniel Hawthorne:

“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.”
“Every individual has a place to fill in the world and is important in some respect whether he chooses to be so or not.”
“The thing you set your mind on is the thing you ultimately become.”
“We must not always talk in the market-place of what happens to us in the forest.”
“Oh, for the years I have not lived, but only dreamed of living.”
“Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.”
“Religion and art spring from the same root and are close kin. Economics and art are strangers.”
“Echo is the voice of a reflection in a mirror.”
“If the truth were to be known, everyone would be wearing a scarlet letter of one form or another.”

This Date in Art History: Born 19 May 1914 – John Vachon, an American photographer who worked as a member of the Farm Security Administration to publicize the conditions of the rural poor in America: Part I of II.

Below – John Dyson, FSA (Farm Security Administration) borrower, playing the accordion. He was born into slavery over eighty years ago. Saint Mary’s County, Maryland 1940; Mildred Irwin, entertainer in saloon at North Platte, Nebraska. She entertained for twenty years in Omaha before coming to North Platte 1938; Shenandoah Valley. The Valley State Employment Service is aiding in the tapping the skilled labor resources of the Valley. These signs have been widely distributed. This one is in the center of Harrisonburg 1941; Resident of shacktown, Dubuque, Iowa 1940; Girl, resident of Sisseton, South Dakota 1939; Farmers waiting for the auction to begin. Oskaloosa, Kansas 1938.”

This Date in Literary History: Died 19 May 1946 – Booth Tarkington, an American novelist, dramatist, author of “The Magnificent Ambersons” and “Alice Adams,” and two-time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize.

Some quotes from the work of Booth Tarkington:

“Boyhood is the longest time in life for a boy. The last term of the school-year is made of decades, not of weeks, and living through them is like waiting for the millennium.”
“‘I’m not so sure he’s wrong about automobiles,’ he said, ‘With all their speed forward they may be a step backward for civilization-that is, spiritual civilization … But automobiles have come, and they bring a greater change in our life than most of us expect. They are here, and almost all outward things are going to be different because of what they bring. They are going to alter war, and they are going to alter peace.’”
“Arguments only confirm people in their own opinions.”
“Destiny has a constant passion for the incongruous.”
“It is love in old age, no longer blind, that is true love. For the love’s highest intensity doesn’t necessarily mean it’s highest quality.”
“The things that we have and that we think are so solid – they’re like smoke, and time is like the sky that the smoke disappears into, nothing is left but the sky, and the sky keeps on being just the same forever.”

This Date in Art History: Born 19 May 1914 – John Vachon, an American photographer who worked as a member of the Farm Security Administration to publicize the conditions of the rural poor in America: Part II of II.

Below – Blind beggar, Washington, D.C. 1937; Rainy Day, Indianapolis, Indiana 1942; Ozark children getting mail from RFD box, Missouri 1940; African American boy. Cincinnati, Ohio, 1942 or 1943; Worker at carbon black plant in Sunray, Texas 1942; Negro Family Waiting for Ride into Town, Halifax County, Virginia, 1941.

This Date in Literary History: Died 19 May 1984 – John Betjeman, an English poet and Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1972 – 1984.
Here is my favorite fact about John Betjeman: In his “Who’s Who” entry he described himself as “poet and hack.”

by John Betjeman:

Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!
It isn’t fit for humans now,
There isn’t grass to graze a cow.
Swarm over, Death!

Come, bombs and blow to smithereens
Those air -conditioned, bright canteens,
Tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans,
Tinned minds, tinned breath.

Mess up the mess they call a town-
A house for ninety-seven down
And once a week a half a crown
For twenty years.

And get that man with double chin
Who’ll always cheat and always win,
Who washes his repulsive skin
In women’s tears:

And smash his desk of polished oak
And smash his hands so used to stroke
And stop his boring dirty joke
And make him yell.

But spare the bald young clerks who add
The profits of the stinking cad;
It’s not their fault that they are mad,
They’ve tasted Hell.

It’s not their fault they do not know
The birdsong from the radio,
It’s not their fault they often go
To Maidenhead

And talk of sport and makes of cars
In various bogus-Tudor bars
And daren’t look up and see the stars
But belch instead.

In labour-saving homes, with care
Their wives frizz out peroxide hair
And dry it in synthetic air
And paint their nails.

Come, friendly bombs and fall on Slough
To get it ready for the plough.
The cabbages are coming now;
The earth exhales.

Below – Slough. (“Slough” was written in 1937. In a dark irony, the Nazis bombed Slough on 30 July 1940.)

This Date in Art History: Died 19 May 1943 – Kristjan Raud, an Estonian painter and illustrator.

Below – “Under the Stars”; “Laundry”; “Trip”; “Rest”; “Kalev Proposing Marriage”; “Witch and Piglets.”

Remembering a Cinematic Genius: Born 1942 – Werner Herzog, a German film director, screen writer, author, actor, and cultural critic.

Some quote from the work of Werner Herzog:

“Dear America: You are waking up, as Germany once did, to the awareness that 1/3 of your people would kill another 1/3, while 1/3 watches.”
“Civilization is like a thin layer of ice upon a deep ocean of chaos and darkness.”
“Facts do not convey truth. That’s a mistake. Facts create norms, but truth creates illumination.”
“The world reveals itself to those who travel on foot.”
“What would an ocean be without a monster lurking in the dark? It would be like sleep without dreams.”
“I believe the common denominator of the Universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility and murder.”
“You are confronted with abysses of time that are, in a way, unfathomable. You see a painting in charcoal of raindeer and it was left unfinished and somebody else finished it. But through radio carbon dating we know that the next one completed the painting 5,000 years later. You’re just blown away by the notion of passage of time. We have no relationship to that kind of depth of time.”
“Life in the oceans must be sheer hell. A vast, merciless hell of permanent and immediate danger. So much of a hell that during evolution some species—including man—crawled, fled onto some small continents of solid land, where the Lessons of Darkness continue.”
“Our presence on this planet does not seem to be sustainable. Our technical civilization makes up particularly vulnerable. There is talk all over the scientific community about climate change. Many of them [scientists] agree, the end of human life on earth is assured.”

Contemporary Swedish Art – Thomas Edetun

Below – “Hostel”; “The bridge”; “The sign”; “3 clouds”; “Honored.”

A Poem for Today

“Two Gates”
by Denise Low

I look through glass and see a young woman
of twenty, washing dishes, and the window
turns into a painting. She is myself thirty years ago.
She holds the same blue bowls and brass teapot
I still own. I see her outline against lamplight;
she knows only her side of the pane. The porch
where I stand is empty. Sunlight fades. I hear
water run in the sink as she lowers her head,
blind to the future. She does not imagine I exist.

I step forward for a better look and she dissolves
into lumber and paint. A gate I passed through
to the next life loses shape. Once more I stand
squared into the present, among maple trees
and scissor-tailed birds, in a garden, almost
a mother to that faint, distant woman.

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