Sentient in San Francisco – 14 December 2019

This Date in Art History: Died 14 December 1937 – Fabian de la Rosa, a Filipino painter.

Below – Untitled (Mountain Pass); “A remembrance of the Villa Borghese”; “Women working in a rice field”; “Houseboats in a River”; “Young Filipino”; “Washing by the River.”

This Date in Intellectual History: Born14 December 1941 – Ellen Willis, an American political essayist and journalist. A 2014 collection of her essays, “The Essential Ellen Willis,” received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism.

Some quotes from the work of Ellen Willis:

“My deepest impulses are optimistic; an attitude that seems to me as spiritually necessary and proper as it is intellectually suspect.”
“Individuals bearing witness cannot do the work of social movements, but they can break a corrosive and demoralizing silence.”
“Some conservatives have expressed outrage that the views of professors are at odds with the views of students, as if ideas were entitled to be represented in proportion to their popularity and students were entitled to professors who share their political or social values. One of the more important functions of college that it exposes young people to ideas and arguments they have not encountered at home is redefined as a problem.”
“Under present conditions, people are preoccupied with consumer goods not because they are brainwashed but because buying is the one pleasurable activity not only permitted but actively encouraged by our rulers. The pleasure of eating an ice cream cone may be minor compared to the pleasure of meaningful, autonomous work, but the former is easily available and the latter is not. A poor family would undoubtedly rather have a decent apartment than a new TV, but since they are unlikely to get the apartment, what is to be gained by not getting the TV?”
“What turns me on is erotica; what turns you on is pornographic.”
“For a decade Americans have been steeped in the rhetoric of ‘zero tolerance’ and the faith that virtually all problems from drug addiction to lousy teaching can be solved by pouring on the punishment. Even without a Commander in Chief who pledges to rid the world of evildoers, smoke them out of their holes and the like, we would be vulnerable to the temptation to brush aside frustrating complexities and relieve intolerable fear (at least for the moment) by settling on one or more scapegoats to crush. To imagine that trauma casts out fantasy is a dangerous mistake.”
“The public’s continuing ambivalence about cultural matters is all the more striking given that the political conversation on these issues has for 30 years been dominated by an aggressive, radical right-wing insurgency that has achieved an influence far out of proportion to its numbers. Its potent secret weapon has been the guilt and anxiety about desire that inform the character of Americans regardless of ideology; appealing to those largely unconscious emotions, the right has disarmed, intimidated, paralyzed its opposition.”
“For democrats, it’s as crucial to defend secular culture as to preserve secular law. And in fact the two projects are inseparable: When religion defines morality, the wall between church and state comes to be seen as immoral.”
“If believers feel that their faith is trivialized and their true selves compromised by a society that will not give religious imperatives special weight, their problem is not that secularists are antidemocratic but that democracy is antiabsolutist.”
“I believe that we are all, openly or secretly, struggling against one or another kind of nihilism.”
“A triumphalist corporate capitalism, free at last of the specter of Communism, has mobilized its economic power to relentlessly marginalize all nonmarket values; to subordinate every aspect of American life to corporate ‘efficiency’ and the bottom line; to demonize not only government but the very idea of public service and public goods.”

This Date in Art History – Died 14 December 2013 – George Rodrigue, an American painter.

Below – “Winning Cakes”; “The Coulee”; “John Courrege’s Pirogue”; “Evangeline Park Bench”; “Aioli Dinner”; “Broken Limb.”

Musings in Autumn: Dylan Thomas

“The crisp path through the field in this December snow, in the deep dark, where we trod the buried grass like ghosts on dry toast.”

Below – Alister Lindsay: “Snow Covered Fields”

Contemporary French Art – Angie Wright: Part I of II.

Below – “Equilibrium”; “There are butterflies here”; “Hidden”; “Sun dazed”; “Wisps”; “Between the Crosses.”

This Date in Literary History: Died 14 December 2001 – W. G. Sebald, a German novelist, essayist, and poet.

Some quotes from the work of W. G. Sebald:

“It is thanks to my evening reading alone that I am still more or less sane.”
“We take almost all the decisive steps in our lives as a result of slight inner adjustments of which we are barely conscious.”
“I suppose it is submerged realities that give to dreams their curious air of hyper-reality. But perhaps there is something else as well, something nebulous, gauze-like, through which everything one sees in a dream seems, paradoxically, much clearer. A pond becomes a lake, a breeze becomes a storm, a handful of dust is a desert, a grain of sulphur in the blood is a volcanic inferno. What manner of theater is it, in which we are at once playwright, actor, stage manager, scene painter and audience?”
“I felt that the decrepit state of these once magnificent buildings, with their broken gutters, walls blackened by rainwater, crumbling plaster revealing the coarse masonry beneath it, windows boarded up or clad with corrugated iron, precisely reflected my own state of mind.”
“The more images I gathered from the past, I said, the more unlikely it seemed to me that the past had actually happened in this or that way, for nothing about it could be called normal: most of it was absurd, and if not absurd, then appalling.”
“In my photographic work I was always especially entranced… by the moment when the shadows of reality, so to speak, emerge out of nothing on the exposed paper, as memories do in the middle of the night, darkening again if you try to cling to them.”
“At the most we gaze at it in wonder, a kind of wonder which in itself is a form of dawning horror, for somehow we know by instinct that outsize buildings cast the shadow of their own destruction before them, and are designed from the first with an eye to their later existence as ruins.”
“The moral backbone of literature is about that whole question of memory. To my mind it seems clear that those who have no memory have the much greater chance to lead happy lives.”
“We all have appointments with the past.”
“The darkness does not lift but becomes yet heavier as I think how little we can hold in mind, how everything is constantly lapsing into oblivion with every extinguished life, how the world is, as it were, draining itself, in that the history of countless places and objects which themselves have no power or memory is never heard, never described or passed on.”

Contemporary French Art – Angie Wright: Part II of II

Below – “Water’s Edge”; “Bloom”; “Equilibrium #1”; “Summer Hollyhocks”; “Sealtainn”; “The Memory of You.”

A Poem for Today

“The Dancer”
by David Tucker

Class is over, the teacher
and the pianist gone,
but one dancer
in a pale blue
leotard stays
to practice alone without music,
turning grand jetes
through the haze of late afternoon.
Her eyes are focused
on the balancing point
no one else sees
as she spins in this quiet
made of mirrors and light—
a blue rose on a nail—
then stops and lifts
her arms in an oval pause
and leans out
a little more, a little more,
there, in slow motion
upon the air.

Below – Edgar Degas: “Dancer in Front of a Window”

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