Sentient in San Francisco – 27 January 2020

This Date in Art History: Born 27 January 1842 – Arkhip Kuindzhi, a Russian painter.

Below – “The Birch Grove”; “Red Sunset on the Dnieper”; “Elbrus”; “Moonspots in the Forest, Winter”; “Evening in Ukraine”; “Moonlit Night on the Dnieper.”


This Date in Literary History: Died 27 January 2009 – John Updike, an American novelist, poet, short story writer, art critic, literary critic, and recipient of multiple awards, including two National Book Awards and two Pulitzer Prizes: Part I of II.

Some quotes from the work of John Updike:

“Suspect each moment, for it is a thief, tiptoeing away with more than it brings.”
“It is easy to love people in memory; the hard thing is to love them when they are there in front of you.”
“A photograph offers us a glimpse into the abyss of time.”
“The artist brings something into the world that didn’t exist before, and he does it without destroying something else.”
“Most of American life consists of driving somewhere and then returning home, wondering why the hell you went.”
“How can you respect the world when you see it’s being run by a bunch of kids turned old?”
“What art offers is space – a certain breathing room for the spirit.”

This Date in Art History: Born 27 January 1850 – John Collier, an English painter.

Below – “The Amber Necklace”; “Maenads”; “Moonlight”; “Circe”; “Lady Godiva”; “Artemis.”


This Date in Literary History: Died 27 January 2009 – John Updike, an American novelist, poet, short story writer, art critic, literary critic, and recipient of multiple awards, including two National Book Awards and two Pulitzer Prizes: Part II of II.

“January”
by John Updike

The days are short,
The sun a spark,
Hung thin between
The dark and dark.

Fat snowy footsteps
Track the floor.
Milk bottles burst
Outside the door.

The river is
A frozen place
Held still beneath
The trees of lace.

The sky is low.
The wind is gray.
The radiator
Purrs all day.

Below – Photograph by Phyllis Meredith.


This Date in Art History: Born 27 January 1885 – Seison Maeda, a Japanese painter.

Below – “Red and White Plum Blossoms”; “Mt. Fuji”; “Still Life”; “Peony”; “Duck”; “Lions.”

This Date in Literary History: Died 27 January 2010 – Howard Zinn, an American historian, playwright, social thinker, and author of “A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present.”

Some quotes from the work of Howard Zinn:

“Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders…and millions have been killed because of this obedience…Our problem is that people are obedient allover the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves… (and) the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.”
“To be hopeful in bad times is based on the fact that human history is not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand Utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”
“If patriotism were defined, not as blind obedience to government, not as submissive worship to flags and anthems, but rather as love of one’s country, one’s fellow citizens (all over the world), as loyalty to the principles of justice and democracy, then patriotism would require us to disobey our government, when it violated those principles.”
“Historically, the most terrible things – war, genocide, and slavery – have resulted not from disobedience, but from obedience.”
“I am convinced that imprisonment is a way of pretending to solve the problem of crime. It does nothing for the victims of crime, but perpetuates the idea of retribution, thus maintaining the endless cycle of violence in our culture. It is a cruel and useless substitute for the elimination of those conditions–poverty, unemployment, homelessness, desperation, racism, greed–which are at the root of most punished crime. The crimes of the rich and powerful go mostly unpunished.”
“If we have learned anything in the past ten years, it is that these lovely things about America were never lovely. We have been expansionist and aggressive and mean to other people from the beginning. And we’ve been aggressive and mean to people in this country, and we’ve allocated the wealth of this country in a very unjust way. We’ve never had justice in our courts for the poor people, for black people, for radicals. Now how can we boast that America is a very special place? It’s not that special. It really isn’t.”
“But I suppose the most revolutionary act one can engage in is… to tell the truth.”
“There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”
“Democracy depends on citizens being informed, and since our media, especially television (which is the most important source of news for most Americans) reports mostly what the people in power do, and repeats what the people in power say, the public is badly informed, and it means we cannot really say we have a functioning democracy.”
“When I say history is a matter of life and death, I mean this: If you really don’t know history, you are a victim of whatever the authorities tell you. You have no way of checking up on them. You have no way of deciding whether there is any truth in what they are saying.”
“We are not hated because we practice democracy, value freedom, or uphold human rights. We are hated because our government denies these things to people in Third World countries whose resources are coveted by multinational corporations. That hatred we have sown has come back to haunt us in the form of terrorism..”
“Capitalism has always been a failure for the lower classes. It is now beginning to fail for the middle classes.”
“Terrorism has replaced Communism as the rationale for the militarization of the country [America], for military adventures abroad, and for the suppression of civil liberties at home. It serves the same purpose, serving to create hysteria.”
“Memorial Day will be celebrated … by the usual betrayal of the dead, by the hypocritical patriotism of the politicians and contractors preparing for more wars, more graves to receive more flowers on future Memorial Days. The memory of the dead deserves a different dedication. To peace, to defiance of governments.”
“One percent of the nation owns a third of the wealth. The rest of the wealth is distributed in such a way as to turn those in the 99 percent against one another: small property owners against the propertyless, black against white, native-born against foreign-born, intellectuals and professionals against the uneducated and the unskilled. These groups have resented one another and warred against one another with such vehemence and violence as to obscure their common position as sharers of leftovers in a very wealthy country.”
“We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”


This Date in Art History: Died 27 January 1965 – Abraham Walkowitz, an American painter.

Below – “Fantastic Harbor”; “Wharf”; “Three Women and a Man by the Ocean”; “Isadora Duncan #29”; “Nude with Pink Towel”; “Times Square.”

A Poem for Today

“Children in a Field”
by Angela Shaw

They don’t wade in so much as they are taken.
Deep in the day, in the deep of the field,
every current in the grasses whispers ‘hurry
hurry,’ every yellow spreads its perfume
like a rumor, impelling them further on.
It is the way of girls. It is the sway
of their dresses in the summer trance-
light, their bare calves already far-gone
in green. What songs will they follow?
Whatever the wood warbles, whatever storm
or harm the border promises, whatever
calm. Let them go. Let them go traceless
through the high grass and into the willow-
blur, traceless across the lean blue glint
of the river, to the long dark bodies
of the conifers, and over the welcoming
threshold of nightfall.

Below – John Daugherty: “Spring Girls”

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