Sentient in San Francisco – 23 February 2020

This Date in Art History: Born 23 February 1883 – Guy C. Wiggins, an American painter.

Below – “Fifth Avenue Storm”; “Columbus Circle, Winter”; “The Quiet Valley”; “Winter on the Avenue”; “Central Park West, New York”; “Twilight at the Plaza Hotel.”

This Date in Intellectual History: Born 23 February 1868 – W. E. B. Du Bois, an American sociologist, essayist, historian, civil rights activist, and author of “The Souls of Black Folk.”

Some quotes from the work of W. E. B. Du Bois:

“Either America will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States.”
“Now is the accepted time, not tomorrow, not some more convenient season. It is today that our best work can be done and not some future day or future year. It is today that we fit ourselves for the greater usefulness of tomorrow. Today is the seed time, now are the hours of work, and tomorrow comes the harvest and the playtime.
Strive for that greatness of spirit that measures life not by its disappointments but by its possibilities.”
“Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.”
“One is astonished in the study of history at the recurrence of the idea that evil must be forgotten, distorted, skimmed over. We must not remember that Daniel Webster got drunk but only that he was a splendid constitutional lawyer. We must forget that George Washington was a slave owner . . . and simply remember the things we regard as creditable and inspiring. The difficulty, of course, with this philosophy is that history loses its value as an incentive and example; it paints perfect man and noble nations, but it does not tell the truth.”
“Daily the Negro is coming more and more to look upon law and justice, not as protecting safeguards, but as sources of humiliation and oppression. The laws are made by men who have little interest in him; they are executed by men who have absolutely no motive for treating the black people with courtesy or consideration; and, finally, the accused law-breaker is tried, not by his peers, but too often by men who would rather punish ten innocent Negroes than let one guilty one escape.”
“To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships.”
“In 1956, I shall not go to the polls. I have not registered. I believe that democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no ‘two evils’ exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say.”
“Today I see more clearly than yesterday that the back of the problem of race and color lies a greater problem which both obscures and implements it: and that is the fact that so many civilized persons are willing to live in comfort even if the price of this is poverty, ignorance, and disease of the majority of their fellow men.”
“I am especially glad of the divine gift of laughter: it has made the world human and lovable, despite all its pain and wrong.”
“I believe that all men, black and brown, and white, are brothers, varying, through Time and Opportunity, in form and gift and feature, but differing in no essential particular, and alike in soul and in the possibility of infinite development.”

This Date in Art History: Born 23 February 1931 – Tom Wesselmann, an American painter.

Below – “Still Life #20”; “Blonde Kite”; “Bedroom Face with Lichtenstein”; “Lulu”; “Still Life with Blowing Curtain (Red)”; “Seated Nude with Matisse Odalisque.”

This Date in Literary/Intellectual History: Born 23 February 1950 – Rebecca Goldstein, an award-winning American novelist and philosopher.

Some quotes from the work of Rebecca Goldstein:

“Math . . . music .. . starry nights . . . These are secular ways of achieving transcendence, of feeling lifted into a grand perspective. It’s a sense of being awed by existence that almost obliterates the self. Religious people think of it as an essentially religious experience but it’s not. It’s an essentially human experience.”
“If we don’t understand our tools, then there is a danger we will become the tool of our tools. We think of ourselves as Google’s customers, but really we’re its products.”
“What is remarkable about the Greeks – even pre-philosophically – is that despite the salience of religious rituals in their lives, when it came to the question of what it is that makes an individual human life worth living they didn’t look to the immortals but rather approached the question in mortal terms. Their approaching the question of human mattering in human terms is the singularity that creates the conditions for philosophy in ancient Greece, most especially as these conditions were realized in the city-state of Athens.
“Everybody makes excuses for themselves they wouldn’t be prepared to make for other people.”
“Plato dramatically puts the detachment of the philosopher from his time this way: to philosophize is to prepare to die.”
“A person whom one has loved seems altogether too significant a thing to simply vanish altogether from the world. A person whom one loves is a world, just as one knows oneself to be a world.”
“Thinking is the soul speaking to itself.”
“As Plato: We become more worthy the more we bend our minds to the impersonal. We become better as we take in the universe, thinking more about the largeness that it is and laugh about the smallness that is us.”

Contemporary American Art – Charles Sidi

Below – “”Black Hat”; “Sshh”; “Dancing Men”; “Ode to Audrey”; “Black Hat 2.”

This Date in Literary History: Died 23 February 1900 – Ernest Dowson, an English poet, novelist, and short story writer.

Some quotes from the work of Ernest Dowson:

“They are not long, the days of wine and roses. Out of a misty dream, our path emerges for a while, then closes, within a dream.”
“I cried for madder music and for stronger wine,
But when the feast is finished and the lamps expire,
Then falls thy shadow, Cynara! the night is thine.”
“I understand that absinthe makes the tart grow fonder.”
“They are not long, the weeping and the laughter. Love and desire and hate; I think they have no portion in us after We pass the gate.”
“Last night, ah, yesternight, betwixt her lips and mine
There fell thy shadow, Cynara! thy breath was shed
Upon my soul between the kisses and the wine;
And I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
Yea, I was desolate and bowed my head:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.”
“Pale amber sunlight falls across The reddening October trees…. Are we not better and at home In dreamful Autumn, we who deem No harvest joy is worth a dream? A little while and night shall come, A little while, then, let us dream.

Contemporary Australian Art – Barry Johnson

Below – “Blue Herons”; “Magic At The Beach”; “The Birth Of Venus”; “Coast”; “Serendipity”; “The Spring.”

A Poem for Today

by David Baker

Small flames afloat in blue duskfall, beneath trees
anonymous and hooded, the solemn trees—by ones
and twos and threes we go down to the water’s level edge
with our candles cupped and melted into little pie-tins
to set our newest loss free. Everyone is here.

Everyone is wholly quiet in the river’s hush and appropriate dark.
The tenuous fires slip from our palms and seem to settle
in the stilling water, but then float, ever so slowly,
in a loose string like a necklace’s pearls spilled,
down the river barely as wide as a dusty road.

No one is singing, and no one leaves—we stand back
beneath the grieving trees on both banks, bowed but watching,
as our tiny boats pass like a long history of moons
reflected, or like notes in an elder’s hymn, or like us,
death after death, around the far, awakening bend.

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