Archives for category: art


Chichester Canal 1828 J.M.W. Turner

Chichester Canal 1828 J.M.W. Turner

Turner was one of the first artists whose work I loved and sought out. I was able to visit the Tate Gallery in the late 70s and made a beeline, as I remember, for the Turners (I remember seeing a Lichtenstein too, and being impressed by it, but pop art, at least in some respects, is easy). I can’t tell you what it was that attracted me to Turner’s work. I was very young, not at all literate as far as art goes. Maybe it was the ships and trains which figure in some of his better known works. But I think it was the light. Just look at his use of light in the above painting. In a sense it is nothing BUT light. The impressionists, rightly so, are acclaimed for the light which suffuses many of their works. I am not well versed in art history, but I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them studied Turner’s works and were inspired by them.


Haiku 728

Waiting for the bus
one dew drop falls, bringing me
back to last night’s rains

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vonnegut is my guru

So wise, kind and yet cynical all at the same time. I love his theory in this interview about how writers are specialized cells, or organisms. My personal theory of the universe, the way of thinking by which I am guided, is holistic. Partly, or mostly, derived from what I know of Taoism and how it approaches the world in which we live.

I have been on a Vonnegut kick lately, going through God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, Bluebeard, Deadeye Dick and now on Mother Night, with Sirens of Titan and Fates Worse Than Death on deck. Amazon, it seems, has been tempting me by offering on a weekly basis one Vonnegut book for $1.99. Can’t beat it with a stick, that much wisdom for that little money. What he offers in his body of work, amid all the wackiness, is an alternate or secret history of the twentieth and the early twenty first centuries. He may not have made it into that essentially worthless entity called “the canon” due to his absurdity, but why not? I have some ideas on this, most of which involves academics with sticks up their asses. We don’t need people who can show us the seriousness in life through the prism of literature, for isn’t life serious enough as it is? Isn’t that why we spend so much time through so many ways, evolving every day, to escape it? I submit that we are much better served by folks, like my beloved Kurt, who can make us laugh and see the absurdity of the existence in which we live, and just maybe help us to learn something about ourselves in the process.

You Are Now Entering the Nevada National Secur...

You Are Now Entering the Nevada National Security Site (No Trespassing), Near Mercury, Nevada (Photo credit: Ken Lund)

Excerpt from Rebecca Solnit’s upcoming book.

I love her writing and she is one writer who I’d love to meet. Savage Dreams inspired me to go to the Nevada Test Site for my vacation ten years or so ago.

Français : Walter Benjamin en 1928

Français : Walter Benjamin en 1928 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Angelus Novus by Paul Klee

Walter Benjamin‘s concept of the angel of history has particular resonance for me, in looking at how things go in the world. I quote, “A Klee drawing named “Angelus Novus” shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe that keeps piling ruin upon ruin and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

— Walter Benjamin,

Ninth Thesis on the Philosophy of History

Benjamin saw what was happening in and to Europe in the 30’s, and particularly what was happening to Jews. He chose to take his own life, in 1940, rather than deal with the horror or take the chance of being corralled by the Nazis.

Benjamin’s observation, or insight, is from a completely different time from our own. Its relevance to human history in general, however, is timeless. I quote here from an essay on by Henry Giroux, linked below:
“we are pulled forward by future happiness – [when] in fact, [as Benjamin noted], we are pushed from behind by the horror of destruction we keep perpetrating on the way.”

The promise of a brighter future is constantly held before us, but we, at least most of us will never get there, neither in this life or whatever may come after. Most of us will experience the stick, in one way or the other, much more often than we will taste the sweetness of the carrot. It doesn’t HAVE to be this way, but as the system currently is constructed, and works, this is how it is. It is up to us to change it if we can muster the desire, pull away from the distractions constantly dangled in front of us, and bond together with like-minded individuals to enact change.

Wallace Stevens and the oak bolus

Saw two cool oaks today and had the presence of mind to photograph them both. They remind me of one of my favorite poems by probably my favorite poet, Wallace Stevens, . Also of Leonard Cohen line, “the cracks, the cracks are where the light gets in”.

Stairstep fungi

On the west side of this, and only this, tree

Meditation on art & shit, inspired by Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand

Punk, photography, drugs, dissolution and the Maine coast? What’s not to like? I started this a few years ago and finally finished it a couple of months ago. Truthfully, I think the reason I put it down in the first place was that I didn’t care how the mystery was resolved, who the culprit was. It was pretty obvious anyway. The ideas behind the book are what fascinated me, and seeing from another review on here that part of it is likely autobiographical makes me want to hug the author and hang out with her.

I love outsider art, so called, and in a way the art created by the commune in the novel is the ultimate example of that. It’s so creepy, but at the same time familiar and understandable to me. Going off the rails, and the grid, and moving to a remote area with your compadres, creating a way of living and a society that allows you to indulge your impulses is attractive to me. It’s a cool idea, in theory, but the incestuousness, not necessarily in a literal way, of living like this can give rise to some weirdness that isn’t exactly the good kind. When your only frame of reference is yourself, and those like you, and you intentionally limit your contacts with the “outside” world in order to more purely refine the art of your life and of your work, the corruption can arise and consume you without your knowing it.

Patti Smith came to mind a number of times while I was reading this. Easter is my favorite album of hers, another example of the magic that can occur with a lot of third albums. There’s the first album, frequently work which has been developed and honed over years. The second contractually obligated album which is often a rush job, the band or artist being pushed by execs to get something out fast to capitalize (literally!) on the success of the first. The third is often more of a consistent artistic statement, its artistry combining the magical spark of the first album with artistic integrity hard won in the struggles with the suits.

This digression was brought to mind by the song Rock and Roll Nigger on Easter. In Generation Loss, outside of society is where they wanted to go, and so they did. As happened with a lot of the communes formed in the 60s, this society ate itself in a way. All the beautiful idealistic dreams last for a while, at least until the internal pressures which develop when you are so strenuously trying to exclude the “corrupting” influences of the outside world cause the fantasy to decay, or explode, or both. Nothing can exist and be healthy in isolation. It’s just the way the world works. The gleam becomes tarnished, and furious attempts to desperately shine it up again and return it to its former lustrousness result, tragically, in totally erasing the glow and showing the unvarnished truth. The truth of the situation can’t be handled, and subsequently disillusionment, dissolution and decay result. Utopias can’t exist in the real world, but as hopeful (and frequently somewhat delusional) humans we keep making our futile and vain attempts to create them. Hope does indeed spring eternal, but in order to taste the pure source, first we have to remove all the rotting leaves that will eventually sour the water. Sometimes we even have to allow outside sources of which we might be suspicious to enter and wash away some of the dreck. This can be threatening at first but ultimately, if one is open to it, will be seen as of benefit. It is important for the artist to guard his core integrity and make sure it is only enhanced, not tainted at its source, by the fresh input. Only through this process can he continue to create works which will astonish and delight both him and his audience.