“You can’t teach a crab to walk straight,” Aesop

Mothers and daughters WomenIf we are to believe we cannot excel beyond that which we are made of, it would be a very limiting prediction. We would have never troubled to visit the moon or in earlier centuries to see beyond our own shores. We must acknowledge that example, may be the definitive teacher for better or worse. If your parents are litterbugs you may well be one too. That being said, we all have an investment in what we leave for our younger generations. Who doesn’t like the best? Who says, “I really love mediocrity!” And there it is, that risk of our invested time being undervalued and appreciated.

What we learn at our own mother’s knee may be something we take with us all through our lives. My mother is a landscape artist and while other children were getting the basics in the alphabet and the names of colors I was also learning the fundamentals of sketching. At the time I did not think it unusual that my mother painted with oil paints and that there were things like turpentine and linseed oil around the house. No, I thought it odd that my friend’s mothers did not paint.

She is an excellent baker and made prize winning cakes for our birthday parties and in some ways, I felt a little sorry for those children that had store bought cakes. I could not seem to grasp that their mothers could not bake, I mean my mother baked fresh bread every week; every week. We had a large family, so there was a birthday cake being baked nearly every month and in some months, twice.

My maternal grandmother would expect nothing less from her own daughter; in as much what our mothers teach us in our youngest years may benefit many others as well. With the arrival of Mother’s Day I may celebrate by saying thank you: for the art lessons, the baking lessons and that I always had a beautiful, imaginative Halloween costume courtesy of the Singer sewing machine and not those synthetic costumes that came from the five and dime.

One thing I must take away from my mother and grandmothers is always to be an original and do not let anyone else define my standards and expectations. Some people believe their occupations distinguish their lives and for others, life adds value to their vocations.

Who is your Art Tribe?

Dragon PearlI wonder if Homer was apprehensive about offending the society he was part of with his heroic adventure. I am sure that Frank Zappa would not have been the amazing individual he was if he let social standards rule his output. I think both were driven by their own vision and would not let society dictate their value. Did Gustav Klimt struggle with his vision of art among his contemporaries? Amedeo Modigliani surely suffered and died young, his paintings a lasting tribute to his journey as an artist. For some art is something that hangs on the wall, be it a doctor’s office or a museum, but I have always seen it as a window into another human being’s private journey.

While William Blake wrote and created his art the attitude of his immediate contemporaries was not one of accolades but rather of ridicule. If there is a great hereafter than Mr. Blake may have the last laugh for while he lived he struggled through poverty, but today nearly two centuries after his death he is awarded a private gallery at the very prestigious Tate Britain in London.

Vincent van Gough, if he has achieved the perfection of being that was not afforded him in life may have found it in the great beyond now that his paintings are valued at upwards of twenty-two million dollars. Marketability is the bane of artistic creativity; for art is supposed to be something above the gross conception of wealth and to elevate human beings upwards to the divine. Alas, the gatekeepers ever strive to put it in a safe box; when that is the exact antithesis of creativity. I feel that every blank canvas and every blank page is an opportunity to travel to where we haven’t before, a chance to see a world other than what is conveyed with our waking eyes, a chance to dream. Mr.van Gough saw that even when those around him were blind to it.

The first step in any campaign to control human beings is to remove their gods and their art so that they will forget their origins; their tribe. Those brave revolutionaries who cling to their beliefs even in the oppression of persecution are to be celebrated, not shunned. I believe to make real art, lasting pieces that test our reality one must dive into our subconscious and delve deep, otherwise what is the point? Are we to paint yet another still life of a bowl of fruit? Is that what we want to say as a species about our existence here on this planet when there is so much more to leave to future generations to ponder?

Federico Fellini’s Satyricon is an epic film based on the writing of Petronius during the rule of Nero. The parting imagery of the Coptic style portraits in the final stages of the film is something to remember for one day we will all be a memory; if we are that fortunate. Do we want to be remembered by a bowl of fruit?

I believe if we want to hang in a museum with the serious artists than we must delve past the membrane of reality, into the foreign and strange to find that black pearl that others were a feared to bring to light; the one that has goblins and dragons to protect it.

I believe art is something that can only be revealed by peeling back the sticky skin that separates our consciousness from our subconscious. An artist must plunge deep like a pearl diver to come up breathless with an exquisite gem those less stout of heart would be unable to dive for.

If we dare to be an artist than we better dust off our diving bell, armor and anything else needed to travel to the very edge of reality. We must go beyond to the blue-black regions that hide uncountable monsters and fiends that will lash onto our ankles and bring us even further down. Those monsters are always hungry and waiting…The black pearl is their lure, their welcome mat for those that dabble in the Arts just enough to call themselves artists to their immediate society. A true artist never thinks of themselves as an artist, they leave that label outside the studio door. Nothing will scare off the artistic muse quicker than arrogance.

Truly, artists are brave explorers seeking the undiscovered and returning more lined and wizened at what their subconscious reveals. Artists must be fearless for there are indeed monsters in those deep and dark places where night rests eternal and dawn not even a distant memory.

If we want to be artists beware: the blood we spill will be our own to distract the goblins from their treasure of black pearls. We must also realize that those who haven’t risked their sanity for the treasure will be blind to the wonder of our find. They will look on with veiled eyes and nod knowingly as if our particular strain of crazy might be catching. It might have gone epidemic in Parisian salons a hundred years ago but we won’t be having any of that malaise here. Jack Donaghy may have said it best on the 30 Rock series for those with limited imagination, “We know what art is! Paintings of horses!”

To be an artist is to brave the unknown, the unfamiliar, to follow an unmarked trail without breadcrumbs and the knowledge that when we return we will have left some bit of our ideology to return with a prize invisible to people painting safe pictures and writing safe stories. I do not believe Albrecht Durer, Pablo Picasso, Jules Verne, Alfred Hitchcock, and Federico Fellini created their art in safety for the masses but rather as an invitation for others like minded to join their tribe.

Are you an explorer, an astronaut, are you willing to go where there may be danger and are you willing to do so in front of a blank canvas, an empty sheet of paper; just you and your imagination? If so, than you may be part of the lost tribe of artists. Welcome!

 

Dragon Pearl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dragon Pearl

Magic Vision: the Mystery of Fine Art

Christmas has arrived with her big beautiful full moon and you may be thinking of the celebration on New Year’s Eve but then what? 2016 arrives on January 1st and what are you going to do with yourself now that the decorations are put away and nothing but cold and snow to occupy us until the daffodils herald spring.

Those fortunate individuals with plenty of funds in their travel kitties’ wing to warmer regions; however there is a greener alternative to international travel. Earlier this year my partner and I parked our car and took the train into the heart of Manhattan. Our destination was the posh neighborhood that borders Central Park near the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the jewel box of a museum the Neue Galerie.

If you have had the pleasure of viewing Helen Mirren’s portrayal of the niece of Adele Bloch-Bauer in the international film, Woman in Gold you don’t have to book an international flight and dust off your passport to see the painting in question. We have in our own cosmopolitan city of New York a treasure of international art all accessible from a cab ride from the train station within the city.

Great art is like a window that we may look past our contemporary society to view the world through the eyes of the artist. To understand another’s impression of the world is why we enjoy well made films and why with all our technology, human beings still spend time with well crafted literature.

Gustav Klimt created iconic images on the surface of mere woven canvas. It seems unimaginable the pains some individuals took to plunder this brilliant art. Something as fragile as paint and canvas came through a hellish world war, and to leave its country of origin to be placed in the hands of its rightful immigrant owners seems miraculous, and even magical.

The magical vision of Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece might be inspirational enough to see 2016 as an opportunity to rediscover those passions we have let lie dormant too long. Think of the New Year as not about making resolutions to surrender our old habits, but rather about embracing what we find magical and beautiful. If the painting does not reinforce the awareness that political regimes come and go and yet the mystery of fine art still remains as enticing as the hieroglyphics of ancient Egypt than you may need to give your cellular phone the day off too.

 

A Wild Haunting

I can recall the first time I saw the film Vertigo, such a gripping story with an element of Pygmalion in the way Jimmy Stewart’s character Scottie remakes Kim Novak’s character to be the phantom he still is in love with. As compelling as the story was, it was the view into the haunting beauty of Muir Woods that took hold of me and still I yearn to see it again and again. I found out later that in fact that bit was filmed at another California State Forest, but still beautiful all the same.

Before I was born my parents lived in the western United States. They returned to their roots in the east shortly before my birth. Consequently, my vision of the Redwood forest was shaped by their home movies and of course Alfred Hitchcock’s portrayal of it in his amazing film Vertigo.

My only real life connection to such an awesome forest was right here in the mid-Atlantic in a state forest in the heart of Pennsylvania. Many were the summer days we spent hiking in the woods of Trough Creek near Balance Rock and Rainbow Falls. Edgar Allen Poe is reputed to have spent time in the area and in fact a cliff wall is named Raven Rock because of his poem and his local connections.

As an adult I have the memories of my childhood summers in those lush woods under blue skies, but being an adult I also have had the opportunity to visit Stinson Beach and hike the trails of Muir Woods. Both are spectacular monuments to our continent’s wild beauty. We take time at this season to give thanks for the bounty we have been given; regardless of our spirituality. On that theme and with November being designated as Native American month, perhaps it might be a chance to visit those places still wild and free that have not been paved over or strewn with decorations, because nature, real nature doesn’t need any tinsel or glitter.A collage of Muir woods CaA collage of Trough Creek Pa

Excellence in Life and Death

Excellence in DeathCemeteries at this time of year seem to be the focus of several international holidays. Be it Samhain, All Hallows, or Mexico’s Day of the Dead; people will be flocking to their local necropolis. In our world that seems to fly at us at the speed of our local internet it seems ironic that as the year starts winding down, people still cling to ancient traditions.

If you haven’t visited an antique cemetery you may not have seen the artistically carved monuments memorializing individuals. Whether we want to think about it, we all will one day have to consider what will become of our remains. Will it be an urn on a mantle, crypt in a mausoleum, a simple pine casket in an old mountain top cemetery?  While we are considering that little aspect of life; our conclusion we may also take stock of what is important about our life.

Are we watching enough television? The cable and satellite carriers probably would vote no. When we are interned for eternity will we roll over when our sports team fails to win the championship? My guess is probably not. In the great hereafter we may have other more pressing concerns; like will our final resting place be demolished for a shopping mall.

In the real world, real estate is a shrinking commodity; it isn’t like there is ever going to be more than what we already have. Are we making the most of our environment and planning for future generations?

A stroll through Pere Lachaise cemetery in the 20th arrondissement in Paris reveals an abundantly rich neighborhood of the who’s who of the deceased. This was not always the case and in fact they struggled for the first few years of operation because so few were buried here. Indeed it is so popular now that one may purchase a lease for as little as ten years. As with everything else it doesn’t pay to be cheap. Sure, you got a great address in the afterworld for ten years, but what are you going to do when the lease is up? And that is my point exactly; we should value those little niches in our life where commerce does not trespass because in death as in life everything has a price.

Life is an adventure to be fully enjoyed!

In the deep dark of unground Paris

In the deep dark of unground Paris.

Claustrophobia

We have all heard the word and we each may have our own comfort level with closed in spaces. I for one have been known to hike up as many as nine flights of stairs to avoid the elevator. Elevators are an amazing modern invention; when working properly. I can think of a half dozen people who all have had their day detoured to wait for one of those cars to be fixed. With my aversion to being closed in to small spaces and even more so to be underground, when I had the opportunity to visit the Catacombs of Paris I took Le Plunge.

I and my partner walked along with others willing to descend to forty feet below street level to see what the average tourist would not see from the Avenue Des Champs Elysees. It was a blustery day with frequent showers and I for one was looking forward to getting out of the weather. Hmm, the deep places of the world have their own environment and the atmosphere was as rich there as it was up on the street.

My grandparents lived in a home that was built just after the conclusion of the American Revolution. The two floors that were their primary living space was cozy and inviting and I still miss my grandmother’s African violets that lined nearly every window. The kitchen contained a large old fashioned cast iron stove that would come into service any time the power went out. Their home was a magical place with plenty of fresh baked bread and a fish pond in the back yard too.  But every wonderland has something scary too; Alice in Wonderland had the Jabberwocky and my grandparents had a seriously medieval cellar. It was filled with anything and everything anyone might have had a use for in the past two hundred years. There were cobwebs and spiders and the holes in the wood floors were large enough accommodate serpents as well.

Did I go downstairs often? You bet I did. My grandfather was a carpenter and he had his workshop in the cellar as well. As afraid as I was of meeting a serpent curled up in the corner I still wanted the freedom to make things from the bits of lumber leftover at construction sites. I learned a lot of skills at my grandfather’s workbench; it is okay to be afraid and even intimidated to do the unknown but don’t let your fear put you in a box.