Poetry & Prose

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title- essays 3, art and more

i'm leaving this- sort of thing webs does



 dave at Tate Gallery-London - this photo taken by Cathy- I love the look- like Blake's Death Mask- yes- he is serious- photos on wall? Mohola Nagy?


My favorite artists: Vermeer, Wifredo Lam, Gauguin( top three definitely), and not necessarily in that order: Cezanne, Redon, van Gogh, Munch, Chagall, Dufy, Millais, Marin, Brocklin, Munch, Blake, Kandinsky, Parrish, Andrew Wyeth, Gibran, Charlotte Salomon, Bacon, del Cairo, Heade, Rockwell Kent, Anselm Kiefer, Gerhard Richter, Saura, Tapies (have I dropped enough names yet?) two from Hawaii, Evelyn de Buhr and John Thomas (his water colors of orchids), Ouray Meyers (from Taos) and Lawrence Goldsmith, the watercolorist from Vermont and Maine. In photography I liked the black and white photographers Edward Weston and Minor White, and in color, Harry Callahan and best of all, the color/nature photographer Eliot Porter. In sculpture- who but Rodin and the great anonymous sculptor of the death goddess, Coatlicue, that is in the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.? I also liked Ernst and Noguchi. In architecture, Nehry. 

As to the living Europeans- Richter, Tapies (although more the idea of him- what he is trying to do than what he does- he does not do beauty), and Barcelo whom we discover on our trip to Europe- France and Spain in 2010. In Madrid we hiked through the Prado, the Thyssen, the Reina Sophia, the Caixa Forum and the Museo de Sorolla, and greatly extended our art appreciation. I am almost kicked out of the Prado- for doing what I love to do- take forbidden photos when the officious guard is out of sight- altho this time unfortunately I had not suppressed the flash in front of Bosch's "Earthly Delights" triptyque (what other painter than Blake has this rare imagination- Dali? but Dali is not philosophical enough- Breugel w his skeletons- the forerunner of movies . I add to my loves- Furini- who treats subjects dear to my heart in "Lot's Daughters"- sex and wine, Ruysdael for his light blazoned landscapes, Madrazo y Kunst-like Parrish and Ingres w photographic perfection, Goya and Velasquez for their, yes, here comes the cliche- profundity of psychological insight.

The landscape Sorolla did of the wheat fields (reminds of Van Gogh) and mountains of Spain is better than the real thing? (well that's going a bit far)- let's say represents Spain better than a photo. 



Van Gogh's chair ((or one like it)  in little room Auvers sur Oise- photos "interdit"- forbidden in room- which are the ones I LOVE to take

 ....my favorite paintings?- Furini's "Lot and his Daughters" (Prado) - subject matter is wine and sex, Del Cairo's "Judith and Holofernes" (Asolo Museum- Sarasota)- look on her face- attitude as in no other painting as she says "Shove it!", Gauguin's "Blue Horse"- Orsay, Paris- colors, compostion, any Vermeer- the essence of absorption- the way humans should be- the geographer w the globe- woman w pearls, etc.

letter to  art loving fellow Baltimore poet, Dr. Michael Salcman         

my favorites (living)  in art now are pretty much the nature folks- some Maine artists.. Crotty, Goldsmith....otherwise- I love Lam and Vermeer over all,  Bacon, Dufy, Gauguin- folks with something to say and a way of saying it.
Jeff Loons is cute- makes you laugh.
I sort of (should I say "pretty much") agree w Bacon that abstract expressionism is still too decorative- a lace maker he said of Pollock, but I like the color and design in de Kooning and design in Kandinsky. Dufy is my kind of "decorative" artist.
that wikipedia entry on post modernism?- could you sort of- tweak that for the better....that seemed weak to me
Being a political and a confessional poet- and very opinionated- I find myself like that rarest of painting- political painting- like Wm. Blake. Yes- he is sculptural and stiff and his paletter kind of wan but, HE HAS SOMETHING TO SAY!
I guess his opposite (and he didnot like him) - Turner- also had something to say.
Goya, Breughel, Velasquez, Vermeer again, Vermeer. BE ABSORBED, V is saying, like a pregnant woman!                                                                

                                                                                        +Book Art

It was only natural that the more I collected books the more I had fell in love with certain book illustrators: Blake, a progenitor (like Bach), Rockwell Kent (his oils too); Parrish and Kay Nielsen extra wonderful, Pogany, Dulac, Rackham, Willcox-Smith, John Vassos (I had all his books), the french fellow who drew fanciful bugs), Milne, Beatrix Potter, the Stewart Little and Wind in the Willow artists, Greenaway, etc. The great travel, botanical, bird, reptile, butterfly illustrators were my special favorites: Catherwood (in Steven's Incidents of Travel in Central America, E.J. Lowe in his books on English ferns and grasses (but was he the illustrator?); Mutis in Humboldt,  scotty David Robert's views of Egypt and the middle east, Redoute, Buffon, Henri Robert, Thornton, Catesby, and many flower and nature illustrators, Audubon and Gould of course, many others (birds), Horton (reptiles), Edward Smith (butterflies). Books like Michaux's North American Sylva or the ones by the Englishman Lowe were pinnacles of book art. I owned some great examples: Meehan's 1879? Ferns and Flowers of North America in four volumes, after paintings by Alois Lunzer, Mary Vaux Walcotts Flowers of N A  , 5 boxes;  Elizabeth Hey's 1837 Spirit of the Woods  also Moral of the Flowers, with hand colored plates and Studer's Birds of North America,  illustrated by Theodore Jasper; also the series of the fruits of New York by Ulysees P.Hedrick (these had photos, not chromolithographs), Grapes of, Peaches, Plums, Cherries, Small Fruits and Pears.  I had the Apples of New York in two volumns also, although this was not by Hedrick- but ya gotta chek out the apples of  ny! You couldn't have all those other fruits and be without the apples. This series is truly good enough to eat.  I had Lowe’s Beautifully Leaved Plants and Grasses of Great Britain  and the Lowe Ferns British and Exotic in 8 bols., facsimile of Bateman's Orchids,  of  poet Emily Dickinson's Herbarium (concerning the plants in her garden)  (and he present garden outside her house in Amherst is impressive) , facsimile of Thornton's  Temple of Flora  . I had many books on botannical art and the many wonderful women botannical artists, like Sybylla and Delany .  I had many books on the Parkinson drawings and plates made from them from the James Cook world circumnavigational voyages, several books on camellias and other flower species, etc. 


from Redoute's A Selection of the Most Beautiful Flowers and Fruits- The greatest botannical illustration book? Not too many would argue with me- yes, I know there are other great ones- Thornton, Lowe, Delaney, Bateman, Mehan, Hey, Catesby, Audubon, Merian- acmes, icons. epitomes of book publishing........the most beautiful book? Well there's also "The Tres Riches Heures of Jean Duke of Berry"- a French manuscript from 1416...






the guy photographed above had tried to interest Chris Bready of the Baltimore Bookk Auction  in this vol. thinking he could make 50 grand or so? C had to diabuse him because of its bad condition. Condition is important in these matters, altho for an original single page of this work- you will have to pay $     ? (Chris was kind enough to give me the dvd the guy had made of each page)!

Sydney Parkinson was the artist on board the ship Endeavor, accompanying the naturalist Joseph Banks and Captain James Cook on their voyage of 1770 . His work for the "Florilegium", finally published in color in 1983, represented a pinnacle in botanical illustration. I write about this work more extensively in my essay on book collecting. 

Several great retrospectives held nearby to Baltimore at the National Gallery (and at the Phillips Collection) in Washington in the eighties and nineties: Munch, Rodin, Gauguin, Vermeer Veuillard, Bonnard, the Maya, etc. exhibits were awesome compilations, definitely eye openers. These were sublime artists, artists who gave you a new way of seeing, and the shows were extensive, exhaustive and well mounted. I deeply regretted having missed the Martin Heade- the American painter- and Heade painted hummingbirds and orchids.


from Catesby's   Natural History of North America

When you see a book like the one above- even in its lousy shape worth 20-30 K and you begin studying these artists- it is hard to stop- the works are so beautiful. The books that these botannicals are in, for example, are often broken up and sold, just the pages where the art work is- and you see them reproduced everywhere- in hotel rooms, on restaurant walls, ad nauseam. All this reproduction makes originals of these works super expensive. The 800+ plates that have been reproduced in the early 80's from the original plates from the Joseph Banks Captain Cooks voyages- the Alecto edition? were you to own all   boxes (called "solanders") you would have something you could sell for 800,000 dollars easily- and going up.Although these works are extremely popular and appeal quote "to the masses" that does not mean the artists who made them are known much at all!

                                                     +   4 OUTSTANDING BOTANNICAL ARTISTS- a closer look

X markes the spot to show a slide- the following a presentation co- authored by Cathy and Dave- w most of the writing by C


The category of art we are talking about is called botanicals, and it covers flowers, growing trees, bushes, shrubs,  and vegetables – in fact, all plants with a few insects thrown in. Of course, people have known about the food and medicinal properties of plants for thousands and thousands of years. But we are talking about the subject as art, using 4 examples, a little known illustrator from a famous voyage, two very different European women artists 150 years apart and a famous French artist who lived thru the French revolution and is today still in high demand, as are works by the other three- although originals for Parkinson and Delany and Maria would be very scarce and are only generally  available  in copies. Originals by any of these 4 artists  are beyond the reach of all but the wealthy. Copies abound.


X  portraits of 4 artists


The Dutch and the English were beginning to trade in Asian spices, silks and luxury goods by the 1600s. The Dutch East Indies Co and the British East Indies Co sent back, tea, pepper, cinnamon, tulips, coffee – fortunes were made, speculation and stock trading grew, and a middle class developed in Europe with enough money to spend on fine fabrics, fine food, fine furnishings and the arts. Rembrandt, for example, was one famous artist who flourished at this time by painting the portraits of newly rich Dutch merchants and officials.


X Merian plates

Maria Sybilla Merian was born in 1647 in Frankfurt, now part of Germany,  Her father was in printing and her stepfather painted. When his stepdaughter’s talent became apparent at an early age, she was set to design silk patterns, which wealthy women would buy to sew for decorations in their homes.  Out of her interest and talent for drawing the details of flowers, Maria began to show interest in insects, especially caterpillars and the process by which they turn into butterflies. That makes her part of the scientific era of ever-increasing knowledge apparent through the part of Europe with access to education. (In fact, insects were known as the “beasts of the devil” and little understood at the time. It is especially remarkable that Merian had a life-long interest in them, because as she grew older she became part of a Calvinist religious sect known as the Pietists. She began her study of insects in Germany and then moved to Amsterdam when she left her husband. There she published three books on collections of plants from 1675 to 1680. Finally, she had an opportunity, very unusual for the time, to go to Surinam on the coast of South America, thanks to her son in law's contact with Dutch Pietists living there. She discovered a range of unknown animals and plants in the interior of Surinam and spent years classifying and describing them in great detail – such as snakes, spiders, iguanas, etc. The pursuit of her work in Suriname, which is on the northern coast of South America,  was an unusual endeavour, especially for a woman. In general, men received royal or government funding to travel in the colonies to find new species of plants and animals, make collections and to work there, or to settle. Scientific expeditions at this period of time were not common, and Merian's unofficial, self-funded expedition raised many eyebrows. She succeeded, however, in discovering a whole range of previously unknown animals and plants in the interior of Surinam. Merian spent time studying and classifying her findings and described them in great detail. Her classification of butterflies and moths is still relevant today. She used Native American names to refer to the plants, which became used in Europe:

"I created the first classification for all the insects which had chrysalises, the daytime butterflies and the nighttime moths. The second classification is that of the maggots, worms, flies and bees. I retained the indigenous names of the plants, because they were still in use in America by both the locals and the Indians". (in the foreword of Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium).


She actually published a volume titled “The Caterpillar, Marvelous Transformation and Strange Floral Food,” when she came back to Amsterdam in 1705. It sold well at the time because it was in the local language, Dutch, rather than Latin. Since it was not in Latin, the language of scientists, it seems to have been ignored by them. She died in 1715, but her daughters carried on their mother’s traditions, publishing a book of Maia's after she died. The second daughter and her artist husband went to paint in the court of tsar Peter the Great.


X Parkinson plates


Even less known than Maria Sybilla Merian was a Scottish illustrator named Sydney Parkinson, born in 1745. The reason we know about Parkinson has to do with Captain Cook’s first voyage to observe an eclipse and map the Pacific and as then unknown Australia in 1768. It was common by this time that naturalists or scientists of some kind, that is, educated men, would be sent on such voyages of exploration to detail the plants and animals found in the regions visited. (This tradition is best known for the voyages Darwin made 50 years later). The man arranging the science for Cook’s voyage was named Jospeh Banks, later the founder of the Royal Academy of Science in Britain, as well as Kew Gardens in London. Banks arranged for Parkinson and another collector and artist  named Daniel Solander to join the voyage.

The earlest  publications referencing Parkinson?

Stock Image

A Journal of a Voyage to the South Seas, in His Majesty’s Ship The Endeavour: Faithfully Transcribed from the Papers of the Late Sydney Parkinson, Draughtsman to Sir Joseph Banks, Bart. in His Expedition with Dr. Solander round the World: and Embellished with Twenty-nine Views and Designs, Engraved by Capital Artists. To Which Is Now Added, Remarks on the Preface, by the Late John Fothergill, M.D. F.R.S. &c.


Parkinson made almost a thousand drawings on this multi-year voyage in a tiny cabin filled with the plants and animals that Banks and Solander collected. Unfortunately, Parkinson died on the voyage of dysentery in 1771, aged 26. The actual drawings and specimens are preserved in London in the Natural History Museum. In fact, Joseph Banks ran out of money to pay for publishing all their drawings from the voyage. The voyages had collected a phenomenal    specimens-  (list # from each locale) and the plan was to complete etchings of the rough drawings, then hand color them, so the end product was the result of a team effort. A complete set of engravings was only finished in the 1980's when the Alecto Foundation provided the necessary funding.

“Banks' Florilegium has been published in the firm belief that from the combined points of view of science, history and the art of botanical engraving there is no satisfactory substitute for a comprehensive printing from the original plates. The historical interest and aesthetic quality of these engravings speak for themselves. From the scientific point of view the engravings are highly relevant to the correct application of a number of botanical names. They have the advantage of depicting species from the dried specimens. Banks' Florilegium will facilitate comparisons between the earliest graphic depictions and subsequent written descriptions.

Banks' Florilegium has been published in thirty-four parts in the following order:



337 plates



23 plates



30 plates



11 plates


New Zealand

183 plates


The Society Islands

89 plates


Tierra del Fuego

65 plates

The engravings have been printed in colour à la poupée, the printer working each of the colours into the single copperplate with a rolled up 'dolly' of cotton tarlatan (the poupée). All previous impressions of the plates had been taken in black with superb results, but with all the information left behind by Parkinson and his contemporaries about the colour of each drawing, it was felt that the plates ought to be full colour. Hand colouring had been tried over lightly printed impressions but regardless of the excellent results, anything but a tiny edition was out of the question for economical reasons. Edward Egerton-Williams, the printer in charge, then decided to experiment with printing in colour directly, from the plate.

X Redoute plates.


Pierre Redoute, the most famous of these botanical illustrators, was 30 years old and already well liked among the wealthy and nobility that liked such art when the French Revolution began. You have probably seen his illustrations many times in doctors’ or dentists’ offices or on people’s walls since his flowers remain popular.

Redoute was known as the “Raphael of flower paints” after a great Italian painter from 200 years earlier. He came to Paris from Belgium in order to paint scenery for an opera company.  His career was furthered by a French botanist L’Heritier and by van Spaendonck, a professor of flower painting. Redoute was already famous and publishing popular books of flower families during the revolutionary period and the period of Napoleon Bonaparte. He died in 1840.

 Redoute adopted Francesco Bartolozzi's technique of stipple printing, engraving by dots rather than lines, for greater delicate gradations of tone and balance. He embellished his work further by adopting van Spaendonck's techniques of watercolor painting on vellum. The results were printing in brilliant colors never before achieved. “

The sheer number of Redoute's books, which only wealthy subscribers could afford at the time, make his an impressive achievement.

  • Plantes grasses, 2 vols. (1790); [2] Online text
  • Traité des arbres et arbustes que l'on cultive en France, par Duhamel. Nouvelle édition, avec des figures, d'après les dessins de P. J. Redouté, 7 vols. (1800–1819)
  • Les Liliacées, 8 vols. (1802–1816).
  • Redouté, Pierre-Joseph; with Candolle, Augustin Pyramus (1790). Plantes grasses. 
  • Choix des plus belles fleurs et de quelques branches des plus beaux fruits. Dédié à LL. AA. RR. les princesses Louise et Marie d'Orléans (1827)
  • Catalogue de 486 liliacées et de 168 roses peintes par P.-J. Redouté (1829)Alphabet Flore (1835)

X Plates from Une Selection…

For example take a sampling from his book "Une Selection of ", surely one of the world's most beautiful books.

X Delany plates

The last artist we are discussing is Mary Delany who created collages of flowers out of heavy paper beginning when she was 71! She was born in 1700 and later married a doctor who shared her interest in botany and gardening. During her marriage she had also painted and done needle work on flowers and garden landscapes. Thanks to her interest in gardening she was close friends with the duchess of Portland and through her, Delany met Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander after they returned to England from their voyage through the Pacific.

Delany began creating these paper flower cut-outs which were fashionable with ladies of the English court in 1771 and continued until she was 88 when her eyesight failed. Her works today can be found in King George's Library which has been repicated in the British National Library in London. 

In her book, The Paper Garden, poet Molly Peacock, writes: "One afternoon in 11772, she noticed how a pice of colored paper matched the dropped petal of a geranium.  After making the vital imaginative connection between paper and petal, she lifted the 18th century equivalent of an X acto blade (she'd have called it a scapel or a pair of filigree scissors). With the instrument alive in her still rather smooth-skinned hand, she began to maneuver, carefully cutting exact geranium petal shape from the scarlet paper.

Mrs D dubbed her paper and petal paste up a "flower mosaick". and in the next 10 years, she completed nearly 1,000 cut-paper botannicals so accurate that botanists still refer to them- each one so energetically dramatic that it seems to leap out from the dark as onto a lit stage.  Unlike pale botannical drawings, they are all done on deep black backgrounds. She drenched the front of white laid paper with black water color to obtain a stage curtain type blackness. Once dry,k whe'd paste onto these backgrounds hundreds- and I mean hundreds upon hundreds- of the tiniest dots, squiggles, scoops, moons, slivers, islands and loops of brightly colored paper, slowly building up the verisimiltude of flora."  +


On 12/24/10- a writer for the Washington Post- Blake Gopnik went on and on about how Velazquez "Los Meninas" is the world's greatest painting- having just saw it at the Prado- you know I had to respond with the following:

" I thot maybe the "world's greatest painting" attribute was by some lowly headline creator- but - I am sad to see you seem to think this is the greatest-
perhaps only americans- nay- humans- would give in to the urge to rank so- which is in itself ridiculous and doesn't allow for shades of grey.
To me- Goya's works- nxt rooms in the Prado- are far greater in that they are political- begin to complain a bit about conditions- as the greatest art must.
When Beethoven called out the royalty saying that he- B- was the aristocratic one- it meant something- B spoke movingly of his ideals.
Velazquez? I don't think so. o, he's faboulous technically- so what?
Vermeer- in his humanity- his subject matter towers above Velasquez- in so many ways.
But you made a nice meal of the issue.

 I went to a Vermeer show at the National Gallery around 2000 with Cathy and other friends, one of whom, herself an artist, gave us some insights on a little guided tour. Going through an art show, like going through a national park, or battlefield, was much more meaningful with a knowledgeable guide. Especially if it could be someone like Sister Wendy, whose shows on art on public television were marvelous. The National Gallery provided taped/ cassette tours of their largest exhibitions which also helped.

 Vermeer's photographicity was, along with the choice of subject matter, the impressive element in his paintings; his use of the camera obscura (and how many other old masters used similar devices). It really made a difference; he made his scenes look real (at least, more real than other painters of the time (and one is tempted to say since) did, and above that, magical and luminous. He obviously loved luscious colors and color contrasts and perspective and geometry and playing with shapes. There was a softness about his scenes, overall, that seemed loving, mystical, although his scenes were earthy, that catching of the "insignificant" moment, as opposed to the statue of a general or a mythological or biblical subject, although V did a couple of these also, as well as allegories. Vermeer infused his subjects- as Proust has pointed out always the same subjects, with a haze that is HOW we see. Why haven't other painters grasped this? No one has done light and the fuzzy way things actually LOOK better than Vermeer.

Of course- the humanity of Vermeer in his subject matter- the pregnant women- they speak to us more than anything! He speaks to us of "hope"- the "thing with feathers". He presents a deeper icon every time- and what is it? curiosity, investigation, absorption.

I was surprised at how little they knew about Vermeer in his own time, but, clearly, he had been respected in Delft as was Bach in Leipzig. The comparison between Vermeer and Bach was tempting. They both loved mathematics. There was a fugal nature to Vermeer's pictures, their contrapuntal repetitions of themes like the tiled floors, the rugs, the light through windows, the light struck girls, and as with Bach, the excellence of all compositions, not just one or two. As usual, the artists contemporaneous to Vermeer who were renowned, like de Hooch, were not the truly wonderful ones. The most wonderful often seem to be neglected in their own times (like me with my poetry I am tempted to add (but I won't add it!)).

 On 12/30/'99, I visit the National Gallery's display of the famous Vermeer painting "The Art of Painting" which was not in the great Vermeer show of a couple of years back. This painting reminds me of Bach's B Minor Mass- it seems Vermeer was attempting a "grandest statement", a summing up- as was Bach. If you had to, you could call this "the greatest painting in the world". 

I notice in the tapestry to the left a few gleaming points, as if he had put a dab/bubble/pin prick of silver or is it white paint in- to wink/flash on and off like Christmas tree lights? how and WHY!? did he do this?  There is no docent around to explain it and I have the thought, perhaps I don't really want to know. As this godawful century and millenium ends, let's leave a little mystery in shall we? 

My favorite things in Vermeer: the rugs, the Lace Maker's intent focus, the mess of red lace beneath her, the girl w the red hat's and the girl w the flute's mouths, how moist,  the girl with  the  the Guitar Player, the pearls, the look on the geographer's and the astronomer's faces...so many things. In Vermeer, as in Bach one really DOES actually keep discovering things- a in other artists this is often said but not really so true.   

"The Lace Maker" is easily the world's greatest painting? (depends on your point of view)! I also love the astronomer and the ?- was Von Leuwenhouck (sp)  the subject as has been suggested? If so even more fantastic!

 V's "The Milkmaid" visits the Met and I see its Vermeers along with the "Milkmaid" on 10/24/'09. It is a rainy day and multitudes are crowded into the museum. The equipoise, the quiet in the Vermeers hits home all the harder! He allows one to "get away". All the critics speculation on erotic subtexts to this painting?  Maybe- but I wonder. Aren't they speculating? One hears the words a "convincing case is made" for this sort of garr bahge. I enjoy asking the attendant guards have they gotten a buzzz occasionally from one or another of these world's greatest paintings? Responses are disappointing: no - it's just a job to them. I remember when I subbed for my poet friend at the Phillips back in the 60's ....I never forgot the Klee, the Hopper, the Bacon, the Arthur Dove ..... 

                                                                                        Lam and Spanish art                                               

below me and  Wifredo Lam in Madrid- Bornemeissen? Madrid is the kingdom of museums.

In 1960 for the magazine "Semana", Marta Traba) described in lyric terms approaching poetry the metaphysical role of light.

"No matter how many galleries one may visit, filled tho they may be with the most ingenious, the most dazzling, the most touching, and the most powerful of man's creations, there is nothing to compare with the handling of light in the works of Jan Vermeer of Delft. Better than anyone before or since, V understood that light is not merely the definitive element in painting but that which imparts life to being and objects in repose. This life has nothing to do with everyday existence, although outwardly it reflects the simplest of things-those to be seen in Dutch interiors. It is life infused with light, life preserved in a light that is eternal. It was Vermeer who came closest to realizing the great ambition, common to all artists, of making his painted creations immortal. The girl pouring from a jug and the girl pausing from her music reveal the metaphysical role performed by light. Light has captured their very essence, taking them by surprise, absorbed in themselves- creatures of air that once seen are never to be forgotten. It has raised them to the very peak of creative effort and sustains them there by its power, soaring over the heaven and hell of all other painting."

Oh, yes. This was an example of good writing about art- I noticed that of all the arts- drma, poetry, music, art seemed to attract the worst writers- the most obtuse, most needlessly complicated (especially the French writers). They were almost as bad as philosophers at making their thoughts clear (think of Whitehead, or Sartre or Wittgenstein?)

The Spanish say that the eye is the most erotic organ! To me it is the ear, but I can see what the Spanish mean! Their art seems somehow more passionate.

In June of `96 I got a couple of catalogues on a sale of Latin American art and then took out some books as well. These artists seemed generally more exciting than modern European or North American artists. I mean Rufino Tamayo, Matta, Lam, Covurrubias, Sequieros, Rivera, Obregon, the Cuban photographic realist Thomas Sanchez. There was emotion in these artists especially compared to the pop and abstract expressionist artists of North America. Passion and emotion is still the ruler by which I measure works of art. And what of politics?  I find myself siding with Tamayo in his criticism of the Mexican muralists (he thought them too representational, literal). What beauty he conjures forth. What color! As always I am torn. Where is the politics? Lam and Breton celebrated "negritude". These catalogues were my introduction to Wifredo Lam!! What power there is in Lam's primitivism. Here at last, a twentieth century painter who was religious, at least religion approached through vodoun and the Cuban Lucumia and Santeria.   

Lam seemed in a strange way successor to Gauguin, at least, he painted out of the tropics and had a great sense of color. They're both literary, narrative and religious. Gauguin seems gentler, dreamier. Would you call the colors fauvist?

 I finally bought a Lam, one of his Lithographs from the "Pleni Luna" series. To me it was the best one, bright with color, mysterious, totemic, very sexual, a madonna/bat mother with a spear for an arm with an upside down child, something to do with a Pierre Joseph poem "Innocence", which I hoped, if I could ever find it, would shed some light on the meaning of the print. The mother has breasts and barbs on her feathered wings, the child a little voudoun Elegua god hanging upside down presenting a triangle in an oval-a vagina? The print has nice sex AND violence. Lam's figures in the later work remind me a little of the cartoonish figures (god monsters) one sees in Mayan painting on walls in frescoes or on vases).

Lam himself wrote of "orishas"- that which possesses or empowers the devotee in Afro-Caribbean-Cuban religion. One example is Elegua (clearly in my print as the small round horned head). "Lam acknowledged that these small heads refer to Elegua and scholars such as Leiris, Daniel and Herzberg have provided more detailed explications."

I read about, "arrows in rapid flight that leave behind them the perfume of their primitive essence (is this from the poetry of Breton, Cesaire? No, it is from Lam himself!) or, Oya (god of dreams who dictates our destiny and watches over us in death), and that other god with hair of water, Ogue-Oriza (herb of the gods)". (I wonder what herb that was? marijuana, peyote? ahuasca- Dave's aside). "These beliefs, similar to the fires burning in our curiosity, keep alive the idea of animated stone, Elegua in the languages of our black brotherhoods. Like wounded birds they spread across (my) canvases the myths forged by primitive man. What's so curious is that these dramas so close to us seem like distant apparitions...knives...become in turn vigilant, disquieting, ready to open mortal wounds. Wings of evasion, omens of birds in flight" (or bats in Wifredo's case- Dave's aside). It seems they are "skimming the surface of our eyes in contemplation of their fleeing, their exodus, like tongues of fire in an anxious infinity". Another quote is: "elsewhere the sound of tom-toms in obsessive rhythm is materialized by light and shadow: sexes as tender or cruel as flashes of lightning, in the shape of flame, detaching their luminous appearances from the impenetrable darkness of night in the background."  Wifredo was a poet as well as a painter. This passage reminded me of the Costa Rican cloud forest at Monte Verde, the rain and river forests and black sand beaches of Tortuguero

These quotes are in a masterful essay by Valerie Fletcher in a book Crosscurents of Modernism: Four Latin American Pioneers; Rivera, Torres-Garcia, Lam and Matta. Ms Fletcher states: "No matter how involved Lam became in Afro-Caribbean subject matter, he retained an aesthetic delight in color and form. His most powerful compositions succeed in integrating formalist concerns with evocative themes. Motifs allude to orishas" (like knives, scissors, horses-Dave's aside) serve equally as abstract design components. He often structured compositions using elemental geometric shapes- triangles, diamonds, rhomboids, circles, crescents- elegantly balanced in arrangements anchored around a verticle and/or a horizontal axis." (at a later point, "an analogy may be made to the Veves - geometric designs drawn in the dirt to symbolize a spirit in Voodoo/ Voudoun and Abukua" (whatever that is?). Suggestive or polemical images and purely visual concerns do not simply co-exist, they become one- and therein lies Lam's supreme achievement". To which I say, yes, yes, yes.

Also, in notes to her essay, Fletcher writes: "Lam equally wanted to avoid the prettified, idealized imagery of a tropical paradise found in Henri Rousseau...L based his images on experience with a real place and culture, including negative undertones", "his art was influenced by Santeria".

Lam seemed to paint a vatic power into more of his works than most artists. Many artist have only two of three great paintings. With Lam and the other greatest painters, most of their works are powerful.

I was able to see Lam's "Light of the Forest" at Beauborg, the large Center Georges Pompidou museum in Paris (and took a phot of it although it was forbidden!) and was shown the Lam illustrations to Rene Char at Gallerie Lelong (a $10,000 book!) I had just purchased the "Catalogue Raisoinne" that Lam's widow Lou and his son Eskil had put together (a Volume 1 of the paintings, the Volume 2 is prints, drawings and etchings). The sales personnel at the Galerie that day was kind enough to allow me to "jetez une oeuil". We also saw several works by Tapies which were on display there. I got Madam Lam's address on the Rue Cedaine but she never responded to the two letters I sent her raving about her husband's work and asking her for an autograph.

I had stumbled across the Rufino Tamayo museum when we were in Mexico City and had thought about him ever since. When I finally got a book- the Bullfinch,  Rufino Tamayo, I felt satisfied- a wonderful color sense, especially, even if every painting looks as if it were done on a wall of stucco, as if it were a mural. Also I found content lacking from Tamayo (as if he did not think very deep thoughts- like Lam), and yet, there was something very musical in his colorful works....like Klee.

See two Lam works- one wonderful guache- leaves outlined in black on blue paper w other fab colors-at Morgan Library in NYC- Feb. 2002.

  Maxfield Parrish
            I  take photo of church at Norwich, Vt. (dave- print photo)  – compare  to Maxfield Parrish's  (MP) painting of the same subject- I can immediately see  how he has surrounded the church w a realm of fantasy- the “Parrish blue” sky w stars, some ever greens (well, maybe they WERE there in his day) and snow- nothing else.
            There are many cars in front as I shoot-  as mothers pick up their children from a little league game; the area is  bustling- and the church is in this context more in  a living human construct …but Parrish has left the church as a sort of icon in the in the  blue of imagination - as if it stood for New England- or who  knows what.
            There is a tremendous precision in his fantasy. He has the ability to enchant, to wield magic  There is an exceptional museum on MP in Windsor and I visit and chat w the honocho- Ms. Alma Gilbert- the living expert on MP who has written several books on him. One of the docents tells us about P’s methods- his underlay of blue and his varnishes. Ms. Gilbert says the wonderful, magical colors ARE in New Hampshire- the greens, the mauves, the yellows..(I still don't believe it- I went to Mt.Hermon a few miles down the road for 4 years- I should know). 

            I visit the nearby St  Gaudens site (a national park- - w rangers yet)  (which I had visited a long time ago)  to inquire about my our true goal- MP. His house, "The Oaks"-is nearby. They tell us exactly where at the Crittenden Bank- which has a Parrish painting but, as it turns out,  Ms. Gilbert- who lives there now- does not, for privacy’s sake,  want us to drive in

            We had a swell visit to the Portland Museum of Art on this same trip with high points?- the NC Wyeth, the Kents, the Hartley, and the Kiefer! I found Winslow Homer's studio on Prout's Neck and went round and took pictures even altho it was clear  that the neighbors on this tony, exclusive road did not  want interlopers- they had some no entry signs posted- I would feel the same way if I lived there.

              Homer is pedestrian contrasted to Parrish- he, like St. Gaudens, though not commonplace seems unimaginative (competent to be sure). He is a journalist- Parrish is an artist. What, after all, I ask Ms.Gilbert- who seems quite the showperson and spokesperson (she has written several books on P and is THE expert) is an artist interested in other than light? but cathy finds MP over the top and garrish.

              No- I see an influence from the Pre Raphaelites- I see him among the greatest of  American realists along w Wyeth (and NC too- his stunning Lobsterman in ? Cove at the Portland Museum of Art). It is the abstract expressionists who are too timid to be themselves and have to throw themselves after the latest trend.                              

 Rockwell Kent 

the same sort of clarity of light that informs his politics- a sharpness in the light- Kent's suns the brightest!


The painters of Maine occupy a special place in my heart: Rockwell Kent on Monhegan. Thoms Crotty who painted Turkey Cove where mother lived; John Marin whose area I visited around West Point and of course, Andrew Wyeth, and the illustrator Stow Wengeroth. Images of Maine often popped up in my brain- as in dreams- I had travelled down almost all of Maine's peninsulas to the end and would often think about them...think about N C Wyeth's "Cannibal Shores" done near the Martinsville beach- near where mother lived- visiting my folks on Hooper Island and near Port Clyde-  a magical landscape, visiting my prep school buddy, David Newman and his roomies, Frank and Chuck at their unbelievable place in  Cape Neddick , near Ogunquit, and his camp on Lake Chesuncook....the museums- Portland, Farnsworth, Ogunquit, and best of all Christina Olsen's house south of Thomaston.

Blake, Gibran

Two Mystic Painters:  Blake's manner of painting is very flat, almost an early expressionism? He liked the classic, the monumental, the sculptural and architectural and heavily outlined rather than naturalistic oil painting- but while his illustrations can be very powerful, they can also seem very naif or clumsy. Take the tiger he has drawn to illustrate his famous poem "The Tyger". This is a very bland and mealy mouthed tiger which does not go with the terrifying poem. The real tiger to go with this poem was done by Edvard Munch in 1909. I discuss Blake also in my essay on poetry. How could I not. But B's painting and illustration and drawing is great in the context of the words it accompanies. I note Blake's "morose" colors- roans, blues, sour yellows- wierd- the opposite of water colors?

Speaking of English artists, there was a wonderful Turner show at the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA); 3/24/2002; Turner contemporary w Blake but what opposite artists, or are they? T supposedly says on his death bed, "The sun is god"?  No one has painted the sun as well- well, maybe Kent- but T's is a fuzzy sun,  Art history is commenting on itself on the walls of the BMA in that there are many studies or drafts of T's that are not finished works. He would not have expected to see them on a museum wall- but they are wonderful impressionistic, unfinished watercolors they are- I think of my friend, Lawrence Goldsmith. T captures the sublime in nature- his paintings really are a force in that they put you into the middle of a storm! 

Reading Jack Lindsay's bio of Turner I realize I should do more than an aside on Turner. He is a great and seminal figure in art- the same way that Daumier was in France. I get the feeling that art historians or critics don't give him his due in the mode (which is so common) of- AO- he was popular enough in his own time to have enough consideration, or, his work is so OBVIOUSLY good that we don=t have to say [email protected] (It's as if art critics are so crippled in their own psyches (most of them) that they can not give credit where credit is due! He was deservedly popular in his own time. I try to imagine a meeting between him and Blake (has the makings of a great play). Lindsay reports: Falk states with no authority that Blake was T's pupil in 1798, T found him neglectful, and in revenge withheld notification of a lucrative commission. A more unlikely story it would be hard to find. 

A friend gives me a copy of Blake's "Red Dragon and Woman of the Sun" which I hang next to the bed. There are two versions of this- both from B's series on Revelation. Blake is illustrating some major principle of his universe, as usual. Is the woman Israel? Is she pregnant? Does she have as much power, or more than the dragon? Guess you have to read the Bible. It is too simplistic to say that B goes far beyond Turner, trying to spell out the most abstract philosophical precepts. To Turner the sun is God? But to Blake, we enter a world far greater than most artists. Turner sees what he sees (or does he?). Blake sees beneath. If the force of nature is tremendous in T's work, and man insignificant, then,  in B, nature is contained within man or woman- that makes B's monsters all the more terrifying or rapturous. What was B's opinion of T ?(probably negative). 

I get a book of Blake's illustrations-in water color- to Dante. This seems to me the best of Blake. 

Kahlil Gibran is a lovely artist in the spirit of Blake. His painting (is it of Mary ?) entitled "Autumn" is the most erotic painting I know. His oil "The Ages of Women" also a wonderful work. The spiritual shines through and there is a gret narrative and literary element to his works. I always wanted to read Gibran but, as with Nietsche, would either start and give up because he was too difficult or vaporous or because I simply never got around to it, never had the patience- my big flaw being lack of patience.

In his preface to the Abrams Raoul Dufy, Alfred Werner includes the following gems: "Jean Gerome had warned the state against accepting the Caillebotte Bequest, which included works by Manet, Monet, Sisley, Renoir and other Impressionists: "For the nation to accept such filth, there would have to be a great moral decline."

And I like Gerome. Gerome should have been f ked in the ass by Verlaine.

"Fauvism- "color for color's sake, as Derain defined it"- to which I say Hear! Here!

"But just as Dufy never became an unquestioning follower of Matisse, neither did he follow Braque in the steps that led logically to Cubism. "I don't follow any system- all the laws you can lay down are ONLY SO MANY PROPS TO CAST ASIDE WHEN THE HOUR OF CREATION ARRIVES." (MY CAPS) as might a pregnant woman or a woman giving birth might also say?

Cassou at Dufy's funeral says: "A little of the joy of living has gone away...we would love the sky and the earth less, from here on, if he had not left his immortal work."

"Blue is the only color that preserves its own individuality in all its intensities"- Dufy- and in his "Blue Mozart?- washes of celestial blue dominate."

Matisse comments on art as an armchair into which to relax from the cares of the world-good as far as it goes- see my essay on Trotsky and art- (it's at the end of the chapter entitled either Essay or Blue Running Light)

Question of Abstraction 

A friend told me that Jackson Pollack is painting the underbelly or ur text or archetype of the painting, what's going on underneath. In his case I doubt it or,  Hmmmm. I just don't get it. But I didn't mind Klee or Arshile Gorky, even our Baltimorean, Grace Hartigan (probably Balto.'s greatest artist of any period.)

In August of 2001, a nice tour at the East Wing of the National Gallery- where the docent talks about their Pollack- "Lavendar Mist" I think was the title. She shows us the progress to modern art from the impressionists on- through Derain and Braque, through Kandinsky and Mondrian up to the abstract expressionists and New York schools. I still like the 40's and 50's school of Paris- Jorn, Riopelle, Tal Coat, etc, much better than the New York School- although I do like De Kooning). She asks of the Pollack, "how long do you think it took him to do this work?" "O about 15 minutes", I chirp up sarcastically. "No", she ripostes, œ months" as if that is supposed to make it better. I ask her why it isn't displayed on the floor like he painted it? How did he decide which side is up? These artists seem lazy to me, I say, but another person on the tour defends Mondrian and speaks of the care that he took with his paintings. Some of these goofs were being honored when an artist like Thomas Nason or Stowe Wengenroth lived and was not being honored- except by many who loved and bought their work.

 The docent speaks movingly of some of the sculpture here also- the Moores, the David Smiths (I can take or leave), the English guy- Carr?- the student of Moore. They have a magnificent Ernst- the three seated figures- I believe it is a king and queen- can't remember. At the end of the tour, the docent states that this modern art has the four basic ingredients that makes all art- what were they- form, color- I forget. Yes, I reply but there is one basic it does not have- meaning (except for the ones I like- like Bacon or Kiefer). I could have added beauty- which is so lacking in the art I see this day. It is lacking both here and at the Hirschhorn where they have a Clyfford Still show going on (pathetic works). I ask the salesman at the Hirschhorn book store if he likes modern art, hoping for as much understanding as I can. Interestingly, he says, the good thing about modern art is that you can say- I like this over here, but not that over there. There is a lot of it. In the past, they told you what was good and what you should like. 

The British artist Francis Bacon has made very good statements about abstract art, notably: "I think painting is a duality, and that abstract painting is an entirely aesthetic thing. It always remains on one level. It is only really interested in the beauty of its patterns or its shapes....abstract artists believe that in these marks that they're making they are catching all these sorts of emotions. But I think that, caught in that way, they are too weak to convey anything." (I would say ditto to abstract music- rather serial music in the Schoenbergian manner, except for Berg whom I like)- Dave's aside. 

Bacon continues in a commanding, masterful way: "I believe that art is recording; I think it's reporting. And I think that in abstract art, as there's no report, there's nothing other than the aesthetic of the painter and his few sensations. There's never any tension in it."

Sylvester (the person interviewing Bacon): " You don't think it can convey feelings?" Bacon: " I think it can convey very watered down lyrical feelings, because I think any shapes can. But I don't think it can really convey feeling in the grand sense."

 Interviewer: "If abstract paintings are no more than pattern-,asking, how do you explain the fact that there are people like myself who have the same sort of visceral response to them at times as they have to figurative works?" Bacon: "Fashion".

Interviewer "You really think that?"

 I also liked the Italian Baroque master, Francesco del Cairo who, like Bacon, dealt well with horrific, shocking moods. I remembered his "Judith and Holofernes" from the 1960's when Louise and I visited the Ringling Museum in Sarasota. The defiant expression on her face has been captured by no other artist that I know of

 But to return to abstraction, I went to a print exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Art on 4/18/'99. Some 10 galleries are represented, several from New York. From Baltimore, C, Grimaldi's, and a couple of more. The prints are mostly of the New York school: abstract expressionism. There are some impressive Germans. One black and white photographer from Mexico stuck out- Graciela?  Otherwise, the atmosphere was oppressive. Most of the gallery personnel was dressed in black, it seems de rigeur when you're around such high priced art. Also I noted that one must speak in hushed tones. One lady, Ms. Edelson, from the Baltimore area yet, was distributing very "high end" art books. I inquired about the price of one; it was $2 or 3,000. She fairly hissed at me not to lean on one of the other books on the table. I moved away fast! Another young lady from New York was gingerly going through a portfolio of black blobs and splatters and lines on beautiful, expensive white paper, each print protected by tissue; I heard her say, "this was the last series Dick Dieberkorn did before his death". It was awful. The emperor has no clothes I though and felt like shouting out like Jesus in the temple: " this is a fraud, a sham". It seemed to say something about excess and capitalism. Peeeyew!

10/2004- I call a Mavis? Marnie? Goodman gallery in New York to inquire about Orozco photos- Anything under $500?  Snooty guy on the other end says Are you being facetious?  Turns out none go for less than $tens of thousands.

There was an ad running on tv at the time that perfectly captured my sentiments: it was an ad for the "Dunkin Donuts" chain of shops, shops that specialized in donuts. It had a guide taking a group through a museum of modern art and the guide was going on and on in an obviously satirized way about how this picture made us feel projections of this and another made us feel incarnations of that. The crowd looks puzzled and bored. Then, as the guide describes a work that is obviously pleasing, warm, comfortable, you see the crowd is gathered excitedly and engrossedly around this work of art but it turns out to be a guy sitting at a table having a Dunkin Donut bagel with cream cheese or a donut. That makes everybody happy. Of course, this is an oversimplification.I admire Pollack=s free works, I could see what Rothko was trying to do- it just seemed so limited- as Bacon says.

 Like Sister Wendy in her wonderful book 1000 Great Masterworks, I don't mind including in my listing of greats just a few abstractionists. Not so much the prolific pr man Picasso, by no means. His art was not pleasing as he well intended it NOT to be, in the main. I found it somewhat overrated. But there was an undeniable sense of design, flexibility and variety and humor and prolific, protean and dynamic variablility to it. Besides he HAD influenced the truly great Wifredo Lam! Lam is great because, like Bacon, he has passion, or, he puts passion into his work. Picasso puts more...design...into his work. I had purchased a book of Picasso's "Garnie de Californie" which was a series of pieces mainly about his studio at the Villa he called Californie and also an imposing Spanish woman. This was a powerful series.

Abstraction in art is sometimes mere decoration but it also provides good contrast- an antidote, perhaps a reaction to the photograph or the fuzzy impressionists. It is too easy to write abstraction off as a dead end.

I get the feeling that the greaterst artists of my time will work in different genres- like Gerhard Richter or Anselm Kiefer, Miquel Barequo or Tapies: Richter does photographic realism- paints from photos, he does color charts, he also does abstractions (and his abstractions are more beautiful than most). A quote from R: Athe big problem for painting today (early 2002) , the terrible side of modern art, is that you can now do anything and simply declare it to be art- with no sense of [email protected] Then again, I think,  maybe the great artist that is living is working in only one genre- as does Goldsmith in watercolors- each one a masterpiece. I visit the Richter show at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) on 3/9/=02 and find him to be the greatest living artist. He has a concept of the [email protected], his paintings are very musical. Although unsympathetic to their politics his works on the Bader Meinhof [email protected] are mournfully elegiac (they were, after all, individualistic terrorists). He reminds me of Bach in his shifting styles- he sort of sums up painting, he keeps it alive. He is a cultured, a learned artist and one wonders why he chooses the persons he uses in his series on scientists, artists, musicians, writers, except to say that these are his heroes. He deals with photography=s threat to painting in general. I am simply, powerfully moved! 

The Twentieth Century 

the greatest living artists: o- Gerhard Richter, ,Rufino Tamayo, David Hockney- it is wonderful how these persons are actually recognised in their own time- not so easy in poetry-Hockney says "It's the now that's eternal- continually" or, "we allways see with memory, through memory', or, on the possibility of an after life- "well- this life is a mystery- why couldn't there be another?"- how cartoonish H seems- like Lynda Barry or Charlotte Solomon- his fauve/garish colors-how much he owes to Van Gogh- the similarity between the Yorkshire landscape and Maryland. Richter's work on the Baader Meinhof- a special interest of mine- reminds me of the composer Bernt Alois Zimmerman- his "Requiem for a Young Poet"- his range of styles,  utterly fabulous works. Book to get- H's illustrations to Wallace Stevens poem "The Man w the Blue Guitar".

After a while, the impressionists, the fuzzy guys, kinda of paled on me . Of course, one had to credit them with having chosen a good direction.  One wondered, humorously, had some of them needed glasses? The presence of photography as their enemy becomes so tiresomely obvious. But then, the beauty in their works provides a good counter to the expressionists who reacted to them- Cezanne, Gauguin, van Gogh. 

Cathy especially liked Casatt and I agreed. How close her painting (in its brush stroke and use of color- not subject matter!)  is to Gauguin. Whe you get up close there seems to b a thousand colors in each stroke- there is a fragmentization that Van Gogh carries to extremes- it=s as if- w Cezanne and Cassatt and Gauguin and Pissaro and Veuillard and Bonnard and Renoir and Monet that you have to back up and look from a distance for the whole thing to come together- there must be a term or an expression for this. Atomisation?

Gerhard Richter- the Baader Meinhof series- a high point of this last century- elegaic fuzziness.

In the nineties I discovered the paintings of Charlotte Solomon, a Jew who died at Auschwitz. I sensed her a greatly undervalued artist, one's whose time was yet to come. She is a narrative, a literary artist, and all the more powerful one given the story of her "Life or Theatre".  


Whether by Peter or another- there is a whole series devoted to Charlotte at the Bread and Puppet museum. 

Attended the Van Gogh show at the National Gallery on 12/18/'98. One HAS to love Vincent- he is so intense, so sincere. My favorites are: yellow house at Arles, since I had been there; the blue behind the house makes it stand out all the more, also the room in that house; my favorite portrait - the one where the bits a la Seurat radiate out from his face as if exploding; wheat field with crows, which may or may not be menacing. Mainly it is full of energy as is most of VG. I strain hard to listen as the narrator on the audio tape that is provided quotes from one of VG's last letters.  I cannot quite hear what he is saying; is it, "I have wrested my art from my life and now my reason is foundering" or, more probably, "I have risked my life for my art and my reason is foundering"? This amuses. How about "floundering"?

I think one of the modern drugs (Respirdol, Prozac, Effexor or Zyprexa) for schizophrenia, or one of the drugs for manic depression(which may have been VG's condition) might have saved his life, as opposed to those drugs in some ways as I am. It might have ruined his painting, also, I realize.

 One tourist in the crowd at the V G  exhibit says of the "Wheatfield w Crows", "there's a pretty picture". "Pretty" it isn't! Powerful, yes, depressing?, not necessarily; intense; agitated; stormy, capturing the dangerous element of a storm, not just the titillating. Tornadic? Hurricanic? Mistralythic?  The IMAX movie on VG is very enlightening in that the close ups of many of his works are very hugely CLOSE UP! as he says he is like a bricklayer.

As with Edvard Munch, V G's honest-integrity-sincerity-intensity stands/screams out! Munch was an artist of giant integrity, unflinching. He showed us our anxious, death ridden side. His few idyllic moments seem all the more powerfully filled with pathos because they are few and far between and painted with the same bold brush strokes- the two or is it three girls on the bridge, for example, but is this really so idyllic? M's self portrait in old age- between the clock and the mirror or is it bed? is especially harrowing. And in the same vein, there is the above mentioned Francis Bacon?  He shoves in our faces the tortured, screaming, foul rag and bone shop hunks of meat we are. The horror, fantasist H.R. Geiger (who designed the creature and its lair for the science fiction movie- "Alien") is surely worth a mention.

In a book entitled  Modern Trends, published by Skira in 1960, I saw more modern Europeans of real merit. These were not well known artists in America (except for the Americans),  and were decorative artists to be sure rather than artists of deep significance, as are most abstractionists, but they were ones which would stand the test of time and will probably increase in stature: Jorn, Tal Coat, Magnelli, Bill, Albers, Mortensen, van Velde, Bissiere, Bazaine, Baziotes, le Moal, Manessier, Birolli, Singier, the plastered slabs in de Stael, Esteve, Lanskoy, Hartung, Soulages, Winter, Kline, Motherwell, Afro, Miro, Matta, Gorky, Sutherland, Mathieu who's paintings look like signatures, Riopelle, Hofmann, de Kooning, Nay, Appel, Lataster, Dubuffet, Burri, Tapies, Baziotes, etc. The fact that many of these paintings looked like the work by gorillas at zoos did not, I suppose, lessen their accomplishment. Some were really pretty.

 I liked to call one clot of the European guys the "kaleidescope school of painting": Manessier, Bissiere, Riopelle, for example, because their work had so much color. De stael, with his massive blocks, slaps or, best of all, slabs, rather, of color was another wonderful one. The wonderful American poet, Wallace Stevens, had admired and collected Tal Coat.

I always had liked Kandinsky. I liked John Marin. I liked Hopper..... great show at the National Gallery- the light of Truro, the Cape....like Maine, like Carmel.

Painters like Dufy and Matisse seem a bit on a higher level? a more prolific level? 

More random notes on some artists 

You could see that some living artists were painting in many different styles, in rebellion against this same-style-all-my-life routine, adopted different styles throughout their lifetime. The thought to paint in different styles never had occurred to the great masters. It's as if we are more restless and nervous, less steady.

 I looked for the same power that I sensed in Lam (and Picasso to a lesser degree) and used him as a yardstick but couldn't plainly see which living artists are great except Wyeth (now dead- (2009) and Anselm Kiefer and Robert Motherwell and Tapies. I know that there is a comment (by whom?) about how hard it is to recognize the great artist who lives amongst us (why?) There were many great anonymous graffiti artists in Paris, Europe in general and the U.S. big cities, that was clear. What city seemed to tolerate it more than New York? It was obvious that painting in dangerous locations was part of the artist's thrill- evidenced by paintings you whizzed by in the darkest subway tubes. 

Andrew Wyeth is a religious artist, in a strange, very understated way. If you studied his paintings long enough you feel that you might be able to find the philosophic and religious meanings in each one. Start with "Christina's World",  the book edited by  Betsy Wyeth. He could paint someone crossing a field in Maine ("what was the title of that work") and you knew it had meaning outside the frame of the work. You had to study him, read about him to start to get the gist of the paintings.

 "Cristina's World" is such a testament to the human spirit and human capacity to resist and fight you could almost call it a great political painting (but it is not so direct) (see my Manifesto #9 re art and politics). I found it moving, partly,  because I knew the place so well. It was across the St. Georges river from mom's house. I got a brief note from Betsy Wyeth about the boathouse that obstructs the view of Cristina's house in Maine and what a desecration that is; she also mentions the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, the same Farnsworth that had turned down a major retrospective of Rockwell Ken's works because of his politics. In Jan. of 2001 I write B again, sending her a picture that has been reproduced in a Harper's Magazine by a certain Brad Eberhard!, showing some one in a squid suit crawling towards Cristina's house in an exact, surreal, comic take off on the great painting. I ask B if she and Andy have seen the picture- and ask for A's autograph. I am sure to tell her that Brad Eberhard is no relation to me.

 Kent was also a super painter in the realist mode- oils that ached with light- often the northern light of Greenland or Monhegan Island or Maine or the Adirondacks. need to write more re Kent, whose politics I agreed with as well. There are/ have been many wonderful Maine and especially Monhegan Island artists. Wonder why Carmel, Calif, has not produced as many? But it did produce photographers!- Weston, Adams.

Reuben Tam painted on Monhegan.  Lawrence Goldsmith, lived in Vermont but summered on Monhegan. Maine had played host to many great artists- Kent, Wyeth, N.C. and Andrew, Goldsmith, Wengenroth, Nason, Hartley, Marin, Welliver, Tam,  Fairfield and Eliot Porter were only some of the most known. Goldsmith had written a much used text on water color Watercolor Bold and Free, but his works were wonderful luminous affairs with wonderful palettes and a wonderful use of line- not too abstract landscapes many set in Vermont and Maine. I wanted one  “Sharp Edges” for my book of poems Blue Running Lights, but at $1,000 could not afford it (later bought it for $1400). Goldsmith was kind enough to grant me one time use only rights to "Sharp Edges" which portrayed the Monhegan Island bluffs (where I had pondered suicide). I looked forward to meeting him. 

Two other (dead) New Englanders: Stow Wengenroth was a lithographer who captured the Maine in the Penobscot Bay, Rockport, Rockland, Camden midcoast area where my mother lived (Tenants Harbor, Port Clyde) better than anyone else. He worked only in black in white and yet he captures light and shade better than color, better than the photograph!!  His medium - lithographs from stone plates.Thomas Nason was another sublime New England artist- his medium B wood block etchings- startling black and white contrast. Some of his works seem colored even though they are only in black and white- they are so real. When I think of the acclaim given an Andy Warhol at the same time that these two conservative artists were working- it's disgusting! Nason and Wengenroth's art shows craft! Workmanship, care! Thoughtfulness. Warhol's art? the trendiness of critics and navel gazing. A reputation that will fade in time.

Maine painters in general- Thomas Crotty seems to have taken up where Wyeth leaves off- lonliness of space, paints places I know personally such as Drift-In Beach- (as did NC Wyeth- "Cannibal Shores" and his iconic lobsterman in the Portland Museum).

In July of '99, I received a painting I'd actually commissioned- from Ouray Meyers of Taos, whose work I'd admired since I first saw it at his Spirit Runner gallery while on vacation. I sent him some poems with western themes and he actually painted some aspens- although the ones in the poem were in a different setting than his. For a work sight unseen, I was very pleased with the piece- mostly evening sky tapering into a wonderful Maxfield Parrish royal blue, beneath that violet mountains like the ones behind Taos, in front of them black purple mountains and then the bushy line of golden, yellow aspens. Ouray also wrote a kind note to go with the painting.

 My friend, Lynn Sachs: I view her "Horror Vacui" and "Biography of Lillith" which are presented at this old school that the city has turned into a gallery. I first met Lynn when she came to interview me for a film she is making on the Catonsville 9. For now she is going to call it "Invitation to a Flame" but I think she needs a catchier title. Her "Horror Vacui" consists of a bed in a room you go into. There are two tv screens and one projection The same day I drop in on friend Lynn Sach's installation at School 33. I am very impressed on the wall. The larger screen shows Lynn puttering around, her silhouette before a window flooded with amazing sun. Two mirror like screens within the screen show other abstract daubs of color. I am fascinated by the color and am won over to the installation concept- at least in Lynn's hands. I think she sort of intends this to be a demonstration of boredom, and yet with the sunfilled window, it becomes not so boring. Lynn should "go far" and I consider would she do a cover for my next book of poems? 

Actually, I used my mother’s best painting- and only abstraction, for the cover of Blue Running Lights

I bought a sculpture and a painting from Dave Pierick- Louise’s new husband. I like his work. It is very colorful- the painting a vibrant abstraction.


In a strangely obsessive, fetishistic way- the Ingres show at the National Gallery, summer of '99. He did sheer fabric and portraits better than anyone. Did he have a silk fetish. The blues or was it greens of one of those dresses, my God!! He does fabrics as nice as Vermeer's rugs. The womens= dresses- glistening. Gerome.

 Daumier show at the Phillips in DC on 3/11/2000. Here is a protean, immensely influential painter- the influence on modern art is clear- the contrast with Ingres couldn't be greater. I like especially the Don Quixote paintings. Daumier's color sense is drab but wonderful within its own dictates. His politics?  The French have "been there" long before us in many matters. Henry James complained that Daumier was not cheerful enough and couldn't paint the more beautiful. James must not have seen the painting of the child bathing in the Seine, or of the young girl (also in a river?). Daumier is a political artist- scathingly, wickedly witty.

 In August, 2000, I see a show at the Corcoran in Washington, D.C. on Norman Rockwell. It is a moving exhibition. I like especially his portrait of the young girl in puberty who gazes at herself in a mirror, wondering about the future. His story paintings (some tell MORE of a story than others) like the family tree showing an American genealogy or the talking heads of gossips talking to each other or the "Coming and Going" painting where the family is shown going expectantly to an outing to the lake and then coming back, fatigued and grouchy are wonderful.

I go to the "Orientalism" show at the Walters and especially enjoy paintings by Mowbray and Bridgeman (woman reclinging on a couch), again- Maxfield Parrish (as always) and his "Rubaiyat" and the exceptional John Singer Sargeant's Arab girl in white.

Two fab shows in D.C. in 2002 and 3- Bonnard at the Philips and Veuillard at the National: Bonnard the more interesting, although very much like the early Veuillard, the small, Vermeer influenced interiors, many colored fabrics. Veuillard seems sort of a sell out at the end? The Lautrec show at our own Baltimore Museum of Art- I see it on 2/ 22/04. Another in a well done series on the French at the turn of the century. And, what makes it better- I have been there- to Giverny, to Arles and Auvers sur Oise, to Montmartre and Montparnasse. 

The Balto. Museum has a wonderful virtual recreation of the Cone sisters apartment over on Eutaw St.- the way it was. If you put your finger on a painting on the screen, the artist=s name and title are given. You can proceed down hallways and into rooms by putting your finger on the screen. This is fabulous contexting- like the museum that has bween made of Christina Olsen's house. I wish more art in context was done! How created, how displayed by the owner. It is like giving a beautiful frame to a piece of art. 

Adrian de Coort, Saura, Tapies

Assorted Other Notes 

C made the point, after seeing the surrealist fur-lined cups and women with horse heads that the works by living artists were attempts to shock in the same way- it had all been done before. I noted mixed materials (like the dirt and sand in the Tapies), mixed modern medias (say film combined with paint), very little attention to beauty, but plenty of attention to horror shock and violence (a la F. Bacon). Cathy went to the scandalous show of young British artists in Brooklyn which became a cause celebre with the Mayor withdrawing funding then court ordered to restore funding (slices/ sections of a cow preserved in formaldehyde or a Madonna done with elephant dung). 

 Truly great political paintings are in Goya, the Delacroix of the woman/girl with the bare breasts holding up the tricolor at the barricades (but of what faction was she a member- the Jacobins?), David's "Marat" then, how about that Chagall where Lenin is standing upside down? or, in a reactionary way, the Dali where Lenin is playing the piano with his ass (for which Dali was kicked out of the communist leaning surrealists or either it was the Communist Party) ( a different version seen at Beauborg). Doesn't the key figure in the Goya of the  firing squad provide a nice, more real contrast to the idealized Delacroix girl w the tits on the barricade? just as Nadar's photo of Chopin contrasts Delacroix's preposterous painting of C! We must mention Charlotte Salomon, Picasso's "Guernica" and several contemporary German artists I learned about from Peter Schjeldahl in a New Yorker magazine article of Dec. 11, 2000: Kiefer, Richter, and Polke. Richter's "Baader-Meinhof" series are particularly striking. He also mentions Sue Coe and James Rosenquist. He speaks of "great political art" as a "tiny category". For sure.

 What I would paint were I a painter ? or, paintings I would like to commission: van Leuwenhook administrating Vermeer's estate, Emily Dickinson meeting Henry Thoreau walking in the New England woods; William Blake meeting Jane Austen on the streets of London; a portrait of Isabelle Eberhardt running into Arthur Rimbaud in north Africa; the elders of Leipzig trying to decide whom they will hire as choirmaster listening to Bach's cantata entry (some are picking their nose, some are asleep, some are otherwise distracted, but one has just a glimmer of the genius that is enfolding); Strauss standing before the gates of Theresianstadt demanding to see his Jewish relatives and being told by some cretinous guard to fu k off before he gets shot!; Howard Hughes who, like me, had Obsessive-Compulsive disorder after taking his new prescription of Prozac (although it hadn't yet been developed by Lilly), maybe agreeing at last to come out of his reclusive motel room; the boxing match between the poet Wallace Stevens and Ernest Hemingway; Ravel driving his ambulance in World War I; the death of poet Wilfred Owen in that same war. I'd have most of these done in the style of photographic realism. I might commission one of the Victorians like Millais or maybe Gerome or Borgereau or Corot; maybe get Wyeth to do a painting of administrators at the Farnsworth museum refusing a collection of Rockwell Kent's pictures because of his political views. I would commission Bach the first time he hears Tchaikovski's Nutcracker. Or me sitting to the side watching the ballet numbers in the [email protected] as does Clara in the ballet. These might make good play material as well. Maybe several different scenes in one play or a movie. 

In the marvelous coincidence department: you know the great Gauguin painting on which he has inscribed three questions: "Where are we going? What are we? and Whence do we come? to which questions G had no answer. I am reading a quote from Thoreau which accompanies a marvelous painting by Marsdan Hartley- "Mount Katahdin" in my little book, Paintings of Maine. The quote is from T's The Maine Woods: "While descending from Mr. Katahdin I stand in awe of my body, this matter to which I am bound has become so strange to me. I fear not spirits, ghosts, of which I am one, - that my body might, - but I fear bodies, I tremble to meet them. What is this Titan that has possession of me? Talk of mysteries! Think of our life in nature, - daily to be shown matter, to come in contact with it, -rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks! the solid earth! the actual world! the common sense! Contact! Contact! Who are we? where are we?" this from 1834

 Martin Johnson Heade: the greatest American painter (of course there were greater illustrators- like Audubon, or should we call him a painter?). Along with Sargeant, Heade goes his own way, gets intoxicated with the same things as me- orchids, hummingbirds, flowers, light. He chooses special light- the light of storms, of late afternoon, the light of the tropics, the light of wetlands in Massachusettst. And yet he does not play the grandeur game. Many of his canvases are actually of modest size. As Manthorne says: "microcosm becomes macrocosm".  Stebbins writes, "these paintings do not celebrate place, like Church's, but almost imperceptible movement of time in nature". "Time in nature"- my question, what does that mean? Anyway- it sounds nice!! I see Heade's great "Study of an Orchid" at the New York Historical Society Museum on December 28th, 2001 and take a forbidden photo of it! At an exhibition entitled European Landscapes at the Corcoran I visit on 9/15/7- I notice that Cazin has the same special sense of light- his landscape with the windmill stands out in that the light hits the wind mill in a certain way- there is also a rainbow- I believe and one knows that he doesn=t just do any old light- as do so many landscape painters.

Visit to Olana and Thomas Cole’s studio, other notes

In December of 2000 I get Sister Wendy's 1000 Masterpieces out of the library. I wirte her that the book is itself a "masterpiece". There are many Italians represented. But, I point out to her- she left out Wifredo Lam!! a major boo boo in my opinion. Her anthology is an eye opener. Wonder of wonders, I get a nice note back: she sends love to "art loving Dave", and states that there were many gaps in the book- says she loves Lam and reveres Heade and is now (Jan. of 2001) interested in oriental/ Chinese art. Sister Wendy does a great book on art in American museums- a must for beginners.

Great artists who were also great poets? Lam (altho he didn't write much poetry), Lorca, Blake, Cummings, Henry Miller? (but neither his prose nor art is much good). As Schumann could write about music, his own art.

A friend of mine's son had, as a child,  painted one of a sort of tropical fish of great color and design in an expressionist mode that rivaled any of the greatest modern painters I felt sure- but he only painted that one work. Then, in their book "    of the Gods", Hoffman and Schultes have included a couple of paintings that were either done by mental patients or persons on powerful drugs- like peyote and lsd- and these paintings, to me, are clearly as powerful as the Lams I loved and many other paintings. They packed emotional punch. There were visionary artists at the Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore who had painted but single masterpieces and were little known, or there are and have been artists about whom no one knows who have created masterpieces.

In September of 2000 I obtain a book of seriographs by the Calif. artist Eyvind Earle. I was struck by a pice of his work I noticed on the back of a magazine on our recent trip from Monterey through Pacific Grove, Carmel and on down through Big Sur to L.A. Earle is definitely, along with Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, the artist of this coast. His color schemes are wonderful, his shadow work wonderful (the way light falls across fields) like Maxfield Parrish's. Earle's work reminds me of a favorite illustrator- John Vassos; it has a similar art deco feel although Earle is called a "designed realism" artist and is strongly associated with Disney, for whom he worked. See also under photography: Edward Weston.

In Aug. and Sept. of 2007 I purchase two by Baltimore artists- one by  Paul Mintz who is helping me try to sell mom's Parkhurst paintings- a watercolor where the contrast makes the light part seem almost flourescent and then a smaller piece by Jack Livington- an abstraction entititled [email protected] I go to the opening reception for Jack's work at the Minas Gallery in Sept. and it is one of the best parties I have ever been to. I get to talk to the artist himself- his work is impressive- the hor d'oeuvres are impressive, John Waters is there and tells me No, I cannot come to his Christmas party!

Paintings I own- a Wifredo Lam from “Pleni Luna” series ($800)- “Rough Edges”- ($1400) Lawrence Goldsmith, untitled- Ouray Meyers (500) ,  “Snow on Mt. Olive”,  Lisa Rigby,  (600) series- Dave Pieryck (Pyrick) (300) + a sculpture (300),  “Pasture” (100) , watercolor by Jack Livingston,  “ Floating Garden“ (150),   Paul Mintz.  , Greenmount Cemetary photo by Adriana Amari (300) , 2 cemetary photos by Ryan Coffman  (95), “   “ Heinz  (300) 

In March, 2007, I purchase ($500)  a large canvas by Lisa Rigby, a senior at the Maryland Institute College of Art. It is entitled “Snow in/on? Mt. Olive” which turnes out to be a town near Winston Salem, N.C., where Lisa lives. She admits to influences by Helen Frankenthaler. It is a delicate abstraction with a large swath in it of an interesting green- a milky, bluish green- highly intriguing- almost too large for our living room.Later I get another "Pack up the circus" for $300.

 My sister has put together a calendar- 12 of my mom’s charming watercolors. I have the one abstraction she did (with help from her teacher) framed in an ornate Louvre style frame; I have also used it as the cover for my book of poems: Blue Running Lights.

 In June of 2008, after attending a reunion of the class of �� at Mt. Hermon I visit my brother, Tim, in Vermont and visit the Bread and Puppet Theatre Museum in Glover, Vt. I meet Peter Schumann, traipse through the museum taking many pictures, buy some posters, leave my poems (Blue Running Lights)  and leave P some cigars and later receive the following note w a charming drawing worth?)  and a pamphlet entitled “seventeen questions about the iraq war”:

 “thank you oh poet and federal prisoner and war protester colleague; as you can see in this documentary cigar and poetry go together and make any man reasonably happy even if poet’s subject matter is not often the happy making kind”. I am thrilled, needless to say and write Peter back:

Dear Peter Schumann,

Are you related to Robert Schumann?

I am a poet (and anti war protester) who left you a copy of my poems- Blue Running Lights and some cigars a while ago and you sent me the “Seventeen Questions About the Iraq War”.

 Bitte- the following questions- 

Have you read Kleist’s “Uber die Marionette Theatre”? If so, what does he say? I have never seen a translation- although there may be one. I find Kleist’s work intriguing-  much more important than Goethe’s Goethe is like a “goody two shoes” compared to the bad boy Kleist- K’s sexuality- his problem with duality. Kleist is perhaps right wing, however!! 

Two, I put you in a pantheon with the following: Brecht, Weil. Weiss, Peter Watkins. Have I left any one else out? If so- let me know- I will read them. I feel that you are one of the greatest of anti-war artists- right up there with Callot, Dix and Goya.

Three- if you answer me these questions, I will incorporate them into my writing and make us both famously immortal (a joke) (who cares abt it and why would any power structure recognize us?!?)

 Also- I will send you a box of the cigars of your choice- (I like strong ones- Flor Domincana, Don Lino Africa, etc.) but seriously…can you pass such an offer up?

 Again thanx for the drawing of the person smoking a cigar I have it on the Home page of this web site). It made me think you would do very gooe erotic drawings, nicht wahr?     Best, Dave Eberhardt  (He didn’t respond.) P's drawing is at the bottom of my home page. He never wrote me back.


 Photography is hard to judge- is the photog's work great or was he just at the right place and the right time?  In Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter=s cases- there was much more to it than that!! The older I got- the important phography became for me! Weston, Adams,  Frank, DeCarava- I could see the importance of it- the immediacy. I woul;d never say poetry was an art form that was dying. But film and photography? You could see how much more appealing it was- on the face of it! My first booklet had been the "Soul Book" for CORE (Congress On Racial Equality) with Carl X. And there are only two of them in existence!

Eliot Porter bordered on the kitschy- but he keeps enough off-balance in his work to always make it interesting. I owned all of his books and lusted after his images, which I could not afford. My favorite was his book on the Glen Canyon- The Place No One Knew.

Porter's only book in black and white- the New Mexico is a startlingly dramatic, even scary (in that the landscapes seem so lonely and death ridden) work. I wondered if I studied Porter enough would I begin to notice subtle differences between his earlier, more mature and late works? Porter seemed musical to me and his compositional and color sense was just right. I was familiar with the mid coast Maine EP had shot and had looked into getting a boat ride out to the island where he had done the most work in Maine- Great Spruce Head- near North Haven. His sons still summered there. As w painting- Maine offered a special light, a special coast. Porter rarely shot people and I got the feeling that in the three photos I knew that had people (there may be more)- the Maine lobster man, kids and merchants in China, and his own baby- Porter achieved the utmost spontaneity and honesty. His work radiated the patience he must have learned from the shots of birds he had taken when he began in photography. I had a video on EP that showed him to be a most fastidious worker, a man of integrity like few artists. I had all of his books and especially liked Nature's Chaos which focused in on the design and the random in nature.

 Porter's best prose analysis of his own work is in a book entitled Landscape Theory. There is a nice video on EP.

Next to Eliot- Edward Weston's My Camera on Point Lobos. Best black and white landscape photos ever.

 Outstanding exhibit at the Corcoran, 9/15/7- Ansel Adams- from the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. Several of Adams stand out, to me, in his treatment of black- where black becomes velvet- the Cemetery monument w Oil Derricks in the Background, the Aspen where the edge of the trunk is so bright as to seem silvery, the one w one mtn. Behind another and the mtn. In the foregorund is studded w black pine trees- creating an awesomw contrast (was it in New Mexico?) One can see Adams debt to music and Porter's debt to Adams!.  I make the remark that if Adams hadn't taken these shots, some one would have come along to do it...but, maybe not. The national parks shots seem so naturally there!         

Like Ansel Adams, Minor White worked most in black and white. There is a lyricism, a musicality to both his and Adams work (Adams played, or was it listened to? Bach). White is very restrained and subtle compared to Adams. (did he say something neat about the abstract in photography?) Adams had eschewed color- foolishly so, in my opinion. Minor White is almost too severe, too abstinent, too what can I say,....I try to imagine what he would have done in color? Robt Franks is also lyrical.

Harry Callahan was a photographer who used color and composition well in his works. I got the feeling that many well known photographers were overrated. But I considered myself an amateur in my knowledge of photography and had to admit I was very amateurish as a photographer- since I did not even know that 400 film would have worked better in the Paris museums- where many of my pictures turned out dim!

The Mexican, Gabriel Orozco- o so exceptional

In October of 2000 I get a book I've known about for a long time, Edward Weston's My Camera on Point Lobos (not a first editin).. Having just been TO Point Lobos, it is time to get the book and my suspicions are confirmed: it is fabulous: Weston's black and white images capture the Point as if it were a piece of music. In the edition I have (Da Capo) there is a faintly brown tinge- (sepia?). This is the greatest black and white photo book I have seen (unless there is one with Lewis Carroll's photos). This coast, like the Maine Coast, the Kona and Kuaii Coast is special. Weston did some color shots of it as well, but they have that old Kodachrome tinge and seem undistinguished. I think of the coastal artists I love: Evelyn de Buhr, Eliot Porter, Earle, Weston, Wyeth, Kent, Heade.

After 2000 I became more and more interested in art photography of my own. I had after all in the sixties collaborated with Carl X on the Soul Book which had his black and white photos and my text. It concerned the civil rights movement and had been done to benefit the civil rights organization CORE, of which I was a member. I realized I was following in the footsteps of my father), doing more and more photo essays as I passed 45. These were poetry and photo combos put into attractive albums B my camera a standard $300 Canon. They started with a bit on a retreat center in Richmond where we had an O.A. R. gathering- that was a sort of homage to Jane, my totem bird the cardinal, and the James River- proceeding through a bit in one of my scrapbooks on a boat parked up inland on some snowy land (like they do in Maine near the coast), a longish photo essay on my reactions to the 9/11/2002 event using flower and sculpture gardens around the Smithsonian on the mall in D.C.,  then to some sunsets from the Johns Hopkins Homewood Field where I worked out in memorial to George Harrison and then to an essay on a sense of place and then:

Photos of Joel-Peter Witkin- harrowing- his goals.

Robert Frank....my first thot was dismissive but....in The Americans Robert Frank also captured the americans- the loneliness, the aimlessness- the photos sitck in yr. brain:  Butte Montana- the juke boxes, the endless road, a preacher by the river, the accidents, the car rides, Hollywood, no where does there seem much purpose- could only an outsider have observed this all?

 his movies - what i saw of them- " C cksucker Blues" and the Patti Smith- so much blech


Coatlicue, stone sculpture; in the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City. [Credits : Courtesy of the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, Mexico City] Coatlicue- Aztec Goddess-  Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City- What would Jesus, the pale Nazarene of Nietzche (sp?)e say about it? Smash it to pieces- like Dogon or the gods of the Philistines. And yet it will not be denied. nor will D H Lawrence nor any of the primal instincts of men and women! The Aztecs and Papua New Guineans and other tribal artists- Africa, Norh west America? they! they  have created the most powerful sculpture in the world, no one could disagree. The Coatlicue- or skirt of snakes represents the earth which both consumes/devours and regenerates life. see also in


 File:20041229-Coatlicue (Museo Nacional de Antropología) MQ.jpg

Aztec Mother Goddess Coatlicue - now in Museum of Anthropolgy, Mexico City   8'9" tall (the mothers! there are the ones in america- the fathers just sort of faded away- they were always "away"- out in the woods hunting or something!

this originally posted on Baltimore's Read Street blog: Just saw the Poe exhibit at BMA (10/'09)- had the thought that western art and illustrators can't really do Poet justice- they should have brought up some of the pieces from Africa or Oceania or Mexico. Poe's terrors and fears we all have, but western art - especially American (except for Poe)-does not go honest or deep enough to capture his more tribal, hieratic, vatic, iconic, ur-text concerns. The great head of Coatlicue- Museo de Anthropoligie-, Mexico City,  this art communicates what Poe was talking about- or Aztec ceremonial sacrifice knives- also in the same museum

I try to imagine what Christ would have said if confronted with this head-  Christ would have said  just what the Old Testament  Israelites said about Dogon and other Philistine idols- he would have wished it smashed into pieces. Still it is a beautiful, terrrific work of art that will no more be denied than any instincts of human kind- than D H Lawrence.

"Coatlicue: The Goddess, demon, monster, and Masterpiece

Aztec Coatlicue figure, Tenochtitlan
Circa 1487-1521
Stone, Height 3.5 meters
Museo Nacional de Antropologia
Mexico City, Mexico

Coatlicue: The Goddess, demon, monster, and Masterpiece

The great statue of Coatlicue was torn down from the great temple of Tenochtitlan where she had reigned as a goddess before the Spanish Conquistadors buried her as a pagan idol. She remained buried until August 13th, 1790, when city workers discovered the colossal statue as they were removing pavement from the Plaza Mayor in Mexico City. They unearthed it and discovered that it was a ten ton sculpture of the Aztec deity Coatlicue which translates to “She of the skirt of serpents.” The colonial mayor arranged for it to be taken to the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico as a “monument of American antiquity.” The Aztec statue was placed in the university collection of plaster replicas of Greco-Roman works. The professors at the university decided the sculpture should be buried back in the place it was found. The Aztec image not only rekindled the Indigenous Natives memory of their ancient beliefs but artistically its very presence was vulgar compared to the other collections in the cloister.

She was again excavated briefly in 1804 so that German Baron Alexander von Humboldt could examine the massive sculpture; she was soon reburied for her repulsive image.

The Great Coatlicue, so named by archaeologists to distinguish it from other sculptures of the same deity, was not excavated until years after the Mexican Independence (September 16, 1810). She was kept hidden in a corner of a patio of the university, then behind a screen, as an object of curiosity and embarrassment; later it was placed in a visible location, as an object of scientific and historic study. Today she occupies a central position in the great hall dedicated to Aztec / Mexica culture in the world renowned National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. Although the Coatlicue monolith was always the same object, the meanings attributed to here metamorphosed from Goddess to demon, from demon to monster, and from monster to present day Masterpiece.   

 In sculpture, Rodin, naturally, was the tops, but one would have to include the anonymous Aztec and Mayan sculptors I had seen in many books. I had seen them as well as in person at the great Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. The giant stone goddess Coatlicue there is perhaps the world`s greatest sculptural piece. One pictures Jesus, the pale Nazarene, standing in front of this goddess to rebuke to the violence she represents. And yet, one wonders, does not the Mexican piece represent more of reality, its blood, its violence, its death than does all the religious art of the west. Nearby are great calendar stones and altars, even ones on which humans were sacrificed. Around the corner in a glass case are the obsidian knives that excised beating human hearts. O the Aztecs cut to the quick in their art, they did not mince words. Talk about the underlying, the gut emotions.

 The "Orpheus and Eurydice" of Rodin's, stepping forth from their marble was my favorite piece of sculpture. It is a theme, after all, that of love lost I had dwelt upon/within in many a poem, especially in The Tree Calendar...about the days before Cathy, the days of Louise and Jane and other lost loves. Along the same lines- a piece at the Cimitiere Montparnasse- a woman lying beneath a huge slab- throwing a kiss to a standing man who has his hands over his eyes- as if in grief? Shame? Is this about Orpheus also, or a husband wife separating in death? It struck a  deep nerve again. There was more fab sculpture here at Montparnasse and the cemetery Pere Lachaise and Montmartre than anywhere other than the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

 There was a beautiful sculpture garden across from the Hirschorn on the Mall in Washington. I liked especially the Naum Gabo and Miro monuments and wrote about them and took photos of them for my photo and text essay "An American Requiem". Also the humorous works of the rabbit on a rock which parodies Rodin's "Thinker" by Jim Dine, whose works deserve attention,   the optical illusion house by Rauschenberg? that looks as if it came out of a comic book, and the giant typewriter eraser by Oldenburg.

I liked Isamu Noguchi. C and I went to the Henry Moore exhibit at the National Gallery in December of 2001 and I took some photos (forbidden!!). Moore's greatness was evident. I especially liked the pieces in elm wood. Outside this "new wing" (by Pei) of the National is a huge Moore bronze- what is the title? Knife edge and ? Also they have recently installed the Frank Stella piece (another large one) on Heinrich von Kleist- a very, very interesting and evocative work (although Stella sounded like an idiot being interviewed on Terry Gross's radio program' "Fresh Air" in January of 2002).


Henry Moore?  Storm King Art Center 

 I visited the sculpture museum, Storm King (near Newburgh, NY)  twice (2008) because I had heard about Andy Goldsworthy stone Wall there. These two visits were eye opening to say the least. Undoubedly the greatest venue for large, modern sculpture with grounds manicured to show off the works- a field of giant Suvero’s, so many others….my favorites: Naum (sp) Paik, Hepworth, the Goldsworthy,  the Rauschenberg “Mermaid”, the Czech artist’s (name of ?)  “Glass Sarchaphogai (sp)”, Noguchi, Moore, Suevo,- but there were so many other treasures. On the second visit- with Cathy, we had a great docent showing us around- and several times when she asked for impressions- I stated- “It looks like something left to attract aliens”.  It was a fun time to make Wildean comments, what with so many saying “It looks like a human,” or. “it looks like a rabbit”, etc.

Barbara Hepworth is not at Storm King?

Storm King Art Center- 2 trips, many photos (the tour guide keeps asking- what does that remind you of? and I keep responding- (thinking of the movie "Stargate")- "something left by an alien space ship"- others find it funny.



The west coast artist, Dale Chihuly, is an outstanding artist in the medium of glass! His "pergolas, persians, machias", baskets, chandeliers, installations and other fabulous creations are reminiscent of coral reefs or flowers or other undersea or organic forms or forms you've never seen before and they are wonderful; it's as if he is doing something which was never done before. There is an element of just discovery in what he does, yet it is also very beautiful; he also paints- mostly in acrylics- in a delightful fashion. Public television had done several specials showing his work- for example an installation on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem where he also had imported large ice blocks, setting them up as a wall and letting them melt- back lit with changing lights. Utterly charming and a tribute to team work- not just the genius of one artist (although Chihuly certainly qualifies as a genius).     


Probably all artists of my generation, writer, composer, sculptor or painter have imagined themselves in a film or seen their lives as a film or desired to create a film- it IS the art form du jour- the previous all around art form- opera's (and poetry's!) natural successor. How much my poems owe to film? I cannot begin to say.
most artistic movies? painterly? Viscounti, the two Korean Zen movies:  "Why has Boddhisatta left for the east?", "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring" - the Vietnamese:  "The Scent of Green Papaya", the Mexican: "Lake Tahoe", -all of Tarkovsky, all of Bergman, anything Terence Malick wants to do.
Movies have inspired many of my poems and in a few I quote them directly: "Vertigo, Ghost Story, Bundy, Dahmer (the serial killers- charming, eh?), "The Ring, 2001 BC". Naturally I loved the horror genre- such as "Hell raiser, Part One" or the out of print "The Shuttered Room". "The Ring" is particularly scary with its poetic images of the burning tree, the ladders, the horse, the well. Add to that a tremendous score that is constantly quoting the "Dies Irae " by Hans Zimmer (also great in the "Thin Red Line") and you get great effect. Poetic effect- the images are poetic and the great Russian director- Tarkovsky- also uses the burning tree- or is it a house? These images stick in your mind- dream like. But there are films that use images in a gentler, sweeter way- like the Korean Zen movie- "Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall, Spring" and the deeply mystical "Why has Boddhisatta left for the East?" the Vietnamese- "Scent of Green Papaya", o my!
Naturally, I had my fave directors- the poetic Terence Malick above all- in "The New World" or Days of Heaven" or "The Thin Red Line", o so beautiful (I wish I could visit him on the set); the imcomparable Viscounti with "The Damned", "Death in Venice"...  the gentle Japanese Ozu with his family portraits, Woodly Allen for comedy; for sure ? of "2001", " and "The Shining" ,  the master of the poetic image- Tarkovsky; and Ingmar Bergman- the great Swede. The religious in film, that grabs me- and he is one of the few to present it.  There is a wonderful documentary- "Bergman's Island" that captures the old master before his death on Faro- a bleak (possibly) island in the Swdish archipelago? ruminating on his past and his films- he searches not for God but the "holiness in men and women"- we are talking about demons and grace. The films of Ridley Scott, of Adrianne Lynne, Terry Gilliam.....
Speaking of religious movies: I rewatch "Sundays and Cybele"- the mustical French movie directed by Serge Bourguinon with composer Maurice Jarre (he of "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Around the World in 80 days"). Based on a novel by Eshassiaux (Les Dimanches de Ville d'Arvay),  the film studies the relationship between a shell shocked veteran of Vietnam (the French involvement) and a young orphan whose name is Cybele. The film opens with the airman crashing his jet in Vietnam- killing a Vietnamese girl. He returns to France, befriending Cybele, whose father has left her at a convent. The father will never return, and, altho the nuns have named her Francoise, her mother has named her in the Greek: Cybele!
At one point, C says that the home she and the veteran have is at the center of circles made by a stone droppped in a pond. Jarre has incorporated Tibetan music into the film and as well, the haunting, whistling sound a stone makes as it is thron out on ice! The relationship between the young girl and the veteran is a healing one- BUT- (always fundamentalist ignorance enters) - in the end the vet is killed by ignorant visitors- who imagine sexual predation. (This happens in the US as well as France). They suspect that he is some kind of "Blue Beard". The veteran has taken a sacred knife from a fortune teller and Cybele tells him that in Africa the socerer or soceress sticks a knife into a tree and receives telling messages. The villagers, of course, think hs is going to harm the girl with the knife- perception and reality!
When Cybele sees his dead body, she cries out:" Now I have no name"- how much of Graves White Goddess is in this?!?! But her real name IS Cybele- the Roman/Grk/pre Christian name. She was bringing the airman out of his amnesia/death into which the war had thrown him.
St. Peters in Rome is built on a Cybelian temple! The vet is a Christ figure- killed by those who know not what they do. Cybele is the earth mother thrown out by a new, authoritarian, puritan, patriarchial religion ("this is the rock- on which my church is built") (imagine a score by Messaien to this movie!?!?)...can you see why this is Ur text to me?
Another very poetic film shows pre Christian religion in a striking way: "The Fast Runner"- the retelling of an Inuit (Alaska and north) legend. The ehtics and morality of this animist, artic culture is strong without any western law. The weather makes stong community bonds mandatory!
Then check out "Keep on the Left Side of the River" about Papua New Guinea.
Other movies that touched my obsessions: politics- Soderberg's "Che", Michael Moore's documentaries- "Night and Fog", World War 2 Concentration Camp footage- that I first saw at Oberlin College- also there footage of House UnAmerican Affairs Committee footage; sexual "Quills" about the Marquis de Sade, or "Wilde", or "The Notorious Betty Page" or, "Working Girls", or "The North China Lover" - from the Duras book, or Lynne's "Lolita" movies that touched on my mental problems- ocd and depression- "David and Lisa", "Camille Claudet"- about the great female sculptress who obsessed about Rodin, the Canadian "Affair of the Heart" (w the glorious Genevieve Bujold as a creature who self immolates- o those flash forwards to the pyre!-; the missing father (like mine!) - "Shane"....
...movies about composers like Ken Russell's "Mahler" or "Tchaikovsky" ,or "Immortal Beloved" about Beethoven, also "Copying Beethoven" .
many,  many documentaries- some from tv, others not-- the one on the Ballet Russe and Altman's on the Chicago ballet, van Cliburn competitions, the Glenn Gould series especially w Bruno Monsaigneon (sp) as editor...some of these on tv, of all places- usually a vast wasteland.

re "Black Narcissus"-In Michael Powell's own view this was the most erotic film he ever made. 'It is all done by suggestion, but eroticism is in every frame and image from beginning to end. It is a film full of wonderful performances and passion just below the surface, which finally, at the end of the film, erupts'.

political gems- "The Three Penny Opera", all of Peter Watkins? films- "The Commune", "War Games", "Culloden".
and I discuss the music for movies in another essay in the Essays section of this tome:

 TV? Yes, TV, even TV- that, for the most part, Wasteland of advertisements.

C-Span on weekends- the book channel- very many good authors and panels- HBO's "The Wire" -the only decent show I ever saw on tv (HBO) - and shot in Baltimore!-- except, of course for many things on Public Television- like the National Geographic or  Nature series, - (from which I have gotten many poems) (stuff like climbing Mt. Everest), arts events.- opera and Lincoln Center ..most of tv seems right wing, therefore, false. Does not report reality- news, for example, will never cover Plowshares actions. Just stupid- a wasteland! Endless buying...selling. Mainstream media is also blotto/blech.




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