Friday, February 7, 2020

Valentine's Day, and The Old, Old Art Of Love


     I don't know why some of us still call the holiday of love and romance
Saint Valentine's Day.  There is nothing particularly saintly about the observance
of the day.  Just as with Saint Nicholas' fading relationship to the celebration of
Christmas, Valentine's Day is another opportunity for commercial enterprise.
Now is the time when the purveyors of expensive jewelry, chocolates, roses and
sexy underwear are cashing in on the obligations of love.  And so, woe be to the
man who forgets his sweetie on Valentine's Day.

     There is an old saying that we should make every day a Valentine's Day.
But the truth is, of course, that love and romance, or the lack of it, is always
on our minds, and always has been, throughout history.  For proof of that
all we have to do is look back through the panorama of art history.  In every
period and style, Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, and her mischievous
progeny Cupid, have been popular themes in all forms of our art and literature.

     The older I become, the more conscious I become of the millions of years
it took for our human species to evolve, and more conscious yet, of how little
we have changed during the past several thousand years.  We are still the very
same people that we were in "ancient" Greece.  The only visible difference is
the fast and luxurious life-style we enjoy now, because of the advances in
science and technology.  We still have the same desires for love, as well as
the same urges for sexual gratification.  We still have the same hungers for
wealth, luxury and prestige, and we still seem to be easily duped by fraudulent,
self-aggrandizing politicians.  And most troublesome of all, our various
nationalities remain divided and war-prone, because of stubborn beliefs in
opposing creation mythologies.

     We get these reminders of how little we have changed, when we look
back at the art and designs of the everyday objects we used in "ancient"
Greece and Rome.  Most often the subjects which were depicted  in the
decorations, concerned the misadventures of the eternal beings, in love and
in war, serving as symbols for the daily struggles of life.  For example, this
bronze cover for a hand-mirror, which was made by one of my fellow
artist-craftsmen about twenty five hundred years ago.  This again depicts
the goddess of love, restraining her son as he practices his skills with his bow and
arrows, to target all unsuspecting mortals, and forever afflict us with the wounds
of love.  The Greeks called them Aphrodite and Eros, and in this case it looks as
though they thought that one of those love darts that Eros shoots, could accidentally
strike anyone at any time.  So. perhaps, as they say, it really is never too late.


      I did enhance the image slightly to help restore it a bit and soften the corrosion
blotches on the metal, but I did not alter or change the lines of the artist's drawing.
The image reminds me of so many others, from the Renaissance to the old masters and
neoclassic period, and even the Pre-Raphaelites, in a long, continuous line of artists and
the art of love.

     One can imagine the elegant Greek lady who once owned the mirror which this
cover fit over, gazing at her reflection in the mirror, as she applied her make-up or as
she arranged her hair, just as women still do today. while holding hand-mirrors.
And, no doubt, the thoughts, dreams and emotions are still the same as they were then
.........the eternal and elusive quest for beauty and attraction, and a truly lasting love.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Horatio's Great New Role




     Those of you who are familiar with this blog, may recall my little friend, occasional
model, and thespian,  Horatio H. Hamster Esq., who sometimes pops up at my studio,
at unexpected moments.  Whenever I ask him what the middle initial of his name stands
for, he usually has a new answer.   Oftentimes, when he arrives, his freshly changed,
theatrical regailia provides me some clues about his latest persona, as was the case
when he turned up this time.  So, based on his new appearance, I asked him if perhaps
his middle initial stood for Harry, as in Harry Potter.   He replied that he and Mister
Potter were not personal friends, but that he had indeed just returned from Hogwarts,
where he had received some advanced training in wizardry.  When I remarked that such
a trip must have been difficult for him, he said that he had used one of the latest models
of brooms, transport "with all the spells and whistles", which allowed him to fly back in
a flash.

     He said that he couldn't stay long, because his new magical training was intended
to provide assistance during this latest dark spell which has overtaken our nation's
executive mansion.  When I said that I wasn't sure about which of the many dark spells
to which he was referring, he seemed shocked that I was so poorly informed.

      "Don't you know that Lord Voldemort is living in the White House?", he asked.

     I replied that some people think of the current resident of the white house as more
of an overgrown Oompa-Loompa, or The Hamburgler, rather than as a demon from
hell, but I couldn't help feeling that perhaps he wasn't too far off.

    As I was doing a quick sketch of him, Horatio reminded me of the current struggle to
evict Voldemort, which was now being waged by the party of truth and justice, against
the party of lies and hatred.
     "There is no-longer anything grand about that old party", he assured me.  "It's
members are hopeless muggles.  They may wear American flag pins on their lapels,
but it is their money clips, that they wear closer to their hearts.  Patriarchal elephant
sculptures can't represent them anymore.  Now it is the sculpture of the three monkeys,
with their hands clapped over their eyes, ears and mouths, which is symbolic of what
the party has become.  During this trial, the muggles have pledged that they will
"See nothing, hear nothing and say nothing!", to evict the dark demon from the
White House!".

     I reserved comment for the moment. I didn't want to add to his distress about the
G.O.P. member's predetermination that they would not see or hear the undeniable
proof of guilt, which is available in clear, and thorough abundance.  Horatio alone
will not be able to make them honor their sacred oaths, despite his new-found, wizardly
skills  They have already sold their souls to the devil in exchange for wealth and lofty
position.

     Before he hurried off to try and work his magic with incantations and spells, I did
caution him that I thought perhaps the "invisibility cloak", which he had purchased
second-hand, looked a bit like a plastic rain-cape, so perhaps he shouldn't count on
it to reliably conceal his presence in the halls of congress.  But he showed no sign of
diminished determination, as he charged out, brandishing his magic wand before him.

      I wished him a safe flight and a successful trip, but I have little hope that magic
on any scale, will help to remove these historic, dishonorable, black-spots from the
reputations of the Republican members of the United States Senate.
   

   

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Great Poinsettia Invation


   
                                     Symbols Of Christmas,  an original acrylic painting
                                     20" X  24" canvas, unframed,

                                    ( click on image to enlarge )



    In the 1820's, the American envoy to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, sent a wild plant
he had collected there, back to his home in South Carolina.  That plant, which became
known as the poinsettia, has proliferated until it now conquers America with an annual,
 red tide of Christmas cheer.  This is the season when the plants are unavoidable.
They are everywhere, in our homes, in our shops, in our churches, in our theaters and
concert halls, in our hospitals and even our funeral homes. It is said, that seventy million
of the plants are sold every year, during a six week period.
     Although the Poinsettia has undoubtedly been a financial success, providing jobs and
income for many people, it is not a universally appreciated plant.  Some people seem to
find them too flamboyantly gaudy, in their extravagant redness.  I seem to recall a
well-known American author describing them as "hideous".  But now, as the old year
closes, we should all be a little thankful that we can still have the annual invasion of
bright red cheeriness, to take our minds off of the tragedies and stupidities of 2019,
and give us some hope for a better year in 2020.

     It is their very uncompromising redness which makes poinsettias a challenge to paint.
All of those masses of red bracts spreading out in such abundance, might suggest to an
artist, that doing something on the order of a red Rothko, color-field painting, could be
the best approach to capturing the feel of the subject.  But I was reminded that Paul
Gauguin was never intimidated by any kind of over-abundant or flamboyant, tropical
plants.  So, I picked up a canvas to try an impressionist, experiment with a Christmas
poinsettias theme.  Perhaps I was channeling my inner Gauguin as I worked on all
those flaming, red bracts, which, because of their star-shapped arrangement, are said
to symbolize the Star Of Bethlehem.   I added the three, golden pears, as a bit of extra
symbolism, for the arrival of the three kings, on the twelfth day of Christmas.

   
 

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Somewhere beyond the horizon



                                                     Thunder Will Come  - an original acrylic painting
                                                     14" X 34", unframed

                                                     ( click on image to enlarge )


      From the day that we are born, we begin our journey to the grave.  That is the final
outcome for all of us; the only differences are the ways that we choose to use the time that
we are given to live on our beautiful but fragile home we call planet Earth.  Some of us
strive to leave our world a better place than it was when we arrived.  Others, who are
caught up in the daily struggle to survive, at least try to do no harm to anyone or to our
living environment.  But unfortunately, there are a number of us who are so self-centered
and unscrupulous, that they spend all of their time using and abusing our planet and
everyone within their reach, only to satisfy their own egos and greed.

     This destructive behavior is particularly egregious when a person of such egotistical
and narcissistic character gains a position of great power, such as the office of president
of the United States of America, which then allows him to perpetrate unlimited harm
in the world, while he proclaims himself to be the greatest person who has ever lived.
What is sadder still perhaps, is that so many thoughtless, uninformed people can be
so willingly duped into following such a colossal fraud, simply because he has some kind
of  "celebrity" status.  Their willful ignorance reminds me of the story of the poor, stupid
children of the town of Hamlin, who followed along behind the Pied Piper, as he led them
to their final doom.

     The painting is a reminder that there are consequences for our actions.  The scene of
an unspoiled section of the American prairie on a hot, late summer day, as an electrical
storm erupts, is an active weather demonstration of cause and effect.  An undeniable
ingredient of the increasingly powerful storms sweeping our planet is global warming.
To deny this truth is suicidal.  The painting has a little reminder about the fatal error of
failing to comprehend the warning signals of the dangers which lie ahead.  In the lower
left corner, is an indication that a lost traveler failed to take heed of the hazards of the
unfamiliar climate.  It is also a reminder to everyone, that the global weather disasters
will continue to grow,  and that no one will find a safe land anywhere beyond the horizon,
no matter how rich or powerful we may be.  The thunder will come to all, even to those
in Washington D.C.                    

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Did someone say Happy Halloween?







     What is wrong with these snapshots which I took this morning?  I probably don't have
to say it. For those of us who live here in the heart of America, the answer is snow.
There is snow on the roses, the hydrangeas, the phlox and all the maple trees, which
were just beginning to change to their fall colors.  There is snow on everything,
and with it came wintry cold temperatures.  That is not normal around here for Halloween.
Perhaps Mother Nature got the holidays mixed up.
     Local fans of the old comic strip called "Peanuts", will probably view this weather event
as the equivalent of the rocks that people always dropped into Charlie Brown's sadly
abused, Tricks-or-Treats bag.  Tonight, the little ghosts and goblins will need to wear
heavy coats over their costumes, when they go out trick-or-treating, or else stay home
to keep warm.

Monday, September 30, 2019

The best laid plans of mice and men....and artists....



     The closing lines from one of Robert Burns most famous poems, which tell us that we have no control over the ultimate fate of our life's plans,  have been frequently quoted and referenced in other literary works over the years, most note-ably as the title of the John Steinbeck novel.  My addition of the word "artists", to the identities of the creatures great and small, who often have their well laid plans go astray, is a reference to personal plans of my own, which recently went badly astray, despite being as well prepared as could be expected.
     Recently, in a vow to continue doing what I have always done, until I am physically unable to carry on, I declared that I would never say never again.  So, with that vow in mind, I spent several weeks or so, preparing to do at least one more outdoor show.  However, the one uncontrollable factor in such plans is always the weather.  We can not count on Mother Nature being in a beneficent mood on specific days.  It is always the luck of the draw, as to what the days will bring.  We cross our fingers and wonder if it will it be fair weather or foul.

     Unfortunately, Mother Nature was in an extremely foul mood on the weekend of the show.  The rains descended in heavy torrents on Saturday, turning the grounds into swampy muck, and then the downpour continued in the night, making it pointless to stay on through Sunday.  So, as a result, I owe an apology to anyone who tried to wade through the mire, expecting to find me there somewhere, still sheltering from the rain and refusing to surrender. I can only say that I'm sorry I missed seeing you this time.  As to whether or not there will be a next time, who knows the answer to that?  As Robert Burns would warn us, don't ever believe that you are in complete control of your future.


     I have a painting which would have been apropos to go with this posting, a landscape of a electrical storm, sweeping in over the prairie, which I called Thunder Will Come.  I will try to get that painting photographed and post it on the blog.