• Tag Archives Art and Culture
  • Art and Politics

    Samain                              Moon of the Winter Solstice


    In to the city to meet with Justin, Sierra Club’s lobbyist and policy wonk.  We’re putting together a campaign strategy for this upcoming session.  I love the ins and outs of politics, the practical, no nonsense nature of the analysis, the calculations.  The realities of power, not its dreamy possibilities.

    It is though, at this stage of my life, not as exciting as taking in a new painting, wandering through a new exhibition, revisiting a print I’ve seen many times.  Even so,  politics are deeper in my life, started earlier, continued throughout my life while the arts have been only a once in a while thing until the last ten years.

    The man I am now, the man I am becoming, loves the museum gallery more than the legislative chamber, the exhibit hall more than the voting booth, research for a tour more than campaign planning.  Part of me is not sure what to make of this change, but that it has happened there is no doubt.

    Perhaps these later years have bent the knee toward beauty rather than the lady justice.

    No, of course it’s not either art or politics, of course not.  There is, though, a real matter of how much time I want to devote to life outside our home, how much energy I want to give to projects for others and how much I need to spend on my own work.

    These are not easy matters for me, questions I’ve juggled my whole life, but I’ve always tried to remain true to what my inner life tells me.  Just now, it says open that new book with all the paintings in the Louvre.

  • Moving From the Theoretical to the Concrete

    Lughnasa                                            Waxing Back to School Moon

    Kate has had a nasty cold since Monday and I can feel it trying to claw its way up my esophagus, making my throat scratchy.  My hope is that the recent two time bout I had with some bug in July, then August has revved up my immune system.  With rest I can pound this sucker down before it takes hold.

    Starting back on Latin today.  I took part of July, all of August and the last couple of weeks off with the bees and the vegetables and the orchard.  Thought I’d get work done on Ovid, review, but in fact I got very little done.  An old student habit of mine, if it’s not pressing, it’s not getting done.  I’m looking forward to the weekly sessions, building toward enough confidence to tackle Ovid and others on my own.  It’s a project, like the bees, that keeps the gears turning, not giving them a chance to rest.  Best that way.

    A few years back it was the MIA docent training.  Then the move into permaculture and vegetables and fruit.  That one’s still underway as I learn the complicated dance of seasons, cultivars, pests, harvest and storage.  The MIA training, for that matter, only gives you enough legs to get into the books and files yourself, training you to look and think about art, but each tour demands specific self-education on the objects and the purpose of that tour.

    (Minoan Gold Bee pendant from Crete, circa 2000 BC)

    Part of my impatience with the seminary experience is that I’ve moved so deeply into more concrete endeavors.  Art has the object as an anchor, then its history and context.  Latin has words, grammar and literature as well as Roman history.  Vegetables and fruit have real plants, particular plants with needs and products.  The bees have the bees themselves, the colonies, woodenware, hive management, pest control, honey extraction.  This is, probably, the world I was meant to inhabit, but philosophy and the church lead onto another ancientrail, that of the abstract and faraway rather than the particular and the near.  It’s not that I don’t have an affection, even a passion for the theoretical, I do, but I find my life more calm, less stressful when I work with art, with potatoes and garlic, with conjugations and declensions.

    I now have almost three decades of life devoted to the theoretical, the abstract and the political so I bring those skills and that learning to my present engagement with the mundane, but I no longer want to live in those worlds.  They are gardens others can tend better than I can.

  • Vita brevis, ars longa

    Imbolc                                       Waning Wild Moon

    Sheepshead tonight.  We seem to pass around the points, playing as if each person should get a turn at the head of the list and everyone a turn in the barrel.  Always a good time.

    Tomorrow a public tour.  Stuff I enjoy.  Historical.  Highlights.  I’m still seeking a way to understand this world into which I emerged, a swimmer on the path to become a walker.  Objects, material objects, created by people with skilled hands, wild hearts and a need to create tell a part of the story.  They tell it from the inside out, the human experience filleted and boned, served up for others.  As I learn more, the ancientrail of the creator lays itself more and more open to me, oracle bones crackling in the fire, fish hooks made from bone, statues of bronze and brass, people molded from clay, ornaments from gold.  How do we wrap ourselves in the terrible passage of time, time that has seen the creators dead, dead long ago, gone, often, usually, nameless, yet the stuff they shaped continues on their journey, small capsules from the ancient past.

    We see it and walk past it, looking for the next best thing, passing by the cycladic figures, the woman of LaMouthe, the Greek vases, the section of wall from Ashur-bur-nipals splendid palace, walking on past them to see the show, the Louvre show or the modern galleries, some of the objects in those places made by people still alive, still breathing, their hands still working while the sculptor who shaped the rock into the plump representation of a woman does not.

    Museums are strange, often scary places if we look for the ghost, the hand behind the object, the living person with five fingers and a mother, creating with no thought that 15,000 years later–yes, 15,000 years later–we would pass by, maybe glance down, maybe not.  And what of 15,000 years from now?  17, 010 a.c.e.  Will someone walk past, glance down, wonder about who cared for this object, these objects, all those many years ago?

  • Could Happen

    Imbolc   Waning Wild Moon

    Snow fell in the night.  Long ago I read a sociologist who thought about winter.  He said a good snow fall wipes out boundaries, makes the world seem more connected, more fluid.  It makes me wish snow could fall in, say Iraq and Iran, all over, maybe pushing up into Afghanistan and over to the rest of the ‘stans, maybe a vasty storm covering all the world in snow evening the beaches of Florida, Hawaii, Phuket.  Then, maybe then, we could all see how much we are one, how much barriers we’ve installed are false.  How our lives gather together huddled on this one small rock hurtling through the vacuum of space faster than a speeding bullet.  Could happen.

    Today I’m off to the museum again to learn about art historical research.  I can do it all right of course but I want to learn how to go deeper, dig more into the mountains rich with knowledge.

  • Scarlett, the Young Korean

    62  bar rises 29.99 0mph E  dew-point 42  sunrise 6:42  set 7:38   Lughnasa

    First Quarter of the Harvest Moon  rise 3:16  set 11:22


    Back from the Korea tour.  We stayed mostly in Korea. I took the folks through the history of Korea, using objects in the MIA collection.  Scarlett, the young Korean, made excited noises during much of the tour though I don’t think she picked up much.  A cutie, though.

    Korea does not get a lot of love academically or art historically, at least in English.  That’s partly because Korean is a difficult language and not many read it outside of Korea.  Many folks also think Korean art derivative, a version of Chinese or, perhaps Japanese.  There is substantial Chinese influence in Korean culture and art, but the Koreans maintain a distinctive aesthetic.  In relation to Japan, in fact, they influence Japan far more than Japan influences them.

  • Miles and Miles of Flat Sameness

    66  bar steady 29.92 0mph N dew-point 58  Summer night

    Waning Crescent of the Flower Moon

    The drive into the MIA this afternoon was the first time I’d driven any distance since the long trip to Alabama.

    Sheila gave a walking lecture on the African check out tours.  She showed pieces in Egypt, then the Nok figure, the Ife Shrine head, the Benin head.  She spoke briefly about the linguist’s staff, the kente cloth, the elephant tusk and the leopard. It was a usual well-informed presentation.  Sheila knows the African collection in some depth.  She tried to provide so-called Pan African ideas, but I didn’t find any of them unique to Africa.

    Africa, like Asia and North America, is a land mass, not a cultural designation.  It has, like Asia and North America, a bewildering variety of indigenous peoples, colonial adventures, global corporate interests and all this mixed now in the stew of politics referred to as developing nations.  Seeking for identifiers by continent,  across Africa, for example, is like seeking for unity across Asia or North America.  It is a category mistake.  Continents do not have cultures, people do.  To maintain that somehow Algiers and Tunisia share a common cultural underlayment with, say, the Zulu or the Ashante or the Tutu or the Masai attempts to shoe horn disparate peoples in a too tight continental shoe.

    Kate and I watched There Will Be Blood tonight.  This is a powerful movie with mythic overtones.  The push for oil, the mania required to build an oil company or a church, the violence of men competing for power and money and the interlocutor of the barren land combine in a peak at the roots of contemporary American society.

    Much of the filming was done near Marfa, Texas.  Marfa is the location of Donald Judd’s open air show places.  It is a unique town, a place a reporter for the Ft. Stockton newspaper told me is “Taos fifty years ago.”  She didn’t see this as a good thing.

    The land in the movie is bleak.  Until my trip to Imperial, Texas a few years ago to see our land I hadn’t understood why people would say West Texas and shake their head.  It is mesquite, sand and rattle snakes.  In a few places, for a time, there was oil and natural gas.  There is a stark beauty to it, a beauty similar to the high plains, miles and miles of flat sameness, broken at the horizon by low mountains and foot hills.

    More garden work tomorrow.  Get the red car, too.  The heads were delayed at the machine shop.

  • Descaping the Garlic

    76 bar steady 30.05  0mph NW  dew-point 46  Summer, hot

    Waning Crescent of the Flower Moon

    The heirloom tomatoes we have growing, started from seed inside, required more support.  They have sent out thick branches from the central stalk, already within a tomato cage.  As fruit develops on them, they will sag and break or their fruit will dangle on the soil, going rotten before we can pick them.  At the same time, a few daisies had decided on a straggly path toward the grass, so I put support around them, too.

    The garlic. Sigh.  I harvested four garlic plants yesterday.  They had not grown into large, juicy bulbs as I had imagined, but instead looked like large green onions, very large.  I read the culture instructions again.  I had forgotten to cut back the scapes, a curly stalk that shoots up from the center of the main stalk.  It carries the flower.  Allowing it to get much more than 10″ long discourages bulb production.  Makes sense.  If I’m gonna propogate by seed, why bother storing energy below the soil.

    In a belated attempt to make up for lost ground I descaped all the garlic and will let the remaining plants sit in the soil a while longer, though I suspect my fantasy of large garlic bulbs grown in my own garden will have to wait until next summer.   All of gardening is a constant experiment, learning this from the plant, then that from the soil, again the message of the sun, then the gentle language of rain.  Like intimate relationships gardening requires close listening and a willingness to admit when you have erred.

    My first visit to the MIA since May comes today when I go in for a refresher on the Africa galleries.  We have this one last check-out tour to give.  After it, we will be able to give tours of Africa only if requested.  I’m looking forward to getting back to the museum after a good time away.  No tours for me until September and I’m glad, still I miss the constant interaction with the art and the folks around the museum.

  • An Appetite for Nutrient Fluid (not an alien)

    56  bar steady 30.05 4mph N dew-point 43  Beltane, sunny and cool

                              Waning Gibbous Hare Moons 

    “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo da Vinci

    Less is more -always; and explore constantly.  Mario Odegard, Viking Explorer and Woolly Mammoth

    Up earlier again this morning to take advantage of the cool temps.  Amended the second tier bed close to the house where we have had problem after problem with growing things.  This time I added two bags composted manure and a cubic foot or so of sphagnum moss. 

    It’s too shady for sun plants and too sunny for shade plants.  Gotta find something that swings both ways and can tolerate our winters. 

    Meanwhile on the hydroponic front my tomato plant started from an heirloom seed now reaches close to the ceiling.  It’s a good 2.5 feet tall, headed toward its interior limitation.  It has several small yellow flowers, but no fruit as yet.  Yes, the tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable.  The astonishing thing is its appetite for nutrient fluid.  It’s going through about a gallon every four to five days.  When the fruit begins developing, I imagine its appetite will increase again.  The lettuce produces enough leaves every few days for a salad a meal for lunch and dinner.  Both the lettuce and the tomato plant are the products of one seed germinating, coming to maturity and growing its edible product.

    Outside, however, if we were pioneers and our lives depended on the crop, I’d be seeking part time employment.  To pay for food next winter.  The cucumbers and morning glories I grew inside so well atrophied and died outside.  The three tomato plants, on the other hand, have done fine outside.  After puzzling over the difference for a week, it came to me this morning.  The tomato plants were in soil in pressed peat moss containers.  They had a much larger soil contained root system.   The morning glories and the cucumber were in smaller, compressed soil seed starting clumps.  That meant their root system was much more exposed, having grown in the nutrient solution rather than soil. 

    The take away for me is this:  if I’m going to transplant it outside, start it in a larger ground ready pot with potting soil.  It’s a learning curve.

    On the other hand, we do finally have several germinated seeds in the garden, too.  The Country Gentleman corn has begun its skyward journey as have the Ireland Annie, Dragon’s Tongue and another one I can’t recall.  We also have beets, carrots, peppers and onions, lots of onions, doing well.  We need a stretch of hot weather to get these puppies on their way.  So far they’ve been sluggards.

    Though I’m signed out now for the summer, I’m headed into the art museum today for a noon tour.  Carol Wedin, a fellow docent who prefers Asian tours, called me, sick with a cold and asked me for help.  Sure.  She is a wonderful botanical illustrator/artist.

    Kate’s off getting her nails done; Lois is here cleaning house and I’ve got to get in the shower to get ready for my tour.  Bye for now.

  • Anne Looked Grand

    43  bar steep rise 29.74  1mph NW  dew-point 41  Beltane

                                     Full Hare Moon

    Whoa.   More socializing today than I get in a normal month.  AM Eric Kjerlling, curator of Oceanic art at the Met, gave an information packed lecture on this vast geographic region and its varied art forms.  He was funny, knowledgeable and deep.  An excellent introduction that I will want to revisit if I get the Asmat special exhibition year.  It was my number 2 choice after William Holman Hunt and the Pre-Raphaelites.  The Pre-Raphaelites are among my favorites in Western art and I hope I get that exhibition.

    Saw several folks at the coffee on break during the lecture, but then retired to St. Paul, 1394 Lincoln, for a wonderful couple of hours seeing others from our docent class.  Careen Heggard’s house is appointed by an architect, Careen, and wonderfully casual  and elegant at the same time.  She has a small cottage on the grounds, a former gardner’s residence, which she uses a cabin to which she does not have to drive, tea-house, escape.  Looks an ohana dwelling like we see in Hawai’i.

    Morry, Joy and I stood out in the rain by the fire discussing literature.  Joy had a great line, one I hadn’t heard before, “Oh, that.  It’s just my stigmata acting up.”

    Anne Grand was there and looked great.  She also seemed sharp.  Quite a relief.  I had worried about her.  Bill Bomash showed up, too, on crutches and looking wan.  I had to leave just as he came so I didn’t get a chance to chat.

    Home for a nap at 2:30.  The morning and the lunch tired me out, as socializing tends to do.  I got up from my nap, went out in the rain, dug siberian iris, bearded iris and hemerocallis for Yin.  Scott brought three big bags of  hosta.  I felt like a piker.  I assured him there were more plants.

    Woolly meeting at Tom’s.  On mastery.  Ode was home and it was great to see  him.  His report on the exhibit he did for UNESCO, sex ed for Thai teens, inspired me.  The meeting was a good one, deep and funny.  More later.  Paul and Charlie H. couldn’t make it.  More on the content tomorrow.

  • More Homes for the Small and Furry

    51  bar steady  29.75 3mph N dew-point 31  Beltane, Sunny and cool

                                        Full Hare Moon 

    “I am sufficiently proud of my knowing something to be modest about my not knowing everything.” – Vladimir Nabokov

    Amen to that.

    Another cool day.  Great gardening weather, not so great growing weather.  The cool temps have  kept germination slow, my carrots have not emerged at all and only a few stray beet and lettuce seeds have begun to push through, at least at close of growing day yesterday. 

    We will see today.  Sometimes seeds all sprout at once, sometimes not at all.  Germination percentages vary with weather, timing of planting, quality of seed and amount of moisture.  We’ll get something.  We do not watch the soil with the same eagerness as pioneers, for example, whose lives may have depended on germination.  I can only imagine that then the progress of the seed received an attention bordering on pleading and prayer.

    We have the grandkids playhouse in the truck, three very large boxes of a put-it-together by the numbers building we bought at Costco.  Today’s task is to unload it and cover it with a tarp until we can level the area now cleared by the Steve and Aimee’s assistance yesterday.  After that we move brush onto yet more homes for the small and furry.  Not sure what after that.

    I’m signing out for the summer from the MIA.   In September 2006 I began the second year of the docent education process.  In summer 2007 I signed up for the Made in Scandinavia painting exhibition.  After labor day the school year touring got going.  I had a month off in February for Hawai’i, but other than nothing longer than a week since 2006.  It’s time for a break.  Besides, I need to get back to work on that novel.  And a children’s book or two, too.