I believe in everything simultaneously. I don’t have a religion and don’t need one.

…While A Book of Days is dedicated to others, its cover is of Smith in a dashing, black, wide-brimmed hat carrying a Polaroid 250 Land Camera that now looks quaintly retro with her hand irresolutely over her mouth – reverie second nature to her. Its first image is of her hand raised in greeting. “HELLO EVERYBODY”, she exclaims. Hands appear throughout her books, in and out of dreams. Could we focus on her own? Surprised, she considers them: small, shapely, barely lined. Does she ever look at her hands and think: you’ve been with me through everything? She laughs, surprised: “Gosh, yes, I do think that. I look at them and see my whole life. I realise I’ve not changed all that much. I’m just older, older, older…” She feels particularly in touch with her 11-year-old self, “running through fields with my dog and free of social conformities”…

I see her as a literary pilgrim, I tell her, and she looks pleased. But what I most want to know is why she is so dedicated to celebrating other artists? She replies simply: “Because they magnify my life.”..

Does she believe in fate? She replies that, when younger, she saw life as a “huge prayer rug where the threads make a beautiful design but with intentional flaws”. She is still drawn to the “grand design” even if the carpet is a comforting fiction…

She also believes in free will. “I believe in everything simultaneously. I don’t have a religion and don’t need one.” Like most of us, she worries about the world. “Today, I woke at four in the morning out of a sound sleep, thinking of the women of Iran and of my daughter… my mind all over the place. I keep waking through the night. Part of me is always conscious of what is happening in Ukraine, the threat of nuclear weapons, the climate crisis, a part of Florida destroyed.” I look at her face – tired, I see that now: “All these things radiate from my mind and I can’t… we’re powerless to take care of everything but I try to keep these people in my consciousness just as I keep the dead in my consciousness. My father, my mother – I think of them. I can’t help all the women in Yemen watching their babies die of starvation. I can only radiate love toward them. I have to, as an individual, continue to do my work. I have to find a way to balance our troubled world with my own optimism, joy and obligations. So it is always on my mind and it’s complicated.”…

But her emphasis is always on life: “I just keep doing my work, try to take care of myself. I feel blessed to have the imagination I have but don’t think it makes me more important than anyone. I am who I am, with all my flaws – and I’m grateful.”..

—  Kate Kellaway, from “Patti Smith: ‘I am who I am with all my flaws’ (The Guardian, November 13, 2022)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

At the end of our final conversation, I asked — hoping to give her some relief from talking about the project of performance and the burdens of age — what’s delighting her right now, what ideas or wishes or artworks are keeping her company mentally. Her voice changed. “Gosh. I’m quite — ” she stopped. “Tired.” The tone of her voice shifted so suddenly, twisted to the forlorn so dramatically, that I grew alarmed. But she was just having trouble conjuring an answer to the question. It had been a long day, and now it was 11 o’clock: She was tired. What was on her mind? Learning to surf. The journalism of Anne Applebaum. Growing things in her garden. A slim novel called “Assembly,” by Natasha Brown. She paused. “You know what I’d love to do, too? I’d love to go for a really, really long walk.”

“How long?”

“Not one of those where I’m going to buy a pack of cigarettes and never come back — ” and we were laughing again. “Not that kind of walk.”

The thing about a long walk is it’s an experience of process, of being in the corridor between the place you started and the place you will eventually be. “It’s like that moment of suspension in dance when you don’t know whether the dancer is taking off or about to land,” Blanchett said. She gestured with her body, as if she were going to take wing and hover. “That moment, that intake of breath before the words come out or the music comes out.” She smiled. “I want to be there. I want to be permanently there.”

— Jordan Kisner, The Elusive Power of Cate Blanchett (NY Times Magazine, October 11, 2022)

What’s that, then?

The evangelical in Anne had always recoiled at ‘The Arts’, for they had no obvious place in the useful, pious life. But Lia had something. It was not simply an ability to accurately depict the world, to replicate the exact gradient of a crow’s beak or the detailed creases of a hand, held out. There’s real flair there, one of Lia’s teachers had told her, a year or so ago, when Anne had been parked outside the school…She can capture the very essence of a thing, whilst… imbuing it with a… startling newness.

The teacher was new there. New and young and pretentious, for what nonsense this was, Anne had thought, but smiled as politely as she could nevertheless, and started the car, so as to let the intrusive woman know she had heard quite enough. Lia came out, holding a painting of a single egg in the middle of a large blue bowl. There was no essence; no startling newness. Just an egg in a bowl. And no one, thought Anne, with any sense, kept their eggs in bowls in the first place. Except for the French, perhaps.

See you tomorrow, Amelia. The teacher had smiled and walked away, smart and smug in her shoulder-padded jacket.

What’s that, then? Anne had asked, glancing in the rear mirror as they neared home.

Quiet, Lia had said.

What?

The title. I’ve called it – Quiet.

And Anne had straightened her spine in the driver’s seat, unnerved by the odd little child in the back of the car, pretending that she couldn’t see how the solitary egg in the bowl was, indeed, a very quiet-looking thing after all, as the tyres ground loudly against the gravel of their driveway.

— Maddie Mortimer, Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies (Picador; March 31, 2022)

Lightly Child, Lightly

You will recall the young age, when you realized that you wanted to act or write or paint or dance. You’re very young, and everything is a dream waiting to be fulfilled, and everyone who has created something that moved or amused or changed you is a hero, an idol, someone to emulate. Some people never get past this phase, and they will never believe that anyone–no matter how great–is ever as talented or worthy as those childhood idols.

This is one form of artistic suicide, and I see it often. You cannot allow your standards to calcify at that tender and impressionable age, set by what you loved in your bedroom when you knew nothing and furiously felt everything. Those loves and influences will be your foundation, the scaffolding upon which you add everything else, but it cannot be the end of your development.

There is then the realization, through the duck press that is the professional theatre, when you realize how much you do not know and how many things you cannot do or do well.
You have two choices: You can deny the reality of your situation and look upon those who try to shape you or educate you as imbeciles or enemies, or you can look at yourself brutally and honestly and try to become the best artist you can be
. An awful lot of people, the majority, sadly,-choose the former route, and they rail against the theatre or film or dance, and they maintain that they are so special that they cannot be understood by those who are sell-outs or favored or compromised.

—  Elia Kazan, from “Elia Kazan: Artistic Suicide” in Follies of God by James Grissom


Notes:

  • Quote Source: Wait-What? Via Follies of God. Eliza Kazan portrait via Frank Beacham’s Journal.
  • Photo: DK @ Daybreak. 6:51 a.m. May 8, 2022. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.
  • Kazan writes: “I don’t move unless I have some empathy with the basic theme.”
  • Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

I close my eyes. (They) both laugh when I do this. They think you gotta see to paint, but sight is just a distraction from what it really takes to translate image to art. I let it float out my fingers, escape out my breath, and I don’t need to see when my body is an entire vision.

Leila Mottley, Nightcrawling: A Novel (Knopf, June 7, 2022)


Notes:

  • DK Rating: Highly Recommended
  • Amazon Top Books of 2022. 
  • Selected as an Oprah’s Book Club pick.
  • NY Times Editor’s Choice Top 10 Books of the Week. NY Times Book Review here.

this delicate painting will endure

On the shelf in my studio in Bloomsbury are four postcards of paintings that I love: The Blue Rigi, Sunrise by J.M.W. Turner; Stonehenge, a watercolour by John Constable; Self-Portrait by Rembrandt, dated 1658; and The Convalescent by Gwen John.

Just one look at this reproduction of Gwen John’s painting and my breathing becomes easier. The whole composition is a symphony in grey. She must have mixed the colours on her palette first—Payne’s Grey, Prussian Blue, Naples Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Brown Ochre, Rose Madder, Flake White—then all the other colours would be dipped in this combination so that every form is united in grey: the dark blue of the girl’s dress, the thrush-egg blue of the cushion behind her back and the tablecloth, the rose pink of the cup and saucer echoing the delicate pink of her fingernails and lips, the teapot like a shiny chestnut. The wall behind her is flecked with mustard-coloured dots placed randomly and precisely, as marks in nature always are, like the speckles on an egg. The painting is as fragile and robust as an egg—the structure of the composition holds everything in place; this delicate painting will endure.

Gwen John instructs the model to loosen her hair and part it in the middle. She wants the model to resemble her. Before Gwen starts the painting, she positions herself in the wicker chair and tells her model that she must sit in exactly the same pose. Gwen lowers her eyes and holds a small piece of paper in her hands. She is completely still, and her stillness pervades the space around her. The room becomes silent. The model now copies Gwen; she looks down at her hands, and she doesn’t look up until she has heard that Gwen approves.

—  Celia Paul, Letters to Gwen John (New York Review of Books, April 26, 2022)

T.G.I.F.



Notes:

  • Photo 1: The Robin Red Breast via Discovery.
  • Image 2: Artist Constructs Cube Animals. Aditya aryanto, an artist from indonesia, has imagined a surreal series of animals that take on a quirky, cubic form.

Cézanne could not draw…

Visitors to “Cézanne Drawing” at the Museum of Modern Art may be astonished to learn that critics once complained that the late 19th-century French artist could not draw. With about 280 graphite, ink and gouache drawings and watercolors—over a third of them from private collectors—and a handful of related oil paintings, the staggeringly beautiful show proves otherwise. Organized by Jodi Hauptman, senior curator at MoMA, and associate curator Samantha Friedman, it also argues convincingly that Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), a foundational painter of modern art, produced his most radical work on paper.

The exhibition, arranged in broad, thematic terms, opens with loose study sheets and pages from the artist’s sketchbooks. Cézanne drew almost daily over the course of his career, using standard studio materials, and produced more than 2,000 extant works on paper. Though they rarely served as straightforward preparations for his oil paintings, his drawings pull us directly into his potent creative orbit…

After a dark year of building walls between ourselves and the world, “Cézanne Drawing” invites us to discover at an exhilaratingly intimate range the luminous genius of an artist whose work remains as rewarding as it is demanding.

— Mary Tompkins Lewis, from “‘Cézanne Drawing’ Review: Radical With a Pencil” (wsj.com, June 21, 2021)


Notes: 1) Paul Cezanne ‘Still Life with Cut Watermelon’ (c. 1900), 2) Cézanne’s ‘Coat on a Chair’ (1890-92).

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

As I sit alone with these words, I think about how brave he was in so many ways, and how brave he was to go into that studio every day with his demons and his angels, and labor to put them on canvas. Nulla dia sine linea, No day without a line, is the motto at the Art Students League, from Pliny the Elder, derived from the Greek painter Apelles. The devotions.

— Elizabeth Alexander, “The Light of the World: A Memoir.


Elizabeth Alexander was married to Ficre Ghebreyesus from 1997 until he died unexpectedly in 2012 days after his 50th birthday. Her memoir, “The Light of the World” is a story of her loss and her love.  The painting above was Ficre Ghebreyesus’ Middle Passage Figures with Solitary Boats (c. 2002–2007) (detail). Acrylic on canvas. 24 x 30 inches; 26.5 x 32.5 x 2 inches.

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

What do you do religiously—not only often, but with great love and faith? Writing, painting, running, volunteering? Do one of those things today; do something religiously.

KEEP MOVING.

Maggie Smith, Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change (Atria/One Signal Publishers, October 6, 2020)

Miniature Worlds

Tatsuya Tanaka is a master of turning everyday objects into miniature worlds that seem larger than life. He’s been doing it daily for almost a decade, and in the midst of the COVID pandemic, he’s started to integrate some all-too-familiar objects into his work. See more here: Photographer Turns Masks And Toilet Paper Into Intricate Miniature Worlds (3 Quarks Daily)

Lightly Child, Lightly

DSCF1450

For him, love of art is inseparable from love of the outdoors—not raw wilderness, but the landscape of a dirt road cutting through a barren landscape, abandoned boats lying on a shore, an orchard or (a theme he returns to several times in his work) a church in the woods. My father possesses a pure love of light, and trees, the curve of a hill, the angle of a barn roof—shadows and colors. Weekends, as early as I can remember—age five or six maybe—we head out to the horticulture farm of the university with our walking sticks. Now and then, my mother and sister come, but often it’s just the two of us under the experimental apple trees sketching a field of cows or a stretch of abandoned railroad tracks. Sometimes, walking along the path on our way, my father stops so suddenly it seems as though he’s been jolted by electrical current. He points his walking stick toward the sky. “Look at that, chum,” he says. “What?” “See how the light hits that branch?” he says. “Study that cloud formation.”

Joyce Maynard, At Home in the World: A Memoir 


Notes:

  • Photo: DK, 5:46 a.m., June 9, 2020, Weed Ave. Stamford, CT
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

 

Lightly Child, Lightly

Working in silence, I try to do each task, from stir-fry to writing, as silently as possible—no radio or television or speakerphone—a consummately pleasant exercise to see how quietly I can work, how completely I may cultivate a light hand. Everything is improved in the process, including the task, its doing, and its outcome. The painter’s task—the writer’s task—the composer’s task—the gardener’s task—the cook’s task—the teacher’s task—the meditator’s task—the solitary’s task is to get out of the way, to dissolve and efface the self into the work at hand so as to permit its subject’s essence to shine forth. Cézanne wrote, “You don’t paint souls. You paint bodies; and when the bodies are well-painted, dammit, the soul—if they have one—the soul shines through all over the place.”

Fenton Johnson, At the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life (W. W. Norton & Company, March 10, 2020)


Notes:

  • Image: Handwriting by Ecriture Infinie
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

 

somos la luz

mural

“Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada spray painted a 27,000 s.f. giant mural as a public memorial dedicated to a doctor who died from COVID-19. Each life is important, unique and incalculable, especially during the global pandemic, and the work memorializes essential workers. The mural is titled ‘somos la luz’ – translated as ‘we are light.’” (Read more @ Design Boom)

Go on.

Thirty years ago, I was remembering, an eminent writer had given me some unsolicited advice.

Just look at an orange, she said.

Go on looking at it. For hours.

Then put down what you see.

– C. P. Snow, Strangers and Brothers: Last Things


Photo: anka zhuravleva

Feel that sway…

As a boy, Picasso liked to draw by candlelight.

He had already intuited that the moving shadows cast by the light would instill a feeling of sway in his work.

~ Colum McCann, Apeirogon: A Novel (Random House, February 25, 2020)


Photo: John Taylor

Oh, I get it.

A superb painter let me take a brush to a canvas that she said she was abandoning. I tried to continue a simple black stroke that she had started. The contrast between the controlled pressure of her touch and my flaccid smear shocked me, physically. It was like shaking hands with a small person who flips you across a room.

~ Peter Schjeldahl, The Art of Dying (The New Yorker, December 16, 2019)


Notes:

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

He thinks the prices paid for his works sometimes border on madness. “I want to ignore it, mostly,” he says. “I’ve had sufficient money to do what I liked every day for the last 60 years. Even when I didn’t have much money, I’ve always managed. All I’m interested in is working, really. I’m going to go on working. Artists don’t retire.”

~ Lesley M.M. Blume, The World According to David Hockney (wsj.com, Sept 9, 2019)


Other notables from this essay:

  • “I have the vanity of an artist. I want my work to be seen. But I don’t have to be seen.” —David Hockney

  • “[The drawings] seem to exist fully formed. It’s like he bleeds them onto the page.” —Arne Glimcher

  • The drive up to David Hockney’s Los Angeles home in the Hollywood Hills is a narrow, winding route, full of hairpin turns. At the top of a hill, his compound is fortressed away behind an expanse of fence, hidden within a barely tamed jungle of palm trees and bird of paradise plants. Nearly every surface—the walls, the walkways connecting the buildings, the handrails and the roofs—has been painted brilliant colors: bubblegum pink, cerulean, canary yellow, sea green. ~ Lesley M.M. Blume

Painting above by David Hockney: The Road to York through Sledmere1997 – oil on canvas 48×60 in.

 

Incarnation?

Sculptures by Jose Cobo that were part of an installation titled “Incarnation.”

I read the background notes prepared by the artist here.  Still don’t get it.

Mystified, mesmerized and looking for a helping hand to explain…


Notes:

  • Source: 3 Quarks Daily.
  • Inspired by: I believe that the justification of art is the internal combustion it ignites in the hearts of men and not its shallow, externalized, public manifestations. The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but is, rather, the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity. ~ Glenn Gould, quoted in “Glenn Gould: Musical Individualist” (via Beth @ Alive on All Channels)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

I still wasn’t sure exactly what form the painting would take. But I did know how I should begin. Those first steps—which brush to use, what color, the direction of the first stroke—had come to me out of nowhere: they had gained a foothold in my mind and, bit by bit, taken on a tangible reality of their own. I loved this process.

~ Haruki Murakami, Killing Commendatore: A Novel.  (Knopf, October 9, 2018)


Photo: cnd.ha (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)

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