Esteemed thinker: Georgia O’Keefe

crayons  If you have ever wondered how some of your classmates may have grown up to be corporate executives one has to look no further than into your childhood. Take a mental sabbatical down memory lane and find your elementary school classroom. Picture a day the teacher asked you to take out of your desk or remove from your cubby the new box of crayons your parents bought for you. Maybe it was purchased the “Five and Dime”, or maybe it was from the toy store. Now, look at yours and then check out your neighbor’s desk. Theirs is not an ordinary box of crayons with just a handful of colors; but the jumbo pack of 64 with the built in sharpener. This is the box of crayons that was coveted by most of the kids. It’s the one that dared to be shared but in order to get inside the sacred lid had to be negotiated. This was the box owned by the student that could wield negotiations with others as if they were at the end of the conference table. To borrow a color would perhaps require relinquishing a turn on the swing, giving up being line-leader, or even handing over a chocolate chip cookie.

Owning such a box of crayons was more than a palette of colors to create pictures to impress the teacher, it was entrance into a world that allotted ‘carte blanc’ privileges; and like flying first class it could even get you window-seat on the school bus!

georgia o'keefeToday’s blog brings you the esteemed thinker” Georgia O’Keefe, (1887-1986) who was born and raised on a farm near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Considered one of the most prominent artists of the twentieth century, she began her career by studying at the Art Institute of Chicago (1905–1906) and the Art Students League in New York (1907–1908), where she learned the techniques of traditional realist painting. By 1915 she had begun to develop her own artistic personality, a series of abstract charcoal drawings.
Her relationship as an artist was immediately recognized by Alfred Stieglitz, photographer and owner of the famous 291 gallery; one of the few places in the United States where European avant-garde art was exhibited. Their relationship blossoms into a well-known love affair and eventually they wed.

O’Keefe’s colorful paintings are world renown, depicting landscapes, flowers, and animal bones generated from her time in New York, Lake George area and New Mexico. She was able to create intricate detail, color shadows and distinct nuances on canvas. Her passion for her art and life can be seen in all her work.
I now invite you to read a most colorful excerpt from a letter written to her photographer friend Marie Chabot in 1941. It is not difficult to imagine how she viewed the world.

“It is breathtaking as one rises up over the world one has been living in, looking out at and looks down at it stretching away and away. The Rio Grande, the mountains, then the pattern of rivers, ridges, washes, roads, fields, water holes, wet and dry. Then little lakes, a brown pattern, then after a while as we go over the Amarillo country, a fascinating restrained pattern of different greens and cooler browns on the square and on the bias with a few curved shades and many lakes. It is very handsome way off into the level distance, fantastically handsome – like marvelous rug patterns of maybe ‘Abstract Paintings’…”

Georgia O'Keefe landscape

Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico/Out Back of Marie’s II, 1930, Oil on canvas mounted to board

 

Pablo Picasso and permenance

television setThe rate in which the world around us changes accelerates with time. And as we become increasing more automated these changes reflect our surroundings … a system in flux. A sense of permanence no longer dominates the landscape and the urgency for acquiring new things governs our desires.

Man and womankind have always gravitated to acquire things that are branded “the latest model”, however products that were once designed to last a lifetime are no longer are in vogue. Less and less are things repaired but instead designed to be replaced.

In the twentieth century when a television ceased to function the owner would call the “TV repair man”, a fellow who would come by your home with a set of tools as particular as a surgeon’s. In comparison to today, rarely does one own a television long enough for it to malfunction; for like fashions that change from season to season, there is always a newer and better model to buy. Right when you have saved up enough money to purchase what is deemed the best, the latest and updated model makes its entrance flaunting its upgrades.

So … the next time you pass by a store try to refrain from feeling too out-dated for the only thing permanent is the desire for change.

Pablo_Picasso,_1908-1909,.Today’s blog brings back the esteemed thinker: Pablo Picasso (1881-1975) the renowned artist who was always to on the precipice of modern thinking. He was a painter who brought innovation to the art world, and no matter how old his work may be it is never out of vogue.

Between 1907 and 1914 Picasso and artist friend, George Braque created Cubism; a style of visual arts that become one of the most influential of the 20th century. The subject of the painting was not visible in the discernible sense; in this style of painting and figures were often overlapping planes and facets.

For those who wish to resurrect their artistic senses, feast your eyes on a most famous work of art by Mr. Picasso titled Oil Mill (1909). And remember, if you are able to afford one of his pieces of art rest assure, although it may be over 100 years old, you will be the envy of your neighbors.

Picasso_Oil Mill_1909_ms

First image: 1939, FCC Commissioners inspect latest in television. Washington, D.C.

Esteemed thinker: Vasily Kandinsky

In a most literal term abstraction is an idea that is unrealistic, visionary, and impractical. We know it in the form of mathematics and more readily engage it in art. Abstract art is often either liked or disliked, for there seems to be very little middle ground. Rarely does a viewer walk past an abstract painting without giving it some sort of critique; sometimes positive and sometimes not.

How challenging it must have been or continues to be for those artists who claim they have created an “abstract painting” for actually, the mind does not wish to permit such an event to exist. For no matter how hard one tries, the mind wishes to make order out of what it sees. When we come upon an abstract painting hanging on the museum wall we seem always to attempt to make a comparison of the content to something else that makes “sense”. For no matter how hard we try, there is something or other that the mind equates it to… “it looks like a sunset,” “it looks like a man”… Those wiggly lines, unbalanced figures, and simple canvases are no challenge for our mind rearranges them, looking in its files under similarities until it comes upon one that conjures up its “concrete mate”.

And so we must wonder if there really is anything that is purely abstract … for our minds will not rest until it finds some structure and balance to this thing we call abstraction…

Wassily_Kandinsky-ca_1913Today’s post brings us the esteemed thinker: Vasily Kandinsky (b. Moscow 1866–1944) painter, printmaker, stage designer, artist and theorist. His name in the art world brought to the 20th century a transition of representational art into abstract expressionism. Kandinsky attracted anything intellectual, restless, striving, which was in the world of art of that time. In 1901 he founded Phalanx, an art group, in Munich and started a school, in which he taught himself.

In 1913, Kandinsky coined the expression “nonobjective painting” to refer to a painting that depicted no recognizable objects. Considered one of the most influential artists Kandinsky is often credited with creating the first purely non-objective painting.

I now bring to you to you a most famous work, Panel for Edwin R. Campbell No. 4 (1914), one of four in a series of canvasses commissioned by Edwin R. Campbell, founder of Chevrolet Motor Company. Take some time to ponder this extraordinary work, and I wonder where your mind sends you!

Kandinsky painting 1914 panel

Henri Rousseau and cats

pebbles on the landing_with name Although the phrase, “Dog is man’s best friend,” it may actually be a misnomer for according to some folks, it is the cat that rules the roost. And yes, we all know that it is the dog that greets you when you come in from work, the dog that accompanies you on long walks in the park, and it is the dog that sleeps by the foot of the bed. Yet, isn’t this he same beast that is “oh so needy”. How often do we have to come home just to “feed” the dog because he or she is too greedy not to leave some for later, or we have to “get home” quickly to take the dog out because it can’t do its business on its own, or get back to the house to “check on the dog” because it can’t be trusted not to keep the sofa pillows out of its mouth or overturn the flowerpot!

But the cat, with its self-sufficiency, its independence, and yes, smugness about its aloofness as well as its ability to get what it wants by sauntering and parading about on little cat pads…we all might just admit that just perhaps it is the feline that might be deserving of the phrase, “Cat is man’s best friend.” After all, it can’t help it if they consider us “staff”… teasing us with just enough affection to lead us into a false sense of necessity. But perhaps, with all their independence and self-reliance they just don’t need us after all, but rather they are stringing us along for their next fix of cat nip!

Today’s post brings back the esteemed thinker Henri Rousseau (1844-1910 b. Laval, France), a most creative and a self-taught genius whose paintings are of high artistic quality. Rousseau, a French artist, is famous for his representation of the jungle, though he never left Paris. In addition to his exotic scenes there was a parallel production of smaller topographical images of the city and its suburbs. His work is often categorized into several different periods: Post-Impressionism, Naïve art, Modern art, and Primitivism.

I now bring you Rousseau’s painting titled, “Portrait of Pierre Loti”, a most interesting work that defines the cat’s ability to showcase itself in a most unassuming and cunning way…for clearly we can see it assumes a prominent spot in this portrait!

Rousseau portrait-of-pierre-loti

Esteemed thinker: Henry David Thoreau

moon Scarcely is there a person who is not awed by the moon; and unlike many of the celestial treasures, it shows different phases of itself throughout the month and then starts all over again. If we had to select a gender; many think of it as a male…the man in the moon, although I imagine some may find the feminine side to this lunar beauty.

The moon has its own glossary of terms such as eclipse, which sends us running outside to see it hide behind the earth or palus, a less notable Latin term meaning ‘swamp’ that is used to describe topographical features on the moon which resembles dark plains or swamps. The moon even has its own personal holiday; Lunar Day, representing two ideas: the first refers to the period of time it takes for the Moon to spin completely on its axis in terms of its position to the sun. The second is the amount of time it takes for the Moon to complete a single orbit around the Earth.

Even the ocean are “moved” by the moon…well that is more literally than figuratively as we recollect that the “motion of the seas” are caused by the gravitational forces of its lunar overseer. (Quite a wily fellow isn’t he; and without us looking, too!)

And how we all must agree that the moon is a romantic; flooding beams of light over the earth in the darkest time of the day…night. It permits us to stare upon its continence without finding us rude. I suppose it is use to such gestures for its wonderment invites us to gaze. Even the animals find the moon intriguing; the wolf bays, owls are more chatty, while all the while humans become more nostalgic.

It is not hard to see why all the arts have paid homage to the moon in all the forms that we humans can muster. A mere sampling back in time journeys us to Paul Delvaux, Belgian artist’s 1939 painting Phases of the Moon; Spanish artist Joan Miró’s lithograph (1952) Dog Barking at the Moon, Antonin Dvorak’s Famous Czech Opera Rusalka in 1901, which included “Song To The Moon” , while in 1964 the airwaves played Frank Sinatra’s version of “Fly Me to the Moon”. Then there is the literary fiction The First Man on the Moon by H.G. Wells (1901), and the classic French film Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902) written and directed by Georges Méliès both.

thoreau And so, I bring to you today’s esteemed thinker: Henry David Thoreau (1812-1862). Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts he needs not much of an introduction for this 19th century American essayist has donned most library book shelves around the world. Friend and mentor to Ralph Waldo Emerson, he is most remembered for his philosophical and naturalist writings as well as the small home he built on Emerson’s property on Waldon Pond. In 1854, he published Walden; or, Life in the Woods which told of his life close to nature.

From his essay, Night and Moonlight, here are Mr. Thoreau’s observations which I hope you find a lovely respite out from your busy day… who knows….he may even inspire you to stroll beneath the moon beams tonight!

“…Many men walk by day; few walk by night. It is a very different season. Take a July night, for instance. About ten o’clock,–when man is asleep, and day fairly forgotten,–the beauty of moonlight is seen over lonely pastures where cattle are silently feeding. On all sides novelties present themselves. Instead of the sun there are the moon and stars, instead of the wood-thrush there is the whip-poor-will,–instead of butterflies in the meadows, fire-flies, winged sparks of fire!

It does not concern men who are asleep in their beds, but it is very important to the traveller, whether the moon shines brightly or is obscured. It is not easy to realize the serene joy of all the earth, when she commences to shine unobstructedly, unless you have often been abroad alone in moonlight nights.

How insupportable would be the days, if the night with its dews and darkness did not come to restore the drooping world. As the shades begin to gather around us, our primeval instincts are aroused, and we steal forth from our lairs, like the inhabitants of the jungle, in search of those silent and brooding thoughts which are the natural prey of the intellect…”

Vincent van Gogh and his thoughts on art

van gogh museumMuseums are the windows to the past. They house treasures that have been unearthed, borrowed from other civilizations, reassembled from a time long ago, or displayed for the very first time. They are a wonderland of things that allow each of us admission to a time, place, or experience where we can become intimate with another. Museums come in many forms, some are for objects such as furniture, some are for prehistoric relics like dinosaur bones and fossils, some are for paintings and sculpture, and there are even museums for the news. Whatever the pleasures of men and women there is likely to be a collection somewhere displayed in some building…and fortunately saved for posterity.

Let’s look more closely at the fine art museum, a place where differing sets of values have decidedly created the spaces for viewing. There is modern art, classical art, ancient art, abstract art, and so on and so forth…and with each generation that visits and for each group of curators that have established the exhibitions, so has the appreciation for what we determine as “art” run the gambit. If we were to examine works through the ages we would find that a vast number of contemporaries often yearned for what came before. Many who lived during the age of “modern art” in the 1960s either liked the “new” works or scorned it… many longing for the look, feel, and style of “the past”. So it is with so many things, we often desire a return for what came before… and the appreciation for art is no different.

flower buds van gogh Today’s blog revisits the words of our esteemed thinker: Vincent van Gogh, a Dutch artist that hardly needs any introduction. A kind and troubled man who graced us with his gifts…where his paintings will forever be noted as “a Van Gogh” and we will all understand what that means…. although he lived a pauper’s existence he never extinguished his calling, art…

Let us now take a few minutes to look over his shoulder and read the words from a letter (1883) to his brother Theo …and we reaffirm that time stands still and often things we feel today have really not changed….

“… It makes me more nervous than is good for me to try to talk with people about my work. And what is the result? A refusal or being put off with fair promises. I assure you that I feel less energy for my work when I have been among people. …….I do not doubt that my wok has fault, but neither do I doubt that I am not quite wrong, and that I shall succeed, be it only after long seeking. And I do believe that it is dangerous to look for success elsewhere.
I think there is a difference between art appreciation today and that of earlier years. There used to be more passion both in the making and in the judging of works of art. This or that work was chosen deliberately; one side or the other was energetically taken. There was more animation. Now I think there is a spirit of capriciousness and satiety; people are in general more lax. Some time ago I wrote that I had noticed there was since Millet* a marked decline, as though the summit had been reached and decadence had begun. This has its influence on everybody and everything. …”

*Jean-Francois Millet (1814 – 1875) French realist painter and one of the founders of the Barbizon school in rural France; best known for his paintings of peasants.

Esteemed thinker: Vincent van Gogh

hayThere are very few things that humanity agrees upon except perhaps when it comes to nature. Not even those who consider themselves city dwellers are devoid of Mother Nature’s presence nor can they ignore her. Even in the most congested conditions does one find a flowering weed growing between the cracks of cement, whereupon our hearts delight with its determination. Even in the smoggiest of days do we feel her resolve, releasing the sun’s rays or sprinkling rain upon a thirsty sidewalk…for these are the doings, the free spirit that belongs to nature… And of course there are the forever vistas that we witness along the shores or on the precipice of a mountain…scenes that make us heave with a great sigh of gladness.

We would be hard-pressed to find someone that has not recorded mentally or digitally nature … for we hold her in universal awe. It is a theme that has inspired the artists of the world and in tribute they have dedicated works in her honor.

Today’s blog introduces one of the most famous artists in history, a man who I believe was greatly misunderstood and unfortunately best known for his physiological breakdown during which he cut off part of his left ear with a razor; an event in his life that has became synonymous with his name… Esteemed thinker: Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) was a largely self taught artist and considered one of the greatest Post-Impressionists. His bold and colorful style of painting became an influence on his successors, where his approach to expressionism was adopted by generations of followers. Though his work was never honored during his lifetime, his masterpieces now have become part of what we recognize as genius.

van gogh hay stack So without anymore fanefare, I bring to you the thoughts of this humble man which I have extracted from his letters to his brother, Theo. Set aside a moment and read the words of Vincent Van Gogh …

“… Many landscape painters do not possess that intimate knowledge of nature which those have who from childhood have looked at the fields. Many landscape painters as men (though we appreciate them as artists) give something that satisfies neither you nor me. You will say that everyone has seen landscapes and figures from childhood on. The question is: Has everybody also been reflective as a child? Has everybody who has seen them also loved heath, fields, meadow, woods, and the snow and the rain and the storm? Not everybody has done that as you and I have: it is a peculiar kind of surroundings and circumstances that must contribute to such knowledge of nature; it is a peculiar kind of temperament and character, too, that must help to make it take root…”

Esteemed thinker: Willliam Carlos Williams

cave If we were posed with the question of” who is considered to be the first artist” we may find a multitude of diverse answers. For we would have to ask ourselves, what are we defining as “art”. For the sake of continuity, let me suggest that perhaps the walls of the El Castillo Cave in Cantabria, Spain served as the first canvas a mere 40,000 years ago. And then there are the very famous Lascaux Caves in France which host the wall drawings of horses, human figures, and abstract signs that we are quite familiar with… Maybe these prehistoric galleries are samples of our first graffiti artists. Alas, I would have to say “no” to the latter since the only means of a platform to draw upon were the cave walls…for all other natural elements such as bark would have disintegrated…and unlike materials for today’s artist … there was no paper, cloth, or even papyrus.

So, what is a work of art? We all have our own opinion, which varies in styles and individual favorites with the same degree of assortment as the changes in weather; and if you rather not trouble yourself with a personal constitution defining what makes up “a work of art” … there is always the critic that does… and will surely bestow their “expert” opinion.

So, to help us weed through some ideas regarding art, I bring to you today’s esteemed thinker: William Carlos Williams (1883 -1963), medical doctor and writer who influenced modern 20th century poetry with his unconventional approach to imagery, “lack of form”, and the use of the “American language”. Williams was considered a modernist in his style; writing a prolific body of work that included essays about literature, music, and painters. He contributed to literary magazines and was a highly sought after lecturer. In 1963 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for Pictures from Brueghel.

william carlos williams Let us pause today for Mr. Williams and read from his Selected Essays (1931), “Against the Weather: A Study of the Artist”…taking note of his honest approach with the subject…and when you are finished you may contemplate the caves…is it indeed art?

“… I’ve been writing a sentence, with all the art I can muster. Here it is: A work of art is important only as evidence, in its structure, of a new world which it has been created to affirm.
Let me explain.
A life that is here and now is timeless. That is the universal I am seeking: to embody that in a work of art, a new world that is always “real”.
All things otherwise grow old and rot. By long experience the only thing that remains unchanged and unchangeable is the work of art. It is because of the element of timelessness in it, its sensuality. The only world that exists is the world of the senses. The world of the artist… That is the artist’s work. He might well be working at it during a bombardment, for the bombardment will stop. After a while they will run out of bombs. Then they will need something to fall back on: today. Only the artist can invent it. Without today everything would be lost and they would have to start bombing again as they always do, to hide the lack. If the artist can finish before the attack is over it will be lucky. He is the most important artisan they have.
The work an artist has to do is the most important creation of civilization. It is also its creator…”