Monday, April 30, 2012

Just Because...

they're beautiful...

It is only when we are aware of the earth and of the earth as poetry that we truly live.
-  Henry Beston, 1935, Herbs and the Earth                                          (Glacier national Park)

"Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life. " - Hermann Hesse                            (Lewis County, Kentucky) 


The love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only paradise we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need, if only we had the eyes to see ...  No, wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, as vital to our lives as water and good bread. -  Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire                                                                                  (Camp Joy, Ohio)

So will I build my altar in the fields,
And the blue sky my fretted dome shall be,
And the sweet fragrance that the wild flower yields
Shall be the incense I will yield to thee.
 - Samuel Taylor Coleridge
      (Springrove Cemetary and Arboretum, Cincinnati, Ohio)       

The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.  --- Henry Miller                   (Shabo Mekaw, Kinneykonick, Kentucky)

“It is a constant idea of mine that behind the cotton wool (of daily reality) is hidden a pattern, that we – I mean all human beings – are connected with this: that the whole world is a work of art; that we are parts of the work of art.”  -Virginia Woolf                                  (Lewis County, Kentucky)

When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.  --Wendell Berry               (Shabo Mekaw, Kinniconick, KY)

"So, friends, every day do something that won't compute...Give your approval to all you cannot understand...Ask the questions that have no answers. Put your faith in two inches of humus that will build under the trees every thousand years...Laugh. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts....Practice resurrection.”-- Wendell Berry                                                                             (Shabo Mekaw)

 “When it’s over, I want to say: All my life I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms." --Mary Oliver                        (Taylor Mill, Kentucky)

   “The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.”-- Wendell Berry
 (Glacier National Park)

                                      (James River, Richmond, Virginia)

 “Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?"

 Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music - like the rain pelting the trees - like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
A white cross
Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?”
-- Mary Oliver

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What's Going On

You may think I've fallen off the edge of the earth, but no, I haven't. I haven't been able to post, because my already ancient and ailing computer got very sick- it was infected with well over 300 viruses. So, long story short, it survived, but I now have no software. No Microsoft Office, and even worse, no Photoshop. I cannot scan anything, even though my scanner works, because there is no program to receive the scan, and I can't edit photos to make them a reasonable, internet-acceptable size.

The good news is that I will be getting a brand new computer in about a month. In the meantime, I wanted to update you on a couple of things. I have 2 pieces in this exhibit at the Living Arts and Science Center in Lexington, Kentucky.

I've always felt that animals are special, that they have a sort of ageless, wordless wisdom that humans, with all our sophistication, have lost. That's why I began writing my mythic folk tale about Raven and Crane, and why I found the theme of this exhibit so intriguing.

The Living Arts and Science Center is intriguing, too, both because of the historic building it's housed in, and because of the variety of creative and educational opportunities they offer the community.

According to their website, LASC "...annually presents more than 400 art classes and workshops for children 18 months-old to adults, 6 – 8 art exhibits, participatory field trips for over 6000 students, monthly Discovery Night programs, community arts projects, numerous free and low-cost family events, and on-going free art classes for thousands of at-risk, special needs and underserved children, teens and adults." It is a very cool place, so please visit if you get a chance.

Other news and observations:

I don't know how to make the links work in this new interface, so I apologize if they don't. I don't know what "Add mime type" or "MIME type is invalid " mean. Hopefully I catch on soon, so please bear with me.

I've started to make the rounds to some of your blogs again, and am having so much fun catching up on what all of you are doing. I will continue to do this, and look forward to visiting everyone.

I'm thinking that I can email my photos (the ones already on my computer) to my son; then he can edit them, and email them back to me so I can put them into posts. Should work, right? So, expect another post very soon.

Of course, I can't download any new photos from my camera, so I guess you'll have to wait to see what I'm working on now. Unless I figure something else out, which is possible. Anything's possible, right?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What is Art, Really?

Recently I saw a piece on a television news magazine which fascinated me, and has also brought up some interesting questions. It was about a four year-old artistic genius, whose paintings are selling for as much as $28,000.00. There are, and have been, many others. I'm not talking about older children whose work is obviously done with forethought and intention; it's the little ones who are touted as "abstract impressionist geniuses" that have me puzzled. Here is a short video about the aforementioned Aelita Andre, who began painting at the age of 11 months.

She's undoubtedly adorable, but is she really an artist? Wouldn't any toddler, presented the opportunity and access to materials, pour and splatter paint onto a canvas? It's hard to say, as most people don't allow their children to do this, and probably couldn't afford it even if they wanted to. I personally can't afford to buy that much paint for myself, and canvases cost a small fortune. Perhaps she is a genius, if only because her art has the sense of freedom and exuberance that most adults have lost.

A similar story from 2005 was that of 4 year-old prodigy Marla Olmstead, who may have been, it turned out, getting a bit too much "help" from her dad. 60 minutes investigated, and allegations flew:
"Her coach is her father, Mark, who is often present when Marla paints. He can be heard on the tape, directing her, sometimes sternly: "Pssst …. Paint the red. Paint the red. You're driving me crazy. Paint the red." "If you paint, honey, like you were … This is not the way it should be." You can read the entire story here.

There was even a movie about it, which I haven't seen, but I have put it on my Netflix queue.

These are examples of a phenomenon that has occurred many times, for who knows how long, but child prodigies aren't really my focus here. It's the nature of what we call 'ART' that interests me. Can a toddler create art? Is intentionality a prerequisite, or can monkey do it? What about an elephant?

I used to feel bad when I first heard about paintings by the elephants at our zoo, primarily because their work sold for more than mine did. But the ones in Thailand are a completely different story, and I don't feel I'm qualified to comment on whether or not the elephants are mistreated. The question is, are they making art?

Of course, there's no definitive answer, since the subject itself is rather- er- subjective. But here are a few definitions to consider.

Art is form and content. To quote Shelley Esaak of Art History, whose explanation is about as straightforward and succinct as any I've seen:
"Art is form and content" means: All art consists of these two things.
Form means:
  • The elements of art,
  • the principles of design and
  • the actual, physical materials that the artist has used.

  • Content, now, gets a little more tricky. Content is idea-based and means:
  • What the artist meant to portray,
  • what the artist actually did portray and
  • how we react, as individuals, to both the intended and actual messages.

Additionally, content includes ways in which a work was influenced--by religion, or politics, or society in general, or even the artist's use of hallucinogenic substances--at the time it was created. All of these factors, together, make up the content side of art."

Kevin Cornell, of the very cool Bareskinrug blog, has come to believe that "art is not created; rather something created becomes Art. Something becomes Art when it is cherished; when we become attached to something for its uniqueness, for its faults and for its successes. An old fire hydrant, where the paint has cracked in a way you've never seen, where you stood and waited for the bus every day for 14 years, as familiar as family, can be as beautiful and unique and personal as a Monet. Those of us who are commonly termed Artists, are merely craftsmen, like a carpenter, or a plumber, or a journalist... if we're lucky, once in a while we do our job in such a way that it becomes unique, and it becomes loved for its uniqueness. Art is as often a product of accident as intent, and on the whole is mostly serendipitous." (italics mine)


And then, there's the film "Exit Through the Gift Shop". If you aren't familiar, it's a documentary about a guy who accidentally becomes a famous artist mainly due to the fact that he likes to film- well- everything.

If you haven't seen this film, you really should. It will make you think, it will crack you up, and probably piss you off. It will definitely make you wonder, "What is art?"

What do you think?