Furious Love

“The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian.”

– Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God

Christ With Mocking Soldier, Carl Bloch, 1880

Bloch-Mocking-of-Christ

Happy Easter

xoxo

Happy Day

I was thinking about which music to post for Music Monday to mark the beginning of Holy Week. Churches throughout New York City are offering a glorious selection of masses, choral works, and hymns. I’ve decided to go with some good old American gospel.

One can’t help but wonder where American music would be without its gospel roots. A huge number of R & B singers and pop performers began their musical journeys singing in church, from Marvin Gaye to Whitney Houston, to Tina Turner, Patsy Cline, Katy Perry, and so many others. One of my all time favorites, Sam Cooke, started out a church singer and eventually became an member of the highly respected Soul Stirrers. Sam Cooke was an exceptional gospel vocalist and had one of the most recognizable voices in the history of music. He was so masterful at gospel that many of his fans were dismayed when he decided to cross over into pop. Mahalia Jackson, on the other hand, turned down every opportunity to go “mainstream”. She sang gospel – and only gospel – throughout her decades-long career. So in many respects, American music owes a great debt to the churches of Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, and Harlem, and those atop country hills in small towns stretching from Appalachia to the Louisiana bayou. They nurtured and unleashed some of the most gifted talents of our time.

Our music today is the incomparable Aretha Franklin, who got her start singing in her father’s church, and the great Mavis Staples, gospel singer and national treasure. Here they are performing – I should say “testifying” – “Oh Happy Day”. The song was originally an 18th century hymn which was freshly adapted and arranged by Edwin Hawkins in 1967 and has become a popular gospel classic. I could listen to this over and over, as it is infused with spiritual uplift and foot-tapping, hand-clapping joy. You couldn’t ask for two better ladies to turn it out.

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A most blessed Holy Week my friends. A Happy Passover. A happy LIFE to all. Rejoice in the glory that surrounds us every day . . . every happy day.

Model to the Grindstone

Helloooooo!! Greetings friends. I trust you’ve all filed your taxes, completed spring cleaning, and renewed your car inspections since I lasted posted? Because I’ve done all of it! :lol:

Ok, I lied. I haven’t done any of those things. But they’re all in progress. I have a valid excuse for procrastinating, though, which is that I’ve been studio-bound working my heinie off at art modeling. Because it’s what I do. And I am a dreadful time-budgeter. The worst. Also, I had a a brief rant on Twitter the other day in which I vented some frustrations, but it’s passed now thank god. Behold the bitchfest here and here. My fellow art model Andrew heard my grievances loud and clear. Thanks friend.

For some visual proof of my daily grind, this is me posing on Long Island’s north shore. From the expression on my face it looks like I retained some residual “don’t mess with me, I’m a professional model” attitude from last week. Well, it had been a long day and Rob Silverman took this reference photo at the end of the session. It was very nice of him to send me the pic. Rob and I have known each other for years. He’s an excellent teacher. This was the agreed upon pose set-up for painting. They wanted nude with fabric and they got it. Throw in light, shadow, and color, and you’ve got the essentials of studio art. Satin, baby ;-)

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Raphael and the Body Electric

A few days ago I received an email from Sedef Piker, an art history and travel blogger, in which she generously invited me to take part in an online tribute the life and work of  Hasan Niyazi - a fellow art historian and blogger who left us far, far too soon. The “Day for Hasan” would coincide with the birthday of Raphael and consist of original blog postings written for the occasion. Honored that I was even asked to participate, I contemplated what my contribution should be and decided that I would respectfully leave the art historical discourses to the experts and the intimate recollections to those of course who knew Hasan personally. What I can offer instead is the point of view of an artist’s model toward the Renaissance master who so inspired Hasan’s passion.

My world is infused with figure drawing. Yes I have sat for countless portraits and oil paintings. But my years as a professional artist’s model have made clear one incontrovertible truth about the creation of art: drawing is the most vital and essential skill an artist can master. For it is from drawing the human form that all timeless art flows. Raphael’s magnificent paintings and frescoes exist because he was, above all else, a gifted master draftsman. Easily one of the best who ever lived. And when the rules of propriety constrained artists of Raphael’s day from working from nude female models – a taboo practice -Raphael did it anyway. Gotta love him for that.

Day in and day out, I see artists drawing my body, in chalk and charcoal, pen and graphite and conte crayon. Some do it with difficulty, others with facility, aspiring to capture the gestures, lines, volume, movement, and humanity of their life subject. If I could jump in a time machine and travel back to Rome in 1508, I’d bang on Raphael’s studio door and beg to pose for him. And based on accounts of Raphael’s irresistible charms I’d bring a bottle of red wine too ;-)

Hasan regularly expressed his admiration for my work as an artist’s model. He also enjoyed my blogging content which often includes art images with poetry. So for my friend Hasan who I miss very much on 3PipeProblem, Twitter, and warm, joyful notes in my email inbox, here are some Raphael drawings accompanied by excerpts from Walt Whitman’s “I Sing The Body Electric”, for a Museworthy virtual life drawing session:

I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.

Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves?
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead?
And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?

Raphael-KneelingWoman

The love of the body of man or woman balks account, the body itself balks account,
That of the male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect.

The expression of the face balks account,
But the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face,
It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of his hips and wrists,
It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist and knees, dress does not           ….hide him,
The strong sweet quality he has strikes through the cotton and broadcloth,
To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem, perhaps more,
You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck and shoulder-side.

Raffaello_Sanzio_-_Figure_Studies_-_WGA18939

The sprawl and fulness of babes, the bosoms and heads of women, the folds of their
….dress, their style as we pass in the street, the contour of their shape downwards,
The swimmer naked in the swimming-bath, seen as he swims through the transparent ….green-shine, or lies with his face up and rolls silently to and fro in the heave of the water,

Raphael_psyche_offering_venus_the_water_of_styx-large

The bending forward and backward of rowers in row-boats, the horseman in his
….saddle,
Girls, mothers, house-keepers, in all their performances,
The group of laborers seated at noon-time with their open dinner-kettles, and their
….wives waiting,
The female soothing a child, the farmer’s daughter in the garden or cow-yard,
The young fellow hoeing corn, the sleigh-driver driving his six horses through the
….crowd,
The wrestle of wrestlers, two apprentice-boys, quite grown, lusty, good-natured,
….native-born, out on the vacant lot at sun-down after work,
The coats and caps thrown down, the embrace of love and resistance,
The upper-hold and under-hold, the hair rumpled over and blinding the eyes;
The march of firemen in their own costumes, the play of masculine muscle through ….clean-setting trowsers and waist-straps,

Raphael_-_Young_Man_Carrying_an_Old_Man_on_His_Back,_c._1514_-_Google_Art_Project

The slow return from the fire, the pause when the bell strikes suddenly again, and the
….listening on the alert,
The natural, perfect, varied attitudes, the bent head, the curv’d neck and the counting;
Such-like I love—I loosen myself, pass freely, am at the mother’s breast with the little child,
Swim with the swimmers, wrestle with wrestlers, march in line with the firemen, and
….pause, listen, count.

Sanzio_-_Study_for_Two_Female_Figures;_Hebe_and_Proserpine

There is something in staying close to men and women and looking on them, and in
….the contact and odor of them, that pleases the soul well,
All things please the soul, but these please the soul well.

Dewing’s Musical Maidens

If we can infer an artist’s interests from his body of work – and I believe we can – then Thomas Dewing, the American Impressionist, was evidently interested in women, music, and “tonalism”. The process of gathering images and material for Music Monday posts have put Dewing on my radar often. Whenever I searched via tags like “music”, “women”, “song’, “violin”, etc,  his elegant, soft-focus, monochromatic compositions of ladies and instruments would fill my laptop screen.

Music, Thomas Dewing, ca. 1895:

Dewing-Music

Born in Boston in 1851, Dewing was one of the founding members of “The Ten” – a clique of painters who broke from the Society of American Artists in an act of liberation from the status quo and generally rigid, uninspired standards of the organization. Dewing studied at the prestigious Académie Julian in Paris where he learned formal techniques. When he returned to the United States he became a practitioner of “tonalism”, a painting style which employs a dominant hue of color applied for nebulous, moody effect and, in some cases, figures or objects which are somewhat indistinct. If James MacNeill Whistler comes to your mind with that description, you’re totally grasping it. And you get a Museworthy “A” in art history. Whistler was the godfather of tonalism.

Whistler’s famous “art for art’s sake” philosophy was fully embraced by Thomas Dewing. His women are lovely, feminine, delicate . . . objects really. In this work by Dewing, The Lute, 1904, the women are arranged in a visually pleasing composition amidst a gorgeous veil of green. Unlike true art “subjects”, they seem to exist nowhere in particular, have no identity or reason for being. Can-can dancers, prostitutes, peasants, socialites, gypsies, duchesses, housemaids, beggars – Dewing’s women are none of these things. They are simply figures that emerge out of the tonal shroud in a detached world; a misty, amorphous “dreamscape”, serving an aesthetic that would make Whistler proud:

Dewing-TheLute

Here, in The Music Lesson, Dewing’s setting is again vague – a sparse, nonspecific space to emphasize the tonalism technique and his “woman with a musical instrument” motif.

Dewing-MusicLesson

The Song, 1891. Dewing sure liked green! I don’t blame him. Green is a beautiful color, and these ladies are bathed in it:

Dewing-TheSong

Compare these Dewing works with Vermeer’s scenes of young women practicing music. Surely Dewing was influenced by the great Dutch master. But Vermeer offered social context, perspective, and spatial dimensions. His girls exist in a place and time. And they are unique individuals, their eyes, dress, and postures emanating personality, like in this splendid work. Dewing’s world, in contrast, is ambiguous, uncluttered, indeterminate. Poems presented in a limited palette. Different from Vermeer without a doubt, but both men immortalized an enduring theme: women and music. I’m good with both of those things, no matter who paints them :-)

Young Woman with Violincello, Thomas Dewing:

Dewing_Young_Woman_with_Violincello

Face Forward

Friends, I am feeling much, much better since the burglary I’m happy to report. All of you who assured me that my sense of security would return in due time? You were right. I wouldn’t say that I’m at 100% – or ever will be – but I’m currently at a good 75%. And I’ll take it! The jittery nerves, the thick knot of anxiety in my chest, the fear and vulnerability and sleepless nights have diminished significantly. So thanks again to all of you for your support and comfort, expressed through blog comments and emails. I really appreciate it :-)

This is a pencil drawing of me by Irene Vitale, which is lovely for its simplicity and loose lines.  Between the burglary (during which she was a great support) and two snowstorm cancellations of scheduled art classes, Irene and I have had a crazy couple of months! Finally, we made it to the Art League of Long Island for class, on a snow-free day, where she taught, I modeled, and all was well.

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Vernal Expressions

The Enkindled Spring  - D.H. Lawrence

This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes.

I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze
Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration,
Faces of people streaming across my gaze.

And I, what fountain of fire am I among
This leaping combustion of spring? My spirit is tossed
About like a shadow buffeted in the throng
Of flames, a shadow that’s gone astray, and is lost.

My poetry/art mashups usually consist of one each: one poem, one painting. This time I’m treating us all to two artworks. The arrival of spring can’t be heralded enough as far as I’m concerned, especially this year, as we bid farewell to a fiercely harsh winter. D.H. Lawrence’s spring is a “leaping combustion” – described with heat-associated words like “flames”, “blaze”, “bonfire”, and “conflagration”, a vibrant expression of the flourishing, explosive growth of the season. Spring spreads like a wildfire in Lawrence’s poem.

Spring is also, to me, a time of discovery. Our old “friends” in nature – cherry blossoms, daffodils, the furry catkins on pussy willow branches – are born anew, and we delight in catching sight of them again. So here are two very different paintings from two very different artists of different periods, both expressing the joy of springtime discovery.

From Paul Gauguin, French Post-Impressionist, The First Flowers, 1888:

Gauguin-the-first-flowers-1888

And this one by British realist painter Frederick Walker, Spring, 1864:

FrederickWalker-spring

O’Museworthy

“To be Irish is to know that in the end the world will break your heart.”

– Daniel Patrick Moynihan

In a Dublin Park, light and shade, c. 1895, Walter Frederick Osborne. From the National Gallery of Ireland:

Osborne-DublinPark

Poets. Playwrights. Rebels. Iconoclasts. Wisecrackers. Saints and sinners. Lacemakers, footballers, farmers and whiskey distillers. Full of joy and cynicism at the same time. I would drink to the Irish for St. Patrick’s Day but I’ll be modeling for hours and hours. So I’ll get naked instead. Consider it a tribute to all the Irish bad boys I dated in my younger, more free-spirited years. Troublemakers ;-)

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, and Happy Music Monday! Here’s a group of fine Irish fellas. Maybe you’ve heard of them :-)

Ars Longa Vita Brevis

When I first met Janet Cook, years ago in Mary Beth McKenzie‘s painting class at the National Academy, I was struck by two things; her strawberry blonde hair and her dainty English accent. Then I had a look at her artwork, and I was struck again by her imagination and originality. We have been friends ever since. Over the years I’ve been impressed by Janet’s dedication to figurative art, her tenacity, and her willingness to tackle bold compositions and embellish her paintings with decorative accents like stencils and jewels, or as Janet calls it, “bling”.

Her solo show, “Ars Longa Vita Brevis”, is now on view at Dacia Gallery, and it is thoroughly beguiling. The models – some of the best in the city – command the canvases through a multitude of physical expressions – they gaze, they twist, they extend and fly, they coexist with birds, butterflies, and shimmering fabrics, as joyful players in the colorful, vivid flight of fancy that is Janet’s artistic vision.

This piece is titled “Away”, one of my favorites:

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I am not among the models in this show’s work, but I have posed for Janet many times. You can see some of our past collaborations here and here. I took this picture of Janet at the gallery last Sunday. It was so great to see her and support her. Rock on, Janet! :-)

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At School With Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Hellooooooo!!! Greetings darling Museworthy readers. We are a few more days closer to spring since I last posted here. Ain’t that grand? I thought I saw some crocus bulbs poking out of the ground the other day. :happy dance:

My friend Francisco Malonzo was recently profiled in The Palette Pages with a splendid Q & A interview and magnificent images of his work. One of them is a portrait of yours truly that also appeared in this Museworthy post. More of Francisco’s paintings of me can be seen here and here. He and I have known each other for some time through the National Academy, and I’m delighted that he’s enjoying exposure and success :-)

Here in the Big Apple our newly-elected mayor Bill de Blasio is waging a war against charter schools. The whole thing is a shitstorm of local politics that involves the teachers’ union, irate parents, and de Blasio’s personal vendetta against Eva Moskowitz, the founder of Success Academy Charter Schools. Lost in the midst of this imbroglio? The children of New York City, who deserve better. I was reminded the other day of an engraving I’d seen once by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Flemish painter and printmaker of the Northern Renaissance period. I found it on the Web. It’s called The Ass in the School, from 1556. The humorous scene depicts a classroom – more like a barn – of unruly children and a teacher about to discipline one with a spanking on his bare butt. A mysterious woman peers from behind a window, and a donkey, aka “the ass”, studies what appears to be sheet music from his perch. The inscription reads something to effect of “the ass goes to school but will never become a horse”.

BruegeltheElder-AssSchool

Bruegel could have been making a satirical statement about the folly of education, or rather certain aspects of it. Or perhaps a broad comment about human failings and our inherently flawed nature in the spirit of Hieronymus Bosch. If you enlarge the image and look closely, the faces of the “children” in the drawing don’t appear like true children but more like mini-adults. So Bruegel might be trying to suggest something there. Apart from the hidden commentary, the print is really great, in composition and character. Truthfully, I just wanted to post it because Bill de Blasio kind of looks like a donkey :lol:

Click on this link for a nice gallery of more Bruegel prints. Have a great weekend everyone!

Homestead

Did I lock the deadbolt? I think I did. I’m pretty sure I did. It’s 1:00 AM but I should get out of bed and check it just to be sure. And while I’m up I might as well check all the windows one more time, even though I checked them before I went to bed. I pushed the levers as far as I could push them but I should push them again with all my strength. Better safe than sorry, right? And I might as well look out the window and check the street one more time and make sure there are no suspicious cars in the neighborhood. All rightfully belong: Stacy’s Passat, Mary’s Honda CRV, Mike’s truck, Tony’s jeep. OK. Back to bed. But wait … what about that ill-fitting basement window that doesn’t always close completely? Better check it. Out of bed again, down the stairs, into the corner next to to the water heater. Checked. Secure. Back upstairs to bed. Go to sleep. I have modeling in the morning. But what is that tapping sound? thump … thump … thump … those are the heat pipes, and I know that full well because I’ve lived with those noises for 15 years. It’s the steam, not a prowler. NOT A PROWLER. Chill, girl, chill. It’s the pipes and you know it. Don’t freak out.

This is my house. MY HOUSE goddammit. Not the burglar’s house. Not the police’s house. MY house. My home. I have to stop this compulsive behavior. It would be so nice to have a big strong man here with me, but I don’t :-(

So this sucks, living this way in the wake of the burglary. My alarm system better arrive soon because I’m a ball of knots. I actually did a Google search for shotguns <–that’s how paranoid I’ve become. I’m an inch away from becoming a crazy lady in a bathrobe running out her front door yelling, “get off my property, punk, or you’ll be in a world of pain!”. And that’s so NOT who I am, good grief. But I will continue the mantra in my head: this is MY HOUSE. My sanctuary. My place of peace and privacy. I beg you, Queens burglars, leave me alone. You hit me once. No need to hit me again.

Moonlight Interior by Edward Hopper:

Hopper-moonlight-interior

I’m sorry, readers. I’m so sorry. I’m just unhappy and scared and lonely. I need a vacation … or just a day or two to feel carefree, or pampered, or, at this point, just a solid good night’s sleep.

I’ll be back in the next post in better spirits … I promise :-)

Music, Survival, and 110 Years

It sometimes bothers me that many of the Music Monday posts are obituaries for an acclaimed figure recently lost. But I feel like I can’t help it, because I believe strongly in eulogizing the dead. Life stories are fascinating to me. And if there was ever a person whose life story deserves a tribute here it is Holocaust survivor and classical pianist Alice Herz-Sommer who just passed away at the age of 110. Alice is the subject of an Oscar nominated short documentary The Lady in Number 6, which I really hope wins at the awards ceremony this Sunday.

To describe Alice Herz-Sommer’s life as remarkable would be a spectacular understatement. I am completely in awe of this woman. She carries not an ounce of anger, bitterness, anguish, or sadness. She radiates nothing but joy and gratitude. And the way she speaks about music – Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, etc. – is pure love. From Prague, to a Nazi prison camp, to her apartment in London, here she is, in her own words. RIP Alice, you beautiful extraordinary soul . . .

Cézanne and Sensibility

“Women models frighten me”
- Paul Cézanne

Oh Paul don’t be scared! We won’t bite. Well, maybe a little :lol: During a recent visit to the Met with my friend Fred, the topic came up about the lack of posed nudes in the work of Cézanne, the greatly admired “father of modern art”. For me, as a blogging artist’s model, Paul Cézanne has always been a conundrum. His catalog of paintings, while significant and groundbreaking, isn’t exactly a treasure trove of nudes for me to choose from for post discussions. Yes, nudes do appear in Cézanne’s work – abstracted nudes in which the forms are simplified to serve a larger compositional scheme. But the explicit art “nude” as a primary subject was something Cézanne avoided like the plague. In all the art lectures I’ve been privy to, Cézanne is never cited as an exemplar of nude figure painting. The sentiment expressed in the above quote, which was corroborated by his good friend Emile Zola, offers some explanation, but doesn’t tell the whole story.

Sugar Bowl, Pears, and Blue Cup, 1866, by Paul Cézanne:

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An artist’s sensibility and attitudes are central to the work they create, and Cézanne was no exception. The son of a wealthy banker, Cézanne rejected a career in law to devote himself completely to art. An inveterate rural man, Paul Cézanne wore his country bumpkin hat with pride. He was only truly comfortable in the picturesque hills of Aix-en-Provence in the south of France, the place where he was born and would die. Though he lived there for several years, Cézanne disliked Paris and preferred to spend as little time there as possible. When he did, he invited some derision from the fashionable Parisian sophisticates with his awkward social manners, southern dialect, and simple clothing. Mary Cassatt attended a dinner party where she observed Cézanne pulling the meat off his pork chop with his fingers. However, she also noted his respectful treatment of others which is rather interesting. “He shows a politeness towards us which no other man here would have shown.” she wrote.

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So I Googled a few book excerpts on the subject of Cézanne and nudes, specifically his aversion to them, and I found some explanations which are not totally unreasonable. First, it seems that Cézanne was genuinely uncomfortable in the presence of nude women. His discomfort stemmed from either his own prudishness or his fear of being sexually tempted. Or most likely a mixture of both. Cézanne was a fairly conservative man, raised by a conservative father, living and working in a generally conservative, rural, provincial town. To that last point, Cézanne also expressed concern that even if he wanted to paint a female nude, he believed he’d have trouble obtaining one in the region. Aix is a lovely place for sure, but it isn’t Paris – a city where an artist could find a willing nude model within five minutes. The local townspeople of Aix might not have taken kindly to Cézanne employing a parade of nude models.

One of Cézanne’s favorite painting subjects, Mont Sainte-Victoire, the mountain overlooking Aix-En-Provence.

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Besides his personal inhibitions and neurotic issues with women, Cézanne’s scarcity of nudes can also be explained in the context of his strong preference for working outdoors. While Cézanne painted many still lifes and portraits of his wife Marie-Hortense and other family members, he still held the belief that studio art could never be superior to art created outdoors, among the ever-changing lights, shadows, reflections, forms and colors of nature. Since a traditional “nude” is a studio work (for obvious reasons) it makes sense that the diehard outdoorsman wasn’t terribly interested.  Perhaps Cézanne had his fill of being cooped up in the studio painting apples and peaches. The beautiful landscape of Provence was a far more compelling enticement, and for an artist who was interested in exploring optical phenomena, nature provides the best material. In fact, Cézanne literally died from his devotion to outdoor painting. On October 15th, 1906 he endured two hours of a rainstorm working at his easel, until he finally succumbed, drenched and freezing. He collapsed on the road where a laundry cart driver found him. Cézanne died a week later from pneumonia and complications from diabetes.

So what about the nudes Cézanne DID paint? He was content to use his old sketches from art school and copies he made from museum visits as his references. With those, and perhaps a bit of “winging it”, an artist of Cézanne’s talents could achieve the nudes he required, without working from life. Anatomical precision and the individuality of the figure were not his main concern. The nudes, as shapes, are part of the landscape. This is his famous 1905 work, The Large Bathers:

Paul_Cézanne_Bathers

In writing this post I learned a lot about Cézanne, both the artist and the man. And even though he would choose to paint a bowl of grapes over me, I don’t take it personally ;-) Artists are expected to paint what inspires them the most and captures their imagination. No one is obligated to paint classical nudes of course. Actually, I respect Cézanne for being his own man; part beneficiary of a wealthy inheritance, part country yokel, not a lothario, not a publicity-seeker. He rejected the nightclubs, brothels, and cabarets of Paris, and the insufferable snobs of the art elite, and said instead, “Screw that shit. I’m gonna stay here in Aix and pave the way for modern art”.

Thou Shalt Not . . .

To the person who broke into my house on Tuesday night while I was out at work . . . I hope the Oxycontin was worth it. Or the meth, or the heroin, or whatever ruinous substance to which you are enslaved. To you  . . . who took a crowbar to my window and busted the lock . . . who ransacked my bedroom, emptied all my drawers, and stuffed into your goody bag my laptop, my Nikon digital SLR camera, my diamond engagement ring and wedding band from my 1998 marriage, and the silver bracelet which was a cherished gift from my last boyfriend . . . To you . . . who shoved off all the perfume bottles on my vanity as a framed photo of my dead father surveilled your crimes . . . To you . . . who in your manic hunt for cash and jewelry, rifled through love letters and cards and personal mementos . . . To you . . . who, in a panic, collided with my kitchen garbage can and knocked it over in the final seconds before you fled my home, and exited right out the front door . . . To you . . . who has put fear and unease into me that I will never be rid of . . . who has victimized and violated a person who did nothing to you . . . who has instilled in me a level of distress and anxiety that has so far prevented me from sleeping one wink during the evening hours since this incident, in my own home, on my quiet residential street. To you  . . . who has forced me to consider paying thousands of dollars – that I don’t have – for an alarm system, without which I will never feel safe again. To you . . . you lost, broken soul . . . I offer my sincere prayers . . . that you might find yourself someday living a life where you have better things to do on a weeknight than steal from strangers . . . that you may earn money, as I was doing on 13th Street while you were invading my house . . . To you . . . whose footprints were shown to me by the police and their flashlights in my backyard . . . the tracks you left in the snow . . . I truly hope and pray that you find the strength to get better . . . and leave your “footprints” in this life of a different sort.

1964

We Beatles fans have surely been relishing all the “Beatles 50″ hoopla that has built up these last few weeks. Yesterday, February 9th, was the 50th anniversary of the Beatles first appearance on American television on The Ed Sullivan Show. I happen to enjoy commemorating watershed moments, whether they mark points in serious history or popular culture, if only because they add structure and context to our perceptions of place and time, and replenish our memories. Also, I just love history of all sorts.

Over the past fifty years, the Beatles have been the beneficiaries of much mythologizing, fanaticism, and hagiography; deifying treatments that John Lennon himself often repudiated and felt were unwarranted. The elevated status of the Beatles irks some, and as a hard core Beatles fan I can appreciate their opinions. I think much of it has to do with the Beatles serving as a symbolic proxy for Baby Boomers, a generation that has become, fairly or not, a subject of derision in some circles. Nostalgia is great, but it does seem to have a breaking point when people just tire of it all.

It’s fairly futile to quarrel about the Beatles music or whether they are fully deserving of their exalted status, a point of contention which was being disputed on Twitter last night during the CBS Grammy tribute. The larger point, I think, is the Beatles’ fortuitous position in the 60s zeitgeist: four young men who morphed from fresh-faced playful innocence into disillusioned cynicism before the world’s eyes over the course of a mere six years – a mirroring of the world itself during the same transformative period of time. It might be worth examining the significance of the “50th” in terms of 1964 itself. The Beatles on Ed Sullivan was just one notable event in an overall notable year. So what else happened in 1964? A lot. Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston to become the heavyweight champion of the world. Shea Stadium was opened and the Polo Grounds were demolished. Three civil rights activists, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner, were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi,. The Warren Commission report was published. The New York Times Co. v Sullivan Supreme Court ruling upheld the First Amendment. Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison. Dr. Martin Luther King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Ford Motor Compnay unveiled the first Mustang. Jack Ruby was found guilty of assassinating Lee Harvey Oswald. A computer program written in BASIC was run for the first time. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor got married. And my brother, Chris Hajian, was born on September 29th :-)

Since we’ve all seen the grainy footage of Ed Sullivan introducing the band, extending his arm and hollering “The Beatles!!”, the ensuing screams, and the opening guitar chords jangling away, let’s watch a different video for Music Monday. Here are the Beatles singing sweet harmonies in “This Boy”. The year, of course, is 1964: