Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Every Artist Has a Lot to Teach Us

Tom Hinkle, who lives in Portland, Maine, has contributed numerous paintings to Still Point Art Gallery exhibitions over the years. His beautiful landscapes feature the places in Maine and the moments of his life that are memorable and rich with meaning. Many of his pieces focus attention on the Maine coast, and he does great justice to its character and importance to the people of Maine.

Tom HinkleNightfall at the Point.

Tom Hinkle, Discovery.

An article in Hinkle's recent newsletter really caught my attention, partly due to the title, "When Is a Painting Finished?"and partly because of its references to turn-of-the-twentieth-century painter John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent,
Bedouins, c. 1905.
(public domain;
Wikimedia Commons)
I was in Boston in November and had the opportunity to view the John Singer Sargent Watercolors exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts. Some ninety of Sargent's pieces were on display for this show, and it was wonderful to see the incredible variety of the artist's watercolor creations. Some of the pieces displayed his brilliant use of translucent color that perfectly captured the sun-soaked landscapes that he seemed to favor in his later years. Others were more rich and dense in their use of color, recalling his earlier use of oils. A few that were especially striking and memorable showed his skill with portrait paintings, which he was well known for before he turned to watercolor. It was hard to move away from his painting, Bedouins; the eyes in this piece are sharp and direct and captivating. 

So, seeing a reference to Sargent in Hinkle's newsletter, I had to read on and, with his permission, I provide excerpts here:
Oil paintings can be refined and adjusted, perhaps forever. Does the artist stop because he is tired of the work, or because he's truly satisfied with it? I find that at least some aging is good; I may see a possible improvement that had eluded me. This can even happen after years of the work being exhibited or stored away. I look and "Yes!" Recently I had that experience with a rocky shore scene which I considered one of my best: the foreground was not right. I've spent hours working on it, again. A strong foreground is essential to depth. 
Which brings us to John Singer Sargent, the preeminent portrait artist of the late nineteenth century. Sargent painted in oils; he had a genius for capturing a personality, not merely a likeness. His technique is less detailed than it may appear, testament to his skill. Since a portrait is a commission, he had to deliver it, without endless adjustments. Shortly after 1900 Sargent quit the portrait business and turned to landscapes and urban scenes . . . . 
Now he wass entirely in charge; he chose what he wanted to paint and did much of his work in watercolor. He was amazingly prolific, sometimes averaging one work a day. But watercolors are like that. They tend to be swift and right the first time, or you throw them out and start fresh. . . . 
John Singer SargentTramp, c. 1906. 
(public domain; Wikimedia Commons)

The traditional water color painting of Sargent's day was pretty and sedate. Urban scenes were predictably sourvenirs. Sargent's style was bold and intensely colored, his subjects never predictable scenes but rather true artistic compositions, never an entire famous building, but a corner of one, a bit of architectural detail rendered with a sureness that I find amazing, a striking Venice canal scene with gondoliers taking a nap in their boats. . . . 
Sargent's skill at capturing the human face was not put aside when he was devoting his time to watercolors. Relatives and friends, and chance acquaintances, provided subjects. One of the most brilliant is a water color portrait entitled "Tramp," an old man rendered in bold strokes, yet eerily alive.
The lessons? Paint rapidly but be sure to get the basic lines right. Don't try to be photographic . . . . In the end, I am not Sargent, never will be, and don't plan to change to watercolor. But, every artist has a lot to teach us.

Christine Brooks Brooks
Shanti Arts

Friday, March 07, 2014

The Rigged Universe

A few months ago, Shanti Arts published The Rigged Universe, a collection of poetry by Anthony Labriola, whose fiction and poetry have appeared several times in our periodicals, Still Point Arts Quarterly and Stone Voices. The book is beautifully illustrated with the work of artist Teresa Young

Labriola recently posted some remarks about his book on his blog. I reproduce them below and encourage you both to purchase a copy of this beautiful collection and to take a look at his blog. Labriola is a remarkable writer and thinker. 

-  More information about The Rigged Universe

-  View sample pages from this beautiful book

-  Purchase this book

From the author's blog:

In Narratology, Mieke Bal contends that “I and he are both I.” So, beware of the first person in The Rigged Universe. It is kith and kin of the Jabberwocky Monster–trickster, shape-shifter, illusionist, magician, and even a poor player. The sonnets as dramatic monologues play with perception and magical thinking. They play with rough magic and enchantment until the real world comes into sharp focus. Yet some of the personae impersonate the poet and relate personal experiences in the rigging of the universe. From self-delusion to clarity, from appearance to reality, the poems attempt to express gratitude for the pain and pleasure of living in the world.  ”All poetry is myth-making: it strives to recreate the myths about the world,” wrote Bruno Schulz. (p. 18 in The Street of Crocodiles and other Stories, translated by Celina Wieniewska) For the Italian poet, Eugenio Montale, the making of poetry is, in the final analysis, the crafting of forms. In the lyric tradition of Dante, Petrarch and others, The Rigged Universe employs the sonnet form in modern variations.  With eloquence or counter-eloquence, in diminished light or iridescence, it is poetry that is rigged.

But watch out for the magician’s tricks and manipulations. The magician is not a mystic. Poetry is not magic, as W.H. Auden says. And Thomas Merton agrees. Still, magic examines perception and belief in these poems.  Allusions to other poets abound: Dante, Shakespeare, Donne, Blake, Hopkins, Thomas, Eliot, Montale, Schultz, Labriola (my son) and O’Neill. Artists, too, appear–Van Gogh and Rothko. The making of Art lets the light in as Theresa Young’s luminous works show. As in the poem, “Breathing Light,” the artist becomes what he sees and then depicts what he becomes. For the purposes of the collection, Art rigs the universe! But so do faith, science, music, silence! The rigging is made of astonishment and wonder!

The Rigged Universe
A rigged universe with a chance to pull

the strings: a demonstration of how it
all works, how it’s all a magic trick,
how deceivers undeceive and magicians

hold up disbelief. Everything is up my sleeve
in real-time links between hand and eye.
The universe doesn’t stand a chance when magic

takes over—Hocus pocus and a book of spells
with tricky thrills, Shamanic voices, eyes
in the palms of each hand, the wisdom of wizards

and witches, Druidic signs of water
and spirit. I want the real voodoo and what’s
behind the curtain, a life-changing offer

in the rigged dark of this night’s magic show. 

Monday, March 03, 2014

A Beautiful Surprise

Robert D. Richardson, author of Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind, said of Thoreau: "He always insisted that his whole life was one of extraordinary luck, and he could have said, as Picasso did of a similar life, 'I do not seek, I find.'"

I do not seek, I find. For a long time, I had these words scrawled on a piece of paper that was pinned to the bulletin board above my desk. The greatest things in my life haven't been things I looked for, they were things I stumbled upon. What I provided was the willingness to see them and draw them into my life. It would have been so easy to pass them by, but my passion for discovery and my drive to not be limited by what is possible led me to places and opportunities that have shaped and defined me. Some times I feel as if I move along on a kind of moving walkway, never knowing what lies ahead, always being surprised, and, like Thoreau, feeling that every moment is one of extraordinary luck. 

In the current issue of Stone Voices (Spring 2014), columnist Vincent Louis Carrella writes about the beautiful surprise. "I'm not looking for anything in particular, only the fascinating discovery I've come to call the beautiful surprise." With camera and notebook, Carrella takes off on vision quests, walking through nature, listening, watching, waiting, discovering. His camera bears witness to his discoveries; it documents the gifts that present themselves. Carrella knows too that his life is one of extraordinary luck, for he sees himself as a " . . . child watching God's magic show, an endless array of jaw-dropping tricks."

Choose not to seek. Choose to find . . . a beautiful surprise.

Read Carrella's entire column here.

Christine Cote, Publisher and Editor
Shanti Arts Publishing