Tag Archives: art

The Bernie Mitten Look

Supposedly imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Do Internet memes fall into that same category?  I guess we could ask Bernie Sanders, the independent-leaning senator from Vermont.  When he arrived at the presidential inauguration last week, Sanders maintained pandemic protocol and sat a few feet from others and wore the appropriate face mask.  But he also wore a pair of thick mittens hand-made by Vermont school teacher Jen Ellis.  Along with a thick parka, he was obviously prepared for the cold New England weather.  Nothing is extraordinary about those mittens, but sometimes there’s just no reason something or someone becomes popular.

Sanders’ mitten fashion has sparked plenty of creative imitators in the cyber-world.

Now Tobey Times Crochet has gone further by designing and creating a “Bernie Sanders crochet doll”, complete with parka, mask and mittens.  Measuring approximately 9” (22.9 cm), the figure is seated and bears wire-frame glasses and unkempt white hair on a balding scalp.

Ever the good sport, Sanders is using his new-found fame to raise money for charity.  And who doesn’t think an old seated alone in a chair during winter is adorable?

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New Blue

For the first time in 200 years, a new shade of blue is on sale.  In 2009, scientists developed YInMn Blue, which derives its name from its chemical components: indium, manganese and yttrium.  It absorbs red and green wavelengths to produce the bright azure shade, which is unique because it’s a hybrid of ultramarine and cobalt blue.

Even though it’s been over a decade, consumer access to the pigment had to process through the usual myriad of government regulations – particularly the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  In 2016, the Shepherd Color Company received a license to sell YInMn Blue and sees the color’s potential industrial usages.  The pigment reflects most infrared radiation; thus, keeping building exteriors cool.

The color blue has a lengthy history of discovery and innovation.  It is the first human-made pigment; dating to roughly 2,200 B.C.E., when Egyptians created cuprorivaite, known simply as Egyptian blue.  Its developers ground limestone mixed with sand and a copper-containing mineral, such as azurite or malachite, then heated it between 1470 and 1650°F.  This produced an opaque blue glass, which then had to be crushed and combined with thickening agents such as egg whites to create a long-lasting paint or glaze.

Thousands of years ago the ancient Maya developed their own shade of blue.  Known simply as Mayan blue, it’s a vibrant, durable and fade-resistant blue extracted from the leaves of the indigo plant (Indigofera) and palygorskite, a clay mineral.  Researchers believe Mayan blue was used in more ceremonial situations than artistic.

YInMn Blue is available to American consumers only through Golden Paints and Italian Arts Store.  Now anyone can purchase a tube of it for USD 179.40.  I don’t know if that’s retail or wholesale, but artists have another reason to struggle in the name of their craft.

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December 2020 Countdown – December 11!

“Don’t make use of another’s mouth unless it has been loaned to you.”

Belgian Proverb

Image: “Little Girl in the Garden”, Anna Rosalie Boch

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A Personal Review

“I couldn’t put it down.”

What author doesn’t love to hear that?!  Especially about their debut novel!

I had a late lunch/early dinner (I’ll call it “lunner”) at a nearby restaurant.  It had been a full, yet satisfying day.  On many levels, things are starting to improve for me.  I won’t go into dramatic detail, but I felt better Friday than I had in months.  The stress of dealing with aging parents and now unemployment in the midst of a global pandemic has beaten my mental and physical health down worse than anything I’ve ever experienced.

So I decided to treat myself for a good meal and a couple of mixed drinks.  My favorite server, Kendra*, was staffing the bar, and after providing my first beverage, suddenly told me how much she loved my novel, The Silent Fountain.  I have known Kendra for a few years and only through the restaurant where she works – long and hard.  It seems every time I visit the place, Kendra is there.  I had provided her an autographed copy of the book back in June, shortly after my mother died.  Friday was the first time I’d been to the restaurant since then.

I didn’t expect Kendra to bring up The Silent Fountain.  Her reaction to it was extraordinary.  It’s my nature to be suspicious of people most of the time.  I don’t know Kendra that well, but I like her.  She has a pleasant and personable demeanor.  Still, it took me a little while to accept fully how much she seems to like my book.  I thought she might be exaggerating just to make me feel good and because I’m somewhat of a regular who tips very well.  So I just let her talk.

And I quickly realized the impact the tale had on her.  In fact, it had the effect I hope to achieve with my readers – for this and all of my stories.  The characters and the locale meshed with the pastoral imagery to create the universe in Kendra’s mind that I envisioned in my own.  A few others who have read it so far have had mostly the same response.

It’s intoxicating to hear all of that, but I have to temper my literary ego with sanity.  Writers work hard to compose a world – realistic or fantastic – within their stories.  We always want to attain that level of likeability as raconteurs; as someone who can dream up a tale – no matter how outrageous – and still be credible.  But then isn’t that what all artists want?

I’ve come to accept that I may never become rich and famous with my writing, and that’s genuinely fine with me.  I don’t write stories – and I didn’t start this blog – to become acclaimed and unbelievably wealthy.  Admittedly, that would be great and ideal, but it simply isn’t realistic.  And no one should engage in any kind of artistic pursuit with that goal in mind.  It’s foolish.

But if I don’t achieve any kind of notoriety until after I die, then that would be just as good for me.  We are still consuming the writings and other artworks of people who passed away long ago.  Kendra is just one person, yet her opinion meant so much to me.  She expressed what I hoped someone would feel when they read that book.  Again, that’s what every artist wants: to be appreciated.

*Name changed.

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Wendy Red Star – Telling It Like It Is Now

Wendy Red Star in “Winter Thesis” (Photo by Kaelan Burkett)

Attending public school in Montana, Wendy Red Star didn’t learn anything about her indigenous Apsáalooke (Crow) history.  She was taught the usual curriculum of European arrival in the Western Hemisphere, western expansion of White settlers, cowboys-and-Indians tales, etc.  But, as has been common in U.S. history, she and her fellow Crow students saw nothing – nothing positive, for the most part – their people’s presence in what is now the state of Montana.  Years ago, however, she became determined to change that and began researching her people’s history on her own.

Today, the multi-media artist is working to ensure future generations of Crow students – and all American pupils, for that matter – aren’t slighted in the same way.  Mixing her indigenous history with humor and personal research, Red Star creates images of Native American peoples from the past and in the present to help everyone understand they aren’t just school mascots or figures from old black-and-white photographs.

Her latest creation, Apsáalooke: Children of the Large-Beaked Bird, is being exhibited at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCa), which is bringing her work to children.

“I think it would be really wonderful to present that history to children because when I grew up,” Red Star said in a recent interview, “I attended public school in Hardin, which is a town that’s surrounded by the Crow reservation and once was part of the Crow reservation.  We never talked about anything having to do with Crow history, even though the student population was a mix of Crow kids and white rancher kids.  So, to me, it’s always been a fantasy to have that history presented in some way.  Then we tried to figure out a way to best engage that age demographic, for the exhibition.”

Righting wrongs and addressing past grievances has never been easy.  But it’s something that has to be done.

The exhibition runs through the spring of 2021.

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Dancing for COVID

Hans Holbein’s “The Lady,” part of his “Danse Macabre” series, c. 1526

From illness and tragedy, art always seems to bloom to place ourselves and our world into a grand perspective.  After the “Black Death” rampaged through Eurasia and North Africa in the 14th century, the “danse macabre”, or dance of death, became an artistic representation of how death is the ultimate equalizer.  Beginning in Western Europe and gaining popularity in the Middle Ages, it was a literary or pictorial representation of both living and dead figures – from pope to hermit – leading their lives as normal, before entering a grave.

Recently some pallbearers in Ghana envisioned the dance for contemporary deaths and the ensuing funerals.  As many Africans tend to do, they celebrate death as the next stage of life – mournful and often tragic, for certain.  Singing and dancing, they honor the deceased for the life they led on Earth and the glorious new life they should have in the next realm.

It’s how I view death.  My paternal grandfather said he respected death more than any other aspect of the world because it’s not prejudiced or bigoted.  It simply spares no one.  I felt some measure of glee when I watch the ending of the 1997 movie “Titanic”, as the ship sank and the plethora of furnishings and luxurious items shattered.  Not because I love seeing things destroyed!  But because all of the vainglorious possessions of the vessel’s wealthiest patrons could not save them.  They may have been rescued because of their wealth, as many of them entered the smattering of lifeboats first.  But, whether dead at that moment or dead later, they would never be able to take those items with them.

We all come into this world naked and screaming, clutching nothing but our souls in our hands.  We leave with the same.

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Saltarello by Arte Factum


Miracle of the True Cross at the Bridge of S. Lorenzo, oil painting by Gentile Bellini, 1500; in the Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice.

The current COVID-19 crisis has been compared to the “Black Plague”, which ravaged much of Eurasia in the middle of the 14th century C.E.  Historians and scientists now believe the scourge first appeared in Western Asia in the 1330s, before storming into India and the Middle East via the legendary “Silk Road” and then into Europe and Northern Africa.  It even reached the Danish outpost of Iceland.  It’s a wonder, I believe, it didn’t make it to North America, as Viking explorers had already reached what is now Newfoundland.  Europe was the hardest hit region, with some 50 million estimated fatalities.  Overall, it killed roughly 350- 375 million people.  But, since they had no accurate population counting system at the time, the death rate very well could have been several times worst.

There are some chilling similarities to the COVID-19 debacle.  It began in Asia and seems to have struck Italy first.  Back then religious leaders convinced their ignorant, illiterate followers that the pestilence was God’s condemnation for whatever sins they’d committed.  On top of that, national commanders initially didn’t realize the severity of the pandemic and concocted whatever excuses sounded plausible.

Politics aside, one other element remains relatively unchanged: the love of music and dance.  We’ve seen people across the globe cope with isolation and mandatory quarantines by singing and dancing; playing music on their doorsteps or balconies for neighbors to hear; connecting with family and friends through cyberspace to share melodies.  Again, there are similarities with the “Black Plague”.

Medieval Europeans also often used music and song to celebrate life’s various events.  I find music from this time and place beautifully intriguing and even somewhat familiar to current musical trends.  As usual, Italians always rose to the occasion; creating a number of songs and dances to express the beauty of life.  The saltarello is a perfect example.  An Italian dance style dating to the 14th century, it involved leaping and skipping and was performed to music done in a triple meter tempo; usually accompanied by tambourines, guitars, and singing.  Saltarello survived into the 18th century and, by then, had become a popular folk dance.  Saltarello rhythm and energy bears similarities to tarantella; another popular Italian folk dance also often performed at weddings and dating to medieval times.  A well-known contemporary model appears in the final movement of Felix Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ symphony.

Featured performance: Arte Factum

Image: SCALA/Art Resource, New York

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Tomás Sánchez – Landscapes of Isolation

“The interior spaces that I experience in meditation are converted into the landscapes of my paintings; the restlessness of my mind transformed into landfills.  When I paint, I experience meditative states; through meditation, I achieve a union with nature, and nature, in turn, leads me to meditation.”

– Tomás Sánchez

If one word can best describe the world we’re living in now, surrealism has no equal.  Seeing the empty roads and highways of the Dallas /Fort Worth-area that I’ve known my entire life is one of the most uncanny experiences I’ve ever had.  I’m still trying to comprehend this slow-motion cataclysm and all of the chaos around it.

Tomás Sánchez seems to understand the concept of a surrealistic existence.  His paintings truly exhibit that sense of isolation; something we introverts love, but that even we realize is not always perfect.  Yet, in those moments of solitude, titanic waterfalls and endless canopies of treetops often embrace (almost swallow) a tiny nondescript figure with its natural beauty.  The latter aspect is reminiscent of dramatic sunsets and massive ocean waves I’ve encountered; elements of the world that should render the most egocentric among us as humble.

Aislarse (Isolate)”, 2001

Orilla y cielo gris (Shore and gray sky)”, 1995

Autorretrato en tarde Rosa (Self-portrait in pink afternoon)”, 1994

Llegada del caminante a la laguna (Arrival of the walker to the lagoon)

Meditación y sonido de aguas (Meditation and sound of waters)”, 1993

Atardecer (Sunset)

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Lunar Souls

Artist, writer, photographer and fellow blogger Art Browne has a unique – and sometimes twisted – view of our universe.  Which is why I know, without a doubt, that he is my long-lost twin brother!  When not tormenting spiders or ridiculing helpless cats on his blog, “Pouring My Art Out”, Brother Art captures some truly fascinating visions of the natural world.  In a recent series of simple cell phone shots, he photographed the moon in various stages and from various angles over San Diego, California.  A few of them are presented below.

I have to concede these lunar photos make me feel incredibly sentimental.  Every time I look up at the sky and see that glorious moon, I – sniff – always get homesick.

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Screaming Match

Curators at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia have developed a new app called “Heartmatch” where visitors can learn what historical painting best represents them.  I thought, what the hell; it looks like good fun.  So, I tried it and got this:

Now I know why I didn’t get my first computer until May of 2000 and my first cell phone until October of 2001.  BECAUSE ME AND TECHNOLOGY NEVER HAVE BEEN SYMBIOTIC!

I guess I’ll just resort to finding my “heart match” the old-fashioned way: bars, truck stops and porn videos.

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