Archive for November, 2008

Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

November 30, 2008

Dr Suess

Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known to the world as the beloved Dr. Seuss, was born in 1904 on Howard Street in Springfield, Massachusetts. Ted’s father, Theodor Robert, and grandfather were brewmasters in the city. His mother, Henrietta Seuss Geisel, often soothed her children to sleep by “chanting” rhymes remembered from her youth. Ted credited his mother with both his ability and desire to create the rhymes for which he became so well known.

Although the Geisels enjoyed great financial success for many years, the onset of World War I and Prohibition presented both financial and social challenges for the German immigrants. Nonetheless, the family persevered and again prospered, providing Ted and his sister, Marnie, with happy childhoods.

The influence of Ted’s memories of Springfield can be seen throughout his work. Drawings of Horton the Elephant meandering along streams in the Jungle of Nool, for example, mirror the watercourses in Springfield’s Forest Park from the period. The fanciful truck driven by Sylvester McMonkey McBean in The Sneetches could well be the Knox tractor that young Ted saw on the streets of Springfield. In addition to its name, Ted’s first children’s book, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, is filled with Springfield imagery, including a look-alike of Mayor Fordis Parker on the reviewing stand, and police officers riding red motorcycles, the traditional color of Springfield’s famed Indian Motocycles.

Ted left Springfield as a teenager to attend Dartmouth College, where he became editor-in-chief of the Jack-O-Lantern, Dartmouth’s humor magazine. Although his tenure as editor ended prematurely when Ted and his friends were caught throwing a drinking party, which was against the prohibition laws and school policy, he continued to contribute to the magazine, signing his work “Seuss.” This is the first record of the “Seuss” pseudonym, which was both Ted’s middle name and his mother’s maiden name.

To please his father, who wanted him to be a college professor, Ted went on to Oxford University in England after graduation. However, his academic studies bored him, and he decided to tour Europe instead. Oxford did provide him the opportunity to meet a classmate, Helen Palmer, who not only became his first wife, but also a children’s author and book editor.

After returning to the United States, Ted began to pursue a career as a cartoonist. The Saturday Evening Post and other publications published some of his early pieces, but the bulk of Ted’s activity during his early career was devoted to creating advertising campaigns for Standard Oil, which he did for more than 15 years.

As World War II approached, Ted’s focus shifted, and he began contributing weekly political cartoons to PM magazine, a liberal publication. Too old for the draft, but wanting to contribute to the war effort, Ted served with Frank Capra’s Signal Corps (U.S. Army) making training movies. It was here that he was introduced to the art of animation and developed a series of animated training films featuring a trainee called Private Snafu.

While Ted was continuing to contribute to Life, Vanity Fair, Judge and other magazines, Viking Press offered him a contract to illustrate a collection of children’s sayings called Boners. Although the book was not a commercial success, the illustrations received great reviews, providing Ted with his first “big break” into children’s literature. Getting the first book that he both wrote and illustrated, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, published, however, required a great degree of persistence – it was rejected 27 times before being published by Vanguard Press.

The Cat in the Hat, perhaps the defining book of Ted’s career, developed as part of a unique joint venture between Houghton Mifflin (Vanguard Press) and Random House. Houghton Mifflin asked Ted to write and illustrate a children’s primer using only 225 “new-reader” vocabulary words. Because he was under contract to Random House, Random House obtained the trade publication rights, and Houghton Mifflin kept the school rights. With the release of The Cat in the Hat, Ted became the definitive children’s book author and illustrator.

After Ted’s first wife died in 1967, Ted married an old friend, Audrey Stone Geisel, who not only influenced his later books, but now guards his legacy as the president of Dr. Seuss Enterprises.

At the time of his death on September 24, 1991, Ted had written and illustrated 44 children’s books, including such all-time favorites as Green Eggs and Ham, Oh, the Places You’ll Go, Fox in Socks, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. His books had been translated into more than 15 languages. Over 200 million copies had found their way into homes and hearts around the world.

Besides the books, his works have provided the source for eleven children’s television specials, a Broadway musical and a feature-length motion picture. Other major motion pictures are on the way.

His honors included two Academy awards, two Emmy awards, a Peabody award and the Pulitzer Prize.

At first I wasn’t sure that I had the talent, but I did know I had a fear of failure, and that fear compelled me to fight off anything that might abet it.

November 29, 2008

Gordon Parks

He was stillborn — no heartbeat, declared dead by the family doctor, and put aside for later burial. Another doctor in the delivery room had an idea, and immersed the newborn in ice-cold water. The shock caused his heart to start beating, and the baby was soon crying and healthy, and named for Dr. Gordon, who had saved his life. In the more than ninety years of his life, Gordon Parks became internationally renowned as a photographer, filmmaker, poet, novelist, and composer.

Parks grew up poor in Fort Scott, Kansas, the youngest of 15 children. One of his early memories was hearing his all-black class told by their white schoolteacher, “You’ll all wind up porters and maids.” His mother died when Parks was 14, and he was sent to live with an older sister in Minneapolis, until her husband kicked him out. Between bouts of homelessness, he earned rent as a piano player in a bordello. He also worked as a busboy, a Civilian Conservation Corpsman, and as his teacher had predicted, as a porter and later waiter on the transcontinental North Coast Limited.

At 25, he bought a used camera for $7.50 and began working as a self-taught freelance photographer, focusing on everything from fashion to the effects the depression in Chicago’s slums. By 1944, he was the only black photographer working for Vogue, and in 1948 he became the first black photographer at Life, the most prestigious magazine of its day for photography. Eventually Life sent him to France, Italy, and Spain, and stateside he became known for his photos documenting the civil rights movement. He reported on segregation in Alabama in 1956, the growing Nation of Islam movement in the 1960s, and the assassination of Martin Luther King. In his spare time, Parks also directed a few very, very low-budget films.

His autobiographical novel The Learning Tree, covering his rough Kansas childhood, won rave reviews and strong sales. When Warner Brothers expressed interest, Parks told them he would direct the film himself, and he became the first African-American to direct a film for a major studio. He went on to direct Shaft and its sequel Shaft’s Big Score, Half Slave, Half Free, and several other movies. His biography of bluesman Leadbelly was perhaps his best film, but it was Shaft that had the most impact on American culture. Black audiences had never before been offered a major-studio action film with a black hero. It not only spawned several years of “blaxploitation” action films, it earned enough money to save then-struggling MGM from bankruptcy.

Parks was a close friend of Muhammad Ali, and godfather for Malcolm X’s daughter Quibilah Shabazz. He was a co-founder of Essence magazine, and wrote a ballet called Martin, in honor of King. His numerous books include The Sun Stalker, Poet & His Camera, To Smile in Autumn, and his autobiography, Voices in the Mirror.

In his retirment, Parks did whatever he wished. In 2004, he interviewed retro rocker Lenny Kravitz for Interview magazine. He completed a book of nude photography, and often traveled to film screenings and museum programs in his honor.

Art can never exist without naked beauty displayed.

November 28, 2008

Happy Birthday William Blake

William Blake (28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827) was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. During his lifetime, and for half a century afterwards, his work was largely disregarded or even derided as the work of a madman. Today Blake’s work is considered seminal in the history of both poetry and the visual arts of the Romantic Age. Blake’s prophetic poetry is often considered to be the writings of extraordinary originality and genius. Though he is now considered to have been a spiritual visionary of the Romantic age, his work has been said to form “what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the English language”. His visual artistry has led one modern critic to proclaim him “far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced”. Born inside London, Blake spent the entire course of his life, save for three years, inside the city.His creative vision, however, engendered a diverse and symbolically rich corpus, which embraced ‘imagination’ as “the body of God”,or “Human existence itself”.

Considered mad for his idiosyncratic views by contemporaries, later criticism holds Blake in high regard for his expressiveness and creativity, as well as the philosophical and mystical undercurrents within his work. His paintings and poetry have been characterized as part of both the Romantic movement and “Pre-Romantic”, for its large appearance in the 18th century. Reverent of the Bible but hostile to the Church of England, Blake was influenced by the ideals and ambitions of the French and American revolutions, as well as by such thinkers as Jacob Boehme and Emanuel Swedenborg.

Despite these known influences, the singularity of Blake’s work make him difficult to classify. The 19th century scholar William Rossetti characterised Blake as a “glorious luminary,” and as “a man not forestalled by predecessors, nor to be classed with contemporaries, nor to be replaced by known or readily surmisable successor.”

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

November 27, 2008


John Fitzgerald Kennedy

John Fitzgerald “Jack” Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), often referred to by his initials JFK, was the thirty-fifth President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963.

All I want to do I provoke thought and leave from for their [the viewer’s] response

November 26, 2008

Happy Birthday George Segal

George Segal was born in New York on November 26, 1924 to a Jewish couple who emigrated from Eastern Europe. His parents first settled in the Bronx where they ran a butcher shop. They later moved to a New Jersey poultry farm. George spent many of his early years working on the poultry farm , helping his family through difficult times. For a while George lived with his aunt in Brooklyn so that he could attend Stuyvesant Technical High School and prepare himself for a future in the math/science field. It was here that George first discovered his love for art. During World War II he had to curtail his studies in order to help on the family poultry farm. He later attended Pratt, Cooper Union and finally New York University where he furthered his art education and received a teaching degree in 1949. It was during these years that Segal met other young artists eager to make statements based on the real world rather than the pure abstractionism that was all the rage. He joined the 10th St scene, painting and concentrating on expressionist, figurative themes.

After marriage to Helen in 1946, they bought their own chicken farm. In order to support his family during the lean years he taught Art and English at the local high school and at Rutgers. In 1957 he was included in “Artists of the New York School: Second Generation” an exhibit at the Jewish Museum. For the next three years he showed annually at the Hansa. The path from painting to sculpture and the specific form of the sculpture is embodied in a series of events from the late 1950’s. In 1956, Segal was introduced to the Hansa Gallery and its’ artistic influence. The following year, Allan Kaprow chose the Segal farm as the scene of his first Happening – live art with an environmental sensibility. In 1958 Segal began to experiment in sculpture and had a one-man show at the Green Gallery in 1960, featuring several plaster figures.

In 1961, while teaching an adult education class in New Brunswick, a student brought to George’s class a box of dry plaster bandages. Segal took them home and experimented with applying them directly to his body. With the help of his wife, Helen, Segal was able to make parts of a body cast and assemble them into a complete seated figure. Segal provided an environment for his body cast by adding a chair, a window frame and a table. Man Sitting at a Table marked the discovery of a new sculptural technique and a turning point in the artist’s career.

In later years he perfected the technique and created real life tableaux, using many close friends and family members as models. He became known, along with Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Indiana, Andy Warhol and others as part of the “Pop Art” movement. Segal’s distinctive style separated his work from “Pop Art” by staying closely related to personal experience and human values. He once said that because he was from the proletariat, he wanted to deal directly with the places around and familiar to himself, rather than with “elegant” topics.

The last years of his life were filled with new creation and expression. His black and white photographs of the streets of New York & New Jersey and of people in his life were used to create new tableaux for his sculpture and to create close up drawings of human expression. He remained active, engaged and productive until his death on June 9, 2000. Throughout his life he was recognized around the world for his artistic work and his humanistic passion.

Imagination is more important than knowledge.

November 25, 2008

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein was born at Ulm, in Württemberg, Germany, on March 14, 1879. Six weeks later the family moved to Munich, where he later on began his schooling at the Luitpold Gymnasium. Later, they moved to Italy and Albert continued his education at Aarau, Switzerland and in 1896 he entered the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich to be trained as a teacher in physics and mathematics. In 1901, the year he gained his diploma, he acquired Swiss citizenship and, as he was unable to find a teaching post, he accepted a position as technical assistant in the Swiss Patent Office. In 1905 he obtained his doctor’s degree.

During his stay at the Patent Office, and in his spare time, he produced much of his remarkable work and in 1908 he was appointed Privatdozent in Berne. In 1909 he became Professor Extraordinary at Zurich, in 1911 Professor of Theoretical Physics at Prague, returning to Zurich in the following year to fill a similar post. In 1914 he was appointed Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Physical Institute and Professor in the University of Berlin. He became a German citizen in 1914 and remained in Berlin until 1933 when he renounced his citizenship for political reasons and emigrated to America to take the position of Professor of Theoretical Physics at Princeton*. He became a United States citizen in 1940 and retired from his post in 1945.

After World War II, Einstein was a leading figure in the World Government Movement, he was offered the Presidency of the State of Israel, which he declined, and he collaborated with Dr. Chaim Weizmann in establishing the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Einstein always appeared to have a clear view of the problems of physics and the determination to solve them. He had a strategy of his own and was able to visualize the main stages on the way to his goal. He regarded his major achievements as mere stepping-stones for the next advance.

At the start of his scientific work, Einstein realized the inadequacies of Newtonian mechanics and his special theory of relativity stemmed from an attempt to reconcile the laws of mechanics with the laws of the electromagnetic field. He dealt with classical problems of statistical mechanics and problems in which they were merged with quantum theory: this led to an explanation of the Brownian movement of molecules. He investigated the thermal properties of light with a low radiation density and his observations laid the foundation of the photon theory of light.

In his early days in Berlin, Einstein postulated that the correct interpretation of the special theory of relativity must also furnish a theory of gravitation and in 1916 he published his paper on the general theory of relativity. During this time he also contributed to the problems of the theory of radiation and statistical mechanics.

In the 1920’s, Einstein embarked on the construction of unified field theories, although he continued to work on the probabilistic interpretation of quantum theory, and he persevered with this work in America. He contributed to statistical mechanics by his development of the quantum theory of a monatomic gas and he has also accomplished valuable work in connection with atomic transition probabilities and relativistic cosmology.

After his retirement he continued to work towards the unification of the basic concepts of physics, taking the opposite approach, geometrisation, to the majority of physicists.

Einstein’s researches are, of course, well chronicled and his more important works include Special Theory of Relativity (1905), Relativity (English translations, 1920 and 1950), General Theory of Relativity (1916), Investigations on Theory of Brownian Movement (1926), and The Evolution of Physics (1938). Among his non-scientific works, About Zionism (1930), Why War? (1933), My Philosophy (1934), and Out of My Later Years (1950) are perhaps the most important.

Albert Einstein received honorary doctorate degrees in science, medicine and philosophy from many European and American universities. During the 1920’s he lectured in Europe, America and the Far East and he was awarded Fellowships or Memberships of all the leading scientific academies throughout the world. He gained numerous awards in recognition of his work, including the Copley Medal of the Royal Society of London in 1925, and the Franklin Medal of the Franklin Institute in 1935.

Einstein’s gifts inevitably resulted in his dwelling much in intellectual solitude and, for relaxation, music played an important part in his life. He married Mileva Maric in 1903 and they had a daughter and two sons; their marriage was dissolved in 1919 and in the same year he married his cousin, Elsa Löwenthal, who died in 1936. He died on April 18, 1955 at Princeton, New Jersey.

From Nobel Lectures, Physics 1901-1921, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1967.

In our time there are many artists who do something because it is new; they see their value and their justification in this newness. They are deceiving themselves; novelty is seldom the essential. This has to do with one thing only; making a subject better from its intrinsic nature.

November 24, 2008

Happy Birthday Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was born on November 24, 1864, in southern France. Son and heir of Comte Alphonse-Charles de Toulouse, he was the last in the line of an aristocratic family that dated back a thousand years. Today, the family estate houses the Musée Toulouse-Lautrec. As a child, Henri was weak and often sick. But by the time he was ten years old he had begun to draw and paint.

At age twelve Toulouse-Lautrec broke his left leg and at fourteen his right leg. The bones did not heal properly, and his legs ceased to grow. He reached maturity with a body trunk of normal size but with abnormally short legs. He was only 4 1/2 feet (1.5 meters) tall.

Deprived of the physical life that a normal body would have permitted, Toulouse-Lautrec lived completely for his art. He dwelt in the Montmartre section of Paris, the center of the cabaret entertainment and bohemian life that he loved to depict in his work. Dance halls and nightclubs, racetracks, prostitutes – all these were memorialized on canvas or made into lithographs.

Toulouse-Lautrec was very much an active part of this community. He would sit at a crowded nightclub table, laughing and drinking, meanwhile making swift sketches. The next morning in his studio he would expand the sketches into brightly colored paintings.

In order to join in the Montmartre life – as well as to fortify himself against the crowd’s ridicule of his appearance – Toulouse-Lautrec began to drink heavily. By the 1890s the drinking was affecting his health. He was confined first to a sanatorium and then to his mother’s care at home, but he could not stay away from alcohol. Toulouse-Lautrec died on September 9, 1901, at the family chateau of Malrome.

Reason and skepticism must yield to a horizon of discovery. Doctrines cannot be trusted in this laboratory. Intuition is our muse. The creative spirit must be followed with happy abandon.

November 23, 2008

Steven Holl

Steven Holl (born December 9, 1947, Bremerton, Washington) is an American academic architect and watercolorist best known for the 1998 Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum in Helsinki, Finland and the controversial 2003 Simmons Hall at MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.. In June 2007 the much celebrated Bloch Building addition to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri opened to the public.

I think of painting without subject matter as music without words.

November 22, 2008

Kenneth Noland

Kenneth Noland, along with Morris Louis, transmitted the energy, excitement, and inventiveness of the New York art scene to artists in Washington, D.C. Born in Asheville, North Carolina in 1924, Noland served in the Army from 1942 to 1945. From 1946 to 1948 he studied at Black Mountain College, North Carolina, working with Ilya Bolotowsky and Josef Albers, well-known artists who were on the faculty there. In 1948 he traveled to Paris, where he had his first one-person show. Returning to America in 1949, Noland moved to Washington, D.C. and worked at the Institute of Contemporary Art (1949–1950); later he taught at The Catholic University of America (1951–1960). Noland frequently returned to Black Mountain College, where in the summer of 1950 he met artist Helen Frankenthaler and Clement Greenberg, the noted critic, who became a champion of his art. Through them he became aware of Abstract Expressionism. This encounter was critical in the development of Noland’s artistic style; as he began experimenting with Frankenthaler’s pouring and staining techniques, which became the impetus for his own color field paintings, abstract canvases saturated with pure color.

From 1952 to 1956, Noland taught night classes at the Washington Workshop Center for the Arts, where he met the group of artists known as the Washington Color School Painters, among them, Morris Louis. Noland and Louis became the leading figures of among the color field painters. In 1954 Greenberg, a strong advocate for Noland’s paintings, included Noland in the exhibition, “Emerging Talent” at the Samuel M. Kootz Gallery in New York. Another leading New York gallery, the Tibor de Nagy Gallery, presented Noland’s first one-person show in 1957. In the fall of 1961 Noland moved to New York, and a few years later relocated to South Shaftesbury, Vermont to teach at Bennington College. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1977, has served on the Board of Trustees at Bennington College since 1985, and was appointed the Milton Avery Professor of Arts at Bard College in 1986, a post he held until his retirement from teaching in 1997.

Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist

November 21, 2008

Happy Birthday Rene Magritte

René Magritte was born on the 21st November, 1898 in Hainaut, Belgium. His father was a tailor and a merchant. As his business did not go well the family had to move often. René lost his mother early and tragically – she committed suicide for unclear reasons. René was only 14 years old at the time.

From 1916 through 1918 Magritte studied in the Royal Academy of Arts in Brussels (Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts). He became a wallpaper designer and commercial artist. His early painting works were executed under the influence of the Cubism and Futurism (1918-20), then he was inspired by the Purists and Fernand Léger. In 1922 Magritte married Georgette Berger, with whom he first became acquainted when fifteen years old. After meeting again in 1920, she became his model and then wife.

The acquaintance with Giorgio de Chirico’s Pittura Metafisica (Metaphysical Painting) and Dadaistic poetry constituted an important artistic turning-point for Magritte. In 1925 he came close with a group of Dadaists and co-operated in the magazines Aesophage and Marie, together with E.L.T. Mesens, Jean Arp, Francis Picabia, Schwitters, Tzara and Man Ray.

In 1926 Magritte painted The Lost Jockey, it is his first painting that he allowed to be labeled as “Surrealist”. After his first, badly-received, one-man show in Brussels in 1927, he left for Paris. In 1927-30 Magritte lived in France, where he participated in the activities of the Surrealists, establishing a close friendship in particular with Max Ernst, Dali, André Breton and especially with Paul Eluard.

In Paris, Magritte’s system of conceptual painting was formed, it remained almost unchanged until the end of his life. His painting manner, intentionally dry and academic, “polished in the technical sense” (p.18 Magritte. By Marcel Paquet. Taschen. 1992) with precise and clean draughtsmanship demonstrated a paradoxical ability to depict trustworthy an unreal, unthinkable reality.

In Magritte’s works the morphologically similar objects belonging to different classes, exchange some qualities or unite as hybrids (Companions of Fear. 1942, The Explanation, 1954, The Flavour of Tears, 1948); a night landscape gleams under daylit skies (The Empire of Lights 1954).

Demonstrating the problems of visual perception and illusionary of images, Magritte used the symbols of mirrors, eyes, windows, stages and curtains and pictures within pictures (The False Mirror, 1935, The Key to the Fields. 1936, Beautiful World. 1962.)

Magritte was fond of philosophy and literature. Many of his paintings reflect his impressions of literature works, illusions and philosophical metaphors, e.g. The Giantess (after Baudelair) 1929-30; The Domain of Arnheim (after Edgar Poe) 1938; Hegel’s Holiday. 1958 (homage to Hegel’s dialectics).

In the 1940s Magritte made two attempts to change his painting style. But the so-called “vie-heureuse” or “plein-soleil” period of 1945-47, when he painted in the style of Renoir, and the “époque vache” (Cow Period) that followed in 1947-48 did not prove to be effective and the artist returned to his previous manner.

In the 1950s Magritte executed two fresco cycles: The Enchanted Realm for a casino in Knokke-le-Zut (1953) and The Ignorant Fairy (1957) for the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Charleroi. These monumental compositions repeat the motifs of his previous paintings. In his last year Magritte began to make sculptures of his painted images, developing the theme of correlation of mental and material realities.

Magritte died of cancer at the age of 69, August 15, 1967 in Brussels.