September 29, 2010

Fair Weather

Nothing can be finer than a fair in Carolina. Even if it has been raining and overcast for two days.

Last year around this time I was a juror for the Mosaic Arts International exhibition held in Chicago. This year I was the juror for the Fine Arts Exhibition at the Orangeburg County Fair. The two jurying experiences could not have been more different. One was highly competitive, international and executed on line. The other was the real time exuberant expression of a local community where everyone wins a place. Although the international exhibition was more prestigious, the local one was more warm-hearted. They were both great experiences in their own way.

There is no greater joy for me in the autumn season than the fairs of South Carolina. The Orangeburg County Fair is a particularly fine one. Since Orangeburg County is largely agrarian, there are no shortages of exotic livestock, plants, fruits and prize vegetables on display. I saw rows upon rows of arfully canned fruits. There were painted goats, angora chickens, roasters with bold stripes of gold and black. There were chickens that sported long thin spikes of white feathers on top of their heads which made them look like Andy Warhol. There was a large deer-like creature which I could not even identify.

Of particular interest to me was the annual exhibition of fine hand sewn quilts. There are seven quilting guilds in Orangeburg County alone, so I was told, which might account for the quilt exhibition taking up one entire building. I have not seen such a fine exhibition of quilts even on the state level so Orangeburg County must be the place to go for afficionados of this art form. It was such a stunning display that I immediately went back to my studio and painted two examples of big cats in quilt form to see if I could manage the style. They could not compare with the great color sense of the quilt makers but at least I gave it a try.

What I found when I juried the fine arts exhibition at the Orangeburg County Fair was that there were more categories of art than there were submissions to fill them. This made some of my choices a little two easy; first and second place, for instance for the two submissions to the category of professional mixed media art. I did take an exquisitely painted miniature icon from the advanced mixed media category and put it into the category of miniature painting, for which there were no entries. I made a note to myself here to enter my own miniature paintings next year.

If the quality of the student art at the fair was any indication, then I was heartened by what appeared to be very hard working art teachers in this county. The oil pastels were especially well executed - with rich colors and details lovingly done.

What a feast of colors, sounds and sights the fair was as the displays were going up! I’m looking forward to going back at least twice with my camera and a sketch book.

September 28, 2010

Magic Herbs Under a China Moon

If I have my calendar right, yesterday was the last night of the traditional Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. I could not let it pass on by without making another small painting in celebration of this time of year. In this painting from my series of small book illustrations, the cat is being ridden by a white rabbit who holds a mortar and pestle. He is known as the Jade Rabbit. In bygone times, the Jade Rabbit was also celebrated at Mid-Autumn Festival for his association with the moon. According to Chinese mythology, the Moon Goddess Guan Yin, maintains her immortality by drinking herbs made by a magic rabbit. Mixing the elixir of longevity also ensured the rabbit’s celestial status which was accorded to him in return for his sacrificing himself in a fire one fine day when the immortals, disguised as beggars, requested food and the rabbit found himself empty handed.

When I lived in China, and for the few years after that when I returned as a guide and translator, the image of the rabbit mixing the elixir of immortality could still be found in shops, museums and temples. I often thought of this figure as an archetype of Chinese civilization’s roots in agrarian pragmatism despite having a pantheon of celestial beings. What other culture would hang the dependence of celestial immortality on taking supplements every day served up by a rabbit? It would of course seem no surprise for a culture that spent thousands of years of developing potable medicines.

Of all the images of the jade rabbit I saw in China, perhaps the one that made the greatest impression on me was a very tiny one housed in the Forbidden City Museum. He was carved out of luminous white jade like the glowing moon itself with eyes that were inlaid with tiny rubies. But what made him memorable to me was not his own shining precious eyes but the pair of eyes that looked upon him and fell in love with the idea of his gift of untiring service to the goddess. But this requires another tale.

Travel to a foreign country has a knack of bringing out the best and the worst in people. In my experience leading several groups to China and back and in living abroad for a number of years I have come to the conclusion that this is because leaving behind the cultural constraints of one’s home country frees people to make new rules for themselves and for the people they interact with. In this sense the foreign land can also be said to bring out the truth in the people who travel to it. For those who carried within them a moral compass, the trip abroad caused no challenges to their judgement. They adapted well, exploring new territory with open minds and natural curiosity. But for others, whose behavior was ostensibly regulated only by the external rules of their own culture, a residency abroad unleashed havoc. Those in the latter group included an American businessman I saw happily stealing the hats off of people passing by him on an escalator in an apartment store. It included enclaves of ex-patriots who, not being obliged by law to be fair to people of different cultures and other ethnic groups, established their own feifdoms of apartheid communities. The most egregious lapses in judgement and ethics that I witnessed I will omit for now, but suffice to say that the people who committed them made the rest of us embarrassed.

My jade rabbit tale is about such an embarrassed woman. On one of my return trips to China, there was a middle-aged couple and their teen-aged daughter in my entourage. Upon their arrival in China the father and the daughter both left any pretense to civility back home in New York. I don’t remember everything the father did but I do remember the daughter’s behavior with particular clarity because it was so outrageous. I recall, for instance, the day she came down to dinner carrying a bottle of wine that she swilled down in its entirety without asking anyone else if they wanted any. She then boorishly belittled the meal set before us by our Chinese hosts. The mother, I’ll call her Mrs. M., was chagrined by her family’s behavior but could seem to do nothing to curtail it. She grew increasingly sullen during the trip as a series of incidents of father and daughter behaving badly stung her own sense of dignity.

One day, the cloud of maternal hurt dissipated for Mrs. M upon a chance encounter with the Jade Rabbit. While we were touring the Forbidden City Museum her eyes fixed upon a tiny white rabbit with inlaid ruby eyes. She asked me what it was and what it was doing with this curious looking stick and a cup. I told her the story of the Jade Rabbit and his tireless eternal mixing of the elixir of immortality for the goddess of the moon. Mrs. M’s face brightened into a smile and she said,
“I want that rabbit.”
Throughout the rest of the trip Mrs. M forgot began to think less about her husband and her daughter’s noxious behavior. And every time she mentioned the little Jade Rabbit she smiled. I am not sure why just the thought of it caused a lightness of heart in her. Perhaps she could vividly imagine being a goddess herself with something or someone working vigorously on her behalf. Maybe the idea of sacrifice and service to a dignified celestial maternal being amused her. Or perhaps the notion that goddesses are works in progress - sustained by daily infusions of magic sustenance gave her hope for herself and her family. I like to think that upon her return to New York she attained something akin to a little magic Jade Rabbit, tirelessly working on the elixir of life.

September 26, 2010

Reflections on the Moon

This week was marked by two holidays; Mid-Autumn Festival and Sukkoth. The first came upon us almost too quickly to celebrate, the latter was passed in a small ceremony at Beth Elohim in Charleston.

When my husband and I lived in China, Mid-Autumn Festival was a major holiday, celebrated with gatherings, dragon boat races (although we never witnessed those) and by eating the sumptuously delectable moon cakes. The moon cakes are a pastry about the diameter of a grapefruit. They are generally filled with a sweetened bean paste and stamped with a design on the top. There were variations of these in China depending upon which bakery in which city made them. I heard that the Shanghai moon cakes were filled with coconut with an egg yolk in the center to symbolize the moon.

Unfortunately there were no moon cakes to be had here in Orangeburg, South Carolina but I did celebrate one of the traditions by making a moon painting. My painting of the blue cat and the orange moon above is not exactly conventional for it depicts the moon that lingers at dawn rather than the full harvest moon seen at night which the Chinese celebrate. But I suppose that Orangeburg requires an orange moon.

Mid-Autumn Festival is a time to reflect upon home - but not the home of a present residence but the “old home” of one’s origins. This could mean the place of one’s birth or the place where one’s ancestors came from. It has been interesting that Mid-Autumn Festival coincided with Sukkoth this year - for both are in many ways holidays of quiet reflection and gratitude - for harvest, for family, for memories.

September 25, 2010

The Tale of the Painted Cat

I once owned a cat from Africa.

Well, no, not exactly. But as I watched the film “Out of Africa” recently it seemed a fitting way to begin an epic tale. For Max was a cat of epic proportions. And we could not be said to have owned him, for he found us one day in Princeton, New Jersey and condescended to share a home with us for the next fourteen years.

I thought of Max when I finished painting number twenty-six in my series of the big cat paintings. While painting the face of the cat as an almost imperceptible mark, I further obscured it by accidently smearing it with blue and red paint. Max the cat had done a similar thing one day when he dipped his head in the blue then the red paint on my palette and roamed around looking like a punk rock cat with two long stiff peaks of pigmented fur arising from his head. I read that cats tend to imitate the people they live with. Perhaps he saw me getting paint all over myself in my studio and felt obliged to follow along.

Max would often do surprising things like for he was no ordinary cat. He didn’t even meow like a regular cat but made chortles, humming, and chirps interspersed with short cat songs of about four or more bars. His fur was not rough like most cats but like the finest silk. Stroking his fur was like stroking the fur of a mink or a rabbit. And this fine fur covered an elegant eighteen pound well muscled generous helping of a cat.

But despite his pleasant singing voice and his beautiful proportions Max was no angel. He had a quick temper and in his younger days would fly up and bite us out of sheer spite if we came home from even a short vacation without him. He was an avid hunter and like most cats would drag his prey home to our back porch in order to display his prowess. But although many cats had the outrageously awful habit of playing with prey before killing it, Max elevated this into a higher level of exhibition sport. He would take his deceased mice and play hand ball (or I guess paw ball) with them against a screen door. He did this by throwing the thing up high into the air, then wacking it into the screen door with a good right hook. Max would then pick it up, throw it up into the air another three or four feet, then wack it into the door again.

I told my mother once about this odd thing my cat did with mice that I had never before witnessed with other cats and I could tell that she was skeptical. Max could sense the skepticism as well and decided to take matters into his own paws and prove his mettle with mice. So one day, dead mouse at the ready, he chased my mother up a sidewalk, throwing the mouse at her all the way up to the back door of her house (I had come to visit with Max). He would pick up the mouse and throw it a good four or five feet where it fell just short of my mother’s running feet. He repeated this action until he came to a closed door at the back of the house, where he stood guard for some time, mouse tail dangling off the left side of his mouth like a cigarette off a mobster's lower lip.

Some days after the intimidating mouse incident I heard my mother say to someone, "You know how Janet exaggerates in order to tell a good story? Well, this time it was true. She has a cat that pitches mice - for several feet!"

But Max’s pranking personality aside, My husband and I often concurred that this stately, unusual creature was a more outstanding example of a cat than we were as people. If he were a person, we mused, then he would of course be some head of state, a Chinese emperor, or maybe a famous athlete. And although as a foundling we did not know his cat lineage, we concluded that such an exotic feline specimen must have been an escapee from a Norwegian Forest or Maine Coon cattery. When he died we put him to rest in a small rose garden and never got another cat, in part because keeping a pet in the manner they should be kept is an expensive thing, but also because we never could find another cat quite like Max.
The little painting at upper left is from my new series of angel paintings that I delivered today to the gallery Nina Liu in Charleston. Some may question why I have given my cat top billing over the archangel but I suppose that the cat was painted with just a little more awe.

September 24, 2010

Angel Number Three

The oil painting above, “Angel Passing the Light of Wisdom,” is the third of my figurative angel paintings for the exhibition at Nina Liu and Friends opening a week from today. The painting is based upon my readings of the descriptions of angels in the classic work, The Celestial Hierarchy by the fifth century theologian Pseudo Dionysius. Pseudo Dionysius himself would probably not approve of this endeavor for on the subject of angels he wrote:

“The word of God makes use of poetic imagery when discussing these formless intelligences but, as I have alaready said, it does so not for the sake of art, but as a concession to the nature of our own mind.”

Nevertheless, the poetic descriptions of the various ranks of angels and their services to mankind have been helpful to me in rendering these images because they hold certain visionary qualities that lend themselves to a visual narrative - both for the figurative as well as the abstract works. The hierarchy of angels as described by Pseudo-Dionysius falls into three categories of ranking in accordance with proximity to God. The first domain, which the theologian describes almost humorously as being in the “anteroom of divinity” consist of the seraphim, the cherubim and the thrones. The second tier of angels are the dominions, the powers and the authorities. At the highest level are the principalities, the archangels and the angels.

As one who was raised in the egalitarian but bland atmosphere of Protestantism, the notion of an elaborate system of intermediaries between mortals and their God is foreign to say the least. It does bring to mind the pantheon of ancient eastern religions. The forward comments in the translation of Pseudo-Dionysius that I have borrowed for this project in fact notes a kinship with the writings of the early Christian church and Hinduism. There is a certain sense of enchantment emanating from these pages. Despite the complexity of the language and descriptions, there is an almost refreshing humility in the concept of mortal eyes and minds not having the moral and intellectual merit to gaze directly upon the almighty and yet the celestial intelligences can be relied upon to interpret divine messages and disseminate ethereal grace. And they do so with such color and personality!

The painting of the large cat about to take a leap is number twenty-five in my “Thirty-three Days of the Puma” series.

September 23, 2010

Impressions of Stolen Icons

The painting on wood above, “Power, giver of courage,” is based on a sketch I made years ago while visiting relatives in Ukraine. The drawings I made of the Russian Icons from that trip brought back a feeling of something stolen. Although the Italians were flattered by artists taking an active interest in their artifacts and applauded people sketching in museums and galleries, the Ukrainians were decidedly suspicious. When I sketched in the museums of Kiev it was soon apparent that making drawings of icons was a forbidden act for the guards would come waving their arms at me and shouting “Nyet! Nyet!” Not knowing any Ukrainian other than a phrase that I learned from my grandmother that essentially meant, “Just a minute,” my response to the guards only further riled them. Ostensibly they were afraid that I was in the business of forging icons, and here I was blithely sketching away and telling them to wait until I was finished.

The original icon upon which this painting is based depicted a regal looking heavenly being holding up two birds, or perhaps minor angels. The drawing that I made this from is black and white and I have long since forgotten how the original icon was painted so I invented colors. The angel looked masculine to me so I named it a “Power” after the second tier of angels in the Celestial Hierarchy. The Powers were described as having “unshakable courage” and being “masculine.”

While painting this small work, I had another rather unusual source of inspiration. A number of years ago, I stayed with an elderly Jewish woman who was a long-time friend of my late Mother-in-Law. She amused me by singing all manner of old ditties from what I assumed to be about the 1920's or 1930's. One of these, “Little Black Me” opened with a line sung in a minor key, “Mother are there any angels black like me?” I remembered the line because the melody had the same opening measures as a Boismortier flute and harpsichord duet. Out of curiosity I did a search on the “Little Black Me” melody and found that it actually dated to 1899 and was written by a Thurland Chattaway. Chattaway had written other songs around that time which advocated desegregation - something unusual for its time.
So with this odd little tune in mind, at least one of my angels became black - I suppose to finally answer the question the song posited.

September 22, 2010

A Celestial Hierarchy

The gallery in Charleston asked if I might like to participate in an art exhibition in October on the theme of Angels. I still had some paintings on this theme from three years ago so of course I said yes. Later, however, I asked if I might deliver the work a little later in the month so that I could add some new paintings. The gallery owner was in a typically Daoist frame of mind, and replied that I should do so only if “it was natural and if the spirit moved me.” Since I hadn’t sold any paintings from my previous exhibition it was only natural that the spirit moved me to paint something new for an opportunity to show it in a more commercially viable venue.

Staring at a blank canvas with the exhortation to paint an angel ringing in my head was not, however, sufficient inspiration. For one thing, although I had a treasure trove of experienced viewing of the angel bedecked icons of Europe at my mind’s recall, there were also images of every Hallmark card there as well. So I set out on a quest towards celestial inspiration of a higher ranking.

To refresh my better memories, I looked back over my travel sketch books in order to mine them for representations of celestial beings and found enough to get some compositions started. The sketches of bas-relief angels from the facades of churches in Italy brought back fond memories of warm sunny days in the hills of Tuscany. The small oil painting above was painted from one of these sketches and named “Seraph Bringing Fire.”

The title of my new painting comes from a description of Seraphim in The Celestial Hierarchy by the early sixth century theologian Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. I have South Carolina State University professor Dr. Grenier to thank for his recommendation that I read this intriguing but perplexing work. Certainly it has enriched my new series of angel paintings, as did listening to the compositions for organ that Dr. Grenier just recently finished writing based as well on the descriptions of angels in The Celestial Hierarchy.

I have made three figurative works on the angel theme and several abstract works on paper - some with discernable figures, others without. Many of these will be on view at Nina Liu and Friends beginning October 1 but I will post them here as well along with explanations.

The decorative cat on the left is number twenty-three in my series “Thirty-three Days of the Puma.” I thought it fitting to paint the big cat in a more celestial bearing to announce the start of the paintings of the angels. The design for this miniature is loosely based upon the illuminated illustration of St. Mark in his lion form from the Book of Kells

September 21, 2010

Homeless in a Pink Kimono

In my present two-person exhibition at the Orangeburg County Fine Arts Center there is a painting at the top of the entrance stairway which is different from my other work in the show. Made with acrylic paint, collage and printed paper, it rests on the wall rather incongruously alongside a rather staid oil portrait of the Prince of Orange - a permanent fixture in the stairwell of the Art Center. (Too inconveniently located to move, the Prince of Orange presides over all exhibitions, meetings, and displays of talents, regardless of content or subject).

My acrylic collage, “Homeless in a Pink Kimono” is so named for the red print affixed to the bottom of the composition and which reads “without a home.” I created the work shortly after watching the 1959 film “When a Woman Ascends the Stairs,” by Mikio Naruse. In this respect the art work could be considered a study in Ekphrasis for it pays homage to Naruse’s beautifully understated melancholy work.

“When a Woman Ascends the Stairs is a film about bar hostesses working in the Ginza district of postwar Japan. It is impressive that Mr. Naruse made this film, as well as a number of others in this genre, that were so sympathetic to the plight of women on their own and trying to make their way in a man’s world. In this film from the 1950's Naruse chronicles the bar maids’ rush against time and money as they compete amongst each other in a race to become married by the time they reach thirty years of age or save enough money to buy their own bar. The story follows the plight of a thirty year old hostess, Keiko, who struggles to maintain integrity among the numerous betrayals, seductions, and pressures of the Ginza world. Her friends steal away her most attractive women for their own bars. Keiko rejects an immodest proposal from a wealthy business man to buy a bar for her in return for her becoming his mistress. Junko, a young bar maid whom Keiko is serving as a mentor, jumps in to take up the business man’s proposal for herself and is later seen happily polishing the counter top in her own bar. At one point in the film it looks as though Keiko has found an honest man to become her husband, only to find that he is already married.

A persistent theme in the film, “When a Woman Ascends the Stairs,” is the psychological, ethical, and material costs of staying ahead of the competition. The bar maids are constantly pressured into buying expensive perfumes and elaborate kimonos - different ones for every night in order to keep the attention of their male patrons. They are caught in an endless cycle of having to buy, borrow or steal in order to stay in the business just long enough to buy their independence from it. The film is as unsettling as it is entertaining. Was the film an indictment of commercialism run amok? Or was it just Naruse’s cautionary tale about the futility of using up youth and money in a race to win a game with a predetermined outcome?

It is easy to see parallels to Naruse’s women and people in our own society who are strung along in this recession economy with promises of a better life: the adjunct art professor whose university tells her that if she spends on just one more one-woman show she can be considered for full time work, the droves of people who take out loans to go back to school for second degrees for jobs that may not even exist, the self-employed entrepreneur trying to keep up by attending expensive trade shows and purchasing marketing packages. Some expenditures may lead to something, but most are probably just expensive kimonos and perfume.

Despite the sadness of Naruse’s film, “When a Woman Ascends the Stairs,” there does appear to be a message of hope. Perhaps hope is too strong a word. It is more like a low key sanguine acceptance. Keiko knows that she is now too old to marry and that she does not have the money to buy her own bar. And yet she still ascends the stairs to go to work, meet her friends and colleagues - enjoying the few that are true to her and basking in what remains beautiful in life. The film ends in just such a quiet way, when Keiko reaches the bar at the top of the stairs. She nods to the left, then to the right, smiles and gives a greeting to her patrons. Keiko, the one who loses the race carries on.

Autumn hails a time of competition for artists, with many applications for very few positions. There are competitive publications, trade shows, grants, and juried exhibitions to enter. A few of us will win, most of us will not. If anything can be learned from Mr. Naruse, it is that not winning is not an end to living and that some discretion is necessary in the amount of time and resources one spends on dreams.

For my part, I always enjoy the South Carolina Booking Conference, which I will attend at the end of this week. I haven’t actually booked work there in about three years and the attending artists seem to be a bit fewer each year. (The artist-in-residency work I have secured was from people who have taken the time to study my credentials and program through the Arts Commission Web site) But it is still a nice way to meet fellow teaching artists and talk about their work. But perhaps I am now too old to buy a new kimono for it!

September 20, 2010

Small Art


Smallness in visual art evokes images of exotic Persian miniatures, an exquisitely rendered Chinese fan, a page from an illuminated manuscript, and sumptuously painted portraits on ivory. Gems such as these are more intimate than art admired from afar. They can be possessed and held close to the heart.

But even if small art is not possessed but only shared by their private owners or seen through the glass in a museum collection, they charm and fascinate. The delicacy and intimate scale of these works exerts a hold upon the viewer from behind their glass cases that is quite distinct from that of larger scale works. The consummate care and skill with which an artist rendered images for private use and for which he would consequently perhaps never hear public accolades is enchanting. Modest, lovely, and desirable - small artworks are exciting for prodding the psyche into believing that having is within the realm of the possible.

I have always been charmed by small art - netsuke, snuff bottles, Persian and Indian miniatures, small ivories. It is a sentiment that was never entirely erased by a culture that prefers big and loudly broadcasted statements of art to these tiny whispered secrets. I sometimes prefer the larger works too, but I hold a place in my heart and in my home for smallness.

The two works I have posted today are miniature paintings numbers twenty and twenty-one (the computer was unavailable for uploads yesterday) of my daily work on the “Thirty-three Days of the Puma” series. I was thinking of Persian miniatures and British ivory paintings when I made them. Although these paintings are not nearly as skilled as the works that influenced them, they still, I hope, hold something of their spirit. They are tiny - just three and a half inches tall by five inches long. To paint them I used a Chinese brush made for miniature silk paintings. Since I was trained by a master silk painter in China, I do at least know something of the brush work that is required to accomplish the long sinuous lines. These are particularly evident in the tethers on the big cat at the top.

September 18, 2010

Multi-Tasking Mania Revisited

With one show hanging and two more on the way this fall, I’ve been very busy. But in between commitments I did find time to prepare something for the South Carolina State Fair. The collage above incorporates parts of a painting that I cut into pieces and reassembled. The new collage has the same title as the original painting, “Multi-Tasking Mania.” The fragmentation of the collage, I think, makes the title even more apt. The three major long dividing lines represent the hour, minute and second hands of a clock with an ever vigilant center eye as a focal point in the work.

Entering anything into a juried exhibition is always an act of faith. The artist sees the value of the time and attention devoted to creating the work, but the juror may or may not see that intent. After skills and presentations are polished to the best of ability, it is almost like a lottery after that. Submitting a work of art that is abstract or conceptual is always a risk A work of art that has many components to it is even riskier to submit to a show that has a large number of entries because a juror’s fatigue will often cause him to prefer quieter, simpler work. But that also depends on what stage a juror looks at the work - beginning, middle, or at the end. So if a juror looks at “Multi-Tasking Mania” early or late in the process, he’ll follow the nuance. In the middle of the process his eyes will just glaze over.

There are many little parts in this piece that will remain secret messages to myself and anyone reading this entry. There is a brown square, for instance, on the left side of “Multi-Tasking Mania” that is a print from a stone seal that I carved which says in ancient Chinese characters “Believe in Meditation (Zen).” It is a joke, of course, because someone “multi-tasking” will not be a likely candidate for meditation. There are a few other scattered seal prints of “long life” as well, printed in blue and green acrylic paint.

To accompany this crazy quilt of a collage, I’ve selected a miniature painting of two fighting large cats from my series, “Thirty-three days of a Puma.” This one is number nineteen.

September 16, 2010

Treading on the Tea Party

It is not always easy to discern what the Tea Party is about.. But Tea Party rallies are generally a pretty good indication of what the group is against. Ironically, the party is purportedly named after the eighteenth century Boston Tea Party. At the Boston Tea Party, colonialists protested a tax imposed by Great Britain on tea. Their protest expressed a righteous indignation on taxation without representation. Colonial Americans didn’t want their tax money to fund a foreign empire overseas. The trouble with the present day American Tea Party is that they appear to be averse to paying taxes to support their own government and their fellow Americans. That’s quite a different thing entirely from what colonialists were all about. Emblazoning themselves with a patriotic name that alludes to taxation without representation could be cause for confusion - unless we are to conclude that they consider the present government a foreign power.

It is not that they don’t have some legitimate claim to ire over the excesses in government, in particular the pandering to corporate interests. Yet if it is true that the Tea Party itself is being bankrolled by Koch Industries, then they could be the biggest corporate toadies of them all.

With regard to their hostility towards taxation, has anyone in the Tea Party paused to think through the implications of their promoting a candidate who literally did not pay her taxes? Someone who benefits from paved roads, library services, public education, ambulance services, police and fire services without bearing her share of the burden to support these institutions - leaving everyone else to pay for them for her?

It is especially ironic that Glenn Beck , a prominent spokesperson for this group, crowed about being a self-educated man who benefitted enormously from free books checked out of public libraries. Are not public libraries funded by taxes? And are not many of them in peril today because of lost tax revenue? Don’t the rest of us deserve to benefit from the same “socialist” institutions that Glenn Beck benefitted from and commends?

From what I have been reading about the Tea Party, it seems to be a rallying point for angry people of means who are afraid that their personal resources are in danger of being squandered by other Americans they deem to be unworthy of their help or support. Mr. Beck underscored this sentiment by emphasizing all the things he declared Americans should not consider entitlements: “healthcare, hand outs”, and, he seemed to imply, education. This is interesting on many levels.
If what studies show to be the demographics of Tea Party constituents are correct, that the majority are middle class white Americans, then many of these “entitlements” that Glenn Beck says we should not expect are in fact already secured by his admirers. Thus would it be too outlandish to conclude that for the Tea Party it is the other Americans that should not have access to affordable health care, education and unemployment benefits? Just as long as the Tea Party folks themselves avail themselves of these rights?

.The general tone of Tea Party rallies, especially those that proclaim to “restore honor to America” are nearly always belligerent. There is even something pugnacious about their choice of the phrase “restoring honor.” It implies that someone or something dishonored the country and its people and we therefore should demand redress. Restoring “honor” does not have the humility that a call to restore “pride” or “hope,” does. And it might be wise to consider who will be hurt in their quest for “honor,” and who could end up paying for their irresponsibility.

I’ve posted two little paintings of paw prints. They are pictures seventeen and eighteen of my Puma series. I was going to post one a day but I am posting two today instead because I am taking the day off tomorrow.

September 15, 2010

Rainbow Cabin, by Nathaniel Wallace

The exhibition of Nathaniel Wallace’s medium format photography on display at the Orangeburg County Fine Arts Center includes this intriguing print of a small white house with painted windows. Called “Rainbow Cabin” it is a digitized print from a scanned negative. The paper and inks used are special archival materials that are more permanent than ordinary photography inks. It is a large print, about twenty-two by twenty six inches with rich details.
This particular photograph is probably my favorite in the current exhibition. The colors give the simple white architecture a cathedral-like feel - like Amiens in miniature.

The Orangeburg County Fine Arts Center is open Monday through Thursday from 9:00 am until 4:30 PM and from 9:00am until 12:00 on Friday.

To the left is number sixteen in my painting series “Thirty-three days of the Puma.” It has been relaxing to do these at the end of the day. They are taking on the appearance of manuscript illustrations - probably from my many years of looking at Persian miniatures and Chinese silk paintings

September 14, 2010

A Meeting of Twain in Something Old and Something New

A Meeting of the Twain in Something Old and Something New

2010 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the death of Mark Twain. What better way to acknowledge the milestone than to read some classic works of the great American writer?
I have started to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because it is one that has always interested me but one that I never seemed to have time to read. ( I don’t really now but I’m reading it anyway).

I’ve also been catching up on the news during my momentary rest on the road to my next art exhibition in October. A significant amount of this news has taken on the heat of upcoming elections with tensions mounting on all sides. The Tea Party and its proponents seemed to be more vocal as of late so I decided to read some of the transcripts of Glenn Beck’s rallying cries to find out for myself what the attractions were to his followers and the concerns were to his critics. This was no easy task because with any public figure, there are reams of commentators to mine through to get down to the actual transcripts - the downside of the information highway. But find a few transcripts I did. After reading them I am afraid that I would have to lean towards Glenn Beck’s detractors in my sentiments.

One transcript of a speech by Glenn Beck opens with his description of his vomiting from a hangover and concludes on the same note. I was completely baffled by how such a presentation could garner adulation from a crowd. I personally have greater appreciation for public figures who do not feel compelled to address their minions by speaking into, out of, or from on top of a toilet. I might add here that I am an equal opportunity critic of this particular technique. Some years ago the National Organization for Women organized a campaign to get Rush Limbaugh off the air that they dubbed “Flush Rush.” Creative assonance aside, I found that I could not donate funds nor could I sign any petitions calling for disposing a human being via a commode - albeit even metaphorically.

From an aesthetic point of view, then, the Glenn Beck rallies held little appeal for this reader. From a stylistic point of view as well an ideological one, they also fell short. As a former English teacher married to an English professor it was difficult to read lines from a transcript of a Glenn Beck speech and not see red. No, not the red of anger that infuriates most of his critics, but the red circles, lines and arrows one might find on a D minus freshman college composition paper. Some examples are:
“You do not know what you if you’re doing it because your family has done it?”
and “Do you wanted to be an invisible, magic sky god that you think is there?” One can only hope that the errors were in the transcript and that Mr. Beck didn’t actually mouth those words. If so, perhaps he needs a better speech writer, a bigger pencil eraser, or both.

The “Restoring Honor” speech was a peculiar amalgam of McCarthyism and libertarianism with a liberal sprinkling of sermonizing thrown in for good measure. There was something decidedly incongruent, though, about the actual tone of his speech and Glenn Beck’s claim to an ideological lineage spanning from Moses to George Washington to Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King.

I couldn’t quite figure out how to describe this spokesperson for the Tea Party until I began reading Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. Glenn Beck has his own reading recommendations for people he wishes to alert to dangerous threats to the American way of life. Most of these threats, according to Mr Beck, are progressives and communists, which are actually one and the same, he tells us from his “history” lesson. But perhaps more on that later. I would argue that the best resources for understanding threats to civilized society come from the ranks of novelists, artists, and scholars - not from political pundits with a self-serving agenda. From the former, a character from Huckleberry Finn caught my attention.

In the opening chapters of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain introduces us to the ignoble character, Pap, Huck Finn’s father. Pap, an illiterate, abusive alcoholic , personifies the wicked streak that ran through American culture of Twain’s time. He is ignorant and proud of it, bullying everyone who does not join him in his ignorance. He beats Huckleberry Finn for going to school and tears up his academic award. Pap at one time claimed a religious conversion and a change of ways while secretly continuing degenerate behavior. In one scene, in a drunken rage, he rails out against the “govment” imagining that the “govment” is taking away his rights. Pap starts ranting about a legal loophole which allowed a light-skinned highly educated black man to vote - something that really got his goat.

Fast forward a hundred years from the death of Mark Twain to a rally in Washington DC. A man describing an alcoholic hangover rails against the government, entitlements to public education and the administration of the country’s light-skinned highly educated Black president. Perhaps there is a little less of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln to this man’s address than he and his adherents would like to think and a little more of Pap.

September 13, 2010

Nathaniel Wallace Black and White Photography

Although he favors color photography, Nathaniel has been experimenting with medium format black and white images in the last two years. This print from a digitized medium format negative is a scene from a medieval courtyard in Provence and is one of four black and white photographs in the current exhibition “Locations/Dislocations: Abandoned Houses and Unsheltered Souls.” Many people comment that Nathaniel Wallace’s photograph have a “painterly” quality to them. That undoubtedly comes from years of analyzing paintings for his critical writing as well as from his wife’s influence as a painter.

The small black and white painting at left is number fourteen in my series “Thirty-three Days of the Puma.”

September 12, 2010

Days of Cats and Days of Bats

The painting above is number thirteen in my series, “Thirty-three Days of the Puma.” While painting this series to enumerate the days from the start of the drilling towards the trapped miners in Chile, it occurred to me to also work backwards and count their actual days of confinement. This meant doing twenty-six more paintings in addition to the painting a day count. I decided to use the bat as the symbol of this time period, because when the bat hibernates it eats very little in order to conserve energy. Unfortunately, most people do not share my fondness for bats and the bats that are native to South America (should I wish to remain genuine) are not of the pretty variety that Asian fruit bats are. Nevertheless, from time to time I will post a miniature painting from the new series “Twenty-six days of the Bat.” I have completed ten so far - sixteen more to go in order to catch up. This project is now becoming a small book, for which I am still soliciting poets to help me fill it with verse. I may have recruited one so far and will showcase this artist in the future.

September 11, 2010

A Photograph by Nathaniel Wallace

have made a series of posts discussing my new work for the exhibition, “Locations/Dislocations: Abandoned Houses and Unsheltered Souls.” But my new work is only half of this exhibition. The other half belongs to my photographer husband, Nathaniel Wallace. He took the photograph above at our friend’s house, Jeri Burdick. Like most of the exhibited photographs, it is a digitized print from a medium format negative. The colors in this work are particularly strong and while hanging our show, it took some time for me to come up with paintings that would hold up next to it. I settled on my painting of a violet shed in field of yellow grass that I posted earlier. My favorite part of this photograph is the bar of coral color at the bottom.

For painting number twelve in my Puma series, I have chosen one with strident colors to answer the coral in the photograph. It has something of irreverence about it but that would come as no surprise to most people who know me. I will be posting more of my husband’s photographs shortly although I am not yet sure which cat-of-the-day they will appear with.

September 10, 2010

Saved by the Small but Interesting

The day after an art opening is generally a quiet one I am tempted to say an exhausted one as well but would rather not because tomorrow brings more commitments and deadlines: the delivery of new work to Charleston, publishing deadlines, and grant deadlines. They all preclude being tired. But it is always worth spending a little time away from the desk top and the easel to reflect upon an exhibition - what went well and what could be improved for the next time.

Although there was a decent crowd there was just one person from out of town in attendance. That could mean for one thing that publicity did not travel to Charleston or Columbia. It may also mean that while Orangeburg is located conveniently between those two cities, the distance may be just beyond the miles people are willing to travel for an event. On the other hand it was heartening that there was a local arts-supporting population.

When planning an event, one never knows what might capture people’s attention. Almost as an afterthought I added a table of notecards, postcards and miniature ceramic tiles of zhuan calligraphy stamps. These small items are what saved the day and helped pay the costs of putting on the exhibition. Some of the tiles that weren’t in the exhibition are shown above to illustrate what they are. I’ve explained their significance in previous blog entries but will expound a little here.

Zhuan is an ancient form of Chinese calligraphy initially found in inscriptions on bronze vessels of the Shang and Zhou dynasty (hence they are sometimes called Zhou script or metal script). Although Chinese writing changed its morphology over the centuries, various ancient scripts were preserved by artists and shamans, for their beauty by the former and for their purportedly magic power by the latter. It was believed that stone seals with zhuan characters on them could have an effect on the natural and supernatural world when they were stamped onto the area in question. A pond that was suspected of harboring evil spirits, for instance, could be exorcized by a shaman stamping a seal into the mud around its periphery. The stone stamps were often carried in beautifully embroidered pouches so that travelers could use them to banish ghosts away from the places where respite was taken. The same zhuan characters came to be used to embellish scrolls and paintings - they are the little red seals pressed onto the corners of a page, often below an artist’s name. The seal below the artist’s name is generally a writing of that artist’s name in zhuan calligraphy but other seals may show patron’s ownership of the art work. Other seals have pithy little inspirational sayings on them.

I learned the art of stone seal carving years ago as a graduate student at the Beijing Central Art Academy and have continued to use it in various ways in my art work ever since. It is an incredibly beautiful pictographic language but unfortunately one that no one can read unless trained as an archaeologist or a Chinese artist. I emphasize artist here because most contemporary Chinese students of disciplines outside the study of their own ancient art and language cannot read zhuan. ( I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art this past summer looking at some recent acquisitions of stone seals when a small entourage of Chinese students came in to see them as well. The leader of this group addressed his companions, explaining to them that zhuan is an obscure language that no one can read any more. I piped up in Chinese of course to tell them what dictionaries to buy in order to relearn the script. I don’t think I made an impression because they sort of stared at me as if they had just been addressed by the likes of a small monkey. Oh well. I had wanted to tell them that I have been slowly translating these texts).

To bring things back into the here and now, however, I had stamped a number of my stone seal carvings into the ceramic clay to make these little tiles, some for use as pendants, others just to keep as an object. I translated the text onto the back of each tile so that patrons would know what they had. So many people have little pieces of jewelry or clothing with Chinese on them not knowing the meaning of the words they wear and what is the fun of that? To make my rather long story short, my enthusiasm for the stone seal script stamps filtered out into the crowd last night and they, too, became possessors of these little bits of magic.

It is my belief that anyone who desires to learn something new and has the patience give it their time and attention, deserves to be compensated for their time. So for reading this longer than usual entry you have earned the right to a free lesson on how to read zhuan, or seal script. The little picture to the right is number eleven in my painting series, Thirty-three days of the Puma. This one features a large stamp of the words of a line from the most ancient book of poetry known, the Book of Songs. It reads “Don’t make a hunter’s dog bark.” It is not too hard to read this in zhuan but I will take you through it character by character. Starting at the top (you read Chinese from top to bottom) there is a large character that looks like two people hanging from a horizontal pole. It is the character, “Wu” for “nothing” but in this context a verb for “not doing” or “don’t.” The second one down is “shi” for “make” or “compel.” This is an interesting one for some of its component parts. The pitchfork shape, for instance on the lower right side of this character is the ancient form of the word for a person’s hand. Next you see a character for a hunter’s dog or “mang.” If you look carefully it actually looks like a stick figure of a dog with long ears. The next character is “ye” which is hard to explain - it is like a la la de da extra sound. The last character is the fun one. It is the word “bark.” If you look carefully you can see the word for “mang” or dog again only turned on its side. But there is an additional little square by it with two smiling prongs projecting from the top. This is the word for a mouth - indicating that there is a sound coming from the dog’s mouth - a bark. Enjoy your ancient reading.

September 9, 2010

Opening Night of an Exhibition Painting Number Ten

There was a house in Orangeburg County with a facade put together entirely of boards of various shapes and sizes, neatly fit together like a commesso mosaic. The boards were painted creamy white, the spaces between them a walnut brown. The house had weathered so that spider fine lines permeated the whole face like wrinkles on an old sage.

The painting above that I made of this house never made it into our exhibition The walls of the art center were filled up with enough photographs and paintings to create a nicely balanced show. There was a reasonable sized crowd and I think that they enjoyed the art. Over all the opening was a success as far as being a crowd pleaser. And the small items that I sold at least defrayed opening costs - always a relief.

Tonight we presented the performing debut of the Orangeburg Chapter of the South Carolina Writers Workshop. I had always wanted to perform my poetry from memory so I decided to finally have a try with that. I flubbed one word and forgot my last line so the penultimate line had to serve as the final one - which may have worked out for the best anyway.
Now I want to do more of this! It is not that I’m particularly good at it. It is just that with a memorized piece a performer can really own the spoken words. The real star performers tonight were Miles McCorison, Jennifer Harley and Barbara Paul for the readings of their poetry related to the exhibition.

This was a day that rushed by but it was a happy one for it was the beginning of a new year and the culmination of a long summer of work.
The painting at right is the tenth in the series Thirty-three Days of the Puma.

September 8, 2010

Countdown to an Art Exhibition Painting Nine

On a stretch of highway 301 going from Orangeburg. SC heading towards Bamberg there was an old farmstead. The main building was a creamy white with hand carved shutters painted green. A faded pink barn rested behind and slightly to the right of the long white house. I had painted the white building some time ago shortly before it was bulldozed down. The pink barn I painted last week for our two-person exhibition which opens tomorrow at the Orangeburg County Fine Arts Center.

The outbuilding, seen through the edge of a woods, looked distant and beckoning. The trees were being cleared and a slightly elliptically shaped log had rolled onto the ground like a giant eye upon the border of wild trees and plowed field. The sun hit the golden flesh of its pulp wood in a beautiful glowing way. I painted the scene on an eighteen inch square canvas - small by most painter’s standards - but dwarfing all the miniatures in the exhibition.

The day before the opening of an exhibition entails a lot of cooking, cleaning and preparations. Hence the shortness of this blog entry - and tomorrow’s as well no doubt.

The small painting at left is “Eye of the Big Cat,” ninth in the series “Thirty-three days of the Puma.”

September 7, 2010

Countdown to an Exhibition: Painting Number Eight

My preparations for the “Locations/Dislocations: Abandoned Houses and Unsheltered Souls” over these past two weeks has consisted of creating new works while painting revised versions of older works that are no longer available for display. Among the latter are the paintings I did over again that were featured on the postcards and the note cards. One such painting, the abandoned house with the red tin roof featured above, was originally a small oil on wood. The oil on wood was purchased by a client in Beaufort so I made a similar painting four times larger on canvas. I like the larger size better because it fills an expansive gallery wall to much greater effect. The larger format also enabled me to use larger brushwork for mor textural detail. Like most of the other recent paintings, this one was painted with my Venice turpentine medium, which adds a high sheen and shortens the drying time. This enabled me to paint the greater portion of this exhibition on very short notice.

Painting number eight in the countdown to an exhibition is accompanied by the Red Puma, painting number eight as well in the countdown from the day drilling started in Chile to rescue workers trapped in a copper mine. It started out as a coincidence that the two countdowns started at the same time, but I have been making these little paintings of big cats with some intent, and I will continue the series until the end of the year.

September 6, 2010

Countdown to an Exhibition Painting Seven

The painting above is of another abandoned home in Orangeburg County. Although it was popular to paint an entire house a bright blue to scare off demons, in many cases, such as this one, jsut the window trim and the posts were painted that way. For the poetry reading this Thursday evening, I’ve written a very short verse to accompany the painting, “House with Blue Trim.”

When my husband Nat and I explored this site, we found several views that were captivating enough to sketch and photograph. On the porch of the house was a large cushion chair with the upholstery still intact. Nat’s photograph of this chair, “Chair within a chair” will also be in the exhibition. The photograph was so named because the upholstery had a pattern on it that included a picture of a chair in a livingroom setting.

The painting to the left, “Big Cat with Blue Markings” is the sixth in my “Thirty Three Days of the Puma” series. When I posted the second one in this series, I found by accident it had a pictorial relationship with the architectural detail in the accompanying painting. I am now painting the big cats with that in mind.

September 5, 2010

Day Six in the Count Down of Houses and Pumas

There is a long house in Bamberg South Carolina that is painted a robin’s egg blue and has a copper roof. I see it every time I go to Bamberg to visit an artist friend in order to have company and better studio conditions while I paint. The house is like a beacon, it is so bright. It is a welcome harbinger of hot tea, good snacks, great films and all the other things that one shares with friends. Because of this, I made a small painting of it in order to have it in the upcoming exhibition “Locations/Dislocations: Abandoned Homes and Unsheltered Souls.” It is a house near the house where some of the other houses were painted.

This is the sixth in my series of count down paintings to the opening of our show at the Orangeburg County Fine Arts Center this Thursday. The painting of the purple puma at left is number six in my series “33 days of the Puma.” As I progress in this series I am noticing that the pumas are starting to look less like big cats and more like domestic ones.

September 4, 2010

Count Down Day Five

“Red House with a pointed Dormer” is another repainted scene from Blackville, South Carolina. It is second in a display of four tiny oil on panel landscape paintings for our upcoming exhibition. Yesterday I put up the last labels then went home and rested. After hanging a large exhibition of art work, it was good to relax and slow down for a few hours.

There is something very satisfying about seeing a cohesive body of work on the walls of an exhibition space. My husband’s architectural photography and my landscapes featuring mostly abandoned houses seemed to dovetail nicely. The entire impression of the show is one of taking a trip down back roads - something people do here for relaxation.

The fifth big cat of my thirty-three puma series made me recall what I initially read when the saving pipeline first reached the miners in Chile. Once it was established that this would be a prolonged rescue mission, a number of commentators offered ideas about what should go down or come up that pipeline. I suppose this series of paintings was started in response to a commentator who offered a suggestion that perhaps pictures could be sent down to the minors to cheer up their gloomy space. It wasn’t entirely a bad idea, I thought, but is there a place for art? The social scientists, psychologists and medical professionals assigned to the miner’s welfare emphasized the importance of establishing routines to pass the time. I hope that a routine does not become a monotony. Scientist know how to make every day the same and to be consistent.
And that is required in many respects for the survival of the body. But artists know how to make every day a little different. It is what makes a Decameron out of a long wait for a plague to pass, or the Canterbury Tales to pass the time of a rugged pilgrimage. It makes the tales of a Thousand and One Nights. Every day a little different. Something earned, something discovered. It is what makes a soul survive. I suppose that is why I am making a little painting every day to count the difficult and long journey to a rescue. So this can be the day an emerald cat sniffed the ground to discover that someone or something has passed this way.

September 3, 2010

Day Four of a Painting Count Down

Black and grey with pink and red have always been favorite color combinations of mine. For the fourth day of my countdown to our exhibition and the fourth day of the Puma paintings (see previous blog entries to find out what they are for - Ah! I knew I would start getting lazy) I am featuring these colors. I saw this long pink barn with the black roof and the black tire in the area of Blackville, South Carolina. This painting is a smaller version of a larger one also in the upcoming exhibition.

I have two people to thank for my series of small works on panels, Alicia Leeke, for supplying the small frames through her Artist’s Round Table organization, and Stephen Chesley, for cutting numerous masonite panels and even priming them for me. Thank you friends!

September 2, 2010

Locations/Dislocations Painting Number Three

Count Down to an Exhibition
Painting number three

September 2 in Orangeburg was a labeling and adjustment event. Most of the hard core delivery, set up, and arrangement of paintings and photographs was completed yesterday. But today replacements needed to be made, labels printed out, and everything adjusted for height and distances apart. It took up the greater part of this day.

Thankfully, an article about the exhibition which came out in the local paper today. A section in the middle of this article looked very familiar. It was classic Kozachek writing, with words like “elegiac” and “juxtaposition” and more than one idea in a sentence separated by the ubiquitous hyphens. My first thought was should these words not be embraced by quotation marks? I then recalled that I had attached chunks of a previously written essay onto a press release which was forwarded to one center then forwarded to a newspaper and in my haste to get the work done forgot to take ownership of anything that I penned thus making it a parcel of thought folded into the corporate ownership of ideas. Also in my haste I hadn’t really been very diligent about revisions. So it might actually be for the best if my meandering thoughts should be attributed to the great cultural unconscious of Orangeburg. No matter. It is good to get the word out and I appreciate the effort made on our behalf.

My painting featured above is called “Grey Shed in a Field of Yellow Grass.” It is another oil on panel that dried just days ago. The scene is from the rural area around Blackville, South Carolina. I recall that the area was moist from its proximity to a pond which probably also the reason for the yellow grasses. Fields of grass in the autumn in South Carolina are as spectacular for their colors as autumn leaves in the northeast. They are made even more splendid by these little gems of architectural remains.

The third painting in my ongoing series of daily art for the miners in Chile is a white ghostly puma moving through golden grass. Every day I do a painting for myself and one for the miners. Hopefully I can keep it up until Christmas.

September 1, 2010

Painting Number Two Count Down

It was a long day spent hanging an exhibition. Hanging for two people went especially slowly (I had to hang my husband’s photographs as well due to his teaching schedule). As I expected, there were two paintings that were still too tacky to set into a frames so they will be squeezed into the exhibition later. I ended up hanging just three of my collage works, all of which were not previously shown. So although this exhibition thematically is a traveling one from the previous venue at Gallery 80808 in Columbia it is largely new.

The painting above is of two rusting latches on the door of an abandoned house. I liked the worn paint and the numerous nail holes. This is the only painting in the exhibition of a detail - something I will be doing more of later this month. I painted it in a square because the shape happened into fit a wrought iron frame that I acquired years ago on a trip to Italy. The frame was probably intended to hold a mirror but it suited the small oil on panel fine.

As I was hanging the exhibition, “Locations/Dislocations: Abandoned Houses and Unsheltered Souls,” Beth Thomas, the director of the Orangeburg County Fine Arts Center asked me how I got the glossy finish on my paintings. Many artists wonder that so I’m submitting here the “secret” recipe painting medium I use to get the enamel- like sheen and sculptural impasto effects in the paint. I got the recipe years ago from Piero Manoni, a museum conservator from Rome:

Two Parts Venice Turpentine (Can substitute Canada Balsam)
Nine Parts Gum Turpentine
Four Parts Stand Oil
Nine Parts Damar Varnish

Mix the Venice Turpentine slowly into the Gum Turpentine until it is entirely dissolved. Add the stand oil and damar. Mix thoroughly.

The small painting at left is second in the cycle “Thirty-three Days of the Puma.” for the second day of rescue of the Chilean miners. I have been following the news story and understand that the slow drilling is due to having to bore through solid rock. The puma, which I think is another name for a jaguar, was a holy beast in Pre-Columbian mythology and could be loosely associated with what we might consider an angel. In this picture it is difficult to actually see the puma without looking for it closely, which characterizes the ephemeral natural of spiritual things.