“This is what Democracy looks like.”
“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.”
–Lady Bird Johnson
“If you could
have three wishes, what?”
I’ve been repeating that word
since I was a child.
What is peace?
Easy to say what
it is not–
not guns, not
bombs, not hate or violence.
Not this destruction.
There are seeds
but they need sunlight–
growth, to send roots; open space
to reach for the sky.
This is not
we let it–
the Earth can teach us if we
can’t find our way home.
Despite the way we mistreat it, the Earth still shares with us its bounty. As it does each summer, the Rose of Sharon tree is blooming, surrounded by concrete and the sorrows of our world.
Join in with your poem here.
…or at least that’s the way it looked when we entered this room at the Met.
I don’t know, even when I know what she’s actually got in her hand,
it still looks like she’s checking out the screen to me.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, June 2016
as lovely as a tree, rooted in the earth, reaching towards the heavens
as enchanting as an ash, central column of life, cosmic axis
as captivating as cherry, awakening the magic of spring
as handsome as the beech, guardian of knowledge, wisdom writing words
as magical as an elder, conjuring, healing, restoring life
as stately as oak, enduring portal, shelter, protection and door
as graceful as a willow, mirroring the moon, fulfilling wishes
as dazzling as holly, solstice companion, glow piercing winter’s grey
as simple as the arbor, center and pivot, beginning and end
The last Friday is April is Arbor Day, a day to celebrate trees. From cosmic axis to shelter for fairies, trees have always been honored by humans in stories and myth, symbols of life and rebirth, connecting, protecting and healing.
The photos were taken when I visited the Jewish Museum in March; the colorful geometry of the window decorations caught my eye first, but then the reflections of the trees across the street in Central Park worked their own magic.
The poem combines two NaPoWriMo prompts: long 17-syllable lines from day 27, and using a line or phrase from another poem to begin your own from day 25. Raise your hand if you had to memorize Joyce Kilmer’s “Trees” in elementary school! Permanently embedded in my brain, “lovely as a tree” seemed perfect for Arbor Day.
When you go out today, instead of keeping your eyes on your device, look around and take in the beauty and majesty of trees.
Another day worth celebrating–I love maps. Useful, yet full of abstract and often mysterious beauty.
A few years ago I did a stitched map Sketchbook Project of Main Streets based on Google Maps. Google Maps are a mainstay of any traveling I do into unfamiliar territory. That softball field in Queens? It’s right there, along with the nearest subway stop.
There actually is a Main Street in NYC, and I stitched it (above right), but it’s on Roosevelt Island, the entirety of which has always seemed to me to be superimposed onto the five boroughs. The Real Main Street of New York City? For almost 40 years, I’ve lived on or steps from Broadway, which travels from the bottom of Manhattan to the Bronx and 18 miles north to Sleepy Hollow.
That’s my Main Street.
They’re digging up Broadway
at night the clatter of wheels over metal plates
provides a rhythmic accompaniment to music from car stereos
double-parked outside the 24-hour deli on the corner
Sunday mornings the finery of congregants mingles with
the dog walkers
and the finery of the refugees from Saturday night
Headlines announcing Politics As Usual
step into the street dance
the Daily News of space and Times
“They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway…”
blinking red hand
“They say there’s always magic in the air…”
neon green walk
Lyrics borrowed from “On Broadway” by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil in collaboration with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. (The Drifters, 1963)
Thanks to Charlie at Doodlewash for inviting everyone to share his “month of days”.
I actually went to the Jewish Museum with the purpose of seeing the “Unorthodox” exhibit, which closed last weekend (full of interesting things: for a future post). But imagine my delight as I stepped out onto the second floor and saw this:
Having worked in the fashion industry, Isaac Mizrahi is well known to me. But this exhibit puts his work together in a way that has both surprises and charm. The wall of color swatches that he has collected over his career was just the start.
There were costumes and accompanying videos of performances
walls of sketches
glamour and glitter.
I have always been fond of the totem pole dress and the native American-inspired beaded jacket.
The visitors, young and old, fashionista or not, seemed to latch on to Mizrahi’s exuberance with smiles. The exhibit will be on display until August.
I went to see the American Folk Art Museum exhibit of Masonic and Odd Fellows art, “Mystery and Benevolence”, this weekend. Lots of my favorites! Hands, eyes, skulls.
Both the Freemasons and the Odd Fellows were (and are) secret fraternal organizations, dedicated to fellowship and the development of ethics and good moral character. As one article about the exhibit pointed out, you can look up symbolic meanings online for, say, hands and hearts, but the true and complete meanings still remain a mystery except to the initiated.
Is the mystery part of the beauty? I loved this hand and hearts hooked rug.
The all-seeing eye is another prominent symbol. It is often shown with chains. “F L T” stands for friendship, love and truth.
Eyes are shown with the sun’s rays radiating. The sun itself is represented as well.
One of the purposes of these organizations was the contemplation of mortality. This would hopefully lead to better choices in life. Thus, the skeletons and skulls.
I managed to photograph this wonderfully eerie skull and crossbones right over my reflection.
Animals associated with these organizations include snakes, owls, bees, and double-headed eagles.
The Ark of the Covenant and Solomon’s Temple are also have meaning.
An intricate papercutting includes many of the mysterious symbols.
This painting shows why these organizations are often associated with the occult. The secret rites and rituals and cryptic symbols invite speculation. But they are also wonderful to contemplate simply as works of art.
This is a great show. It’s open through May 8.
Last February I posted about the wonderful bird paintings showing up in my neighborhood. At the time, the man behind the project, Avi Gitler, told me to watch for more birds. Wow! He wasn’t thinking small.
Imagine my surprise when I walked over to Amsterdam Avenue a few months ago and saw…an entire building filled with birds (and James Audubon too!). This beautiful mural, “Endangered Harlem” was painted by a young artist from Baltimore, Gaia.
At the corner of 155th Street and Broadway are two murals, flanking the gas station there. “Fish Crow”, by Italian artist Hitnes, is also part of a project he did where he created 15 bird murals following Audubon’s journey across the United States. You can read about this project and see more of the murals here.
The other mural on this corner, “Swallow Tailed Kite (and others)” was painted by the Ecuadorian-American artist Lunar New Year. You can see more of his wonderful work on his website here.
…and Happy National Bird Day! Let’s all work to help save these beautiful creatures from extinction.
And don’t forget Draw-a-Bird Day, the 8th of each month, is coming up again on Friday!
In looking through the photos I took at the Whitney, I saw I focused on landscapes by iconic (at least to me) American painters of the 20th century. The painting above is by Ralston Crawford. Born in Canada, he grew up in Buffalo, NY, and is known for his urban and industrial landscapes, which became more abstract with time, although he always began with observed reality. He was also a photographer.
As was Charles Sheeler, a favorite of mine. In fact, Sheeler may be more well known for his photography than his paintings. His viewpoints often abstract machines and landscapes into patterns of light and shadow. You can see how his photography influenced his painting in the industrial scene above.
Charles Demuth grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and often painted the buildings in his home town. Above is a grain elevator. He was friends with many poets and painters, and may be most well known for “I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold” which was based on a poem by William Carlos Williams. He often used watercolor, and produced a vast and varied body of work, including many wonderful still lifes.
Stuart Davis is well known for his bright and jazz-influenced work. His paintings add color to the urban landscape, although he also produced many black and white linear abstractions as well.
Davis, and the artists above, are all considered to be Precisionists: they took the urban and industrial world of the early 20th century and abstracted it, often sharpening its edges. Georgia O’Keeffe’s early cityscapes are also considered to be part of this group.
The one non-Precisionist landscape I photographed at the Whitney on my visit is also by one artist I did not know. Chiura Obata was represented by a wall of beautiful woodcuts of California. Like so many Japanese-Americans, he was interned in World War II, and organized art classes, with help from friends in California, in the camps. He was also a wonderful painter.