A couple people asked me to keep them posted about the books I am reading. So here goes. I finished Pictures & Tears by James Elkins. I'm going to re-read the end because I found myself a little distracted. I thought it was so very interesting that I carried it around with me and read it while waiting, while eating etc. Why do people react with tears to a painting? Why did this used to be much more common. What are some of the things that bring people to tears? Is crying a "correct" response to art? Why don't art historians react with tears or much else? These are just some of the questions covered. The first part of the book talks a great deal about Rothko's work and in particular the Houston chapel filled with his black paintings. I would really like to go see those in person to see for myself!
But this book got my brain working overtime this week. I resolved I would go and look at art for myself this weekend to see what happened. The timing was great. There's an exhibit of three Jackson Pollock drip paintings at the Williams College Museum of Art. Although I've seen the famous short film about Pollock actually painting, I can't remember seeing any of his paintings in person. And I'll confess that based on printed depictions of his stuff I've not been a fan, however I went with an open mind and a willingness to really look. Elkins talks about the difficulties of spending time with paintings -- too many people, too much noise etc. All true.
I stood my ground, while trying not to hog the exact center of the room. I took my time. I looked up close and far away, from side to side. I realized with paintings that large it was better to be where you could see the whole thing at once. I looked at how the paint was applied and how the paints reacted to each other. I enjoyed the real gestures of the work - it reminded me of a lot of things in the world. Mainly I thought about what it would be like to paint that way, as though the paint were coming from the end of my arm.
I also was so impressed at how organized it all was. Most people think of Pollock's work as this messy chaotic thing but I was struck by how unchaotic it seemed.
Did I cry? No. Did I react? Yes, most favorably.
I went on to other parts of the museum where I looked at three separate exhibits. I really only meant to walk through and then go back to the Pollocks, but I got sucked in by a pair of Rembrandt lithographs. And the next thing I knew I was standing in front of an etching, Grand Vent by Joan Miro, and although I didn't have tears running down my face I was definitely full of rising emotion. Unbelievable. Lasted a few minutes. I couldn't really put my finger on what it was about that one piece that made me react to strongly.
I was very thrilled to see three pieces by Joseph Alber who I have read re color theory in the past. I went on to another exhibit, American Dreams. Bang! George Innes. I'm a real sucker for Hudson River School. Next small room - religious paintings, icons and sculpture, some very old, some curiously new. Took a stroll back to the room of Pollocks. Circled back to Miro. Went downstairs to another gallery, where my eye said "what the heck is that????" It was a Kooning. Oh. Pleased to meet ya. It so stood out - the power of the artist? Another piece intrigued me - a depiction of the Annunciation. So many things to see. A really big painting. Many spherical things including one improbably placed spherical glass vase of flowers. And what's that down in the right corner? Sort of fuzzy in the scheme of the painting, but up close there was no mistaking what it was. A basket of rolled bits of fabric. A needle stuck into one roll. And a pair of silver, rather ornate scissors. Amazing. When I stepped away again, it all receded into the shadows once more. How'd he do that? More to come on this whole topic....
Quote from the quote box that will make you think hard:
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.
-- US President Dwight Eisenhower 1953 speech
In other news, after hearing snips and bits of the new Springsteen recording, We Shall Overcome - The Seeger Sessions I bought it and am very impressed. I don't know where that sound/voice comes from (yeah, yeah, yeah, new jersey) but what a great collection of favorites bearing his own imprint. The whole country fiddle/southern/gospel-blues thing mixed with a nice generous portion of brass and New Orleans feel, centered around the song and this incredible gravelly, tender, tough voice. I had a couple other things stashed in my shopping cart but so far I haven't moved past "da bruce" aka "the boss" (which when you think about it is the same thing....)
When Derrick announced the theme for IMBB25, I could hardly believe my luck. Since I bake bread almost weekly, what to do with stray bits of older bread is an important quest! I had just read an essay about a rather strange sad trip to Italy that began promisingly enough with a bowl of tomato bread soup and ended with a controlling, diet-conscious wife. (Now I ask you - who watches their weight while vacationing for the first time in Italy?) The writer waxed poetic about the bowl of soup and it sure sounded good to me.
Thus it was I rummaged around and found several recipes and came up with this version. It cannot, I repeat, CANNOT be any easier. Like all good, important recipes, it can be made quickly from things you have on hand.
And if you don't sit back in your chair with a blissful sigh, well then find someone else to dine with.
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 medium onion cut into largish hunks
3-4 TB extra virgin olive oil
2 28oz cans of whole peeled tomatoes
2 cups water
12-14 oz old or stale ciabatta cut into 1-2" pieces
1 cup fresh basil chopped coarsely or torn up
grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
Ultra easy : throw garlic into whirring processor and chop fine. when done, throw in the onion and chop fine, not pureed! Heat the oil in a large skillet or pot. When hot, add the garlic and onion. Saute until just translucent. (Be careful not to brown/burn!) While that's cooking, drain the juice from the canned tomatoes (reserve the juice and add with the tomatoes in a bit) and chop the whole tomatoes in the same processor. Not too fine - you want some bigger hunks of tomato. Just think, in the summer you'll make this with nice ripe tomatoes...
Add the tomatoes into the pot and bring to a boil, stirring as needed. Add the water and the bread and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the bread is nicely soaked and everything is mushy.
Throw in the basil after about 5 minutes or so.
The bread should be intact still but the whole mixture will have a nice almost gelatinous feel to it. Serve with a nice garnish of good cheese.
Eat simply and well and be happy!
An update: Not only did I dine well after preparing this soup for the second time, but my co-workers supped well today and proclaimed it a success. One had tasted a bit of my first try, made with dry basil. The change to fresh (just didn't have any the first time) met with his approval. I found both to be pleasing but of course fresh is fresh.
Well, actually I am doing a little bit of sewing here and there - there's that new machine sitting smack dab on my table afterall. I am working on two SMALL pieces for an upcoming entry. These are part of my "work smaller" resolution for the year. Photos coming soon, promise!
The only thing I want to say is that the first piece came out being more than I had hoped for. Remember, I work big. Really big compared to many people. I like having room to really make things happen. So to work so much smaller is a challenge. How do I make a complete statement or something in such a small space?
And the second piece is actually the resurrection and completion of a little thing I made quite awhile ago, "lost", found again, "lost" again and now here it is, just in time to make a really really cool small piece.
OK, I want to say one other thing: I got two new books to read and my second choice is the one that's pulling me in. Pictures & Tears by James Elkins explores why people cry in response to art. I remember a few times having that response and it was an interesting experience. Have you ever cried in response to a painting or piece of art?