Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Van Gogh's Bedroom

     We took the train into the City to see the Van Gogh exhibit at the Art Institute. It is the first time all three of the artist's paintings of his bedroom in his Yellow House in Arles have been shown together. Since I have no plans to visit either Amsterdam or Paris any time soon, I couldn't miss the opportunity to see them here in Chicago. 

     Van Gogh was a melancholic whose short, troubled life was haunted by transience and mental illness. When he rented four rooms in a yellow house in Arles, his letters to his brother about his plans to decorate them were full of expectation and a child-like hope. He thought carefully about what kind of wood the furniture would be made of in each of the two bedrooms: elegant walnut for his friend, Gaugin, and something more humble for himself--a sturdy white bed and rush bottom chairs. The small rooms would be stuffed with paintings, the white-washed walls painted. He hoped that other friends would visit and that his little house might become something of a studio for like-minded artists.

     But his dream fell flat. He argued with Gaugin, he cut off his own ear and his life spiraled to a tragic end.

     The poignancy of Van Gogh's life is subtly conveyed throughout the course of the exhibit, and by the time I reached the finale where each of his bedroom paintings hung side-by-side on an otherwise blank wall, I carried a residue of grief for the poor man. The "if only" and "too bads" trailed me out the door of the museum and into the street.

     Still, I am glad to know that at least once in his life, Vincent Van Gogh found a place to call his own, and that he shared it with us.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Poem in Your Pocket Day - God Save the Queen

     April is National Poetry Month. Eight years ago, the Academy of American Poets also nationalized Poem in Your Pocket Day to foster the sharing of this neglected genre. Every April, on Poem in Your Pocket Day, people celebrate poetry by carrying a favorite poem with them and sharing it with as many others as they can throughout the day. This year, the day falls on April 21, which also happens to be Queen Elizabeth's 90th birthday. It seems only appropriate then, to choose a poem to commemorate her many years of faithful service.

From Ulysses...

...you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honor and his toil:
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends.
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are--
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

                                                    ~ Alfred Lord Tennyson ~

Happy Birthday your Majesty.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

My Picture Gallery - For the Birds

March Wind by Amber Alexander

     They aren't the only paintings of birds hanging on the walls of my home, but they are three of my favorites, and they are all painted by the same artist: Amber Alexander. It is one of the reasons I frequent Etsy. I find unique and lovely art and crafts that I am unable to purchase locally. Each of these paintings appeals to me because of its simplicity, but also because of the personality the artist has captured in them.

     The crane in March Wind has donned her spring kerchief to keep her feathers safe from ruffling as she steps out to the market to buy a packet of pepper and string of onions for her supper of truffled smelt. She is keenly aware that her fashionable new headwrap complements the color of her eyes, but is attempting to appear as nonchalant as her sophisticated French cousins.

Raven by Amber Alexander

     I have named my Raven, Quoth. He may have his back turned to me as I come down the stairs each morning, but he sees every move I make. What secrets he may be guarding in his dark, iridescent breast I do not know, for he has never spoken of them to me.

Tiny by Amber Alexander

     On the other hand, this Tiny chap has something to say, and he will persist in saying it until I listen. It is fruitless to pretend attention while secretly calculating railway timetables or composing poetry in my head; he cannot be fooled so easily.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Artist

     Our artist in residence, ten-year-old Girlybird, snapped this close-up photo of a waterfall. It snares my appreciation because it distills for me, that single moment in a clamorous multitude of moments when falling water strikes solid rock in a crescendo of movement and sound like the clash of cymbals in a symphony, and then shatters into countless springing refrains.

     The suspended leap of color, light, motion and texture in this photo are like poetry to me. Oh yes, and did I mention it was my ten-year-old granddaughter who made it?

Friday, April 1, 2016

April Fooling

     My oldest brother loves jigsaw puzzles. As young adults we often had a puzzle-in-progress at family gatherings during Thanksgiving and Christmas. He still puts one together every year during the holidays as, half a continent away, we do also.

     I sent my brother a 1000 piece photomosaic jigsaw puzzle of Van Gogh’s Starry Night for Christmas this year. The photos were of astronauts, rockets, space shuttles, planets and satellites. It took him two weeks to assemble…well, almost assemble. When the puzzle was nearly complete he discovered that it was missing two pieces. He had two extra pieces in hand, but they wouldn’t fit in the last two empty spaces. My husband glibly suggested that, perhaps, he had put the puzzle together wrong.

     A few weeks later we received the puzzle in the mail with a challenge to find the missing pieces. It took us two weeks to assemble, and, strangely, all of the pieces fit. Our live-in daughter snapped a photo and put it on Facebook to prove we had done it. She posted the photo this morning.

     What my brother doesn’t know and won’t find out until he or his wife reads my blog is that I was so intrigued by the puzzle when I bought it for him, I bought an identical one for myself. That is the one we put together hoping that none of the pieces had gone astray. We pulled out all of the stops to finish it by April 1…April Fools Day.

     Do you think he will laugh as much as we did?