Friday, May 22, 2009
Kathleen (right) with LA sophistosThe works are colorful abstractions of classical architecture, with each painting borrowing its tantalizing title from a Greek term found in my book (e.g., Naos, Eleusis, Mystai, Kystai, Kykeon, etc.).
I'm always interested in the role chance plays in the production of a work of art. Kathleen's paintings seem a subtle mix of playful happenstance and conscious design.
Surprisingly, this sense of artful spontaneity is captured in a painstaking ancient technique called encaustic.
Encaustic is from the Greek word enkaustikos meaning 'to fuse,' or ‘to burn in.' The ancient Greeks sealed the hulls of their ships by coating them with wax and resin, while heating the coat with fire. Eventually they began to mix in pigments, adding color to create their startling warships.
Though slow and difficult, the layering of the wax heating process gives a rich and life-like optical effect, and is far more durable than tempera.
By the 5th c. B.C., the technique was being used in highlighting features of the marble statues on the Acropolis and the famous Parthenon frieze.
"Phidias and the Elgin Marbles"by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, oil, 1868
Kathleen explains her use of the process:
Along with gorgeous colors (you really can't appreciate the translucent effect in these flat, digital images) the process leaves an interesting edge to the paintings.
"Animal or vegetable wax (I use beeswax) is melted with the resin of the Asian fir tree. Oil paint is then added to the hot liquid and applied with brush to a wooden panel. The wax immediately hardens and must be fused with fire, or heat, for its permanency."
Here's how the catalog sums up her art: "The elegance of the works is tempered by geometric blocks of color, giving a sense of contingency to the otherwise highly controlled world of architecture."
I like that: a sense of contingency. It speaks to the process, the art of the art. As if Chance had been caught while fusing into Fate.
"In July, '45, we were sent to Marseilles, France to be completely re-outfitted with new vehicles, arms, clothing, for our intended re-assignment to the CBI (China, Burma, India theater of operations) to help end the war with Japan. Everyone knew that, since the 1252nd single-handedly ended the European war, we would be needed to do the same thing to Japan. On August 23, 1945, we left Marseilles heading for the Panama Canal. Three days later, "the bombs" were dropped on Japan and our troopship abruptly changed course for Camp Miles Standish, Massachusetts. In the Boston harbor, by this freakish and undeserved turn of events, we happened to be among the first, if not the, first troopship to return to the States. In the craziness and jubilation of the moment we were escorted into the harbor by anything and everything that would float, including several fire-boats shooting water over our bow. No other experience on earth could match the emotional intensity of that moment when 2,500 grown men aboard were bawling like babies!"
"All of my still-surviving buddies of the 1252nd agree on one thing: we would never want to go through anything like WWII again, yet we wouldn't have missed the experience for all the world! Note that not wanting to go through it again is a lot different than refusing to go. Living in freedom is well worth the price."
Sunday, May 17, 2009
"The critic James Bowman thinks the current vogue for big screen superheroes helps to isolate and quarantine heroism in fanatasy-land. 'Heroism' is what people who’ve been bitten by radioactive spiders do. Until that happens to you, best to steer clear. And so a world of superheroes leads to a world without heroes. Gone now are the amateur adventurers of 19th- and 20th-century fiction, chaps who’d find themselves caught up in something, and decide to give it a go, initially because it’s a ripping wheeze but also because, in some too-stiff-upper-lipped-to-say way, they understood honour required it. Now the conventional romantic hero is all but extinct, and as giants patrol the skies those of us on the ground are perforce smaller. In The Incredibles, there’s a famous line aimed at the feel-good fatuities of contemporary education: when everyone’s special, nobody is. The failure of storytelling in today’s Hollywood teaches a different lesson: when everyone’s super, nobody’s a hero."
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
Those who purvey the doctrine that the Chinese word for "crisis" is composed of elements meaning "danger" and "opportunity" are engaging in a type of muddled thinking that is a danger to society, for it lulls people into welcoming crises as unstable situations from which they can benefit. Adopting a feel-good attitude toward adversity may not be the most rational, realistic approach to its solution.
The jī of wēijī, in fact, means something like “incipient moment; crucial point (when something begins or changes).” Thus, a wēijī is indeed a genuine crisis, a dangerous moment, a time when things start to go awry. A wēijī indicates a perilous situation when one should be especially wary. It is not a juncture when one goes looking for advantages and benefits. In a crisis, one wants above all to save one's skin and neck! Any would-be guru who advocates opportunism in the face of crisis should be run out of town on a rail, for his/her advice will only compound the danger of the crisis.
If you persist in trying to attain what is never attained, you will be destroyed by the very thing you seek. To know when to stop, to know when you can get no further by your own action, this is the right beginning!