I’m back in my life online after a three week hiatus. Some of those days away were deeply satisfying. Roaming the Farmer’s Market in San Francisco (held every Saturday at the Ferry Building) is a pleasure I feel so deeply at every level that having that stroll through the plethora of colors and textures and tastes is as important to a Bay Area visit as my regular pilgrimages to the De Young Museum and SFMOMA. And a week spent with good friends on a remote alpine lake in the Sierras, far from cell phones and electricity, was the best antidote for that crusty accretion that accumulates on us citydwellers, like the street salt on a car’s underbelly during a winter of too much snow.
The days spent in Utah with my mother were hard. While I was pleased that her cognitive abilities have improved–she can now say our names–that increased cognition has also brought an increase in her self awareness. She now gets that her life is in limbo, caught hopelessly in that Sisyphus-like place between a strong body and a damaged mind. This outcome is heartbreaking.
I have had lots of time to read, and that has been a gift. I have been reading poetry, primarily Dante and Emily Dickinson. The first third of Jim Harrison’s novel, Returning to Earth, is particularly brilliant. Michael Kimmelman’s The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa is a fast and fun read. Out of Eden, by W. S. Piero, is a collection of essays by a literary man with a penchant for art. His point of view often aligns itself with my take on things, and his writing is elegant and friendly. Here’s a sample:
By the end of the century, the sense of the sacred is expressed in the visible manipulation of artistic forms and material. John Berger says in his book on Picasso: “The artist who finds his subject within his own activity as an artist did not exist before the end of the nineteenth century, and Cezanne is probably the prototype.” The one god finally dissolved into a vague polyvalent presence available only in the action of paint, stone, line, etc. Form itself became a sacred subject, the other reality the artist sought. The motif could be familiar—still life, portrait of a gardener, landscape, bathers, dancers, laborers, businessmen—but the real topic was the artist’s way of seeing and imaging forth the given. The axis shifted: the sacred, no longer inhered in the sublime, absolute presence of things, it was worked into manifestation in the forms made in response to that presence. The image wasn’t a mediator, it was a generator, or genitor. It did not constitute a new liturgy, it expressed the reality of transcendence without the articulation and sacramentalism of liturgy.
Piero has also written an excellent essay on Giacometti (on which the title of the book is based) and included some smarmy and dismissive comments that Picasso made about Bonnard (how dare you, Pablo!) All in all, very engaging.
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