Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March Mission: The Bloomin' Muse Poetry Slam and Art Expo

For our March mission we decided to read a poem for The Bloomin' Muse, a poetry slam/art expo at Living Word on March 15. The theme was "Spring".


Last year I read one serious poem, and one funny poem. The funny poem got so much good feedback, that I wanted to do something fun again, but it turned out to be mostly serious. Oh well, there's always next year. It was fun to read, though, and I really liked it, even if I was the only one. Here it is:

Enjoy It
Saw a crow
Lunching inside a ribcage
At the side of the road the other day.
Felt like I caught Nature in the act
Of poking a corpse with a stick.

Nature’s such a kid sometimes,
Playing with dead stuff.

But hey,
It’s Spring!
A time when we forgive
The earth for being
Cold towards us and all we love.
Swollen-veined leaves,
Blood-ripe fruit,
Pods bursting,
Birds singing,
Bees buzzing,
Bugs biting…
(Hate them),
Everything sporting its new flesh;
Showing off its abs.

Who couldn’t get caught up in it?
Plants, animals and people in good health
Still alive.

This is too much of one thing.
Bodies are painstakingly engineered with a short shelf-life.
Planned obsolescence.

I can hear Nature cajoling her children,
“Oh my, what a beauty you are.
Oh if last year’s flowers could see you now.”

Ah, yeah well, I try.

“Only, I still think I can do better…”


 Extravagant Nature,
Picking her darlings,
Bleaching their skulls clean,
To try ‘something new’.
Cashing in her prize-winners,
For fertilizer.
Tucks them quietly in the sod,
Sometimes not so quietly,
Wrestling them to bed.

 So extravagant a remodeling.

 In this way, generations pass.
People, animals, grass.
Swept away.
And for what?

For me.
For you.
For what you could be
But can’t see.
For your love to be free from greed
Of what doesn’t live or bleed.
For a new seed
Of a dead dream.

 You ask,
“How can this be?”
“Can a man be born when he is old?”
Don’t you know, silly?
Your roots are deep.
They penetrate to the very heart of all that is.
They are the arteries of the Cosmos.
You are the hairs on God’s arm, son!
You, the eyelashes, daughter!
Your brains rot,
But your mind is safe.

 File. Click.
Save. Click.
“X.” Click. [closed eyes]

 Now go ahead.
Sing your most expensive song.
Don’t waste your time,
And mine,
Whimpering your anthem.
What are you thinking???
Belt it out!
Burst your lungs with that one wild song!!!
Make the Universe
Turn its head,
To watch you,
Just you,
And ask you to sing your song
One more time.
Oh, I promise you,
You won’t be soon forgotten,
Or without some new face,
When next Spring rolls around.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

February Mission: Kemper Art Museum


For February we tried to inject a little culture into our brains, and went to see the art at the Kemper Art Museum at Washington University. This was reminiscent of our August mission last year, except instead of modern video art, the main attraction was the newly opened Georges Braque Exhibition.Georges Braque and the Cubist Still Life, 1928-1945 was an entire collect of Cubism art, which Braque and Pablo Picasso invented. It’s interesting to me that students of art put labels to different styles of painting, and more interesting still that some artists choose to do all of their work under one style. While viewing the gallery, I was able to see what made Cubism unique, but I have to admit that I didn’t really get it. There were a few paintings where I did get a sense that the painter’s perspective had varying angles that were all painted together, but overall it just looked kind of… well, juvenile. What I mean is that there were very few that looked like they took a great deal of talent to make.

I think that there is something to be gained to try and get a deeper understanding of something that someone else has put themselves into. That’s why I decided to spend one hour researching Cubism, to see if I could gain at least more knowledge, if not a better appreciation, for the art form.

I have to admit that I may have not made it the entire hour. I basically looked closely at 3 different search results, including Wikipedia, an article from an art site, and wiki.answer.com. Surprisingly, I got the most out of the wiki answers site. It was the shortest, but I really liked the artists’ quotes:

- Many think that Cubism is an art of transition, an experiment which is to bring ulterior results. Those who think that way have not understood it. Cubism is not either a seed or a fetus, but an art dealing primarily with forms, and when a form is realized it is there to live its own life… …If Cubism is an art of transition I am sure that the only thing that will come out of it is another form of Cubism (Paris 1923). 
* artist quotations from 'Picasso speaks', text by Marius Zayas, in 'The Arts', New York, May 1923

- When objects shattered into fragments appeared in my painting about 1909; this for me was a way of getting closest to the object… …Fragmentation helped me to establish space and movement in space.
* artist quote by George Braque, from "Braque", Edwin Mullins, Thames and Hudson, London 1968, p. 55

The summary on Wiki answers made me realize that Cubism is an analytical method. I like the idea of breaking something down into 3-dimensional pieces in your mind, then reassembling them on a 2-dimensional canvas. Now, I’m not saying that all of the artwork we looked at suddenly made sense to me, but I like the idea. I’m sure that the artists liked the idea as well, which is why they spent so much time working on it, but I’m also sure that they didn't always get it right. I think that’s why I don’t spend a lot of time of making my own art. What I end up with rarely fits the image in my head. BUT, it’s also true that sometimes, sometimes, the manifested thing is better than the idea. Or sometimes it’s altogether different, but that’s okay too.

This was an interesting, if somewhat passive, mission that I’d like to believe led to me having gained a little bit of appreciation for some art. My “research” was pretty interesting, even when Wikipedia started to delve way deeper than I was prepared to go on the subject. I don’t know that all art needs context, but for me it can give deeper meaning and interest to the subject. 


This was really fun. The art museum has some great pieces in it, including a great money museum on the lower level, and the concentration of Braque’s works was outstanding. It was a very educational experience, and offered us a chance to break our eye open to some new ways of thinking about the function of art.

Matt and I challenged ourselves to try and appreciate Braque’s work when leaving the museum. Some of it, honestly, was ugly. But could there be a revelation we might unearth that could transform the meaning of his work in our minds as something beautiful? We wanted to find out. I tried to pick out the ugliest piece I could remember for this experiment. “The Blue Mandolin” was that piece. It’s hideoderous. http://c48743.r43.cf3.rackcdn.com/Images/2009_03/12/0009/78037/78037_69847e57-dd6d-49a9-8a97-445617523aba_-1_273.Jpeg. Say it with me, “What thuh bloody hail?” But here’s how I learned to appreciate this piece of crap after a bit of autodidactic sleuthery.

Braque's paintings of 1908–1913 reflected his new interest in geometry and simultaneous perspective. Remember, cubism came at the end of the impressionist movement, which already began experimenting with immediate, personal sense impressions of a scene, and not an attempt to replicate a traditional outlook. He questioned our perspective, and attempted to dissect our perspective into its  distinct elements as we try to ‘blend’ with a summarizing glance. What basic geometric shapes come together in our mind to form the outline of this object? Braque attempted to communicate these shapes and distinct perspective in his painting. But how was that to be done? There’s no precedent? Of course there’s not. So Braque did what any sensible person of his artistic caliber would do: he B.S.’d it. I mean that idiomatically, but not in its worse sense. He made it up. It’s what artists do. And someone must’ve looked at it from the perspective of a post-impressionist, avant-garde artist, and recognized the message of spacial deconstruction of perspective and thought it was genius. The colors, lines, and other novel methods such as decoupage served mostly to accentuate the technique further. The reason, in my understanding, that some of it is more esthetically pleasing than others (see “Violin And Pitcher.” http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/georges-braque/violin-and-pitcher-1910) is because it took pains to be so, while the other did not. Can’t always have the music with the message, if you know what I mean.

I would even go so far to say that works like “Blue Mandolin” were supposed to look like crap. On first look, anyway. It is a stripping away of our conventional, rational trappings, our way of ordering the world according to old, familiar ideas. It is the breakdown of narrow perspective; to render, according to some, “familiar worlds unfamiliar, or even hallucinatory,” not to dispose of the notion of perception, but to broaden it. Whereas impressionism took a step back from the crystallized lines of our limitations for reality, and oiled the joints of our mind to enwrap the whole in a single glance blurred to clinching details; so now cubism sought to help us be a bit more conscious of our judgments and categorizations that we often too quickly slip into.

And we have to keep in mind that art like cubism is a bit esoteric, and even the ugly stuff is loved by many people because it is mysterious and somehow stands in our minds as a tightly locked riddle that holds in front of our dim eyes the solution to the secrets of geniuses like Picasso and Braque. Braque himself stated, “The things that Picasso and I said to one another during those years will never be said again, and even if they were, no one would understand them anymore. It was like being roped together on a mountain.”

So, yeah, I think I can say I understand Braque a little better, and even appreciate his works more than I did. And I feel wiser, not merely to his works, but because of them. But, I would have to have a little more wine before I go directly back and try to understand more of Braque’s ugly art anytime soon. One can only do so much ugly at one time.