Friday, March 26, 2010

"Silence is so accurate"

My unfailing, overwhelmingly emotional reaction to the Abstract Expressionist work of the 1940s has been a constant in my life for many decades.
To my mind, Mark Rothko may be the best and brightest artist that has ever lived....and that is quite a statement. Quick brain scan ... yes, I can commit to that statement.

Mark Rothko (1903-1970) emigrated from Russia as a child and spent his youth in Oregon. Rothko was educated at Yale. He found art in later years, enrolling in the seminal Art Students' League in New York around 1926.
Rothko resolutely resisted the tag of abstraction, even as his work evolved into pure abstraction. In my opinion, he transcended abstraction by conveying pure feeling through shape and color
It is through feeling that Rothko's sublime painting becomes "Abstract Expressionism".  
I have seen Rothko's work classified as "Color Field Painting".... a logical progression, but I respectfully disagree.  There is too much emotion in Rothko's work to be strictly color field, which is academic.

To contemplate a Rothko painting in real time is to experience a progression of sensations and changes: physical, emotional and spiritual. There is extreme movement in a deceptively simple, apparently static canvas. If a person spends enough time with a Rothko, I believe there may be the opportunity to glimpse eternity. 
If memory serves, Rothko himself described his work as an expression of  'the universal one', a universal spirituality, or GOD.

At some point, Mark Rothko ceased to title his paintings, believing that titles limited his goal of transcendence.
When queried as to his motivation for non-description, Mark Rothko's succinct response was "Silence is so accurate".

In Truth and Beauty....

Images from National Gallery of Art Website

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Some thoughts on Irish Ancestry

I have but two handwritten accounts of a portion of my family's paternal history. These dog-eared  and yellowing, brittle treasures have recorded only the paternal side of my family. It is a one-sided history at that, for there is no mention of my paternal grandmother, who died in the influenza epidemic. 
I believe that the maternal side of my immediate family may have been researched and reconstructed by my dear brother, who claims that there were ties to Scotland (gasp!). 
Mass graves, the destruction of public records, and the mists of time have swallowed most of the Irish ancestral history.
Growing up, I recall my Dad always wore a green tie on St. Patrick's Day.
Our immediate family never spoke of "The Troubles", or the "Irish Question" as the English referred to it, but my Dad grew up with dinner table banter about the topic. This is a fact that I did not discover until the late 1980s.

Above is a photograph that I took of O'Callaghan's Mill in County Clare. I went driving about Ireland in search of any clues to my Grandmother Fitzpatrick's family.  I stumbled  upon  O'Callaghan's Mill, a beautiful and tiny village in Clare which was settled by many Callahans after Cromwell 's bloody campaign.

Callahan means "The Contender".
Most people are content to believe that the Callahan stronghold was in Cork. I found out that the Callahans in my direct lineage came to America before the famine - a bit unusual - but perhaps not, considering the adventurous streak that I have observed in many members of the family.
One of my great Grandfathers, a cobbler, resided in Clonmel, a rather urban place that is situated in County Tipperary close to County Waterford. 
It is believed this ancestor made the big move to America.

The above photo is taken at Fitzpatrick's The Square Bar in County Waterford...the closest clue that I found to my Grandmother's origins.

Above is a snapshot of the place in Ireland where I felt the most tugging on my heart strings, Connemara in County Mayo. Connemara is a rather wild, rocky, isolated place. I loved the entire Emerald Isle, but it is rugged Connemara that occupies my soul.

I sometimes wonder if I have any of the fortitude of my ancestors.
Ireland was stripped by England of religious freedom in the sixteenth century and was primarily a population of peasants - never far from the brink of economic and physical disaster.
In less than two years, two million Irish - one quarter of their entire population died in the 1846 famine. The land and the livestock were considered more valuable to the English than the inhabitants.
Visiting the picturesque and lovely Ireland today, one may not know the terrible history, except for the sightings of many mass graves and Celtic crosses. 
The only things lovelier than Ireland are the people and the beasts. It is a magickal, ancient place that is in my blood, my heart, my spirit, my head.
Perhaps beauty is strength?
Thank you for indulging me in my rambling....after all, God made me kiss the Blarney Stone before I was placed in my Mother's womb.
But then again, perhaps we were singing in the shabeen, consumed too much poteen and this is all a dream...

This post dedicated to the Irish
who persevered in the face of English greed, 
were greeted by signs of "NINA" in America 
and survived - no, - thrived - in spite of it all

A short guide:
          Tipperary is pronounced "Tipp RARE REE"
          Smithwicks is pronounced "SMITH  ICKS"
          NINA = "No Irish Need Apply"
         shabeen = a covert, social drinking establishment, designed to avoid legal regs; 'poof! it has the ability to disappear when necessary
          poteen = PUT CHEEN = home brewed liquor - white or dark
          "The Luck o' the Irish" is sarcasm
          "Paddy" or "St. Patty's" is considered to be terminology of insult

Friday, March 12, 2010

Alice in Wonderland

Celebrated the birthday with a viewing of "Alice in Wonderland", the IMAX 3d version. 
I am so digitally challenged! I purchased the tickets on-line and boy, was I confused! There are three (3) versions of this film. There is the regular film, a digital 3d and the IMAX 3d version. Huh?
So, being old school, I bought the most expensive tickets. I have since been informed that the digital 3d is the better viewing choice.
This is not an epic film that will go down in history as a great movie - no matter - I loved this film! Pure fun...fantasy...suspended reality, entertainment and gorgeous costume ensembles for Alice and The Hatter.

The young actress in the title role is particularly brilliant. Helena Bonham Carter is amazingly amusing. Johnny Depp, as is his custom, lights up the screen. 
Speaking of screens, this is a movie to see on the BIG screen.
It was fun to wear the weird 3d glasses. That was a blast from the past - but this is the digital age, so the visuals are super-sharp, advanced and great big fun!

"I could tell you my adventures - 
beginning from this morning -"

"At least I knew who I was
when I got up this morning,
but I think I must have been changed
several times since then."

Lewis Carroll

....and that, my friends, is the truth....

promotional image courtesy of Wikipedia

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Fine Kettle of Fish...

When I decided to pursue my MFA in metalsmithing, I was greeted by a department full of many fish.

Fish of the Pisces ilk, that is...even the professors, Heikki and John B. were Pisces.

Odd to think of a dreamy Pisces firing up torches and beating on metal. It would seem that a more delicate pastime would be better suited to the sensitive fish.

We had an annual Pisces birthday party ... lots of fun and many celebrations.

And much hard work and long, seemingly endless hours toiling in the metal shop.

Those years, as well as the subsequent years, were the happiest times of my life (so far).

For the first time, I felt part of something ... not an isolated oddball. I was part of a "school of fish" (pun intended).

On a serious note, those days were filled with a spirit of unity. Family. Like-minded peers.

I recall individual competitive drives, but never cause for a division of our peers. If one person did well, we all did well. We helped each other. We were genuinely celebratory of our classmate's success. Or, so it seemed to me.

I miss those days.

Times have changed.

I believe that the current world is not kind, let alone 'like-minded'. When (and why) did people become so alienated from each other? One only has to observe the international political arena to know that divisiveness weakens countries. Have we lost sight of the fact that such division ultimately destroys our humanity?

People seem to exist in a vacuum.

What happens in Haiti or Chile or Taiwan or Montana or the Arctic has an effect on ALL of us.


My New Year's wish has been the same for many years now - peace, love and understanding.

When one of us daringly demonstrates these much maligned attributes, the current world mistakes wisdom and strength for weakness.

Much like the world devalues - actually hates - the best characteristics of the Pisces native....sensitivity, emotion and kindness.


Today, March 5, is my former grad school roommate's birthday.

Below is an example of two of her newer pieces.


And, here is!


This woman is amazing! 

Daughter, sister, friend, artist, cook, wife, mother, teacher, student, world class traveler....and she juggles all these hats with a finesse that belies her many, many skills. 

Oh - did I tell you that she is also exceedingly modest, humble, kind, generous, decidedly unpretentious and an all around good person (they are in short supply these days)?

Lynn - you have my eternal admiration, appreciation and respect (and that is saying something...I am a perfectionist). I have no idea how you do it all, but I am so very glad that you are in the world.


In Truth, Love and Beauty...

Lynn A. Duggan's Photos Reprinted with Kind Permission

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I'll take (a) Manhattan....

This is what turned up on my doorstep today!


...and this!
Hmmm...which to sample first?

In Truth, Peace, Beauty...Health and Taste!

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Art of Bitter(s)

I have always loved any kind of bitters, particularly in the winter season.
The legend is that the recipe for Angostura Bitters is so closely guarded that the handwritten original resides in a safe!
There is a history behind every bottle of bitters.
Not only are the recipes artful and chock full of history, check out the bottles and labels! Beautiful!
So...what are "bitters"?
Bitters are infused or distilled aromatic herbs, roots and barks. Occasionally, there are fruits added to the brew, usually citrus. Bitters typically contain 45% alcohol, but recently, I have seen new brands without alcohol on the market. A bitters with Blood Orange caught my eye.
Below is a photo of bitters made in Germany (with alcohol, natch).

Bitters were originally employed and marketed  for medicinal purposes. Today, bitters are touted as a digestif, an apperitif or used to flavor food and drinks, particularly cocktails such as a Manhattan, the Old Fashioned (my personal favorite) and Champagne Cocktails (served at my wedding). Bitters add a dimension to recipes that elevate them to memorable.

Growing up in southern Indiana, Angostura Bitters (Great Britain) were a cupboard staple. My Mother added them to Welsh Rarebits (also known as "Rabbit") - a fabulous, simple concoction of melted cheddar cheese, paprika, bitters, worcestershire, dry mustard and pepper over toast.

Rarebit turns up in 18th century recipes of Great Britain - there are also English, Irish and Scotch Rabbits -
that is another story for another time.
With the kind of winter we are experiencing, this meal is the best. Simple. Quick. Comforting. Bonus - most people have the ingredients on hand - except the bitters!
I read that Angostura Bitters were in short supply at the beginning of this year. The Angostura Orange Bitters are quite lovely - and a tad hard to find. Apparently, they took years to perfect and release for public consumption. The orange type is different than the original aromatic. Try them in a Cosmopolitan, or any martini for a delightful depth.
Being a person of fragile "nerves", I discovered a new-to-me bitters used in Africa and Jamaica for digestion, insomnia and 'nerves'. This stuff is pricey, but has a spicy kick! I do not know if it helps with my insomnia, but I like to think so.

Last, but not least, I must mention Peychaud's Bitters, originally created by the Haiti-based creole pharmacy, Peychaud's. Unlike Angostura, Peychaud's Bitters still use gentian and are an integral part of the New Orleans specialty cocktail, the Sazerac.

Today is March 1, 2010. It is a rainy, dreary, chilly day. Hmmm....a Welsh Rarebit and a good, old fashioned cocktail with bitters might just brighten and cozy things up.

With Love, Light and Beauty...