14 February 2015

Dreaming: Happy Valentine's Day

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
William Butler Yeats

Mikhail Andreenko (1895-1982) Russian, Pierrot with heart
Hans Memling (1430-1494) German, Allegorical painting of love
Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) Russian, Riding couple, detail 

02 February 2015

Brigid: The Goddess and The Saint

Today Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter. The famous Pennsylvanian groundhog has his antecedents in ancient European weather lore. During the Celtic festival of Imbolc, people watched to see if serpents or badgers ventured from their winter dens:

The serpent will come from the hole

On the brown Day of Bríde,

Though there should be three feet of snow

On the flat surface of the ground 

February 1 marked the halfway point between winter solstice and spring equinox. Also called Brigid’s Day, the pagan celebration honored the goddess of the same name. The patroness of poetry, smith work, medicine, livestock, sacred wells, and the arrival of early spring, is also associated with the Irish Saint Brigid of Kildare.  Whether the saint really existed or
 was a Christian transformation of the goddess is unknown. 

Peasent Cross of Saint Brigid's 
Harry Clarke, Irish, 1889-1931
Saint Brigid
Patrick TuohyIrish, 1894-1930
Saint Bride
John Duncan, Scottish 1866-1945

31 December 2014

The Old Year's Gone Away: Happy New Year!

 The Old Year’s gone away 
 To nothingness and night: 
We cannot find him all the day 
 Nor hear him in the night: 
He left no footstep, mark or place
 In either shade or sun:
 The last year he’d a neighbour’s face, 
 In this he’s known by none. 

All nothing everywhere: 
 Mists we on mornings see 
Have more of substance when they’re here 
 And more of form than he. 
He was a friend by every fire, 
 In every cot and hall— 
A guest to every heart’s desire, 
 And now he’s nought at all. 

Old papers thrown away, 
 Old garments cast aside, 
The talk of yesterday, 
 Are things identified; 
But time once torn away 
 No voices can recall: 
The eve of New Year’s Day 
 Left the Old Year lost to all.

John Clare 
English, 1793 – 1864

Triumph of Time, The Master of Petrarch's Triumphs
French, 15th to 16th century
Personification of Time in a flower garland, Carstian Luyckx
Flemish, 1623 - 1675
A Masque of Days, Walter Crane
English, 1845 - 1915

13 December 2014

Here Comes the Rain Again: Is it Raining with You?

Here comes the rain again
Falling on my head like a memory
Falling on my head like a new emotion
I want to walk in the open wind
I want to talk like lovers do
I want to dive into your ocean
Is it raining with you


Aksel Waldemar Johannessen 1880 - 1922 Norwegian
Utagawa Hiroshige 1797 - 1858 Japanese
Karol Hiller 1891- 1939 Polish

09 December 2014

Failed Ambition: Icarus and Phaethon

off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning
~ William Carlos Williams

Despite the warnings of his father, Daedalus, Icarus wearing wings of wax and feather soared up towards the sun.  In the Greek myth, solar rays melted the wax and loosened the feathers plunging the impetuous youth to a watery grave.  A metaphor for failed ambition, often depicted in art and literature.   

German artist Sascha Schneider (1870-1927) eroticized Icarus.   Initially Schneider’s art benefited from Germany’s “Free Body Culture” or “Freikörperkultur.”  While embracing the male nude body in public, the movement did not tolerate private homosexuality.   The gay artist fled to Italy in the early 1900s when threatened by a blackmailer. Contemporary Portuguese sculptor Rogério Timóteo explores the beauty and boldness of the human body in marble and metal.  Timóteo’s massive sculpture Icarus appears to float in the air, a moment of balance before falling from grace.   

Similar to the tragic tale of Icarus is the fable of Phaethon.  In Greek mythology, the son of solar deity Helios, and a mortal woman, journeyed to his father’s royal palace in the East.  Helios granted his son one favor.  Phaethon insisted on driving the Sun Chariot across the heavens to the West.  Against Helios’ wishes, his son took the reins of the carriage.  When steered by his father, the chariot and four winged horses brought the Sun's warmth and light to mortals.  Instead Phaethon lost control of the quadriga and set the earth aflame.  Struck down by a thunderbolt from Zeus, Phaethon fell to a fiery death in the river Eridnos.

French decorative artist Adolphe David (1828–1896), captured Phaethon’s descent in an exquisite carved onyx cameo of ochre and white set against polished black jet.