Well, add Antonio Frasconi to the list of artists I wish I had known — or even known of. He died on January 8 after an almost 70-year career as a woodcut artist. Douglas Martin’s obituary in The New York Times quoted accolades of Mr. Frasconi as “America’s foremost practitioner” and “the best of his generation.” And he lived and worked in Norwalk, CT, where I once lived. Having now researched his images, I really wish I had known him.
According to the obituary, numerous ideas drove Mr. Frasconi’s art. One was political — “A sort of anger builds in you, so you try to spill it back in your work” — based on the repressions suffered by his native country, Uruguay, under military dictatorship. Another was nature — in Norwalk, “the views of migrating birds and passing seasons from the window influencd his art.” And another was the very character of his chosen material — “Sometimes the wood gives you a break, and matches your conception of the way it is grained. But often you must surrender to the grain, find the movement of the scene, the mood of the work, in the way the grain runs.”
And I admire his stated reason for producing woodcut art — its accessibility. ”Mr. Frasconi said he took up the art after being attracted to the idea of making multiple prints, in part so he could offer art to people at reasonable prices.”
The reviews of J.R. Moehringer’s book “Sutton,” historical fiction about that famous bank robber Willie, were just starting to come out in late October 2012 when I heard him interviewed on the NPR program “Fresh Air.” Mr. Moehringer told Terry Gross that that he traced the idea for his book to his own “anger …toward banks after the global financial crisis in 2008.”
Anger made into art, yet another example.
“Mr. Barnet’s first encounters with art were the carvings of skeletel heads and other images on colonial tombstones in a local cemetery in Beverly. ’These were mementos of what had taken place,’ he recalled. ‘At the age of 10 or 12, I discovered that being an artist would give me an ability to create something which would live on after death.’”
From Ken Johnson’s obituary of “visionary artist” Will Barnet in the November 14, 2012 issue of The New York Times.
I like to think that this blog is characterized by its positive nature. I have never criticized an idea, nor held one up to ridicule. I want to contribute energy to the world, not deplete it. So, call me Pollyanna.
About a third of the way through Eve Pell’s “We Used To Own the Bronx — Memoirs of a Former Debutante,” I came across the following passage. It made my heart ache for this little girl and for all girls and boys whose adults find it easy or fun or necessary to crush their spirits. Quoting –
“I remember once wanting to tell my mother about a new plan for my dollhouse. I ran into the living room as she sat on the edge of a sofa, fixing some flowers. ‘I have an idea,’ I said to her excitedly. ’Treat it kindly, it’s far from home,’ she replied, laughing at her own joke as she placed a rose in just the right spot. I was crushed. She wasn’t the least interested in me or my idea, so I went away.”
“I had just come from walking in Kensington Gardens, and as I walked by Kensington Palace, which is five minutes from where I live, the clouds parted, and the light came through and played on the modeling at the top of the palace in such a way spirits were simply lifted.”
From Elaine Louie’s Q&A interview with stained glass artist Brian Clark in the January 17, 2012 issue of The New York Times (quoting Mr. Clark on the origin of one of his new works, a “rose window with white birds in flight”).
“They say the secret to creativity is artfully concealing one’s sources. Whether secretly or unconsciously, we all return to past creations to uncover fresh ideas.”
From a Lincoln Motor Company advertisement in The New Yorker, February 11&18, 2013 issue.
Seeing the Marin Civic Center for the first time was a defining California moment for me — I really am here, not on the East Coast any more. I’m still astonished every time I see it, nestled so humbly (ha! Frank Lloyd Wright made something humble?) in the beautiful rolling San Rafael hills. Like it has been there forever. Recently I learned something I had not known — that the entire project had been mired in controversy and Wright had died before construction had even been approved.
Jacob Shafer’s story, “The Understudy,” in the October 12-18, 2012 issue of the Pacific Sun, briefly tells how one of Mr. Wright’s proteges, Aaron Green, stepped into the breach. The MCC was opened in 1962, only three years after Mr. Wright’s death.
I was most interested in how Mr. Shafer quoted Mr. Green on the great architect’s creative process: “Frank Lloyd Wright came out here and in about 20 minutes decided his idea — that was his genius. We came out on a Jeep and rode up on this hill, which was simply a grassy knoll with a few oak trees. He looked aound and said, ‘I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to bridge these hills with graceful arches.’ I didn’t know what he meant until the first time I saw his very rough sketch, and there were these arches, the big ones and small ones, relating to the hills, using the hills rather than fighting against them with a bulldozer.”
I just finished a mesmerizing, disturbing and satisfying book called “A Spell of Winter” by Helen Dunmore (published 1995). As the book jacket accurately sums up, it is about “the terrible consequences of thwarted love.”
Of the many passages that absolutely caught me, this one touched on an issue anyone living in the realm of ideas knows so well — when do you call a halt? The dialogue is between Cathy and George, about George’s abrupt decision to leave the house and property that he has been lovingly and painstakingly restoring and enhancing. Cathy speaks first:
“Are you coming back?”
“I don’t know.”
“You can’t just leave it. All that building. And the new orchard — your fountain — ”
“It isn’t going as I wanted it to,” he said slowly. “I don’t know why. If I were a painter I’d say I was overpainting — do you know what I mean? Stubbing out what was good in the sketches. But I’m not a painter. It was a wonderful idea but now it feels like moving things around for no reason. Soil and trees and furniture.”
“Colleagues said he seemed always to be on the verge of a smile or a good idea.”
From Robert McFadden’s January 14, 2013 New York Times obituary of the Atlanta Constitution’s “crusading editor” Eugene Patterson (going on to quote Mr. Patterson about the challenges of writing a daily column: “Every day you had to have an idea. You kept your pockets stuffed with quotations and ideas and turns of thought, famous sayings that you could credit and work into your columns. At laundry time, you had an awful of of chewed-up paper in your pockets.”
“I look for ideas for new collections everywhere but often find them just by rooting around in the vintage closet in our office, which has more than 1,000 items my husband and I have collected over the past 20 years … I’ve learned that you can’t knock off vintage exactly. For instance, a lot of the dresses in our collection from the ’60s have very high armholes. So we’ll pick a look and modernize it.”
From “The Way I Work” by fashion designer Tina Turk in the December 2012/January 2013 issue of Inc. Magazine.