Feeds:
Posts
Comments

in a church hallway

Madonna of the Harpies TCB

The original Madonna of the Harpies (1517) currently resides in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. It was painted by Andrea del Sarto (1486 – 1530) during the High Renaissance. This likely 19th century reproduction, artist unknown, resides in the hallway of a local church. Like similar paintings I’ve found in churches as I photograph their stained glass windows, the history of their paintings, tucked oftentimes in out of the way places, has faded over time. The how and the why of their existence is hard to discern without deeper research. And then in the end, as I have been reminded, one must keep in mind that during the late 19th century as wealthy Americans made grand tours of Italy there was a great demand for reproductions of Renaissance art (assuming one couldn’t buy the art outright).

Andredelsartoselfportrait

Andrea del Sarto self-portrait

Andrea del Sarto was a contemporary of Leonardo da Vinci, Michaelangelo and Raphael. This painting is considered to be one of his finest works. Much has been written about this painting. I especially enjoyed reading David Franklin’s description of the artist’s creative process on page 136 of his book Painting in Renaissance Florence, 1500-1550.  I don’t know that I shall ever make it to Florence but it was a treat to learn of this powerful work of art by walking down a hallway.

800px-Andrea_del_Sarto_-_Madonna_delle_Arpie_-_Google_Art_Project

Madonna of the Harpies by Andrea del Sarto (1517)

Sources & Additional Reading

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madonna_of_the_Harpies

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrea_del_Sarto

http://www.uffizi.com/painting-madonna-delle-arpie-uffizi-gallery.aspx

the tree of life

I’ve been thinking about the tree of life ever since a book near-literally fell from the shelves into my arms at the Boston Public Library. A non-descript old fashioned hardback with no book jacket. A bit over-sized though not especially thick. It was turquoise blue with gold lettering on the slender spine that said “Ain’t You Got A Right To The Tree Of Life?” The title page made clear that it was a collection of interviews by Guy and Candie Carawan, with black and white photographs by Robert Yellin, together capturing the words, images and songs of the people of Johns Island, South Carolina. I knew of the island and that the people interviewed must have been the descendants of slaves, slaves who most often were of West African origin, who had labored on the plantations producing indigo, rice and other produce that had made their white owners some of the wealthiest people in America. Slavery ended with the Civil War but by the time this book was published in 1966 a new war of sorts raged for civil rights especially the right to vote.

DSCN3371

Given that the preface was written by Alan Lomax, the famed ethnographer and musicologist, I figured the book was just another cool book documenting folkways before a group of people and their ways vanished. Probably a good read but I had so many books in my bag already. I decided to flip through it just a bit and then I would put it away.  I did put it away but not before I saw myself.

Now I grew up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia not the Lowcountry of South Carolina. But it really didn’t matter as I stared into a book at a landscape that had surely shaped the people, as my childhood landscape had shaped me, and looked into faces that reminded me of home.  Beautiful men and women with dark-hued skin. Some slim as a stick and others quite round. Seniors and babies and every age in between. Some people laughing, some people crying and then there were those with their heads thrown back in song as they prayed through music to God. The poverty comes through too. Even so the poverty does not overshadow the joy, the sense of community, and the intense devotion, a devotion that must have helped these people survive the present when they had little idea what the future held for them and their children.

Look at pictures. That’s all I intended before placing the book back on its shelf.  But then I thought maybe I’d read a page or two, just standing there in the library, and then I’d tuck the book back on the shelf.  It was just a couple of minutes of reading. And then I walked away.

DSCN3373

That night I dreamed about what I’d read. It was a scene described in the first interview by Rev. G. C. Brown. It opens with him describing how his father had been a slave. But then he goes on to describe his grandmother whom he had known. She was a stubborn woman with a cruel owner and when she did not do as was expected of a slave “he’d take her by the ears to the corner of a house, and just bang her head against the corner until she’d bleed. … She died in the insane hospital in Columbia. You couldn’t find three square inches on her head where there wasn’t a scar when she died. And well, you find naked places all through her head where she was beaten until she beaten into unconsciousness. … In her latter years it was discovered that during one of those forays the skull was crushed into her brain.”  It was horrific to think of that woman having to endure such treatment for so much of her life, for her children to know of her abuse at the hands of someone who saw her as less than human … and that people must have stood around and did nothing, for whatever reason, as she was having her head bashed against a wall.

DSCN3200

I returned to the library and checked out the book and have begun to read it properly. I’ve learned more about the people behind the book, Guy and Candie Carawan, and their incredible legacy of social activism. And then there’s Esau Jenkins and his mission of teaching people to read so that they could register to vote.  He operated a bus driving people to their jobs between the island and Charleston. He decided to get a group on the bus in the mornings to teach them how to read the part of the Constitution they needed to read before they could become registered citizens.  As one woman describes she didn’t think Jenkins would have any luck with her; she’d had too little book learning to read such a thing. But somehow, as she described, standing in line and watching the woman before her stammer (and thus failing?), for the woman who’d been on Jenkins’s bus, the words flowed. She even surprised herself.

 

I am immersed in the music of the peoples’ words as well as the lyrics of their music. The music transcribed by Ethel Raim were songs sung by the island congregation at Moving Star Hall. I can’t read the music notes but the words themselves have impact — sad, uplifting and thought-provoking.

DSCN3210

I’m still working my way through the book, this book that’s not so thick and mostly images. The words I read resonate, in some ways too much so, with words I hear today.  By the way, another book recently fell into my arms at the library, 865 pages including footnotes and index. It’s called The Framers’ Coup The Making of the United States Constitution by Michael J. Klarman. One book at a time …

Sources & Additional Reading

Guy Carawan

Alan Lomax

Esau Jenkins

Moving Star Hall

Ain’t You Got A Right To The Tree Of Life? (1966)

Ain’t You Got A Right To The Tree of Life? (1994 updated & revised)

 

The Framers’ Coup by Michael J. Klarman

 

 

and on the water

swan

a swan

robin

I couldn’t quite capture the two red birds sitting on the white branch of the birch but I was happy to capture these winged creatures with their various hues.

DSCN3302

DSCN3299

DSCN3228

by the mystic river

5

kitchen still life

kitchenstilllife

 

Somerville Open Studios is run by artist volunteers and its Volunteer Show held each year features the work of these artists. This year’s show features 77 works of art by 49 volunteers present and past. This year the show is hosted by Diesel Cafe in Davis Square. The opening reception is tonight and the artwork will be on display until May 12th. The cafe is open 6am – 10pm, Monday – Friday, and 7am – 10pm, Saturday – Sunday. When you have the opportunity to stop in for a bite to eat or cup of coffee, please take time to peruse the art upon the walls. It is a delight and indeed inspiring to see the range of work being created across Somerville. As for my contribution this year … 🙂

Dublin Green 11

Somerville Open Studios 2017: https://www.somervilleopenstudios.org/visit/

Diesel Cafe: http://www.diesel-cafe.com/