Monday, April 24, 2017

Artist Claire Giblin on Borges and Max's Kansas City

Adam Cast Forth, based on the poem by 
Jorge Luis Borges, © 2016, acrylic, 
gold leaf, mica, on canvas 60" H x 48" W 
available for purchase
Adam Cast Forth by Jorge Luis Borges
(The Self and the Other, 1964)

The Garden was it real or was it dream?
Slow, in the hazy light, I have been asking,
Almost as a comfort, if the past
Belonging to this now unhappy Adam
Was nothing but a magic fantasy
Of that God I dreamed. Now it is imprecise
In memory, that lucid paradise,
But I know it exists and will persist
Though not for me. The unforgiving earth
Is my addiction, and the incestuous wars
Of Cains and Abels and their progeny.
Nevertheless, it means much to have loved
To have been happy, to have laid my hand on
The living Garden, even for one day.

(The original Spanish) 

¿Hubo un Jardín o fue el Jardín un sueño?
Lento en la vaga luz, me he preguntado,
casi como un consuelo, si el pasado
de que este Adán, hoy mísero, era dueño,

no fue sino una mágica impostura
de aquel Dios que soñé. Ya es impreciso
en la memoria el claro Paraíso,
pero yo sé que existe y que perdura,

aunque no para mí. La terca tierra
es mi castigo y la incestuosa guerra
de Caínes y Abeles y su cría.

Y, sin embargo, es mucho haber amado,
haber sido feliz, haber tocado
el viviente Jardín, siquiera un día.

Artist’s statement about her self-portrait: Midnight at Max’s, ©2014, Claire Giblin

This piece is an homage to Andy Warhol. I wanted to use a celebrity photo for this screen, but wasn’t going to step on another artist’s copyright. So I settled on a selfie, which appropriately defines our techno age. The digital photo silkscreen is printed on canvas with ink, acrylic and “diamond dust.” Around the canvas edges are names of people who hung at Max’s Kansas City when I was there. Just a girl from the boroughs, dancing on the fringe.

In the late 60s and early 70s, Andy was at Max’s Kansas City almost every night. Max’s was the hangout for the biggest names in the New York School. In the back room, after midnight, Andy sat at a round table. The Factory was at Union Square and east 16th, a block away. My friends and I went to Max’s almost every night. Like many other underground places in the City, the scene didn’t start until midnight. The music upstairs was accessible only by going through the door where “Chester” was stationed—a large man with long dark hair and a quiet nature—on a stool at the foot of the stairs. Most nights he let us in. 

All the freaks and regulars were there. Holly Woodlawn dancing in a fishnet (with nothing else on). Candy Darling doing her flirty, bossy, mashing. The nights when there was no live music (Jeff Beck and the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen, Phil Ochs, Bob Marley, Bruce Springsteen, etc.), the first song that played was always “Gimme Shelter” by the Stones, and absolutely no one could stay seated. The vibe was electric... modern.... young. The scene was live with an anything-can-and-usually-does-happen air. The pair of Irish Wolfhounds were regulars. A white horse with a naked rider was a visitor. After 1970 there was a shift in the world, and in the arts, and by 1974 Max’s had closed. Andy moved his studio a third time, and the wave moved out to sea.

Artist Claire Giblin is based in Millersville, PA. Her visual art is much influenced by poetry. See, for example, her collaboration with poet Barbara Crooker in 2013 here. She is the recipient of national and regional art awards, and is listed in Who’s Who in the Arts, Who’s Who in America, and Who’s Who of American Women. Giblin was honored as 2003 “Woman of the Year” by the Women’s Center at Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA. Her work is in national and international corporate, museum, and private collections. Giblin has taught in her studio, at workshops, and at Franklin & Marshall College (adjunct) in curriculum. She is former co-owner and Director of Pfenninger Gallery in Lancaster City. She is former Curator of Exhibitions at the Phillips Museum of Art, Franklin & Marshall College, where she has taught introductory painting and workshops in professional practices, and facilitated a weekly life-drawing studio.

More of Claire’s art and exhibit information can be seen on her website 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

A Love Letter from Italy- De Chiricos and More

The Disquieting Muses.jpg

We honor the Center for Italian Modern Art's (CIMA) De Chirico exhibit in Manhattan, as well as the city of Rome (where I am writing this) and Florence. Enjoy!

Villanelle: Two de Chiricos by Mark Strand

1. The Disquieting Muses

Boredom sets in first, and then despair.
One tries to brush it off. It only grows.
Something about the silence of the square.

Something is wrong; something about the air,
Its color; about the light, the way it glows.
Boredom sets in first, and then despair.

The muses in their fluted evening wear,
Their faces blank, might lead one to suppose
Something about the silence of the square.

Something about the buildings standing there.
But no, they have no purpose but to pose.
Boredom sets in first, and then despair.

What happens after that, one doesn’t care.
What brought one here- the desire to compose.
Something about the silence of the square.

Or something else, of which one’s not aware,
Life itself, perhaps- who really knows?
Boredom sets in first, and then despair.
Something about the silence of the square.

The Philosopher's Conquest

2. The Philosopher's Conquest

This melancholy moment will remain,
So, too, the oracle beyond the gate,
And always the tower, the boat, the distant train.

Somewhere to the south a Duke is slain,
A war is won. Here, it is too late.
This melancholy moment will remain.

Here, an autumn evening without rain,
Two artichokes abandoned on a crate,
And always the tower, the boat, the distant train.

Is this another scene of childhood pain?
Why do the clockhands say 1:28?
This melancholy moment will remain.

The green and yellow light of love's domain
Falls upon the joylessness of fate,
And always the tower, the boat, the distant train.

The things our vision wills us to contain,
The life of objects, their unbearable weight.
This melancholy moment will remain,
And always the tower, the boat, the distant train.

For the Blind Man in the Basilica di Santa Croce, Florence
by Jeffrey Thomson
Our stories can only carry us so far. I know
there are layers beneath the layers and
you haven’t asked but I would describe
a fresco not even finished in the workshop,
discovered beneath damaged plaster here
in the Scuola del Cuoio. A simple Madonna
and child marked off with a draftsman’s
patience, a sketch of faces each etched
with a different kind of cross. Evidence
of a man working out art’s proportions
like a map in the sand: golden mean in
the plaster and articulation balanced
between the bridge in the distance
for scale and the sketched-in step-child
abandoned almost in the foreground,
clutching at the mother’s skirts—all
the necessary work that gets covered over
in the finish, smoothed out and blessed
with plaster and color, that blinding light

cast by the angelic child, mother adoring.  

Image result for piazza di spagna

Piazza di Espagna, Early Morning

by Richard Wilbur

I can’t forget How she stood at the top of that long marble stair Amazed, and then with a sleepy pirouette Went dancing slowly down to the fountain-quieted square; Nothing upon her face But some impersonal loneliness,- not then a girl But as it were a reverie of the place, A called-for falling glide and whirl; As when a leaf, petal, or thin chip Is drawn to the falls of a pool and, circling a moment above it, Rides on over the lip- Perfectly beautiful, perfectly ignorant of it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

"Nightfishing" with poet Gjertrud Schnackenberg

Gjertrud Schnackenberg was born in 1953 in Tacoma, Washington. She began writing poetry as a student at Mount Holyoke College and, as an undergraduate, twice won the Glascock Award for Poetry. Her first two collections, Portraits and Elegies (1982) and The Lamplit Answer (1985), confirmed her early promise. In 2000, Schnackenberg’s Supernatural Love: Poems 1973–1992 was released as well as the book-length poem The Throne of Labdacus, a retelling of the Oedipus myth from the points of view of Apollo and a slave. The latter won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Poetry. The poet’s sixth collection, Heavenly Questions (2011) won the Griffin International Poetry Prize. 

Schnackenberg’s many honors and awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Radcliffe Institute. She is the recipient of the Rome Prize and an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She currently lives in Boston.

The following Schnackenberg poem challenges our notion of ekphrasis because the image is not, as in most art poems, a celebrated work, but the clock in the speaker’s kitchen. A planter’s clock is reproduced to show the various elements she mentions.


The kitchen's old-fashioned planter's clock portrays
A smiling moon as it dips down below
Two hemispheres, stars numberless as days,
And peas, tomatoes, onions, as they grow
Under that happy sky; but though the sands
Of time put on this vegetable disguise,
The clock covers its face with long, thin hands.
Another smiling moon begins to rise.

We drift in the small rowboat an hour before
Morning begins, the lake weeds grown so long
They touch the surface, tangling in an oar.
You've brought coffee, cigars, and me along.
You sit still, like a monument in a hall,
Watching for trout. A bat slices the air
Near us, I shriek, you look at me, that's all,
One long sobering look, a smile everywhere
But on your mouth. The mighty hills shriek back.
You turn back to the hake, chuckle, and clamp
Your teeth on your cigar. We watch the black
Water together. Our tennis shoes are damp.
Something moves on your thoughtful face, recedes.
Here, for the first time ever, I see how,
Just as a fish lurks deep in water weeds,
A thought of death will lurk deep down, will show
One eye, then quietly disappear in you.
It's time to go. Above the hills I see
The faint moon slowly dipping out of view,
Sea of Tranquillity, Sea of Serenity,
Ocean of Storms... You start to row, the boat
Skimming the lake where light begins to spread.
You stop the oars, midair. We twirl and float.

I'm in the kitchen. You are three days dead.
A smiling moon rises on fertile ground,
White stars and vegetables. The sky is blue.
Clock hands sweep by it all, they twirl around,
Pushing me, oarless, from the shore of you. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Rita Dove on the Lessons of Lady Freedom

Rita Dove was born in Akron, OH, in 1952 and has many poetry collections, honors, and awards to her credit.  In works like the verse-novel Thomas and Beulah (1986), which won the Pulitzer Prize, On the Bus with Rosa Parks (1999), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Sonata Mulattica (2009), Dove treats historical events with a personal touch, addressing her grandparents’ life and marriage in early 20th-century Ohio, the battles and triumphs of the Civil Rights era, and the forgotten career of black violinist and friend to Beethoven, George Polgreen Bridgetower. Poet Brenda Shaughnessy noted that “Dove is a master at transforming a public or historic element—re-envisioning a spectacle and unearthing the heartfelt, wildly original private thoughts such historic moments always contain.” In 1996 Dove received a National Humanities Medal. She is currently Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

The Statue of Freedom is a bronze statue designed by Thomas Crawford (1814–1857) that, since 1863, has crowned the dome of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Yesterday, January 21,  she would have witnessed the Women’s March on Washington, one of the largest protests in U.S. history. In 1993, the statue was removed for repairs and Dove, from her office as U.S. Poet Laureate, got a rare look at Lady Freedom up close. It inspired a poem that addresses “how in our country, and as represented in the District of Columbia, you can see the contrasts abutted right up against one another: poetry and pomp, government and the disenfranchised, lofty ideals and complex reality,” she explains. This statue was “not just Lady Freedom but also the troubling conscience standing on the street corner demanding that we take a look, that we consider each of us as individuals. We should not forget her lessons—even if the dream of America is tarnished or eaten away by corrosion or in need of cleaning and repair, it is not defunct.”

Lady Freedom Among Us

don't lower your eyes
or stare straight ahead to where
you think you ought to be going

don't mutter oh no
not another one
get a job fly a kite
go bury a bone

with her oldfashioned sandals
with her leaden skirts
with her stained cheeks and whiskers and heaped up trinkets
she has risen among us in blunt reproach

she has fitted her hair under a hand-me-down cap
and spruced it up with feathers and stars
slung over her shoulder she bears
the rainbowed layers of charity and murmurs
all of you even the least of you

don't cross to the other side of the square
don't think another item to fit on a tourist's agenda

consider her drenched gaze her shining brow
she who has brought mercy back into the streets
and will not retire politely to the potter's field

having assumed the thick skin of this town
its gritted exhaust its sunscorch and blear
she rests in her weathered plumage
bigboned resolute

don't think you can forget her
don't even try
she's not going to budge

no choice but to grant her space
crown her with sky
for she is one of the many
and she is each of us

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Hidden Valleys, Furry Teacups, and St. Francis in Ecstasy- Happy 2017!

Joan Mitchell's, La Grande Vallee IX, 1983-84

The Hidden Valley

A bold impasto muscles in its swatch of joy,
invents an opening where she escapes
the farm chores and his daily blows.

Brush strokes stain the air orange
and amethyst, nail pollen to a martin’s nest
and immolate in rock pools of cool limestone.

White-tailed deer leap among the birches
that watch over her, red poppies lick
charred wood of an old barn, and everywhere

are relics to break a toe on—barrows netted
in burdock, wagon wheels in fallow soil.
Hooves echo in the canebrakes near granite

headstones: those dead unbridled leave
the living to hack out what is green, unsaid.
She sits urchined in summer fruit, breathes

a granary of air, cooler now
as evening settles on the leafy tops
where memory’s wind-flush sleeve is hostage.

A Furry Teacup

Remember? How can I forget?
It was a January morning so cold
it froze my nipples and we were at
Meret Oppenheim, Object (or Luncheon in Fur), 1936
the Café du Flore—Pablo, Dora, and I.
None of us had heated studios so
we needed warmth and cheering up.
Pernod helped with that and soon
we were laughing about Duchamp’s
latest prank and agreed “all art is shit.”

As we were leaving, Dora admired
my fur bracelet and Pablo said “Meret,
you could cover everything with fur,
even this cup and saucer.” We laughed,
a little tipsy. Later Breton asked me
to contribute to his exhibition.
I remembered Pablo’s remark
and thought “Why not?”

At the flea market I bought a muff
of Chinese gazelle, cut it up
and glued it to my cup and saucer.
It gave them a nice warm coat,
poor naked things. That piece eclipsed
all my paintings. No one wanted them.
So I retired. All art is shit.

Bellini’s St. Francis in Ecstasy

I thought I would be near you in the cave.
I wear the dark as comfortably as this cassock
Giovanni Bellini, St. Francis in Ecstasy, 1475–1480
stained with the five wounds, steeped
in all my mortal smells.

I thought here the flame burns
that melted the cliffside rocks, but no,
what burns in darkness is my emptiness,
old terrors, a mind shackled to its knives.

I begged to know your will and waited
for my second death.

You brought me a donkey that brays
at clouds, spring lambs grazing  
on wild thyme, a heron stretching
its long neck towards the water spout,
a fat rabbit tempting me to break my fast,

all calling me to join them
in the laurel-scented air, to feel
Tuscany’s hard pebbles under my bare soles,
to fill my lungs and sing you canticles of praise.

Lisa Mullenneaux is a Manhattan-based writer and the founder of this blog. When she's not writing, she teaches writing for the University of Maryland UC.