Friday, February 27, 2009
Thinking of grandfather & re-evaluating art
Happy birthday, grandfather of mine ....
Today is my grandfather's birthday, on my mother's side. He was German, and loved being German. He is long gone now.
This evening, I will eat a German meal: Pork chops, potatoes and sauer kraut, washed down with beer. That was among his favorite dinners.
I will remember him as he swiftly seemed to become an old man, listening to polka music on his radio on Sunday afternoons: In the winter, sitting in own father's chair, his stocking feet on the oven door of an ancient wood/coal-burning stove, reading; in the summer, sitting in that same chair, outside under the shade of a tree, reading.
I'm not certain if most grandfathers are beneficial or not to their grandchildren, but I think he was for me. He turned his daughter, my mother, into a reader, and she passed that along to me. He gave me my first dog when I was four, telling my mother that all boys need dogs. (My mother went along with it.) He gave me my first shotgun, one of his, and trusted me enough to turn me loose with it when I was 10. (My mother went along with it.)
He showed me how to be patient, but he also taught me how to roar. When I was a teenager, he would pass a few dollars to me for gas money so I could visit my girlfriend in a neighboring town. More than anything, he was a man and he knew the score.
He knew things only an old man could know from years of experience living life, and he offered them to me as I moved through my teenage years. I listened to him because, even then, I understood that as his life was drawing down, he was giving me an honest gift: The benefit of knowledge he had earned from living through depression and war; through manual labor under scorching sun and in raging blizzard; through the loss of loved ones. He had crystal clear vision.
Can old art be re-born through technology?
A few nights ago, I saw more in the paintings of Henri Matisse than I had seen before. I think it was more the hypnotic music and the superb, creative video used to display the paintings than it was the actual work of Matisse which brought about this feeling, but .... I really do not know. Believe me, I have a few relatives who are art majors and who practice their art and who actually make some ridiculous amounts of money selling their stuff -- so, I am not a newbie to art. Explain to me then, why am I seeing today what I was not seeing yesterday?
When I wrote about Robert Louis Stevenson last night, I saw more in the painting of his face and his eyes than I ever had seen before in a photograph of him. I think I saw his actual persona and understood him. I also saw the frailty of his body. It seemed obvious to me he wanted to show it, as if to say it was his mind that really counted. Is all this massed together in the painting the extension of him .... or is it a particular talent of the painter who produced the portrait .... or is it some insight within me I did not possess only a few days before? Does this mean art is catching up to me and running me to ground? Sort of fun to consider.
But, before I collapse completely, allow me to regain my former composure and Spartan masculinity by once more quoting Stevenson: "I wish to die in my boots; no more Land of Counterpane for me. To be drowned, to be shot, to be thrown from a horse -- ay, to be hanged, rather than pass again through that slow dissolution."
Yes, that is more like it.
Music Note: Listening to Cinderella ....
Specifically, "Night Songs" ....
("Nobody’s Fool" -- you better believe it, baby)