We’re a couple. I scribble, she sculpts and paints… The Jaded Princess will be part of a Museum-Wide Exhibition, “Ying: Inspired by the Art and History of China,” coming up at Santa Cruz’ Museum of Art and History (MAH). The show runs from February 23 to July 1. The Jaded Princess, a life-size sculpture made in the late 1970s, took a year to produce and was constructed using antique circuit boards. Gloria’s piece is a replica of the Chinese Jade Burial Suit of Chinese Princess Tou Wan, Han Dynasty, 140 B.C.
According to the catalog, “The concept of this exhibition resulted from [Curator Susan Hillhouse’s] visits to the studios of a group of artists” in Chengde, China. “…this museum-wide presentation opens a new path of discovery through contemporary artists from China, the Bay area and Santa Cruz, deepening our understanding of Santa Cruz County’s many cultural heritages.”
Gloria’s Jaded Princess has been exhibited in several Art & Technology shows, at UC Santa Cruz, in San Jose and elsewhere. Hopefully, one day Bill Gates will see and want to purchase it.
GLORIA ALFORD became a mixed media artist by default. Refused admittance into a Graduate Art Program in Madison, Wisconsin, she enrolled instead in a Home Economics course where she learned printmaking. But on cloth, not paper. She went on to use some non-traditional methods and materials, such as solar cells, hand-made paper, plastic, cloth, computer chips, plus acrylic, watercolor, and methods like vacuum forming plastic, collage and paint.
Gloria’s best-known piece, The Jaded Princess, represents the artist’s concern with the duality of technology–a provider of “the good life” and, at the same time, a vehicle for destruction. The circular chips covering the princess’ brain are bomb detonators, by design. However, Ms. Alford’s princess is intended as an affirmation–a sleeping beauty, or technology preserved, awaiting awakening by the prince of technology.
Exhibited at the Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art, Gloria’s mixed-media work, said the Museum’s Director “was popular with the conservatives as it was with the more avant garde enthusiasts.”
Still true to her origins as a mixed media artist, Gloria Alford now works with varieties of paint and collage on paper and canvas.
and the posting that follows this.
Following up on (previous) posting re: William James’ Principles of Psychology and James’ thoughts on what has come to be known as “stream of consciousness,” I think of Gloria K. Alford’s painting titled “Words,” Acrylic on Paper, 22 x 30… which appears here with her permission. If it’s possible for a painting to catch something of the nature of language, language of a certain kind… language coming into being, language (and this is going to sound strange), taking the form of “words,” and, for me anyway, tapping into what I think of as “stream of consciousness,” well, this painting does that. Gloria doesn’t often include words in her pieces, and I’m not exactly sure how or why it happens here. But… well, one day I may use it as a cover for a book, again, with her permission.
I know, but don’t know… “What’s it all about?” I ask. “Words, words, words,” she says. “How much communication happens with words? There’s so much, speaking, but also the printed word, which is what I have in mind. Nothing profound. Any kind of meaning you want to give it is okay by me,” she says. “Which is itself,” I say, “a way of playing with words, giving it back to the reader…” Back, in other words, to the beginning, to Gloria’s question, “How much communication happens with words?”
I know, it’s right there… Garrison Keillor’s Writers Almanac, an archive of his radio show. Consciousness… well, this, on William James’ birthday, January 11… what is a blog? It’s a journal, an archive, a record of where you’ve been and what you’ve thought and what led you there, here, there, the track(s). Enough that it be for yourself. Someone else cares to look in? Fine. Anyway, here’s a snippet of what I want to save:
It’s the birthday of the psychologist and philosopher William James, born in New York City (1842). He was the older brother of the novelist Henry James, and one of the most prominent thinkers of his era. He was a man who started out studying medicine and went on to become one of the founders of modern psychology, and finished his life as a prominent philosopher. He was a professor of physiology at Harvard when he was hired to write a textbook about the new field of psychology, which was challenging the idea that the body and the mind were separate. He could have just written a summary of all the current ideas in the field but instead decided to explore the issues of psychology he found most interesting and perplexing. He took twelve years to finish the book called, The Principles of Psychology (1890). It was used as a textbook in college classrooms, but was also translated into a dozen different languages, and people read it all over the world.
One of the ideas he developed in the book was a theory of the human mind which he called “a stream of consciousness.” Before him the common view was that a person’s thoughts have a clear beginning and end, and that the thinker is in control of his or her thoughts. But William James wrote, “Consciousness … does not appear to itself chopped up in bits. Such words as ‘chain’ or ‘train’ do not describe it fitly as it presents itself in the first instance. It is nothing jointed; it flows.”
James’s ideas about consciousness were especially influential on writers, and novelists from James Joyce to William Faulkner began to portray streams of consciousness through language, letting characters think at length and at random on the page. Consciousness itself became one of the most important subjects of modern literature. He also helped invent the technique of automatic writing, in which a person writes as quickly as possible whatever comes into one’s head. He encouraged audiences to take up the practice as a form of self-analysis, and one person who took his advice was a student named Gertrude Stein, who went on to use it as the basis for her writing style.
William James wrote, “The stream of thought flows on; but most of its segments fall into the bottomless abyss of oblivion. Of some, no memory survives the instant of their passage. Of others, it is confined to a few moments, hours or days. Others, again, leave vestiges which are indestructible, and by means of which they may be recalled as long as life endures.” He also wrote, “Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.”
William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and the philosophy of pragmatism. He was the brother of novelist Henry James and of diarist Alice James.
William James was born at the Astor House in New York City, son of Henry James Sr., an independently wealthy and notoriously eccentric Swedenborgian theologian well acquainted with the literary and intellectual elites of his day. The intellectual brilliance of the James family milieu and the remarkable epistolary talents of several of its members have made them a subject of continuing interest to historians, biographers, and critics.
James interacted with a wide array of writers and scholars throughout his life, including his godfather Ralph Waldo Emerson, Horace Greeley, William Cullen Bryant, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Charles Peirce, Josiah Royce, George Santayana, Ernst Mach, John Dewey, W. E. B. Du Bois, Helen Keller, Mark Twain, Horatio Alger, Jr., James George Frazer, Henri Bergson, H. G. Wells, G. K. Chesterton, Sigmund Freud, Gertrude Stein, and Carl Jung.
Back from swimming, open mail and there’s Margie, The American Journal of Poetry, 2007, an annual of poetry, (440 pages!) edited by Robert Nazarene and (among others), Troy Jollimore, Canadian poet-friend and author of Tom Thomson in Purgatory. Cover photo bears the caption, Robert Nazarene, “The Boy With Nothing To Lose.”
Margie includes One-Stop Foot Shop, one of the poems slated for this “work in progress” (see Blog posting #1), Dr. Sward’s Cure for Melancholia. Hard to know who reads these things, but here’s the poem:
ONE-STOP FOOT SHOP
“We walk with angels
and they are our feet.
“‘Vibrating energy packets,’” he calls them. “‘Bundles of soul
in a world of meat.’ Early warning system—
dry skin and brittle nails;
feelings of numbness and cold;
these are symptoms; they mean something.
I see things physicians miss.
“All you have to do is open your eyes, just open your eyes,
and you’ll see: seven-eighths of everything is invisible, a spirit
inside the spirit.
The soul is rooted in the foot.
As your friend Bly says, ‘The soul longs to go down’;
feet know the way to the other world,
that world where people are awake.
So do me a favor: dream me no dreams.
A dreamer is someone who’s asleep.
“You know, the material world is infinite,
but boring infinite,” he says, cigarette in hand,
little wings fluttering at his ankles.
“And women,” he says, smacking his head,
“four times as many foot problems as men.
High heels are the culprit.
“I may be a podiatrist, but I know what I’m about:
feet. Feet don’t lie,
don’t cheat, don’t kiss ass. Truth is,
peoples’ feet are too good for them.”
In 1985, after 14 years in Canada, I wrote a feature for The Toronto Star about attending a week-long yoga retreat with Baba Hari Dass, a silent monk who communicates by writing on a small chalkboard. The retreat was held at a YMCA camp several hours north of Toronto. I attended with my then-wife and our two children, ages 8 and 14. That was the story: What is it like for a married couple and their children to do “yoga,” chant, meditate, listen to talks on Ashtanga, or Eight-Limbed Yoga, and experience a new way of being together as a family?
As I understand it, one is either a monk who dedicates him/her self full-time to the discipline, or a householder. Husband to four wives, father to five children, my karma is what it is. But I’ve long been fascinated by that intersection, that tension between the sacred and the insane. Sorry, meant to say profane.
Apparently pleased with the article, Baba Hari Dass’ people invited me and my wife, a visual artist, to teach at Mount Madonna School in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Later that year my then-spouse returned to Toronto and I stayed on at Mount Madonna. What to do? I began by seeking advice from the silent monk who I’d come to like and trust.
“How come she left?” I asked.
“She found you boring. She wants fun,” he wrote on his small chalkboard.
“Am I boring?”
“No, you have different natures. Women leave you because they want excitement. You are a writer. You live in an abstract world which doesn’t excite them.”
“False expectations is the cause of ‘broken heart,'” he continued. “Nothing is permanent. But we are looking for permanency.”
Here’s a man who’s never been married, I thought. Would I trade places with him? Better celibacy, I decided, better the life of a monk than the hell of what one goes through with a divorce. That was then…
People ask: Does it get easier, breaking up… then breaking up and going through it again? I just shake my head.
is a silent monk who has not spoken since 1952 and communicates by writing on a small chalkboard. This verbal silence is a process which gradually quiets the mind and eliminates unwanted thoughts. While this concept may be initially difficult for most of us to understand, the example of Baba Hari Dass is ample expression of the potential for peace that lies within each of us as the result of spiritual discipline and devotion to helping others. Babaji is first and foremost a master yogi, having practiced the disciplines of yoga from childhood. In addition he is an accomplished author, builder, philosopher, sculptor, and proponent of Ayurveda (the ancient Indian system of health and healing).
Ashtanga Yoga, also known as Raja Yoga, is the scientific method of enlightenment propounded [more than 2,000 years ago] by the ancient sage Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras. It is the Yoga that Baba Hari Dass has practiced since childhood. Since his arrival from India in 1971, Baba Hari Dass has been active in training students and teachers of Yoga in the United States and Canada. Through his compassionate example, young and old alike are learning the gentle art of peace.*
Because there has been much confusion over the past few years regarding the term Ashtanga, we wish to be clear that we do not teach a contemporary method of asana that has come to be known as “Power Yoga” or “Ashtanga”. Though asana (seat, or posture) is but one limb of Ashtanga Yoga and Hatha Yoga, it is often identified as Yoga.
We present the classical Ashtanga Yoga set forth more than 2,000 years ago by Patanjai in the Yoga Sutras. Ashtanga means Eight Limbed (ashta meaning eight, and anga meaning limb).
The eight limbs* are:
Scriptural Study (Svadhyaya)
Surrender to God (Ishvarapranidhana)
Posture, Seat (Asana)
Breath Control (Pranayama)
Withdrawing the Mind from Sense Perception (Pratyahara)
Higher Consciousness (Samadhi)
MEDITATING WITH RAM DASS – TEACHING A SIX-YEAR-OLD TO “SEE”
That image of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama (see Jan. 1 posting) got me thinking of how I started… in 1968, a resident at the MacDowell Artists’ Colony, Peterborough, N.H., I learned that Ram Dass, AKA Professor Richard Alpert*, had just returned from India and was living at his father’s estate not far from Peterborough. So one afternoon–Ram Dass having agreed to see me—I set out on an adventure that continues to this day…
That was my first experience with meditation—
I returned to MacDowell and spent an afternoon with my daughter who was living nearby. I sought to impart something of what I felt I’d gotten from the experience of meditating with Ram Dass. I knew doing so would have value for her, a “gift” that would serve her for the rest of her life. That if I provided nothing else, at least there was this.
Thirty years later, a graduate of Berkeley, top of her class, an environmental scientist, she shared with me her description of the experience. She did so as she was preparing the way for me to meet one of her colleagues, Arjuna Ardagh, author and founder of the Living Essence Foundation.
“By way of introduction, when I was around 5 or 6 my Dad came home from some kind of event or class about meditation. He asked me if I’d ever stopped all my thoughts. We discussed it a bit since even at my age it was pretty obvious that just about everything required some form of thought. Dad had an innocent curiosity that still moves me. It was clear he thought my youth and awareness might provide a perspective that could otherwise be inaccessible to him. Joan Baez was on the stereo and we sat on the couch in front of the fireplace looking out the window. We agreed to try it. We sat there, me on his right, our eyes closed. Trying not to think. It didn’t work but it was my first formal introduction to meditation. Dad had an attentive, childlike, almost fixated quality when he asked how it was for me. He was on fire – passionate, desperate really, seemed willing to put anything on the line to really look, to really see. Until that moment I had believed I was the only one who had the sense to care, to really see.
“So that’s a bit of dad.”
*From Dr. Richard Alpert to Baba Ram Dass
In 1967 Alpert travelled to India, where he met the American spiritual seeker Bhagavan Das. As he guided him barefoot from temple to temple, Bhagavan Das began teaching Alpert basic mantras and asanas, as well as how to work with beads. After a few months Bhagavan Das led Alpert to his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, or as he is better known in the West, Maharaj-ji. Maharaj-ji soon became Alpert’s guru and gave him the name “Ram Dass”, which means “servant of God”. Under the guidance of Maharaj-ji, Ram Dass was instructed to receive teaching from Hari Dass Baba, who taught in silence using only a chalkboard. While in India, Ram Dass also corresponded with Meher Baba; however, he remained primarily focused on the teaching of Hari Dass Baba. Among other things, Hari Dass Baba trained Ram Dass in raja yoga and ahimsa. It was these life-changing experiences in India that inspired Ram Dass to write the contemporary spiritual classic, Be Here Now, in which he teaches the harmony of all people and religions.
A Half-Dozen Poems
Octavio Paz once told an interviewer, “I would like to leave a half-dozen poems that, perhaps, from time to time, would be remembered by a future reader. To be read as I have read some poets. Nothing more.”
Muse [highlights from New Yorker article – date? see below for other sources]
• Throughout history, the changing image of the Muse has reflected changes in sexual behavior and in the status of women, but the process by which the art comes into being is always sublimation. The love that the artist feels for the woman becomes spiritual: a dream of Eros, a vision. On its highest plane, where sublimation results in art that is itself sublime, the visions move historically in cycles.
Two hundred years ago, the early German Romantics infected all Europe with the idea of divine inspiration, which they had revived from the Platonic revival of the Renaissance…
• The argument: Muses are passive, therefore passe. Muses do not choose to be Muses; they are chosen. Who wants to be a symbol anyway? The Muse is only a man speaking through a woman, not the woman herself. What male artists call Woman is a construct designed to keep real women in their place.
• But when a gifted male artist embraces his Muse he… in fact made a woman appear in the art, because he has voluntarily embraced the woman in himself. Joyce’s Molly Bloom in Ulysses. Tennessee Williams’ Blanche DuBois…
• Picasso’s “Girl Before a Mirror” –a case of the painter apprehending the Muse apprehending herself. [It is not the man speaking through the woman, but the woman speaking through the man.]
• It is the being of the woman who has inspired the [gifted male artist]
• The Olympian male imagination will always do more for the woman than he would do for herself, says Arlene Croce [“No woman could have created Balanchine’s choreography, yet it was so transparent that his women seemed to materialize individually under their own power.”]
• Women’s names were numinous: Block’s wife was a Liubov (love), Mandelstam’s a Nadezhda (hope). Stravinsky and Nabokov both married women named Vera (faith); the same name in Russian, with one consonant added, is Venus (Vera, Venera; Mrs. Nabokov used the French acute “e”).
• As for Vera Stravinsky, who was also a painter and had been an actress, the part of Muse came easily, though even she found it necessary to set down some rules:
1. Force the artist to work, even with a stick.
2. Love his work no less than him.
3. Welcome every burst of creative energy. Kindle him with new ideas.
4. Keep the main works and the drawings, sketches, and caricatures in order. Know each work, its scheme and meaning. [Vera S. had been married 4 x, once to Russian painter Sergei Sudeikin].
5. Relate to new works as if they were surprise gifts.
6. Know how to look at a painting for hours on end.
7. Be physically perfect and, therefore, his model forever.
“You are a limitless source of life,” Sudeikin wrote her in return. She could cook, too.
• The Russian poet Anna Akhmatova never doubted that she was entitled to worship the same Muse who came to men. And she herself was Muse to many others. Her “doubles” [other women who were Muse to men & to A. herself] seem to have functioned as a necessary distancing mechanism, letting her see herself more clearly.
• Without objectivity, self-study degenerates into narcissism (something Anais Nin never knew).
• Can a woman have a muse? If the Muse is that dream of Eros which inspires art, and if the woman artist is as possessed by worldly ambition as she is by the dream, then there is probably no alternative to bisexuality, writes Arlene Croce.
• It is possible to rule out Vita in favor of Vanessa as Virginia’s Muse. Vanessa was Virginia’s sister, and an artist and a mother…. this may mean that sister as a resource for a woman artist is under-explored. Akhmatova could say, “The Muse, my sister.”
[highlights from New Yorker article – date?]
* * *
• It has been said ‘Dreams are pictures of the soul.’ If that is so, what are poems? And what, then, is the relationship between a poet and her/his body of work, and the larger society?
• “Where no vision is, the people perish.”
“That poetry matters to the people who write it,” says Dana Gioia, “has been shown by the ordeal of Soviet poet Irina Ratushinskaya… sentenced to prison for 3-1/2 years, she was given paper and pencil only twice a month to write letters to her husband and her parents and was not allowed to write anything else. Nevertheless, [she] composed more than 200 poems in her cell, engraving them with a burnt match in a bar of soap, then memorizing the lines. ‘I would read the poem and read it,’ she said, ‘until it was committed to memory–then with one washing of my hands, it would be gone.’”
[Poets & Writers Magazine, May/June 1998]
New Yorker issue (TBA – date?) “Muse” article…
Walt Whitman, “Leaves of Grass, ” Penguin Classics, Edited by Malcolm Cowley
Michael Meyer, editor, “Poetry,” 2nd Edition, Bedford Books
Natalie Goldberg, “Wild Mind”
Poets & Writers Magazine, May/June 1998
Self-Portrait (1500) by Albrecht Dürer, oil on board, Alte Pinakothek, Munich
|Birth name||Albrecht Dürer|
|Born||May 21, 1471(1471-05-21)
|Died||April 6, 1528 (aged 56)
|Famous works||Knight, Death, and the Devil (1513) Saint Jerome in his Study (1514) Melencolia I (1514) Dürer’s Rhinoceros|
Albrecht Dürer (pronounced [ˈalbʀɛçt ˈdyʀɐ]) (May 21, 1471 – April 6, 1528) was a German painter and mathematician. He was born and died in Nuremberg, Germany and is best known as one of the greatest creators of old master prints, along with Rembrandt and Goya. His prints were often executed in series, including the Apocalypse (1498) and his two series on the passion of Christ, the Great Passion (1498–1510) and the Little Passion (1510–1511). Dürer’s best known individual engravings include Knight, Death, and the Devil (1513), Saint Jerome in his Study (1514) and Melencolia I (1514), which has been the subject of extensive analysis and speculation. His most iconic images are his woodcuts of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1497–1498) from the Apocalypse series, the “Rhinoceros“, and numerous self-portraits in oils. Dürer probably did not cut his own woodblocks but employed a skilled carver who followed his drawings faithfully. He painted a number of religious works in oils and made many brilliant watercolours and drawings, which through modern reproductions are now perhaps his best known works. His prints established his reputation across Europe when he was still in his twenties, and he has been conventionally regarded as the greatest artist of the Renaissance in Northern Europe ever since. His work reflected the apocalyptic spirit of his time, when famine, plague, and social and religious upheaval were common. He was sympathetic to the reform work of Martin Luther, who at Dürer’s death wrote to a friend, “Affection bids us mourn for one who was the best.”