"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Yellow Gold Guayacan

The People and the Guayacan
by Ethel Gilmour (1940 - 2008)
Museum of Antioquia ~ Medellin, Colombia

The Complete Installation ~~~~~~ Detail of Girl Standing Beneath Tree

About the painting: "In this work we see fragments full of tenderness over the peaceful life of a town whose center is a flowering Guayacan. Ethel, tiny among the rain of yellow flowers, looks at the majesty of the tree. She tells us that the old people of the town sit to watch the Guayacan at the end of the day."
Herman Hesse wrote:
"Trees are sanctuaries; Who knows how to talk to them,
Who knows how to listen to them, learn a truth.

I cannot find much written in English about this painting or this artist,
but I did find this essay "The Yellow Guayacan"
by Alberto González

Those of us who have followed Ethel's work recall how the parochial world of Colombian art imitating what was seen in Art Forum or Art in America only three decades ago decided that the painting had died and that the Future belonged to the video, "proposals" and facilities, but even though the prophecy of the new gravediggers never came to fruition. An artist of this era who loved painting, needed to have strong convictions and be very brave to reject the tribal wisdom of criticism in the late 1970s, but fortunately Ethel had both, coupled with solid professional training, which allowed her to approach the world of her own experiences, to recreate it in powerful and meaningful images.

Our painter, a native of Charlotte, a small town in North Carolina, completed her academic training at the prestigious Pratt Institute in New York, where she had professors such as Erwin Panfosky, the father of modern iconology, and the painter George McNeil, who in turn had been a disciple of Hans Hoffman, the famous pedagogue who had opened, along with Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky, Robert Motherwell and others, a new way to American art and "Abstract expressionism." After a rich experience at the University of the Sorbonne in Paris and in the field of lithography, Ethel arrived in Colombia and in 1971 we see her linked to the National University in the Medellin headquarters where she would share her teaching experience With the sculptor Germán Botero and the painter Saturnino Ramírez, thus becoming one of the career artists at the University.

Ethel Gilmour tells us a story to celebrate the joy of life and the beauty of the world. Firmly committed to the experiences of the new cultural medium, Ethel begins to rework her pictorial language; This is how his initial paintings, of strong brushstrokes and aggressive color, are transformed into images more purified but not less intense. At a time when much of the art is parody and parasitarily given to cite the mass media, Ethel's work goes against the current, opting for a difficult road, since its figuration will always be controlled by that fine abstraction of its own, Which comprises the rigorous arrangement of the planes of the pictorial surface and the care in the accents of color or of ways to direct the gaze of the beholder in an unforgiving manner; These elements, coupled with an elegant and refined handling of color, speak of a cultured but also readable painting for an unprepared audience.

It is important to note in Ethel's work that special tension between pictorial space and its objects that she transforms into emblems: tables, dogs, toys, or even reproductions of the great painters she loves: Gaugin and Matisse, And also the great painters, however, she is not a "feminist painter" in the ideological sense of the term, but there is no doubt that her work, like that of Paula Modersohn - Becker or that of Gerogia O'Keeffe, conveys a powerful feeling Of feminine experience, such as those forms and those spaces that suggest the sensation of protection and, above all, the construction of an imagery based on everyday objects that, as already said, our artist elevates them to the level of emblematic forms.

When visiting the last exhibition of Ethel Gilmour and bidding farewell to the fabulous yellow guayacan, there remains a different and peculiar visual impression: it is the presence of the aroma that emanates from her recent work, a work with which this great painter has wanted to thank her friends and admirers.

~ Alberto González (& google translate)

There is so much more to learn about the guayacan tree.

The yellow clusters are blossoms, not leaves!


Because mine is a blog of connection and coincidence,
here are a couple of loosely connected poems
from Chilean (not Colombian, I know) poet
Pablo Neruda (1904 - 1973)

This one is about yellow flowers,
though not about trees:

Ode to some yellow flowers

Rolling its blues against another blue,
the sea, and against the sky
some yellow flowers.

October is on its way.*

And although
the sea may well be important, with its unfolding
myths, its purpose and its risings,
when the gold of a single
yellow plant
in the sand
your eyes
are bound
to the soil.
They flee the wide sea and its heavings.

We are dust and to dust return.
In the end we're
neither air, nor fire, nor water,
neither more nor less, just dirt,
and maybe
some yellow flowers.

found in Neruda's Odes to Common Things
translated by Ken Krabbenhoft; Bulfinch Press, 1994
(other ~ translations)
[*We'll have to revisit this poem come October!]


This one is about trees,
though not about yellow flowers:

The Tree Is Here, Still, In Pure Stone

The tree is here, still, in pure stone,
in deep evidence, in solid beauty,
layered, through a hundred million years.
Agate, cornelian, gemstone
transmuted the timber and sap
until damp corruptions
fissured the giant's trunk
fusing a parallel being:
the living leaves
unmade themselves
and when the pillar was overthrown
fire in the forest, blaze of the dust-cloud,
celestial ashes mantled it round,
until time, and the lava, created
this gift, of translucent stone.

~ Pablo Neruda


"If trees could build houses
they would build them out of our bones."
~ Michael Lipsey ~


And lastly, remember these Golden Oldies?

"The trees are drawing me near
I've got to find out why . . ."

And this one:

If only it said "blossoms of yellow" instead of "white,"
it could be about the guayacan tree:

The Sweetheart Tree

They say there's a tree in the forest
A tree that will give you a sign
Come along with me to the Sweetheart Tree
Come and carve your name next to mine

They say if you kiss the right sweetheart
The one you've been waiting for
Big blossoms of white will burst into sight
And your love will be true evermore

Songwriters: Johnny Mercer / Henry N. Mancini
Sung by Natalie Wood / Johnny Mathis / many others

Medellín, Colombia ~ December 2016

Botero Plaza

Next Fortnightly Post
Wednesday, March 14th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT ~ "Not Cool, Not Funny"
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

Wednesday, February 14, 2018



Due to some quirky calendar alignment this year, Ash Wednesday coincides with Valentine’s Day (first time since 1945); and Easter coincides with April Fools Day (first time since 1956)! That's what happens when the moveable feasts intersect with the fixed feasts. Scheduling intrigue ensues!

Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day have also overlapped in 1923 and 1934 and will do so again in 2024 and 2029.

Easter has fallen on April Fools Day many times: 1584, 1646, 1657, 1668, 1714, 1725, 1736, 1804, 1866, 1877, 1888, 1923, 1934, 1945, 1956, 2018, 2029, 2040, 2108, 2170, 2181, 2192, 2238, 2249, 2260, 2306, 2317, 2328, 2401, 2412, 2485, 2496, 2553, 2564, 2610, 2621, 2632, 2700, 2762, 2773, 2784, 2857, 2863, 2868, 2925, 2936.

The last time the dual overlap (both Ash Wednesday / Valentines and Easter / April Fools) occurred was 1945; and the next time will be 2029 -- only 11 years to wait! On the other hand, maybe it's better when the special occasions are not combined. After all, why reduce 4 days of significance down to 2 when we mere mortals need all the holidays and Holy Days that we can get, right?

Still, I like the coincidence of the doubled up occasions and, even better, the double - double years such as 1945, 2018, and 2029. Perhaps if the cosmic insistence is powerful enough, we will be swayed to once again privilege nature over commerce -- as observed above in connection with Demuth's "Spring" collage: "By titling his painting Spring, Demuth wryly highlighted the new reality of American life, in which the changing of seasons was heralded not by nature but by commerce."

Demuth has another painting (also in the Art Institute of Chicago) that illustrates what happens when the days become too much the same:

Here's to the novelty of our lunar / liturgical calendar for 2018, and to celebrating, observing, and distinguishing one day from another to the best of our ability! In addition to the connections, this year will also come with its own peculiar set of contradictions: receiving chocolates for Valentine's Day and immediately giving them up for Lent; or the troubling juxtaposition of "Christ is Risen -- April Fools"!
My introspective friend Diane opened the season with a facebook query: "Any creative approaches to Lent this year?"

Her witty friend Stone replied: "I am doing the same thing I do every year for Lent. I just give up for Lent. I will start trying again in 40 days."

To which Diane responded: "Give up. Give in. Give over. Not a bad strategy!"

And I shared: "This answer reminds of the year that I gave up going to church for Lent. I resumed after Easter."

In recent years, my husband Gerry and I have come up with the crazy, perhaps indulgent idea of adding something on instead of giving something up. We rarely remember to enjoy even a glass of red wine with dinner, let alone experiment with any novelty cocktails. So, during Lent, in the interest of giving up monotony, we have been searching inside our liquor cabinet, and trying a new mixed drink of some kind before dinner each evening. To name a few, we have sampled the Delta Sunset, the Sazerac, the Brass Monkey, and the slightly unsafe but extremely dramatic Goblet of Fire:

Having spiced things up a bit before dinner, we next addressed the monotony / consistency of our after - dinner rut / routine: Tetley Tea, round bags only! Lent is the time that we steer away from our tried and true favorite and brew up some of the other fine flavors that have made their way into our tea caddy: green cafs and decafs, mints and peppermints, raspberry and other berries, chamomiles and assorted organics. A nearly endless variety, yet none so delicious as that first cup of Tetley Round on Easter Morning!

Moving a step beyond tea bags and cocktails, I also have some more serious answers to Diane's question. First, there's taking down the Christmas tree on Ash Wednesday, putting away all the ornaments, and giving up Christmas for Lent. The saddest day of the year. Truly a Lenten pall is cast over my heart the first few days, learning to live again with the bare front window. In place of a few hundred twinkle lights there is now only the pale blue glow of my light - up globe, a mere speck in "the vast expanse of interstellar space"!

Second, for the past 20 years or so, my primary Lenten discipline has been to give up ordering from amazon. I should be able to live for 6 weeks without clicking "place order"!

Back in the pre - amazon days, I started this particular self - restraint by giving up mail order & 1 - 800 shopping. One day my West Philly neighbor Cate was out on the front porch with me when the mailman came by and I reached out to take my mail for the day, which included -- as always -- a stack of mail - order catalogs. She said,"Oh no you don't; I'll take these and put them straight in the recycling for you." I insisted that I wasn't going to order anything -- just look. She insisted that giving up shopping meant not looking as well as not purchasing. Her view made me take my "sacrifice" a step further and take it more seriously.

Third, a few years ago, in addition to amazon -- since I'm used to that one by now -- I decided give up "stuff" for Lent. My goal was one garbage bag full every week: old clothes to Goodwill, old books to the library sale, wherever the "stuff" needed to go in order to be out of my house forever! Even throwing out just plain old trash counts.

I've mentioned this strategy before, but this year I want to try harder to make some visible progress in the war against clutter. I want to commit to the big black garbage bag (or at least a regular brown grocery bag). In addition to the clothes, books, and trash, we're taking DIY leftovers to Habitat for Humanity, over-saved packing materials and plastic food containers to the recycle center, worn beach towels and blankets to the animal shelter or the vet (for making cozy dog beds), re-gifts to friends, relatives, or neighbors who might enjoy the surprise or be able to use the items creatively.

The re - gifting idea comes from a couple of my favorite advice ladies: The Slob Sisters, Pam & Peggy I can't find the exact quote right now, but their advice was that you have to set yourself free from hanging on to every gift you ever receive, that the gift exchange is in the joy of giving and receiving and expressing thanks; after that, it's okay to let the physical gift go out of your life if it doesn't fit in or is just taking up space. (And vice - versa, you can free yourself from any expectation that everyone else must keep the gifts you have given them.)

As you can see, The Slob Sisters were well ahead of the current trend for down - sizing, de - cluttering, and minimalizing. I also appreciate their advice that "it's okay to make a mistake" -- in reference to buying things that you end up dis - liking: clothing, cosmetics, cleaning supplies, knick - knacks. If you simply can't stand the scent of the new hand lotion, you're not required to use up the whole bottle in order to avoid waste, and so forth. Gather up all the unwanted, never - to - be - used - again items and give them away. Or throw them away -- it's okay to make a mistake!

I found that very freeing! It seems so simple, but I don't think we are commonly taught that we can let ourselves off the hook or that it's okay to make a mistake -- even a small one. More often, the vocabulary is about punishing ourselves, or paying the price, or getting what we deserve, or learning to live with our mistakes. How wonderful it would be if we could give up those negative messages -- for Lent and Forever!

How good of the Slob Sisters to give us permission! In their book Get Your Act Together, at the conclusion of a chapter specifically about eating better and exercising -- but also generally applicable to being more organized and kinder to yourself -- Pam and Peggy advise: "Remember, though, you didn't get out of shape in a week, and you're not going to get back into shape in a week. Also, one of your traits is a childlike nature, so be gentle with yourself or you'll rebel" (119).

For additional Lenten reading, about cutting back but also cutting yourself some slack, try Ann Patchett's recent article about giving up stuff, not just for Lent but for twelve months: "My Year of No Shopping." I could see right away why my friend Cate had shared the article with me: because it reminded her of that long ago day when she insisted that I give up browsing through mail order catalogs! Patchett, likewise, has decided that if she's not going to purchase, then she's not even going to look -- no catalogs, no websites, no window shopping. She remembers her parents telling her: "If you want something, wait awhile. Chances are the feeling will pass." The way I learned it: "Want something long enough and you don't," an odd little proverb that confused me at first but eventually made perfect sense.

Patchett's year of no - shopping -- except at grocery stores and bookstores -- reminds me of Barbara Kingsolver's strategy for making it through the year in Animal Vegetable Miracle, when each member of the family is allowed to make one exception to the rule of "buy local eat seasonal." Remember? I think one of the children keeps bananas, or maybe it's dried fruit; and one of them keeps chocolate; the adults hang on to coffee and exotic spices (35).

Patchett's exceptions to the discipline:
"I could buy anything in the grocery store, including flowers. I could buy shampoo and printer cartridges and batteries but only after I’d run out of what I had. I could buy plane tickets and eat out in restaurants. I could buy books . . .

"My first few months of no shopping were full of gleeful discoveries. I ran out of lip balm early on and before making a decision about whether lip balm constituted a need, I looked in my desk drawers and coat pockets. I found five lip balms. Once I started digging around under the bathroom sink I realized I could probably run this experiment for three more years before using up all the lotion, soap and dental floss. It turns out I hadn’t thrown away the hair products and face creams I’d bought over the years and didn’t like; I’d just tossed them all under the sink. I’m using them now, and they’re fine."
I couldn't help noticing the coincidence that Ann, as well as Pam and Peggy, encountered an array of forgotten products under the sink -- all those impulse buys and good intentions! It's also worth noting that they took two different approaches: the Slob Sisters say, "if you can't stand that stuff, throw it out," whereas Patchett says, "use that stuff up!"

I was entertained by Patchett's successful quest for so many stray lip balms, in order to avoid making an unnecessary purchase. However, I would like to gently observe that a simple, or even fancy, chapstick can be found at the grocery store, so the good news is that she could have bought more without violating her no - shopping rule! And as to whether or not lip balm constitutes a need? Indeed it does! In fact, the topic of lip balm has provided an odd little recurring theme to my first week of Lent.

In started when Cate sent a list of things that the well - prepared woman keeps in her handbag -- protein drinks and energy bars, a revolver, a distributor cap, a rosary -- that kind of thing. I wrote back that my purse contents pale by comparison -- mostly kleenex (Swankies!) and chapstick! So boring. Yet, as Cate pointed out: "Well, we all know that chapstick is powerful stuff!" Then a few days later, another friend posted a survey: "If you could pick only one make - up item to wear everyday, what would it be?" Naturally, for me it has to be lip balm -- otherwise, I can't even eat or smile or move my mouth! Please don't ever ask me to give it up!

Whatever you choose to part with -- after six weeks (or a year!) of less shopping, less stuff, less commerce, and more nature -- you are bound to feel so much lighter! Wishing everyone a tidier space, a fulfilling and introspective forty days, and a heart lighter than a feather! All in preparation for the Moveable Feast!

Next Fortnightly Post
Wednesday, February 28th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading