Monday, June 28, 2010

Wendell Berry on "How to be a Poet"

The poem reprinted below speaks to me as an artist as well as a poet. I heard the poem read by Berry himself on NPR last week ("Speaking of Faith" was the program) and I love it. Wendell Berry was already a favorite. I located the text at the Poetry Foundation website and I thank them for that.

The final phrases of this poem remind me of the Hypocratic oath for physicians that famously includes "first do no harm." Although I do believe that artists as well as poets must occasionally "disturb the silence" it seems to me a good practice to pause and reflect now and then on  Berry's advice, which he humbly gives to himself. (There's something about humility that may be harder for artists than poets to swallow - what do you think?)

How To Be a Poet

by Wendell Berry

(to remind myself)


Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.


Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.


Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Grand Rapids, Michigan, a haven for art - who knew?

I had reason to believe that I would find Grand Rapids, MI a good destination to find art. I’d read an article in the NY Times about their brand new art museum, which is touted for its “green” architecture. What I didn’t expect was the wealth of public sculpture to be found in addition to the museum, beginning with City Hall. La Grand Vitesse (right) by Alexander Calder makes bearable an otherwise vast empty concrete plaza in front of the all-too-common International Style steel box. There’s something about these Mies-inspired black boxes of architecture that invite Calder’s bright, organic forms—they need the contrast to provide a sense of humanity! From there, using the guidebook provided by my hotel, I took a walking tour of downtown to view other public artworks.

But the most astonishing discovery was on the outskirts of town: the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. I soon learned that this is one of the region’s primary attractions—and for good reason! A different interpretation of “green”, it is—as the name signifies—a combination of the traditional botanical garden and sculpture park. At 130 acres it is large enough to handle both missions with grace and the mix is a treasure to behold! Of that total, over 30 acres are set aside for an eclectic mix of outdoor sculptures by important artists from August Rodin to Keith Haring. A special children’s’ garden includes some pieces that are more accessible to its audience of future art patrons, but some abstract works are thrown into that mix as well.

But wait!…there’s more: In addition to the permanent collection—which in itself would have been enough to warrant an overnight visit to Grand Rapids—there is always a guest artist who is invited to do site specific installations for a season. The current installation is A New Eden by Dale Chihuly. I love Chihuly’s glass work and I thought I knew what I would be seeing. I’d been to Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago a few years ago when he did an installation there. Here, as there, one enters through the typical greenhouse setting (smaller than Milwaukee’s domes) and I did recognize Chihuly’s motifs. But once I got outside I was unprepared for the scope and variety of his installations, which were done not only within the confines of the sculpture park, but spilled over into the natural areas as well. It's hard to describe the impact of seeing monumental glass in the landscape. The contrast of its fragility and luminosity with the scale and context is breathtaking. Pictures tell this story better than words. I invite you to view a photo essay by clicking over to my flickr page. This teaser is called Red Reeds. There are 500 of them:

How ironic that just last week I posted a complaint about having to miss the opening of the new Indianapolis sculpture park. I did miss it so I can’t compare, but this was a very satisfying alternative. In fact, although I did enjoy the art museum too, it played second fiddle, I’m afraid.

I can’t comment on how “green” the architecture of the Grand Rapids Art Museum is either. This healthy trend in design and construction of buildings has no identifiable style and the GRAM, as it is called, is a subtly elegant and airy variation of a modernist concrete box. The galleries are spare and simple, which allows the art to take center stage. Before describing the art, however, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the one most distinguishing feature of the GRAM. Neither aesthetic nor spatial, but a social phenomenon: when was the last time you were in a museum where every staff person without exception, including all of the gallery guards, greeted you warmly as you entered the room? Guards, in particular, are typically either mute, passive human furniture or furtive and suspicious. Not at GRAM. It has to be a deliberate policy—a cultivated friendly small city culture. Nice.

The current exhibition is called Dutch Utopia: American Artists in Holland, 1880-1914. It chronicles the work of American artists who lived and painted in six art colonies in Holland during those years. It includes a few familiar figures like Robert Henri and John Singer Sargent, but mostly less well known artists. Perhaps in reaction to the tumultuous and controversial experimentation of the post-Impressionistic / Fauvist avant garde of the period, this work is academic and nostalgic; the subject matter heavy with tulips and religious themes. Utopian by definition is an attempt to escape external reality for an imagined one. I guess New York and Paris were a bit too real for these artists. On the other hand, it is a welcome reminder that multiple realities can coexist in art as well as life. Henri, for one, returned to the streets of New York to find lasting fame with the "Ashcan School" of painters. The friendly receptionist told me that the show has been very popular (perhaps for the same reason?), but the permanent collection, which is a diverse survey of mostly American art, I liked better. It includes many of the usual suspects, from Charles Burchfield to Willem de Kooning, but much of the work is refreshingly atypical. I particularly liked Ingleside by Richard Diebenkorn, from 1963 (below).

Ah, but it was in the print study room, off to the side of the main galleries, that I found real treasures. An exquisite etching of the Crucifixion printed by Rembrandt himself (according to the friendly staffer) greeted me as I entered. Along one wall was a complete set of 16 tiny etchings by Dürer showing the Stations of the Cross. To see original work by either of these masters is always a delectable treat to be savored.

Grand Rapids, Michigan: a destination for art lovers. Who knew?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Toy Story 3 - it just keeps getting better!

As of last night three of my top ten favorite movies are all named Toy Story. Seriously. Or, to be more accurate, humorously. Very humorous. While most movie sequels quickly peter out, the writers and producers of the Toy Story series have the creativity to make it fresh and funny each time. And while there were plenty of children in the audience, Lynn and I were hardly the only empty nesters enjoying the show.

I recommend it not simply as good, fun entertainment, but as great art. I also recommend patronizing the Times Cinema in Wauwatosa, where you can see it for $5.

Addendum 6/29/10
I just read a column about the movie in the 6/20/10 issue of the NY Times by David Hajdu. It's great and you can read it by clicking here. I do have one bone of contention, however: he makes the statement that "In Andy's presence, the toys are inanimate...impassive objects." He also says "Only when he they come alive." Not true! The entire, remarkable, opening sequence shows in graphic splendor how alive the toys are in Andy's imagination. The same device was used in Toy Story 2.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Lakefront Festival of Arts and AIDS quilts today at Milwaukee Art Museum

Official festival poster by Shelby Keefe
(I'm a fan. I think it's great she got to do the poster!)

It rained on Friday. It had to, as everyone I spoke with agreed. It's the Lakefront Festival of Arts in Milwaukee; it always rains! But yesterday made up for it and I'm glad I had the chance to go then - a perfect day: sunny, not too hot, not too humid, nice breeze to make the kites flutter and push some air through the single enormous tent that houses nearly all of the 181 artists. Not all because, for a change, a few booths were set up inside the museum's glorious Windhover Hall, which to me seemed a little like putting the money changers in the temple. (But that's not quite a fair comparison, since it is art they are selling.)

Today is the last chance to go (10 am to 5 pm) and if it's anywhere near as nice as yesterday, it'll be a good time to see what's happening in the art fair world.

What's happening, as far as I can tell, is very much the same as what I saw at ArtChicago in May - there are a lot of good artists out there trying to make a living. The quality and craftsmanship are high. The variety is such that there should be something to appeal to most everyone's taste - and budget. That's a selling point for the show. The catalogue says "There's a price point for everyone to bring original art into your home." I'm all for that!

As in Chicago, the only thing missing is the kind of edgy art that is challenging as well as appealing. If the goal is to get people to put original art in their homes, that is to be expected. While you're at the fair, though, I recommend taking a break from all the beautiful things in the booths and step inside the museum. Immediately to the left, down the side corridor, is the display of AIDS quilts. Today is the last day to see these moving tributes designed by important fashion designers who have been vocal in the fight to prevent the human tragedy of AIDS. It's especially moving to stand before these huge quilts and imagine forty thousand of them, the largest community folk art project in the world. Fortunately, the museum - with a different mission than the fair - provides the thoughtful dose of reality that art can project so powerfully.

After that, go back outside and enjoy the music, the kites, and the lovely art. You may even decide to take something home for your wall.

For more info about the fair and the quilts go to Milwaukee Art Museum.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A survey of Sculpture Gardens - what a great idea!

The concept of a sculpture garden has captivated me ever since I first encountered one near Amsterdam in the Netherlands in 1970. Sadly, I have no record of my experience there, nor a conscious memory of what I saw, just that ineffable body memory of joy. The way sculpture can animate a landscape and likewise be animated by its location in nature continues to bring joy to this day. I've had the great good fortune to have visited several within the past couple years. There's a new one opening in Indianapolis this weekend and that news made me reflect on the ones I've seen. So, I thought I'd share just one sample picture from four:

At the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, TX, this Borofsky sculpture has life size figures strolling casually skyward. My favorite piece there, though, couldn't be captured on film. It's one of James Turrell's characteristically zen-like spaces with an aperture in the ceiling. The effect can be surreal or spiritual, depending on one's temperament and mood when sitting inside it.

I recently discovered, almost by accident, the Laumeier Sculpture Park near St. Louis. It is large and contains a wide variety of sculptures. A hilltop is dominated by this monumental sculpture by Alexander Lieberman that is painted steel but evokes ancient classical ruins. (See more pictures on my flickr page.)

My favorite place to see sculpture in the landscape is the Storm King Art Center, which is located about an hour north of New York City in the hills along the Hudson River. (Ironically, I grew up about 20 minutes away from there and never knew about it until after I moved to Wisconsin.) At 500 acres, sheer size gives Storm King an advantage most sculpture gardens can't match. The serpentine stone wall pictured is a site specific piece by Andy Goldsworthy.

Although Milwaukee's Lynden Sculpture Garden, newly opened to the public, is a mere 40 acres, it is a delightful setting and, in my opinion, doesn't take a back seat to anyone for charm, nor for the integrity of the collection and quality of the work. Bringing students there over the years has enabled me to feel privy to what has been kept fairly secret for too long. Happily, everyone can enjoy it now. (See my earlier post about the opening by clicking here.)

These reflections were inspired by the news that the Indianapolis Museum of Art is opening a new sculpure park on Sunday, June 20. It promises to be a different kind of outdoor sculpture experience, without the normal "do not touch" signs to prevent an interactive response to the work. I'm already wondering when I can manage a trip down there to see it. Check it out: 100 acres/Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Day in Chicago: A Smart place to go

A day in Chicago: Chapter 3 (A 3-part serial post)

After the Art Institute and the Cultural Center, it was 3:30. The Kennedy Expressway was already a parking lot. Our Gallery Guide told us that the Smart Museum of Art is open until 8 pm on Thursdays, giving us another reason to linger. We spent some time browsing the contemporary galleries in the West Loop warehouse district. The icy forms as well as the Hitchkockian installation of squirrels (top) are by Carson Fox at the Linda Warren Gallery. Sparkles rule at the Packer Schopf gallery, where Andréa Stanislav is showing a series of glitter-embedded polymer paintings (above right). The centerpiece is an 8-ft crystalline—headless—horse with mirrored prisms protruding from its torso (detail, below right). Full view at The horse also rotates on its mirrored base; ya gotta love art, eh!

OK, raise your hand if you’ve never been to the Smart Museum of Art. I’ve only been a couple times myself, but they’ve been good times! It is at the University of Chicago in Hyde Park. I was hooked as soon as I walked in the door and saw “Cleave” by Greely Myatt (below). It takes up an entire (large) wall and is made of “cotton plant roots and found object.” His artist’s statement includes: “As an artist, I want you to care about something as much as I care. I make work that is familiar, and a bit strange—mysterious and, I hope, poetic.” It’s all that. It was great at first glance and only got better as I took it all in up close. Art that speaks of our relationships with the environment has particular appeal for me; something I do care about, that inspires me to make art. (See Urban Wilderness.)

The main exhibit (which, sadly, closed yesterday as I post this) was called "The Darker Side of Light: Arts of Privacy, 1850-1900." With themed sections bearing characteristically Victorian titles like “abjection,” it was, as the name implies, a melancholy lot. But the prints by such well know names as Manet, Corot, Lautrec, and Kollwitz, among others, were luscious. Comparing these somber genres with light-filled Impressionism and the lively bustle of streets and cafes, the catalogue describes the show this way: "The Darker Side of Light evokes shadowed interiors and private introspections to tell a far less familiar story of late nineteenth century art."

From a narrative series of prints called "The Glove," by Max Klinger

The few simple, sketch-like prints by Toulouse Lautrec reminded me of his genius. Like Matisse, an exhibition of his work—at the Art Institute many years ago—is among the most memorable I’ve seen. Käthe Kollwitz has long been a personal favorite. No one has expressed pain, loss, and suffering as deeply felt as she. The one at right is titled “Woman with Dead Child.” If I had to choose, I’d put Matisse on my wall any day, but I always keep my Kollwitz book handy as a reality check in moments of “quiet contemplation.”

If you haven’t been to the Smart, it also has a wonderful permanent collection and is reason enough to venture away from the epicenter of art in the loop for a change. Just before closing time, the young guard—probably a student—interrupted my reverie in front of their red above red Rothko to ask with some incredulity if I really liked it. When I assured her I did, she shook her head with finality and claimed that despite all the hours she’d spent there she “just didn’t see it.” I turned back to it thinking this was a particularly nice one.)

(If you missed the first two installments of this 3-part serial post, click on Chap. 1 or Chap. 2. Or scroll down.)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Day of Art in Chicago: the Cultural Center Rocks!

A day in Chicago: Chapter 2 (A 3-part serial post)

I rarely visit the Art Institute without also walking the few blocks north on Michigan it takes to see the Chicago Cultural Center. If this isn’t part of your routine, I recommend it. And if you haven’t been there lately, now (through June 27) is a great time. “From Process to Print: Graphic Works by Romare Bearden” is installed in the immense Sidney R. Yates Gallery. The gallery itself, decorated in Venetian ostentation, seems an unlikely setting for Bearden’s work, which characteristically depict humble subjects with a social conscience. For me, the masterpiece of the exhibit, with its earthy colors and complex interpretation of its subject, is “The Family,” shown below.

Bearden is most well known for his collage, but this show demonstrates his mastery of a variety of print media, including etchings, lithographs, screen prints, and collagraphs. One outstanding feature of this exhibit is the presentation of the same image in several different states and even in different print media. As with the Matisse show (see Chap. 1), one can clearly see not only the technical processes but the progress of creative experimentation.

The Family, by Romare Bearden

The Bearden show is just the jewel of several good shows. In the equally immense but austere adjacent gallery is “Diane Simpson: Sculpture + Drawing 1978-2009.” She has a knack for transforming simple, culturally specific items of clothing, such as aprons, hats, and undergarments, into monumental architectonic sculptures.

Underskirt, by Diane Simpson

The more modest ground floor galleries included a delightful collaborative project called “Pride of Paper/Orgullo en Papel: Arte Papel Oaxaca & Kiff Slemmons.” Even before entering the gallery I detected the pervasive, pulpy aroma of papermaking. Chicagoan Slemmons spent 10 years working with artisans in Oaxaca, Mexico to create colorful paper jewelry that looks more like abstract sculpture. (I’d show you the installation but I was scolded when I took out my camera and shot this one detail - above right- of a series of wall prints of the work. The blue bracelets - below - are from their website.)

And, by the way, if you haven’t been to the Cultural Center before, make sure you hike up the grand staircase from the south lobby to see the largest Tiffany dome in the world: worth the visit all by itself. (detail below)

(For more on my art discoveries of Thursday, June 8, see Chapter 3. If you missed Chap. 1, click here.)

(If you’re wondering why a serial post, I promised myself when I started this blog that I would keep each post under one page long—not counting images. Maybe this is cheating, but it works for me!)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A day of art in Chicago: Matisse at the Art Institute

A day in Chicago: Chapter 1 (A 3-part serial post)

“Radical Invention, 1913-1917” is the current blockbuster at the Art Institute of Chicago. It fulfills its promise to provide an in depth analysis of Matisse’s truly radical transformations during this pivotal period. That these years of abstract experimentation coincide with World War I is curiously irrelevant. But acknowledging that irrelevance is paradoxically crucial to understanding Matisse’s artistic motivations.

How does an artist paint “freedom?” At one end of the spectrum, a politically charged Delacroix glorified freedom fighters during an uprising against the French monarchy (right). At the other, during a global age of anxiety brought on by the very real potential for nuclear annihilation, Jackson Pollock loosened his limbs and made paint express freedom viscerally (right). Falling between those poles, Matisse perhaps best exemplifies one of the dominant concerns among the avant garde artists of the twentieth century: artistic creation increasingly freed from convention as well as unmoored from subject matter. He deliberately chose to disregard the tragic realities of his time in pursuit of artistic freedom. He is quoted in the exhibit, saying “Despite pressure from certain conventional quarters, the war did not influence the subject matter, for we were no longer merely painting subjects.” I added the emphasis, which leaves me cold, as if responding to world events is somehow beneath the exalted purpose of art.

This attitude resonates today. In fact, Matisse’s influence is profound. At ArtChicago recently most of the art left me scratching my head wondering how two on-going wars, a crashing economy, and looming ecological disasters could be so entirely absent.

I had to see Matisse at the Art Institute. When one sees as much art as I do, a truly memorable exhibit is unusual. A sublime Matisse show at the National Gallery in D.C. many years ago has that distinction and I wanted to see if this one would duplicate that experience. I was skeptical, though, because there are whole swaths of Matisse’s work that do not move me as much.

This one is excellent—but falls short of sublime. Like the Bearden show (see Chap. 2 tomorrow), we get an in-depth view of Matisse’s creative process. By the time one gets to the show’s two centerpieces, “The Moroccans” (above) and “Bathers by a River” (top), one has been thoroughly prepared for their abstract forms and compositions. My personal favorite, however, is his series of four bronze sculptures entitled, simply, “Back (I-IV)”. Unlike the paintings, these I’d seen before—and in better circumstances. At the Hirschhorn Sculpture Garden, also in D.C, the four larger than life size pieces are displayed in a line, as they are in the image below. Unfortunately, the A.I.C. show has them spread out from one end of the exhibition to the other, which diminishes the impact of their transformation. But the sheer output of paintings, sculptures, and prints in its four-year purview make this show stunning.

(But, wait...there's more: see Chapter 2)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wisconsin Triennial at Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

Details from "Love Disorder" by Bruce Charlesworth

The Wisconsin Triennial at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art opened on May 21st. The event hit all the right notes, literally and figuratively. The friendly museum staff was dressed in regulation black. The dramatic glass lobby/stairwell was graced with jazzy notes that stayed discretely in the background. The cash bar was elegantly appointed with slender stemware. The crowd was thick and bubbled with conversation. And, of course, there was the art—the evening’s raison d'être—which, true to form, was sufficiently high brow to satisfy the crowd in attendance.

It was a lively event and encouraging. In trying times it’s nice to know that art matters to so many people.

I enjoyed the show, which is strong and—in some ways—diverse. The museum’s catalogue describes it as “a survey of contemporary art… [that represents] the varied artistic directions Wisconsin-based artists explore on a daily basis.” It includes “collages, drawings, films, installations, paintings, performances, photographs, prints, sculptures, and videos.” Whew! But wait – there’s more: that long list of categories doesn’t begin to describe the broad range of styles that also are represented in the show. It is refreshing to see that the curators had neither a stylistic bias nor a penchant for the newest trendy medium.

The remarkable diversity does break down on some levels. Geographically, the “Wisconsin-based artists” skew towards Madison and Milwaukee. The work predictably leans to the academic, a character that’s consistent with at least the last few triennials. And, although a few of the artists have names that suggest something other than a mainstream cultural background, with minimal exception the work itself didn’t give much voice to cultural diversity.

This is even true, for example, when Tom Jones makes his Indian heritage an explicit conceptual conceit. His highly abstract, 40 x 40 inch photographs have titles like “Blue, White, and Red.” At first glance they call to mind the Dadaist paintings of Jean Arp. Closer inspection reveals that we are seeing small plastic toy figurines from underneath a glass table. This feels like a satisfyingly surprising plot twist in a narrative; a reward for paying attention—and reading the artist’s statement. For it is only there that we find out that the figurines are toy Indians instead of more common toy soldiers. Jones calls the series “I am an Indian First and an Artist Second” but to me the work itself—which I like—reverses that order.

In an overall enjoyable show, there are a few exceptional pieces, in my opinion.

Bruce Charlesworth rates—and deserves—a room to himself with an interactive video installation entitled “Love Disorder.” The room itself is large but feels enclosed because it is painted an intense red and black. It is dominated by an enormous screen depicting a tightly cropped man’s face. According to the catalogue copy, when one first enters the empty room the man will say soothing and welcoming things. As you get closer, though, he begins to react; his features and words become agitated, then menacing. During the opening, the full effect was unfortunately diminished because the room was never empty. The gargantuan visage repeatedly urged the milling throng to leave.

Melissa Cooke also uses monumental scale to advantage. From a distance her 50 x 38 inch graphite drawings of women’s faces look like black and white photos. Posture, expression, and marks of abuse on those faces take them beyond the realm of portraiture and into sober social commentary.

The most overt reference to contemporary global concerns comes from a series of dark, monochromatic screen prints by Santiago Cucullu. Combining a familiar vocabulary of layered shapes and lines ranging from rectilinear to paint-spattered with fragments of recognizable cultural iconography, he effectively expresses the turmoil and conflict of post-reunification Germany.

The exhibit continues through August 15.

I’d love to hear what others thought of the exhibit, or what your favorites are.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Raphael treated well by the Milwaukee Art Museum

Raphael’s reputed masterpiece, “La Donna Velata”, has been ensconced in somber blue silence since March 27. Alone—try to ignore her full-time guard—in a gallery of her own, she awaits your visit, like the mistress she is said to have been. But if you don’t go by tomorrow you will miss her, as that is her last day in Milwaukee.

How does a museum stage a one-painting show, you might ask? It can be done in different ways. This isn’t the first one I’ve seen. In fact, although I was only 11 when I saw her at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY in 1963, I vividly recall the Mona Lisa. To be more accurate, I recall the scene: the framed painting hung between two guards flanked by red velvet curtains. On a school trip in from the suburbs, I and my classmates stood in a long line before finally confronting that scene one at a time. It all proved her celebrity. I’ve seen her reproduced so often since (and the actual painting again) that I can’t honestly recall whether the actual portrait made an impression on me.

By contrast, when I visited La Donna Velata a couple weeks ago, it was just me and the guard. How intimate! How wonderful. I love the way the Milwaukee Museum handled the installation. Her vestibule—or shall we call it a antechamber? …the outer exhibit room provided the art and cultural back-story that enables the casual viewer to put this one painting in context. Not everyone agrees, but I believe that this is one of the obligations of a museum—to educate its audience—and it was done well. One enters the inner sanctum well prepared to meet the lady—and see the artistic accomplishment.

I’ve never forgotten my encounter with the Mona Lisa, but I might as well have been seeing a photograph of Marilyn Monroe for all she meant to me. (I might have enjoyed the Monroe more at the time!) She was a celebrity and she had never come to New York and so we all had to see her.

The Milwaukee Art Museum tried to make the most of Raphael’s celebrity. I submit the rather surreal detail of La Donna Velata’s face (below) that graces the drive-through entrance as evidence. Why not? That’s what attracts a crowd today, as in 1963. But I’m so glad I didn’t have to wait in line. Overjoyed at the intimacy of the installation. One painting can make for a very powerful exhibit, one way or another. As an eleven-year-old I would not have appreciated the Zen character of this quiet presentation. I’m quite satisfied with it now. It suits.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Jimmy Santiago Baca and the River

I came across one of my newest favorite poems by one of my long-time favorite poets, Jimmy Santiago Baca, in Yes! Magazine. I post it here on Arts Without Borders, but it stands as a testament to the the transparent border between my two blogs, the other being Urban Wilderness. Jimmy's poem (I feel I can call him Jimmy because he once sat at my kitchen table and ate Lynn's famous apple pie) belongs here because Arts Without Borders includes all arts, as the name implies, including literary arts. His poem would find just as appropriate a home on my Urban Wilderness blog, because it speaks to the author's relationship with a river and, ultimately, "the universe". It speaks to me in the same way. I hope it speaks to you as well.

“Winter Poems Along the Rio Grande”

“Sometimes I stand on the river bank
and feel the water take my pain,
allow my nostalgic brooding
a reprieve.
The water flows south,
constantly redrafting its story
which is my story,
rising and lowering with glimmering meanings—
here nations drown their stupid babbling,
bragging senators are mere geese droppings in the mud,
radicals and conservatives are stands of island grass,
and the water flows on,
cleansing, baptizing Muslims, Jews and Christians alike.
I yearn to move past these days of hate and racism.
That is why this Rio Grande,
these trees and sage bushes
the geese, horses, dogs and river stones
are so important to me—
with them
I go on altering my reptilian self,
reaching higher notes of being
on my trombone heart,
pulsing out into the universe, my music
according to the leaf’s music sheet,
working, with a vague indulgence toward a song
we the people.”

If you want to see it in the context of the story in Yes! Magazine, which is about Acequias in New Mexico and the sustainable use of scarce water resources, click here.

If you want to check out my Urban Wilderness blog, click here.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Ride for the Arts on Sunday!

It's not too late to join me on a nice bike ride to support the arts this Sunday. I just checked and it told me there's 0 chance of precipitation.

For info or to register, go to UPAF.

If you can't ride, you can sponsor me. Just send me an email at I'm planning to do the 25 mile route, which runs south along the lakeshore to Grant Park (a highlight of Milwaukee's urban wilderness system!) and back.