Saturday, July 19, 2014

Examples from an Exhibit at the deYoung Museum, San Francisco: Modernism from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Information at the bottom.  
Remembering always that here and with other entries, click on any image that you want to enlarge:



Paul Harmon has identified this exhibit as Modernism from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.:  The Robert & Jane Meyerhoff Collection (June 7, 2014 – October 12, 2014 in the deYoung's Herbst Special Exhibition Galleries) brings paintings by the great masters of the post-war world to San Francisco. The de Young will feature nearly 50 works by Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Frank Stella, among others. The de Young is the exclusive venue for this exhibition, the first of the Meyerhoff Collection outside the greater Washington, DC, and Baltimore metro areas.  The Meyerhoff's are giving this art to the National Gallery.

At the Fresh & Best Cafe

I could think of this photo as a stage set for many recurring moments in my life where Jeffrey Klas and I sat at that same table (the "F & B" of "Fresh & Best" sometimes standing for other words when our imaginations revert to adolescence). 
The weather, hot or cold, is always an issue.  There is an umbrella available if it is too hot and sunny.  It is a common ritual for us, as the seasons change, to watch sunlight (the sun's snail-like movement is visible, we think) as withdraws its light and

shadows take over, if we are there close to evening, or, if in the other half of the day, the sun spreads its light, inch by inch, across the cement walk, and we note its progress, when all begins in morning shadow, until the sun creeps up and over us at our table, and warms us.  This intense action drama accompanies whatever conversation amuses we old and disabled companions.
      On this day a handsome young man kept moving around us so that I asked him if he was a dancer as he looked like a dancer and there are many dancers around there, but he was a photographer from the San Francisco Chronicle, troubling his equipment as he waited for some reason before he began his work to photograph something about the cafe, perhaps just to photograph its Vietnamese sandwiches, made by the three Vietnamese-American women, very young and sweet, who run the cafe.  The young man  did not sound as if he was there to photograph the ambiance of the place, so that we let him know of the energy that spills over from next door at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts as dancers and entertainers of all ages, going to and from classes, often carry their energy into the cafe, and the place buzzes with their involvement and enthusiasm  -- and on Sunday it is even more so, we told him, like being present at a big family reunion of creative (mostly African-American) people of all ages.  
     People-watching from the table on Alice Street, we seem to detect that many of our favorite kinds of people of the creative sort live on Alice Street, and I like to think it is because they knew they would find a humane magic there on a street that bore the name of the child-goddess for whom Lewis Carroll was inspired to write great books.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mimbres Pottery from the Thomas W. Weisel Family Collection of Native American Art

The Weisel Family exhibit of Native American Art, currently a second floor corner of the deYoung (easily missed)  includes pottery from the culture in the Mimbres Valley from what the area of Mexico that  is now southwestern New Mexico; it created a millennium of pottery, but the drought forced the ancient culture to disperse, as with many ancient cultures in that part of the world.  (I cannot help thinking how drought in the U.S. Southwest also forced mass relocation.)  

 Their pottery went through a change from 750 to 1150 CE, as shown here.  The pots were often placed over the face of the deceased, perhaps simply the bowls on hand, but it is intriguing to wonder whether the images reflect scenes from common stories, individual flights of imagination, or reflected the personality of the deceased.  The bottom of the pieces was broken so that, as the docent said, the spirit could be released, or as the catalogue states, "the openings are broadly understood as symoblic portals between this world and that of the spirits."

"Mimbres" is the name of a small willow growing along the river that became known as the Mimbres River.

 I painted this one a bit:

I cleared the cracks from the rabbit's body:

Navajo Rugs from Thomas W. Weisel Family Collection

 Below, Navajo Serape, ca. 1860:

 Below:  Navajo Poncho Serape, ca. 1830:

Below:  Navajo Serape, ca 1855-1860:

 Below:  Navajo Serape, ca 1865-1875:

 Below:  Navajo Serape, ca. 1865:

 Below:  Navajo Wearing Blanket (third-phase chief blanket), ca. 1865:
 Below:  Wearing Blanket (sec on-phase chief blanket), ca. 1865:

 Below:  Navajo Blanket ca. 1870 (perhaps I scanned this one from a book):

Pots, Etc., from the Native American Art from the Thomas W. Weisel Family Collection

 Above:  Acoma pot, ca 1900

Above:   Ca. 1175-1300

Above:  Sikyatki, ca 1450-1500

 Above:  Acoma, ca 1890-1910

Below:  Pot attributed to Nampeyo (Hopi-Tewa, ca 1860-1942).  First photo from a book.  

  Below, the spiral in the bowl is my addition:

Below:  Mask, Tsimshian, ca. 1800-1850 (photographed through glass):

Sunday, July 13, 2014


13 July 2014

To Greg Pond

Dear Mr. Pond…Greg…

I thanked you for the poems you read at The Sacred Grounds Café on Wednesday, 2 July 2014, all of them good, but, because I love her, I was especially taken with the poems about Billie Holiday.  I have been reading the rest of your poems too in the 2014 edition of The Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, and I like them all very much.  I was glad to hear someone read a poem about Billie, especially someone who admires her deeply.  It probably sounds too glib to people who ask me who influenced my writing that I always say, “Shakespeare and Billie Holiday.”  When we spoke and I said, “”Billie’s singing is poetry, I could see that you immediately understood what I meant.

The next day, walking around Lake Merritt in Oakland, I passed a tall, lean Black man who had laid out framed photos that were particularly good of many great 20th century African-American leaders and musicians.  We talked and realized we had been around long enough to marvel at our memories that almost become fantasies of the decades of changes in ever-changing San Francisco Bay Area, my memories beginning in 1959, while his knowledge were more extensive as he was born in San Francisco.  I purchased the photo shown here of a beautiful, happy, and healthy young Billie Holiday.

Around 1961, invited by a fellow soldier to his hometown, Hollywood/Los Angeles, while we were both on leave from Fort Ord (Monterey).  My friend introduced me to a Black judge whose first name was Benjamin.  His courtroom was televised daily.  As I expressed only a vague knowledge of Billie Holiday, he invited me to his apartment and, as if part of a necessary ritual before listening properly to Billie for the first time, we drank a bottle of whiskey  

Being gay and black was by far the more difficult challenge at that time, but I had my own troubled history, besides gay life being a secret underground at the time.  I had my share of abuse and empathy for harms others had experienced too so I had no difficulty feeling close to the pain in Billie’s voice, and it was a perfect introduction by a sensitive and discerning man in the same minority as Billie, a group whose history in the U.S. for hundreds of years was the path of the cruel lash of a whip.  Ben was a man who still, in torment, witnessed the ongoing racism in the laws he had to enforce where he could not exercise proper justice for other Black man; at times he felt the law gave him the terrible choice of releasing someone pathological or giving him a death sentence.  The effect of that ethical dilemma led, a year or two after we met, to his committing suicide, a memory that lingers as information as Billie’s own biography.

Anyone who has suffered abuse, estrangement, exclusion – you name it – may find companionship in Billie’s singing.  She can dig into us and converse with our sorrow and fear and, beyond the wealth and range of feelings she expresses, there is also something saving in her vocal technique of twists and pauses  (her caesuras are the best!) helps exorcize us through the strength of her singing as it, undoubtedly kept her going too.

I have a graphic elsewhere, perhaps on my blog, that presents a graphic yin and yang of two verses that seems complementary:  Billie Holiday’s “Good Morning, Heartache” and Emily Dickinson’s “Good Night – Midnight.” 

And your reading made me recall something I had forgotten and I dug it out of some old box – a rant I wrote before I had heard of rants. And I remember that I delivered it at the time with passion to a close friend.

Billie’s Blues
(Written in the 1960s, and first recited to Victor Gonzalez)

When it was all over, when the Chief White Fat Ass
Capitalist in America was found sitting midair,
his trousers dropped to his ankles, his hand reaching
for a roll of toilet paper, and toilet paper, stool, and all,
were blown away, he cried, but no nanny came to comfort him.

This time he heard it for himself:  Billie’s Blues,
Bessie’s Blues.  Wail out your rage, stolen Africa!
Sing him how his highest skyscraper almost
touches the bottom of your despair since it was
his skyscraper that dug it deep.  You want to be

my lover, and I hate you so, Big White Hunter!
You need only stop killing to see it.  If you see,
you have already stopped killing.  Oh, please,
dear Night.  All will sing Billie’s Blues soon
‘Cause when your own stomps on you

in the name of someone else, that’s Billie’s Blues.
Other, they said, is your enemy, the big strange Other.
He holds you in a long blue look, and your asshole
dances like cymbals.  When he flutters mascara’ed lashes
fingers run down your spine as if you were a clarinet,

and you blow if you can blow.  Other, brother, is The Human.
The Human means well, pushing us forever on
into some brighter and brighter vision, each time
tawdry in no time, each time everybody in one
vision hating and hurting everyone in another vision.

Enjoy the large feeling of striding through this world
freely under breeze and sun, but not always free to do
whatever you like.  Why would you ever bother to wake up?
Why not go on dreaming?  If in this dream of
a large feeling of the world as a place where a human

has a right to stride freely under breeze and sun –
you are in the place where the snake of time turns
against us – or Kindness begins; where our great
mother Justice is just the most precise cutter of cake
wedges you ever saw.  There’s a screwed-up

system, you see, and you happen to be mixed up in it.
Stand aside and let the thing fall.  Let fall whatever
it is that “just has to happen.”  Can you let go of
the Time machine and just be?  Wail, Billie!
with your white gardenia of black in-sight, wail!

-       James McColley Eilers

I see that you are available on the Internet, Greg, and look forward to reading and hearing you there.  Good luck!

Monday, July 07, 2014

Ending Slavery of All Kinds is an Ongoing Process

Ending slavery does not only require the courage to assert freedom but the transformation from an identity where a sense of shame, worthlessness, or hopelessness has been implanted.