Thursday, September 28, 2017

E. CHARLTON FORTUNE AT THE PASADENA MUSEUM OF CALIFORNIA ART

E. CHARLTON FORTUNE
CHRIST MEETS HIS MOTHER
FROM THE SEVEN SORROWS OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
FOR THE PROVIDENCE HOSPITAL CHAPEL
, OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA, 1953.
OIL ON PANEL, 32 X 34 INCHES.
COLLECTION OF PAULA AND TERRY TROTTER


Last week's arts and culture column is about one of California's foremost (and perhaps least known) female painters.

It starts like this:

“E. Charlton Fortune: The Colorful Spirit” is on view at the Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA) through Jan. 7, 2018.

The exhibit (comprised of approximately 80 works) was curated by Scott A. Shields, Ph.D., California art scholar and associate director of Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum.

Notes Shields, “In the early to mid-20th century, E. Charlton Fortune was one of the most important California artists, male or female. The fact that she was a woman working at a transitional moment and in an atmosphere that still discouraged female professionals makes her achievements all the more extraordinary. No one disputes her standing as one of California’s most prestigious artists.”

Fortune (1885-1969) was born in Sausalito and named Euphemia; her friends would know her as Effie. Like her father, she had a cleft palate: a condition for which reconstructive surgery was not yet available.

She experienced many other traumas. Her father died when she was not yet 10. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed the Fortune family home, almost all of her paintings and the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art, where she had studied.


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

Monday, September 25, 2017

ABBOT MATTHEW





A couple of years ago, I was graced to meet Abbot Matthew Stark of coastal Rhode Island's Portsmouth Abbey.

Last spring, the good abbot sent me the best "spiritual reflection" I've read in possibly years. It's an essay called "My Schnorrer is Calling Again." "Schnorrer" is a Yiddish term meaning "a beggar or scrounger; a layabout." And the piece is about that special person in your life who is absolutely, beyond-redemption, flat-out impossible. Who blows apart your very best efforts to be good, kind, helpful, patient, effective. Who is manipulative, double-crossing, passive-aggressive, unfair and inconsistent. .

And who, damn our hearts, we love. And who, in some bizarre way, loves us.

Rev. Steve Schlossberg, rector of St John's Episcopal Church in Troy, New York, is the author. His "schnorrer" is Ruby, who exemplifies Christ's "The poor you will always have with you" and is constantly hitting up the Reverend for, among other things, money. He sums up like this:

"This is who Ruby is to me. She is insufferable and she is proud, she is stubborn as a mule, subtle as a serpent, and she is absolutely impervious to suggestion. When I am being honest with myself, I can see that Ruby's approach to me mirrors my approach to God. When I am being honest with Ruby, I try to get her to see that only does my money do her no good, it perpetuates what does her ill. How many more times must I explain this to her, to no effect? How many more times will I wilt and give her money, to no effect? I do not know. I do not see any way out of this. I am afraid that what Jesus said is true: I am afraid that Ruby will be with me always. And though I am reasonably sure that I will never do her any good, I am persuaded that in some mysterious way she is doing me some good.

A lowly handmaid of the Lord, Ruby is my schnorrer. I remain the Lord's."

The piece so hit home, plus I have another dear friend in the area, that I made a special point of inviting myself to the Abbey on my visit back East in August.

We greeted one another joyfully. Then I coaxed, "Did you have a good summer?"

"No!" the Abbot chuckled.

I cracked up and commiserated, "Are they ever good?"

Then I told him my favorite Thomas Merton quote: "The man of solitude is happy, but he never has a good time."

"Oh that's rich," he said. "I have to write that one down."

We had a lovely lunch with the monks. Then the Abbot , who's been at Portsmouth over 60 years and has had some health problems as of late, showed me the garden and the library. We sat down for a minute in his office.

"So what is it, the getting old? It's a thing, right?"

"Oh yes. It's uncharted territory."

"So what?...How?"

He looked at me.

"Prayer."

I looked at him.

"Yeah.  I thought so."

"Hang on a minute," he said, laboriously made his way to the door, disappeared for a few minutes, and returned with a photocopied sheet. On it was written:

THE LIVING SPIRIT

Prayer, in the sense of union with God, is the most crucifying thing there is. One must do it for God's sake; but one will not get any satisfaction out of it, in the sense of feeling "I am good at prayer," I have an infallible method." That would be disastrous, for what we want to learn is precisely our own weakness, powerlessness, unworthiness. Nor ought one to to expect a "sense of the supernatural"...And one should wish for no prayer, except precisely the prayer that God gives us--probably very distracted and unsatisfactory in every way!

On the other hand, the only way to pray is to pray; and the way to pray well is to pray much. If one has no time for this, then one must pray regularly. But the less one prays, the worse it goes. And if circumstances do not permit even regularity, then one must put up with the fact that when one does try to pray, one can't pray--and our prayer will probably consist of telling this to God...The rule is simply: pray as you can, and do not try to pray as you can't. 

--Abbot John Chapman (1865-1933)



THESE ARE DOGWOOD SHOTS I TOOK
ON THE GROUNDS OF THE ABBEY IN JUNE, 2016.
LEGEND HAS IT THAT THE CROSS WAS MADE OF DOGWOOD LUMBER
(THE TREE WOULD HAVE HAD TO HAVE BEEN MUCH HARDIER BACK THEN).
ONE VERSION OF THE LEGEND CONTINUES: "THE BLOSSOMS ARE IN THE FORM OF A CROSS--TWO SHORT AND TWO LONG...AND IN THE CENTER OF THE OUTER EDGE OF EACH PETAL THERE WILL BE NAIL PRINTS, BROWN WITH RUST AND STAINED WITH RED, AND  IN THE CENTER OF THE FLOWER WILL BE A CROWN OF THORNS."

P.S. Yesterday's mail brought these pix from my visit--I'm not sure who took them but thank you!



WAIT JUST A MINUTE! ARE YOU TELLING ME WE'RE SUPPOSED
TO TRY TO BE KIND  TO PEOPLE?! 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

SMALL EVERYDAY ACTIONS



To be Christian does not mean, first of all, "to be someone good," which was the noble but dangerous illusion of the Stoics and the Jansenists. For Thérèse [of Lisieux], because of her inability, it is a question of learning to rely on someone else. Learning to change her point of support, because then one offers to God the one thing he cannot achieve without us, the offering of our freedom. It is not, in the first place, fantasies or even pious ideas that count, but gestures or small everyday actions.

--Fr. Bernard Bro, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: Her Family, Her God, Her Message


STILL GETTING USED TO NEW CAMERA.
I KIND OF LIKE THE "MISTAKES," LIKE THIS ONE. 





Saturday, September 16, 2017

THE RED SHOES



Here's how this week's arts and culture piece begins:

As a child, Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) was poor and forced to work for a living as a tailor’s apprentice. He suffered a lifelong unrequited love for opera singer Jenny Lind. His “fairy tales” are full of orphaned and abandoned children, inanimate objects that suffer human emotions, and allegorical figures — the Ugly Duckling, the Little Mermaid — who speak to humanity’s profound existential loneliness.

“The Red Shoes” is one of Andersen’s more extreme stories. Karen, a girl whose mother has recently died, is taken under the care of a rich old woman with bad eyesight. Karen covets a pair of red patent leather shoes, finagles the old lady into buying them and, without her benefactor’s knowledge, wears them to her confirmation, then to her First Communion.

“When Karen knelt at the altar rails the chalice was put to her lips, she thought only of the red shoes. She seemed to see them floating before her eyes. She forgot to join in the hymn of praise and she forgot to say the Lord’s Prayer.”

Well! Nothing good can come of that.


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

CELEBRATED ENGLISH CHOREOGRAPHER
MATTHEW BOURNE'S BALLET OPENS THIS WEEK AT THE AHMONSON
IN DOWNTOWN LA.
I WILL BE THERE WITH MY PALS JULIA AND AARON! 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

EXPOSED


"I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed. Basically, that's why I photograph, in the simplest language."
--Garry Winogrand








Friday, September 8, 2017

"LA SORGENTE": TEN NEOCLASSICAL ARIAS BASED ON THE POETRY OF POPE JOHN PAUL II




This week's arts and culture column begins like this:

Mark your calendars for Sunday, Oct. 8, at the John Anson Ford Theatre in Hollywood. On this night at 7:30 p.m. will be the world premiere of Victor Vanacore’s “La Sorgente,” a collection of 10 neoclassical arias based on the poetry of St. Pope John Paul II.

Vanacore is a Grammy-winning composer/arranger who has been at the forefront of classical and pop music for more than 30 years. He’s worked closely with The Jackson Five and Ray Charles, among many others.

The 10 poems featured in the 90-minute “La Sorgente” come from Pope John Paul’s book of meditations, “Trittico Romano: Meditazioni” (“The Roman Triptych: Meditations”), which are widely regarded as his spiritual last testament.

The premiere will feature a 45-piece orchestra, two soprano and four tenor soloists, among them Lisa Eden and Orson Van Gay. Vanacore will also conduct.

He started music early, back in New Haven, Connecticut.

“My parents had a lot of kids. My dad was a machinist, my mother was a homemaker and my aunt would clean an extra day at the convent on Saturdays just so I could go to Catholic school there. I never had to worry about what I was going to become because from the beginning I had perfect pitch. The nuns exposed me to classical and other kinds of music. I had all the Beethoven sonatas done by the fourth grade.”


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

INDIAN SUMMER READING

FRANCISCO DE ZURBURÁN
THE VIRGIN MARY AS A CHILD, c. 1658-60


"The more I looked at people the more I hated them because I knowed there wasn't any place for me with the kind of people I knowed. I used to wonder why they was here anyhow?  A bunch of goddamned sons of bitches looking for somebody to make fun of...some poor fellow who ain't done nothin' but feed chickens."-

--Charles Starkweather, serial murderer, quoted in Killer Couples: Shocking True Accounts of the World's Deadliest Duos


“Son,’he said,’ ye cannot in your present state understand eternity…But ye can get some likeness of it if ye say that both good and evil, when they are full grown, become retrospective. Not only this valley but all their earthly past will have been Heaven to those who are saved. Not only the twilight in that town, but all their life on Earth, too, will then be seen by the damned to have been hell. That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say “Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences”: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin. Both processes begin even before death. The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why, at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to blackness down there, the Blessed will say “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven, : and the Lost, “We were always in Hell.” And both will speak truly.”

--C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce



Saturday, September 2, 2017

THE MESSENGER: A SONGBIRD DOCUMENTARY

OUTSIDE MY KITCHEN WINDOW,
HOUSE FINCHES AND HUMMINGBIRDS PERCH ON THE
CAMELLIA BRANCHES

This week's arts and culture column begins like this:

“The Messenger” is a 2015 documentary directed and written by Sy Rynard.

According to the press kit’s synopsis, “ ‘The Messenger’ is a visually thrilling ode to the beauty and importance of the imperiled songbird, and what it will mean to all of us on both a global and human level if we lose them.”

This, in other words, is a film for us bird lovers the world over.

Songbirds have been singing for millions of years. No matter the age or civilization, people have always understood birds to be messengers. Their message at the moment is that our planet is ill.

Geese, ducks, herons: none are songbirds. Songbirds are distinguished by their more complicated vocal organ, or syrinx. Songbirds tend to be small and tenacious. Songbirds migrate and 10 billion die each year. No one knows where they go. (But God does: “Not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.” Matthew 10:29)

Songbirds are most vulnerable during migration. While trying to refuel, they have to stop down in people’s backyards and parks. This can be perilous. It’s estimated that cats, for example, kill more than 1.4 billion birds a year. Cats are an invasive species, claim the bird lovers, not native or natural to any environment, and have been responsible for the extinction of 32 species of songbirds.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.