Friday, October 12, 2018

THE ART OF AFRICAN BLACKSMITHING AT UCLA'S FOWLER MUSEUM

The "Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths" exhibit installation at UCLA's Fowler Museum.
(JOSHUA WHITE/JWPICTURES.COM)


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

I can’t say enough for the Fowler Museum at UCLA. It’s set into a little dell beneath Royce Hall, so en route you get to see the sweep of the campus and let your heart be lifted by the old-growth trees, green lawns, and the dear young students making their way in the world.

It’s free.

It’s the perfect size. You can tour the whole thing in an hour and a half.

It has a great gift shop, especially if you like batik throws, corn husk dolls, and change purses made of soda can pop-tops.

There’s always at least one exhibit about a facet of global anthropology, history, geography, or culture you never even knew existed and turns out that you’re dying to learn more about.

Through Dec. 30, 2018, for example, you can catch “Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths.”

Most scholars believe that sub-Saharan Africans began smelting iron around 2,500 years ago. The artifacts on display range in date from the 17th century to the present.

There are agricultural tools: hoes, sickles, axes, and adzes.

There are blades in the form of spears, axes, knives, and swords that were used both in battle and as insignia of property, prestige, and political power. There are bracelets, neck torques, earrings, hair ornaments, and small-scale iron blades used in bodily scarification by certain sub-Saharan Africans to indicate status, identity, and life transitions.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

Monday, October 8, 2018

NEWLY-RELEASED INMATES AND THE POETIC JUSTICE PROJECT


ACTORS DENNIS APEL AND RYAN DUNN
FROM "CROSSING THE LINE."
PHOTO BY CYNTHIA SEMEL.

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

How the Poetic Justice Project is ‘unlocking hearts and minds’ through prison theater

The Poetic Justice Project (PJP), based in Santa Maria, “advances social justice by engaging formerly incarcerated people in the creation of original theatre that examines crime, punishment, and redemption.”

The PJP began in 2009, in conjunction with the William James Association’s Prison Arts Project.

The stats are staggering.

One in 104 American adults is behind bars.

The State of California alone has added 21 state prisons in 30 years, with the prison population expanding from 23,000 to 170,000.

Taxpayers pay $11 billion per year to operate the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Our recidivism rate is its 70 percent — twice the national average.

Enter Deborah Tobola, the PJP’s founding artistic director, and a widely published poet and children’s book author. Tobola, 62, worked for more than 12 years teaching writing and managing an arts program in California prisons.


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE. 


Sunday, October 7, 2018

AS WITH PLANTS, SO WITH PEOPLE




"Back in her garden, Vivian Wiley picked two leaves from a saxifrage, one of which she placed on her bedside table, the other in the living room. "Each day when I get up," she told [research scientist Marcel] Vogel , "I will look at the leaf by my bed and will that it continue to live; but I will pay no attention to the other. We will see what happens."

A month later, she asked  Vogel to come to her house and bring a camera to photograph the leaves. Vogel could hardly believe what he saw. The leaf to which the friend had paid no attention was flaccid, turning brown and beginning to decay. The leaf on which she had focused daily attention was radiantly vital and green, just as if it had been freshly plucked from the garden."

--The Secret Life of Plants, by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird

[FROM WIKI: "The book has been criticized by botanists such as Arthur Galston for endorsing pseudoscientific claims.According to Galston and physiologist Clifford L. Slayman many of the claims in the book are false or unsupported by independent verification and replicable studies.

Botanist Leslie Audus noted that the book is filled with nonsensical "outrageous" claims and should be regarded as fiction.]

Philistines! Killjoys!







Wednesday, October 3, 2018

MASTER WOODWORKER SAM MALOOF: FURNITURE WITH A SOUL




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

Sam Maloof, Southern California master woodworker, is known as a pioneer of the post-WWII Studio Craft movement.

Born in 1916 to Lebanese immigrants, Maloof was the seventh of nine children. The family was raised in Chino.

With neither college degree nor formal training, he was known for creating a 2-D design on paper and a 3-D design in his brain.

His wife of 50 years, Alfreda, was not only his business manager but the heart and soul of his vocation. “Her faith and love sustained me,” he said. She died in the fall of 1998.

His woodworking vocation was launched when, still single, he rented a bungalow and thought to replace the cheap furniture with pieces of his own that he fashioned from castoff plywood and red oak floorboards salvaged from railroad cars.

He and Alfreda Ward, a teacher and artist, married in 1948. He landed a job with designer Millard Sheets, head of the art department at Scripps College, but the pay was low and the couple started out with next to no money. Five years later they bought several acres, dotted with semi-derelict buildings, in the Alta Loma district of Rancho Cucamonga.

His first work area comprised an old shed and a chicken coop. Unable to afford even a router or band saw, he crafted his early works from the 1950s — a table with “tree branch” legs and a cork top, for example — almost exclusively with a lathe.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE. 

A VERY EARLY MALOOF CHAIR
HIS WIFE, FREDA, EXPERTLY WRAPPED IT WITH CLOTHESLINE. 

Friday, September 28, 2018

WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND


THIS IS THE VERSION WE HAD AS KIDS,
NOW SELLING FOR HUNDREDS OF BUCKS ON EBAY!

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


Remembering the lessons of an old English children’s book on God, suffering, and love

One of my favorite books as a kid was “Whistle Down the Wind” (1958) by Mary Hayley Bell.

In it, three children from a working-class English village find an escaped criminal in the barn and think he’s Jesus.

Here’s how the story starts:

I am ten, and they call me Brat.

Of course, that isn’t my right name, nobody could be christened with a name like that.

All our lousy first names are birds’ names. Don’t ask me why. I imagine our mother was keen on birds and flying, though I don’t know much about her. She flew off some years ago with this character called Peregrine. She lives in South Africa on a different kind of farm, and once in a way we get a Christmas card — which is quite useful as we keep the stamp.

Brat (real name Brambling), her 12-year-old sister Swallow, and their 7-year-old brother Merlin (who answers to the name of Poor Baby) all live with their father, Slim, on a farm in the south of England. While affectionate and curious, the children don’t have a terribly high opinion of adults.

They don’t understand half of what the vicar says, for example, but they like him nonetheless (he lets their dogs sit in the pew with them at church). They also understand more than they know.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.


THE ALSO UNBELIEVABLY GREAT
FILM ADAPTATION STARS
THE AUTHOR'S DAUGHTER,
HAYLEY MILLS, AND ALAN BATES

Monday, September 24, 2018

"IF YOU CAN'T STAND YOUR PROBLEMS, TRY KNEELING"





Back from Pittsburgh--loved it, loved the people, loved the whole experiences. Just stellar. Possibly more later, after I get some sleep.

While there, I put in a request to be an honorary Yinz.

*****

The three best pieces I've read on the sexual abuse in the Church.

"Here Comes Everybody: On prayer, the lessons of history and a vulnerable Church tempted by blind rage in a time of crisis," by Msgr. Richard Antall in Angelus News.

"How to Respond" by Fr. Ron Rolheiser, syndicated columnist.

"Humility is the Only Weapon," by Junno Arocho Esteves on comments by Pope Francis, in Angelus News.


MY ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONIST PIX
OF THE PITTSBURGH SKYLINE AT NIGHT
FROM
MOUNT WASHINGTON



Tuesday, September 18, 2018

COME VISIT WITH ME IN PITTSBURGH!!


I am off to Pittsburgh, PA for the weekend! That's right. The good people of St. Louise de Marillac Parish and others are welcoming me.

If you can't read the flyer, the details are on my Events Page. 

I'm giving three talks, the first on Friday night, the second on Sat morn 10:30 and the third Sat. eve at 7. I'll be mingling, hobnobbing, and selling and signing several of my book titles. If you're in the area, please come by and say hi!

Friday, September 14, 2018

A THEOLOGY OF FACES: IN FOCUS: EXPRESSIONS AT THE GETTY

War Rally, 1942
Lisette Model (American, born Austria, 1901 - 1983) 
 Copyright: © Estate of Lisette Model, courtesy Baudoin Lebon/Keitelman
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

This week's arts and culture column begins:

The Getty’s new photography exhibit showcases the expressions of all mankind

Through October 7 at the Getty is a smallish photography exhibit with an intriguing theme: faces. Featuring 45 works from the museum’s permanent collection, it’s called “In Focus: Expressions.”

“The human face has been the subject of fascination for photographers since the medium’s inception. This exhibition includes posed portraits, physiognomic studies, anonymous snapshots and unsuspecting countenances caught by the camera’s eye, offering a close-up look at the range of human stories that facial expressions — and photographs — can tell.”

Some will be familiar.

There’s Edward Steichen’s “Greta Garbo” (1928), the one where she’s scrunched up in a luxe black sweater and appears to be holding her head together with her hands.

There’s Walker Evans’ iconic photo of Alabama sharecropper’s wife, Allie Mae Burroughs: the delicate neck, the furrow of worry between her young brows, the tiny scab on her lip, the thousand-yard stare.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

  Demonstration, New York City, 1963 
Leonard Freed (American, 1929 - 2006)
Copyright: © Leonard Freed / Magnum Photos, Inc.
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Brigitte and Elke Susannah Freed 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

J'ACCUSE!


One of the effects of social media, it seems to me, is that the whole world has become like a giant courtroom with the combatants shrieking at each other, "J'accuse!!" I accuse, I accuse, I accuse. We are led to believe that the shrieking, the outrage, the often utter failure to take responsibility for our own actions equals strength. Mothers spy on and accuse other mothers, friends rat out friends, committers of egregiously poor sportsmanship, judgment, morality or taste blame the purported perpetrators of racial, sex, and/or gender discrimination. 

Whereas real strength, it seems to me, consists in going to the other, in private, in the trembling and awe of love, to present a grievance, or to say "You hurt me" or "I love you and can we talk?" or "I'm worried about you--is there anything I can do to help?" or perhaps most difficult: "I was wrong and I'm sorry."

Like lemmings, or indentured slaves, we willingly drag the most intimate matters of our bodies and hearts into this public forum. 

"Connecting" comes to be a public performance, not an intimate exchange. And this phenomenon has spilled over to all of culture, so that we are less and less in contact with...reality. 

No accident, of course, that one name for Satan is The Accuser. 

Yesterday I went to noon Mass at St. Philip's in Pasadena. Afterward a class of what looked like first-graders, were lined up in the parking lot in their dear school uniforms. Another parishioner, a guy about my age, both paused and cast our eyes over these frisky little kids the way you'd cast eyes over a garden.

Like the deer that yearns for running streams,
so my soul is yearning for you, my God.
--Psalm 42




OCTOBER IS PLANTING MONTH IN THE GARDEN! 




Friday, September 7, 2018

OUT OF EAST AFRICA: FINDING TRIUMPH IN THIS VALE OF TEARS



JOAN AND ALAN ROOT

This week's arts and culture column begins:

On my summer travels this year, I stopped to riffle through a sidewalk cart of used books.

There I unearthed a treasure by journalist Mark Seal: “Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Mysterious Death in Africa” (Random House, $14).

In it I learned a bit of the checkered history of East Africa, and of Kenyan wildlife photographers Joan and Alan Root. Their heyday was the 1960s and ’70s and their films include “Mysterious Castles of Clay” (termites), “The Year of the Wildebeest” and “Two in the Bush” (don't miss the last 10 minutes or so, when the two coax a spitting cobra to firehose venom directly onto Joan’s eyeglasses).

I finished “Wildflower” on the plane home. This was the passage that stuck:

“One of the last films Alan and Joan Root produced together was entitled ‘The Legend of the Lightning Bird.’ As always, she and Alan spent a year together in the bush, persistently filming the hammerkop — known as the lightning bird and regarded as the king of Africa’s birds — in its inexplicable annual ritual: building a massive and flamboyant nest, a stack of scavenged vegetation as big as a bathtub, complete with a thick thatched roof crowned by feathers, animal hooves, and sometimes even wildebeest tails, only to have the magnificent structure decimated by time and predators.


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

CRAZY RIVER: EXPLORATION AND FOLLYIN EAST AFRICA
BY RICHARD GRANT