Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Saturday's visit to the University of Oregon's newly refurbished museum found me fascinated by two artists -- Kiki Smith and Rick Barstow. I cannot remember what the docent said about Kiki Smith's The Blue Lake because the image was so compelling. I was drawn immediately into the ferocious gaze of the main figure, the distortions, the compelling sense the brown hair was the earth and the woman herself, her body was the lake. Was the painting a mediatation inward, blue the color chosen to remind us of death, of drowning?

The second artist, Rick Barstow, had intrigued me on my first visit because the painting was so dramatic, a deer (?) head affixed to a male torso, intense colors, no arms, helpless but why? Echoes of the Green Man myth perhaps? The docent added that not only was Barstow a Native American artist, but that he was a Vietnam vet. Transformations. Uniquely male view.

Immediately I jumped to the net to explore more of both of these artists. Kiki Smith is already well established, showing at MOMA in New York, but Rick Barstow also has a New York presence in SoHo. I haven't had time to write about what I learned, but I appreciate being able to see more than one work by these two artists, for their interests, ideas and creativity are inspirational, challenging, and compelling.

Kiki Smith at MOMA: http://www.moma.org/exhibitions/2003/kikismith/
Exhibits: http://www.artseensoho.com/Art/PACE/smith97/smith1.html and http://www.varoregistry.com/smith/

Rick Barstow art and statement on being a Native American artist http://members.aye.net/~kacf/Bartow.html NPR Interview http://www.npr.org/programs/talkingplants/features/2003/bartow/
A Time of Visions: http://www.britesites.com/native_artist_interviews/
Barstow at the Froelick Gallery, Portland OR http://www.froelickgallery.com/Artist-Detail.cfm?ArtistsID=227
Interview at: http://www.jca-online.com/ksmith.html

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

It's Tuesday morning. Help! I need a reminder as to why I should like Lord Byron. I know he's considered a great Romantic poet and is revered by the Greeks for his support of their drive to nationalism, but I see his life glorified, and I just get mad.

Here's a man who created himself, not a bad feat. Born with a club foot and overweight, teased dreadfully as he was growing up, he retired to his estate, lived on crackers and water, and then surrounded himself with a coterie of freinds who gathered at wild parties, complete with dancing girls and drinking wine from a skull's head.

When his early poems were published, he became the darling of society. Women were drawn to his beauty and his passion (as well as his nobility), and it didn't matter to him that they might be married or innocent. In fact, he considered women an ornament -- women should not eat in public, he said, it mars their beauty. His liaisons contributed to his death as well; hailed as a hero for going to Greece in a time of their war for independence, he was caught in a rain storm while travelling to be with his married lover, caught a severe cold and died.

Some of the lines of his poems echo in my heart. When I was younger, I idolized him. Today, I see the context of his life and realize how many men patterned their behavior and attitudes toward women after him. So I take it nearly as a personal affront.

Fiero's treatment of Byron is far too sympathetic. She says he was
"alienated from society" (35) and that he was fascinated by the myth of Prometheus "as a symbol of triumphant individualism". My point is he made choices; Prometheus acted for the good of humanity, stealing fire/knowledge from the gods. But Byron's fire is passion without integrity. I have the feeling I'm not being fair. Give me a reason to care again about Byron. Beth

Source: Gloria K. Fiero, The Humanistic Tradition, Vol 5: Romanticism, Realism and the 19th Century World. McGraw-Hill, 2002.