Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Still Floating (Bella and Ciwt) --- Days 10/9, 10 & 11

Walk: 1. No  2. Presidio Wall Pickleball, Trader Joe's  3. Goldman Tennis Center, GG Park

Distance: 1. Yoga  2. 4 miles, 1 hour pickle  3. 2.5, 2 hours pickle

Marc Chagall, Romeo and Juliet, 1964, Lithograph

Have you ever wondered who that woman is that floats through so much of Marc Chagall's art?   

Meet Bella.  Chagall did in St. Petersburg in 1909 when he and Bella happened to be visiting friends. He was 22; she was 14, and their young love lasted beyond Bella's death in 1944 and in Marc's heart until he died in 1985.   

Chagall's vibrant, joyous colors and the continual airiness of his images suggest that that long love affair and marriage was blessed with near perfect harmony and dancing peace.  That goes to Chagall's masterful understanding of color and belies the fact that their relationship was called up to endure and rise above multiple and turmultuous events.

Ciwt will tell something of those tomorrow.

Marc Chagall, The Circus, ca 1954, lithograph

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Ungrounded --- Days 10/7 & 8

Walk: 1. TJ's, Presidio Pickleball, Apothaquarium; 2. Presidio Pickleball

Distance: 1. 4.8 miles, couple of pickleball games, some yoga;  2. 2.4 miles, more pickle games, stretches

Rene Magritte, Golconda, 1953, o/c, 31.9" x 39.37"

For unknown reasons Ciwt is feeling a bit up in the air these days.  

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Art World Folk Tale --- Day 10/6

Walk: No (too windy, little Ciwt would blow over)

Distance: Yoga

Janet Sobel, 1893-1968, painting at her Brooklyn home

Once upon a time there was a married woman in her early 40's who picked up a paintbrush for the first time.  She lay down on the floor of her Brooklyn living room and began painting images that reminded her of the people and  folk and fairy tales when she was a little girl named Jennie Olechovsky in Ukraine.

Janet Sobel, Untitled, c. 1941, watercolor and gouche on paper

 Pretty soon the people in her paintings started blending with the colorful vegetation around them.

Janet Sobel, Disappointment, 1943, oil and sand on canvas, 25 x 29.5"

Until they became rhythmic drips of paint pulsing with the vibrating energy of abundant life. 

Janet Sobel (1893-1968)- Milky Way, 1945. Enamel on canvas. 44 7/8 x 29 7/8"

Then, in 1946, a famous art dealer, Peggy Guggenheim gave this artist, now named Janet Sobel, a one person show in New York.  And, as luck would have it, the exceedingly powerful art critic, Clement Greenberg, brought the fairly unknown artist, Jackson Pollock, to the show where they saw Sobel's vibrant, inventive splashed paint work.  And the rest was history.

For Pollack whose new "drip paintings" along with Greenburg's tireless backing, soon catapulted him to international fame and notoriety.  

Sobel moved with her husband and five children to New Jersey and kept painting in basic obscurity as "an outsider," essentially an imprecise art term for self-taught as opposed to academy-trained artists.  

Was this tale a tragedy for Sobel?  Many might say so.  But did she want fame and recognition?  What would it have done to her marriage in that era?  Was she ultimately more content without dealers and collectors looking over her shoulder, having the privacy which allowed her immensely complex, layered and intense creations  to flow organically onto the canvas?  

Ciwt wonders.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Gorgeous, Sad Walls --- Day 10/5

Walk: Polk Street

Distance: 3 miles, small yoga

Ciwt doesn't often mention in food-obsessed San Francisco that she's not that interested in food.  Surviving in a tasty way, Yes!  But she enjoys most anything that is brought to the table and is not a foodie.

So the Legion of Honor's current (and Grand Lockdown Reopening!) exhibition, Last Meal at Pompeii,  was a bit of a challenge for her.  First, it focuses on all things food: cooking and eating utensils, tableware, dining furniture, sculptures of food, and, ugh, actual ash-covered, petrified food.  Second, much of  what she was viewing was at Pompeii the moment all life forms were instantaneously extinquished by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius 24 August, AD 79.  

In all that food and ruination what began to stand out for her was an art form she had never particularly noticed before: the painted walls.  Still so lively, richly colored and beautiful even in ancient, fragmented form.

Fresco Depicting a Woman, Roman, Pompeii, 1st Century AD

Turns out the history of Roman painting is essentially a history of wall painting on plaster.  And, really, it is glorious.  

The wonder of these frescoes having survived the vast destruction of Vesuvius - which buried much of the region around the Bay of Naples including  the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum - must be due in large part to the elaborate methods and materials that were employed in their creation.  Wall painters at the time inserted sheets of lead in the walls to prevent moisture from them from attacking the paint.  Then they applied as many as seven layers of plaster on top of which they worked in marble powder which accounts for the mirror like sheen and luster still visible today.

As if that wasn't complex enough, there was the creation of colors for the frescoes.  The red you see above was derived either from cinnabar, red ocher, or from heating white lead.  Ocher was extracted from mines and served for yellow.  Blue was made from mixing sand, purple was usually (and impossibly thinks Ciwt) obtained from sea welks and that deep black below was drawn from carbon created by burning brushwood or pine chips.

Fresco with siren, sea monsters, and niche on black ground, Roman, AD 50-79

Such intricate, advanced techniques, such care and artistic skill!  Sad to see the frescoes after the cataclysmic circumstances that froze them in the past.  But much appreciation and admiration to the artists and artisans who created this timelessly beautiful wall art.


Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Wow, They Don't Succ --- Day 10/4

 Walk: Legion of Honor for Last Supper at Pompeii Exhibition, GG Pickleball

Distance: 2.5 miles, Yoga, 1 Hour Pickleball

Faithful readers may remember that Ciwt is not that fond of succulents. But this colorful little sidewalk garden full of them goes a long way toward bringing her around.  Just in time since we are in need of drought tolerant vegetation out here.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Sports Column --- Day 10/3

Walk: Presidio Pickleball!  Monday errands

Distance: 3.5 miles, just a few careful games pickle, yoga

So in the past Ciwt has avoided those two and half evenings of prime time television devoted to the NFL draft.  But this year, the wind, cold and her recovering back had kept her mostly inside and exausting all her reading and puttering energies. What else was there to do except watch the draft?

You know, it was fun and heartwarming!  Those boys were so impossibly young, so awestruck, and their families were either dazed in excitement or in joyful, relieved tears.  So many years of who knows how many sacrifices had led to this moment.  You couldn't help but wish them all the best while also knowing this was their first step into the real, grueling, often painful and  punishing world of pro football. Some of those kids might some day be Hall of Famers and others, perhaps most, will have other fates.

And speaking of sports, Ciwt is happy to report she was back on the pickleball court today.  Not for long and quite gingerly, but, even that little went a long way toward 'unlanguishing' her.  Fingers crossed...

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Never Too Late --- Day 10/2

Walk: Artist friend, Lorna Strotz's art exhibition at Piedmont Art Walk

Distance: Not far in lovely Piedmont, small yoga.  Nice, relaxing day with actual people

Anthony Hopkins in The Father

Ciwt was a bit shocked when Anthony Hopkins won the Oscar for Best Actor.  She was in good company: the actor himself was off in Wales, apparently with nary a thought of winning.

The reason for Ciwt's surprise is simple: she hadn't seen The Father. She still might not have if her 'movie partner' back East hadn't texted her to watch it.  

If you're like Ciwt and staying away from what you fear will be an unnerving or depressing look at dementia, fear not.  The French playwright, Florian Zeller, has written a script which is unsparing in its portrayal of the stubborness and grip of dementia while giving the man who sufferrs from it dignity and a wide range of personality.  And then Anthony Hopkins makes him soar while breaking your heart.  

It is an incredible accomplishment by the great actor.  All the more so because there isn't a moment when you think Hopkins is acting.  He comes off the screen into your understanding with completely natural spontaneity.  Which of course it isn't.  

After all these years of watching the 83 year old actor excel in so many parts, Ciwt finally learned that that utter naturalness is what people in the theater and cinema worlds - writers, directors, fellow actors - know him for.  And marvel at.  Who, thirty years later, doesn't still get chills visualing Hopkins hissing "Hello Clarice" in Silence of the Lambs?  

And that 'naturalness' is as 'natural' as anyone's at the top of his or her field.  In other words, it comes from innate exceptional abilities, razor sharp focus and near constant training and practice.  After memorizing his lines, Hopkins rehearses them privately as many as 200 times until they are embedded in his being and truly 'spontaneous.'  Then, when he comes to the set for filming, he's done with rehearsing.  Ideally, and as much as possilbe Zeller gave him that, he is filmed just once.  As Hopkings himself has said about rehearsing close to the time of production, "You sit in a hotel banquet room and rehearse the thing to death.  You can overdo it.  As an actor, you need to clear the brain of other thinking and have a sense of ease and a sense fun."

And, there it is!  The father's struggle in th emovie should be tragic, but Hopkins elevates it into something that has wings because you can see the character's quick mind at work however imperfectly and somewhere, somehow you sense he and Hopkins are feeling that sense of ease and fun.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Day 10/1 --- Day 10/1

 Walk: Presidio

Distance:3.5 miles, Yoga

Hello, newborn CIWT 10.

Ten years ago Ciwt wasn't Ciwt yet and wasn't clear or particularly interested in what a blog was.  But a friend had sent her an entry written by someone's son-in-law, and politeness dictated that she read it and respond.

His blog subject was, yawn, his happy marriage with adorable children.   Yawn again.  But he happened to include a sentence which read "Writing every day changed my life."  This echoed similar reports Not-Yet-Ciwt had encountered over the years.  "Okay," she thought, "I'm ready for that life change.  I'll do it!"

So she became Ciwt and every day for a year, wherever she was, without fail, she made some entry, no matter how paltry, sometimes with no words even, just a photo. It actually - writing (or making an entry) - was quite challenging.

At the end of the year, she looked around.  No Prince Charming, no lottery winnings, same home, etc.  The only change she was aware of was that that blogging son-in-law had gotten a divorce.  "Oh well," she thought. "That's that."   

And that's when she noticed how her life had changed!  No way was she going to give up CIWT she realized.  CIWT had become a companion, quietly always with her - noticing things, wondering what to write or what to do if nothing came to mind, researching, daring her to put down something even if she throught it was terrible.  A friend, a mentor, an important presence.  And! during that year there had been comments from actual readers,  Imagine that, readers(??)!  

Without noticing it, CIWT had changed her.  CIWT 2 began.  

And now here are Ciwt, and appreciated readers wherever you are, on Day 1 of CIWT 10.  The journey continues.