Film History: Luchino Visconti

Photographers Unknown, Parts and Pieces Making a Whole: Set Fourteen

Born in Milan in November of 1906, Luchino Visconti di Modrone, Count of Lonate Pozzolo, was an Italian screenwriter, stage director and filmmaker. A major figure in Italian art and culture, he was one of the pioneers of cinematic neorealism, a film movement that explored the conditions of the poor and lower working class, which was shot almost exclusively on location and generally filmed with nonprofessional actors and local people.

One of seven children born into a prominent noble family in Milan, Luchino Visconti grew up in the family seat, the Palazzo di Modrone in Via Cerva, as well as in Grazzano Viconsti Castle, the family estate. Exposed in his early years to music, art and theater,Visconti studied cello with the Italian cellist and composer Lorenzo de Paolis and met the poet and playwright Gabriele D’Annunzio, composer Giacomo Puccini, and the conductor Arturo Toscanini. 

During the second World War, Visconti joined the Italian Communist Party, which he saw as the only viable opponent to Mussolini’s Italian Fascism. After Mussolini’s overthrow and Italy’s armistice in September of 1943 with the Allies, he began working with the Italian resistance and provided his villa in Roma as a meeting place for oppositional artists. After the Germans invaded Italy, Visconti went into hiding in the mountains where he hid English and American prisoners of war after their escapes. He also provided shelter to the resistance fighters in Rome. 

Through the intercession of their common friend Coco Chanel, Luchino Visconti began his filmmaking career as a set dresser on directorJean Renoir’s 1936 short feature “Partie de Campagane”. He also worked with Renoir on the 1941 historical drama “Tosca”, until it was interrupted by the war. Along with film director Roberto Rossellini, Visconti joined the salon of Vittorio Mussolini, who was then Italy’s national arbitrator for cinema and the arts. While with this group of artists, he wrote the screenplay for his first film as director, the 1943 “Ossessione (Obsession)”, one of the first neorealist movies to be made. Visconti, in collaboration with a group of writers, adapted the film from a French version of “The Postman Always Rings Twice” given to him byJean Renoir during the time they worked together in France.

In 1948, Visconti wrote and directed “The Earth Trembles”, an exploration of working-class fishermen in a small village, which was based on Giovanni Verga’s novel “The House by the Medlar Tree”. This film received a Special International Award at the 9th Venice International Film Festival. After filming his 1951 drama film “Bellissima”, a satire of the postwar Italian film industry, Visconti diverted from the neorealist movement with his 1954 melodrama “Senso”, a color film which combined romanticism with realism. He returned to neorealism with his 1960 “Rocco and His Brothers”, a story about Southern Italians who migrate to Milan hoping to find financial stability. This film won Silver Ribbons from the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists for Best Director and Screenplay. 

Through the 1960s, Luchino Visconti’s films became more personalized. He felt the conflict between the post-war world of difficult economic and moral conditions, including its poverty and injustice, and his origins from an important and wealthy noble family. He considered himself as belonging to a past world, particularly that of the nineteenth-century. Visconti’s 1963 “The Leopard”, based on author Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s novel of the same name, depicts the decline of the old social order and its aristocracy and the rise of the new modern world. In his research for the film, he searched through world literature for relevant works to show discrepancies between familial generations and their world views. “The Leopard”, the sixth most popular film of the year in France, won the Palme d’Or at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival.

Visconti’s 1969 “The Damned”, tells the story of a German industrialist’s family which begins to disintegrate during the Nazi’s consolidation of power in the 1930s. It is regarded as the first of Visconti’s films described as “The German Trilogy”; this 1969 film is followed by the 1971 “Death in Venice” and the 1973 “Ludwig”, a biographical film about the life and death of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The October opening of “The Damned” in Rome met with critical acclaim; however, it faced controversy from the rating board due to its sexual content, including depictions of homosexuality, pedophilia, rape and incest. Upon its entry to the United States, it was given an X rating, which was only lowered to an R rating after twelve minutes of offending footage were cut. The film won the Italian Film Journalists’ 1970  Silver Ribbon Award and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

Luchino Visconti’s next film was the1971 “Death in Venice”, written by Visconti and screenwriter Nicola Badalucco. Based on Thomas Mann’s 1912 novel of the same name, it tells the story of composer Gustav von Aschenbach, a man dying from heart disease, who travels with his wife to Venice for rest, unaware that the city is in the midst of a cholera epidemic. The composer soon develops an obsession with the beauty of an adolescent Polish boy named Tadzio, who is staying with his family in the same hotel. “Death in Venice” was nominated for several awards: BAFTA Awards for Best Direction and Best Film, and the 1971 Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Visconti’s film won both the David di Donatello and the Nastro d’Argento for Best Director. 

Baptized and raised in the Roman Catholic church, Luchino Visconti remained a devout Catholic throughout his life. His first three-year relationship, which started in 1936, with photographer Horst P. Horst remained discreet due legal and social conventions of the time. In his later years, Visconti appeared openly with his lovers, among whom were actor Udo Kier and film director Franco Zeffirelli. His last lover was the Austrian actor Helmut Berger, who played  Martin in “The Damned” and later appeared in Visconti’s 1973 “Ludwig” and the 1974 “Conversation Piece”.

Luchino Visconti, who was also a celebrated theater and opera director,  suffered a stroke in 1972. He died in Rome of a second stroke at the age of sixty-nine in March of 1976.  On the island of Ischia where Visconti had his summer residence, there is a museum dedicated to his work.

Note: An interesting article on the film “The Damned”, including information on its technical production, is Wheeler Winston Dixon’s “Grandeur and Decadence: Luchino Visconti’s The Damned (1969)” located at: https://www.sensesofcinema.com/2021/cteq/grandeur-and-decadence-luchino-viscontis-the-damned-1969/

Top Insert Image: Horst P. Horst, “Luchino Visconti, Paris”, 1937, Gelatin Silver Print

Second Insert Image: Luchino Visconti, “Rocco and His Brothers”, (Alan Delon and Renato Salvatori), 1960, Astor Pictures

Third Insert Image: Luchino Visconti, “The Damned” (Helmut Berger, Dirk Bogarde and Ingrid Thulin), Ital-Noleggio Cinematografico and Warner Brothers-Seven Arts 1969,

Fourth Insert Image: Mario Tursi, “Luchino Visconti with Björn Andrésen on the Set of “Death in Venice”, 1970, Gelatin Silver Print

Bottom Insert Image: Luchino Visconti, “The Leopard” (Burt Lancaster), 1963, Titanus/ Parthé/ 20th Century Fox

Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly, “Spectrum Colors Arranged by Chance VI”, 1951, Cut and Pasted Color Coated Paper and Pencil on Four Sheets of Black Paper, 94.6 x 94.6 cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York

Born in Newburgh, New York in May of 1929, Ellsworth Kelly was an American painter, printmaker and a sculptor who was associated with Color Field painting, Minimalism, and the hard-edge painting style. Introduced to ornithology, the study of birds, at an early age by his grandmother, he developed a passion for form and color which he carried into his future works. Encouraged by his early teachers to pursue an artistic career, Kelly studied, starting in 1941, at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute, which he attended until his induction into the Army in 1943.

Entering into military service, Kelly requested to be assigned to the 603rd Engineers Camouflage Battalion which took many inducted artists. During World War II, he served with others in its deception unit, known as the Ghost Army, which used inflatable tanks and other elements of subterfuge, including the art of camouflage, to mislead the enemy forces. Kelly served with the unit until the end of the war’s European phase. From 1946 to 1947, he used the G.I. Bill to study at Boston’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts. 

During his time in Boston, Ellsworth Kelly exhibited in his first group show at the Boris Mirski Gallery and taught art classes at the Norfolk House Center in Roxbury. In 1948, he moved to Paris to study at its School of Fine Arts. Kelly immersed himself in Paris’s artistic resources and met such American artists as composer John Cage and dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham, French surrealist artist Jean Arp and Romanian abstract sculptor Constantin Brâncuși , whose simplification of natural forms had a lasting influence on him.

In 1954 Kelly returned to the United States and settled in New York City. In May of 1956, and again in the fall of 1957, he had exhibitions at Betty Parson’s gallery. Three of Kelly’s works, “Atlantic”, “Bar” and “Painting in Three Panels”,  were selected for the Whitney Museum of American Arts’s exhibition entitled “Young America 1957”; all three works were considered radically different from the other entries in the show.

Ellsworth Kelly left New York City in 1970 and settled in Spencertown, a hamlet about one hundred-thirty miles north of the city. His husband, the photographer Jack Shear, joined him in 1984. Kelly worked in a twenty-thousand square foot extended studio in Spencertown until 2005. At that time, the couple moved to a small 1815 colonial house which they shared until Kelly’s death in December of 2015, at the age of ninety-two.

Ellsworth Kelly made his first abstract paintings in 1949. His 1950 “Seine”, consisting of black and white rectangles arranged by chance, was inspired by the dispersal of light on the surface of water. This was followed by a series of eight collages in 1951 entitled “Spectrum Colors Arranged by Chance I to VIII”, produced  by using number slips of different colors arranged on a large square grid. Kelly’s work gradually increased in size and became more abstract with a focus on shape and masses of color on the canvas plane.

Starting in the 1960s, Kelly started painting on angular and, later,  shaped canvases; the first shaped work was his 1966 “Yellow Piece”. His 1968 “Green White” marks the first appearance of the triangle in his work, a shape which reoccurs throughout his career.  In 1971, Kelly produced a series of fourteen paintings entitled “Chatham Series”, each painting consisting of two panels painted in balancing monochrome colors and joined together. In 1979, he used curves in two-color paintings made of separate panels. In his later works Kelly distilled his palette and worked on rectangular panels of many coats of white, on top of which is placed a shaped black canvas.

An artist of many mediums and styles, Ellsworth Kelly produced many drawings of plants from the late 1940s onward. In the 1960s, he took up printmaking and, from 1964 to 1966, produced his “Suite of Twenty-Seven Lithographs”, during his stay in Paris. His 1988 “Purple/Red/Gray/Orange” at eighteen feet in length may be the largest single-sheet lithograph ever made. From 1959 onwards, Kelly made freestanding folded sculptures; in 1973 for his large-scale outdoor sculptures, he switched mediums to steel, aluminum, or bronze. Kelly produced a total of one hundred and forty sculptures in his lifetime.

Top Insert Image: Onni Saari, “Ellsworth Kelly in his Broad Steet Studio, New York”, 1956, Gelatin Silver Print

Second Insert Image: Ellsworth Kelly, “Colors for a Large Wall”, 1951, Oil on Sixty Four Canvas Panels, 240 x 240 cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York

Third Insert Image: Ellsworth Kelly, “Spectrum IV”, Oil on Thirteen Canvas Panels, 297.2 x 297.2 cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York

Bottom Insert Image: Ellsworth Kelly, “Meschers”, 1951, Oil on Camvas, 149.9 x 149.9 cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York

John Cavanaugh

The Sculptural Work of John Cavanaugh

Born in Sycamore, Ohio in September of 1921, John Cavanaugh was an American sculptor who lived and worked in the Du Pont Circle area of Washington D.C.. The third son of four born to poor, intensely religious parents, he lost his father to suicide in 1929. Recognizing her son’s artistic talent and seeing no local options where he could study, Hilda Cavanaugh, John’s mother, sent him to the Ursulan convent in Tiffin, Ohio. In 1938, Cavanaugh relocated to Urbana, Ohio, to study art under painter and designer Alice Archer Sewall James. After his studies with James which included sculpture, Cavanaugh registered at Ohio State University, with initial studies in Literature and English Composition. After adding sculpture courses in his second year, he graduated with his Bachelor of Arts in 1945. 

In 1946, John Cavanaugh met and married Janet Corneille in Columbus, Ohio. After a move to Boston where John studied at the Swedenborgian Theological School, the couple had a son together, who due to hydrocephalic syndrome died shortly after birth. A second son, Jon, would later be born in 1951. In 1948, after a move to Iowa, Cavanaugh enrolled at the University of Iowa to study engraving and sculpture. To further his education, he again enrolled at Ohio State University where he continued his sculptural work with experiments in ceramic, cast stone, wood, and sheet metal.

Cavanaugh won the National Sculpture Society’s Purchase Prize in 1951 for his sculpture, “Goose”, which was purchased by Syracuse University’s  Everson Museum. In 1955, he had his first solo exhibitions at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and the Cranbook Academy of Art in Michigan. With the added recognition to his growing reputation, Cavanaugh was given a faculty position at the Columbus Museum School in Georgia where he taught modeling classes. During this period, he began a sculptural series of haunting large-headed children, possibly in reference to his first-born child, which he repeated through the 1960s and 1970s.

In the mid-1950s, John Cavanaugh began working at North American Aviation, a major aerospace manufacturer responsible for a number of historic aircraft. Using metal salvaged from the company’s salvage yard, he created the 1954 hammered metal “Goat Head”, which won the 1954 Ohio Ceramic and Sculpture Exhibition’s highest honor. Through his working at the NAA, Cavanaugh was able to set up a studio space in Columbus, Ohio. The year of 1956 was a difficult one for Cavanaugh. With growing doubts about his sexuality, his marriage, his art and religious beliefs, he left in September of that year for New York, leaving his wife and son, extended family and friends behind. His mother disowned Cavanaugh and tried to turn his three brothers against him; he never saw his mother again and only reconciled with his brothers after her death. Cavanaugh, however, stayed on good terms with both his wife, Janet, and his son. 

Old friends from Ohio helped John Cavanaugh settle on Staten Island; he supported himself by working part-time as an industrial designer and producing window displays and murals for Resident Display in Greenwich Village. Several months after his arrival, John Cavanaugh met Dorothea Denslow, who was acting Director and founder of the New York Sculpture Center in Brooklynn. In return for work at the Center, he received free studio space for his terracotta sculptural work. By 1958, Cavanaugh had his self-confidence back and was regularly working  on new creations. In 1959, he met Greenwich Village resident Philip Froeder, who was studying architecture at Columbia University in New York. They soon became partners, a relationship which lasted until Cavanaugh’s death. 

During the early 1960s, Cavanaugh began to produce bronze castings of his terracotta work, either as a single cast or in small editions. In 1962, he started using lead as a sculptural medium, which enabled him to quickly produce larger-scale sculptures without the prohibitive cost of bronze. Cavanaugh met the established hammered-copper sculptor Nina Winkel during this time; she became an increasingly important influence and support to him. In 1963 Cavanaugh had his first solo exhibition at the Sculpture Center, where he showed forty-seven works in lead, bronze and terracotta to positive reviews.

John Cavanaugh and Philip Froeder moved to Washington D.C. in 1963, where they both set up studio/exhibition spaces in the neighborhood of Du Pont Circle. After his first studio show in 1964 led to major commissions, Cavanaugh presented twice yearly studio exhibitions  from 1964 to 1984; these amounted to eight hundred works in lead, ceramic stoneware and bronze, of which two hundred were life-sized. He also had five additional solo shows in New York’s Sculpture Center, single shows at Ohio State University in 1964, and a show at Indiana’s Ball State University in 1976. 

Cavanaugh regularly exhibited with the National Sculpture Society in New York, which now awards the John Cavanaugh Silver Medal on an annual basis. A recipient of numerous awards, he was awarded the 1984 New York Foundry Prize of the National Sculpture Society. Many of his works are in the public spaces and adorn the facades and walkways of homes in Washington D.C. Cavanaugh’s major commissions include several major works for the Marriott, the Landmark Corporation and the Crown Tower apartment complex in New Haven, Connecticut, among others.

In the early 1980s, John Cavanaugh was stricken with illness, found to be related to cancer from working with lead. During his last two years he worked with intensity; however, by June of 1984, he did not have the strength to hammer the lead into shape. Cavanaugh turned to specialized glass painting and, using a combinations of plastic and was, sculpted pieces to be cast in bronze. By December of that year, he had produced over seventy wax models for casting, including five life-sized figures. John Cavanaugh died in Washington, D.C., on January 9th in 1985.

Cavanaugh’s life partner, Philip Froeder,  fulfilled Cavanaugh’s wish for a final exhibition called “The Spirit of Motion is Almost Balanced”. He also founded the John Cavanaugh Foundation to promote and support the work and ideas of Cavanaugh. Cavanaugh’s sculpture “Demeter” can be seen in the Friendship Garden of the U.S. National Arboretum; his sculpture  of Olive Risley Seward is installed in a private residence in Southeast Washington, near Seward Square.There are several sculptural plaques done by Cavanaugh on buildings in the Dupont Circle area. 

The john Cavanaugh Foundation is located at: http://www.cavanaughfoundation.org

Wilson Bueno: “Yes, the Scorpions of the Heart: Ñandu: Alight They Hit You”

Photographers Unknown, The Scorpions of the Heart

one dusk après une autre I sit ici on this sofa diagonal to the window, and in
sitting it’s presque as if everything’s crumbling into bits; cramps in the guts:
setting sun weaving humid nuances: spaces from où move déjà les occupations
cérémoniales of light and lune: between the crowns of sombreros or entre les
durs vides of the fig tree that devastate into shadow and suspicion in the
crépuscule of the beach town: figuier, couronne, sombreros: la ancestral speech
of fathers and grands-pères that infinitely vanishes into memory, they
entertain all speech et tricot: these Guaraní voices eternalize so simply as they
go on weaving: ñandu: there is no better fabric than the web des leaves tissées
all together, ñandu, together and between the arabesques that, symphoniques,
interweave, in a warp and weft of green and bird et chanson, in the happy
amble of a freedom: ñanduti: ñandurenimbó:

: here I sit: ñandu: to inflect into the crochèterie my ñanduti renderings:
ñandutimichī: smallest ti-fleur that persists with the needle barely for the
excruciating patience of a few hours: in these sutures, salt clocks, that keep
themselves smeared with the fluctuating couleurs du coucher du soleil that play
themselves out in les automnes de maintenant: here ñandu: an opacity of
feeling: winter more than automne panique autumn; ñandu: what is the secret
of identité entre these deux things absolument distinctes: spiders and
scorpions?

: yes, the scorpions of the heart: ñandu: alight they hit you, vous frappent with
all they’ve got: the ñandu bateau mortally occurring: we’ll survive it: even
ostrich-necked, ñanduguasú: fileté in the sand: ñandu: ñandutí: web: the
crochet contorting from one stitch to the next: corolla: ramification of hair and
ligne: slow announcing the fleur of flower most florid: most michī:
ñandutimichī: almost invisible: miraculum: simulacrum: ñandu: mirroir of
God: ñandu: a thousand à vrai dire solitaire ñanduti: the needle as dark désir
for blood et death: the oldie each second ticking older: the boy: how can they be
so green, hovi mboihovi: those eyes of the boy with their myriad green flecks
creating their pigmentation: hovi hovi hovi: my despair was greater than the
recyclical nuit of the beach of Guaratuba where I hear myself meurt: dollyface:
like a passenger at sea: la mer: paraná: ñanduti *

Wilson Bueno, One Dusk Après Une Autre, Paraguayan Sea, 1992, Translation by Erin Moure, 2017

Born in Jaguapita, a city in the state of Paraná, in March of 1949, Wilson Bueno was a major Brazilian literary figure and one of several experimental authors to emerge from the southern city of Curitiba in the late twentieth century. In its importance to the development of modern poetry in Brazil, Bueno’s work stands alongside the experimental works of poets Alice Ruiz, author of over twenty poetry collections,  and Paulo Leminski, whose novel and poetry collections were inspired by the Concrete poetry movement . In additions to his contributions to literature, Bueno was the editor of Curitiba’s cultural journal, O Nicolau, and collaborated with several renowned newspapers in Brazil.

Several early works by Bueno include his first title “Bolero’s Bar”, published in 1986; “Meu tio Roseno, a Cavalo (My Uncle Roseno, on Horseback)” and “Manual de Zoofilia”, both published in 2004; the 2005 “Cachorros do Cén (Heavenly Dogs)’, a finalist for the Portugal Telecom Literature Award; and the 2007 “A Copist de Kafka”, a mixture of fact and fiction which tells the story of Felice Bauer, a professional copyist, and her relationship, through her own words, with the author Franz Kafka. 

Of Wilson Bueno’s early works, the best known and one that has been continuously republished due to its popularity, is his serpentine prose poem “Mar Paraguayo (Paraguayan Sea)”, first published in Brazil in 1992 with a prologue by the late Argentine poet Néstor Perlongher. It is written in a unique mixture of Portuguese and Spanish, known as Portunhol, and Guarani, the three main languages of the border region between Brazil and Paraguay. The book is the confessional narrative of a Paraguayan woman, or possibly a gay man, who moves to Guaratuba, a Brazilian coastal town known locally as the Paraguayan Sea. Through the narrative, the protagonist recounts a life in prostitution and the strong, binding relationship that developed with an older man. The cross-national languages used in the book  are mixed across the page and invoke an unique cadence from the reader’s lips, either vocal or silent.

Later books by Bueno include his tenth book, the 2004 “Amar-te a Ti Nem Sei se com Caricas (I Love You, I Don’t Know If With Caresses)”, which presents the rewriting of a supposed manuscript found among the rubble of an aristocratic house in Rio de Janeiro. This novel, which recreates the speech and habits of nineteenth-century Brazil, won the Viate Literature Scholarship. Bueno’s last work “Mano, a Noite está Velha (Brother, the Night is Old)”, published posthumously in 2011, is a narration told as if to a dead brother, which addresses the issues of death, sexuality, and the relationship to one’s parents.

One of Brazil’s most influential and loved contemporary authors, with several of his titles deemed essential to modern Brazilian literature, Wilson Bueno was murdered at his home in Curitaba, Brazil, in June of 2010 in what was determined to be an example of anti-gay violence. His confessed killer was acquitted by a jury and subsequently released from custody.

Notes: Concrete poetry is an arrangement of linguistic elements, which include words, punctuation, spaces and symbols, where the typographical effect is more important in the conveyance of meaning than the verbal significance  Occasionally referred to as visual poetry, concrete poetry developed from a long tradition of patterned or shaped poems in which words are arranged in such a way as to depict their subject. An early and very basic example is poet George Herbert’s 1633 “Easter Wings”, which was printed sideways on facing pages so that the poem’s lines would envision the out-stretched wings of an angel.

There are many translations of Wilson Bueno’s“Parguayan Sea” available. A point to consider is that Bueno, wanting a translation to be as faithful to his work as possible, thought Erin Moure, a poly-lingual poet and translator, would be the best choice for that task. Moure has written sixteen books of poetry, a book of essays, and translated fifteen volumes of poetry from multiple languages, of which one is her 2017  translation of “Paraguayan Sea” for Nightboat Books. Erin Moure’s translation of Bueno’s prose poem took twelve years to complete.

An interesting article on Wilson Bueno’s “Paraguayan Sea” is “The Shipwreck of the Poem”, written in 2018 by Gerardo Muñoz and published on the online cultural magazine “berfrois”, located at:  https://www.berfrois.com/2018/01/gerardo-munoz-wilson-bueno/

Edward Burra

Paintings by Edward Burra

Born in South Kensington in March of 1905, Edward John Burra was an English painter, printmaker, and draftsman best known for his depictions of the urban underworld and New York City’s Harlem culture of the 1930s. He attended preparatory school at Northaw Place, located in Hertfordshire, until 1917 when he suffered from pneumonia and had to continue his education at home. His education ranged wider than most boys of his class, including a great understanding of French literature.

Burra struggled his whole life with rheumatoid arthritis and a debilitating blood disease which meant that he was never able to use an easel in the conventional way. He was basically forced to sit and work mostly in watercolor, unfashionable at the time, on thick paper laid flat on a table. The fluidity of the watercolor medium, though, allowed Burra to produce a smooth finish, even though he was working with an arthritic hand. Although Burra was briefly a member of the 1930s’ One Unit collective of Modernist artists , his ill health prevented him from actively joining artistic groups and cliques. He, for the most part, protected his privacy and went his own way in the art world.

Edward Burra began his art training in 1921 with a tutor, Miss Bradley, who lived in the coastal town of Rye, East Sussex. At the age of sixteen, he studied at the Chelsea School of Art for two years. From 1923 to 1925, Burra studied at the Royal College of Art under draftsman and etcher Randolph Schwabe and portrait and landscape painter Raymond Coxon. In his time at Chelsea, he established friendships which would support him his whole life; these included the costume designer Beatrice Dawson, photographer Barbara Ker-Seymer, and, perhaps his closest friend, William Chappell, a ballet dancer who became a fellow traveler and Burra’s introduction to avant-garde dance.

Burra delighted in travel. In the summer of 1925 while in Italy, he met landscape painter Paul Nash, who at that time was already well-know for his work as a war artist in World War One. In October of that year, Burra visited Paris accompanied by William Chappell and, in 1926, visited Paris and stayed in both Florence and Siena, Italy with his family. Later, in the mid 1930s, he landed in Harlem, New York, at the height of its cultural Renaissance; he had been fascinated with its culture since his early exposure to imported American jazz music. Burra’s paintings of the places he visited in the world were not made on location. Blessed with a photographic memory, he reworked images of Paris, Marseilles, and Harlem at his parents’ eleven-acre estate in Rye where he continued to live until his death.

Edward Burra has his first solo exhibition at London’s Leicester Galleries in 1929 which was followed with a second show in May of 1931. In October of 1929, he exhibited with the London Group and showed his woodblock prints at the Society of Wood-Engravers exhibition at London’s Redfern Gallery, this would be followed in November of 1942 with a solo exhibition of his paintings.  In October of 1931, Burra exhibited in the show “Recent Developments in British Painting”, alongside Paul Nash,, Ben Nicolson, John Armstrong and Edward Wadsworth, at Arthur Tooth & Sons gallery in London. Beginning in July of 1952, at the age of forty-seven, until his death, Burra had multiple solo exhibitions at the Lefevre Gallery, one of London’s most prestigious galleries. 

Edward Burra had a sharp eye for contemporary urban life and also a deep knowledge and affection for art of the past. His 1926 “Market Day”, showing two black sailors sauntering along a chaotic dockside, contains a wealth of detail from its merchant ships unloading and couples courting to the bowl of fruit balanced on the head of a woman and the jazzy necktie on one of the sailors. In his 1929 “The Two Sisters”, Burra took the eighteenth-century conventional genre of a group of people gathered socially and, showing his satirical wit, depicted the two women with pronounced rouge, lipstick and open dresses, being served by a maid who on closer look is a man in drag. Another work in 1929, “Dockside Cafe, Marseilles” shows clearly two male transvestites by the bar and a standing sailor wearing ballet shoes with criss-crossed ribbons. Burra’s life, however, cannot be read directly from his art. Although drawn to the clubs and cafés, he was a non-participating observer of these scenes which he stored in his memory for future works. 

Best known for his early images of city life, Edward Burra continued to develop his painting throughout his career. Beginning in the mid-1930s and into the war years, his work darkened with images of the cruelty of the war and the tragedy of the innocents who killed or were killed. In the 1950s, Burra started painting images of the British countryside, whose consoling pastures evolved into ones with rusting machinery, animal skulls, and an increasing sense of unease. In the 1960s through the mid-1970s, his work directly commented on the rapid change in the countryside around him. The farm tractors, lorries, and diggers in Burra’s work transform into monstrous machines ripping through the landscape. 

Following the death of his mother in the 1960s, Burra moved into a small cottage on the grounds of the family’s estate. His sister came to visit and there were occasional motoring holidays with his close friend William Chappell. Burra continued, however, to be obsessed with his painting to the exclusion of all else. After breaking his hip in 1974, his health declined quickly. Edward Burra died, at the age of seventy-one, in Hastings, East Sussex, on the 22nd of October in 1976.

Although he declined associate membership in the Royal Academy in 1963, Edward Burra accepted the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, the CBE, in 1971. A retrospective of his work was held at the Tate Gallery in 1973; in conjunction with the exhibition, the Arts Council of Great Britain produced “Edward Burra”, a documentary on his life and work. In June of 2011, Edward Burra’s 1948 watercolor “Zoot Suits”, depicting two well-dressed men in Harlem, set a record at Sotheby’s for a work by the artist when it sold for 2,057,250 Pounds.

Tope Insert Image: Barbara Ker-Seymer, “Edward Burra”, 1933, Photograph, 4.5 x 3.5 cm, Tate Museum, London

Second Inser Image: Edward Burra, “Flowering Vegetables”, 1957-59, Watercolor and Pencil on Paper, 134.5 x 76.5 cm, Private Collection

Third Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Edward Burra”, Date Unknown, Gelatin Silver Print, Tate Museum, London

Bottom Insert Image: Edward Burra, “Ropes and Pullies”, 1942-43, Watercolor and Pencil on Paper, 109.9 x 76.8 cm, Private Collection

Film History: James Whale

Photographers Unknown, I Am Rather the Fallen Angel

“Be calm! I entreat you to hear me before you give vent to your hatred on my devoted head. Have I not suffered enough, that you seek to increase my misery? Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it. Remember, thou hast made me more powerful than thyself; my height is superior to thine, my joints more supple. But I will not be tempted to set myself in opposition to thee. I am thy creature, and I will be even mild and docile to my natural lord and king if thou wilt also perform thy part, the which thou owest me. Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other and trample upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy clemency and affection, is most due. Remember that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.” 

― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, 1818 

Born in Dudley, a town in the county of Worcestershire, in July of 1889, James Whale was an English actor and film and theater director, best remembered by many for his classic horror films. Known for his use of camera movement, he is credited with being the first director to use a 360-degree panning shot in a feature film.

James Whale was the sixth of seven children born to William Whale, a blast-furnace worker, and his wife Sarah, a nurse. He attended public education until his teenage years. Because the cost of his further education was prohibitive and his labor was needed to support his family, Whale took work as a cobbler. He used his early artistic ability to earn extra money by lettering signs for his neighbors; this additional income paid for classes at the Dudley School of Arts and Crafts located in the West Midlands.

In August of 1914, Whale enlisted into the Inns of Court Regiment of the British Army at the outbreak of the first world war; in July of 1916, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Worcestershire Regiment. Taken prisoner of war in August of 1917 at the battle in  Flanders, Whale was held at the Holzminden Officers’ Camp in Germany and later repatriated at the war’s end to England in December of 1918. After an unsuccessful attempt to find work as a cartoonist in Birmingham, he embarked on a professional stage career in 1919. 

James Whale worked as an actor, set designer, stage manager, and director under the tutelage of director and actor Nigel Playfair at the Lyric Theater in Hammersmith. In 1922, he met stage and costume designer Doris Zinkeisen; they were considered a couple for a period of two years despite Whale’s living as an openly gay man. In 1928, Whale was given the opportunity to direct two private performances of writer Robert Cedric Sherriff’s “Journey’s End”, a play that gave a glimpse of British infantry officers’ experiences in the trenches of France during 1918. The two lead roles were given to actors Laurence Olivier and Maurice Evans. 

The initial two performances of “Journey’s End” were well received; and the play opened in January of 1929, with actor Colin Clive now in the lead, at the Savoy Theater in London’s West End. Critically acclaimed, the play after its three-week run was then transferred to the Prince of Wales Theater in Coventry Street, where it ran for the next two years. The rights to a New York production of “Journey’s End” were acquired by Broadway producer Gilbert Miller who chose James Whale, already experienced with the play, for its director. This production of the play premiered at Henry Miller’s Theater at Broadway and West 43rd Street and ran for over a year. 

Brought to the attention of movie producers by the Broadway success of “Journey’s End”, James Whale traveled to Hollywood in 1929 and signed a contract with Paramount Pictures to be the dialogue director for the 1929 film “The Love Doctor”. After the completion of the film, Whale met David Lewis, who became his longtime romantic partner; they lived together until 1952. David Lewis would later become a prominent film producer in the 1940s and 1950s, known for producing such films as the 1939 “Dark Victory” with Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart and the 1957  “Raintree County” with Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor.  

In 1931, James Whale began what is probably the best known part of his career as a producer. He signed a five-year contract with Universal Studios and received his first project, the 1931 drama-war romance film “Waterloo Bridge”, which starred actress Mae Clarke, who is remembered by many for playing Jame Cagney’s girl in “The Public Enemy”. Later in 1931, Carl Laemmie, Jr, the twenty-five year old head of Universal Studios, gave Whale his choice of which studio-owned property he wanted for his next shoot; Whale chose the script for “Frankenstein”. He casted Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein and Mae Clarke as Elizabeth Frankenstein, Henry’s wife, and chose the little known Boris Karloff for the role of the Monster. Shooting ran from August 24th of 1931 to October 3rd. After premieres on October 29th of 1931, “Frankenstein” had a wide release beginning on November 21st and instantly became a hit with critics and the public.

In 1932, Whale directed two films: the drama “The Impatient Maiden” and a thriller film with Karloff and Charles Laughton entitled “The Old Dark House”, which has been credited with reinventing the “old house” genre of horror films. Whale’s 1933 film, “The Kiss Before the Mirror”, a pre-Code mystery film, received little notice and was a box-office failure. With a script approved by author H. G. Wells, Whale returned to the horror genre and produced the 1933 “The Invisible Man” which the New York Times placed in their list of best films for that year. This adaption of Well’s book, whose special effects were done in utmost secrecy, broke box-office records in cities across America.

James Whale’s next major project was the 1935 “Bride of Frankenstein”, a sequel to the original movie which he was initially reluctant to do for fear of being typecast as a horror director. The film, however, was a critical and commercial success; today it is regarded as the finest of all gothic horror movies and considered Whale’s masterpiece. Whale worked next on a comedy-mystery film entitled “Remember Last Night?” which resulted in divided reviews. After its completion, Whale started immediately on the project that had been in his mind for a long time, a film version of the stage production “Show Boat”. 

For the film version of this long-running romantic musical, Whale gathered as many members of the original show as he could; these included Paul Robeson, Helen Morgan, Sammy White, Irene Dunne, and conductor Victor Baravalle and orchestrator Robert Russell Bennett. Great care was taken by Whale to ensure a feeling of complete authenticity in the set and costume design for this film. Faithfully adapted from the original stage production, the 1936 “Show Boat” is considered the definitive film version of the musical by many critics. This film was the last of Whale’s films produced with the Laemmie family.

Jame Whale eventually retired from the film industry in 1941. Encouraged by his partner David Lewis to resume his artwork, he rediscovered his love of painting and built a studio for himself. In 1942, Whale made training films for the United States Army and created, in collaboration with actress Claire DuBrey, the theater group Brentwood Service Players. He returned to Broadway to direct the 1940 thriller “Hand in Glove” and directed his final film, a short subject entitled “Hello Out There”. Whale’s last professional engagement was the comedy play “Pagan in the Parlour”, which was forced to close early due to contract difficulties that happened during its opening tour in Europe.

While in Europe, Whale met and became infatuated with the twenty-five year old bartender Pierre Foegel. He made the decision to bring Foegel back to the United States as his chauffeur. In November of 1952 when David Lewis heard this, he ended their twenty-three year relationship, separated but still maintained a friendship. Foegel moved in with Whale in early 1953, returned for several months to France, and then in 1954  moved back permanently with Whale. In the spring of 1956, Whale suffered a small stroke, and was hospitalized several months later after suffering a second and more severe stroke. As his mental faculties were diminishing, he began to suffer from mood swings and depression. 

James Whale committed suicide, at the age of sixty-seven, by drowning himself in his Pacific Palisades swimming pool on the 29th of May in 1957. He left a suicide note to David Lewis, who withheld it from the public until his own death. Whale was cremated per his request and his ashes were interred in the Columbarium of Memory at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. When David Lewis died in 1987, James Curtis, as his executor, had Lewis’s  ashes interred in a niche across from Whale’s internment site. James Curtis would later write the definitive biography of Whale, “James Whale: A New World of Gods and Monsters”, published in 2003.

Note: James Whale lived as an openly gay man throughout his career in the British theater and in Hollywood, which was virtually unheard of in that era. While he did not go out of his way to publicize his homosexuality, he made no effort to conceal it either.

Insert Images:
A— Photographer Unknown, “James Whale” (Profile), circa 1930, Cream-Toned Vintage Print, 23.7 x 18 cm, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC
B—”Frankenstein”, Colin Clive and Boris Karloff, 1931, Universal Pictures
C—”The Invisible Man”, Claude Rains and Gloria Stuart, 1933, Universal Pictures
D—Photographer Unknown, “James Whale”, Date Unknown
E—”Show Boat”, Paul Robeson, Irene Dunne, Hattie McDaniel, and Helen Morgan, 1936, Universal Pictures
F—Photographer Unknown, “James Whale”, circa 1930, Cream-Toned Vintage Print, 23.7 x 18 cm, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

Carl Phillips: “To Sing a Song of Water”

 

Photographers Unknown, To Sing a Song of Water

Archery

           was still a thing, then. To have timed your arrow
perfectly meant watching the air for a moment
seem stitched throughout with a kind of
timelessness. To have straddled at last, correctly,
the storm of falling in love (and staying there) meant
the smell of apples, victory, tangerines, and smoke
all mixed together on the breath

of a stranger, half asleep still, just beginning to remember a bit,
as he stirs beside you. I dreamed we were young again,
he’s mumbling, as if to someone whose name he’s known
long enough to have called it out more than once in anger
and sex and fear equally. Somewhere happiness too,

right? All those hours spent trying to outstare the distance
of what the days must come to,

and pretending a choice to it: now the shadow-script
that willows and hazel trees mark the barn’s western
face with; now the wind-rippled field, like a lesser version—tamer,
tameable—of the sea, for movement (same infinite
pattern, and variation; randomness and intention; release;
restraint—that kind of movement) …

                                                         Dear saddle
of gentleness. Dear moss, sweet moss that only
the dark and wet and patience make possible. To sing a song
of  water, and not drown in it. And some calling that
a good trick. And some calling it

mastery. That last flickering before nightfall. From beneath
the low branches. I dreamed we were new again. Stars. Just a little
past dusk.

Carl Phillips, Archery, 2020

Born in Everett, Washington, in July of 1959, Carl Phillips is an American poet and writer. The child of a military family which changed residences year to year, he spent his teenage years in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Phillips earned his Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University, where he studied Latin and Greek. He next earned a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Massachusetts, and his Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Boston University. 

Phillips first began to write poetry in his teenage years, a time during which he constructed a world of his own that he could rely on. After entering Harvard University, he did not write any poetry for a long time; however, in 1990 after coming to terms with his identity as a gay man, Phiilips rediscovered his voice as a poet. A classicist by his formal training, he draws allusions to classical art, music and literature in his poems through the use of metaphors and associative words. His poems are often presented in a narrative form which is emphasized through the use of spaced pauses, italics, hyphens, ellipsis, and parentheses. 

Phillips published his first collection of poems, “In the Blood”, in 1992. This collection of love poems and poems based on Greek mythology and Christian iconography won the Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize. His second book, the 1995 “Cortège”, a collection which explores desire and the various points at which spirit and flesh intersect, was nominated tor the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Lambda Gay Men’s Poetry Award.

Carl Phillips’s collections, the 2000 “Pastoral” and the 2001 “The Tether”, winner of the Kingsley Tuft Poetry Award, were both well received by the critics. His seventh book, the 2005 “The Rest of Love”, examined the conflict between belief and disbelief and our ability to face up to hard truths. This collection won the 2005 Thom Gunn Award. Phillips’s recent work includes “Speak Low”, a 2009 work that was a finalist for the National Book Award; the 2011 “Double Shadow” which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry; and the 2013 “Silverchest” which was nominated for the Griffin Prize. His thirteenth collection of poems, the 2015 “Reconnaissance”, was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Best Poetry and won the Lambda Literary Award and the PEN Center USA Award.

Carl Phillips has also published works of criticism; two collections of essays puvlished by Graywolf Press include the 2004 “Coin of the Realm”Essays on the Life and Art of Poetry” and the 2014 “The Art of Daring: Risk, Restlessness, Imagination”. 

Carl Phillips previously taught Latin in public schools for eight years before becoming Professor of English at St. Louis’s Washington University, where he also teaches creative writing. He was elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2006 and has served as the judge for the Yale Series of Younger Poets since 2011. Phillips received an Award in Literature form the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Academy of American Poets Prize and a Pushcart Prize. 

Note: Carl Phillip’s 1995 poem, “Cortège”, was actually my first choice for the poem to be included with his biography; however, the poem in its full form was too lengthy for this posting. For those interested in reading this poem, I offer this link: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47856/cortege-56d228a1cf7ae

John Minton, “Portrait of Kevin Maybury”

John Minto, “Portrait of Kevin Maybury”, 1956, Oil on Canvas, 129.4 x 98.8 cm, Tate Museum, London

In April of 1956,  painter John Minton took a one-year hiatus without pay from his position as head of the Painting Department of London’s Royal College of Art. This was at a period in his career when his figurative style of painting was being overtaken by the new movement of Abstract Expressionism. Minton was having profound doubts about the relevance of painting in the modern world and doubts about his own ability as a teacher and a painter.

Shortly after leaving the Royal College, Minton accepted a commission to design stage sets for two productions at London’s Royal Court Theater, “Don Juan” and “The Death of Satan”. These two plays, to be presented by the English Stage Company, were written by playwright Ronald Duncan and had been previously performed, “Don Juan” in 1953 and “The Death of Satan”, a comedy performed in 1954.

While working at the theater, John Minton met Kevin Maybury, an Australian carpenter working in the scenery department. A relationship developed and by the winter of 1956 Maybury had moved into Minton’s Chelsea house at 9 Apollo Place. Although Minton made several portrait drawings of Maybury, the”Portrait of Kevin Maybury”, shown above, is the only painting of Maybury known to be done by Minton. 

Finding himself out of sync with the new abstract expressionist movement, John Minton found himself left by the wayside in the painting world. He suffered psychological problems and turned to self-medicating with alcohol. In January of 1957, John Minton died, at the age of thirty-nine, from an overdose of sleeping pills in what was ruled a suicide.

After Minton’s death, Kevin Maybury subsequently had a distinguished career as a stage manager in South Africa and was the first person to earn a lifetime achievement award for services to South African theatre. Kevin Maybury died. at the age of eighty-four, in July of 2013 at his home in Johannesburg.

The “Portrait of Kevin Maybury”, most likely painted at the workshop in The Royal Court Theater during the summer of 1956, shows Kevin Maybury, posed and informally dressed,  holding a collapsible ruler and surrounded by the tools of his trade. The surface of the canvas is composed of geometric forms upon which tools lie at angles. The right side of the canvas is dominated by the easel which seems to lie flat on the plane of the canvas surface. This combined with the tilted up floor shortens the depth of the image.

Top Insert Image: Michael Ayrton, “John Minton”, October 1941, Oil on Panel, 41 x 33.5 cm, Private Collection

Middle Insert Image: John Minton, “Kevin Maybury Having a Nap”, 1956-1957, Ink and Wash on Paper, 25.2 x 37 cm, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: John Minton, “Kevin Maybury and Spanish Boy”, Pen, Ink, Gouache and Crayon on Paper, 37.3 x 27.3 cm, Private Collection

 

Richard Blanco: “Burning in the Rain”

Photographers Unknown, Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Photo Set Twenty-Six

Someday compassion would demand
I set myself free of my desire to recreate
my father, indulge in my mother’s losses,
strangle lovers with words, forcing them
to confess for me and take the blame.
Today was that day: I tossed them, sheet
by sheet on the patio and gathered them
into a pyre. I wanted to let them go
in a blaze, tiny white dwarfs imploding
beside the azaleas and ficus bushes,
let them crackle, burst like winged seeds,
let them smolder into gossamer embers—
a thousand gray butterflies in the wind.
Today was that day, but it rained, kept
raining. Instead of fire, water—drops
knocking on doors, wetting windows
into mirrors reflecting me in the oaks.
The garden walls and stones swelling
into ghostlier shades of themselves,
the wind chimes giggling in the storm,
a coffee cup left overflowing with rain.
Instead of burning, my pages turned
into water lilies floating over puddles,
then tiny white cliffs as the sun set,
finally drying all night under the moon
into papier-mâché souvenirs. Today
the rain would not let their lives burn.

Richard Blanco, Burning in the Rain, Looking for the Gulf Motel, 2012

Born in February of 1968 in Madrid, Spain, Richard Blanco is an American poet, author, and a public speaker. The son of a Cuban-exile family, he spent his early years in Miami and earned a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Miami’s Florida International University. In addition to his profession as a practicing civil engineer, Blanco has been a writer and poet since 1991.

As a professor, Blanco has taught at several universities, including American University, Georgetown University, Wesleyan University, Central Connecticut State University, and Colby College in Maine; he is currently a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Florida International University. Blanco also teaches poetry at such diverse institutions as grade schools, nursing homes, writers workshops, correctional institutions, and non-profits such as the Writer’s Center located in Maryland.

Richard Blanco’s first book of poetry, the 1998 “City of a Hundred Fires” received critical acclaim and won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press. This collection of poems explored his coming of age as a Cuban-American in Miami and the transformation he experienced after his first trip back to his homeland of Cuba. Between 1999 and 2001, Blanco traveled extensively through Europe, South America, and the New England area of the United States. This experience resulted in his second poetry collection, “Directions to the Beach of the Dead” published in 2005, which explored the familiar but unsettling journey for home and connections. This collection of narrative lyric poetry was the winner of the American Beyond Margins Award from PEN International.

Blanco’s third book of poetry, the 2012 “Looking for the Gulf Motel”, explored how his family’s emotional legacy has shaped and continues to shape his perspectives. Divided in three sections, the collection discusses questions of cultural identity, the blurred lines of gender, the father-son relationship, identity as a Cuban-American gay man living in rural Maine, the experience of exile, and one’s impermanence in the world. Poems in this collection include “Burning in the Rain”, seen above, and  “Queer Theory, According to My Grandmother”, a skeptical look at the admonishments made by his conservative generation of elders against being perceived as gay. 

Richard Blanco’s “Looking for the Gulf Motel” won the Thom Gunn Award, the Maine Literary Award, and the Paterson Poetry Prize. He  followed this collection with the poem “Boston Strong”, recited as the opening to the Boston Strong Concert, a benefit concert to assist the families of the victims who were killed and to help the people most affected by the tragic events during the April 2013 Boston Marathon. A commemorative chapbook of Blanco’s poem was published in 2013 with all the proceeds going to the Victim Relief Fund of The One Fund Boston to help those affected.

On January 8, 2013, Richard Blanco was named the Inaugural Poet of the United States for Barack Obama’s second presidential inauguration. Blanco was the first immigrant, first Latino, and first openly-gay person to be an inaugural poet. He performed “One Today”, an original poem he wrote for the occasion; this poem was meant to reconfirm the nation’s collective identity in a time of tragedy. In November of 2015, it was published in book form as “One Day” with drawings by David “Day” Pilkey, an award-winning illustrator of books for children. 

In addition to his poetry collections and performances around the world, Blanco has published two memoirs, the 2013 “For All of Us, One Today” and the 2014 “The Prince of Ios Cocuyos”, which won the Maine Literary Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Memoir. He wrote the forward and poems to accompany a series of vintage photographs of Cuba for the 2014  “Cuba Then: Rare and Classic Images from the Ramiro Fernandez Collection”, a collection of three hundred vintage photos from one of the largest archives of Cuban photography in the world. Blanco also collaborated with landscape photographer Jacob Bond Hessler on his 2017 “Boundaries”. This collection of poems and photographs challenged the physical, imagined and psychological boundaries of race, gender, class,  and ethnicity that divide the American nation.

Richard Blanco was appointed as a founding member of the Obama Foundation Advisory Counsel and has lectured at the U. S. National Archives. He is a member of the prestigious Macondo Writers Workshop, an association of socially-engaged master’s level writers. Richard Blanco and his partner currently live in Maine. 

John Minton

The Artwork of John Minton

Born in Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire in December of 1917, Francis John Minton was an English illustrator, painter, stage designer and educator. He studied art at St. John’s Wood School of Art in northern London from 1935 to 1938.  Minton was introduced to the work of the French Neo-Romantic painters by his fellow student Michael Ayrton, who would become renowned for his writings and sculptural work. Between 1938 to 1939, he spent eight months studying art in France, often in the company of Ayrton, until the start of the second World War necessitated his return to England.

In 1941, John Minton joined the Pioneer Corps, a division of the British Army combatant corps used for light engineering tasks. He received a commission in a light infantry regiment in 1943, but was discharged in the same year on medical grounds. While in the army, Minton, collaborating with Michael Ayrton, designed sets and costumes for actor and theater director John Gielgud’s 1942 production of “Macbeth”. In the same year, they presented their paintings in a joint exhibition at London’s Leicester Galleries. Minton’s intense, realistic work was expressed in dark color schemes and included a self-portrait and cityscapes of streets and bombed buildings.

During the war years, Minton met painters Adrian Ryan and Lucian Freud and developed a close friendship which soon became an intimate sexual relationship with both men that lasted until the late 1940s. After he had seen Freud’s portrait of Francis Bacon, Minton commissioned in 1952 his own portrait from Freud. Between 1943 and 1946, Minton taught illustration at London’s Camberwell College of Arts. He often attended late night sessions at The Colony Room Club, a private members’ drinking and social club known for its debauchery, and visited jazz clubs that dotted London’s Soho district. 

After he left Camberwell College, John Minton served as the head of the drawing and illustration department at the Central School of Art and Design from 1946 to 1948. During these years, he  continued his own work and shared a studio, first with painters and theater set designers Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde, and later with painter Keith Vaughan, all of whom were artists of the Neo-Romantic circle in that immediate post-war period. 

Minton began a prolific period of work after 1945; besides entries in group exhibitions, he had seven solo shows at London’s prestigious Lefevre Gallery before 1956. Minton, in addition to creating his paintings and illustrative work, also became a tutor of painting in 1949 at the Royal College of Art, where he taught until the year before his death. By the mid-1950s with the arrival of the newly popular American Abstract Expressionism, Minton’s commitment to figural composition had begun to be ween as out-dated. 

John Minton returned to the world of the theater and accepted a commission to design stage sets for two productions by playwright Ronald Duncan for London’s Royal Court Theater, “Don Juan” and “The Death of Satan”. While working at the theater, he met Kevin Maybury, an Australian carpenter working in the scenery department. A relationship soon developed and, by the winter, Maybury had moved into Minton’s house in Chelsea. Maybury became the model for several drawings by Minton and also posed for a portrait in which he is shown seated in his workshop surrounded by the tools of his trade. 

Finding his work out of fashion and suffering from psychological problems, Minton began to self-medicate with alcohol. In April of 1956, he left the Royal College of Art on a one-year unpaid leave; his departure caused by a lack of confidence in his own ability as both teacher and painter, and by deep-seated doubts about the relevance of painting in the modern world. He started suffering from extreme mood swings and became more dependent on alcohol. John Minto was found dead on the 22nd of January in 1957. The coroner’s verdict was suicide. 

John Minton’s final work, an ambitious large-scale painting, was incomplete at the time of his death and depicted a gravely injured man surrounded by distraught onlookers.  On the day before Minton’s death, the painter Ruskin Spear had visited him at his studio and was told that Minton identified the dying figure with Hollywood actor James Dean, who had died two years previously in a car accident. The painting, known as the 1957 “The Death of James Dean”, is clearly unfinished; there were indications through friends that Minton never intended to finish it as he was worried about not being able to break out of his past style.

Minton’s range of work was wide and included designs for stamps, textiles and wallpapers; posters for the London Transport system and Ealing Studios, a television and film producer; large scale paintings for the Royal Academy and the Dome of Discovery exhibition space at the 1951 Festival of Britain; and numerous landscapes of the British countryside. However, he is best remembered for his illustrative work for books, both interior work and book jackets. Among these are poet Alan Ross’s travel book “Time Was Away-A Notebook in Corsica”, author Herbert Ernest Bates’s “The Country Heart”, and two ground-breaking cook books by food writer Elizabeth David.

Note: A history of the relationship between John Minton, Lucian Freud and Adrian Ryan, interspersed with images of their work, can be found at the online Museum Crush magazine located at: https://museumcrush.org/art-sex-and-death-the-unholy-trinity-of-freud-minton-and-ryan/

Top Insert Image: Rollie McKenna, “John Minton”, 1951, Bromide Print, 24.5 x 19.4 cm, National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC

Second Insert Image: John Minton, “John Minton”, circa 1953, Oil on Canvas, 35.6 x 25.4 cm, National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC

Third Insert Image: John Minton, “The Life Model”, 1948, Oil on Canvas, 63.5 x 76 cm, Private Collection 

Bottom Insert Image: John Deakin, “John Minton, Soho”, 1951, Gelatin Silver Print, Michael Hoppen Gallery

Essex Hemphill: “Our Kisses Are Petals, Our Tongues Caress the Bloom”

Photographers Unknown, Our Kisses Are Petals

Times are lean,
Pretty Baby,
the beans are burnt
to the bottom
of the battered pot.
Let’s make fierce love
on the over-stuffed,
hand-me-down sofa.
We can burn it up, too.
Our hungers
will evaporate like-money.
I smell your lust,
not the pot burnt black
with tonight’s meager meal.
So we can’t buy flowers
for our table
Our kisses are petals,
our tongues caress the bloom.
Who dares to tell us
we are poor and powerless?
We keep treasure
any king would count as dear.
Come on, Pretty Baby.
Our souls can’t be crushed
like cats crossing streets too soon.
Let the beans burn all night long.
Our chipped water glasses are filled
with wine from our loving.
And the burnt black beans-
caviar

Essex Hemphill, Black Beans, Ceremonies: Prose and Poetry, 2000

Born in Chicago in April of 1957, Essex Hemphill was an openly gay American poet and activist known for his contributions to Washington D.C.’s art scene in the 1980s. In his early years, Hemphill moved with his family to Washington D.C. where he attended Ballou High School in Congress Heights. Already having written poetry since the age of fourteen, he enrolled at the University of Maryland to study journalism. Hemphill left the university after his freshman year and enrolled at the University of the District of Columbia, where he graduated with a degree in English. Throughout his college years, he interacted with the local art scene, gave spoken word performances, and began to publish poetry chapbooks. 

Known for the political edge of his performances, Hemphill openly addressed the issues of race, identity, sexuality, HIV and AIDS, and the concept of family in his work, all issues central to the African American gay community. In 1979, he became a co-founder of the Nethula Journal of Contemporary Literature, a publication to showcase modern black artists. Through an arrangement by Nethula co-editor and educator Eugene Ethelbert Miller, Hemphill performed one of his first public readings, along with filmmaker Michella Parkerson, at Howard University’s Founder Library.

In 1982, Essex Hemphill, along with Larry Duckett and Wayson Jones, founded ”Cinque”, a spoken word group which performed in the Washington D. C. area. The following year he received a grant from the non-profit Washington Project for the Arts for “Murder on Glass”, an experimental poetry dramatization which he performed alongside Wayson Jones and Michelle Parkerson. Their work was later featured in two documentaries by filmmaker Marlon Riggs, the  1989 “Tongues Untied” and the 1994 “Black Is. . .Black Ain’t”, which won the Filmmakers’ Trophy at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival. 

Hemphill’s first published poetry collections were two chapbooks, “Earth Life” in 1985 and “Conditions” in 1986. His work received additional attention with its inclusion in the 1986 anthology “In the Life”, a collection of poems from gay, black artists, compiled by Hemphill’s fellow author and lover, the gay rights activist Joseph F. Beam. Hemphill’s  first full-length collection, entitled “Ceremonies: Prose and Poetry”, was published in 1992 and won the National Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual New Author Award. His editing credits include the 1991 anthology “Brother to Brother: New Writing by Black Gay Men”, which won the Lambda Literary Award.

Many of Essex Hemphill’s poetry and spoken word works were autobiographical and portrayed his experiences as a minority in both the African-American and LGBTQ communities. His pieces conveyed his frustrations about bigotry, the relationships among gay black men and non-gay black men, the effect of HIV/AIDS on the black community, and the meaning of one’s family, community and support. 

In the decade of the 1990s, Hemphill rarely gave information on his health, only talking occasionally about being a person with AIDS. He did not write about his experience with the disease until his 1994 poem “Vital Signs”. Hemphill died the following year on the 4th of November, at the age of fifty-eight, of AIDS related complications. In June of 2019, he was one of the fifty inaugural American pioneers and heroes inducted on the National LBGTQ Wall of Honor within the Stonewall National Monument in New York City’s Stonewall Inn. It is the first United States national monument dedicated to LBGTQ rights and history.

Note: A suggested article is J. T. Roane’s 2017 “The Poetic Theology of Essex Hemphill”, which was published in the African American Intellectual History Society’s online publication “Black Perspectives”. The article is located at:  https://www.aaihs.org/the-poetic-theology-of-essex-hemphill/

John Craxton

Paintings by John Craxton

Born to pianist and composer Harold Craxton and his wife Essie in October of 1922, John Leith Craxton RA, was an English painter. Considered too young to attend nude life drawing at the Chelsea School of Art, he instead studied at Paris’s Academie Julian and later at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in 1929. With the outbreak of war in Europe, he returned to London and completed his training at Westminster School of Art and the Central School of Arts and Crafts.

Rejected for military service, Craxton attended Goldsmiths College, part of the University of London, and had his first solo exhibition was in London in 1942 at the Swiss Cottage Café. In 1943, Craxton traveled through the Pembrokeshire woodlands with artist and designer Graham Sutherland, who had recently begun painting surreal, organic landscapes in oils. Returning to London, he had his first major solo show in 1944 at the Leicester Galleries, known for its exhibitions of modern international artists.

John Craxton’s work was considered part of the Neo-Romantic revival which sought to provide meaning and content to the modern existence. His early works done before 1945 showed the influences of artists Graham Sutherland and painter and printmaker Samuel Palmer whose visionary Shoreham landscapes had a great effect on both Craxton and Sutherland. Craxton was also heavily influenced by his friend and patron Peter Watson, a wealthy gay English art collector who provided financial assistance to Craxton, as well as Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud among others.

With the end of the Second World War, John Craxton began to travel extensively from 1946 to 1966, during which time he visited Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Istanbul, and Italy. However, his main interest was in Greece, and especially the island of Crete, where he permanently settled in 1970 with return visits to Paris and London. Writing in his memoirs, American painter and food writer Richard Olmey remembered Craxton’s visits to Paris during the summer of 1951: “Most nights, John Craxton, a young English painter, arrived to share my bed; we kept each other warm. He moved in a bucolic dreamworld, peopled with beautiful Greek goat herders. Soon he left for Greece.“

In 1951, Craxton designed the stage sets for the production of French composer Maurice Ravel’s longest work, “Daphnis et Chloé”, a retelling of the romance tale from the second century concerning the love between the goatherd Daphnis and the shepherdess Chloé. Craxton was able to use his experiences in Greece as a basis for his set designs. The Sadler’s Wells Ballet, now The Royal Ballet, performed Ravel’s work at Covent Garden in central London. In 1968, Craxton produced costumes and scenery for one more ballet: the 1968 performance of Igor Stravinsky’s “Apollo” performed at the Royal Opera House.

John Craxton exhibited his works in England and Greece, with a major retrospective of his work shown at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1967. He his work has appeared in print magazines; he also illustrated English writer Patrick Leigh Fermor’s series of books, and  produced lithographs for several anthologies edited by poet and critic Geoffrey Grigson. Elected a Royal Academician in 1993, Craxton also became a British Honorary Consul of Crete. He died at the age of eighty-seven in November of 2009. He, never married, was survived by his long-term partner whom he met in the early 1970s, Richard Riley. 

Top Insert Image: John Craxton, “Tree Trunk and Ruin”, 1944, Watercolor, Ink and Gouache on Paper, 21 x 14.5 cm, Private Collection

Middle Insert Image: Wolfgang Suschitzky, “John Craxton in Hydra, Greece”, 1969, Gelatin Silver Print

Bottom Insert Image: John Craxton, “Self Portrait”, 1946-1947, Oil on Paper, 32.3 x 23.2 cm, Private Collection

Frank Bidart: “Night Was the Guide Sweeter Than the Sun Raw at Dawn”

Photographers Unknown, Night Was the Guide

In a dark night, when the light
burning was the burning of love (fortuitous
night, fated, free,—)
as I stole from my dark house, dark
house that was silent, grave, sleeping—

by the staircase that was secret, hidden
safe: disguised by darkness (fortuitous
night, fated, free—)
by darkness and by cunning, dark
house that was silent, grave, sleeping—;

in that sweet night, secret, seen by
no one and seeing
nothing, my only light or
guide
the burning in my burning heart,

night was the guide
sweeter than the sun raw at
dawn, for there the burning bridegroom is
bride
and he who chose at last is chosen.

.

As he lay sleeping on my sleepless
breast, kept from the beginning for him
alone, lying on the gift I gave
as the restless
fragrant cedars moved the restless winds,—

winds from the circling parapet circling
us as I lay there touching and lifting his hair,–
with his sovereign hand, he
wounded my neck=
and my senses, when they touched that, touched nothing. . .

In a dark night (there where I
lost myself, —) as I leaned to rest
in his smooth white breast, everything
ceased
and left me, forgotten in the grave of forgotten lilies.

Frank Bidart, Dark Night

Born in Bakersfield, California, in May of 1939, Frank Bidart is an American academic and a poet, and the winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. He started his studies in 1957 at the University of California at Riverside where, after reading works by Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot, he decided on a career in poetry. He continued his studies at Harvard, where he became both a student and friend to Robert Lowell, the sixth Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, and Elizabeth Bishop, the 1956 Pulitzer Prize winner for Poetry and, after Lowell’s departure, the subsequent Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.

Bidart’s work is written in the style of Confessional poetry which emerged in the United States during the late 1950s and early 1960s. In this personal form of poetry, the speaker focuses on extreme moments of individual experience, thoughts, and personal traumas, which may include such experiences as mental illness, sexuality, and self-harm. These issues are often set against the broader themes of society. In the 1950s, confessional poets often wrote about the unhappiness in their lives in opposition to the idealization of domestic life which was propagated at the time.

Frank Bidart’s early work often disregarded the formal conventions of poetry. His narrative works are not seamless dramatic monologues but rather snippets of speech, anecdotes, reminiscences, analogies, and notes and letters which are spliced together in a cinematic progression. In his poetry, Bidart uses unusual typography and takes liberties with capitalization and punctuation; this process allows the reader to visualize, spatially, the urgencies, emphases, pauses and fatigue in the poem’s voice.

Frank Bidart gained critical attention with his first two books, the 1973 “Golden State” and the 1977 “The Book of the Body”. However, it was his 1983 “The Sacrifice” that made his reputation as an original, uncompromising poet. These three early works, focused on the origins and consequences of guilt, were later published together in the 1990 collection “In the Western Night: Collected Poems1965-90”.  Among Bidart’s most notable works are monologues spoken by central characters.Two examples of these are “Herbert White” from the “Golden State”collection, a monologue spoken through the voice of a psychopathic child murderer, and “Ellen West” included in “The Book of the Body”, spoken by a woman with an eating disorder.

Bidart’s 1997 collection “Desire” began with thirteen short poems, one of which was a memorial to artist  and writer Joe Brainard, who was associated with the New York School movement of poets, painters, dancers and musicians active during the 1950s and 1960s. A prodigious artist known for his collages and his memoir “I Remember”, Brainard died from AIDS in May of 1994. The second half of the book, “The Second Hour of the Night” was a long poem that questioned the traditional assumptions about love told through a recounting of Ovid’s tale of Myrrha’s incestuous love for her father.This collection, which also included writings by Dante and Marcus Aurelius, received the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize and was a finalist for three awards: the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. 

Frank Bidart’s sixth book “Star Dust”, also divided in two parts, was nominated for a National Book Award and employed the familiar Bidart typography, including block capitals, italics and blank spaces, and used the techniques of quotations, paraphrases and monologues. His 2008 “Watching the Spring Festival” was his first book of lyric poems. Bidart’s  2013 collection “Metaphysical Dog” won the National Book Critics Circle Award and “Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016” won both the 2017 National Book Award for Poetry and the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. 

Frank Bidart has taught at Brandeis University and, since 1972, at Wellesley College, both located in the state of Massachusetts. Bidart’s poem “Herbert White” became the basis for actor and poet James Franco’s  2010 short film of the same name. Bidart became a chancellor of The Academy of American Poets in 2001 and, in 2017, won the Griffin Poetry Prize Lifetime Recognition Award.

Marsden Hartley

Paintings by Marsden Hartley

Born in Lewiston, Maine on January 4th of 1877, Marsden Edmund Hartley was an American Modernist painter, poet, essayist and author.  The youngest of eight children, he remained, at the age of fourteen, with his father in Maine after the death of his mother, his siblings having moved to Ohio after the death. A year later in 1892, he joined his family in Cleveland, Ohio, where he began formal art training at Cleveland’s School of Art under a scholarship.

In 1898, Hartley relocated to New York City to study painting under Impressionist William Merritt Chase at the New York School of Art; he also associated with member artists from  the National Academy of Design. Hartley became a close friend and admirer of allegorical and seascape painter Albert Pinkham Ryder, whom he often visited at his Greenwich Village studio. He also read the writings of Walt Whitman and the American  transcendentalists such as Emerson and Thoreau.

Between 1900 and 1910, Marsden Hartley spent his summers in the city of Lewiston, located in southern Maine, and the region of western Maine near the village of Lovell. During these summers, he painted what are considered his first mature works, images of Kezar Lake located near the town of Lovell, and Maine’s hillsides and mountains. In 1909, Hartley exhibited these paintings at his first solo exhibition in art promoter Alfred Stieglitz’s internationally-known Gallery 291, located in Manhattan. Impressed by Hartley’s work, Stieglitz introduced him to the work of the European Modernist artists, such as Picasso, Kandinsky and Matisse.

Hartley traveled to Europe in April of 1912, the first of many visits, and in Paris became acquainted with Gertrude Stein and her circle of  writers and artists. He was encouraged by Stein, along with poet Hart Crane and novelist Sherwood Anderson, to write as well as paint. Disenchanted after living in Paris for a year, Hartley relocated to Berlin in April of 1913 where he became friends with Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, and continued his painting. Of his work done in Berlin, two of his still life paintings, inspired by the work of Cézanne, and six charcoal drawings were included in the historic 1913 Armory Show in New York.

Marsden Hartley’s work during this period in Berlin was a combination of German Expressionism and abstraction; his work was also inspired by the pageantry of the German military, though his view of the military changed with the outbreak of war in 1914. In Berlin, Hartley developed a close relationship with a lieutenant in the Prussian Armed Forces, Karl von Freyburg, who was a cousin of Hartley’s friend Arnold Ronnebeck. Infatuated with Freyburg, Hartley would use him as a recurring motif in his works. Although Freyburg survived the Battle of the Marne, for which he was awarded the Iron Cross, he died on October 7th in 1914, at the age of twenty-four, during the Battle of Arras. Hartley was devastated at the announcement of Freyburg’s death.

The works Hartley produced shortly after Freyburg’s death were variations on his post-war themes. However, along with the regimental plumes in his paintings, there were now numbers and letters which had deep significance to Hartley. They included the “K.v.F.” of Freyburg’s initials, coded references to the Iron Cross, Freyburg’s age and regiment numbers, and black and white checkered patterns which referenced Freyburg’s favorite game, chess. Two examples of these memorial pieces are “Portrait of a German Officer” and “Portrait No. 47”, both painted in Berlin and seen in the images above.

Marsden Hartley returned to the United States in early 1916. He traveled and painted from 1916 to 1921 in Provincetown, New York, New Mexico, and Bermuda. Although his works still contained some German iconography, he also painted other subjects, often with homoerotic undertones. After an auction of one hundred of his works at New York’s Anderson Gallery in 1921, Hartley returned to Europe and created still lifes and landscapes using the drawing medium of silverpoint. 

Throughout the 1930s, Hartley spent summers and autumns in New Hampshire painting scenes of its mountains. Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, he spent time painting in Mexico which was followed by a year in the Bavarian Alps. After a few months in Bermuda in 1935, Hartley traveled by ship to Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia, where he lived for two summers with the Mason family, who earned their living as fishermen. The deaths of the two Mason brothers, drowned in a hurricane, greatly affected Hartley and inspired a series of portrait paintings and seascapes. Hartley returned to Maine in 1937 where he remained for the rest of his life. He died in Ellsworth, Maine, at the age of sixty-six, on September 2nd of 1943.

Marsden Hartley was not overt about his homosexuality and often diverted attention to other aspects of his work. Most of his works, such as “Portrait of a German Officer”, a homage to Freyburg, and his 1916 “Handsome Drinks”, one of the first paintings Hartley did after his reluctant 1916 return to the United States, are coded in their reference to his sexuality. When he reached his sixties, he no longer felt unease and his works became more intimate, such as his two 1940 paintings “Flaming American (Swim Champ)” and the  “Madawaska-Acadian Light-Heavy”, seen in one of the above inserts. 

Top Inset Image: Marsden Hartley, “Green Landscape with Rocks, No. 2”, 1935-1936, Oil on Board, 33 x 45.4 cm, Brooklun Museum, New York

Second Insert Image: Richard Tweedy, “Marsden Hartley”, 1898, Oil on Canvas, 66 x 45.7 cm, National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC

Third Insert Image: Marsden Hartley, “Abstraction”, 1912-1913, Oil on Canvas, 118 x 101 cm, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: Marsden Hartley, “Madawaska-Acadian Light-Heavy”, 1940, 101.6 x 76.2 cm, Chicago Art Institute

Bill Hollands: “The Paradox of Beauty in the Midst of Suffering”

Photographers Unknown, The Paradox of Beauty in the Midst of Suffering

I sit in the darkened theater and watch
images of naked men on the screen. Is it wrong
to be turned on by a marble sculpture
from the Hellenistic period? Do you know
the story? Laocoön warned the Trojans
about Greeks bearing gifts (see also
Trojan Horse) and the gods sent big snakes
to punish Laocoön and his sons. The professor
drones on but the message is clear: Sons suffer
for the sins of their father. I, on the other hand,
can’t take my eyes off the son on the right.
He looks at his father and his brother and to me
his expression is not Help but I’m out. Meanwhile,
he slyly slips the coiled snake from around
his ankle as if he’s shedding a wet
Speedo. I return to my dorm room
and geek out. Apparently, my guy
wasn’t even connected to the others
when they unearthed the sculpture’s fragments.
Plus, in another version of the story, that son
escapes the snake’s jaws altogether. And,
anyway, the whole thing might just be a fraud.
One theory goes that it’s a forgery by Michelangelo
who passed it off as an antiquity for cash
and you know which son he had his eye on. So,
on the test when the professor asks about the paradox
of beauty in the midst of suffering
I write about the liberated son
and take my B and call it good.

Bill Hollands, Escape

Born and raised in Miami, Bill Hollands is an American poet and educator. He graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts, where he studied under poets Louise Glück and Lawrence Raab. As a Herchel Smith Fellow, Hollands studied at Cambridge University’s Emmanuel College, where he earned a Masters Degree in English. Continuing his studies, he earned a third degree at the University of Michigan. 

Hollands was the first internet librarian for the New York Public Library and had worked for many years on Microsoft’s Encarta Encyclopedia, a multi-media digital information source. He is currently a teacher and poet in Seattle, where he resides with his husband and their child.

Bill Hollands’s work typically consists of narrative poems, a longer form of poetry, typically told by just one narrator, that contains all story elements, including plot, characters, conflict and resolution. A narrative poem’s story is more condensed than one in prose, the exception being epic poems. 

Hollands was recently named a finalist for North American Review’s James Hearst Poetry Prize. He was also a semi-finalist in the 2020 National Poetry Month competition for his submitted works “ICYMI” and “The Crocodile Pit at the Serpentarium, Miami, Florida”. Hollands was a recent contributor to the 3Elements Literary Review; his poem “Parrot Jungle, Polaroid, Miami, May 1981” appeared in the Summer 2020, Issue No. 27.

Bill Hollands’s poems have appeared in both online and print publications including The Summerset Review, PageBoy, Rattle, Hawai’i Pacific Review, The American journal of Poetry, The North American Review, and the online publication DIAGRAM, among others.

Bill Hollands’s poetry site can be located at: https://billhollandspoetry.com

Wilbur Underwood: “Deep as the Void Above Us and Sweet as the Dawn-Star”

Photographers Unknown,  Deep As The Void Above Us

All night long through the starlit air and the stillness,
Through the cool wanness of dawn and the burning of noontide,
Onward we strain with a mighty resounding of hoof-beats.

Heaven and earth are ashake with the terrible trampling;
Wild, straying feet of a vast and hastening army;
Wistful eyes that helplessly seek one another.

Hushed is the dark to hear the plaint of our lowing,
Mournful cry of the dumb-tired hearts within us,
Faint to death with thirst and the gnawing of hunger.

Day by day through the dust and heat have we thirsted;
Day by day through stony ways have we hungered;
Naught but a few bitter herbs that grew by the wayside.

What we flee that is far behind in the darkness,
Where the place of abiding for us, we know not;
Only we hark for the voice of the Master Herdsman.

Many a weary day must pass ere we hear it,
Blown on the winds, now close, now far in the distance,
Deep as the void above us and sweet as the dawn-star.

Wilbur Underwood, The Cattle of His Hand, Excerpt

Born in 1874, Wilbur Underwood was an American poet whose work had strong affiliations with the literary Decadent movement of the late-nineteenth century. This movement was characterized by a rejection of the world’s banal progress and its norms of morality and sexual behavior, a love for extravagant language in literature, and an emphasis on art for its own sake. 

Few prominent writers, however, were connected to the Decadent movement in the United States, one exception being the poet George Sylvester Viereck who wrote the 1907 “Nineveh and Other Poems’, as Americans at that time were reluctant to see value in the movement’s art forms. Although Underwood’s poetry had some affinities with the Romantic and Pre-Raphaelite eras, the vast majority of his work was written in a decadent style.

Wilbur Underwood worked in a clerical-administrative position in the United States State Department until 1933. He was a member of the homosexual underground scene of the period and is best known as the mentor and confidant of poet Hart Crane, whom he met in 1920 in Washington D.C.  Hart Crane’s intimate letters to Underwood have been published, often censored, in several anthologies. 

One of the first poems of Underwood to be published was his “The Cattle of His Hand”, which appeared in poet Edmund Clarence Stedman’s 1900 verse collection, “An American Anthology”.  Underwood published five volumes of poetry in his lifetime; the first of which was the 1907 “A Book of Masks” which was followed two years later by his “Damien of Molokai”. His third collection was the 1927 “The Way: Poems”, which was followed in the following year by “To One In Heaven”. Underwood’s final verse collection was “Fountain of Dark Waters”, published in 1933. 

Wilbur Underwood died in 1935 at the age of sixty-one. A collection of his poems, “Selected Poems”, was published posthumously in 1949. Underwood’s papers, amassed and catalogued by his brother Norman, were given to the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. These include journals, sketchbooks and illustrations, poems, photographs, legal records, and other printed material.

Notes: One of the best sources of information on Wilbur Underwood is Olive Fisher’s 2002 biography “Hart Crane: A Life”, published by Yale University. 

The 1980 Spring Issue of The Souther Review magazine contained the article entitled “Wind-Blown Flames: Letters of Hart Crane to Wilbur Underwood”. Unfortunately, it is not archived online.

Wilbur Underwood’s poem “The Cattle of His Hand”, in its entirety, can be found at bartleby.com located at https://www.bartleby.com/248/1676.html

Insert Images: Two hand-written poems from “A Book of Masks”, published 1907.

J. Carino

The Artwork of J. Carino

Based in Riverside, California, J. Carino is a figurative artist whose work illustrates the interconnection between man with his sense of self-awareness and the natural world, both literal and symbolic. A  2011 graduate of the Parsons School of Design in New York City, he works in a variety of mixed-media techniques and often uses distortion and abstraction in the construction of his work’s figures.

Carino’s images depict nude, queer figures, often monumental in size, who are set in landscapes both idyllic and suffused with danger. Applying ideas from his study of the decorative arts, he explores the concepts of queerness, self-identity, queer intimacy, sensuality, and man’s relationship with the natural world through images of richly colored and patterned, layered figures and flora. During the evolution of his work’s creation, Carino often adds and removes the layers of landscape and figures to achieve the desired result.

J. Carino’s work has appeared in multiple exhibitions both in the United States and overseas. These include both the Act 1 and Act 2 Summer Stage exhibitions at Auxier/Kline in New York, the 2021 online “Eye Candy” exhibition by the WB Gallery,  the 2020 Art Pride International, and, in the United Kingdom, the 2022 collective “Come Out & Play” at London’s BEERS gallery and the 2019 exhibition at Rye’s McCully & Crane Gallery, among others. 

“Like many queer people, there is a dichotomy of wanting to be seen as a whole person, sexuality included, but also the fear of people seeing too much. My figures, often self portraits, inhabit landscapes of abundance and fertility, lush with ferns and fruit, like an eden where these fears dissipate. Through my work, I explore the complicated influence of intimacy, sexuality, and being seen, especially as it relates to gay relationships and our ability to connect with one another and ourselves.” —J. Carino

J. Carino’s work can be found at the artist’s site located at https://www.jcarinoart.com  and  also at the following gallery locations  https://linktr.ee/j.carino.art

Bottom Insert Image: J. Carino, “Self Portrait”, Date Unknown, Mixed Media on Paper

George Sylvester Viereck: “Each by Strange Wisps to Strange Abysses Drawn”

Photographers Unknown, The Faces of man: Photo Set Twelve

Sweet is the highroad when the skylarks call,
When we and Love go rambling through the land.
But shall we still walk gayly, hand in hand,
At the road’s turning and the twilight’s fall?
Then darkness shall divide us like a wall,
And uncouth evil nightbirds flap their wings;
The solitude of all created things
Will creep upon us shuddering like a pall.

This is the knowledge I have wrung from pain:
We, yea, all lovers, are not one, but twain,
Each by strange wisps to strange abysses drawn;
But through the black immensity of night
Love’s little lantern, like a glowworm’s, bright,
May lead our steps to some stupendous dawn.

George Sylvester Viereck, The Wanderers

A controversial figure in America in the first-half of the twentieth century, George Sylvester Viereck was a multi-sided figure who gained fame as a journalist and neo-romantic poet; he also earned equal infamy as a publicist for pro-German causes. Born in Munich in December of 1884, he was  the first-born son of Louis Viereck, a member of the Reichstag who was imprisoned in 1886 for attending socialist meetings, and  San Francisco-born Laura Viereck, Louis’s first cousin. The family emigrated to the United States in 1896 and, five years later, Viereck’s father became an American citizen.

George Viereck studied at the City College of New York where he graduated in 1906. While still in college, he published, with the help of literary critic Ludwig Lewisohn, his first collection of poems in 1904. Viereck’s  next collection, “Nineveh and Other Poems” published in 1905, brought him national fame. Several poems in this collection were written in the style of the Uranian movement, a movement of primarily gay male artists and philosophers in the English-speaking world from the 1870s to the 1930s. 

From 1907 to 1912, Viereck developed a profound identification with Germany and became fascinated with all aspects of the German culture and people. In 1907, he published a vampire novel, “The House of the Vampire”, which was not only one of the first psychic-vampire stories but, also,  one of the first known homosexual vampire novels. Viereck, in 1908, published his best-selling “Confessions of a Barbarian”, a collection of personal narratives on subjects such as morals, art, and both German and international culture. Viereck was invited in 1911 to lecture on American poetry at the University of Berlin. Due to his ardent support of Germany and pacifism during the period of estranged Anglo-German relations leading up to World War I,  he was later expelled from several organizations and social clubs. 

Outspoken in his views against America’s involvement in World War I, George Viereck founded and became editor of the German-sponsored magazine “The Fatherland”, which argued the German cause. He was later arrested and served time in a Washington D.C. jail, during which period his son George Jr. died as a  combat casualty of the first world war which Viereck had vigorously opposed.  In August of 1918, a mob stormed Viereck’s  Mount Vernon home: and, in the following year, he was expelled from the Poetry Society of America. In 1919, Viereck wrote the book “Roosevelt”, a psycho-analytical study of Theodore Roosevelt and his attitude on matters of international interest, which was published by New York City’s Jackson Press.

After the end of the war, Viereck traveled throughout Europe and America interviewing many notable personalities, including Sigmund Freud, George Bernard Shaw, Adolf Hitler, Henry Ford, Marshal Ferdinand Foch, Benito Mussolini, and Albert Einstein, among others.  In 1924, he published a collection of poetry, entitled “The Three Sphinxes and Other Poems”; the collection’s poem “Slaves” would be quoted several times in the 1968 psycho-thriller film “Twisted Nerve” and be the inspiration for its title. 

George Viereck became a well-known supporter of National Socialism and a regular apologist for Germany. In 1933, he again met Hitler, who had become Germany’s leader, and gave a speech in 1934 at New York’s Madison Square Garden to an audience of twenty thousand in which he supported National Socialism without its antisemitism. In 1941 George Viereck established his own publishing house, Flanders Hall, in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, but was eventually indicted by the government for a violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Convicted in 1942 for failing to register with the U. S. State Department as a National Socialist agent, he was imprisoned from 1942 to 1947. 

In 1952, Viereck’s “Men Into Beasts”, a general memoir of the loss of dignity, brutality, and the situational homosexuality and rape he witnesse in jail, was published by Fawcett Publications. This book was shortly followed by two more works: the 1952 “Gloria: A Novel” and the 1953 “The Nude in the Mirror”. Between 1906 and 1953, he published twenty-three works in the genres of theater plays, poetry, works of fiction, and works of political discussion and criticism. 

George Viereck’s literary works after his release from prison were not very successful, except for his “Men Into Beasts”, which would become one of the first original titles of 1950s gay novels. In 1955, he suffered a series of mild strokes and ceased his writing. George Sylvester Viereck died in March of 1962 in Holyoke, Massachusetts, of a massive cerebral hemorrhage at the age of seventy-seven. 

Note: An interesting read on the emotional and psychological development of Viereck’s life, and his perception of his own sexuality, is Phyllis Keller’s “George Sylvester Viereck: The Psychology of a German-American Militant” from the MIT Press. It can be found at the JSTOR site: https://www.jstor.org/stable/202443

Soufiane Ababri

Drawings by Soufiane Ababri

Born in Rabat, Morocco in 1985, Soufiane Ababri is a multi-media artist who works in the fields of drawing, sculpture, film, and performance art. He graduated from the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in 2010 and earned his Masters of Arts at Paris’s École Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in 2014. Ababri divides his life and work between the cities of Paris, France, and Tangier, Morocco. 

Although he works in many medias, Soufiane Ababri is best known for his homoerotic drawings of men portrayed in settings which depict a flourishing queer subculture. His scenes, either  humorous or infused with emotion, are drawn from his life as a gay Moroccan immigrant in Europe. Ababri’s most acclaimed series, “Bed Works”, was initiated in 2016 and is still continuing today. These pencil portraits of men, drawn while lying down in bed, are conveyed in bold, energetic colors and explore Ababri’s interest in the nuances of masculinity and male intimacy. 

Having a strong interest in sociology, Ababri’s oeuvre also deals with the idea of visual experience as an exercise in introspection, that is the artist sees the world as the world sees him. Ababri’s work, built from layers of personal and intimate events, also uses literary works, such as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s 1943 “Little Prince” and poet Frank O’Hara’s “A True Account of Talking to the Sun”, to examine the tensions, stigmas,  and ambivalences in present day  society. 

Soufiane Ababri’s 2020 “Tanned But Still Angry” series consisted of seventeen colored pencil on paper drawings that Ababri developed over several years in reaction to police violence. These drawings depicted real scenes and situations experienced by Ababri himself and fellow members of the LGBT and POC communities. Fueled by the deaths of Adama Traoré in 2016 and George Floyd in May, the series not only powerfully displays injustice, but also, often poetically, emphasizes the need for equality.

Soufiane Ababri’s most recent solo show, the 2021 “Bunch of Queequeg”, named after the “Moby Dick” character, included all works from the continuing “Bed Work” series and was held at Praz-Delavallade in Los Angeles.The triptych drawing from that exhibition, seen in the above images, shows Ababri as Queequeg in the middle panel, with Ishmael in tight-fitting shorts on the right panel and three skewered severed heads on the left panel. In this work, Ababri considers not only the literature of colonialism and its lasting effects on daily life and culture, but also its presence in our most intimate relationships.

Ababri’s installation / performance pieces include the 2017 “Moving Frontiers: Do and Undo” at the Espace Doual’Art in Doula, CM; the 2018 “Humes l’Ordeur des Fleurs Pendant Qu’il en est Encore Temps” held at the Marathon des Mots in Toulouse, France; the 2018 “Here is a Strange and Bitter Crop” at Space in London; the 2019 “Tropical Concrete Gym Park” at the Glassbox in Paris; the 2019 “Memories of a Solitary Cruise” held at The Pill in Istanbul; and the 2020 “Something New Under the Little Prince’s Body” at the Dittrich & Schlechtriem in Berlin.

Soufiane Ababri has exhibited in Berlin, Brussels, and Istanbul. His work is in the collections of Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain Pointou-Charente and Musée d’Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne, and Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain, Pays de la Loire. In 2021 Ababri’s work was included in the Glasgow International Festival for Contemporary Art. 

Note: Photos of Soufiane Ababri’s performance and artwork, as well as  contact information, can be found at: https://soufianeababri.com

An interesting article, written by Joey Levenson, on Soufiane Ababri’s newest book and his use of intimacy as a means of social construct analysis can be found at: https://www.itsnicethat.com/articles/soufiane-ababri-art-100821

Jesús Carrillio

Paintings by Jesús Carrillio

Born in the Andalusian town of Córdoba, Jesús Carrillio is a Spanish multi-media artist who also uses the name Eltío Esse. He works in the fields of painting, photography, computer graphics and film making, Interested in drawing and color from an early age, Jesús Carrillio received his initial lessons in art from his older brother, the painter José Maria Carrillio. 

At the age of sixteen,  Jesús Carrillio attended the Priego Landscape School where he did landscape painting influenced by the school’s impressionistic style. His formal art training began at Granada’s Padre Suárez Institute where he studied art history, art theory, and aesthetics. In 1990, Carrillio attended the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Granada, where he majored in painting.

After graduating from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Jesús Carrillio moved in 1995 to the seaside city of Brighton, England, where he painted and worked as a postman. Three years later, he moved to Salamanca, Spain, where he enrolled in its University to study design and both audiovisual and multimedia techniques. Influences on Carrillio’s expressionistic work are the Italian and Flemish paintings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries , and his attraction to African culture and art.

Carrillio often uses computer software to enhance his painted images. Both his film and video art, as well as his unique animated and static GIFs,  are designed to be viewed as projections at performances and installation projects. Carrillio’s photographic work and digital paintings are printed on brushed aluminum panels, a process in which, while darker areas of the image appear matte, the lighter areas of the image have a unique shimmer.

More information on Jesús Carrillio’s work, including commissioned pieces and contact information, can be found at his Artfinder site located at: https://www.artfinder.com/artist/eltioesse/