The View of Delft After the Explosion of 1654

Egbert van der Poel Oil on Oak 1654

Around 11:00 AM on October 12, 1654, watchman Cornelius Soetens entered the black powder storage facility in Delft, a former convent, with an unknown visitor.  A half an hour later, one quarter of the city was destroyed.  An estimated 300 lives were lost, thousands injured.  40 tons of powder (80,000 to 90,000 pounds)  exploded, the equivalent of 22.5 tons of TNT.

Known at the Delft Thunderclap (Der Delftse Donderslag), it remains one of the worst non-nuclear explosions in history.  It was heard as far as the North Sea, 93 miles away.  200 houses were razed, an additional 300 were damaged. The loss of human life could have been much worse, but many people were attending a fair at The Hague and were not in their homes that morning.

The painting above by Egbert van der Poel was painted contemporaneously.  Mostly associated with fiery scenes of Rotterdam, he and his family were living in Delft at the time of the explosion.  The destroyed building in the foreground is sometimes misidentified as the powder store, although it is actually a home. Note the people carrying salvaged items.  In the center, two men assist a collapsed woman. The space to the right with the open space and sheered trees is actually the scene of the explosion.  The building and immediate surrounding area was completely leveled.  This may have been a cathartic process for Van den Poel, as at least one source notes he lost his only son in the explosion.

Also tragically lost was Carel Fabritius, often considered the most promising student of Rembrandt.  He, along with his student Mattias Spoors and church deacon Simon Decker, were working on a painting together when the event occurred.  Although he survived the initial explosion, he died only a few days later from his wounds, as did Spoors and Decker.  His studio was completely destroyed, leaving only about a dozen works.  Today, only a handful of his paintings survive.  He was a mere 32 years old at the time of his death.

 

AViewOfDelft Fabritius
A View of Delft, Oil on Canvas, Carel Fabritius, 1852, National Gallery, London

     A View of Delft was painted in 1652.  The large church is Nieuwe Kerk. Two years after this painting was completed, the walls were dislocated and roof and many of the windows collapsed during the explosion.  In the painting by Van der Poel it is seen in the background directly behind the ruins of the home.

Known for experimentation with perspective, this painting may have been for a perspective box or “peepshow.”  These were kind of like the 3D viewers of the 17 century.  A box was built around the painting, often painted to be the exterior of a building.  The viewer would look through a small peephole for a view of the interior of a building.  This particular painting was probably curved from behind to give the viewer even more of a 3D feeling.  Note the curvature of sidewalk.

The Goldfinch
The Goldfinch, Oil on Panel, Carel Fabritius, 1654, The Hague

Mainly because this will most likely be my only blog to feature Carel Fabritius, I would be remiss if I didn’t include a mention of the tiny by great work, The Goldfinch. Although it’s only a 9×13 panel, it packs a big punch and has quickly become one of my favorite paintings over the past few years.  Again expressing his interest in perspective, Fabritius shows off his excellent use of trompe-l’oeil to give the box a three-dimensional look.  I especially love how the gold perch curves and attaches to the wall on the left side, the shadow perfectly angled to look as if it is actually protruding from the panel.

The bird itself is a beautiful European goldfinch.  Its face is perfectly foreshortened with excellent proportions for the beak and eyes.  A delicate chain gives the bird little room to move, but the loop attaching the intricate chain to the perch is expertly crafted into a perfect oval.  The coloring of the wall behind is really a deviation from his teacher, Rembrandt.  Painted the year he died, this painting shows the growth of Fabritius and  gives a feel of what he could have been.

His contemporary, the great Dutch master Vermeer, would take up this  light coloring of backgrounds after the death of Fabritius.  It’s possible they had a teacher student relationship, but there isn’t much evidence.  It’s more likely Vermeer was  influenced by an already established painter that belonged to the same guild.   Upon Vermeer’s death nearly 20 years later, several of Fabritius’ remaining paintings were inventoried as part of his collection.

It was after both of their deaths when Arnold Bon printed a poem by Dirk van Bleyswijck,  Beschryvinge der stad Delft (A Description of Delft, 1689) about Carel Fabritius, which in part read:

Thus did this Phoenix, to our loss, expire,
In the midst, and at the height of his career,
But fortunately there arose from his fire,
VERMEER who masterfully trod his path.

Read an excellent article about Fabritius and his heavy influence on the School of Delft here:  School of Delft

Visit The National Gallery to learn more about both The View of Delft After the Explosion of 1654 and A View of Delft. And Mauritshuis to learn more about The Goldfinch.

 

*Description of The View of Delft After the Explosion of 1654 by Van der Poel:  Landscape format oil painting.  Top two thirds are a dark sky with five flying birds. In the distance, two large churches and the town hall stand erect.  In the foreground, several destroyed homes and buildings.  At left, a building with only two side walls remain. People in 17th century attire, bent backs, carrying containers from ruins.  A collapsed woman is assisted by two men.  To the right, a group is gathered in a large empty space surrounded by a circle of debris.  A row of white trees are stripped bare.

*Description of A View of Delft by Carel Fabritius: Left side is foreground. Profile of man with downturned moustache and large black hat, right arm bent at elbow, thumb at chin.  Next to him, a lute.  Right side is the background.  A large Gothic church in light stone and grey roof, the Nieuwe Kerk,  sits on a corner.   The sidewalk curves around it.  Blue sky with white puffy clouds above.

*Description of The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius: Small blue grey feeder box attached to a light grey wall.  Two gold perches surround the box.  Attached to the top perch is a ring connected to a chain around the ankle of a small yellow and brown bird.  It sits with its body in profile, face turned out.  Signed C. Fabritive 1654 at bottom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Robert-Hugues Lambert in Mermoz

Mermoz Movie Poster 1942

Today we remember the death of French actor Robert-Hugues Lambert, who suffered in Drancy transit camp and ultimately Buchenwald while his first film premiered in Paris.  Few great French films were produced during the Vichy period, but reportedly, Mermoz was one of them.  Unfortunately, I have been unable to track down even a French version, much less one with English subtitles.  The story of the leading man, however, was worthy of a movie of its own.  (Keep reading, that exists too).

First, we have to take a very quick look at Jean Mermoz to fully understand the scope of the story.  Mermoz was an early aviation hero in both France and Argentina and everywhere in between. In the 1920s and ’30s he was making dangerous flights from France to exotic locales like Morocco and Senegal, and eventually all the way to Brazil. This led to exciting stories, like crashing in the Sahara and being taken captive by Turegs.
He moved to Argentina and became one of the leaders of South American aviation.

The mysterious ending to his historic career lends to the story.  He was lost at sea in a situation similar to what we associate with Amelia Earhart just seven months before her.  He is worthy of a blog of his own, which I may get to someday.  Needless to say, he was an extremely well-known and popular hero with a tragic disappearance. That is exactly what sells theater tickets, even when there is a world war going on.

Robert-Hugues Lambert was a little known comedic theater actor.  He was noticed by director Louis Cuny while working on a show by the great French playwright Jean Giono. But it wasn’t Lambert’s acting that caught the eye of the director, it was his likeness to Jean Mermoz.  It’s said the mother of Mermoz was overcome with emotion when she saw Lambert. The number one feature, of course, is their wavy hair.

Now one thing to remember here is that Cuny and basically everyone working on the set are relatively new to movie making.  Although he did have several short films under his belt, this was his first major motion picture.  The real reason he even had this opportunity was because in Occupied France of 1942, Jewish film directors, producers, actors, and even crew were no longer allowed to work.  Cuny saw this as a chance to make it big.

Unfortunately, the movie was plagued with problems from the get-go, most of which had to do with inexperience.  This included the below par acting of Lambert himself, as well as difficulty with the set and crew.  With the big premiere date in Paris already set, they were under the gun to finish on time, no matter what.

In Vichy France, homosexuals were as undesirable as Jews when it came to owning or running businesses. However, in the arts it was mostly overlooked.  Poets, musicians, and actors continued on (cautiously) with their careers.  Most believe where Lambert made his mistake was his choice to become involved with a specific lover.

There is very little that is actually known, but a lot of speculation swirls around what happened next.  With just over a week of filming left, Lambert disappears.  He attended a photo shoot earlier in the day then didn’t show up for filming the next day.  The evening of the photo shoot there had been a surprise roundup at a local bar frequented by gay men. Some believe it was coincidence that he happened to be there when the Nazi arrived.  I tend to believe otherwise.

He had been in a relationship with a German officer, which of course was kept secret.  With the movie about to be released, it became more important to keep the secret.  Some speculate there was a falling out between the two (possibly over jealousy) and the officer ordered the raid.  I tend to believe that the officer was afraid he’d gotten in a bit too deep and was scared for his own career and possibly life.  Or maybe it was just a coincidence.  Regardless, Lambert was arrested, most likely for “idleness,” and transported to Drancy transit camp.

There is also a haziness about what happens next.  I’ve read a lot of articles stating that Louis Cuny and the film company did everything they could to have him released.  I find that pretty hard to believe, because in similar cases people were released relatively easily.  Of course, this would have been more complicated with the German officer boyfriend perhaps hoping to keep the relationship under cover.  But Cuny was pretty well known for not caring about his actors.  He said he learned early to treat actors just like any other workers.  Once you’re done with them, that’s it.  You don’t call a plumber after he’s fixed your faucet.

So Cuny did what was easiest, he hired someone else to finish the shooting.  No problem.  They look similar enough, the shots will all be done from behind so no one will see Henri Vidal’s face.  They may have looked alike, but they didn’t sound alike.  They needed Lambert’s voice.

Meanwhile, Robert-Hugues Lambert is forced into hard labor.  In the end, he would be in at least four different camps.  But he was in Drancy when he was passed a series of lines to say into a microphone that was lowered over the barbed wire fence on a boom.  The movie could not be completed without his voice, and time was running out before the big Paris premiere.  Believing he would be released any day, he dutifully read the lines.  The crew sent to record lines even said they would see him at the premiere.  Perhaps they all really believed they would.

On November 3, 1943, Mermoz in premiered in Paris.  Robert-Hugues Lambert is not mentioned.  In August of 1943 he is transferred to Buchenwald.  In November of 1944 he is transferred to Flossenberg to work in a brickyard.  On March 7, 1945, Robert-Hugues Lambert dies at the age of 37 of exhaustion.

It’s said that in the camps, no one called him Lambert.  To the Nazis he was 21623.  To everyone else, he was Mermoz.

Marcel Bluwal would eventually make a movie loosely based on Lambert called Le plus beau pays du monde which is sometimes translated (like on IMDB) as The Happiest Place on Earth, but seems to more closely mean “The Most Beautiful Country in the World.”  I have also had a hard time finding this movie in English.  I would be leary of viewing it as historical fiction, however, since it seems to take a lot of liberties and the majority of the characters are fictional.

Not surprisingly, I couldn’t find a painting of Robert-Hugues Lambert.  However, I thought this Mermoz movie poster was a beautiful work of art. I love the stylized stone faced depiction of Mermoz, wavy hair flowing behind him.  It contrasts so well with the simplistic sky and ocean in front of him.  It also really shows that while flying made him famous, it was his larger than life personality that made him popular.

It is a bit surprising to me that you’ll notice at the bottom under Louis Cuny you’ll see Robert-Hugues Lambert in large letters.  I wonder if they used a different poster for the premiere.  I’ve seen at least three different posters (all equally beautiful), but all do list Lambert.  One even shows his picture.

To see all three posters, click here: Mermoz posters

Read more about Vichy here:  Deportation from Vichy

To listen to a portion of the ahhhmazing score of Mermoz by Arthur Honeggar, one of the greatest composers of the 20th century, click here:  La traversée des Andes

You may also want to check out the books World Cinema and Cultural Memory by I. Hedges and The Classic French Cinema, 1930-1960 by Colin Crisp.

*Description of poster: A horizontal movie poster.  The top two-thirds of the background is a dark blue sky. A small white plane flies in the distance.  The bottom third is a lighter blue ocean with dark blue waves.  The entire left side is an all white sculptural bust profile of Jean Mermoz covering both the ocean and sky.  His long wavy hair is chiseled as if it is flowing out behind him.

Across the bottom of the poster in large black letters, Mermoz.  In smaller letters, Un Film de Louis Cuny. Below that in smaller letters still, Robert-Hugues Lambert.  Across the top, Les Productions Francaises Cinematographiques, André Tranché.*

*Description of photographs: Two black and white portraits side by side. On the left, Jean Mermoz.  On the right, Robert-Hugues Lambert.  Both men wear a suit and tie and have dark eyes and wavy hair combed back.  Mermoz gives a teethy smile.  Lambert’s smile isn’t as broad, but both men seem to smile with their warm eyes.*

 

 

Elizabeth Peratrovich, We Can Do It

Apayo Moore  Acrylic  2014

On July 4, 1911, a great American hero was born in Petersburg, Alaska.  Her name was Kaaxgal.aat.  She was of the L’ukwaax.ádi clan in the Raven moiety of the Tlingit nation. Her passion, perseverance, and tenacity led Alaska to become the first state or territory in the nation with an anti-discrimination act.  Although I’ve seen many articles stating New York was first, The Alaska Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945 pre-dated The New York Human Rights Law by nearly a month.  It was signed on this day, February 18, 1945.

Orphaned at a young age, she became Elizabeth Wanamaker when adopted by a Presbyterian minister and his wife.  She went on to marry Roy Peratrovich, whose mother was Tlingit and father was Serbian.  Together, they formed one of the greatest civil rights power couples of the 20th century.  Roy became the mayor of their town, Klawock, and later held other positions in the territorial government.   They each became Grand President of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood, respectively.

When they moved to Juneau to seek more opportunity after they both received college educations, they were met with racial discrimination.  They were unable to find adequate housing in an appealing neighborhood due to “no Native” policies.  Signs on local business read “no dogs and no Natives allowed.”  Like so much of this country at the time, discrimination was blatant and wide spread.

In 1941, Elizabeth Peratrovich petitioned the territorial governor, Ernest Gruening, to ban “No Natives Allowed” signs.  The Anti-Discrimination Act was defeated in 1943.  In 1945, their fight continued.  It was at this time Senator Allen Shattuck, who opposed the bill, said the following.  “Far from being brought closer together, which will result from this bill, the races should be kept further apart,” he said. “Who are these people, barely out of savagery, who want to associate with us whites with five thousand years of recorded civilization behind us?”

As the Grand President of the Alaska Native Brotherhood, Roy was asked to give testimony in front of the senate.  Roy testified, “Only Indians can know how it feels to be discriminated against. Either you are for discrimination or you are against it.”

When he was finished, time was allowed for anyone else to give testimony.  Legend has is it that Elizabeth put down her knitting and asked to speak.  She was the last to give testimony.  By all accounts, she was composed, confident, and extremely persuasive.  Her most powerful words though, came indirectly from Senator Shattuck.

“I would not have expected,” she exclaimed, “That I, who am barely out savagery, would have to remind gentlemen with five thousand years of recorded civilization behind them of our Bill of Rights.” She then went on to recount the discrimination she and her family faced.  When Senator Shattuck asked if she thought the bill would eliminate discrimination all together, this was her reply.  “Do your laws against larceny and even murder prevent those crimes?  No law will eliminate crimes, but at least you legislators can assert to the world that you recognize the evil of the present situation and speak your intent to help us overcome discrimination.”

When she concluded her testimony, the chamber broke out in thunderous applause.  The bill passed the senate and was signed into law.  It would be nearly 20 years before the Civil Rights Act took the same steps for the country as a whole.

Elizabeth Peratrovich died at the age of 47 of cancer.  In 1988, Alaska began to officially recognize February 18 as Elizabeth Peratrovich Day.  Her husband, Roy, died nine days before the day was officially celebrated.

To see the actual bill, click here: Alaska Anti-Discrimination Act

To read an in depth article by Dave Kiffer on the subject, click here:  Sit News

Apayo Moore is an Alaskan artist of Yup’ik heritage.  While continuing her education in Colorado, she became aware and gained more understanding of how Pebble Mine threatened her subsistence lifestyle in her home village near Bristol Bay.   She uses her artwork to educate and spread awareness about the possible destruction of her traditional way of life.

This painting is, of course, a riff on J. Howard Miller’s  traditional We Can Do It poster featuring Rosie the Riveter. Like Rosie, Elizabeth flexes her right arm while holding up her sleeve with her left hand.  While they both have a similar hairstyle held back by a red bandana, Elizabeth Peratrovich’s bandana and the red shawl around her shoulders includes a traditional representation of Tlingit art.

Instead of a plain yellow background behind her, a variation of the Seal of Alaska.  The boats on the water have been replaced by an oil rig.  The blue waters are muddied with black oil. A bulldozer full of dead salmon takes the place of the farmer and horses.

A variety of white staked signs dot the landscape.  They list names of Native Alaskan court cases against the state of Alaska and the Department of Natural Resources. Most prominent, HB77, is known as the Silencing Alaskans Act, which stripped the Alaskan people of their right to have any input on how their natural resources were used.   It passed in April of 2017.

Alaska-StateSeal

To learn more about Apayo, please visit her website here: Apayo Art

For more information on how to help protect Bristol Bay, please click here:  United Tribes of Bristol Bay

To learn more about HB77, watch this video: Silencing Alaskans

**Description of painting:  A yellow background.  In the foreground is a Native Alaskan woman.  Her black hair is bound in a red bandana tied at the top. The red handkerchief has a row of black stylized bird head outlines around the top. Her grey earring dangles from her right ear. The front of her hair peeks out beneath the bandana in a twisty curl on her forehead.

Her right arm is flexed, she makes a fist.  With her left hand she lifts up her black sleeve to reveal her bicep.  Around her shoulders is a red shawl with a large Tlingit bird depiction.  Near her neck is a very small button that says Pebble Mine with a red line through it.

Partially obstructed from view is the State of Alaska seal as described above.  A large blue text bubble above her with white text reads, “I would not have expected that I, who am barely out of savagery, would have to remind gentlemen with 5,000 years of recorded civilization behind them, of our Bill of Rights.”  Elizabeth Peratrovich.

The painting is signed in grey in the lower left corner, Apayo 2014.**

**Description of Seal of Alaska:  A circular design of mountains, water, and farmland.  The yellow sun shines behind the mountain and reflects on the water.  In the foreground, a farmer plows a brown field with two horses.  On the water, two ships.  To the left, tall green trees with a white building.  Behind them, a train and a smelter.  Around the circle is a grey border that reads “The Seal of the State of Alaska” and has a small black and white drawing of a salmon and two seals.**

 

 

 

 

Queen Victoria in Her Coronation Robes

Charles Robert Leslie  Oil on Canvas  1838

“Farewell best beloved, here at last I shall rest with thee, with thee in Christ I shall rise.” On this day, January 22 of 1901, Queen Victoria died.  She was 82 years old.  Her reign as Queen of Great Britain, Defender of the Faith, and Empress of India was 64 years.  Until very recently when Queen Elizabeth II reached her Sapphire Jubilee, she was the longest reigning monarch in British history.  The above quote is inscribed above the mausoleum door that is the resting place for both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

I’ve always loved to learn about royal families, and Victoria and Albert rank just below Henry VIII and above Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in my obsession.  Victoria and I have in common our shorter stature, although for once I’m slighter taller than someone.  I also always imagined we shared similar personality traits, as many of portraits show a stern expression that I read as logical, precise, and no-nonsense.

We also now share the nearly unendurable grief of the loss of a partner at the young age of 42.  I used to find her seclusion after Albert’s death intriguing and romantic, but I never thought she lost her ability to lead without her partner.  I now realize she didn’t lose her abilities, she simply lost her will.  And although I don’t stand at the head of an empire that never sleeps, I can certainly relate to her withdrawal.  She and I are more alike than I had imagined.

This portrait was painted shortly after her coronation in 1837.  She kneels at the altar in Westminster Abbey in her coronation robes. Her hands are crossed over her heart in preparation to pour her soul into her country.  Her eyes are lowered in a sense of solemnity.  The luscious gold fabric engulfs her small frame, as many envisioned the task as monarch would similarly engulf her.  Her critics were wrong.

Learn more about the reign of Queen Victoria here:  Queen Victoria.

Charles Robert Leslie showed an ability for art at a young age and left Philadelphia to study in England.  His most well-known works are scenes from great literature, like Shakespeare and Moliere. He was also a writer himself, as he wrote a biography of arguably the greatest (if not, certainly most beloved) English painter John Constable, and was also a prolific letter writer.

This painting is located (fittingly) at the Victoria and Albert Museum.  See its listing here:  V&A

 

 

 

 

 

Over the Top

John Nash  Oil on Canvas  1918

Eighty men went over the top on December 30, 1917.  Sixty eight were killed or wounded in the first minutes.  They were the Artists Rifles, the 1st Battalion, and this was the Welsh Ridge counter-attack. This was the Great War.

The Artists Rifles were formed in the 1860s as a volunteer group after the Crimean War.  They were made up of painters, poets, architects, engravers, musicians, actors, and artists of all types.  Many of Britain’s greatest (and some of my favorite) artists served with them, including William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, John William Waterhouse, and the list literally goes on through the thousands.  These earliest volunteers had something else in common, they were the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.  Before they were brothers in arms, they were brothers in art.

On this day, they were given the order to leave their trench and make their way to Marcoing near Cambrai.  John Nash was among the 12 men that made it to their destination. Three months later he painted this oil painting.  It hangs in the Imperial War Museum in London. In 1918 he became an official war artist.

Over the Top is important historically because it is one of the few officially commissioned pieces that show a specific action during the war.  It must have been both therapeutic and heart wrenching to paint this piece only three months after watching most of his division meet their fates.  In the trenches you see two men already down, another in the snow in the foreground and one in the far background.  You only see the feet of the soldier closes to the viewer, but they appear to be down as well.  Another soldier kneels, head down, his helmet on the ground in front of him.  Next to him is a soldier slumped forward, head in the snow.

The men that are walking are hunched, shoulders in, trudging through the snow.  One thing I find interesting is none are holding up their weapons, they’re just carrying them.  They were exiting the trench at an order to advance, but judging by the bodies around them, they must have seen action in the relatively recent past.

After the war, Nash mostly worked on landscapes, but the war never seemed to leave his paintings.  There seemed to continue to be a sort of spindly, dreary feel to them, like the painting below.  The Moat, Grange Farm, Kimble was painted in 1922.

The Moat, Grange Farm, Kimble exhibited 1922 by John Nash 1893-1977
John Nash, The Moat, Grange Farm, Kimble 1922 Oil on canvas  Tate Gallery

During World War I, 10,256 officers were commissioned after training with the Artists Rifles. The regiment has been part of multiple engagements, including the Boer War, World War I and II, the Malayan Emergency, and even Afghanistan.

To see a list of some of the artists and examples of their work, click here:  Artist Rifles Members.

To read an interesting article from the Telegraph by Rupert Christiansen, click here: Telegraph

To read another article from the Telegraph about how Nash became a war artist, click here: War artist

To read previous blogs about some of the members, click here: Death of the Pharaoh’s Firstborn SonThe Magic Circle

 

 

Medication

Andrew Brandou Acrylic on Wood Panel 2007

On this day in 1978, November 18, over 900 people died of cyanide poisoning administered in an act of “revolutionary suicide.”  Many were under duress.  304 were minors.  None were given a choice.  Today is the anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre at the Peoples Temple in Guyana.

Jim Jones considered himself an “apostolic socialist.”  After meeting criticism in Indianapolis he moved to San Francisco.  There, he gained public and political support. In 1976 he moved his cult to the English-speaking but far left leaning Guyana.  “Jonestown” was billed as a “socialist paradise.”  The Peoples Temple Agricultural Project was formed.

Paradise it was not.  The members were required to work long hours of hard manual labor as the soil was poor.  There wasn’t easy access to clean water.  Days were spent working, watching and listening to communist propaganda, and listening to a near constant broadcast of Jim Jones himself over the town’s speakers.  And you could not leave.

As family members and friends back in the States got more and more worried, an investigation was launched.  Senator Leo Ryan led a group of his staff, media, and members of a concerned relatives group.  After days of negotiation, Senator Ryan was set to return to the States. He stated that his report would be mostly positive.  However, he had with him 14 defectors.

The health and particularly mental health of Jim Jones had declined.  This investigation and the defection of his followers sent him down an even more dangerous, but probably inevitable path.  As he was apt to record himself, the “death tape” details what next transpired.  One of the “defectors” was a plant.  Senator Ryan and four others were killed.  Nine others were wounded on the airstrip.  There was no chance for Jonestown now.  No one would survive.

In addition to those five killed at the airstrip, 909 died at Jonestown– two by gunshot wound, the rest by ingesting a combination of Flavor Aid and cyanide.  I am opting to not describe the acts of adults toward children or any other further description.   The details are disturbing.  You can listen to the tape and hear the adults talking calmly while children scream.  I don’t need to describe it to you, you can look that up.

This painting by American artist and illustrator Andrew Brandou is so creepily haunting.  It’s part of a series entitled “As a Man Thinketh, So He Is,” which depict several different scenes at Jonestown before the massacre.  You can see the entire collection here.  As a Man Thinketh.

Brandou paints in a style similar to old children’s books.  They remind me a lot of the Little Golden Books, which I think is partly why I find them disturbing, but somehow beautiful at the same time.  This painting, Medication, shows a variety of animals queuing up peacefully to their death.  I think this is an illusion to Jim Jones’s so-called “rainbow family” and his integrationalist ideals.

A mother cat with a screaming kitten, an elderly dog glancing nervously at the already fallen bodies of his comrades, a vixen nurse looking determined to complete her job.  A hare looks behind him to a bear with a gun.  The bear seems to be the only one smiling.  Interestingly, Jim Jones himself isn’t present in this painting, as he is represented as a lion in the rest of the series.  Possibly an acknowledgment that he himself didn’t die of poison, but an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

One has to wonder if this could still happen today in this world of constant communication.  But then I think about all those that blindly follow what a talking head tells them, regardless of the absurdity or improbability or down right immorality.  There may never be another day when so many people physically drink the proverbial Kool-aid, but people drink in poison every day.  Turn off the constant propaganda being broadcast non-stop.  We don’t have to listen to that voice.

Learn more about the artists of Jonestown here:  Jonestown Art

 

 

Tawaf

Reem Nazir  Oil on Canvas 2010

Over two million Muslims will begin the Hajj this evening.  One of the Five Pillars of Islam, the Pilgrimage to Mecca is one of the most important events of a person’s life.  It is required of all that are physically and financially able the make the journey at least once.

The highlight for many is the Tawaf, the circling of the Kaaba.  The group of thousands together walk seven times around the structure.  This harmonious circumambulation  symbolizes the unity of the people as one in worship of the One God.

The large cube-like structure in the middle is the Kaaba, the most sacred Islamic site.  When Muslims around the world stop to pray, it is toward the Kaaba they are kneeling.  Part of the granite structure is the Station of Ibrahim.  It’s said that the impression of Abraham’s feet are there from where he stood during the construction.

There are many different theories and legends about the Black Stone that is located on the Kaaba.  Some believe the angel Gabriel gave it to Ismael, son of Abraham, to put on the temple.  There are amazing stories ranging from it being a meteorite to the remains of the angel from the Garden of Eden turned to stone when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.  Touching or kissing the Black Stone is an important aspect of the Hajj, as the Prophet Mohammed ﷺ kissed it when he saw it.

The large fabric that is draped over the Kaaba is the Kiswah.  It’s a beautiful embroidered piece made of silk and stitched with gold.  It is draped only one day a year during the Hajj and a new cloth is created each year.

This painting by Reem Nazir shows the Kiswah being lowered as the pilgrims walk around the base.  I love how it shows it mid-process, with the lowering ropes visible, as well as the back side of the fabric.  She shows a surprising amount of detail in the embroidery, as well as the small objects hanging in the foreground.

Reem Nazir is a Saudi Arabian born artist, but has lived and worked around the world.  She paints a wide range of subjects from landscape to portrait to still life, all of which are known for their bold color and heavy, layered palette knife work.  Without a doubt, my favorites come from her series entitled Hajj Journey Through the Ages, which includes 43 paintings.  These works were based on historical photographs and first hand accounts from Hajjees.

To learn more about this series and the artist, please check out this interview:  Reem Nazir

The Tawaf is just one segment of the Hajj.  Please learn more about the journey.  Sending peace and love to those making the journey this week.

o-HAJJ

 

Flower of Srebrenica

Enes Klopic  Illustration  July 7, 2014

8,372, that’s the number of boys and men killed on July 11, 1995 in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina.  In a town that was supposed to be a UN safe haven during the Bosnian war, Dutch peacekeepers were unable to keep the Bosnian Serb forces from entering the city, rounding up all the men and boys (officially) over the age of 15, and executing them.  Many of them were from nearby villages that arrived in the three years preceding the genocide seeking refuge from the war. 8,372, and that does not include more than 20,000 women, children and elderly that were displaced.

Relatively short in terms of war and armed conflict in general, the Bosnian war lasted from April 6, 1992 to December 14, 1995.  By July of ’95, the end seemed imminent, and the loss of the Army of Republika Srpska under the command of General Ratko Mladic seemed a forgone conclusion.  Many believe this certainty of defeat is what lead to the mass execution of the civilian population of boys and men.  There was little to no justifiable strategic reasoning, even during war.  It was nothing short of a desperate, last-minute attempt at ethnic cleansing.

On July 6, 1995, the offensive on Srebrenica began officially.  But long before that, the Srpska understood the key to breaking the town.  It was a UN safe haven protected by Dutch peacekeepers.  Rules of war stated they could not attack the town.  So instead, they cut off supplies of food and resources.  When people left the town for supplies, the Bosnian Serbs considered these “raiding parties.”

So they used this as a justification to enter Srebrenica.  NATO forces planned to attack the artillery locations outside of town, but the VRS threatened to attack other civilian populations and kill their Dutch and French hostages.  So the Srpska entered town triumphantly.

In the days that followed, the men and boys were separated from the women.  For the most part, they were marched or trucked to wooded areas or the river and executed.  Those fleeing through the woods were often coerced back into the trucks by Serb forces wearing UN peacekeeping uniforms and helmets taken from the Dutch forces.  Not only were they thrown unceremoniously into mass graves, but the soldiers were ordered to return and move the bodies to other locations to avoid the real numbers being known.

Twenty two years later, graves are still being found.  There are now approximately 7,000 souls interred at the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial and Cemetery.  More than a thousand are still missing.  Every year on this day, July 11, more families finally have a chance to say goodbye to a son, father, brother, husband as DNA provides the evidence to ensure each person receives the proper recognition he deserves.

I encourage you to please, please learn more about the atrocities that took place such a short time ago.  I was in high school when this occurred.  This is not the ancient past, or even the memories of our grandparents.  This is our past.  Mladic was not even arrested for his war crimes until 2011.  I recommend this article in The New York Times:  Life in the Valley of DeathI also recommend this blog, but I warn you, the images are graphic.  Srebrenica Genocide.

The artwork is based on a symbol of remembrance of the genocide at Srebrenica.  Traditionally, the flower is crocheted, a popular art of Bosnia.  It was designed by the members of the association “Gracanica’s Crochet.”  The white petals signify innocence, the green center hope.  There are always eleven petals for the day, July 11.  Here is some more information about the design of the flower Flower of Srebrenica.

Enes Klopic takes this symbol, and transforms it into a beautifully haunting memorial to the lives lost.  The petals are eleven mourning women clothed in white.  They encircle a casket, covered in the traditional green Islamic covering.  Each have their right arm outstretched, touching the green cloth together, almost as one.

While most have their heads down looking at the casket, a few have their heads lifted, faces toward the skies.  But this is also the viewpoint of us, the viewer.  We are looking down from above.  The upturned faces seem to plead with us to see what they see, feel what they touch, and remember.

And one particular woman seems to stare right at you, as the viewer, although we do not see her eyes.  The mother on the top right appears to ask where you were when her child was marched away and executed, and tossed into a mass grave.  She seems to not quite accuse you, the viewer, as the perpetrator of the crime, but as a silent witness that stood by and let it happen.

Enes Klopic is a graphic designer from Bosnia who studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sarajevo.  He now lives in Germany.  His Facebook page has a larger version of this piece, with the Srebrenica skyline at night in the foreground.  The flower is above, almost like a bright, full moon.

Read more about what the artist has to say about the work here:  Enes Klopic  (although Google Translator doesn’t seem to do a great job with Bosnian.)  I also spoke with him about the piece via Facebook to ask for his permission to post this blog.  He was very gracious and humble, saying his flower is free to share with everyone.  It is the lives of those lost we need to remember.

srebrenica casket
This photo is from the memorial service in 2010 when 775 newly identified remains were interred.   Photograph: Fehim Demir/EPA  July 11, 2010 The Guardian

I really wanted to actually list all 8,372 names here instead of just posting a link.  Unfortunately, every time I tried that, the paged locked up.  The sheer number of names locked up my whole system.  So instead, please click here Srebrenica Victims to read all of their names.

 

Bosnia
Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial and Cemetery                             Photo:www.skyscrapercity.com

 

 

 

 

 

Bobby Bonilla

Dick Perez  Oil on canvas  20th Century

Happy Bobby Bonilla Day!  Today we celebrate former Cardinal great Bobby Bonilla.  Probably more accurately, we acknowledge his agent, Dennis Gilbert.

Why?  Because once a year, when July 1 rolls around, Bobby Bonilla is paid $1.64 million dollars from his former (not as cool as the Cardinals) team, the New York Mets.  Every July 1, you may ask?  No.  Just every July 1 until 2035.  Oh yeah, and it started in 2011.

This, my friends, is a little thing called a deferred payment, and I love it.  There is a lot of really interesting and great math in this article from ESPN: Bobby Bonilla Day, but I’ll give you the very simple run down.

In 2000, Bobby was a Met.  The organization no longer felt he was a contributing factor to the team, and wanted to buy out his contract.  They still owed him $5.9 million.  Enter Dennis Gilbert.

Bobby’s agent’s background was actually as an insurance agent.  Before that, he played minor league baseball.  When a friend of his who was a baseball agent died unexpectedly, Dennis picked up his clients.

Why is his background important?  Well, Dennis was first and foremost an insurance man.  He continued working in insurance even after becoming a baseball agent.  He understood things like interest, tax rules, reinvestment opportunities, and deferments.  Basically, he knew how to get Bobby an unorthodox, but impressive deal.

So the Mets wanted to get rid of Bobby, but still have money to pick up someone else pricey.  So Dennis Gilbert brokered a deal that was a win-win.  The Mets deferred their payments to Bobby until 2011.  Starting then, they would pay him every July 1, plus 8% interest.  This allowed them to pick up Mike Hampton, who essentially cost the same amount they would have been paying Bobby.

I’ll also just point out right here that the Mets had a ton of money tied up with Bernie Madoff, and they thought they were going to be making zillions of dollars above and beyond what they owed Bobby, so this sounded like an extra good deal.  We all know how that worked out.

The ESPN article goes into lots of detail about what Bobby could have earned investing that money at the time versus the smaller amount each year, and the pros and cons of the deferred payment.  I’m no expert on professional athletes (except Rick Ankiel, cartoon heart, cartoon heart), but in my humble opinion, one seems to hear more often of athletes losing and spending their money than making a fortune investing.  So for me, it seems like a wise choice.

The artist that painted this work is sports artist Dick Perez.  He’s most well-known for being the official artist of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and paints an official portrait of each inductee to hang in the Hall of Fame for their induction year.  I don’t know the specific year this was painted.  I’m not even sure it’s 20th century, but I assume it was painted during his playing days.

This painting is what the artist classifies as one of his stylized paintings.  He uses wide swathes of color butted against each other for the highlights, as opposed to a more traditional blended look.  The lighter lines above his lip, the bridge of his nose, and above his eyebrows focuses your eyes on his face and makes for a surprisingly cohesive look, although if you look closely, there are at least seven different colors in his face alone.

This is a really fun painting for a really fun day.  You can see a great deal more paintings by Dick Perez and his explanation of his stylized paintings here:  Dick Perez.

I was really hoping to find a painting of Bobby Bo in his Cardinal uniform, but he wasn’t with us long, and it was at the very end of his career.  Nevertheless, once a Cardinal, always a Cardinal in our eyes.  And some would argue Bobby’s contract and subsequent hamstring injury would give us one of the organization’s biggest stars of all time, Albert Pujols.  If nothing else, it brought Albert to us sooner than expected.

Mr. Bonilla, as a Cardinals fan, a baseball fan, and a fan of treating your money wisely, I salute you.  And if you or Mr. Gilbert have any extra cash lying about from your new check that you would like to donate to me to see more Cardinals games, I will gladly take it off your hands.  After all, you’ll get another one next year.

Happy Bobby Bonilla Day!

 

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