Tag Archives: painting

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.**

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

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!

 

Allah is Greatest

Nora Al-Galad  Digital Calligraphy  2012

The holy month of Ramadan has begun for practising Muslims around the world.  It is a celebration of the first revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) by the Archangel Gabriel in a cave called Jabal an-Nour near Mecca.

Ramadan is observed in many ways, but most notably by adhering to two of the Five Pillars of Islam.  In addition to prayer, the majority of Muslims fast during Ramadan from dawn to dusk.  Ramadan is also marked by zakat, charitable giving.

Artistic depiction of the human form is forbidden in Islamic art.  It is considered a form of idolatry and a sin.  Although there are some examples historically, it is rare and generally deemed disrespectful.  Therefore, a majority of Islamic art is geometric forms and calligraphy.

This piece is by an Egyptian artist named Nora Al-Galad.  You can find more of her work here:  Nora al-Galad

I love how this calligraphy has a bit of a modern flare.  The flowers and leaves are unusual for Islamic calligraphy.  Usually one would use more geometric pattern, not something from nature.  This artist uses flowers in the forefront, but also uses them in the background in a more traditional, repeating pattern way.

Regardless of your religious or philosophical views, the world could use a lot more charity.  My first charitable act to the world is to not fast.  It would be bad, trust me.  But I do intend to make a conscious effort to be more giving and more forgiving this month, and I encourage you to do the same.

Ramadan kareem (have a generous Ramadan)!

Entry into the City

John August Swanson  Acrylic   1990

Today Christians celebrate Palm Sunday, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem of Jesus.  He and the Disciples are journeying to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.  They have recently come from Bethany, where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

In the days it took Jesus to reach the city of Jerusalem, the story of the miracle of Lazarus spread quickly.  The teachings of Jesus were already somewhat known in the area, and His arrival caused quite a commotion.  When it became known that Jesus was entering Jerusalem, the people went out into the streets to see who He was, and to welcome Him.  The people spread cloaks and branches for His donkey to tread on.  They sang Psalms and celebrated.

Palm Sunday is my favorite liturgical day of the year.  When people hear this, they generally think it is because it’s a happy, celebratory occasion.  That is not the reason.  It’s actually much more ominous and reflective.

I have a horrible fear of mob mentality.  I always have.  I hate crowds and crowded spaces.  I might blame it on reading Lord of the Flies when I was a bit too young.  More likely, it’s from watching a terrifying episode of The Twighlight Zone entitled “The Shelter” (also at a young age).

A group of friendly neighbors turn on each other when the Civil Defense makes an announcement that an object is heading their way.  They assume they are facing the impending doom of a nuclear attack, and desperately seek help from the only family with a fallout shelter, the same family they teased moments before for its existence.  I probably watched that episode twenty-five or thirty years ago, and I still have nightmares about it.

What does this have to do with Palm Sunday and the happy ride into Jerusalem on a donkey by Jesus?  For me, it’s a stark reminder of how quickly things can change, especially when people aren’t thinking for themselves.  In just a few short days, Judas betrays Jesus.  But more importantly, the crowd, this very same crowd cheering, turns on Him and call for His life.

One reason I think they are so easily swayed is because of their lack of information and knowledge about who He was.  While they joined the exalted cheering and singing of Psalms, they yelled out, “who is it?”  Matthew’s gospel says there was a pretty generic answer given, “Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”(Matthew 21:10-11).

This reminds me of being in the airport and seeing everyone grab their phones and rush to get a photo of someone you don’t recognize.  Someone throws out a name that is vaguely familiar or a movie or TV show you’ve heard of, so you grab your phone and get excited as well.  But when someone else somehow becomes more popular for a day or two, you suddenly find you’re more interested in Barabbas the thief than the prophet you were infatuated with days before.

You follow the whims of the crowd, however uniformed, however dangerous.  This is what Palm Sunday teaches me.  Think for yourself.  Be informed.  And be leery of masses of people who don’t.

John August Swanson is a painter and serigrapher.  I’ve nearly used his paintings for this blog for several different Christian holidays, but for various reasons have always chosen something else.  He has an immense body of religious work, but also some secular as well, including an excellent circus series.

I love that his work is influenced by his mother’s Mexican tradition, but mixed with a look of Russian iconography.  The facial features remind me of Medieval religious work, but the color palette is more Mexican folk or early 20th Century American Regionalism.  It gives the feeling of representing a historical event, while simultaneously seeming modern and current.

My favorite part of this painting is the clouds.  I think that’s why this painting fits me so much better than most other paintings of the triumphal entry.  They give the feeling that something is about to change, something is coming.  It might be a celebration now, but something foreboding lies ahead for Jesus.

So while we celebrate, let us look to what we know the rest of the week will bring.

Swanson detail

Detail of Entry into the City

See more of John August Swanson’s work here:  John August Swanson

Read the Biblical texts of the triumphal entry here:  Matthew 21:1-11

 

White Helmet Rescue

Marc Nelson  Charcoal and Watercolor  2016

Today we remember the protest of March 15, 2011 in Damascus. Joining what had already been dubbed the Arab Spring, Syrian protesters took to the streets to demand governmental reform and the release of prisoners. Six years of civil war, chaos, and destruction, and there is still no reform.

When we saw the security forces open fire on the crowd that day, we knew it was bad.  But which of us realized the future that lay ahead for this country?  Who among us knew the suffering children not yet born would endure?  Could we have predicted six years of civil war with no relief in sight?  And most alarmingly, how could we possibly have known our own country would turn our backs on those most in need, those seeking refuge?

The Syrian Civil Defense, more widely known simply as the White Helmets, are the best hope for Syrian civilians.  They are not military or militia.  They do not defend homes with weapons, nor do they sit in offices in far off lands debating the fate of others.  They are the heroes.

They may consider themselves unarmed volunteer rescuers, but what they are is something bigger than heroes.  They’re angels.  They are hope.  They have saved over 78,500 lives after attacks.  More than 150 have lost their lives in the process.

Last year, a middle school art teacher in Kewanee, Illinois challenged his students to draw portraits of people who performed acts of kindness “under the radar.”  Marc Nelson used the White Helmets as examples for his students, and has several sketches of them in action.

I love the bright, white helmets in the drawing.  They seem to cut through the fog of rubble and chaos behind them and shine as beacons of hope.  The boy’s face is grey and ashen.  The face of the man that’s holding him is happy to pass him over to the rescuer.  But the boy, the far off look of his eyes is almost eerie, lost.  This is a child  who has probably spent half of his short life with the hum of airstrikes looming.  Gunfire just a part of the soundtrack to his everyday life.

One has to wonder, have we lost them?  Have we lost them all?  A whole generation that knows nothing but violence.  Their parents protested in peace to have the freedoms that we in America enjoy.  They once envied our way of life of religious freedom, tolerance for all ethnicities.  Now do we show them our true colors?  Do we tell them they are not entitled to the rights we enjoy?

Each time we take to the streets to protest, let us remember we have not only that freedom.  We also have the freedom to go to bed without the fear of bombs falling on our heads.  We have the freedom to buy food or walk across the street without the fear of gunshots killing our children.  We have the freedom to live in a land where all peoples are represented in our government.   We are free.  I hope that some day the Syrians will be too.

To read more about the White Helmets, click here:White Helmets

To see more work by Mr. Nelson, click here Marc Nelson