Tag Archives: painting

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 for 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

 

 

Advertisements

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

 

 

 

The Carnival in Rome

Jose Benlliure y Gil  Oil on Panel  1881

Fastnacht Day, Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Carnivale, Pancake Day–whatever you call it, celebrate it today!  How do you celebrate? Eat, drink, be merry!  And don’t just eat, eat fatty, rich foods like fastnacht and paczki (doughnuts), pancakes, king cakes, or anything else you may not be able to eat starting tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.

Today marks the last day of Shrovetide, the period before Lent.  It is a time of self-examination for Christians.  The general idea is self-reflection leads to repentance and the absolution of sins.  It is a way to prepare for the somber season of lent.  And by prepare, I mean eat alot.

Jose Benlliure y Gil is a Spanish painter of the late 19th and early 20th century.  He is known for both his beautiful portraiture, as well as his work based on flowers and floral work.  This painting is a lovely combination of both.

To me, this painting is somewhere between Pre-Raphaelite and Impressionist, and I love it.  There’s so much happening with the flowers and the costumes and the banners.  My favorite is the woman on the left in red lowering a basket of flowers from the balcony.  Who is she lowering them to?  Or is an admirer sending them up?

And I  also like the child on the right.  It looks like a young person has just tossed flowers and maybe pamphlets or flyers over the balcony.  You can see blue papers or pieces of fabric and flowers floating down in front.

The cool tones of the palette, especially cerulean blue, contrast wonderfully against the warm grey walls.  And the texture is just layer after layer.  The blotchy walls, the fabric, the flowers.  There is just great depth in this painting that I enjoy.

Please check out Museo CarmenThyssen Malaga for a description from the museum where it is housed.

I hope you have enjoyed your final day of Mardi Gras!

 

 

jose-benlliure

Jose Benlliure y Gil  Self Portrait

 

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey

Paul Delaroche  Oil on Canvas  1833

On this day, February 12, 1554, teenage former queen of England Lady Jane Grey was beheaded at the Tower of London.  Her cousin, Edward VI, named her as his successor on his deathbed in 1553.  He was bypassing both of his half-sisters, Mary, daughter of Catherine of Aragon, and Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Boleyn.

Many historians believe the king was pressured by his advisor, who happened to be Jane Grey’s father-in-law, the Duke of Nuthumberland.  And although that may have played a role in his decision, I think he genuinely believed Jane Grey was the right choice for the role.  She was well-educated and well liked, having lived with his step-mother and sixth wife of Henry VIII, Catherine Parr.  It’s said her husband, Lord Guidford Dudley, was the most well liked man in all of England.  And most importantly, she was Protestant.

Of course, she also had a very strong claim to the throne.  She was the granddaughter of Mary, King Henry VIII’s younger sister.  According to his will and the line of succession she was third in line.  Had it not been for a change of heart to add his daughters back in line late in his life, she would have been the first in line.  Many at the time refused to recognize the change in succession, making Jane Grey the most legitimate candidate in their eyes.

However, the line of succession set forth by Henry VIII was clear.  More importantly, Jane Grey’s supporters abandoned her as soon as it was clear that the tide was turning in Mary’s favor.  The young queen, only 16 or 17 years old, was left to face a charge of treason, along with her husband and father.  The treason charge was based on the fact that she signed papers “Jane the Queen” during those nine days.  Although there was an unsuccessful rebellion, Wyatt’s Rebellion, to fight for her cause, it’s generally believed she was not involved in any way.

There is an amazing account of the execution of Lady Jane Gray called The Chronicle of Queen Jane, and of Two Years of Queen Mary.  Below is an excerpt from this anonymous work.

The hangman went to her to help her of therewith; then she desyred him to let her alone, turning towardes her two gentlewomen, who helped her off therwith, and also with her frose paast” and neckercher, geving to her a fayre handkercher to knytte about her eyes.

Then the hangman kneeled downe, and asked her forgevenesse, whome she forgave most willingly. Then he willed her to stand upon the strawe: which doing, she sawe the block.

Then she sayd, booke, good mayster lieuftenaunte, therefore I shall as a frende desyre you, and as a christian require you, to call uppon God to encline your harte to his lawes, to quicken you in his waye, and not to take the worde of trewethe utterlye oute of youre mouthe. Lyve styll to dye, that by deathe you may purchase eternall life, and remembre howe the ende of Mathusael, whoe, as we reade in the scriptures, was the longeste liver that was of a manne, died at the laste: for, as the precher sayethe, there is a tyme to be borne, and a tyme to dye; and the daye of deathe is better than the daye of oure birthe. Youres, as the Lorde knowethe, as a frende, JANE DUDDELEY.”

Here is a link to the book in its entirety: Chronicle of Queen Jane

Paul Delaroche was a highly lauded and critically acclaimed French history painter.  His tendency to paint British historical events made him very popular in England as well as France.  His scholarly dedication to historical accuracy made him popular with art critics and academics alike.

This painting, although showing one brief moment, has the ability to tell such a story.  The former queen’s ladies wail at the loss of their mistress.  One had been her maid since infancy.  Lady Jane Grey reaches her hand out for the block, unable to see.  Her white dress seems to remind the viewer of her youth and innocence, as well as her willingness to accept the punishment of her cousin, the queen.  The executioner looks calm and patient, ready to do his duty.

It’s such a beautiful painting for such a dark moment.  I find it so striking and lovely, and much more powerful than a gruesome, bloody painting would have been.  And although Delaroche took some liberties with the setting, he did a superb job of depicting an important historical event accurately and wonderfully.

When you think about it, Lady Jane Grey is just another person destroyed in the wake of Henry VIII.  His muddled succession wishes, the division between not only his counrtymen, but his own children in their views of religion, and his overall disregard for human life he seems to have passed down to his heirs.  So today we remember Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Day Queen, her life given in the service of sovereign and country.