A Friend of a Friend of a Friend

HEADER_Lefebvre21Above: Pierre Lefebvre, Collines (Hills), 2011, Oil on panel, 48 x 60″ (detail)

My friend Kim, whom I haven’t seen in many months is coming over in just 30 minutes or so. She’s invited me to attend a vernissage at Gallerie de Bellefeuille on Greene avenue, which is just up the hill from me, to see the work of an artist who is the friend of a close friend of hers, as she’s been wanting to introduce me to both the friend and the friend of the friend, who is apparently a hermit like me, though I’ve no idea why she thinks this is a good idea, because I’ve never heard of hermits getting along together particularly well. But I’ve seen Pierre Lefebvre’s work online and he is very talented, so should be interesting to see it and he in person at least. Also, Kim has always encouraged me to promote my art and live from it somehow and this gallery is very well known and I think she imagines I could eventually be represented there too somehow, even though I haven’t picked up a paintbrush in at least a couple of years now and have maybe all of 1.5 finished paintings to my name, and unsigned ones at that… I guess miracles are known to happen, and it’s nice knowing there are people who believe in my talent as possibly leading me somewhere eventually, even at this late stage and with the little energy I do have.

 

Writing About Poetry, Victoria’s Secret Models, and Dogs

0375503803.01._SX450_SY635_SCLZZZZZZZ_Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins ★★★★
Source: Municipal Library
Edition: Random House (2001), Hardcover, 192 pages
Awards & Distinctions: ALA Notable Books for Adults
Original publication date: 2001

I’m not a natural to poetry; I really have to make a special effort to make time for it and pay attention to it and work at appreciating it, which is odd, because I have my quiet and unexpressed poetic way of looking at the world, but too often the language of individual poets is obscure to me, the imagery too specific or too filled with references I don’t understand, rhythms I can’t pick up on, moods I’m not in tune with. Billy Collins is new to me, and I decided to give this poetry collection a try after seeing a few of his best poems on one of my LT buddy’s threads. This collection gathers some “new” selections (as of 2001), as well as older ones from collections from The Apple That Astonished Paris (1988), Questions About Angels (1991) The Art of Drowning (1995), and Picnic, Lightning (1998), the latter of which includes one of my absolute favourites poems by Collins, which my buddy Joe transcribed in full on one of his threads, called Victoria’s Secret. It’s rather long, so here are just the first three of nine verses:

Victoria’s Secret

The one in the upper left-hand corner
is giving me a look
that says I know you are here
and I have nothing better to do
for the remainder of human time
than return your persistent but engaging stare.
She is wearing a deeply scalloped
flame-stitch halter top
with padded push-up styling
and easy side-zip tap pants.

The one on the facing page, however,
who looks at me over her bare shoulder,
cannot hide the shadow of annoyance in her brow.
You have interrupted me,
she seems to be saying,
with your coughing and your loud music.
Now please leave me alone;
Let me finish whatever it was I was doing
in my organza-trimmed
whisperweight camisole with
keyhole closure and a point d’esprit mesh back.

I wet my thumb and flip the page.
Here, the one who happens to be reclining
in a satin and lace merry widow
with an inset lace-up front,
decorated underwire cups and bodice with lace ruffles along the bottom
and hook-and-eye closure in the back,
is wearing a slightly contorted expression,
her head thrust back, mouth partially open,
a confusing mixture or pain and surprise
as if she had stepped on a tack
just as I was breaking down
her bedroom door with my shoulder.

What appealed tremendously to me about this particular poem I guess is I heard an inner voice, or was it the voice of my own mother maybe, who has a mean sense of humour and has always liked to put words in the mouths of the models on the glossy magazines we always had laying around the house, so there was something familiar about it, which took nothing away from the humour of it, and just made it all that more engaging in fact. Collins often writes poems about the process of writing poetry which are surprisingly appealing. There’s often a sense of playfulness in his work, though in his “new” work, there is more talk of death, since it seems he lost his mother around 2001 and was quite understandably more focused on themes of death and dying, but not always. My favourite poem from that particular collection is about a dog and like so much of his work, just seems so spot on:

Dharma

The way the dog trots out the front door
every morning
without a hat or an umbrella,
without any money
or the keys to her doghouse
never fails to fill the saucer of my heart
with milky admiration.

Who provides a finer example
of a life without encumbrance—
Thoreau in his curtainless hut
with a single plate, a single spoon?
Gandhi with his staff and his holy diapers?

Off she goes into the material world
with nothing but her brown coat
and her modest blue collar,
following only her wet nose,
the twin portals of her steady breathing,
followed only by the plume of her tail.

If only she did not shove the cat aside
every morning
and eat all his food
what a model of self-containment she would be,
what a paragon of earthly detachment.
If only she were not so eager
for a rub behind the ears,
so acrobatic in her welcomes,
if only I were not her god.

Signature Sís

0374380694.01._SX450_SY635_SCLZZZZZZZ_The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry by Peter Sís ★★★★
Source: Municipal InterLibrary Loan
Edition: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Hardcover, 48 pages
Original publication date: 2014

I guess you could say I’m somewhat of a Peter Sís enthusiast by now, having read over a dozen books he’s contributed to in one way or another, either solely as illustrator or as both writer and illustrator, and it’s safe to say he’s evolved a signature style when it comes to biographical subjects (his graphic novels Starry Messenger: Galileo Galilei and The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin immediately spring to mind here), telling the stories with words and pictures, and pictures within pictures that give the impression at first glance of complex tapestries that you can stare at for a long time to discover endless fascinating detail. For this reason, I find I can never take in his books in one short sitting, no matter how slender the volumes are, as they are intellectually stimulating and pack a lot of information.

Here the subject is the author of that iconic children’s book The Little Prince (which I happened to grow up on and venerate), Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Sís introduces us to Saint-Exupéry from his birth in 1900 onward to what seems to have been a fascinating and adventure-packed life, most of it having been devoted to flying and writing in more or less equal measures. Unbeknownst to me, he had made a name for himself as a hero for his flying adventures on the one hand and as a successful author on the other well before  his iconic little book about the prince from another planet was published, with his books based on his flying adventures, one of which became an international bestseller in 1931 and won him the Fémina Prize and which inspired the venerable French perfume house Guerlain to issue a perfume named after that novel two years later, Vol de Nuit, (known as Night Fligh to English readers). Sadly, he disappeared during a flying mission on July 31, 1944, when he took off in an unarmed P-38 on his ninth reconnaissance mission from an airbase on Corsica and vanished without a trace. His legend lives on.

A gorgeous book, much recommended to lovers of Sís and/or Saint-Exupéry. I was already interested in reading more work by the legendary author/adventurer, but I think I’ll seek out his other books more actively now.

(click on images to view larger)

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Man with Pens & An Announcement

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I posted the above gallery on my art blog, createthreesixty5.com a little while ago, and for reasons I fail to understand, that blog post failed to publicize on Facebook and other linked sites as it usually does. I’m posting this preview page of the gallery to alert those who aren’t subscribers to my other blog that I’ve completed that project, so if you’d like to see the completed image and photos of the process it took me to get there, just click on the image above which will take you there.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to say that I’ll be taking on a small number of commissions for portraits of people and pets, working from photos in a similar approach (“black & white” graphite on paper). My technique is very meticulous and slow going, so I can only accept a handful of projects before the holidays, but would love to put my talents toward providing gifts to loved ones and friends. Send me a quick message if you’re interested and we’ll take it from there!

The Strangest Book Ever Created?

0847842134.01._SX450_SY635_SCLZZZZZZZ_Codex Seraphinianus by Luigi Serafini
Source: National Library
Edition: Rizzoli (2013), Hardcover, 396 pages
Original publication date: 1981

A truly bizarre work which has often been described as the strangest book ever created, and which has to be experienced to be believed. The physical book is in itself is a work of art, presented as a large format hardcover volume with countless colour illustrations printed on a high quality, thick, ridged paper, which make the coloured pencil and ink illustrations look as though they’ve been drawn directly on the page. The overall work has the aspect and organization of an encyclopedia, with clearly formatted pages of explanatory text and diagrams in a wholly invented language, presenting exquisite though illegible calligraphy throughout; the language of the book has defied linguists for decades, but one cannot help but try to make sense of it. Many “specimens” are shown in detailed drawings, from fantastical plant forms to local costumes, mechanical devices, architecture and landscapes, which could only exist in an alternate universe, the brain of someone on LSD, or as Serafini himself explained for this recent 2013 edition, from the mind of the cat who kept him company in the late 70s as Serafini worked feverishly on this project during 30 months, with the feline perched on his shoulders and transmitting his ideas to him telepathically. He in fact credits the cat as the true creator and himself merely as the scribe. Not surprisingly, Serafini is an Italian artist, architect and designer who has, among other things worked with the famous surreal film director Federico Fellini, and his book has been compared to works by M.C. Escher and Hieronymus Bosch.

I find I cannot rate this book, for the simple reason that I was completely enchanted in the beginning, as well as astounded at the level of detail, sheer work and vivid imagination put into this huge volume, but perhaps changing moods coloured my perception as I kept turning the pages because I was at times delighted and enchanted, and on some days I felt as though I was seeing nightmarish visions. I’m glad I was able to borrow this volume from our national library system and didn’t go ahead and spend the $80 listed price on it, as I may want to pore over it again once or twice, but ultimately found it too disturbing to have in my permanent collection. But that’s just me. Others I’m sure will be delighted to own this fantastic volume, and for good reason. Click on the thumbnails below to see larger reproductions.

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Currently Listening To…

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On audio, picked up The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir last night. No big shock that after completing the Matthew Shardlake Dissolution series, firmly set during King Henry VIII’s reign, I’d feel inspired to pick up a work of non-fiction on the big man’s women, especially as Harry’s last 5 queens are featured in the novels rather prominently. I’m now at the point where Catherine of Aragon has just been married to H8’s older brother Arthur, Prince of Wales and the question of whether the marriage was likely consummated or not has just been covered. Fascinating stuff, in light of my fairly recently acquired interest in the Tudor era, ever since I picked up Wolf Hall exactly two years ago, and now just finished all five voluminous Shardlake novels in under 4 weeks… a record for me in more ways than one.  I’ll be putting down my thoughts on books 2-5 soon and posting mini-reviews about them, and will have to be patient till book 6 comes out later in the year.

Woke up from nearly 2 hours napping, with a pleasant tune playing in my mind, which I’d been singing to myself in my most recent dream as I traipsed around a lovely make-believe home I shared with my mum. Probably inspired by the fact that after reading my recent review of The Cuckoo’s Calling, she was inspired to send me a link to a Joan Baez song she used to listen to when I was a child called When You Hear Them Cuckoos Hollerin` (link to YouTube clip). My dream air was just two bars of music, and I’m fairly sure they are of my own composition, which I tried singing to myself when I awoke, and I must say, thought I’m no kind of singer, do sound rather lovely and timeless (in a moody medieval/folk kind of vein). If I could remember how to take down music scores, I should put it down for future remembrance.