Wednesday, July 29, 2020

My Brother Alan

Tuesday was the birthday of my brother, Alan Richard Swanson.

Here we are in our early days.

I can’t say I greeted him with open arms, despite what it looks like here.  He was an unwelcome intruder in what had been a perfect family unit-just Mom and Dad and me. I tried to make the best of a bad situation.

We disagreed violently on many things, and we fought.  When I had kids of my own and they fought I was careful not to complain to my mother; I couldn't take her gloating. 

But over the years Alan has proved not to be as awful as I once thought. Occasionally I've come to see his point and maybe even agree with him. For instance, he made an excellent choice in his life partner and gave me a wonderful 

sister-in-law, Donna, and three adorable nephews. 

Here he is with our cousin, Alan C. Swanson.

 But there’s one thing I will never understand.

What is there to admire in the Three Stooges? Alan was a fanatic fan of that show which always came on opposite the Mickey Mouse Club, a far superior program.  We were allowed one hour of TV every afternoon. The deal was, we took turns choosing our shows; one day my choice, the next day his. It was a good compromise because neither of us was perfectly happy.  Then came a day when he was desperate to see the Stooges.  He offered to switch days with me and I refused.  He offered me a week of my own day and I refused.  I held out until he offered me three weeks of my own days for the TV and I held him to it. 

Years later as we reminisced Alan told me that he went to Mom and asked for her help in wiggling out of the deal.  She said, “Yes, it’s a terrible deal but you made it and you’ll have to live with it.”

As I’ve observed the adult Alan in his dealings with the world he has been prudent, judicious, measured, and wise.  

May I take a little credit for that?

Alan was always getting into fights.  He wasn’t a belligerent little kid, he was very athletic and he just liked the action.  It drove Mom crazy, as he’d wreck his clothes.  Finally, she said, “If you come home one more time with your clothes ruined from fighting, you will get a serious punishment.”

Shortly after that, he came home with the obvious signs of a fight and Mom said, to my delight, 

“That’s it, Alan, you have no TV for a week.”  Alan didn’t say a word.

Then Mom got a tearful phone call from Mrs. DeArmond, 

    "Ginny, I want to thank Alan."

Thank Alan?  Her son, Ralph, in Alan’s fourth-grade class, had cerebral palsy, and so was a target for bullies. Alan had come upon a gang beating up on Ralph and jumped in, saying, 

“Okay, now pick on someone who can fight back!” 

“Oh, Alan,” said Mom, also in tears, “I’m so proud of you—what kind of ice cream can I get you?”

I’d like to say that I was proud, too.  At least I didn’t say, “But he still can't watch TV, right?”

According to Lucy Van Pelt, of the Peanuts cartoons, “Little brothers were put on this earth to do what their big sisters tell them to do.” My little brothers never got that message but I wouldn't trade them.

Happy Birthday, Alan. 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Seneca Falls Convention of 1848

Last week we celebrated the one hundred and seventy-second anniversary of the Women's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, New York.  Here they presented

the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, drafted by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, modeled after the Declaration of Independence, demanding, for women, equality with men before the law, in education, and employment. They wanted to add the vote, but many thought that was going too far.

 Who was one of the only men at the convention?  Frederik Douglass.  That's him on the right, in the statue that stands outside the NewYork Historical Society here in NewYork City. The motto for the newspaper he published, The North Star, read,

“Right is of no sex   Truth is of no color

God is the Father of us all    And we are all brethren”

On the left, I have the first monument to real women to be placed in Central Park. It will be dedicated next month. That's Sojourner Truth sitting with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  The original model had only Susan and Elizabeth and was derisively called the "White Ladies Monument. " So they added Sojourner Truth. 

Did those three actually work together so collegially?

Everybody's talking about statues, and not just talking but tearing them down. Let's keep talking. I wrote about this on June 25. Here's a link,

What's the story behind our statues? Did you know that Gutsom Borglund, the designer of Mount Rushmore, was a Ku Klux Klan member? Does that change the way you feel about those guys on the mountain? 

Why do we honor military leaders who took up arms against the United States? Aren't they traitors?

How about the Father of our Country and the writer of the Declaration of Independence? 

Can we honor their achievements and despise their sins? Can we look at their statues and live with all the feelings they bring up, and then go to work for justice and equality?

Mark Harris did this illustration for an op-ed piece by Lucien Truscott, a descendent of Jefferson, who said we should take down the Jefferson monument and let Monticello be the place where we could see the man in full.

I like this image. As a fortune cookie told me years ago, "Art is the Answer."  Well, it's one answer. 

 Let's respond to all the questions raised by listening and thinking and learning.

Let's have a whole host of new monuments, and let's put Harriet Tubman on the twenty-dollar bill.

On the hymn board in my drawing, I listed three hymns.

92 in the Methodist hymnal; Amazing Grace, written by John Newton, a slave trader who became an abolitionist.

563 in the Presbyterian hymnal; Lift every Voice And Sing. It's called the Negro National Anthem, but notice it says lift every voice.

564  in the Presbyterian hymnal; America the Beautiful, for its aspirations.

I can't find the link but last year on July 4th I posted Ray Charles singing America the Beautiful, or as its author, Katherine Bates, called it, A the B.  Google it and give yourself a treat.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

A Great Trip

After my father died my mother said, "I'm not going to feel sorry for myself, I'm going to mourn him by having a good time and sharing it."  So she invited me and Jessie on a trip to a destination of our choosing.  Jessie wanted Australia, I wanted Italy, so we compromised on Greece.  We took a cruise from Athens to Istanbul, visiting the islands of the Aegean.

When we got home I made some drawings.  This is Santorini, with our ship in the hands of the mermaid.
A pair of pelicans roamed the streets, making us feel welcome.

This is Rhodes. The little bronze owl actually sits at the top of a fountain in the middle of the city but I put him outside the gates, standing guard.

Our last stop was Istanbul--we were so glad to leave Istanbul for the last because it was our favorite.  This is the gate of the Dolmabachi Palace, with two angels from a temple in Athens, and, of course, a pelican. 

Here we are in Istanbul.

Do you think we look alike?  Wherever we went, people looked at us and said,
"Are you related?"
As my nephew, Danny, said, "There's just one face, and it goes from MomMom to Barbara to Jessie to Molly."
The wonderful things we saw on that trip gave me years of inspiration, including my series, titled Great Gardens. Here's one. I didn't actually see anything like this, it's just that what I saw got my imagination working.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Another Artist I Love and a Happy Surprise

In February of 2018, I went to see Michelangelo's drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
It was overwhelming. I spent a few hours gazing at those lines, getting as close as I could.  How did he do that? The authority, the ease with which he created life on paper.   It was a privilege to get so close.  I knew I'd probably never get a chance like that again, so I gazed and gazed.  By the time I staggered out of those galleries I was almost blind.

The exit from Michaelangelo led right into...David Hockney!

What a juxtaposition! It was like an eyewash, like a bath of color. 

A few years ago Mr. Hockney posed for pictures for I don't remember what publication, but it looks like he got really playful with the photographer.
I cut up those pictures and got playful myself.

Here he is with his muse.

Here he is in a toy car with a few Rembrandts.

Here he is in the desert exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden. I gave him fancy shoes.

In this shot, he was inside a box but I've always thought of him as being outside the box 
so I sat him on top of the Parthenon. 

So, thank you to the curators at the Met for the amazing juxtaposition of artists that opened my eyes to both of them. And thank you Mr. Hockney for all the color and fun. 

After leaving the Hockney show I hit the gift shop and found...

 Hockney is a Dachshund lover! I knew there was something special about him!  He wrote this book, about "those dear little creatures" whose life is "all about food and love."

Of course, I bought the book for Arthur but yesterday, writing this post, I couldn't find it so I googled
Hockney, dachshund, art. The results were amazing.
What Makes a Dachshund the Perfect Muse?
Why Dachshunds are the Dog of Choice for Creative Types

the list of articles and blogs is endless and OMG!  The artists who love and paint Dachshunds! 
Andy Warhol! Pierre Bonnard!  Gertrude Stein! Maira Kalman! Picasso! 

This little cutie was the mascot for the 1972 Olympic Games.

This is Earl Wetstein, who retired from advertising and concentrates on placing Dachshunds in great paintings.

So I'm not alone in my love for the Noble Dachshund.  Now you're gonna think I'm totally gaga, but when I was pregnant with my firstborn, I dreamed I gave birth to a dachshund.  And I was really happy.  Don't get me wrong--I absolutely adore my Jessie, born today, July 9.  But I also totally adore Lucy. 
Here she is in a portrait by Molly, age 7. 

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Milton Glaser

Rest in peace, Milton Glaser, who died this week on his ninety-first birthday.
When I was in Vermont, dreaming of New York City and wondering how I'd ever get there, I hung this poster, Glaser's portrait of Bob Dylan, done after Dylan's near-fatal motorcycle crash to dispel the rumors that he was dead.  

Then when I got to New York City and moved in with my buddy Valerie, I hung this poster on my wall.  It filled me with delight.  Maybe it was the "Rose in Spanish Harlem" vibe--that was a favorite song--maybe it was the dark sky, the mystery of something delicate and beautiful growing out of that solid concrete.

When New York was in financial trouble in the seventies, Mr. Glaser came up with a design
 that said it all and boosted our spirits.

And after September 11,

On Tuesday, the NY Times printed an interview between Glaser and Jeremy Elias. 

 New York is a mind-set, and we’re all arrogantly proud of what that represents. The word they’ve used is toughness, but it’s also a combination of cynicism and generosity...

 I don’t think there’s any way of telling what’s going to happen. I know this [pandemic] is a cosmic change and that nothing will ever be the same again. But I do know that if there’s a collective consciousness, if we realize we are all related and we need one another, that would be the best thing that could happen.

Here's a link to the entire interview.

Did you see that Patience and Fortitude, The Library Lions, are wearing masks? Thank you, Louanne and 

David, for pointing that out.  Here's what Library president, Anthony Marx, says.

"We will get to the other side of this public health crisis together. But to do so, we must remain vigilant, we must have patience and fortitude, and we must follow what experts tell us, especially as we continue to reopen our cities. The lions, protectors of knowledge and truth who have seen 109 years worth of history, are setting that example."

As Thomas Friedman said in Wednesday's Times,

"Respect Science, Respect Nature, Respect Each Other."

Christmas in July

I've been feeling a little uninspired and overwhelmed by papers and stuff, torn by needing to clear the decks and get rid of everything ...