One of the most celebrated photographs in American photography, Moonrise Over Hernandez, New Mexico is widely considered to be photographer Ansel Adams’ masterpiece. The image changed considerably as the years passed as Adams tinkered with it in his darkroom.
In 1943 Adams gave a fairly prosaic account of the taking of the photograph:
It was made after sundown, there was a twilight glow on the distant peaks and clouds. The average light values of the foreground were placed on the “U” of the Weston Master meter; apparently the values of the moon and distant peaks did not lie higher than th…A” of the meter … Some may consider this photograph a “tour de force” but I think of it as a rather normal photograph of a typical New Mexican landscape. Twilight photography is unfortunately neglected; what may be drab and uninteresting by daylight may assume a magnifihalflightity in the halflight between sunset and dark.
When the flush of a newborn sun fell first on Eden’s green and gold,
Our father Adam sat under the Tree and scratched with a stick in the mold;
And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart,
Till the Devil whispered behind the leaves: “It’s pretty, but is it Art?”
Wherefore he called to his wife and fled to fashion his work anew—
The first of his race who cared a fig for the first, most dread review;
And he left his lore to the use of his sons—and that was a glorious gain
When the Devil chuckled: “Is it Art?” in the ear of the branded Cain.
They builded a tower to shiver the sky and wrench the stars apart,
Till the Devil grunted behind the bricks: “It’s striking, but is it Art?”
The stone was dropped by the quarry-side, and the idle derrick swung,
While each man talked of the aims of art, and each in an alien tongue.
They fought and they talked in the north and the south, they talked and they fought in the west,
Till the waters rose on the jabbering land, and the poor Red Clay had rest—
Had rest till the dank blank-canvas dawn when the dove was preened to start,
And the Devil bubbled below the keel: “It’s human, but is it Art?”
The tale is old as the Eden Tree—as new as the new-cut tooth—
For each man knows ere his lip-thatch grows he is master of Art and Truth;
And each man hears as the twilight nears, to the beat of his dying heart,
The Devil drum on the darkened pane: “You did it, but was it Art?”
We have learned to whittle the Eden Tree to the shape of a surplice-peg,
We have learned to bottle our parents twain in the yolk of an addled egg,
We know that the tail must wag the dog, as the horse is drawn by the cart;
But the Devil whoops, as he whooped of old: “It’s clever, but is it Art?”
When the flicker of London’s sun falls faint on the club-room’s green and gold,
The sons of Adam sit them down and scratch with their pens in the mold—
They scratch with their pens in the mold of their graves, and the ink and the anguish start
When the Devil mutters behind the leaves: “It’s pretty, but is it art?”
Now, if we could win to the Eden Tree where the four great rivers flow,
And the wreath of Eve is red on the turf as she left it long ago,
And if we could come when the sentry slept, and softly scurry through,
By the favor of God we might know as much—as our father Adam knew.
An astounding piece by Lisa Davis at the resolutely pro-abort New York Times. A young artist becomes pregnant and decides to film her abortion. Her plans suddenly begin to unravel due to a cab driver and his reaction to the news that she is on her way to have an abortion:
I stuffed my Ricoh Hi8 video camera in my backpack, and I went alone.
The driver was Middle Eastern, from some hot and weather-less country, but he did a fair job of steering into the skids. He kept asking me why I was going out in such weather.
“I have to go to the doctor,” I kept telling him.
“Why? You don’t look sick.”
“I have to have a procedure.”
“What? What procedure?”
Finally, I told him. Why not? I was proud and un-conflicted. I was exercising my right. I was making a video.
He pulled over to the side of the road, right there on the Brooklyn Bridge — not only illegal but dangerous. “Please don’t kill the baby,” he said. “Please don’t kill the baby.”
“What are you doing?”
“Don’t kill the baby.” He wouldn’t move the car, though horns blared all around us.
“Keep driving! I have an appointment!” I shook his headrest. This was not part of the script.
“Please don’t kill the baby,” he said again, turning around to face me. He had beautiful big brown eyes — almost black. “I will take care of you and the baby. I work two jobs.”
Heartbreakingly she has her abortion:
The first thing I thought when I awoke from the anesthesia was that I’d never be pregnant again, that I had just squandered my only chance at motherhood. I was sobbing — I had arisen from the depths of the medication this way — as they rolled me into the recovery room where the other women were lying, almost all of them with a friend or partner or relative to brush their hair back or offer them ice chips. I could not stop crying, big heaves and gulps of it. The nurse came over at first to soothe me and then to quiet me.
“You’re upsetting the other girls,” she said.
She sent the doctor over. “Sometimes we have to massage the womb,” he said, inserting his hand inside me and pressing. This did not stop the crying, but eventually it stopped the pain.
Or, at least, it stopped the physical pain. The begging cabdriver and the woman on her ninth abortion and the shocking suction in my womb: It was too traumatic for me to make art of. Or maybe it was just that I wasn’t a good enough artist to transform that level of trauma into something that others could learn from and use. I had been taught that a woman’s right to choose was the most important thing to fight for, but I hadn’t known what a brutal choice it was.
I took a car service home, too, where my brother and his girlfriend met me and we ordered in. “We would have gone with you,” they said, “if you’d asked.”
“I was going to make a video,” I said. Reacting to the way my hands still shook, they tended to me as if I’d just walked miles in that blizzard. I knew then I’d never be a filmmaker.
About motherhood, though, I was wrong. Fifteen years later, happily coupled with a wonderful man, I gave birth to my first daughter; I now have two. I don’t wish I had a 20-year-old. I didn’t want that baby, with that man. Abortion rights, yes, I’ll always support them, but even all these years later, I wish the motto wasn’t “Never again,” but “Avoid this if there’s any way you possibly can, even if it’s legal, because it’s awful.”
I wish that someone had alerted me to the harshness of the experience, acknowledged the layers of regret that built and fell away as the months and years passed. I want my daughters to have the option of safe and legal abortion, of course. I just don’t want them to have to use it. Continue reading
“These fellows say we won’t fight! By Heaven, I hope I shall die up to my knees in blood!”
Major General Joseph Warren to his men prior to the battle of Bunker’s Hill
A lecture by John Walsh, emeritus director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, on John Trumbull’s painting on the battle of Bunker Hill and its historical accuracy, or lack thereof. The painting has always been a favorite in my household, as it depicts my ancestor Major Andrew McClary of the New Hampshire militia.
Trumbull had witnessed the battle through field glasses, he was serving with the American army, although not with the portion fighting on Breed’s hill. The painting shows the death of General Warren, and is entitled The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, June 17, 1775, the painting having been commissioned by Warren’s family. Trumbull squeezes into the painting almost everyone famous who fought in the battle, both Americans and British. Major Andrew McClary is shown raising his musket to brain a British soldier attempting to bayonet the dying Warren, a warlike action quite in character for him, and one which warms the cockles of my heart. My wife has noted over the years how much I resemble Major Andrew and it is intriguing how his facial features have been passed down through the generations of my family.
The scene depicted is not historical, but rather a tribute to General Warren by having his death the center of the action. To us it seems a very romantic version of the grim reality, but Abigail Adams, who heard the battle from her farm and saw the aftermath of the wounded and dead American soldiers, found it so realistic when she saw it that she shivered with the memories of the fight it aroused in her. To most of us moderns war is simple butchery and unless it is shown as such, we are almost offended. To the men and women of Abigail Adams’ generation, at least the Patriots, they would have been offended by a painting that only remembered the death and carnage, they needed few reminders of that, but that ignored the heroism and sacrifice that ultimately prevailed against the odds and established a new nation. Continue reading
Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of folks lamenting how modern art (especially Modern Art) doesn’t have anything to compare to, oh, the great cathedrals of Europe—according to some, doesn’t even have a decently sized mural. Usually comes with a lot of talk of how soul-killing Walmart and their sort are, but not always.
Giotto, morning star of the Renaissance, was noted for his wit and humor as well as his skill as a painter. Evidence of that is now coming to light, almost seven centuries after his death:
Art restorers have discovered the figure of a devil hidden in the clouds of one of the most famous frescos by Giotto in the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, church officials said on Saturday.
The devil was hidden in the details of clouds at the top of fresco number 20 in the cycle of the scenes in the life and death of St Francis painted by Giotto in the 13th century.
The discovery was made by Italian art historian Chiara Frugone. It shows a profile of a figure with a hooked nose, a sly smile, and dark horns hidden among the clouds in the panel of the scene depicting the death of St Francis. Continue reading