Archive for the 'Art Culture Politics' Category

Bestiary

Garel5
Garel4While perusing the plethora of Picassos currently found in Chelsea galleries (I recommend the P. & Photography at Gagosian) I came across this exhibit of Quentin Garel’s sculptures.Garel2At Bertrand Delacroix until Saturday.

Garel3These are actually made of bronze.

Feral

SerengetiHeading towards ‘Sconset on the Milestone Road will take you past the Middle Moors, which are nicknamed “the Serengeti” on Nantucket.SerengetiThis nickname is probably the result of too many nature documentaries and the lesson that they usually teach: nature exists somewhere else and is exotic, something to sit back and enjoy from your living room without having to put up with foreigners and suspect plumbing. In fact, though, these 400 acres are maintained in coastal heathland and sandplain grassland, both rare habitats on the island and elsewhere. This landscape is exotic enough and doesn’t need external referents, thank you very much.

Once sheep grazed this area, making sure nothing ever grew very high. Left untended by those Mesopotamian herbivores (bought in after whaling lost its preeminence for the island economy in the mid 19th century) or, now days, human wielding mowers and fire, the land would quickly become a dense scrub thicket. Habitats are always in flow. Why should we stop them? In this case it’s largely because of the Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) and some other invertebrate and plant species that make this rare habitat home. 9780226205557Did you catch that reference to “Mesopotamian herbivores”? I picked that up in George Monbiot’s Feral, where he rages against sheep as the “white plague,” an invasive species which has devoured the British Isles and remains the main obstacle to re-wilding. Monbiot argues persuasively, because he calls up the science, that the British Isles, particularly the wet western edges of Wales and Scotland, used to be lush rain forest. Temperate rain forest, like our Northwest, which often takes second place to the glories of tropical rain forest, but are just as rich and wonderful. (The skirts of Dartmoor felt like rainforest when I trod under them last year.)

This is a very interesting book. I will admit to be bogged down in the initial chapters where the author seemed to be in the midst of mid-life crisis and an urge to find his inner animal and challenge the elements. Written very well, but I can take that or leave it. But his ultimate point kept me through to the far more exciting later chapters: we need to re-wild, largely by letting it alone, our world.

Rivers

RiversThe Rivers of America series started in 1937 and ended in 1974. Sixty-five books were ultimately published. I recently tried reading the volumes on the Hudson, the Colorado, and the St. Lawrence, but I couldn’t get past the first chapter of any of them. They were too Forties for me, a whitewashed, cheerleading view of history. Ah, well.

Anyway, here’s the listing as of the 1940s. Because the names of American rivers have a magic to them: Housatonic, Shenandoah, Susquehanna, Monongahela, Mississippi…. Many, of course, have Native American names (or European debasement of Native names); rivers often hold on the oldest languages.

Hear Ye, Hear Ye!

10354743_10152898315142628_1755413661377615099_nI’m excited to announce this event. Please join us as Zane York and I discuss art and nature, nature and art, the art of nature, and the nature of art.

Zane York: Curious Remnants

Zane YorkZane York at work. He’s having a solo show tonight through Dec. 14 at Causey Contemporary, 29 Orchard St. NY NY.ZYP0109-SwampDarner -800pxThe opening revels are from 6-8. I’ll be there.

Bärenfähigkeit

bear1On the liturgical calendar, today is St. Martin’s Day. In the late Middle Ages, “Martin” was often the name given to bears abused and belittled in circuses and other equivalents of side-shows. This is not coincidental, Michel Pastoureau shows in his fascinating The Bear: History of a Fallen King. bear3The Church waged a long war against bears, which in Europe were already being represented in Neanderthal and Cro-Magon painted caves, the very caves bears may have lived in. (These would have been cave bears, now extinct; Pastoureau is most concerned with the brown bear, now pushed to remote parts of Europe and threatened everywhere there.) The Germanic tribes who butted against Roman expansion were bear-worshippers. The Viking Berserkers wore bear shirts, which is what “berserker” means. Kings and other heroes once proved themselves by battling bears man-to-bear. The nurturing she-bear raised various Greek and other mythological heroes. The hyper-sexualized male bear threatened female humans, as did the quasi-bearish Wild Man, whose hairiness was akin to the bear’s. Bärenfähigkeit means the capacity to become a bear. Half-bear/half-human figures populated the old tales.

This all enraged the Church, who promoted the (foreign) lion as the true king of the beasts and painted the bear as a tool of, if not actually, Satan, in its efforts to stamp out old forms of non-Christian worship. St. Martin’s Day was laid over older celebrations of the beginning of bear hibernation, a sure sign of the coming winter.

Rich in cultural references, Pastoureau’s book reminded me of a couple of things. I’ve only dipped into Phillip Pullman’s Golden Compass trilogy, where giant bears play a critical role, an interesting comparison with the Christianology of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s character, Beorn, a sort of werebear. The name Beorn — and Bjorn, Bern, Ursula, Arthur, and many others — all come from various languages for “bear.”

Pastoureau has also written three books on the history of colors. I’ve read Blue and Black and and recommend them.

“In killing the bear, his kinsman, his fellow creature, his first god, man long ago killed his own memory and more or less symbolically killed himself.”bear2Bear ceramics at Cortlandt St. R train station by Margie Hughto. “Trade, Treasure and Travel” originally placed in 1997, survived the World Trade Center bombing and was reinstalled in 2011.

Boorujy: Passenger

boorujy.passenger.inviteWow! As I generally say when I see the large-scale paintings of George Boorujy. His show “Passenger” opens tonight and runs until December 20th at P.P.O.W. Gallery, 535 West 22nd Street, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10011. Click on image for larger version, but above all go see this work on the wall.

I wrote this about George a couple years ago.


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