Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Portrait of John Updike
Oil on canvas, 1982
Time cover, October 18, 1982
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Gift of Time magazine
John Updike has died at the age of 76. Updike's richly imagined novels chronicle the loves and losses of a post-Depression generation growing up during and away from the horrors of World War II into the uncertainty and the promise of the late 20th Century. Updike's second love was painting. Hillel Italie writes for AP that after graduating from Harvard, John Updike accepted "a one-year fellowship to study painting at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Arts at Oxford University. During his stay in England, a literary idol, E.B. White, offered him a position at The New Yorker, where he served briefly as foreign books reviewer. Many of Updike's reviews and short stories were published in The New Yorker, often edited by White's stepson, Roger Angell."
Updike did not pursue the visual arts as a profession but he wrote intelligently and personally about painting in particular. George Waldman wrote in the New Statesman that Updike was " a gentle critic, whose infatuation with the appearance of things makes him sympathetically attentive to everything he sees. He is also a patriot, whose writings on American art are character-ised not so much by defensiveness - there is often no need for it - as by a genially stubborn resolve to ensure that his country's artists are given their due."
Last May, John Updike gave a lecture entitled "What is American About American Art" at the Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities in Washington DC. Updike spoke at length about Picturing America, a series of reproductions of American paintings that will be given to schoolrooms across the country.
The Veteran in a New Field
24 1/8 x 38 1/8 in oil on canvas 1865
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot (1876–1967)
Updike viewed Winslow Homer's The Veteran in a New Field, painted in 1865, as a celebration of "the widespread return of Civil War armies from the fields of battle as a triumph of a democratic society.” Homer's image could speak for the scores of American troops who will return to civilian life in the next few years as our current armies begin their long return from Iraq.
Updike's collections of art writing - Just Looking and Still Looking are written more from a fan's viewpoint than a critics and are quite rewarding because of this unique viewpoint.
Updike's novel Seek My Face concerns a fictional American postwar painter.
Random House explains that the novel " takes place in one day, a day that contains much conversation and some rain. The seventy-eight-year-old painter Hope Chafetz, who in the course of her eventful life has been Hope Ouderkirk, Hope McCoy, and Hope Holloway, answers questions put to her by a New York interviewer named Kathryn, and recapitulates, through the story of her own career, the triumphant, poignant saga of postwar American art. In the evolving relation between the two women, the interviewer and interviewee move in and out of the roles of daughter and mother, therapist and patient, predator and prey, supplicant and idol. The scene is central Vermont; the time is the early spring of 2001." The writing in Seek My Face is lyrical and the story is a rich rumination on American art.
NPR on Updike's Collection of Art Writing: Still Looking
NPR: Alan Cheuse Talks About Seek My Face (real audio)
New Statesman on Updike
Updike on Picturing America
Friday, January 23, 2009
An August Dream
18"x36" oil on linen 2009 (in process)
I am working on a new painting in my ongoing body of work which deals with the hopes and dreams of 21st century American society as viewed through our post World War II history. I was a young boy when Martin Luther King Jr, was killed in April 1968 and so I missed the power and beauty of his oratory and the hope embodied in his presence. In this new painting, inspired by photos of MLK at the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963 while giving his "I Have A Dream" speech, I continue my series of portraits of figures of great honor. In this group of paintings, the power of memory is evoked to provide clues to the future.
Arcade Fire plays an appropriate cover song at the Obama Staff Ball on January 20, 2009. Note to the videographer - try not to sing along on the chorus next time. Though I have been guilty of this myself on more than one occasion. "Born in the USA" indeed.
Arcade Fire also played their song Intervention, originally from Neon Bible, at the Obama Staff Ball
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Barack Obama's inaugural address in full:
My fellow citizens:
I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and co-operation he has shown throughout this transition.
Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms.
At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we, the people, have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbears, and true to our founding documents.
So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.
That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our healthcare is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.
"We have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord."
These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, that the next generation must lower its sights.
Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.
Nation of 'risk-takers'
We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labour, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.
For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and travelled across oceans in search of a new life.
For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and ploughed the hard earth.
For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.
Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.
The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift
This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of our economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise healthcare's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.
Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.
We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals
What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.
The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programmes will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.
Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - that a nation cannot prosper long when it favours only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.
'Ready to lead'
As for our common defence, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.
We will not apologise for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defence
Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.
We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater co-operation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the spectre of a warming planet. We will not apologise for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defence, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.
'Era of peace'
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.
As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honour them not only because they are the guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.
What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility
For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.
Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths.
What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
'Gift of freedom'
This is the price and the promise of citizenship.
This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.
This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.
So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have travelled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:
"Let it be told to the future world... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive... that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."
America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.
Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Video of the performance of John Williams' latest work, Air and Simple Gifts, from the Inaugural Ceremony of President Barack Obama.
Yo-Yo Ma on cello, Itzhak Perlman on violin, Gabriela Montero on piano, and Anthony McGill on clarinet.
Yo Yo Ma's Website
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Monday, January 19, 2009
BBC World News America has unearthed a fascinating clip of Dr Martin Luther King speaking to the BBC's Bob McKenzie in 1964 in which Dr King predicts an African-American president "in less than 40 years."
Martin Luther King Jr. Predicts a Black US President
Sunday, January 18, 2009
u2 "Pride In the Name of Love" at the Lincoln Memorial 1/18/09
from the "We Are One" Concert, Washington DC
for MLK and Obama!
U2 Rehearsal for Obama Concert "We Are One" (1/17/09)- City of Blinding Light
Bruce Springsteen performs at “We are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration At The Lincoln Memorial” presented exclusively by HBO on Sunday January 18th 2009. Kevin Mazur/Courtesy of HBO via image.net
Denzel Washington speaks at “We are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration At The Lincoln Memorial” presented exclusively by HBO on Sunday January 18th 2009. Kevin Mazur/Courtesy of HBO via image.net
U2 perform at “We are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration At The Lincoln Memorial” presented exclusively by HBO on Sunday January 18th 2009. Kevin Mazur/Courtesy of HBO via image.net
U2 performs at “We are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration At The Lincoln Memorial” presented exclusively by HBO on Sunday January 18th 2009. Kevin Mazur/Courtesy of HBO via image.net
Challenger the Eagle flies at “We are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration At The Lincoln Memorial” presented exclusively by HBO on Sunday January 18th 2009. Kevin Mazur/Courtesy of HBO via image.net
Presidential Inaugural Committee's Photostream
The "We Are One" Concert Songlist
Master Sergeant Caleb Green Sings The Star-Spangled Banner
Bruce Springsteen - The Rising
MLK III and Laura Linney
Mary J. Blige - Lean On Me
Steve Carell and Jamie Foxx
Jon Bon Jovi and Bettye LaVette perform "A Change Is Gonna Come"
Tom Hanks recites from the writings of Abraham Lincoln
James Taylor - Shower The People
John Mellencamp - Pink Houses
Queen Latifah introduces
Video of Marion Anderson singing, My Country 'Tis Of Thee
My Country 'Tis Of Thee - Josh Groban, Heather Headley, Choir Singers
George Lopez and Kal Pen
Herbie Hancock, Will.I.AM, Sheryl Crow - One Love, Where Is The Love?
The US Naval Academy Glee Club/Renee Fleming - You'll Never Walk Alone
Jack Black and Rosario Dawson
Garth Brooks, American Pie
Garth Brooks, Shout and We Shall Be Free
Ashley Judd and Forrest Whitaker
Usher, Shakira and Stevie Wonder - Higher Ground
Samuel L. Jackson
U2, Pride (In The Name Of Love)
U2, City of Blinding Lights
American Bald Eagles, Challenger and Mr. Lincoln
President-elect Barack Obama
Bruce, Pete Seeger and son, This Land Is Your Land
Beyonce and all, America The Beautiful
Saturday, January 17, 2009
From the Inaugural blog:
Today several big names and recognizable faces from the entertainment world endured the cold for a rehearsal of tomorrow’s Opening Ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial. President-elect Barack Obama, with the help of an all-star line-up, will kick off the inaugural celebration there at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The event is free and open to the public. If you plan on attending the event tomorrow, we’ve put together some helpful information that you should check out. After the event, submit your photos to our online photo gallery - they could even make it into in the Official Inaugural Book. For the first time ever, the Official Inaugural Book will be peppered with photos from ordinary Americans, in addition to the work of award-winning professional photographers.
If you can’t make it to Washington D.C. tomorrow, you can watch the show live on HBO at 2:30 p.m. (non-subscribers can watch for free) or on HBO.com. HBO will also be presenting an encore performance from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.
United States Coast Guard video footage captured by surveillance cameras of the emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River.
Watch for yourself as Chesley Sullenberger, known as "Sully," successfully lands the plane without any major injuries.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC on August 28, 1963, the day he gave the “I Have a Dream” address. A national holiday honors King next Monday.
* Updates, Photos and Clips from the Concert at Speed of Life on "We Are One" Concert and Inauguration Photos
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that, "A slew of A-list talent has signed on to kick off next week’s presidential inauguration festivities. The official organizing committee announced today that “We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial,” which will air Sunday on HBO, will feature performances from of Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Bono,, Sheryl Crow, Josh Groban, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, will.i.am and Stevie Wonder."
"Jamie Foxx, Martin Luther King III, Queen Latifah and Denzel Washington will read historical passages at the two-hour free event. HBO will televise the celebration at 7 p.m. on an open signal, so it will be accessible to anyone with cable or satellite television."
"This is a great opportunity to capture an historic event in a very meaningful setting," said producer and director Don Mischer, whose past credits include the Olympic ceremonies and Super Bowl halftime shows. "We will have the statue of Abraham Lincoln looking down on our stage and a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people lining the mall -- a tableau any director would relish."
Full Press Release Below:
INITIAL TALENT LINEUP CONFIRMED FOR "WE ARE ONE: THE OBAMA INAUGURAL CELEBRATION AT THE LINCOLN MEMORIAL," KICKING OFF INAUGURAL OPENING FESTIVITIES, PRESENTED EXCLUSIVELY BY HBO JAN. 18
George Stevens, Jr. Executive Produces;
Don Mischer Produces And Directs;
Michael Stevens Is Producer And Writer
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC 2009) is pleased to announce the producers and initial talent lineup for WE ARE ONE: THE OBAMA INAUGURAL CELEBRATION AT THE LINCOLN MEMORIAL, the Opening Celebration for the 56th Presidential Inaugural, to be presented exclusively by HBO on Sunday, January 18 (7:00-9:00 p.m. ET/PT). The event will be free and open to the public, kicking off the most open and accessible Inauguration in history.
The special will be executive produced by George Stevens, Jr. (The Kennedy Center Honors), and produced by Don Mischer (Olympic Ceremonies) who will also direct the special, and Michael Stevens (The American Film Institute Salutes) who is also writing the special, and will be a production of The Stevens Company in association with Don Mischer Productions.
Musical performers scheduled for the event include Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Bono, Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Renee Fleming, Josh Groban, Herbie Hancock, Heather Headley, John Legend, Jennifer Nettles, John Mellencamp, Usher Raymond IV, Shakira, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, will.i.am, and Stevie Wonder. Among those reading historical passages will be Jamie Foxx, Martin Luther King III, Queen Latifah and Denzel Washington. The Rt. Reverend V. Gene Robinson will give the invocation. Rob Mathes will be the music director and arranger for the backing band, which will support all of the artists. Additional performers will be announced as they are confirmed.
"Our intention is to root the event in history, celebrating the moments when our nation has united to face great challenges and prevail," observed George Stevens, Jr. "We will combine historical readings by prominent actors with music from an array of the greatest stars of today."
"This is a great opportunity to capture an historic event in a very meaningful setting," noted Don Mischer. "We will have the statue of Abraham Lincoln looking down on our stage and a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people lining the mall -- a tableau any director would relish."
"We have found that the great artists are eager to take part and each one is working with us to find music that expresses the optimism and hope that people bring to the Obama inauguration," said Michael Stevens.
Televised to the nation, the Opening Celebration will be a declaration of common purpose and new beginnings. The Sunday afternoon performance will be grounded in history and brought to life with entertainment that relates to the themes that shaped Barack Obama and which will be the hallmarks of his administration.
HBO will televise the event on an open signal, working with all of its distributors to allow Americans across the country with access to cable, telcos or satellite television to join in the Opening Celebration for free.
The 56th Inauguration promises to be the most inclusive in history, and the Opening Celebration is one of a series of inaugural events that reflect that commitment. On Saturday, the President-elect, Vice President-elect and their families will journey to the nation's capital via train, holding events that are free and open to the public along the way. They will be joined by a group of everyday Americans they met along their road to the White House. On January 19th, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, President-elect Obama will call on all Americans to make an ongoing commitment to serve their communities and their country. A new website, USAservice.org, makes it easy for Americans to organize service events or find existing events to participate in. To date, nearly 5,000 events have been organized across the country. That evening, Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, and their families will host a free "Kids' Inaugural" concert to honor military families, broadcast live on the Disney Channel and Radio Disney.
This spirit of openness will continue on Inauguration Day, when, for the first time in history, the entire length of the National Mall will be open to the public for the swearing in ceremony. Local D.C. students have also been given the chance to receive tickets in front of the White House for the Inaugural Parade for themselves and their family members based on the submission of essays answering the question, "How can I contribute to my neighborhood through community service?"
On the evening of Inauguration Day, the first ball that President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will attend will be the first-ever Neighborhood Inaugural Ball. The ball will be broadcast live on ABC and over the Internet, bringing together neighborhoods across the country in the spirit of unity and celebration.
The sum of these public events is an Inauguration that allows more Americans than ever before to come together as one nation and one people, united in our resolve to tackle our greatest common challenges and move this country forward together.
For the latest information on the 2009 Presidential Inauguration, please visit PIC 2009.
I missed the telecast last night but was glad that new friends taped the show. Love the look on Eastwood's face when Springsteen jokes about going up against Clint. Good stuff.