A wonderful moment occurs toward the close of How I Became a Painter, Miles Champion’s recently published book of conversations with the painter Trevor Winkfield, in which Winkfield switches roles on his erstwhile interviewer to ask candidly, “Why do you like my paintings?” For anyone reviewing Champion’s third poetry collection, How to Laugh, this excerpt from his response is hard to resist implementing as preface:
Obviously I've been reading and thinking about Burt Kimmelman's writing recently because Burt was here at the Writers House visiting. Before we move away from this poet, as is inevitable given so much that's going on, let's take one more look. It's a poem with a fabulously open first line: "Nothing is ever decided." Open enough out of context--just as a line--but now add that the poem is about a Robert Motherwell painting (seen at MoMA in January 1988) and, further, that the poet gave an illuminating brief intro to the poem before reading it at KWH the other day. Sometimes I like blogging about these matters because in such a space (as a matter of lasting record) several contexts can be laid out so easily across the various shareable media: the video (above) of the poet's intro; a PDF (click here) of the text of the poem (from the bookMusaics, pp. 20-21); the audio-only recording of the poem being performed.
In the new building at the National Gallery in DC, I saw Barnett Newman's series of paintings--done between 1958 and 1966--called "The Stations of the Cross." The Stations of the Cross series of black and white paintings, begun shortly after Newman had recovered from a heart attack, is usually regarded as the peak of his achievement. The series is subtitled "Lema sabachthani" - "why have you forsaken me" - words said to have been spoken by Jesus on the cross. Newman saw these words as having universal significance in his own time. The series has also been seen as a memorial to the victims of the holocaust.
The work by John Marin I know is watercolor. And mostly I've seen his early stuff--from the 1920s. But here is a canvas (at the National Gallery) done in oil, and it was made in his last year (1952; he died in '53).