Sunday, December 26, 2010

snow makes his appearance: winter is a fact

"Winter (after Arcimboldo)," a sculpture by Philip Haas was commissioned by the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., to complement the exhibition "Arcimboldo," that is installed in the East Building. Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526-1593) painted a series of seasons for the Habsburg ruler, the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II, whose intense interest in natural history was satisfied by the Milanese painter's boldly imagined personifications. Each picture is a composite assemblage of flora and fauna fashioned as a profile portrait of a season. The lips of Fall, for instance are cherries, her teeth, a peapod. Winter's lips are less sensually appealing: two polypores or mushrooms that grow on dead trees, and the tree itself form the head and its constituents, even the appalling nose; winter is an old man, long past his prime, and, though no longer virile, still supports an ivy vine among his cropped branches, a kind of wreath that endows him with dignity . Details are based on studies from nature which were then reconfigured to form a body part. Arcimboldo has succeeded brilliantly in creating an animate whole, which, when viewed from a distance, do indeed convincingly resemble a head with features and correct proportions. Only an artist of consummate skill and imagination could have accomplished such a daunting task. The outcome seamlessly weaves together delight and knowledge, Aristotle's principles for great art. How Maximilian, his courtiers and visitors must have laughed and shared stories and jokes as they contemplated these amazing paintings. Replicas and copies attest their popularity.

For more on Arcimboldo , see publications by Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, Professor of the History of Art, Princeton University, as well as studies by other scholars.

ideas gestating and then taking flight

self in the spotlight

substantial, materiality, yet the body does not leave an imprint; life whether counted in many years of days is brief, a mere breath and then it is gone.

a memory relief: what is that memory that has turned to crystal?

Bess: her first experience of snow and her 8 month birthday

Bess with snow on her mustache at 8 months, peering around a tree to see if I am watching her; jumping off the stairs, and then running as fast as she could on the course she set herself. Finally Bess, when we brought her home about August 1, 2010. Amazing grace, amazing little Bess; sunshine pure.
Bess did loops in the garden, having never experienced anything like snow before. Ice yes, at Tenafly's pond in The Commons, but the white frozen water enveloping her and accumulating on the ground, bushes and trees was a novelty. She ran with such enthusiasm that showed her obvious pleasure and excitement. We had intended taking her to New Paltz, New York, for a three-day adventure in the state parks and at the inn where we reserved a suite, but that plan was nixed by the reality of the blizzard conditions that were predicted for Tenafly and the heavy snowfall up the Hudson Valley. Reality supplanted imagined pleasures; walks and hikes with Bess became brief stints in suburbia. But it was Bess's day and a happy one at that. We will reschedule for another time, and hope Nature cooperates.

Bess is difficult to photograph; one would almost say camera shy or rather camera curious. Once the lens is turned towards her , she gets up and moves on or walks directly towards the lens. My little elph cannot keep up with her motion. The second problem is the darkness of her fur. Black on black, but what a beautiful coat she has.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

"Darkness on the Edge of Town": Bruce Springsteen

Paul Caspari: in Memoriam, the grandfather I never knew

Flora Arnswalder Caspari and Paul Caspari, MD

I worry. Who will light the Jahrzeit candles after my death? Who will remember the stories my mother told about her father? My children, who have severed themselves irrevocably from the Rosen, Caspari, and Arnswalder families, as has my niece and nephew. My brother likewise does not give the past a thought. As if he were born from heaven. How sad this tale is, but it is one that has been lived by others. And so when I am deceased so too will the world of our fathers /mothers and the world of their grandfathers and grandmothers cease. Some family members in Europe and in Israel cultivate the memory of the families, indirectly; in those lands the family survived too, having fled from Hitler and the Rise of the Third Reich. Shame on my American family that used a menorah as if it were a candelabra in a horror flick, its arms splayed this way and that, with accumulated wax drippings on its "body;" why? Self immolation in an act of desecration?.

For Paul Caspari, the physician of the people, a student or Rudolf Virchow, a man of principle and courage, who knew what his nation had given birth to, and yet after visiting the United States before the outbreak of WWII, returned to Berlin, though he was not allowed to practice medicine there , because he feared that the delivery of medical care to the Jewish population in Berlin would cease altogether. Even though he would not be able to practice medicine, would have to wear a star of David and live under constant threat of annihilation, nonetheless his concern for the well-being of his fellows' brought him back to the cauldron. Difficult as it may be to say, it was a blessing that he died on the operating table, a heart attack causing his death during a routine gall bladder operation, rather then he had lived to face a monstrous evil and a terrible death in the gas chambers, as his relatives did who remained in Germany.

It is he that I honor; honorable people are difficult to discover today. Today, the courage of Paul Caspari, MD, not the man who sadly bears his name in 2010 is celebrated and mourned by his grand daughter who never knew him.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Emma: our lovely scottie girl was born 16 December 1998

Emma lived more than eleven years with us, her brother Aesop, and Harold and myself. She was a delight and had an unforgettable personhood. She was playful, stalwart in the face of adversity, sometimes taking the lead othertimes following the lead of her older brother Aesop. Why is it ordained that canines have a comparatively short existence?; the humans who care for them outlive them in almost all cases. Were it but different. When the universe is recreated, if that were to occur, perhaps if canines and humans once again appear, that is, if evolution goes in the "right" direction, then perhaps life spans will be synchronized. Now Emma is in a paradise reserved for doggies. She "lives" with Aesop and her forbears, Kate and Fala. The world smiles on them and all their needs are met. Late spring and early summer give them days of warmth and sunshine, but occasionally, to remind of the snows of winter there is a burst of snow wherein they can play, running and jumping in piles of tickly white and can enjoy eating it as well. And then fall days with its winds, sounds, and odors signaling a change in seasons also descend upon their homeland, their Eden. Although humans cannot live in this Paradise, our shades may visit and even assume forms substantial so that the beasties we love so dearly can re-experience the physical contact that they enjoyed in the land of sorrows, the world where disease and war, the anthropocentric universe exists. I do not have a picture of Emma as a pup at hand, but what I do have are pictures that show her with her brother Aesop, from their early days and then one from Maine when they were in late middle age. If you were to look back to earlier posts you will find more pictures of the siblings. This post is remind all of Emma, who is named for the character in Jane Austen's novel. (The origin of Aesop's name is obvious.) Picture 1 shows Emma and Aesop looking out of a doorway in a cabin door on Mt Desert Island, Maine, Picture 2 shows Emma highly excited after being sprayed with water and also jumping in and out of a pool, a baby pool; and Picture 3 shows both Emma and Aesop in their prime. One picture of canine paradise.
Aesop and Emma were born at Great Scot Kennels in Saugerties, New York. Nancy and Larry, the doggy breeders were always concerned about the welfare of our two amazing pups, and into old age, they were always concernred and extremely supportive and helpful

Thursday, December 9, 2010