‘Their ancestral cultures have been oppressed and forbidden, and yet they rise up singing’ ~ The Washington Post


Lonnie Holley, 2017. (Timothy Duffy)

Pat “Mother Blues” Cohen, Hillsborough, N.C., 2015. (Timothy Duffy)

It is no great secret that many of the most talented and influential people in the arts (and other areas too, of course) often go unheralded. Who knows why some people garner recognition and others do not? There are any number of reasons, but there are some people out there trying to rectify that.

Today, In Sight is bringing attention to a book by photographer Timothy Duffy, who is attempting to bring a group of people who have labored in the shadows into the limelight with his new book, “Blue Muse,” published recently by the University of North Carolina Press in association with the New Orleans Museum of Art.

For at least 30 years, Duffy has been working alongside roots musicians from the American South. “Blue Muse” brings together a collection of tintype portraits of many of these musicians. Most of them are not famous; you have probably never heard of them. As Duffy says in his introduction to the book:

“Many of the musicians I photograph are not famous. In fact, most of them were not easy to find. Primarily, they are senior African American roots musicians born of the South. Their ancestors were among the earliest to arrive as unwilling immigrants to our country, and many of the musicians featured in this book claim a fair portion of native blood. They have some of the deepest roots in this country, but their America has never been the land of the free. Their ancestral cultures have been oppressed and forbidden, and yet they rise up singing.”

While the artists who are revealed in Duffy’s stunning portraits may not be well known to you or me, they, collectively, have continued a tradition of music that has influenced so many of the musicians who have gained wide recognition. Duffy’s portraits train our gaze on these artists who “want to be known and remembered.” After all, no matter what, they continue to rise up and sing. As the legendary photographer Sally Mann says about Duffy’s photographs, “His images movingly convey the soul of his subjects and of the places in which they live.”

Accompanying the publication of this book, there is also an exhibit of the photographs on view until July 28 at the New Orleans Museum of Art. More information about the exhibit can be found here.

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Maya Angelou, Reimagined Through Art

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Carlos Gonzalez for The New York Times

 

More than two dozen artists honored the poet, artist and activist with murals at the Los Angeles high school that bears her name. Our photographer captured the works being created.

By Carlos Gonzalez and Amanda Svachula

A Shepard Fairey mural of Maya Angelou, mid-laugh in the sunshine, now sweeps across an exterior wall of a Los Angeles high school bearing her name.

The exuberant portrait by the contemporary street artist is one of 28 works honoring Angelou that are now featured on the school’s grounds as part of a recent public arts project.

“One of her philosophies was that joy is an act of resistance,” Mr. Fairey said of Angelou, the poet, artist and activist who died in 2014. “This idea, that all these hateful, angry things that people just recklessly throw around — if you refuse to let them change your nature, and still find things to celebrate in your life, that’s just part of the battle.”

 

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Vision

The painter considers her life and work.

From the Faraway Nearby. 1937. Oil on canvas.—Bleached-white antlers branching from the dark skull fill most of the picture space. A range of low hills occupy what would be the foreground except that they are drawn in distant perspective—a faraway desert landscape over which the deer’s skull presides neither symbolically nor realistically, an image not susceptible to interpretation, an O’Keeffe. Years ago, she said she had no theories to offer. Her painting, she said, was “like a thread that runs through all the reasons for all the other things that make one’s life.”

Georgia O’Keeffe, who is eighty-six, spends almost no time thinking about the past. “You’d push the past out of your way entirely if you only could,” she said to me one morning last fall, sitting in the open patio of her house near the Ghost Ranch, in the New Mexican high desert, seventy miles northwest of Santa Fe. What interested her at the moment were the wild purple asters that grow so abundantly at this time of the year, when there has been enough rain. It was largely because of the purple asters that after lunch she asked Juan Hamilton, her young friend and assistant, to take us to the Monastery of Christ in the Desert, a seventeen-mile trip over barely navigable dirt roads. Although the asters at the monastery were less plentiful than she had remembered them, she spent a pleasant hour chatting with the Benedictine monks and admiring the chapel, built in 1965 by George Nakashima and furnished as austerely as her own house, with split-log benches, wood carvings by a local artist, and a gory wooden crucifix in the Spanish manner. Miss O’Keeffe had visited the monastery several times, most recently for the dawn service last Easter, and the monks were pleased to see her. On the drive back, bouncing imperturbably in the rear seat of her Volkswagen bus, she said that it would be a very simple thing for her to convert someone to Catholicism. “It has great appeal,” she said. “Not for me, of course—but I can see the appeal.”

Her voice is quiet and yet clearly audible. She was dressed entirely in white—a white jacket of some durable material, a full skirt of the same stuff, white shoes. Terrie Newsom, the woman who takes care of her and, in Miss O’Keeffe’s words, “keeps me alive,” told me that when people ask whether Miss O’Keeffe has only one dress, she explains that “Miss O’Keeffe has a hundred dresses, but they’re all alike, except that some are black instead of white.” The dress suits her, in any case. A slight, immaculate woman with white hair tied back in a smooth knot, she is as handsome today as she was at twenty-nine, when Alfred Stieglitz began his famous multiple portrait of her, now in the National Gallery, in Washington—a portrait that eventually included some five hundred photographs.

During the drive back from the monastery, she told me how she had discovered the Ghost Ranch. “I’d been staying down around Alcalde, east of here, for several summers in the nineteen-thirties. One day, the boy who was trying to teach me to drive said he knew of a place he thought I’d like better than any I’d seen, and he brought me up here. It was operating as a dude ranch then. Before that, it had been a working ranch. I think the story is that a family was murdered there, and that from time to time a woman carrying a child appears in the original house—that’s the ghost. Well, I came back a few days later, alone, and asked if I could stay. The owners said that I could stay the night but that unless some other guest failed to show up I’d have to leave in the morning. That night, a family moved out—the son had developed appendicitis—and I moved in. That was in 1934, and I’ve been coming up here on the plateau every summer since then. I knew the minute I got up here that this was where I would live.” She bought her own house, which is about two miles from the ranch, in 1940. Some years ago, the Ghost Ranch was acquired by the Presbyterian Church, which now uses it as a conference center. Miss O’Keeffe has given the Presbyterians a sufficiently wide berth. “You know about the Indian eye that passes over you without lingering, as though you didn’t exist?” she said. “That was the way I used to look at the Presbyterians at the ranch, so they wouldn’t become too friendly.”

Although she owns a larger and more comfortable house in the village of Abiquiu, sixteen miles south of the ranch, Miss O’Keeffe has always felt more at home up on the plateau. The solitude, the stillness, and the harsh, dry, splendid landscape are more her world. Animal skulls and bleached antlers hang on the walls of her patio, and rocks picked up on her walks and camping trips spill in profusion over low tables and shelves. A few years ago, when Miss O’Keeffe and several others were going down the Colorado River—a week in a pontoon boat, sleeping under the stars every night—her friend Eliot Porter, the photographer, found a particularly beautiful stone, which Miss O’Keeffe very much wanted for her collection. Porter said he was keeping it for his wife. Matters were a trifle touchy for a time, but then, a few weeks later, the Porters came to Miss O’Keeffe’s house for dinner and presented her with the stone. “When she wants something, she makes people give it to her,” Stieglitz once remarked. “They feel she is fine and has something other people have not.” Not that she wants many possessions. “I like to have things as sparse as possible,” she told me. “If you have an empty wall, you can think on it better. I like a space to think in—if you can call what I do thinking.”

Miss O’Keeffe sometimes feels that she ought to sell the Abiquiu house and live permanently at the ranch. “Last year, Jerrie and I were here in December,” she said. “Being up here is one of the best things I know. There is nothing in this house that I can get along without.”

Light Coming on the Plains, No. II. 1917. Watercolor.—An impression of endless dark space under a vault of sky. A narrow, ragged beam of white near the bottom suggests the horizon, but not specifically; in O’Keeffe’s work, nature is not so much analyzed as meditated upon, the result being an abstraction that does not look abstract. When she painted “Light,” O’Keeffe was living on the wide, windswept plains of north Texas, teaching school. “That was my country,” she wrote in 1919. “Terrible winds and a wonderful emptiness.”

There is little to indicate why O’Keeffe should have felt at home in such a landscape. She was born and brought up in the gentler, wheat-farming country of southern Wisconsin, the second of seven children in a moderately well-to-do family. “My mother’s and my father’s families had farms that adjoined and eventually my father bought mother’s property,” she told me. “They raised all kinds of things there, even tobacco. I can still see the enormous loads of hay coming into the barns in the evening—I’ve never seen loads of hay like that anywhere else.” On rainy days, their mother used to read aloud to her older brother, who had weak eyes. O’Keeffe always listened, even after she had learned how to read herself. Her favorites were stories about the Old West. “My memories of childhood are quite pleasant,” she said to me, “although I hated school.” Until she was twelve, she went to a small rural school near her home. For a while, she and two of her sisters also went into the town of Sun Prairie once a week for private lessons in drawing and painting Today, she says she can’t remember a time when she couldn’t read music (although she doesn’t remember taking music lessons), and it sometimes seems to her that she might have become a musician. The family was not a terribly close one, and she rarely played with her brothers or sisters. One day when she was ten, she told her friend Lena, the daughter of the woman who did the family’s washing, that she was going to be an artist. “I have no idea where that came from,” she said. “I just remember saying it.”

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The Legend of Moe’s Books

It remains a landmark in Berkeley, one of America’s very best bookstores and worth an epic detour to visit.

The San Francisco Chronicle once put it this way: “India has the Taj Mahal. Berkeley has Moe’s.”
Credit Carlos Chavarría for The New York Times

 

 

By Dwight Garner

 

 

Moe Moskowitz, the co-founder of Moe’s Books in Berkeley, was known for a lot of things: his omnipresent cigars; his appalling dancing (sometimes to Cab Calloway on the store’s turntable); his political activism; and especially the way he held court at the cash register, riffing like Jackie Mason at a Friars Club podium.

The more you know about Moskowitz (1921-1997), who opened the store in 1959, the Beatnik era, with his wife, Barbara, the more you want to know. He was brusque and a bit of a slob. He drove his sports car like a maniac. One of his former employees has written about his “famous flatulence.”

He was a natural-born agitator. Born in New York City, he realized he missed certain eats while out West. He’s been given credit for bringing real bagels into Berkeley after founding SAWBABA, the Society for the Advancement of Water Bagels in the Bay Area, in 1962.

 

 

I spent a fair amount of time in Moe’s looking through his bargain, used books. Snyder, Patchen, Borges, Ram Das, LeGuin, Heinlein, Trungpa, ceramics. I’d go up the block to Cody’s to sit on the floor & page through their fine selection of out-of-my-reach art books.

The one photo of Moe pricing a stack of tomes, always in light pencil, cigar in mouth is how I remember him. I was always a little intimidated coming up to the counter.
It’s hard to believe now that a place like Berzerkeley in that crazy time actually existed. Across Telegraph from Moe’s was the headquarters of Messiah’s World Crusade. Through their satellite commune in the Sierra, with the aid of LSD, they were able to communicate  with Martian residents. 
How’s a kid growing up at the mall going to hear the good news “Acid, speed, mescaline”.
Go Bears.
Jerry Oyama

‘Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love’ Review: A Ladies’ Man and His Muse ~ RollingStone

Nick Broomfield’s doc on Leonard Cohen and Marianne Ilhen — the subject of ‘So Long, Marianne’ — puts the artist-muse relationship under the microscope

Marianne Christine Ilhen and Leonard Cohen, the subjects of ‘Marianne and Leonard: Words of Love.’  Babis Mores/Roadside Attractions

In the 1960s, on the Greek island of Hydra, a Norwegian ex-pat met a young Canadian poet. She was shopping in a market when this dashing, mustachioed figure appeared in the doorway. “Would you like to join us?” the handsome silhouette asked her. “We’re sitting outside.” Their eyes met, and that was it: Welcome to the Mediterranean region of Smittensville. Her name was Marianne Christine Ihlen; his name was Leonard Cohen. You probably know the rest if you know Cohen’s story, or if you simply have a passing familiarity with the lyrics to “So Long, Marianne.” If not, Nick Broomfield is happy to fill you in.

Leonard Cohen: Remembering the Poet of Brokeness

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love charts the friendship, love affairs and off-on relationship between these two, which resulted in broken hearts, cold shoulders and several unbelievably beautiful songs. After instantly connecting, the two fell into what Ihlen describes as a fairly stock male artist/female muse relationship: He spent his days writing his novel “Beautiful Losers” (later described in reviews as “verbal masturbation” — and that was the Canadian press!) and taking speed; she went shopping and prepped meals and supported him. Various friends, neighbors and fellow free spirits attest to the sort hippie-idyllic vibe of the island’s community, as home movies portray this young couple smiling, swimming and swooning over each other.

Eventually, Leonard feels compelled to return to his native Montreal, where his career as the next Norman Mailer gets sidetracked. One day, he happens to play folk singer Judy Collins a bit of “Suzanne.” She records the song and turns it into a hit. Collins gets him to perform part of it at a fundraiser and Cohen leaves the stage halfway through, sobbing. She brings him back. They finish it together. A star is born. And the union between the musician and his lady love back in Greece experiences the first of many terminal diagnoses to come.

Both a memento mori and the chronicle for how there ain’t no cure for love, the doc continually underlines Cohen’s finicky nature (after begging Marianne and her son Axel to live with him in Montreal, the two fly out to meet him … at which point he declares the invite “a mistake”) and his shark-like need to keep moving or perish. A few attempts at character psychology worm their way in — cue footage of Leonard’s mom — but mostly, we get a portrait of “the poet for quasi-depressed women of his era.” As for Ilhen, we get a sense of her loneliness, her attempts to balance being a mother and a partner, the toll of wanting something she can’t have and someone who won’t be tied down. Even as things are coming to their conclusion, Cohen is still using their bond as the basis for his art. His amore apparently disliked “So Long, Marianne.” The footage of Ilhen watching him sing the famous song that bears her name in 2009, however, suggests a tender pride at having been part of his arc.

And because this is a Broomfield joint, the director is also more than happy to tell you that he and Marianne were briefly involved with each other, to go on about how she gave him his first hit of acid and to include a contemporary scene of him visiting an old friend to talk about their glory days of hanging out with “so much golden sun-kissed people of either sex.” The way he pronounces the word “lovers” could not sound more world-weary, or more giggle-inducing and gauche; even though the veteran filmmaker actually has a legit first-hand connection to the story, the temptation to roll your eyes every time he tries to insert himself into the spotlight is irresistible. (Shockingly, the Kurt & Courtney documentarian does not bump into a single boom microphone once.) Everybody knows that you pay the ticket, you take the occasional but-enough-about-my-subject detours on the Broomfield ride.

But the payoff is huge. There’s a lot of great Cohen footage, much of it taken from the invaluable 1974 tour diary Bird on a Wire, and you get his journey from early scribblings to late-tour comeback. And Marianne & Leonard doubles as a look at the darker side of the Sixties bohemian ideal, when Hydra’s utopia went from hedonistic freedom to marriages dissolving and both donkeys and kids being unwittingly dosed. “People took it too far,” one talking head notes, and the already fine line between anything-goes and everything-falls-apart gets blurred beyond recognition. There are cracks in the permissive postcard paradise — that’s how the darkness gets in.

What makes this film unmissable, however, is the fact that we get Marianne’s story more or less in full as well. It’s a fleshing out of someone who was more than just a muse, more than just an object of affection for a notorious ladies’ man, a famous singer and an infamous bastard. We’ve heard the now-famous letter that the musician wrote to Ilhen as she lay on her deathbed, of how he was “just a little behind you” in terms of time running out. (Cohen would shuffle off this mortal coil three months after her final breath.) But to see that letter being read aloud, and to witness the run of emotions across her face as she processes one final affectionate “so long,” is to feel that the narrative has been handed back to her. There’s a reason her name comes first in the title. Marianne is no longer just “Leonard’s muse.” She’s a woman who’s lived and loved and lost completely apart from the songs.

 

~~~

 

In Documentary ‘Marianne & Leonard: Words Of Love,’ Free Love Comes At A Cost ~ NPR

Director Nick Broomfield documents the love story between musician Leonard Cohen and his lover, Marianne Ihlen, in Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love.

Aviva Layton/Roadside Attractions

 

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love, a warmly absorbing new documentary by British filmmaker Nick Broomfield, opens with an image of a beautiful young Norwegian woman steering a sailboat off the sun-soaked Greek island of Hydra. The footage, which was shot by famed documentarian and Broomfield mentor D.A. Pennebaker on a visit to the island in the 1960s, recurs from slightly different angles throughout the film. But Marianne Ihlen — an early lover of Leonard Cohen and the subject of several of his most famous songs including “So Long Marianne” — doesn’t steer this moving, sympathetic, but ultimately frustrating tribute. Perhaps inevitably, Cohen does, via Broomfield’s fascination with the singer’s tortured relations with the many women he romanced.

Ihlen and Cohen met in 1960 on Hydra, which at that time was forming as a hub of literary hippies with full subscriptions to the sexual revolution. The two had in common uncommon physical beauty and a sense of themselves as refugees, she from an abusive partner, he from the Orthodox Jewish family that both confined and inspired him. They became lovers, and Ihlen sustained Cohen through the writing of his early novel Beautiful Losers.

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Trump likes a parade ~ The Washington Post

 

Trump is planning to co-opt the nation’s Independence Day to put all the attention on him and his supporters.

 

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Some retired and active-duty military officers, and, privately, even some Defense Department personnel said the participation of the military in President Trump’s “Salute to America” appears to politicize the armed forces on a day when the nation traditionally toasts its independence in a nonpartisan environment.

“Put troops out there so we can thank them — leave tanks for Red Square,” said Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, a retired four-star Marine general and former head of United States Central Command, who until earlier this year served in the Trump administration as a special envoy to help resolve disputes in the Persian Gulf.

Summer In A Haiku ~ NPR

Cotton candy smiles/and merry go round horses/in soft sudden rain — Cindy Guentherman, Loves Park, Ill. 

People love summer.
We heard they love haiku too.
Put those together …

Last month, to help mark the official start of summer, we asked our listeners to share their thoughts, feelings and memories of the season in the form of a haiku. We were overwhelmed with the responses — in all, more than 4,000 listeners wrote in.

The haiku you sent us evoked all kinds of summer memories. Some said summer reminds them of ice cream or trips to the beach. Others shared precious memories of young love.

Our own staff got in the mix too. Morning Edition’s Rachel Martin said summer reminds her of catching lightning bugs. NPR’s resident poet, Kwame Alexander, said summer reminds him of playing stickball.