Sunday, April 29, 2007

Yaghjian and Johnson

Yesterday Janne and I went to the Edward Yaghjian retrospective exhibit at The State Museum. It includes over 100 of his paintings and drawings over his career from the 1930's in New York to the 50's-80's in Columbia. He was born in Armenia in 1905, but moved to the U.S. at an early age. After painting with the "Ash Can School" in New York under the guidance of John Sloan and others, he moved to Columbia to become chair of the art department, a position he held until retirement. He died in 1997. His early work realistically depicts life in New York, often panoramic scenes of buildings and harbors. His later work took on brighter, almost Fauve-like colors and became rather stylized, almost primitive in nature. He maintained his emphasis on architecture and cityscapes, often ramshackle.

Columbia scenes by Yaghjian

Interestingly, paintings of the the South Carolina painter William Johnson, born in 1901 in Florence, only a few years earlier than Yaghjian, also show a marked shift from realism to primitivism, as seen in the early self portrait above in contrast to the bright painting next to it, "Blind Singer." Johnson, like Yaghjian, worked for a while in New York. In 1926 he moved to Paris and was influenced by Gaugin, Soutine, and the Expressionists. He married a Danish woman and lived several years in Scandinavia. He achieved only spotty critical success during his life. He became mentally ill and spent most of his last two decades in mental institutions, dying in 1970.

Robert Pinsky on Difficult Poetry

Friday, April 20, 2007

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Janisse Ray

Jannisse Ray Speaking at FMU
Janisse Ray's visit to FMU was a hit with students and faculty alike. She spoke twice on March 28, afternoon and evening. Many classes have been reading her Ecology of a Cracker Childhood. Her visit was jointly sponsored by the Biology and English faculties. She arrived late the night before. Early in the morning she met several biologists for a field trip to a local longleaf pine forest. Her passion is the salvation of our environment in general and the revival of the longleaf forests in particular. Both the afternoon session (when she focused on the memoir) and evening session (when she talked more generally and passionately about writing and the environment) were well-attended. In between, for dinner, the biologists organized a Thai meal at The Brass Lantern. Later on, a reception at The Cottage, which I missed because of my trip back to Columbia. Ray was personable, engaging, and especially good with students. Her radical ecological message might have been a bit much for some to swallow, but so be it. She doesn't hold back. She is a masterful reader of her own work--often seeming to have passages memorized.