It’s a Gas

Gas, Edward Hopper, 1940

The end of the road begins here, disappearing into an already darkened woods. It is not a very promising locale for a gas station. The last car seems to have already passed by long ago. The lone attendant is shutting down his pumps for the night, soon he will turn off the lights, lock up and go home. Like a last outpost, the station sits at the edge of civilization, surrounded by wilderness, at the moment of twilight between day and night. All that is missing is a hand painted warning sign, No Gas – Next 50 Miles. The brand new then Tokheim 39 pumps stand as sentinels, with their illuminated lamps held high, ever watchful for any last minute traveler. They stand silently ready to dispense the magic elixir that will then speed these lonely individuals to their eventual destinations.

I mailed one letter today and tomorrow will mail another. Each one dispensing another car from my fleet. In little over a year, we will have gone from owning four vehicles to soon only one. Dan’s car died in LA. Living now in Brooklyn, he is doing without. With the letter I mailed today, Dave will take ownership of his car in Boston, clearing it from my books. Tomorrow, I’ll mail the title to Anne’s ancient automobile off to NPR and I expect that within a couple of weeks and hopefully, before MSD comes calling, we’ll be a one car family again, with only the Prius owned. It has been a while since we were a one car family, a long while, but think about how much gas we will be saving. Our fleet average will jump to 50 MPG. Jockeying schedules are already stressing this plan though. If it eventually breaks down that will simply present us with a buying opportunity. I would gladly trade a new car for one that is 22-years-old.

I succumbed to reality and broke out warmer wear for bicycling in the park. There is a chill in the air now. Shadows, even at noon are longer, as with each passing day the light turns further away from us. While the crickets still chirp at length, soon only the ants will quietly toil. GoT to admit it, winter is coming. 😉

Christina’s World

Christina’s World, Andrew Wyeth, 1948

“Christina’s World” is artist’s Andrew Wyeth most famous painting. It shows a woman looking away from the viewer and looking towards a distant farmhouse, while lying in a tawny grass field. Christina, a real person, was actually crawling through the field, because she could no longer walk, because she suffered from a degenerative nerve disease. She was Wyeth’s long time Maine neighbor and was in her late fifties when she was painted and lived for another twenty years afterwards. Years after her death, upon his death, Wyeth was buried at the foot of the pictured hill, fulfilling his request “to be near Christina.”

It is painted in the style known as magic realism, where everyday scenes are imbued with poetic mystery. In the painting, Christina appears to be younger than she was. She also appears isolated, where even her home, the distant farmhouse looks far away. Initially, the picture paints a bleak and lonely picture, but learning Christina’s background recasts this artwork into one of human struggle and determination. MoMA has always owned this painting, but chooses to display it in a busy hallway and not a gallery. One’s viewing is distracted, with all of the passing people. Its location does not to the work justice.

Turning from Christina and Wyeth’s world of magical realism to Anne’s real world, finds her ever busy with her third graders. Highlights from this week include a visit by a delegation of Indianapolis teachers and a field trip to Powell and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra played a sports themed concert for the hall full of kids. Highlights included the Blues hockey team’s mascot conducting the symphony in a recital of the Saint Louis Blues March, a reading of Casey at the Bat and the playing of various baseball standards. 

The Starry Night

The Starry Night, Vincent van Gogh, 1889

“The Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh has always been one of my favorite paintings. Throughout college my dorm room was adorned with a poster of this art work. It was an unexpected joy to find it on display at MoMA last week. Mounted by itself on a divider wall in the middle of the gallery, it was mobbed. Dozens of people crowded in front of it. Many were taking pictures. A lone security guards stood beside it. Big and burly, his presences generally held the throng at bay. That and the occasional word remonstrated any overeager art patron. As art police gigs go, this one was a tough one to hold. My viewing was hardly the quiet and contemplative experience that one would hope for, but I was able to jostle myself close enough, with camera held high, and get the pic.

“Starry Night” captured the view from Van Gogh’s east facing asylum bedroom window.  This morning, from our own bedroom window, Anne pointed out to me an astronomical conjunction involving Venus and the Moon, all backlit by the first light of the rising sun, our own little starry night. Since my return from New York, I have been rising before dawn with her and giving her a ride to school. The reason for this is that the battery died on her car the night that I returned. She had to walk home that night, like she has been doing ever since. I took MetroLink from the airport and Anne later picked me up in the Prius. Anne’s car is 22 years old, its license is up for renewal soon and it has been under a DNR order for some time now. We jumped her car to just get it home, but it has sat in front of the house ever since and again the battery is dead.

We had planned to become a one vehicle family soon anyway. This unfortunate occurrence simply advances our schedule a couple of months. We’ll jump her car once more and this time drive it a little further and see if it can hold onto a charge this time, but come January it will become an NPR donation. We might later buy a new car, either to supplement of replace the Prius, but for now it looks like our carbon footprint will be shrinking. Anyone want a bike roof rack?

Items: Is Fashion Modern?

A plain white t-shirt, Yankee’s baseball cap, Levi’s 501s, Nike shoes and aviator sunglasses, how more iconic can fashion get? These are a few of the 111 articles of clothing that appear in the current Museum of Modern Art show, “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” NYC has always been an international Mecca for fashion, but this is only MoMA’s second foray into this realm. It’s sole predecessor, “Are Clothes Modern?” — was organized in 1944. So, after 70+ years of neglect, where MoMA has been quietly wrestling with questions about the modernity of costume and more basically is it even art, I’m pleased to have caught this latest update, but what took them so long?

On Columbus Day, the show was well attended, maybe even too well. It is a big show, encompassing all of the top floor. It is rare for MoMA to dedicate so much space to an exhibit. The selection of items varied from the novel to the simply mundane. It is almost as if MoMA can’t decide whether modern fashion is art or not. If an item of apparel has become ubiquitous, does that make if fashion or simply a uniform? This leavening of the unique with the everyday dilutes the show-stopping effect of some of the more interesting pieces. I didn’t need to go to the museum to view a pair of flip-flops.

“Items” is as much anthropological as it is about aesthetics. Subcultural styles trend into the mainstream. Awareness is focused by garments and accessories that everyday people wear around the world. Haute couture is included, but almost as an outlier. In an epilogue, ecologetic concerns are addressed with a wall that describes the impact of modern manufacturing techniques, which have shifted the carbon footprint burden primarily now to garment care. These high-minded concerns aside, there is always something deeply satisfying to see something you or yours owns in a museum setting. 

Time Expired

Time Expired, Vern Blosum, 1962

Time Expired, Vern Blosum, 1962

Unlike in the painting, time has not yet expired. We still have a few more days of this year’s campaign season still left to endure. I’m ready for Election Day and I’m ready now! If Missouri allowed early voting, I would have voted already, but that still would not have put an end to things. This saga must play out at least for a few more days. Here is a call out to that seemingly mythical undecided voter out there. Please make up your mind, for me, if not for yourself. That way, maybe, the robo-calls might cease and peace could return. That way, maybe the stock market would lose the funk that it’s in. That way maybe we as a country could begin to move on and get on with our lives. Please. Please! PLEASE!!!

The back story on this painting is even more interesting than the artwork itself, because it turns out that Vern Blosum does not really exist. MoMA got punked. The Museum of Modern Art acquired Time Expired in 1963 when Pop art was a happening thing. Later, while attempting to complete its catalog on the work MoMA made inquiries of the art dealer from whom they had purchased the painting. The response was less than satisfying and MoMA concluded that Vern Blosum was a pseudonym and did not really exist. MoMA further concluded that the painting was part of an elaborate joke meant to poke fun at the banal subject matter and commercial style of Pop art. For years not knowing what to do with it, the painting was not displayed and has only recently come out of the closet sort of speak. Vern Blosum may not really exist, but his art still does.