Cause or symptom?

You know how you have an idea and just let it slide by, only to see it return as a prize-winning source of income and glory for someone else? Well, enough of that. I am going on record with this one.

I began to observe, many years ago, that every time I saw someone doing something stupid or obnoxious, they were wearing a baseball cap. In some of the worst cases, they had it on backwards or sideways.

I believe that the present state of global madness began about the same time that baseball caps came into general fashion.

It came to a head, so to speak, with the arrival of a red baseball cap in the US White House. Things have gone according to theory.

Thanks, party people

September 7, 2019. Daylight to dark.

Special thanks to those neighbours who chipped in to provide the burgers and hot dogs, not to mention the BBQs, street furniture and cooking services. The turnout was impressive. Our street is home to many talented, accomplished people. Plenty of kids and dogs. too. Danica and I had a great time.

Food was by pot luck contribution. I believe I tested something from each and every one of the bowls and platters. Everything was good! For entertainment, we had Bianca on cellphone video, winning her Grand Slam victory.

Obedience training for fences

A well-trained fence behaves itself and does not interfere with the lifestyles of others. This one accepts the guidance of its tree, to live with it it grace and harmony.

Stubborn, willful fences try to have their own way, but trees can bite back.

A patient tree will slowly assert its authority and quietly restrain even the most resistant of fences.

Watching Dorian

Our friend Crawf is in Nova Scotia, hoping that Hurricane Dorian won’t be too much of a problem. is forecasting 50 mph winds and heavy rains which will reach Crawf by midday tomorrow and stay for 10 hours.

Friday evening, September 6th.

A serious concern is power outage, which can last for days where Crawf is. Fingers crossed for no damage and no loss of power. We are looking forward to Crawf’s visit to Toronto before too long.

The piece that surprised me most

Paul Gauguin, Portrait of Meijer de Haan,  c. 1889–90, carved oak with paint

At first I thought the National Gallery was overdoing it, making such a big fuss over this Gauguin carving. It looks rough and doesn’t photograph particularly well, so I missed its originality and ambition.

Gauguin was acting out a centuries-old fantasy of the “le bon sauvage”.  The idea is to discard artifices of traditional European culture, to follow a “get real” impulse expressed in many different ways during the 20th century.

Picasso’s Demoiselles dAvignon, 1907

Art historians credit Picasso with a breakthrough when he painted his Demoiselles of d’ Avignon in 1907, stealing from African and Oceanic carvings. Gauguin was doing something similar, nearly 20 years earlier.

It’s hard for us to see how shockingly clumsy and crude such Picassos and Gauguins would have seemed at the time, we’ve been shown through so much wilder stuff since, but these guys were groping their way into the unknown, hacking crude pathways that many other artists followed.

Gauguin probably had only a vague idea of what he was after, not a craftsman’s plan. At the same time, there is some contrivance going on. Rough-hewn work seemed somehow more sincere and “real” than polished, intricate work. Today, we make torn jeans into a fashion statement, thinking like this.

Some carved forms break free of the core volume.

The National Gallery did a good thing when it made a cast of the wood carving and presented it to visitors as a touchable object. The actual wooden piece is encased in glass, putting some tactile facts out of reach. 

Other Gauguin carvings are flat reliefs, carved on cylindrical shapes. Not this one.

Henry Moore was famous in the 20th century for making “those sculptures with holes through them”. Moore is often quoted saying, “The first hole made through a piece of stone is a revelation”. Henry wasn’t born yet when Gauguin was wrestling with his charred piece of old oak, piercing holes through the wood to create 3D effects that are tricky to pull off in such an easily split material. 

Symbolist ideology provided an intellectual framework for Gauguin, but inventiveness of form, space and even applied colour turned out to be the enduring and influential qualities of this little piece.

It wasn’t all National Gallery, either

Our trip to see the Gauguin Portrait show kept us in the the gallery for 5 hours or so, but we got to stroll around Ottawa a bit, take in the Byward Market and appreciate the city’s smaller scale and genial café environment. People are cordial and traffic at rush hour makes Torontonians feel at home. Gridlock.

Zoom from hotel window. Are those the Gatineau Hills in the distance?

Byward Market vendor’s stalls offer fresh groceries, deli and baked goods. It’s much smaller than Toronto’s St Lawrence Market, but I prefer the street life, small shops and cafés that surround it.

We picked up a fresh baguette and assorted cheeses for a no-cooking supper.
Inside the market, this lumpy cloud sculpture amuses. Vendors dangle foodstuffs from on high.
The colours caught my eye, but we resisted the cookies.
Ottawa says weed is legal, but don’t smoke it. We obeyed. Another sign banned vaping, too.

Ottawa is a very nice city, from what I saw, but it has the same social shortfalls that occur all across Canada. Poverty and addiction are much more evident than they were in the past.

It wasn’t all Gauguin

Danica sizes up one of Nancy Graves’ Camels in the Contemporary gallery, Mixed media, 1968-1969

We could not walk past these without looking. They might be more at home in a side show than an art gallery, but they have interest value.

Shot to illustrate the old joke that encapsulates something of our relationship with other animals.

You know the one where the camel driver explains to the tourist how he controls the camel population by castrating some of the males.

“I just get two big rocks, one in each hand, and line them up with the testicles between them. I smash the rocks together fast and bang! Job done!”

Tourist, wincing: “That must be terribly painful!”

Camel driver: “No, not as long as you are careful to keep your fingers out of the way.

Big Gauguin show satisfies

Danica and I decided to go see Meijer de Haan (post below) for ourselves, at the National Gallery before the Gauguin Portraits show comes down on September 8th.

Gauguin liked this “thinker” pose for Meijer and recycled it in other artworks, at least one after Meijer’s death.

I was impressed by many aspects of the show. The number of major works was large, some were new to me and I have never really thought of Gauguin as a sculptor.

Gauguin did portraits for many reasons, to promote his persona with self portraits, to place himself in the world of fellow artists and to make a buck. Not everybody was thrilled to have been recorded for posterity by the great artist.

Gauguin made a good painting, but he did not flatter Suzanne Bamberg. Oil, 1891

Both of the paintings above were in the National Gallery show. The colours in these are fairly accurate. Many reproductions are too contrasty, with oversaturated colours, probably to deliver the hype expected today.

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