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Picturing a World

One ring to bind them

As the year wanes and fireside reading appeals, I take pleasure in some of my favorite fantasy novels, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings among them. A notice that the engraved medieval ring pictured here will be auctioned on November 29th tipped me off to the whole category of love rings or poesy rings—rings with inscriptions meant to be enhanced by being worn against the skin. This one, for instance, has a French inscription that can be translated, "As I hold your faith, hold mine." Rather different from Sauron's ring! Yet I suspect Tolkien had seen such things and bent them to imaginative use. For another example, click here. For a goldsmith's history of "posy rings," click here. And for a collection of medieval rings at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, click here.

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Bashkirtseff, Autumn

Blog post alert: Paintings of Late Autumn at The Eclectic Light Company points out that by mid November in northern latitudes, the light has changed and colors have become muted. That is certainly true of this one of a bank on the Seine in Paris by the artist whose name in her native Ukrainian is Mariia Bashkirtseva. Let's be honest, it's not the most fascinating picture in the world, but it does have a melancholy charm, doesn't it? And for a writer, its raggedy, leaf-strewn, road and overturned bench might suggest just the right details for evoking a subdued autumnal scene. Other paintings in the post, moreover, are brighter, more dynamic, or more vivid as they capture other moods of autumn. Well worth a visit

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Guitar in American Art

Exhibition alert: The Ring, by American artist (and opera singer) Suzy Frelinghuysen is featured in Storied Strings: The Guitar in American Art, a show at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, open through March 19, 2023. You can read more about this painting and the show here and more about the fascinating artist and her husband here.

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Cezanne and energeia

In the catalogue for the grand retrospective of Cezanne's work now at the Tate Gallery in London, artist Paul Chan writes that the Aristotelian concept of energeia or "aliveness" is the motion that enables living things to think and move independently. He sees all of Cezanne's paintings of bathers as being full of such motion, such energy. Better yet, the bathers are "at ease with themselves. They look pleased by simply being, enlivened by their surroundings and by each other, enjoying themselves without guilt, aggression, or fear." It's good to have the midterm elections behind us. In a dark time of far too much stubborn aggression and fear, however, isn't it also good to be reminded that the arts can give readers, viewers, and listeners a surge of life-giving energy and joy?

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Gender-Swapped Fairy Tales

Artist Karrie Fransman and her husband, IT guy Jonathan Plackett, collaborated on Gender Swapped Fairy Tales. He devised an algorithm to swap the genders of characters in fairy tales. She illustrated the results. To learn how two creative people work together, check out the video at the link above. It's charming and just might stimulate your own work.

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Votes for women—and vote!!!!!

You don't need me to tell you that tomorrow's election matters. Women's rights and health are on the line. Our suffragist foremothers, who won us the vote, would be out in force!
I haven't been able to find a recording of "Votes for Women: International Suffragists' Song" on the internet (which tells you something, doesn't it?), but the link takes you to the sheet music as well as the cover. And a bonus: If you feel jittery about the upcoming results, you can pass some time by building Votes for Women as an online jigsaw puzzle.

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Warm November

Novembre by the American Tonalist painter, Lowell Birge Harrison, has been one of my favorites ever since I discovered it while researching Where the Light Falls—probably because I am fond in general of the gray-and-gold waning of fall color in November. I have to say, though, it's very odd here in the Northeast this year. Highs in the sixties. Warm, not wan. I've begun reading The Sentence by Louise Erdrich for my library book club and was struck by this sentence last night by this: "The act of walking down a beautiful November street, comfortable in only a thin sweater, was an infected sort of pleasure" (p. 50). Climate change, books, life, death, and I haven't even gotten to the lockdown section to see whether the novel becomes a major entry to my Pandemic Art category!

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Myriorama: print your own

Tom Gauld, Endless Journey cards (2015)

Blog post alert: Rereading the Myriorama chapter in Philip Pullman's Secret Commonwealth sent me searching for a set of traditional cards. I landed on Mryiormama Cards to Print. Learn how to make your own and use them for imaginative stimulation! And for those of you who just want to fool around on line, try a game at at the Laurence Sterne Trust played with Tom Gauld's cards—the skull seems just right for Halloween.

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Medieval Spanish veil

Blog post alert: This image of a woman in a transparent veil in Alfonso X's Book of Games sent me searching for information about sheer fabrics in the Middle Ages. Imagine my delight at finding this very woman and my two earlier two chess-playing queens in a post on Two Spanish 13th century outfits. Eva, the blogger, even recreated the embroidery on the sleeves. Check out her very informative website, Eva's historical costuming blog.

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Hilma af Klimt

An article, Hilma af Klint: Swedish mystic hailed as the true pioneer of abstract art, in the Guardian calls attention to a new biography of and film about a woman artist who flourished in the early 20th C. She still astonishes today. At first sight, her work reminded me of Agnes Pelton's—and it came forty years earlier. If she is as new to you as she is to me, I recommend Hilma af Klint's Visionary Paintings, a review of the 2018 show at the Guggenheim by the late Peter Schjeldahl. As a quick introduction to her work, it is informative, well illustrated, and as always with Schjeldahl lively and engaging. Image via Open Culture post on the publication of the af Klint catalogue raisonné.

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