Friday Reads: Uplifts and Downdrifts


Music Pink and Blue, 1918 by Georgia O’Keefe

Good Morning!

Thought I’d share a few nice links today to help your holiday weekend along!  I’d like to be in the UK next month where an exhibition of O’Keefe paintings is highlighting the life of one of the women I’ve admired forever.  I last saw an exhibit of her paintings juxtaposed against her husband’s photos in Minneapolis in the 1990s.  The exhibit  showed how they influenced each other’s point of view.  The invention of the close up lens was an inspiration to both at the time.   This showing seems to highlight a different part of their relationship given the headline: “How Georgia O’Keeffe left her cheating husband for a mountain: ‘God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it'”.   This exhibit highlights a time period where O’Keefe opened up to the idea of macro lens as will as the micro. She left her husband for the arms and companionship of women and headed off to New Mexico.

I first saw her paintings face-to-face in her gallery in Taos, New Mexico back in the mid 70s as a teenager spending some time in the area.   We were given free run of Ghost Ranch on our days off of the grueling work of stuccoing and painting rooftops glaring silver.   We could swim and run horses on the property which was owned by the Presbyterian Church at that point.  She could be spotted in remote areas painting still; a small figure draped in black against vast, colorful landscape of sand and rock.

A major retrospective of O’Keeffe’s work that opens at Tate Modern next month will include several pictures of these bones, burnished by the wind and bleached by the sun. O’Keeffe long aspired to make, as she put it, “the Great American Painting” and this series is often interpreted as her response to the Great Depression.

In 1934, O’Keeffe discovered Ghost Ranch, an isolated “dude ranch” to the west of Taos, set up for the entertainment of wealthy East Coast holidaymakers such as the Rockefellers. O’Keeffe, however, kept clear of the tourists, with their butlers and bodyguards, and spent her days in remote parts of the ranch, painting its sandstone rock formations.

In 1940, she bought a house at Ghost Ranch and added large plate-glass windows to its adobe walls, so that she could enjoy views of the parched red landscape from her bed. In the distance she could see Pedernal Mountain, a flat-topped mesa almost 9,865ft high. As Mont Sainte-Victoire was to Cezanne, so Pedernal was to O’Keeffe, who painted it, obsessively, almost 30 times. “It’s my private mountain,” she once said. “It belongs to me. God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it.”

At the end of 1945, a few months before she became the first woman to be honoured with a full retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, O’Keeffe bought a second property in New Mexico – a ruined hacienda, with parts dating from the 18th century, in the village of Abiquiu. This ancient settlement occupies a bluff overlooking the Chama River as it flows towards the Rio Grande and O’Keeffe took advantage of the access to fresh water by cultivating a private garden, covering around an acre. She grew fresh fruit and vegetables as well as flowers including roses, lilies, poppies and bleeding hearts.

She was also attracted to the property’s internal patio, a peaceful, atrium-like space surrounded by adobe walls, one of which contained an austere-looking door that she painted many times. “That wall with the door in it was something I had to have,” she said. A number of paintings from her Patio series will be on display at Tate Modern.


Burning Candles, 1955 by Lee Krasner

I also had the pleasure of finding this link today on my friend Jowee’s Facebook: “11 Female Abstract Expressionists You Should Know, from Joan Mitchell to Alma Thomas”.  Women in the creative arts frequently are ignored so I thought I’d take the opportunity to celebrate them today.  There’s an exhibit in Denver that some of you might be able to see if you can get there.  Although, travel in the UK is dirt cheap right now for obvious reasons so don’t rule out going to the Tate Modern.

Abstract Expressionism is largely remembered as a movement defined by the paint-slinging, hard-drinking machismo of its poster boys Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. But the women who helped develop and push the style forward have largely fallen out of the art-historical spotlight, marginalized during their careers (and now in history books) as students, disciples, or wives of the their more-famous male counterparts rather than pioneers in their own right. (An exception is Helen Frankenthaler, whose transcendent oeuvre is often the only female practice referred to in scholarship and exhibitions around action painting.)

Even when these artists were invited into the members- and male-only Eighth Street Club to discuss abstraction and its ability to channel emotional states—as was the case with Perle Fine, Joan Mitchell, and Mary Abbott—their work rarely sold as well or was written about as widely or favorably. And these women received far fewer solo exhibitions than their male contemporaries. Some even changed their names, like Michael West, in an effort to combat the era’s sexism, or incorporated into their work tacit challenges to the status quo, as Elaine de Kooning did in her “Faceless Men” series.

Now in a long-overdue exhibition at the Denver Art Museum, a sizable, boundary-pushing group of female Abstract Expressionists are finally getting their due. Below, we spotlight some of the most innovative practitioners (admittedly, there are many more than 11).

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Red Icon, 1962 by Sonia Gechtoff

I will miss the feminist space created by the writers who are retiring  The Toast and evidently, so will Hillary Clinton.  I love the fan piece she wrote because it’s a really good outline of how women must find safe spaces for each other when they are the brave few that traverse traditional male institutions.  As a financial economist, I’m used to being part of a very small minority.

Today is the last day of publishing for the Toast, the beloved, quirky, hilarious, thought-provoking, misandrist, unique, irreplaceable culture/humor/art history website helmed by Mallory Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe. And mourning its departure, apparently, is Hillary Clinton, who has a byline on the site with a heartfelt note:

When I arrived in the Senate in 2001, I was one of just 13 women, and I remember how thankful I was for my female colleagues on both sides of the aisle. My friend Barbara Mikulski famously started a tradition of dinner parties for all the women of the Senate. Over a glass of wine — okay, maybe three — we’d give each other support, advice, and highly relevant tips to navigate being in such an extreme minority.

I’ve always had great admiration for women like Barb who take it upon themselves to create spaces where women can speak their minds freely. With this site, Mallory, Nicole and Nikki did the same for so many women — and they made us laugh and think along the way.

 A byline on a relatively obscure website whose audience is mostly millennials might feel like the latest example of the vast gulf between Internet Hillary Clinton, who is as fluent in Twitter jokes and GIFs and internet-speak as any 20-something, and Actual Hillary Clinton, who is, well, a grandmother.

Still, Internet Hillary Clinton is effective even when that gulf is so apparent, perhaps because many people, particularly women, are hungry for the first woman nominee for president to seem recognizable. Even if her empowering feminist gathering place is a dinner party and not a comments section, she really is Just Like Us.

But the Toast’s leadership suggests this isn’t merely next-level microtargeting and that Clinton actually is just a big fan: “It seems her people show her Two Monks or what-have-you on long campaign days,” Cliffe wrote in her introduction to Clinton’s piece. “We found out Hillary Clinton reads the Toast maybe a month ago?” Ortberg tweeted. “I’m still not used to it.”

Southwest Landscape #5, 1960 by Elaine de Kooning

Southwest Landscape #5, 1960 by Elaine de Kooning

This proves that grandmothers can still rock it.  I adored both of mine.  I hope if I ever get that title that I will be an outrageous, loving nana too.

So, I’ve never actually read anything by Gay Talese.  He’s the sort’ve man that just oozes contempt for women and life’s full of that enough without wading into the sludge pool in your spare time and mind. However, this is noteworthy: “After Much Criticism, Gay Talese Renounces His Forthcoming Book The Voyeur’s Motel “.  Alright then.

In April 2016, the New Yorker published an extraordinary tale of male entitlement. Literary journalist Gay Talese told the story of how self-proclaimed amateur sex researcher and professional peeping tom Gerald Foos had purchased the Manor House motel in Aurora, Colorado and jerry-rigged a viewing deck in order to spy on his guests—which he did for decades, while taking meticulous notes. After Foos made contact with Talese, the journalist eventually ended up visiting the motel and doing some spying for himself. The story of their relationship, as well as Foos’ extensive notes for which Foos received a stipend, ultimately resulted in Talese’s next book, The Voyeur’s Motel, which will be released July 12. The book, Talese told TheWashington Post on Thursday, is a 240 pages of hot garbage.

There were numerous red flags in Talese’s retelling of Foos’ life work, the most glaring of which is that this random guy perpetrated a several decades-long campaign of fraud, deception, and invasion of privacy, which Jezebel detailed after the article’s publication. But Talese stood by his work, as well as his upcoming book, until the Post learned that Foos had actually sold his motel from 1980 to 1988, after claiming to have been still conducting research during that time period.

Don’t you just love a good come comeuppance?  Here’s another one.  Paul Ryan will be “in charge” of the Trump nominating convention which appears to be on the fast track to circus status.

Summer I, 1958-1959 by Perle Fine

Summer I, 1958-1959 by Perle Fine

As the highest-ranking official in his party, he will oversee the Republican National Convention that is poised to nominate Donald Trump — a role he could have avoided, and almost did. His predecessor as speaker, John Boehner, helped deliver a huge Republican majority in the House. Yet the party’s conference was so ideologically unhinged and practically dysfunctional that it rewarded Boehner for this historic achievement by forcing him into retirement.

After a protracted show of ambivalence about replacing Boehner, Ryan opted to succeed him last October. “We will not duck the tough issues,” Ryan said after being sworn in. “We will take them head on.” The new motto, Ryan said, would be: “Opportunity for all.”

It quickly became clear that Ryan couldn’t even get a break for himself. His hopes for an actual budget and a return to “regular order” went nowhere. Under unified Republican leadership, Congress can’t even organize itself to fund emergency measures to contain the Zika virus, whose first wave of victims will surely include Republican families in Republican districts across the Republican South. Last week’s unruly Democratic sit-in to demand a vote on gun regulation only heightened the sense of chaos.

“Ryan’s instinct to refuse the speakership opportunity was correct,” said congressional scholar Thomas Mann, via e-mail. “It has been an unmitigated disaster. He has been unable to run the House as he promised (entirely predictable), he has been personally diminished in his relations with Trump (more to follow in Cleveland) and the job will become even worse if Hillary wins and Republicans retain a majority in the House.”

There may be a less dire scenario, but not one Republicans will relish.

The Republican Party’s been primed up for the kind of lunatic candidacy of a Trump for some time.  Afterall, they live on a steady diet of science denial, conspiracy theories, and fact-free-zones.

Untitled, circa 1958 by Alma Thomas

Untitled, circa 1958 by Alma Thomas

We are awash in that miasma, where people can say almost anything, no matter how ridiculous, and not be confronted, not be challenged. Many of these purveyors of poppycock wind up surrounding themselves with throngs of people willing and eager to suspend their disbelief and support the foolishness. Cults certainly can form in such an atmosphere … and when the person spouting the nonsense is a politician, that’s when things get very sticky indeed.

And now here we are, with Donald Trump the nearly inevitable champion of the Republican Party.

This is no coincidence. An interesting if infuriating article in New Republic very clearly lays out how the GOP has spent decades paving the road for Trump by attacking the science that goes against their prejudicial ideology. I strongly urge you to read it, but one section jumped out at me in particular:

There’s another factor at work here: The anti-intellectualism that has been a mainstay of the conservative movement for decades also makes its members easy marks. After all, if you are taught to believe that the reigning scientific consensuses on evolution and climate change are lies, then you will lack the elementary logical skills that will set your alarm bells ringing when you hear a flim-flam artist like Trump. The Republican “war on science” is also a war on the intellectual habits needed to detect lies.

Yes, precisely. This is exactly what I have been saying for years now. When we erode away at people’s ability to reason their way through a situation, then unreason will rule. And not just abut scientific topics, but any topics. We see nonsense passed off as fact all the time by politicians, including attacks by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, on theNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, claims by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that there’s been a pause in global warming, the GOP attacks on Planned Parenthood, and more. People will still believe what these politicians say, long, long after the claims have been shown to be completely false.

Months ago, early on in the presidential campaign, I made light of Trump, saying that his particular candidacy would crash and burn when he inevitably said or did something so outrageous and horrific that people would flee his side.

I was wrong. I underestimated just how thoroughly the GOP had salted the Earth. Philosophical party planks of climate change denial, anti-evolution, anti-intellectualism, intolerance, and more have made it such that Trump can literally say almost anything, and it hardly affects his popularity.

So, hopefully I managed to get us to a cheerier and snarky place for the Independence Day Weekend!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


22 Comments on “Friday Reads: Uplifts and Downdrifts”

  1. bostonboomer says:


  2. bostonboomer says:

    Wonderful post. Thanks for the beautiful paintings by women. Quite awhile ago, I used some Elaine de Kooning paintings in my posts. I really liked them, and now I’ll go look at some more.

  3. Minkoff Minx says:

    For those Miss Fishers Mysteries fans. A real case:

    A mob war like a “Sopranos” script nearly erupted over the “gravy” recipe at the pizzeria several years ago, according to testimony in a 2012 extortion case.

    Frank Guerra, a reputed Columbo crime family associate whose ex-wife was a part owner of the pizzeria, was acquitted of a double murder of former underboss Joseph Scopo and Staten Island club owner Michael Devine, as well as extortion of a former Spumoni employee — who he accused of lifting L&B’s secret sauce recipe.

    • dakinikat says:

      JJ,you need to seriously check out 2 monks at The Toast.

      • Delphyne49 says:

        Doesn’t she???? I thought about her whenever I read them! Go read them, JJ – and have a good laugh!

        I love the comment that BB posted – I read it, along with every other comment and replies to comments – that one really stood out for me.

        This one made me laugh!

        Tabby Lavalamp · 1 hour ago

        “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and I will be too witches for anyone trying to tear me down.”

      • Minkoff Minx says:

        Damn. How could I have missed that….and now it is kaput.

        I wish I had heard of this Toast before. I wonder if there are other blogs out there that are being missed.

    • pdgrey says:

      I love Miss Fisher!
      One of my Carin terriers is named Phyrne! The other Fiona.
      Love the links and pictures Dak, thank you.

  4. Sweet Sue says:

    Dak, thank you for sharing all of these beautiful paintings. I wish I could have that Alma Thomas one in my house, right now.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    Hillary raised $68.5 million in June!

  6. NW Luna says:

    I could lose myself in those paintings, especially that Alma Thomas. Thank you for posting them, and the links.

    Maybe we should see about a SkyDancers group trip to the Tate for a real splurge!