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Transformational Ideas in the Era of Social Change and the Upcoming Presidential Election

Seeing Society through the Crystal-Ball of Ideas

 

Introduction

I’m feeling a little bit overwhelmed these days during this political season. This is because there are so many candidates running for the Office of the President of the United States. At last count there were potentially 24 democratic candidates (some declared and some not), five or more independents, and potentially several Republicans ready to challenge Donald Trump in 2020.

So how does one decide who to vote for in the next election when there are so many candidates? What criteria does one use to make sound judgments? It is a daunting task, especially if one wants to do diligence and cares about our democracy. So, what do you do?

Many factors may guide you (e.g., party affiliation, values, facts on issues, beliefs, prejudice, social pressure, past history of voting or lack thereof, what your significant other(s) may think, etc.). However, voting is, for the most part, a solitary decision. So once you’re in that polling booth or filling out a form at home, the question still remains—what do you do?

In order to answer this question one needs to take a long term and wide view at politicians and their promises in addition to culture, society and the individual. Each individual operates in his/her own realm of individuality and consciousness. That realm is mostly in the present, the here and now, where immediate needs play our center stage of concern. We all have needs every moment of every day. But voting should be an activity that transcends the present. One needs to look beyond his/her immediate environment, and think about the future needs of others, not just oneself.

Sociology I-A

While our immediate daily needs are important to meet, the act of Voting is more than this, or should be. Voting is a statement of desired direction, a kind of non-descript message to a culture and society bigger than ourselves. We are all trying to say with our vote, “You better wake up and pay attention.” Well, you say wake up and pay attention, but what you really mean is—You want change, however ill-defined and nebulous at that moment it might be.

If you’re conservative you’re probably thinking to yourself—change for what? The conservative mindset is very troubled these days. Conservatives prefer no change to society most of the time, despite a long history of change they have also benefitted from. Nevertheless, they are all fearful of a changing world and landscape they do not understand or control anymore. They dwell psychologically in a constant state of perpetual uncertainty and many have secretly underlying doubts and misapprehensions about their own beliefs.

Most conservatives are white. Most sociologists suspect that the underlying concern of not wanting things to change is the irrational fear of “White Fright-White Flight.” While there are interesting sociological questions ahead to be answered, like will America become more harmonious, less violent and less group oriented, once there is real equality when only minorities (including a white minority) will make up America? That discussion is for a latter Blog. While such a question is titillating to the academic community, there is still an irrational fear on the part of conservatives that the sky is falling all around them. And that intense fear translates into blaming all others for their own short-comings in life.

The driving force in culture (defined as our learned behavior patterns) and society is for change, or a desire for no change. It is predicated on values and value judgments. Change does not create value judgment per se, only people do. Some may argue that value judgments are a product of early childhood experiences in growing up in small social unit or group like the family. And it is true that by age 25 most of our personal beliefs and values are firmly lodged in “social concrete.” But as people become adults, larger social forces begin to enter their lives and influence them. I’m being polite. Let’s call it what it is—Social Control.

What is Change Anyway?

Observing change is simply a perception of difference in our physical and mental environment. It is a catchword used to describe movement in time. Either something occurs or it doesn’t. That is the nexus of change that connects the past to the present and the present to the future.

But when we talk about social change, and its importance, we’re really talking about value judgments and ideology directed by something very specific. Society doesn’t always change because one holds value judgments; society changes because of something very specific. Change for change sake is unto itself—meaningless.

What are those specifics? They are ideas folks. Ideas move society. Ideas move individuals. Ideas, and their formulation, are the real basis for social change in society. Value judgments and ideology may still play a role in evaluating what is a “good” idea from a “bad” idea. But ideas turned into actions are what ultimately will lead to social change.

     So, if good ideas are the real pathway to social change, why then aren’t there more of them? I don’t know. My theory is that it takes real effort to come up with good ideas. Most people would prefer to be lazy and rest, not on their laurels per se, but rather depend on their value judgments alone.

     However, sometimes politicians are capable of creating and coming up with good ideas. Ahead you’ll hear about one candidate for the highest office who has the best most transformational ideas at this point in time, and has done his/her homework.

     The best political presentations, by the way, are well crafted when they collectively incorporate transformational ideas, values, and facts and describe issues with the precision of a jeweler’s eye. That kind of political presentation gives a more complete and total picture from which to make choices or judgments.

Read on.

It is ideas that propel what we call change. But ideas are not all alike in nature. Some ideas are rather ordinary, while other ideas can be transformational.

Transformational Ideas

When I talk about ideas in the context above, I’m not referring to everyday or ordinary ideas that lead to human decisions of little relevance, such as making decisions as to what car to buy or what neighborhood to buy a home in.

Transformational ideas by comparison to ordinary ones, can and do affect the lives of large numbers of people, or even an entire nation. They have a much bigger impact on society; they generate real currency value in any society.

Transformational ideas are what you need to look for in a candidate for public office, especially the Office of President of the United States.

Warning: If a candidate talks about issues, that is fine. But if their stock answer is—we need to change—but solutions are absent in the presentation, you might take that as a sign that the candidate for office really has not thought about the issue(s) very deeply.

We all know talk is cheap, but actionable ideas require planning and insight. Said again, transformational ideas have great value when they are highly specific, not obtuse statements lacking specificity or time frames. Otherwise, you as a voter are passing off “bullshit” for insight. Don’t be misled by the politics of obfuscation in political speeches whenever, wherever, and by whom it comes from. Listen carefully to what is being said. I know this requires effort on your part, but who you vote for really matters.

Another way politicians obfuscate their presentation is they constantly dwell on “values rather than facts.” Value statements are fine because values reinforce what they believe you care about. Politicians on the left and the right do this all the time. They know voters are influenced more by their values than by facts alone. Just be careful not to get caught up in the emotion candidates like to drum up.

People can get quite emotional about their values. We’ve seen this idea of values and emotions when they merge into a lethal combination that leads to hatred expressed, and violence carried out, at political rallies. You may agree or disagree with their statements, but you are the one who ultimately must decide who to vote for.

I’m not so naïve as to think that the masses of voters in our country will be astute enough to decipher “bullshit” from well-thought-out analytical assessments of political candidates. If this were not the case, then the country might not have elected a mentally and socially challenged degenerate president in 2016.

A lot of time remains before November 2020. Nevertheless, many democratic candidates have announced their candidacies. I’ve made it my personal duty to listen intently to first campaign speeches because they tend to set the tone for what is important to each candidate. Who I will actually vote for in 2020 will have to wait until I have a clear idea of the transformational ideas, if any, from all the candidates regardless of party.

Nevertheless, right now my analysis has led me back to whom I supported during the 2016 campaign season. I’ll keep this a secret for now and let you guess. This candidate, in my opinion, already has a plethora of transformational ideas. These ideas I like.

I want to make two things perfectly clear at the onset. I like, with one exception, all the democratic candidates this year running for the Office of the President of the United States. I say Kudos to Corry Booker, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. They are all worthy candidates and decent human beings. There are other democratic candidates running for president and may be just as worthy. We as citizens just need to get to know them a little better.

The second point I want to make is this: It is a myth that conservatives don’t care for social change. They do and especially when it benefits them personally. Does anyone really think conservatives in Congress today would sponsor a bill to overturn the 1935 Social Security Act? I think not! They pay into the social security system just like everyone else. Social security was a profound social change to this country (transformational) and it is now 84 years old.

Now that conservatives have daughters playing organized sports in grammar school, high school and college, do you really think they want to go backwards in time when all the money went to just male sports teams? I think not.

Virtually every good thing that has ever been passed into law since our nation’s inception has also benefitted conservatives as much as the rest of society. They basically enjoy things now they themselves may have originally opposed. That makes them the most disingenuous hypocritical mental slackers ever to inhabit our great nation. Someday, I’ll tell you what I really think of them!

As I have now redundantly said, conservatives embrace change in their own lives when it benefits them. But their eternal characteristic is just the fact that they have the nasty propensity to deny, unwittingly or otherwise, others their rights to the good life. Just like everyone else Conservatives are the type of people who always book a flight on a plane whose destination is the future. Problem is—once onboard that flight, they just don’t seem to want anyone else sitting next to them.

A Candidate with Transformational ideas

This shouldn’t be a difficult test for you to identify the candidate I am supporting at the moment. This particular candidate announced his/her candidacy within the last two months. In his/her opening speech issues, facts, reinforcing values and transformational ideas were all presented. This candidate is the complete package for integrity, likeability, insight and comprehensive vision and understanding.

The clock is ticking now. Let’s see how long it takes you to figure who I am talking about. The following is a listing of the transformational ideas, issue statements and value statements made by this candidate.

“When we are in the White House, we will attack the problem of urban gentrification and build the affordable housing our nation desperately needs.”

“We are not going to cut Social Security benefits. We are going to expand them.”

“Yes. We will pass a Medicare for all single-payer program.”

“We intend to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy and, in the process, create millions of good paying jobs.”

“Today we say to the American people that we will rebuild our crumbling infrastructure: our roads, our bridges, our rail system and subways, our water systems and wastewater plants and our airports-and when we do that we create up to 13 million good paying jobs.”

“Today we say to the parents in this country that you and your kids deserve quality, affordable childcare. The children are our future; they deserve the best possible head start in life with a high quality, universal pre-K program.”

“Good jobs require a good education. That is why we are going to make public colleges and universities tuition free, and substantially lower the outrageous student debt that currently exists.”

“Today, we say to our senior citizens, that we understand you cannot live in dignity when you are trying to survive on $13,000 or $14,000 a year in Social Security Benefits. My Republican colleagues want to cut Social Security Benefits but we have some bad news for them. We’re not going to cut Social Security benefits. We are going to expand them.

“We are going to provide legal status to the 1.8 million young people eligible for the DACA program, and develop a humane border policy for those who seek asylum. No more snatching babies from the arms of their mothers.”

“We will move aggressively to end the epidemic of gun violence in this country and pass the common sense gun safety legislation that the overwhelming majority of Americans want.”

Final Observations

Bernie Sanders launched his initial speech in Brooklyn New York on March 2, 2019 (if you haven’t figured out whom I was referring to by now).

Bernie Sanders has lots of other ideas that are transformational. But I wanted to convey to you most of the really good ideas. The interesting thing about a lot of politicians on both sides of the aisle is that few ever tell us how they are going to pay for their intended legislation. Bernie however, does tell us how he is going to pay for his transformational ideas. He’ll tax the very rich and the super-rich or the top 1% of Americans who own 50% of the wealth in this country.

As Bernie said on March 2, 2019:

“no, we will no longer stand idly by and allow 3 people in this country to own more wealth than the bottom half of America while, at the same time, over 20 percent of our children live in poverty, veterans sleep out on the streets and seniors cannot afford their prescription drugs. We will no longer accept 46 percent of al new income going to the top 1 %, while millions of Americans are forced to work 2 or 3 jobs just to survive and over half of our people live paycheck to paycheck frightened to death about what happens to them financially if their car breaks down or their child becomes sick. Today, we fight for a political revolution.”

Other candidates on the democratic side have ideas as well. Even a few Republicans have a few good ideas. But unfortunately, Republicans in a political environment doesn’t lend itself to getting things done. Just like the Freedom Caucus among the larger body of Republicans in Congress they get nothing done and have certainly earned the reputation as the party of “NO.”

Trust me! When Bernie’s transformational ideas eventually come to fruition, Republicans will be first in line (hat in hand) with glassy eyes, like an exuberant panting little puppy (and not so cute), begging for their fair share of society’s benefits.

One other issue does deserve some discussion, but will have to wait for a future Blog. Fear mongering is the stock and trade of the Republican Party these days. Now they want you to tremble in your shoes because Bernie Sanders is a Democratic Socialist. Somehow that label foretells doom and gloom. This is, of course, total nonsense. Democratic Socialism is a good thing not a bad thing.

In a future Blog I will explore this false narrative promoted by the Republican Party in more detail. I will discuss Socialism and Democratic Socialism and how they differ. I will also explore both the strengths and weaknesses of Capitalism and suggest to you how merging two different underlying philosophies and economic systems just might produce the best of all worlds. There are no perfect economic systems in the world. Who knows perhaps merging just might be a Transformational Idea people in society can get behind and really embrace?

 

Just like Paul Harvey would end his famous newscasts (1952-2008) I say to you—“Now you know the rest of the story and Good Day!”

 

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HOW TO UNDERSTAND AND APPRECIATE ABSTRACT ART

 

  Connections

From my early college years I began to embrace the philosophy of Existentialism. And, I began to see its connection to art, especially abstract art. In the 1960s religion, and the concept of a sky God who judges you, seemed ridiculous and irrelevant in the modern world when juxtaposed against the murder of six million Jews in Germany, its inability to rationalize the horrors of a world in chaos, poverty, including the horrors of cancer wards with young children dying of that terrible disease, and the backdrop of immense widespread economic and social suffering of people all around the world.

I saw cultural parallels to Existentialism everywhere. The radicalism of Existential writers like Kafka in popular literature influenced me greatly as a young man in helping me to see the connection between Existentialism and modern art.

This deviation in thinking, away from expectations fostered by Aesthetics, additionally led me to evaluate the purpose of the artist, or purpose of art movements that have culturally enriched our diverse fabric of society.

 I like the entire movement and artists of Abstract Expressionism (Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, Hans Hoffman, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Neuman, Clyfford Still, and many many others).  This is my art bias and straight away I want to be up front about that.

However, why would I write at all about a topic that some people might consider boring? Well, it’s because art in general is so important to our culture. It is a reflection of who we are and how we think. There are many kinds of art in many different forms of medium. This actually makes the process of writing a blog about abstract art a lot easier than would normally be the case.

I feel a real connection to the art world (especially including Abstract Expressionism) because of its intrinsic power of creativity and expressiveness. And because I’ve had lots of experience painting in the medium of oil since 1958. I sometimes see in other artists some of the same things I see in myself. Every time I work on an oil painting a bit of me is revealed to the world, perhaps the subconscious or unconscious in me or perhaps the deliberate me as I go about the business of creating my art. The bottom Line: Abstract Art is pure unadulterated FREEDOM of expression.

I’m a little like Will Rogers, i.e., I never met a woman I didn’t like. Every woman has unique qualities beyond exterior appearance, sometimes very subtle, that make them all very interesting in their own way. It’s all part of the things that make life worth living, be it a quiet conversation, a glance, or a beautiful love filled with romance.  Art, including abstract art, should be conceived of in the same way. It is a kind of appreciative love affair with all the artistic subtleties of life, the nuances of what it means to be truly human and alive.

Introduction

All art is about humanity and culture. It is the product or process of deliberately arranging symbolic elements in a way that influences and affects our senses, emotions, and/or intellect. It encompasses a diverse range of human activities, creations, and modes of expression, including music, literature, film, photography, sculpture, and paintings. The meaning of art is explored in a branch of philosophy known as aesthetics and even diverse disciplines such as history and psychoanalysis connect to art (e.g., art history, psychoanalysis of art images as revealed in the unconscious).

Traditionally, the term art was used to refer to any skill or mastery. This conception changed during the Romantic period, when art came to be seen as “a special faculty of the human mind to be classified with religion and science.” Generally, art is made with the intention of stimulating thoughts and emotions.

The Meaning of Abstract Art

There are generally two types of art- representational and abstract.  They are however not opposites, and they do not compete with one another, but rather complement one another. This is true whether one is discussing sculpture, oil painting, experimental photography, or even modern computer art. From this point on I will confine my comments and analysis to just oil painting.

What all painting has in common are the visual elements of line, form, shape, color, texture, and composition. There are many gradations between representational paintings and abstract paintings. That is, representational images can be distorted slightly. Or, sometimes in pure abstract painting there can still be figuration with a hint of recognizable images.

This is why characterization of oil paintings can be difficult at times when blended diverse visual elements are present in a work of art. At the far extremes of these two types there are photograph-like paintings where images on canvas are made to look like they are absolutely real. At the other extreme there can be a total absence of anything recognizable, except visual elements such as line, form, shape, color, texture, or composition. And, there can be extreme variation and use of such visual elements. In general, while representational paintings tend to portray recognizable objects, abstract paintings more often tend to reflect art based on thinking and intellect, ideas rather than objects, and give emotions a prominent role in the painting process.

The end-object of abstract art can be a kind of psychoanalytic expression of the artist’s subconscious life as well as his conscious effort to create art. Sometimes abstract art can transcend the artist or his end product. That is, sometimes abstract art isn’t about the viewer, the artist, or even the end product. Rather the art is in the process itself of creating the art, for example as in performance art, or action painting. And yet, even here the experience of abstract art isn’t divorced from the other elements involved. The meaning of abstract art is, in its most simplified form, art that relies on the internal insights of the artist and the visual elements of design rather than efforts to simply copy exact representations of objects.

This broad definition allows artists almost unlimited freedom of expression. But it also does something else, that is, it invites the viewer to be part of the process of evaluating the intent of the artist. This experience for the viewer may be unique as the invitation is open-ended.

Some abstract artists create compositions that have no precedent in nature. Other abstract artists work from nature and then interpret their subjects in a nonrepresentational manner. In other words, as found on Wikipedia by Answers.com, when abstract art represents the natural world, it “does so by capturing something of its immutable intrinsic qualities rather than by imitating its external appearance.”

Historically, the first art ever created was abstract. Abstract art has existed for centuries, as Jewish and Islamic traditions forbid the use of representational art.   (http://www.artelino.com/articles/abstract_art.asp) However, the roots of what we generally term “abstract art” can be traced to the Impressionism movement of the 1880s-1890s. Impressionism disregarded the notion that art was supposed to portray images.   Post Impressionism continued this trend and placed more emphasis on the artist’s emotions and expression.

Wassily Kandinsky and Kasimir Malevich were the first to really create works that were pure abstraction.   Kandinsky was the founder of the Abstraction movement and even published a book detailing his theories on art and spirituality, On the Spiritual in Art (http://www.artelino.com/articles/abstract_art.asp).  Kandinsky created a series of pieces with numbered titles beginning with, “Improvisation” and “Composition.”  (http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/kandinsky/). 

 Public Expectations of Art

 What follows is this Blogger’s opinion regarding the subject of public expectations of art. Public expectations of what art is, or what art ought to be, have been changing for a very long time. The reality of art and its expressive nature has been changing ever since early man first painted on cave walls animal figures and tribal activities thousands of years ago.

Despite changing expectations of how art ought to be evaluated over the millennia, art objects themselves (paintings, sculpture, etc.) has tended to be cast (as said before) into two general areas: Representational art and Non-representational art. One theory that has dominated the art world in terms of setting expectations is the theory of Aesthetics.

In general, Aesthetics is a theory based on outward appearance or the way something looks, especially when considered in terms of how pleasing it is. Correspondingly, it is about the idea of beauty or specifically an idea of what is beautiful or artistic.

In art it is the study of the rules and principals of art and in philosophy it is the study of beautiful or aesthetic values, e.g., the beautiful and the sublime (beautiful, morally worthy, complete, and excellent).

While much representational art can be quite beautiful, and display an artisit’s ability to identically re-create images or figures in nature, the theory of aesthetics is however quite limited as a standard for how people ought to appreciate art. All of this brings one to the topic of how abstract art fits into how the general public evaluates it.

Aesthetics and Abstract Art

Aesthetics, in this bloggers opinion, has led the viewing public over time to always expect that art must be beautiful or in some way visually pleasing to the senses in order to have value. Whether something has value, of course, is based on a judgment call thus a “value judgment.” And any art that does not have value, based on the theory of aesthetics, is regarded with suspicion, and in some cases, scorn and ridicule. Such historically has often been the case with Abstract Art.

Unfortunately, expecting representations of images in art to always be beautiful or pleasing causes one to self-impose or limit oneself by missing the intrinsic pleasures of seeing art in other totally different ways (For example, seeing art, including abstract art, as total, unlimited freedom of expression, imagination, symbolism, energy and expression of visual elements, seeing purpose of the artist, as a puzzle to be unravaled, or as an idea rather than a recognizable object. It is also about appreciating compositions of fascinating design, how the art object itself fits into the mentally stimulating concept of a particular art genre or art movement, or the diversity of color and its visual dynamics, but also line, textures and shape). In many ways, abstract art is unlimited in potential.

Viewing abstract art and making sense of it is as much about your internal psychological state as it is that of the artist who composed it. Such is the case when one begins to tie the abstractness of the visual elements looked at to the larger context of culture, or to the psychodynamics of conscious and unconscious thought processes within all of us. Abstract art can be a breath of fresh air, innovative and totally creative. It takes a raw, pure, simple look at the world, but never a simplistic one. 

 

What I am trying to communicate is that art, including abstract art, does not occur in a social vacuum; it never has. Often, vast changes in societies worldwide have influenced both the content and direction of contemporaneous art movements that developed.

Pure abstract art, and those works employing some figuration along with abstract elements, is a “Thinking Person’s approach” to understanding and appreciating art; It is not a mentally lazy person’s approach to understanding and appreciating art. All artistic expression done in public (museums, concerts, showings, art fairs) is basically an open invitation to explore the world of the artist, the meaning of the art work or expression, and to enjoy the experience.

Learning to Appreciate Abstract Art

Like anything worthwhile in this life it takes effort to appreciate it, much less to thoroughly understand something. However, in the case of Abstract Art, the best way to appreciate it is to first make an effort to understand it. What exactly does understanding imply or mean? It turns out the word “understanding” for all you Etymology buffs, has five related definitions:

1.  Ability to grasp meaning: the ability to perceive and explain the meaning or the nature of somebody or something

2.  Knowledge of something: knowledge of a particular subject, area, or situation

gaining a better understanding of industrial processes

3.  Interpretation of something: somebody’s interpretation of something, or a belief or opinion based on an interpretation of or inference from something. It was my understanding that the costs would be shared equally.

4.  Mutual comprehension: an agreement, often an unofficial or unspoken one.

I’m sure we can come to an understanding about this.

5.  Knowledge of another’s nature: a sympathetic, empathetic, or tolerant recognition of somebody else’s nature or situation. I thought you of all people would show a little understanding.

There is a very high positive correlation between understanding and appreciation. That is, the more one understands something the more one tends to appreciate it. And the foundation for all understanding is what educators have been telling people for thousands of years: Learning is the foundation.

The absolute best way to learn about abstract art is to either obtain a quality four-year college education in art/and or art history, or to travel around the world for two years  visiting all the major museums and galleries of note, and reading many, many books on the subject. To help stimulate your interest in this subject matter I’d like first to give the Blog reader a very short overview of one of the most prominent art movements of the 20th Century: Abstract Expressionism.

At the end of this Blog I will provide references for further reading on the topic of Abstract Expressionism. For those of you who are thinking about developing a new hobby I highly recommend oil painting. Take classes on the subject and set aside that space in your garage where you can set up a studio just for you. Don’t bring turpentine or oil paints into the house or your marriage may soon be coming to an end. After reading this Blog if you’d like to become more knowledgeable beyond the basics it will be up to you. The path you take to learning and appreciating abstract art will be highly individualistic. This was very true in my own case.

So, I will proceed now with a short overview of Abstract Expressionism to impart some understanding of the concept and reality of abstract art. Just understand this at the top: Abstract art and its concepts or varieties did not occur by itself in a cultural vacuum. Like any other growing concept it is always a product of culture itself, or learned behavior patterns. The development of Abstract Art parallels Abstract Thinking. It also parallels historical developments in all the world cultures, ancient and modern. What is important about art, all art, is that it is inextricably tied to culture and the changes that are constantly occurring in that culture.

Abstract Expressionism

A Little History: The Migration out of Europe

During the Nazi rise to power in the 1930s many artists fled Europe to the United States. By the early 1940s the main movements in modern art, expressionism, cubism, abstraction, surrealism, and dada were represented in New York: Marcel Duchamp, Fernand Leger, Piet Mondrian, Jacques Lipchitz, Max Ernst, Andre Breton, were just a few of the exiled Europeans who arrived in New York.

The rich cultural influences brought by the European artists were distilled and built upon by local New York painters. The climate of freedom in New York allowed all of these influences to flourish. The art galleries that primarily had focused on European art began to notice the local art community and the work of younger American artists who had begun to mature. Certain of these artists became distinctly abstract in their mature work. Some artists of the period defied categorization, such as Georgia O’Keeffe who, while a modernist abstractionist, was a pure maverick in that she painted highly abstract forms while not joining any specific group of the period. Eventually American artists who were working in a great diversity of styles began to coalesce into cohesive stylistic groups.

The best known group of American artists became known as the Abstract Expressionists. Nearly all resided in New York City. In New York City there was an atmosphere which encouraged discussion and there was new opportunity for learning and growing. Artists and teachers John D. Graham and Hans Hoffmann became important bridge figures between the newly arrived European Modernists and the younger American artists coming of age. Mark Rothko, born in Russia, began with strongly surrealist imagery which later dissolved into his powerful color compositions of the early 1950s. The expressionistic gesture and the act of painting itself, became of primary importance to Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline. While during the 1940s Arshile Gorky’s ‘s and Willem de kooning’s figurative work evolved into abstraction by the end of the decade. New York City became the center, and artists worldwide gravitated towards it; from other places in America as well.

Abstract Expressionism Comes Alive in New York

Abstract Expressionism was never an ideal label for the movement which grew up in New York in the 1940s and 1950s. It was somehow meant to encompass not only the work of painters who filled their canvases with fields of color and abstract forms, but also those who attacked their canvases with a vigorous gestural expressionism.

But it has become the most accepted term for a group of artists who did hold much in common. All were committed to an expressive art of profound emotion and universal themes, and most were shaped by the legacy of Surrealism, a movement which they translated into a new style fitted to the post-war mood of anxiety and trauma.

In their success, the New York painters robbed Paris of its mantle as leader of modern art, and set the stage forAmerica’s post-war dominance of the international art world.

Most of the artists associated with Abstract Expressionism matured in the 1930s. They were influenced by the era’s leftist politics, and came to value an art grounded in personal experience. Few would maintain their earlier radical political views, but many continued to adopt the posture of outspoken avant-gardists protesting from the margins.

Having matured as artists at a time when America suffered economically and felt culturally isolated and provincial, the Abstract Expressionists were later welcomed as the first authentically American avant-garde. Their art was championed for being emphatically American in spirit – monumental in scale, romantic in mood, and expressive of a rugged individual freedom.

The milieu of Abstract Expressionism united sculptors such as David Smith as well as photographers like Aaron Siskind, but above all the movement was one of painters.

Political instability in Europe in the 1930s brought several leading Surrealists to New York, and many of the Abstract Expressionists were profoundly influenced by the style and by its interest in the unconscious. It encouraged their interest in myth and archetypal symbols and it shaped their understanding of painting itself as a struggle between self-expression and the chaos of the unconscious.

Beginnings

It is one of the many paradoxes of Abstract Expressionism that the roots of the movement lay in the figurative painting of the 1930s. Almost all the artists who would later become abstract painters in New York in the 1940s and 1950s were stamped by the experience of the Depression, and they came to maturity whilst painting in styles influenced by social realism and the Regionalist movement. By the late 1940s most had left those styles behind, but they learned much from their early work. It encouraged them in their commitment to an art based on personal experience. Time spent painting murals would later encourage them to create abstract paintings on a similarly monumental scale. And the experience of working for the government sponsored Works Progress Administration also brought many disparate figures together, and this would make it easier for them to band together again in the late 1940s and early 1950s when the new style was being promoted.

Artists living in New York in the 1930s were the beneficiaries of an increasingly sophisticated network of museums and galleries which staged major exhibitions of modern art. TheMuseum of Modern Art mounted shows such as “Cubism and Abstract Art,” “Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism,” and a major retrospective of Picasso. And 1939 saw the opening of the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, (later to be called the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum), which boasted an important collection of Kandinsky’s works.

 New York in the 1930s and 1940s

Many European modernists began to come to New York in the 1930s and 1940s to escape political upheaval and war. Some, such as the painter and teacher Hans Hoffman, would prove directly influential: Hofmann had spent the early years of the century in Paris; he had met the likes of Picasso, Matisse, and Braque, who had acquired titanic reputations in artists’ circles in New York, and he was able to impart many of their ideas to his students. Hofmann arrived with a sophisticated understanding of Cubism, and also a love of Matisse’s Fauvism, which was underappreciated by many in New York.

All this activity meant that New York’s artists were extraordinarily knowledgeable about trends in modern European art. It left many with feelings of inferiority, yet these were slowly overcome in the 1940s. Personal encounters with many displaced Europeans, such as Andre Breton, Max Ernst, and Andre Masson, helped to rob some artists of the mythic status they had acquired. And, as Europe suffered under totalitarian regimes in the 1930s, and later became mired in war, many Americans felt emboldened to transcend European influence, to develop a rhetoric of painting that was appropriate to their own nation, and, not least, to take the helm of advanced culture at a time when some of its oldest citadels were under threat. It was no accident that critic Clement Greenberg, in one of his first important responses to the new movement, described it as “‘American-Type’ Painting”.

  The Formation of the Movement

By the late 1940s, many of the factors were in place to give birth to the new movement – however varied and disparate its artists’ work. In 1947 Jackson Pollock found his way to the drip technique. The following year, de kooning had an influential show at the Charles Egan Gallery; Barnett Newman arrived at his breakthrough picture Onement I; and Mark Rothko began painting the “multi-form” paintings that would soon lead to the signature works of his mature period. And after eighteen like-minded artists mounted a boycott of an exhibition of contemporary art at the Metropolitan Museum, and in January 1951 were cajoled into posing for a photo for Life magazine, they were baptized as “The Irascibles”. Finally, the movement had a sense of common, group identity and purpose.

Impact of Surrealism on Abstract Expressionism

The most significant influence on the themes and concepts of the Abstract Expressionists was Surrealism. The American painters were uneasy with the overt Freudian symbolism of the European movement, but they were inspired by its interests in the unconscious, as well as its strain of primitivism and preoccupation with mythology. Many were particularly interested in the ideas of the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, who believed that elements of a collective unconscious had been handed down through the ages by means of archetypal symbols – primordial images which had become recurrent motifs.

This gave many artists the impetus to move away from the biomorphic Surrealism of Miró and Picasso, and towards an increasingly reductive style. Rothko and Newman are typical of this progress: Rothko experimented with abstract symbols in the early 1940s before moving towards entirely abstract fields of color; Newman similarly sought an approach which might strip away all extraneous motifs and communicate everything through one powerfully resonant symbol – in his case, the so-called ‘zip’ paintings.

Many artists attempted to channel into art by means of what André Breton called ‘pure psychic automatism’, which in practice often meant the involvement of chance in the creation of art. Pollock considered his drip technique to be at least in part a means of harnessing his unconscious; and the approach left effects to chance for all to see on the surface of the canvas. But like many others, Pollock also insisted on an element of control in his method – as he once said, “No chaos, damn it!” – and he believed that the “drips” were powerfully expressive, rather than being merely random accumulations of paint. Indeed, they were self-expressive. The ambivalence in Pollock’s attitude was shared by many Abstract Expressionists’, whose embrace of chaos was balanced by an impulse towards control. This paradox explains much of the energetic tumult one finds in the work of many of the so-called “action painters”, including de Kooning, Kline and Motherwell. In part it led to the so-called “all-over” effect which one sees in Pollock’s mature work, and in de Kooning’s abstract paintings of the late 1940s, in which forms seem to be dispersed evenly across the canvas; when chaos threatened, everything in the image could shatter into pieces.

 Existentialism and Rosenberg

 Another impetus for the Abstract Expressionists to retool Surrealism was a feeling that certain aspects of the style were no longer suited to the post-war world. The reigning philosophy of the period, Existentialism, would never be an important influence on the Abstract Expressionists, but it contributed to the rhetoric of anxiety and alienation which pervaded discussion. It was also a key influence on one of the movement’s critics, Harold Rosenberg, who delved into it for this influential formulation which appeared in an 1952 article for Art News entitled “The American Action Painters”: “At a certain moment the canvas began to appear to one American painter after another as an arena in which to act – rather than a space in which to reproduce, redesign, analyze or ‘express’ an object, actual or imagined. What was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event.” It was this notion that birthed the idea of “action painting”: it didn’t quite accommodate the work of artists like Rothko and Newman, but it was an insightful realization of what painters like Pollock, Kline and de Kooning all had in common.

 Formalism and Greenberg

 The other critic who proved crucial in promoting the movement – and the one whose influence has far out-lasted it – was Clement Greenberg. He was uncomfortable with any discussion of content and ideas in art, and argued instead that modern art had evolved along formal lines.

Greenberg saw in Pollock the next important step in this process, and championed his work vigorously. Indeed, he championed all of the Abstract Expressionists as a triumphant American answer to the shortcomings of the European avant-garde. He also encouraged the idea of ‘color field’ painting. Some would later argue that color field painting represented a new manifestation of a long tradition of sublime landscape. But Greenberg viewed the work of Rothko, Still and Newman as part of a tendency in modern painting to apply color in extended areas, or ‘fields’. He would later return to this notion in championing a second generation of painters, which included Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell and Morris Louis.

The Legacy of Abstract Expressionism

Like any group of artists whose work achieves widespread recognition, Abstract Expressionism was eventually imperilled by its success. An extensive network of dealers, museums and galleries reached out to support it; even the government covertly embraced it and promoted it vigorously overseas as a testament to free-expression in America, in contrast to the repressions of the Stalinist Eastern Bloc. Inevitably, by the mid 1950s, the style had attracted a multitude of young followers, and what began as an impulse to expression, threatened to become stale and academic.

By the mid 1950s the style had also run its course in other ways. The movement’s greatest achievements were often built on a conflict between chaos and control which could only be played out in so many ways. Some artists, such as Newman and Rothko, had evolved a style so reductive that there was little room for development – and to change course would have shrunk the grandeur of their bold trademark solutions. Younger artists following the development of this generation were less and less persuaded by artists who were said to put forth one sublime expression after another, often in series; and they grew tired of their postures of heroism. Homosexual artists, such as Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol and Ellsworth Kelly, also felt little affinity with the macho styles and rhetoric of the New York School. Some, like Johns, would learn much from the Abstract Expressionists, and carry their interest in the autographic gesture in fresh directions, introducing qualities of irony, ambiguity and reticence which the older generation could never have countenanced. Others, like Warhol, were too enthralled by the pop culture of the streets to have much in common with the lofty ambitions of hard-drinking womanizers such as Pollock and de Kooning.

By the late 1950s, Abstract Expressionism had entirely lost its place at the center of critical debate and a new generation was on the cusp of success. Yet the legacy of the movement was to be considerable. Allan Kaprow sensed this as early as 1958 when he wrote an article for Art News entitled “What is the legacy of Jackson Pollock?” His answer pointed beyond painting, and Pollock’s influence was certainly felt in areas where performance had a role: he was to be important to the Japanese Gutai movement as well as the Viennese Actionists. But the influence of the movement as a whole would continue to be felt by painters maturing in subsequent decades. It was important for the likes of Dorothea Rockburne, Pat Steir, Susan Rothenberg and Jack Whitten in the 1970s. Its rhetoric – if not its direct example – would be important for many Neo-Expressionists in the 1980s such as Julian Schnabel and Jean-Michel Basquait (He was a brilliant artist who tragically died of a drug overdose at 27).

And in the 1990s it again provided an example to painters such as Cecily Brown. The themes and concepts which informed Abstract Expressionism may have lost the power to compel young artists, but the movement’s achievements continue to supply them with standards against which to be measured.

 References

Triumph of American Painting: A History of Abstract Expressionism by Irving Sandler

Abstract Expressionism by A. Everitt

Abstract Expressionism (World of Art) by David Anfam

Abstract expressionism, the formative years by Robert Carleton Hobbs

Modern Art: The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries by Meyer Schapiro

World Wide Web

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In this Blog I’m making a recommendation for eleven movies to see and a couple of really neat places to visit. If you can take time from your busy schedule I’m sure you will be thoroughly rewarded for time well spent. 

 

Back in June, 2010 I recommended a few great movies including: Uncle Nino, Somewhere in Time, Where the Heart is, and Taking Chance. I hope you’ve had a chance to see them. From time-to-time I plan to share with you other movies I think you would really enjoy and find entertaining. Recently, I watched all of the movies I’ve listed below. They are very much worth your taking the time to see them. These movies are all 4-star plus movies in my book.

 

Three out of these eleven movies I recommend are about artists. Yeah! It’s true. I really identify with the artists of this world and have a real undying respect for their work. When some producer is willing to do a movie (usually some form of biography about an artist) I’m always one of the firsts to watch it. I like to see movies on the “Big Screen” but the last few years I do that less often because movie houses like to charge a trillion dollars for a bag of popcorn, not including a diet coke.

 

My Recommendations

 

Serious Drama 

 

Stolen

 

A detective deals with the loss of his own son while trying to uncover the identity of a boy whose mummified remains are found in a box buried for fifty years (2008). Josh Lucas is outstanding in his role, as are James Van Der Beek and Jon Hamm. This is a powerful, emotional movie that will cause you to feel the fear a parent would have with a child who has been kidnapped.

 

Bordertown

 

The film (2006) is based upon a true story surrounding the multiple murders of young women in Juarez, Chihuahua. Those of you who read my Blog on the Hidden Side of Immigration will immediately recognize the infamous nature of the city of Juarez, Mexico. In the movie two men brutally rape a young woman by the name of Eva Jimenez (Maya Zapata) and leave her for dead. She wakes up in, and crawls out of, her own grave.

Lauren Adrian who is played by Jennifer Lopez is an American journalist from the Chicago Sentinel who is assigned to cover the story of the murders in Juarez. Lauren is haunted by terrible memories of her own while she helps Eva, the only surviving victim.

Lauren is determined to catch Eva’s rapist. With the help of Eva and a Mexican newspaper editor Alfonso Diaz, (Antonio Banderas), Lauren goes undercover and poses as a Mexican worker to identify and trap the rapists. As she discovers hundreds of victims, she gains the trust of local factory workers but becomes a target herself. They catch one of the rapists, but the other escapes.  Then, only days before Eva is to testify against the rapist, Lauren is forced to leave Juarez to try to have her story published.

With Lauren gone, Eva flees to the United States but is caught by the border police and returned to Juarez. Lauren returns and while looking for Eva, encounters the rapist instead.

 

 

The Stoning of Soraya M.

 

This is one of the most emotionally powerful movies I’ve seen in a very long time. It is a drama set in Iran in 1986 and is centered on a man, Sahebjam, whose car breaks down in a remote village and enters into a conversation with Zahra, who tells him a story about her niece, Soraya, whose arranged marriage to an abusive tyrant led to a tragic ending. Without reading the credits, see if you can recognize at the beginning of the movie the actor who plays Sahebjam. I was not aware of who he was until the end credits; see if you can do better.

 

Green Zone

 

This movie is about discovering covert and faulty intelligence information. It causes a U.S. Army Officer to go rogue as he hunts for Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq in an unstable region.

The 2010 movie stars Matt Damon as Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller, and Irish actor Brendan Gleeson who plays Baghdad CIA Bureau Chief, Martin Brown. There are many good performances in this movie but Damon and Gleeson really stand out as two terrific actors. The recent historical back story to the movie’s plot makes it both intriguing and thought provoking. If you like action movies as I do you’ll find watching this movie very rewarding, and sobering at the same time in terms of its recent historical content.

 

Gran Torino

 

Walt Kowalski (played by Clint Eastwood, who also directed) is an embittered Korean War veteran who just lost his wife. He finds himself in the middle of a changing world. The formerly all-white neighborhood he once lived in is now mostly Southeast Asian and he has a Hmong family living next door. On his own family front he doesn’t get along with his sons, and is out of touch with his grandchildren, all of whom seem more interested in getting his house than anything else.

But Walt’s greatest interest is in his mint condition, 1972 Gran Torino. When the Hmong teenager next door, Thao, is challenged in a gang initiation ritual by his cousin and other gang members, to steal the Gran Torino, Walt nearly shoots him.

Soon, however, Walt realizes that he has more in common with his neighbors than with his own family, he becomes something of a neighborhood hero when he prevents gangbangers from forcing Thao into their car. He gradually takes Thao under his wing, teaching him a few things about life and helps get him a job.

Walt’s intervention has a price when the gang shoots up Thao’s house, and attacks his sister. Walt is determined to take action.

The script writing is fabulous and the script’s unexpected ending testifies to that fact. I’ve always liked Clint Eastwood for all his many roles and movies he directed and acted in. Clint Eastwood is now 80, and has seen and done it all in Hollywood.

 I like him best as an actor; others appreciate his ability as a movie director.  But by far his greatest talent is his uncanny ability to sniff out what makes a good story, and his story-telling genius that helps him translate a good story (David Baldacci’s Absolute Power comes to mind) into a great movie. And, for that reason above all else, I think you will see what makes Gran Torini a great movie, and top-notch entertainment.

 

 

Georgia O’Keefe

 

This movie is about American artist Georgia O’Keeffe and her husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz (2009). Joan Allen gives a nice performance in the movie as her subtle acting qualities gives the movie a nice handling touch to her dialogue in the script. There is an underlying tone of sadness to the story of Georgia O’Keefe.

You may come away with a different assessment than I did, but I felt that Stieglitz and O’Keefe absolutely loved each other but whose inner self-directed personalities made it impossible for them to live together. Unfortunately, this phenomenon is not all that uncommon today. Opposite her (playing Stieglitz) is Jeremy Irons, who has always been a first rate actor and is very convincing in his role as the self-centered jackass.

 

Little Ashes

 

In the years that followed after World War I, life and values were changing in Europe. Spain during the decade of the 1920s was no exception. In 1922, Madrid was wavering on the edge of change as traditional values were challenged by the dangerous new influences of Jazz, Freud and the avant-garde. During this year Salvador Dali arrived at the university. He was 18 years old and determined to become a great artist. His bizarre blend of shyness and rampant exhibitionism attracted the attention of two of the university’s social elite – Federico Garcia Lorca and Luis Bunel. Dali is absorbed into their youthfully decadent group and for a time Salvador, Luis and Federico became a formidable trio, the most ultra-modern group in Madrid. However, as time passed, Salvador felt an increasingly strong pull towards the charismatic Federico – who is himself oblivious of the attentions he is getting from his beautiful writer friend, Magdalena. In the face of his friends’ preoccupations – and Federico’s growing renown as a poet – Luis sets off for Paris in search of his own artistic success. There are twists and turns in the lives of these three friends, but one of the turns made was totally unexpected for the famous Poet Lorca (2008).

 

 

Broken Trail (2 Discs—TV Miniseries)

 

Set in 1898, Print Ritter and his estranged nephew Tom Harte become the reluctant guardians of five abused and abandoned Chinese girls. Ritter and Harte’s attempts to care for the girls are complicated by their responsibility to deliver a herd of horses while avoiding a group of bitter rivals who are intent on kidnapping the girls for their own purposes (2006).

In todays urban modern life most of us don’t even know our neighbors and seldom interact, positively or negatively. What I was struck by in this movie was the stark contrast in temperament in relationships during social interaction despite living in a rather harsh and sometimes dangerous violent environment. In 1898, there was a rather formal politeness and gentility (even unexpected tenderness) between men and women as reflected in language and custom. However, getting someone to talk about their inner feelings (usually for one another) was just as difficult a hundred plus years ago as it is now. Broken Trail was an award-winning miniseries on TV. As soon as you start watching it you’ll see why.

 

 

Feel Good Movies and Fine Family Entertainment

 

Blind Side

 

A homeless black teenager, Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) has drifted in and out of the school system for years. Then Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) and her husband, Sean (Tim McGraw), take him in, transforming Michael’s life and theirs (2009).

This was one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time. Sandra Bullock and Quinton Aaron are outstanding in their roles. This is one movie where I think the casting director was an unsung hero. All of the actors, including supporting actors, mesh very well together producing a kind of human chemistry that goes way beyond people coming together to act. All the characters in this movie really make the entire movie work extremely well.

 

 

My Kid Can Paint That

 

Don’t bet your life on that! Your kid can’t paint the way Marla Olmstead does today as a 10-year old, much less the way she did as a 4 year old when she became such a national sensation. I’ve reviewed the film, evaluated the controversy, and looked at her paintings. As an abstract artist myself I came away from this movie convinced that Marla Olmstead is indeed the real McCoy —Yes, Marla Olmstead is the real McCoy. She is a true prodigy of color, form, composition and line. Her abilities are not a function of learning how to do it; they are a function of her feeling how to do it. What Marla Olmstead composes with paint is like a great symphony; what most children do with a paint brush in their hands is a lot more like playing chop sticks, not a symphony. Innate abilities are in some of us. I have a close 70-year old friend who possesses natural gifts. He has the uncanny ability to draw cartoons with pen and ink, draw landscapes with a pencil, and do oil painting with tremendous visual clarity. Unfortunately, oil painting doesn’t come that easy to me. I don’t have natural gifts in art like my friend; I have to work very hard at my craft. Marla Olmstead, like my friend, does have innate natural abilities. Go to Marla Olmstead’s website and see her paintings, and painting style, firsthand. You will be rewarded many times over.  

 

 

Leap Year

 

A woman who has an elaborate scheme to propose to her boyfriend on Leap Day, an Irish tradition which occurs every time the date February 29 rolls around, faces a major setback when bad weather threatens to derail her planned trip to Dublin. With the help of an innkeeper, however, her cross-country odyssey just might result in her getting engaged (2010). In many ways this movie reflects the age-old notion that opposites really do attract. This is a delightful movie and Amy Adams and Matthew Goode are a good match for these roles. I found Amy Adams, a red headed beauty, to be one actress worth watching. Her quirky yet innocent outlook on life and her adorable personality was very appealing in Leap Year. She has played other excellent roles in such movies as Enchanted (2007), Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), Doubt (2008), Night at the Museum, (2009), Julie and Julia (2009), and Moonlight Serenade (2009).    

 

 

In Memoriam

 

Tony Curtis (1925-2010)

 

Tony Curtis passed away on Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at the age of 85. He will be remembered for a long time and he will be missed by those among us who enjoy movies and what breathes life into any movie or book—great characters.

Tony Curtis was an American Icon of the Hollywood Movie Industry. I enjoyed watching him act and in fact first saw him while I was in High School. I enjoyed his seedy role as Sydney Falco in the drama, The Sweet Smell of Success (1957) in which Actor Burt Lancaster also was very convincing as the “sleeze-ball” New York City Columnist, J.J. Hunsucker.

I later bought the music from the movie in an old vinyl 78 RPM album format. That album I still own today, having kept every record (all 500 of them) I ever owned. Two other favorites of mine are, Some Like it Hot (with Jack Lemmon), and The Pink Submarine where Tony Curtis played opposite another favorite actor of mine, Cary Grant.

During his career Tony Curtis was nominated for Best Actor in 1958 for The Defiant Ones opposite Sydney Portier, who also received a Best Actor Oscar nomination. He was also nominated for a Golden Globe in 1968 for his role as Albert De Salvo in a very chilling movie, The Boston Strangler. The role he played as a psychopath was brilliant and demonstrated his great versatility as an actor for serious drama in addition to his outstanding performances in comedy roles.  How many of you remember his role as The Great Houdini with Janet Lee in 1953? I was 10 years old at the time and was captivated by all the stunts the real Houdini was capable of doing.   There are, and were, many great actors in Hollywood and elsewhere. For me, Tony Curtis has to be worldwide among those at the very top of the list.  

 

Full biographies of Tony Curtis’ film career can be found on the Internet if you are interested in more detail.

 

 

 

Some Fine Places to Visit

 

Two places I visited this year worthy of your time are the Charles Schultz Museum in Santa Rosa, California and the Botanical Gardens in Fort Bragg along the California coast. These places are different venues but both are very enjoyable to see.

 

Charles M. Schultz Museum

 

Have you ever enjoyed the Peanuts comic strip and wondered about the cartoonist who could so easily translate all your feelings into a funny comment?  Then the Charles M. Schultz Museum will be worth a visit or two.  This museum used Schultz’s own comics to help chronicle his life and ideas.

 

In the museum are two scrapbooks which you can spend a lot of time reading. One scrapbook chronicles his life and family and one shows the history of his career.  It seems he wasn’t an overnight success.  This is amazing for a man who eventually won the Reuben Award for cartoonists not once, but twice.

 

Schultz once said that, “Drawing cartoons is a great way to share your ideas. A cartoonist is no different from any other type of artisthe or she wants to express him/herself. There is a joy in playing the piano or painting a wonderful watercolor. There is also a joy in communicating a thought, whether serious or funny, to another person (1996).” This museum is an enjoyable visit to the world of Schultz’s art.

 

Directions: From San Francisco, take Highway 101 North across the Golden Gate Bridge. On the north side of Santa Rosa, exit at Guerneville Road/Steele Lane. Turn left onto Steele Lane, then get into the right lane and stay there. Where the street splits, go straight ahead on West Steele Lane. After you cross Range Avenue and past the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, you’ll find the museum at the corner of West Steele Lane and Hardies Lane.

 

 

Botanical Gardens, Fort Bragg, California

 

 

Garden by the Sea…
A Rare Botanical Jewel on the
Mendocino Coast

The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens in Fort Bragg, California is one of the most beautiful, relaxing spots on this earth.  It has had many years to flourish since being founded in 1961. Financed through grants from the California Coastal Conservancy these gardens now have one of the best collections of coastal flora.

If you’ve always wanted to grow rhododendrons this is the place to visit. Here you can see almost limitless possibilities and varieties.  The rhododendrons grown here are species that are unique to Southeast Asia and the Himalyas and require a foggy coastal climate such as the one California has.  Take the time to enjoy these fabulous plants because many are rare and difficult to find in nurseries today.

One of my favorite spots is the cactus and succulent garden.  These are plants that can be grown in the dry inner valleys of California but evidently they can grow along the coast as well.  This section always makes me want to go home and plant a cactus.

A short walk will take you to the bluffs overlooking the ocean.  On a beautiful day the breeze and sunshine along the ocean can make the prairie grasses and stunted pine trees seem like the most beautiful view you’ve ever seen.  There’s nothing like a walk along the California coast, and if you keep your ears open, you can enjoy the bird sounds of over 150 bird species; more than you can spot.

I highly recommend an afternoon at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens even on a foggy dreary day.  It can lift your spirits and bring out the sunshine a little. But, above all, just enjoy yourself and soak up the ambience of a truly beautiful place on earth.

Visit the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens yourself at:

http://www.gardenbythesea.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/home.home/index.htm 

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