It’s such a big world, says Vincenzo

I have been house cleaning.  As some of you know, I do this at least once every decade.  I find the most amazing things. 

While I was rummaging through boxes of stuff, I came upon an art brochure advertising dealers in “master drawings.”  One of the dealers advertised itself with a portrait drawing by an artist I’ve never heard of Vincenzo Gemito (1852-1929).  And — I dunno — something about the directness of the drawing just bowled me over.  It’s so incisive.  The artist has wanted to catch every element of the figure, of each form.  A shoulder is as good as a strand of hair for this guy.  And all of it, he seems to find marvellous.

Aren’t human beings pretty wonderful?  And in all their forms, in every ordinary particular, so wonderous to contemplate.

Okay, it’s not what we typically think while standing in line at the Motor Vehicle Administration (as Seinfeld so aptly noted).  But when you feel this wonderment, you should go for it.  That’s what I think. 

The drawing at the top is not the one I saw.  I’m finding other works by Gemito on the internet.  But this drawing is pretty wonderful too.

UPDATE:  I found this catalog of Vincenzo Gemito Drawings on line here.

Right and Left and Life

When I was her age, and we were about the same age, I couldn’t have told you who among my acquaintances was a Democrat and who was a Republican.  Looking at this drawing now, I can’t even tell you who was president when I drew it.  I’d have to think back, find a date, and do the math.

Moreover, it would never have even occurred to me then that anyone looked with suspicion upon people of a different political stripe (who are the intruders in our midst?)  — or cared much about the answer to questions of political identity.  When and why did life get so politicized?  I knew people with strong political views, but they were distinctly a minority.  In my circle, no one wore their politics on their sleeve. The community around me was never focused that far away from home.  We looked at our private lives as our particular sphere of influence.  Indeed, I’d say we held private life in higher regard than today, for that’s where we thought our actions could matter.

Looking back at drawings I made a generation ago, I realize that more things entered into the picture than I knew.  The whole idea of just drawing a person being herself.  Do young artists do that now?  I hope they do.

I drew this woman for hours, and I realize now that I would have no idea how she thought about American’s political questions, then or now.  And I like the mystery of that.

[Top of the post:  A Drawing of My Friend, pencil, by Aletha Kuschan]


Isn’t it visible on her face?  The inner decision that seems outward-looking, but is really her contemplation of the past in a long journey backwards through time…

I dimly recall reading a quote from Degas where he spoke of the beautiful smudginess of Velasquez …. Whatever it was, it was so long ago, quite apart from Velasquez and the qualities that Degas associated with his works, I had long wanted to create a soft chiaroscuro in my drawing, in emulation of Degas’s drawing techniques, that would suggest not just the atmosphere of air surrounding us all — but the mysterious atmosphere of thoughts.

A friend of mine agreed to pose for me one afternoon at her house.  I drew her in her familiar surroundings.  Drawing is wonderful that way.  You need so few supplies.  You don’t have to pack for a safari.  A notebook, some pencils, a sharpener, an eraser, and you’re ready.

We sat in a little nook off her kitchen where a broad window offered a view upon fields of corn.  Her hair was blonde, the color of straw.  And the light passed through it, and it was shot with gold.  She was going through an acrimonious divorce.  And she had been turning to her faith for answers.  Some part of her meditation found its way into my drawing.  And I was not even aware.

[Top of the post:  A Young Woman Staring into Space, pencil, by Aletha Kuschan]