Do Judge Books By Their Covers!

by James Wallace Harris, Sunday, November 6, 2016

I created a page for the Classics of Science Fiction where readers could shop for the books at Amazon. And because I love book covers, I listed the books by cover images. However, those are their current covers, and not the ones I grew up seeing. I thought many of the modern covers were ugly, uninspired or garish. So I decided for my blog to collect the covers that I remembered and loved best. Many are the covers I first saw at libraries in the 1960s. That was a long time ago, when I was still a kid. So maybe it’s just nostalgia. But to me, these older covers seem more enticing. Which ones would make you want to buy the books?

Now for some honesty. As I searched for the covers I remembered, I realized for the most part the covers that I feel best are the ones I first discovered when young. Does that mean they are better covers? I don’t know. Y’all decide. Maybe I’m remembering the past better than it was. Or maybe covers that came out in the 1980s and 1990s imprinted on young people the same way covers imprinted on me when I was a teen in the 1960s. I was lucky, because my favorite library, at Homestead Air Force Base, had many of the Gnome and Shasta titles from the 1950s.

001-dune

002-a-canticle-for-liebowitz

003-the-left-hand-of-darkness

004-childhoods-end

005-nineteen-eighty-four

006-the-martian-chronicles

007-the-foundation-trilogy

008-neuromancer

 

 

 

 

 

 

009-the-stars-my-destination011-the-demolished-man012-ringworld013-hyperion014-the-man-in-the-high-castle015-ender-s-game016-stranger-in-a-strange-land030-more-than-human032-lord-of-light036-the-moon-is-a-harsh-mistress037-starship-troopers038-the-windup-girl041-do-androids-dream-of-electric-sheep044-way-station045-earth-abides051-city083-babel-17097-double-star134-the-end-of-eternity

All the Time in the World is Still Not Enough

By James Wallace Harris, Thursday, January 7, 2016

All during my work years, while I toiled away at my 8:30-5:00 grind, I endlessly ached to be free. I just wanted time to write. Now that I’m retired, and have all the time in the world, it’s still not enough. I’m writing regularly, devoting hours a day to my task, but I’m not keeping up with all the ideas that beg me to give them birth. Recently I found Big Magic at the library, a lovely new book on creativity by Elizabeth Gilbert. I highly recommend this book to those who struggles to be creative, whether at writing, music, art, dance, acting, or even robot design, while holding down a fulltime job and believing they don’t have enough time. Gilbert provides 276 pages of inspiration and advice that’s backed by the wisdom of her success. I know many people who are prejudiced against Elizabeth Gilbert for that same success, but I’m not one of them. Her advice resonated easily with my experiences.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Gilbert carefully illustrates that we all have enough time to be creative, no matter how busy our life, or how much free time we can find. She goes on to prove it’s the kind of shit sandwich you’re willing to eat that determines creative productivity. Gilbert explains that creativity always comes at a cost. It’s not about finding time, but paying the price. Writing every day is one of the costs. Whatever shit you have to eat to make yourself write is the cost. People give up on their dreams because they won’t suffer the shit that it takes. Her metaphor is crude, but makes a lot of sense if this is your kind of struggle.

I have all the time in the world, and it’s still not enough. What I’ve been learning the hard way, it’s not about time, it’s about work. There will always be an endless list of ideas I can write about. There will always be a limited amount of time. What determines my creative output is effort, not time. Everything Gilbert writes about I’ve been learning since I’ve retired. Time and again as I read this book, her advice clarified what I’ve been learning on my own without conscious clarity.

It really comes down to sticking to a project until it’s finished. It doesn’t matter how important the art, or how ambitious the scope, or whether it will make money or not. All that matters is getting into the zone and working. You work at what you like, and you don’t worry if anyone else will like it, buy it or judge it. Time isn’t an issue. It’s not about what I’ve done, or hope to do, it’s only about the project I’m working on at the moment. And at this moment, I’m reviewing this book.

Essay #995

Why We Draw, Paint and Photograph

By James Wallace Harris, Monday, October 26, 2015

I’m taking a community education course in beginning drawing and it’s making me think about why we draw, paint and photograph. I took the course to do something with a friend and learn a few drawing skills, but the class is making me contemplate the nature of art. Most people now carry a camera with them at all times because of smartphones. Why learn to sketch, when a click of the camera can capture any image far easier? Yet, before cameras, why did we want to draw what we saw? The urge goes back to our earliest days as cave dwellers. Did drawing skills precede language skills? Often, whenever we want to explain something complicated to another person, we draw a picture. The hot new trend in journalism is infographics. And, there’s that old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

cave art

My efforts to draw what I see has been extremely frustrating so far. I can draw a table that allows someone else to say, “Hey, that’s a table.” What frustrates me is I can’t accurately draw the table I see. I know I can’t become a human camera, but I do want to sketch with a level of accuracy that teaches me to see the abundance of details I’m currently ignoring. When I think about art, I wonder if I’m missing the point. Until we had cameras, artists strove to accurately record reality. Paintings were physical memories of what they saw. Artists also did more. They tell stories and create beauty. And, of course, they wanted to make a living, and maybe even become famous. Since I don’t need to earn money from drawing, nor do I care about fame, that leaves me with beauty, story and memory.

1024px-Botticelli-primavera

Right now I’m struggling to make smudges on paper that capture what I see. I’m picking objects that look easy to draw. But eventually I’ll want to record something I really want to remember, and something that I’m seeing in a more powerful way than how I look at things now. Ultimately though, I want to create something that’s beautiful. That’s the special quality of art. Art creates something that doesn’t exist in nature but competes with nature for beauty.

Right now I have absolutely no idea of how to create something new and beautiful, but I get the feeling that’s where this path leads. My teacher seems to know that’s where we need to go, but also knows we’re going to quickly get lost, and give up. Most people are artists when they are kids, but they lose their way. Maybe when we get old, we try to return to that way of looking at the world, like when we were young.

Gustave_Caillebotte_-_Paris_Street;_Rainy_Day_-_Google_Art_Project

I doubt I’ll ever become an artist, or even create something beautiful, but that doesn’t matter. Trying teaches me about the nature of art more than just admiring works in a gallery or studying art history courses. It’s like programming computers, there’s lots of procedures, subroutines and techniques to learn. There are tools to master, and coding languages to memorize. I’m surprised by how many technical tricks are involved in drawing. Talent might be involved, and it might not either. My guess is it’s mostly practice and work, and picking up skills and tricks from other artists.

Anyone can draw a picture or snap a photograph. It’s the why that matters. What do we want to remember, what story do we have to tell, can we capture beauty we discover in reality, or can we add something beauty to reality? I hope I can develop a daily habit of drawing, and it become a routine like exercising. It’s really hard to start doing something totally new late in life, but I think it will be good for me. Just the little effort I’ve put out for this class hurts my brain in a way that lets me know how artistically out of shape I am, and how artistically fit some of my friends are in comparison.

modern_art_by_dorianoart-d483eet

I use John’s Background Switcher to display random photography as wallpaper on my desktop. Every ten minutes I get a new scene capturing a beautiful instant from somewhere in the world. These photos are memories, stories and beauty. I’m astounded by the artistic visions that photographers find, often in locations other people would call ugly. Other times I have John’s Background Switcher randomly go through famous paintings. Every ten minutes I’m reminded of the amazing diversity of what’s possible to imagine that’s not in reality. These paintings and photos transcend time and space, and they tell a relentless story.

Table of Contents

Can Science Fiction Change Republican Minds About Climate Change?

By James Wallace Harris, Sunday, November 8, 2014

The other day I was talking with my science fiction reading friends about whether or not science fiction can change public policy or opinion about the future. On one side of the argument, we had the belief that science fiction is only entertainment, on the other, some believed science fiction can enlighten people. I was on the side of science fictional enlightenment, but when asked to produce a list of books that actually changed public thinking, I was stumped. My only example was Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. I think Orwell produced a number of memes about life in a totalitarian state that it has shaped political thought ever since. Just think how often his book was referenced during the recent NSA scandal.

Wind_Up_Girl_by_Raphael_Lacoste-600px

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, two science fiction novels were bestsellers that warned people against the atomic war apocalypse – Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank, and On the Beach by Neville Shute. Neither are much remembered today, but then again, few people today worry about WWIII anymore. Did reading about Armageddon help us avoid it?

Despite the success of some of the new climate fiction (cli-fi) novels, I’m not sure they’re making an impact. Nineteen Eighty-Four is something Republicans can understand and embrace because it resonates with their political thinking, but how many conservatives have read Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson, or the brilliant The Windup Girl by  Paolo Bacigalupi? There’s a good chance that most people don’t read books that don’t match their current thinking.

After the mid-term elections it’s pretty obvious that the majority of Americans want Republican leaders, even if Republicans are against their personal interests. For example, Obamacare is proving most successful in red states. Republicans are extremely united in their opposition to climate change politics. Their denial of reality is amazing. And they’re absolutely consistent by siding for profit over environment. Nor do we see conservatives showing any signs of moving in new directions. Is there any book or movie that could make red state voters change their minds?

This is where I wonder about the power of science fiction, or just the power of art. Can any novel or movie actually change people’s minds if they already believe differently? Over my lifetime I feel I’ve constantly evolved because of my empathy with fictional characters. My own life is not as diverse as the life I see on TV, the big screen or in the pages of books, so I honestly feel I know more about people from art, than from just knowing them. I feel art expands my view on reality and changes me. But that could be an delusion.

Do I read liberal books because I’m already liberal, or because previous read liberal books made me liberal? Do conservatives read conservative books because they are conservative, or have conservative books made them conservative? If I read conservative books and conservatives read liberal books, would we change our views? I don’t know. Maybe genes override outside input.

Personally, I think the United States is making a fatal mistake by ignoring climate change and by choosing to destroy the environment. I could be wrong, and I’ve been wrong plenty of times, but on this issue, I think I’m right. Is there any way I could present my views in a novel that would convince people who don’t think like me to change their minds? Can anyone write a Nineteen Eighty-Four type story that would inspire millions to change their votes and avoid the future we’re racing to meet?

JWH

Boyhood (RT=99%) vs. And So It Goes (RT=16%)

Lately I’ve been fascinated about the relationship between the movie ratings at Rotten Tomatoes and my actual reactions to the films.

Boyhood is the much anticipated, critically acclaimed art movie that is getting overwhelmingly great reviews.  Friday night Janis, Laurie and I went to see Boyhood with great expectations of being wowed.  We weren’t quite – it was close though.  Boyhood is mostly impressive and yet, somewhat dull in places.  The same could be said about life though.

Saturday I went to see An So It Goes with my friend Anne, who is in love with Michael Douglas.  I went thinking I would hate it because the film was getting almost universal bad reviews.  As you might ironically guess, I enjoyed this film.  It was far from great.  It was slight and clichéd, yet it had a satisfying story, although there was much in it that annoyed me.

There was something in the “bad” film the “good” film needed, and vice versa.  Films are mainly commercial products meant to make lots of money, but we all hope to go see something great, something memorable, something that will even have the brilliant insight of art, or the emotional impact of a classic.  Boyhood is a unique film, and comes very close to being the winning Lotto ticket, but not quite.   There was something missing that I can’t quite put my finger on, something that might have been in And So It Goes, but I’m not sure.

Part of this essay is about the ambition and success of movie making, and part of it’s about movies about males.  Oddly enough, these two films make a good set of bookends about young and old males, about the nature of characterization, and what it means to tell a story.  Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is almost like a documentary in that it chronicles the life of Mason from age 5 to 18, and his life with his mother, sister, father and two step fathers.

Watching Boyhood reminded me of my own time growing up.  Nearly everything Mason experienced I remember going through, although things were different over a half century ago.  It’s obvious the writers wanted us to identify with the film, although why the focus on the boy, when the sister was so much part of the story too?

My parents were alcoholic, so like Mason I have memories of mental and physical fights between my mom and day, of hurling dishes and much worse, and car rides with drunken drivers.  This part of the film was a post-card memory of my boyhood.  It bothered me that the story had to race over these incidents because living through such experiences deserves far more story than the glossy note taking we’re given.  Growing up with alcoholics deserve Marcel Proust volumes.

Like Mason I moved around a lot, and was always the new kid in school.  However, Boyhood did not convey this experience with any depth either.  Being the new kid involves a lot of different experiences.  And being the new kid time and again has its own stories too.  Learning the new environments, meeting new people from different regions, finding new friends, making a new best friend, over and over.  The first kids that check you out are always the tough kids.  I was always a year younger than everyone else in my grade, and a bit of a pussy, yet I always ended up hanging out with kids in trouble with the school administration or the police because I was willing to go along.  Normal kids aren’t that open to new people right away.  However, I was good at eventually finding the geeky oddballs, my kind of people, and making friends with them.

Again Boyhood just glossed over these kinds of events.  To me it seemed Mason always had it easy, even when things were hard.  I’m sure the writers and director didn’t want us to think that.  I’m thinking this is where the artifice of art would have helped this movie.  The movie is a series of snapshots taken over a dozen years.  It needed some kind of thread to tie them together.  We only get to watch Mason from the outside, so we don’t know what’s going on inside his head.  Books like A Catcher in the Rye and The Bell Jar tell us interior of such suffering, but this movie doesn’t.  Even when Mason becomes an artist, either from graffiti or photos, we don’t see any expression of his internal world.

Another memory I share with Mason was looking at panty and bra ads as a little kid.  Back in the 1960s it was very hard for boys to come by porn, so we were limited to Sear’s catalogs and National Geographic magazines in our quest to find female nudity.  I envy modern boys the internet.  I was surprised the film didn’t have more unique takes on Mason’s boyhood sexual experiences.  Actual boyhood is being tortured by horniness.  It’s also filled with desperate longing for naked girls, either real, imaginary or on paper.  This desperation didn’t come through in this story.  And neither did any distinctive unique experiences that might have conveyed it.

I remember in 7th grade, my third of three 7th grade schools I attended in two states, where a new found buddy and I discovered we could get into the crawl spaces under houses pretty easy, and sometimes there was good  junk hidden under houses.  In one abandoned house on a back country road we found a big stash of girlie magazines.  We guessed the boy who lived there had been too chicken to try and take his treasure with the movers.  This pile of cheap Playboy wannabes made Chucky and I heroes with other boys at school for a couple weeks, as we gave, sold and traded them away.  What really surprised me was how popular they made us with the girls on the school bus.  They went crazy all wanting to sit next to me to look at the naked women too.  Boyhood could have used an incident like this that would have made Mason’s life felt more unique and less generic.

And how could Boyhood pass up tales of masturbation?  What a missed opportunity.  Onanism is a huge factor in boyhood.  All guys accidently figure things out on their own at first, and go through a period of worry about doing something very weird, until they talk to other guys and then discover that all the guys are doing the same thing.  Then you have all those family years of furtively trying to sneak off a quick tug once or twice a day wondering if your family suspects.  I can’t believe they left out that universal boyhood experience.

Boyhood is very impressive but also dull in a way.  Maybe American city life in the 21st century has a lot of homogeneity to it.  Mason and his sister lead sort of a slow frustrated existence.  Their suffering didn’t seem that awful, and their peak experiences didn’t seem that high.  I guess real life is like that, and we’ve gotten used to movie life being more exciting.  I did share many of the exact experiences Mason had.  Like having a religious relative give me a Bible and explaining the red words in the back, having an old guy teach me to shoot a shotgun, having a teacher or boss try to explain how to get ahead, or meeting strangers and getting high.  But in this movie, these incidents has a sort of plain vanilla take to them.  My memories were more intense, more complicated, more full of details.  I guess that’s the problem of trying to squeeze twelve years into about three hours of art.

And that brings us to the other movie, And So It Goes, which is only 93 minutes.  Michael Douglas plays a major asshole Oren Little, who openly promotes his animosity with everyone.  Oren is a realtor that wants to make one final sale, his own house, which he insists is worth 8.6 million no matter what offers he gets.  However, Oren lives in a run-down little four-plex he owns that he calls Shangri-la.  His next door neighbor is Diane Keaton, who apparently is attempting to make a late life move into the lounge singing profession.  Because this film is directed by Rob Reiner, you hope this old couple will give us another When Harry Met Sally. Well, no such luck.  The film is so full of such old clichés that you feel insulted.  I love geezer flicks, but I’m getting tired of the senile plot of old woman with heart of gold taming boyish asshole, especially when they add the help of cute kid and stupid dog.

Unfortunately, Hollywood doesn’t make many movies for us people with wrinkles, so we sort of have to like what we get.

One interesting take in And So It Goes is the contrast between the Michael Douglas character and the Rob Reiner character, Artie.  Artie plays the piano for the Diane Keaton’s character Leah.  He’s the safe, nice guy friend to her, who obviously dreams of getting lucky with Leah.  The movie makes fun of Artie,  which irritates me, because I’d look somewhat like Rob Reiner if I wore a bad toupee.  What And So It Goes does is reinforce the cliché that women will go to bed with assholes and forget the nice guys completely, unless they need a favor.  Which Artie fawningly obliges.  See, And So It Goes doesn’t attempt to be anthropological about males like Boyhood, but it pulls off a good deal of insight with little time and effort.  That’s where art pays off.

A tiny piece of dramatic conflict can say so much.  To me, the most painful conflict Mason experiences in Boyhood is when he discovers his dad, played by Ethan Hawke, has sold off his antique Pontiac GTO to buy a minivan for his new replacement family.  Mason has believed since the third grade that the GTO was his legacy.  I felt for him, because as a teenager I wanted a 1967 Pontiac GTO badly.  My father did buy the cheaper Pontiac Tempest in 1967, and so that was a strange compensation.  To me, this one very specifically detailed experience Mason had was the most important emotional scene of the movie.  I could tell what he was thinking in greater detail because this fictional incident felt more real, as if it could have been based on a real incident.  Boyhood isn’t a documentary, and its characters are fictional, yet, it fictionalizes them in a very plain vanilla way.

And So It Goes is also fictional, but its fictionalize details have more color to them.  Unfortunately, Michael Douglas gets all the character attention in this film.  Keaton, kid and dog have very supporting roles.  Oren is redeemed when he delivers a baby in strained humor and eventually accepts responsibility for the grand kid.  Nothing is very good in this movie, yet I still enjoyed it.  Movie makers know how to churn out generic feel good for the most part nowadays, partly by being inventive with character details.  It’s a product, not an art.  We give them $10 and they give us a couple hours of reasonable escapism.  A good hack writer has no trouble making up details to paint a character.

Now an important psychological insight into me could be that I can see colorful details in movies about old people, but not about modern young people.

The trouble is Boyhood is being treated like James Joyce, and And So It Goes is being dismissed as a step up from fan fiction, and to me, the movie watcher, neither are as good or bad as the critics claim.  I will soon forget both thoroughly, yet while I was watching I didn’t regret spending my time or money for either.  That’s because we don’t really judge our escapism as real art.  Boyhood was an extremely neat film hack, but it didn’t go deep enough to be art.  The only other film I watched this week was Fahrenheit 451, a Truffaut film from 1966, that I think was the fifth time I seen it since it came out.  Now, that’s art, at least in my mind.  Any film you watch over and over again for a whole lifetime has to have a special tag.  Art is good enough for me.

Art is something that will last, will be remembered, and has something unique to express.  With movies and novels, the most artistic of them, will have a great story.  That’s what was missing from these two films.  Boyhood was too naturalistic, And So It Goes too contrived.  And So It Goes had too many attempted stories in it.  I can completely buy an old man obsessed with selling his house for a price that he believes in that no one else does.  I can completely buy a story about an old man who has to raise his granddaughter because his heroin addicted son has to go to jail.  I can completely buy an 65-year old woman trying to break into music as a Lounge Singer.  But doing all three in a 93 minute film is a farce.  Putting twelve years of boyhood into three hours is a stretch too.  The shorter movie needed more realistic details, and the longer film needed more artificial structure.

JWH – 8/4/14 (Happy Birthday Janis)

Finding Vivian Maier–The Emily Dickinson of 20th Century Photography

This afternoon I saw a fantastic documentary, Finding Vivian Maier, about a person I’ve never heard of who deserves widespread fame.  Her name was Vivian Maier, and she was a nanny most of her life, and it wasn’t until she died that John Maloof, a young writer discovered she was also a photographer when he bought a box of her negatives at auction.  Vivian Maier, who was quite secretive about her private life, was not reclusive like Emily Dickinson, but she hide her art away, and the documentary even questions whether or not if Maier would have liked her pictures shown.  Maloof estimates he’s eventually accumulated 150,000 thousands of her negatives.  The documentary ends up being about many things, including Maloof’s tenacity of tracking down Vivian’s legacy and making it known.  He has her photographs on display in galleries around the world, and has published two art books of Maier’s work, with another coming out soon.

Maier died in 2009, and Finding Vivian Maier isn’t even the first documentary about her.  There’s another documentary, Vivian Maier: Who Took Nanny’s Pictures, directed by Jill Nicholls for the BBC that was rereleased in the U.S. as The Vivian Maier Mystery.  Maier was also the subject of other short films, and many news reports and essays.  Her story is so great that it’s impossible not to retell.

I don’t think I can tell her story better than these films I’ve found at YouTube.  If you get the chance, see Finding Vivian Maier at the theater, because her photographs are beautiful blown up on the big screen.  Maier mostly took street photos in New York City and Chicago, but did take an eight-month round the world trip by herself.  The bulk of her photographs were taken in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, and she captured a unique view of history.  Her photographs are gorgeously composed of daily life on the run.  Probably many of her subjects never knew they were being photographed.

I highly recommend watching these YouTube clips full screen.  Be sure and set the resolution to 1080p or 720p.  Maier also took many 8mm films.  These are interesting, but not beautiful like her black and white photos taken with a mid-format Rolleiflex camera.  Her Rollei photographs blow up on the big theater screens magnificently.  Maier also took color 35mm pictures too, but I like the black and white pictures best.  The film also shows huge crowds flocking to her exhibits.  I’ve love to go see them.  I’m surprised I’m so late discovering her, but then I think most people haven’t yet either.

Just look at the many images here.  The number of pictures taken is tremendous, and the variety of subjects is astounding.

Watching Finding Vivian Maier evokes all kinds of philosophical questions about art and life.  Why did she take so many photographs and not print or try to get them exhibited?  Like one documentary commentator said, for many of her images, the only time she saw them was when she pressed the shutter release, and even then she was probably looking at the scene and not the composing screen.

Maier is like the existential God who created the universe and then walks away from his creation.  Despite all the mystery surrounding Maier, it finally comes down to the art standing on its own.  Her images are captivating, haunting, riveting, compelling, and all the words you can imagine that say they make you want to look and look and look.

Vivian-Maier

JWH – 5/13/14

Carroll Cloar at the Arkansas Arts Museum

The Crossroads of Memory:  Carroll Cloar and the American South
Arkansas Arts Center – 2/28/14 – 6/1/14

 

My Father Was Big As A Tree

[My Father Was Big as a Tree, 1955]

My friend Ann convinced me to drive over to Little Rock to see the Carroll Cloar exhibit, and I’m very glad I did.  I don’t like traveling, but when I do, art is often my inspiration to leave home.

Carroll Cloar [1913-1993], a southern painter from Earle, Arkansas explored a variety of realistic, although surreal painting styles.  This exhibit, organized by the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art and the Arkansas Arts Center, is your best chance ever at seeing a significant number of Cloar’s paintings in one place.  I knew little of Cloar beforehand, or his work, and had only accidently seen  a couple of his paintings at the Brooks.   This is a great opportunity to see a huge exhibit of Cloar’s  artwork.  Cloar capture’s memories of a time and place in vivid dreamlike colors, that is both haunting to the soul, yet pleasing to the vision.

The Eyes of an Era

Cloar was born three years before my mother in 1913, so I see his paintings as memorializing her generation.  Even the paintings Cloar painted in the 1980s are memories of life in the 1920s and 1930s, and often they remind me of family photographs I’ve inherited from my mother and her family.  Cloar’s paintings are a unique view of southern life.  One of his paintings, “Where the Southern Cross the Yellow Dog” reminds me when we lived in Marks, Mississippi in 1960.

where_the_southern_cross_the_yellow_dog

[Where The Southern Cross The Yellow Dog, 1965]

Cloar was white, but often painted black people.  It is very hard to separate his paintings from the racism I encountered when I lived in Mississippi in 1960 and 1966.  I grew up in Miami, but sometimes lived in the south, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and other times lived in the north, Ohio, Pennsylvanian and New Jersey.  Living in the south was always a culture shock for me in the 1950s and 1960s.  Cloar is an artist whose work totally fits within my lifetime, even though his inspiration was his youth that coincided with my mother’s growing-up years.  In other words, both my memories, and history of the times, corrupt my ability to see what Cloar shows me in his art.   What he saw and what I remember gets mixed up.  That’s both good, and bad.

I believe Carroll Cloar worked to remember the past without the racism.  What he painted was visual life.  You don’t see the polarized conflict, which is why he seldom painted pictures with both blacks and whites in the same scene.

Cloar captured the beauty he saw, as if it was a timeless memory, but all too often people viewing his paintings will remember the ugliness of the times.  If you are from the South, and of a certain age, experiencing these paintings are going to trigger reactions and emotions different from say seeing 19th century French Impressionistic paintings.  My friend Ann would cry while viewing some of Cloar’s paintings.

It was especially hard emotionally to learn of Cloar’s childhood friend, Charlie Mae, a little black girl.  While kids, they were close, but a dispute over a puppy separated them as friends.  Later in life, Cloar would often paint memories of Charlie Mae, who strangely ended up living near him in Memphis, yet they never met again.

ch_mae_bap

[Charlie Mae Practicing for the Baptism, 1974]

What To Read Before You Go – Or In Case You Can’t

wedding party-1971

[Wedding Party, 1971]

JWH – 5/5/14