I'm surrounded by passion this week. I love it. It's reminding me why I've come hither, to winter wonderland. I'm reading this fascinating textbook called A Documentary History of American Art to 1900, and basically, instead of some Ph.D. somewhere paraphrasing art history into his terms, the editors have compiled people's writings about art that are actually from the 19th century (letters, lectures, journal entries, essays, etc). These documents really encapsulate and convey the ideals, passions, and philosophies of early American artists in a way that historians who come later just can't duplicate, no matter how hard they try. And the American in me just loves that some of the excerpts are from big players-- art celebrities-- and some are from relative nobodies-- the little guys-- who nevertheless lived and breathed and experienced the onward march of art history just as much as anyone who shared their epoch.
Example: I accidentally started reading this little excerpt from John James Audubon, published in the Ornithological Biography in 1831- I was supposed to be reading the next page, Thomas Cole's Essay on American Scenery, but once I started Mr. Audobon's "Ruby-throated Humming Bird" I couldn't stop, it was so beautiful! I'm repeating it in full, have fun guys:
"Where is the person who, on seeing this lovely little creature moving on humming winglets through the air, suspended as if by magic in it, flitting from one flower to another, with motions as graceful as they are light and airy, pursuing its course over our extensive continent, and yielding new delights wherever it is seen; --Where is the person, I ask of you, kind reader, who, on observing this glittering fragment of the rainbow, would not pause, admire, and instantly turn his mind with reverence toward the Almighty Creater, the wonders of whose hand we at every step discover, and of whose sublime conceptions we everywhere observe the manifestations in his admirable system of creation? -- There breathes not such a person; so kindly have we all been blessed with that intuitive and noble feeling-- admiration!...
The prairies, the field, the orchards and gardens, nay, the deepest shades of the forests, are all visited in their turn, and everywhere the little bird meets with pleasure and with food. Its gorgeous throat in beauty and brilliancy baffles all competition. Now it glows with a fiery hue, and again it is changed to the deepest velvety black. The upper parts of its delicate body are of resplendent changing green; and it throws itself through the air with a swiftness and vivacity hardly conceivable. It moves from one flower to another like a gleam of light, upwards, downwards, to the right, and to the left. In this manner, it searches the extreme northern portions of our contry, following with great precaution the advances of the season, and retreats with equal care at the approach of autumn.
I wish it were in my power at this moment to impart to you, kind reader, the pleasures which I have felt whilst watching the movements, and viewing the manifestation of feelings desplayed by a single pair of these most favourite little creatures, when engaged in the demonstration of their love to each other: -- how the male swells his plumage and throat, and, dancing on the wing, whirls around the delicate female; how quickly he dives towards a flower, and returns with a loaded bill, which he offers to her to whom alone he feels desirous of being united; how full of ecstacy he seems to be when his caresses are kindly received; how his little wings fan her, as they fan the flowers, and he transfers to her bill the insect and the honey which he has procured with a view to please her; how these attentions are received with apparent satisfaction; how, soon after, the blissful compact is sealed; how, then, the courage and care of the male are redoubled; how he even dares to give chase to the Tyrant Fly-cather, hurries the Blue-bird and the Martin to their boxes; and how, on sounding pinions, he joyously returns to the side of his lovely mate. Reader, all these proofs of the sincerity, fidelity, and courage, with which the male assures his mate of the care he will take of her while sitting on her nest, may be seen, and have been seen, but cannot be portraye or described."
SO CUTE, right? I just want to meet Mr. Audubon and hug him. One wonders if he were newly in love when he was writing this. The Thomas Cole article I had to digest after that wasn't near as exhilarating. Ah well. I considered myself a fortunate and happy scholar to have stumbled upon it at any rate. I wish I could write like that. Are you like me and vaguely recognized the name John James Audubon? He was a huge deal! Read a bit about his fascinating and adventuresome life here, if you will.
Yesterday I worked the National Building Museum's biggest public event, their Discovering Engingeering Family Day! Also a huge deal! Companies from all over the world set up booths, replete with gadgets, crazy displays, hands-on crafts, Wii machines and robots in order to show the crowds (some 5,000 people!) how engineering can be fun and can make our lives easier and cooler. My goodness I realized how far behind I am in my passion for science. It was fun to get a refresher, and realize that the engineering branch of science is just as much if not more in love with the potential of human creativity as anybody is in the art world. My job for 5 hours yesterday was to put little fake tattoos on kids. Tattoos of Digit and the Cyberchase gang (some PBS show that teaches kids to love math). You'd think that'd be boring, throwing stickies on kids for 5 hours, but I got a major kick out of seeing just how excited each one would be for this little tattoo. I instructed them to count to fifteen while we waited for the tattoo to stick, and some would screw up their faces in concentration, some would proudly breeze right through the sequence. And, then, when it was over, their hands looks like this^ And 95% of the time, they could not have been more delighted afterwards. Seriously, these little people's entire days were completely lit up-- their worlds were made perfectly wonderful-- because of a sticky I put on their hand.
And love this-> girl's win (Go Mormon girl snowboarders! You're an inspiration to us all! Aunt Marie, she [Torah Bright] looks like you!)
Last but not least, I came across this fun poster this evening (actually, it was sent to me by my friend Mary from here). Let's play a little game: You get one point for every name you recognize, and one point for every art reference/joke you actually GET (my score is 67, I'm pretty proud of myself, and my favorite is "Picasso owns the century").