Art Saturday: Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin

Chardin Still Life
Still Life with a White Mug, Above, Fruit, Jug and a Glass, Below; Chardin Still Life

A staunch member and supporter of the French Academy,  Chardin has been called master of still life.

Upon presentation of The Ray in 1728, he was admitted to the Acadèmie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. …Chardin’s work had little in common with the Rococo painting that dominated French art in the 18th century. At a time when history painting was considered the supreme classification for public art, Chardin’s subjects of choice were viewed as minor categories. He favored simple yet beautifully textured still lifes, and sensitively handled domestic interiors and genre paintings. Simple, even stark, paintings of common household items (Still Life with a Smoker’s Box) and an uncanny ability to portray children’s innocence in an unsentimental manner (Boy with a Top [below]) nevertheless found an appreciative audience in his time, and account for his timeless appeal.

Largely self-taught, he was greatly influenced by the realism and subject matter of the 17th-century Low Country masters. Despite his unconventional portrayal of the ascendant bourgeoisie, early support came from patrons in the French aristocracy, including Louis XV. Though his popularity rested initially on paintings of animals and fruit, by the 1730s he introduced kitchen utensils into his repertoire (The Copper Cistern, ca.1735, Louvre). Soon figures populated his scenes as well, supposedly in response to a portrait painter who challenged him to take up the genre. At any event, he was presently painting half-length compositions of children saying grace, as in Le Bènèdicitè, and kitchen maids in moments of reflection. These humble scenes deal with simple, everyday activities, yet they also have functioned as a source of documentary information about a level of French society not hitherto considered a worthy subject for painting. The pictures are noteworthy for their formal structure and pictorial harmony.

In 1756 he returned to the subject of the still life. In the 1770s his eyesight weakened and he took to painting in pastels, a medium in which he executed portraits of his wife and himself.

Chardin’s paintings are often used as prints by decorators, his subdued tones and subjects much in conformity with interiors that are calm and lend themselves to easy living.


Over Easy: Around the World

Recent DOS  attacks have been costly and kept FDL offline all too much.   If you can contribute, this would be a good time, to keep this progressive and informative blog online.

Welcome to Thursday’s Over Easy, a continuation of Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner and its tradition of giving an overview of news our everyday media doesn’t cover, issues that we ought to consider outside the U.S. scene.

Sweeping progressive New Democratic Party victories in Alberta, Canada, have overturned the dominant Tory government of the province that had sought to extend XL pipeline through the U.S. to Texas refineries, where it would go onto the world oil market.

The Tories’ books have been in the red for years, even when record-high oil prices bolstered the bottom line. There were years of pent-up anger, mistrust, and outright dislike, fatally exacerbated by yet another deficit.

Finally, NDP Leader Rachel Notley kicked the dam that caused the crack that broke it.

“She didn’t make any stupid mistakes, like Laurence Decore did in 1993, or Danielle Smith did in 2012. She looks and acts and sounds like a premier, and she’s run a flawless campaign,” said Ken Boessenkool, a strategist running a PC campaign just outside Calgary.

Notley will be elevated in Canadian politics; she is now one of the most important NDP figures in the country. She ran a tight campaign and defended policies that would normally be anathema to Alberta political culture. She is planning to raise corporate income tax, and said she’d no longer lobby for contentious pipeline routes, like Keystone XL and Northern Gateway. This move alone brings Alberta’s political culture more in line with the sentiments of the rest of Canada.

Notley capitalized on the perfect storm of political conditions that allowed a progressive candidate to win power.

Last night’s midnight deadline for formation of a government pushed Benjamin Netanyahu to give the Minister of Justice portfolio to Member of Knesset Ayelet Shaked.  Netanyahu had difficulties in his election that ended with his promises to cut off any chance of representing Arab interests in an Israeli government, a position he abandoned after the election.

 Netanyahu reached an agreement with Bayit Yehudi that will give the party the Education and Diaspora Affairs portfolios for its leader Naftali Bennett. MK Uri Ariel will be agriculture minister and MK Ayelet Shaked justice minister. Bennett succeeded in pressuring Netanyahu to give Shaked the Justice Ministry, because a coalition could not be formed without Bayit Yehudi’s eight Knesset seats. She was originally going to be given the Culture and Sports Ministry.

The Likud tried unsuccessfully to prevent Shaked from entering the security cabinet despite the justice minister automatically being in that influential body by law.

A close election will be held in the UK today, with Labour and Tories going to the polls with no clear leader in the national vote to be held.

Labour and the Conservatives are heading into Thursday’s general election neck and neck, tied at 35% each according to the preliminary results of the final Guardian/ICM campaign poll.

Ed Miliband’s party has pulled back three points on the previous campaign poll, published nine days ago, with the Conservatives remaining unchanged.

Labour’s recovery goes hand in hand with a squeeze at the political fringe: Ukip and the Greens both slip back two points, to 11% and 3% respectively.

In a victory for women’s protection and rights, four men were sentenced to death for a mob killing in Kabul, Afghanistan, in an event sparked by a false rumor that the woman had burned the Koran.

Judge Safiullah Mojadedi handed down the four death sentences at Afghanistan’s Primary Court in Kabul on Wednesday. He also sentenced eight defendants to 16 years in prison and dropped charges against 18. The remaining suspects are to be sentenced on Sunday.

The defendants have the right to appeal their sentences. The charges included assault, murder and encouraging others to participate in the assault. The police officers were charged with neglecting their duties and failing to prevent the attack.

Farkhunda’s brother, Mujibullah said that her family was angered by the leniency of the court toward the majority of the defendants.


Saturday Art: Barbara Grothus exhibit, Wendy Davis post

This was sent to me by Barbara, and I was happy to post it here, will be away myself and am advising Barbara and Wendy it will be here, hopefully they can respond to comments.


ChéPasa recently sent me news of her brilliant work in the exhibit, and said that he was quite intrigued by it before he’d discovered that it was Mz. Grothus who had created it.  Knowing her lifelong passion for peace and anti-nuclear activism increased his appreciation even further, knowing that the concepts behind the art really mirror her life’s work in so many different directions, including her understanding of the interconnectedness of not only humans and all living beings on the planet to one another, but to the very earth itself.  In addition, he has his own history of using pollen as art.

Bless his heart, he shares so many of the cultural and artistic events that he and Miz ChéPasa attend that he becomes my de facto eyes and ears to the worlds of art, dance, and literature in New Mexico.  He quoted from the exhibit’s catalog about her display, which was apparently in a glass museum case, causing one to believe they weren’t so much objets d’art, but instead, ascientific display meant for study and consideration.  I’d submit that one might not be faulted for invoking Picasso’s belief in this case:

‘We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.’

You’ll see that Barbara even named her pollen ‘specimens’, adding a bit of whimsy to her creations.  Really, they’re her interpretation of the consequences of war, peace, and Empire by pollen.

From the catalog:

Japan, 1945 2009-10

Cultural Palynology: 33° latitude

Denudus imperium (pollen of empire), Babylon, 2400 BCE
Globus pacis (Buddha pollen), Silk road, China, 200 CE
Displodi telum (gunpowder pollen), Ji’an, China, 800 CE
Ignus omneconsumens (atomic pollen), Trinity Site, NM/Nagasaki

painted ceramic, 4 x 15 x 4in, 8 x 8 x 10in, 7 x 7 x 8in, 8 x 8 x 8in.

“Barbara Grothus assigned scientific names to ancient pollen collected from sites located at one latitude around the world, from different time periods. She compares them with more modern examples of Ignus omneconsumens*collected at Trinity Site in New Mexico.

Grothus grew up in Los Alamos and has been politically active all her life.”

Ché wasn’t able to find an online photo of the whole display, so he scanned the one in the catalog and sent it along.

barbara grothus (3)

I did find some photos of other pieces in the exhibit, most notably:

Margaret Randall, writing for the New Mexico Mercury, describes the exhibit:

Visualizing Albuquerque is the comprehensive and extremely interesting exhibition currently on display at a number of city venues: The Albuquerque Museum, UNM Art Gallery, 516, Sixty-Six, and others. In this piece I will only address what is being shown in two Albuquerque Museum galleries, presenting a history of art in a city not traditionally known as an art mecca (in contrast with others such as Santa Fe and Taos).”

Miz Margaret is (ahem) quite opinionated, but the artwork is indeed worth perusing, and clearly shows how much talent exists in Albuquerque and environs.

When I reached Barbra by email and asked her to describe what led her to this concept, she wrote back almost immediately.  It seems all of this was off the top of her head, having been cleaarly so immersed in it all, and it’s a fascinating look at the journey that brought her to work to fruition.

“So the story of the pollens is like the story of most of my work. It is conceptual, and I get an idea and then things happen. How it started was during the 2nd Iraq war when all the museums were destroyed, I was dismayed, as we all were. Somewhere along the line I saw a photo of our army at Babylon, where they were changing oil all over the ruins of the site. I was amazed at the disregard for the place. So I started digging around and found that the no fly zone imposed on Saddam was at 32.5 degrees l. or something like that. Babylon is at 33 degrees latitude. I started doing some reading about Babylon and came to the conclusion it was the locus of empire, from earliest times until now. Once the “jewel” of the region, it was beautiful, rich, all that. So all kinds of vanquishers came to grab it, it would be rebuilt, then destroyed. It turns out it had been sacked and burned so many times that the clay out of which it was built became fired, so in the destruction of it was the seed of its survival. It would have just melted into the desert and gone back to clay over centuries, if it had not been burned so many times.

It was accidental that I learned that Ji’an, China, where the clay army was buried, also was at 33 degrees l. There were 600,000 people living there in 200 BC. I found out that Wudi (spelled different ways, but he was the one who the clay army was for) had heard about a civilization to the west, and he sent explorers that direction. Caesar, in 43 BC was hot for silk, and there were monks who walked over the Silk Road (not at 33 degrees) with silkworms in their staffs as silk was a prize commodity and it was forbidden to export the worms. All of this is more or less factual, though I may have misremembered some details.

Of course the Bamiyan Buddhas were destroyed around this time as well, and I was curious about why they were there, and this is when I learned that Buddha came from India where his ideas never took root, but the concept traveled east and dispersed from there. So somehow I began to think about cultural cross pollination, and this idea began. When I found that Dar es Salaam was also at 33 degrees, I began to research other places that were also at that latitude, and when I found that Nagasaki and the Trinity Site were at 33 degrees, I figured I could really do something with this.

It was during my reading about all of this that I found that palynology had become a branch of archeology/anthropology. For example, there is a cave where there were neolithic burials, and people lived in the cave at the same time. They found a lot of plant pollens there, and think the tradition of flowers and death are perhaps related because the odor of decay was (perhaps) muted by using flowers/plants with interment. They can now use microscopic testing of soils and such to analyze a season a particular layer of a dig may be connected to. You may know about this. It is a long story of research while the ideas were growing for me.

I made several iterations of this piece. This is the last one, and it is the pollens of war and peace at 33 degrees. The curator of this show has a good sense of humor, and all of my naming and the general concept were appealing to him. A lot of people were trying to figure out how to get into the show, and I had no idea I would be in it until a few weeks before the opening when they asked me to bring it in. It was very exciting to be in the show. And it was almost an accident that it happened as there was another show at the museum that I showed this piece, so it was a result of that that the curator even knew about it, a disc of the images was made and he saw it. I think. Anyway, I had run into him months before the exhibition, and he mentioned how much he liked the work, but that was the only contact I had with him about it.
I am so thrilled che pasa saw it. There is another piece in the show that has stuff from the Black Hole. It is “the Museum of De-accession” and it is also very clever. Maybe cp saw that too.”

Her mention of ‘The Black Hole’ is in reference to the Los Alamos store that her life-long peace activist father, Ed Grothus, operated.  The store sold primarily surplus equipment for the Los Alamos Laboratory.  The name was his jest that “everything goes in and nothing comes out”.  Upon his death in 2009, he was eulogized in this splendid tribute at

He tells some of his story in this video.

This is the trailer for ‘The Secret and the Sacred – Two worlds at Los Alamos’, which features Ed’s passionate philosophical reasoning against nuclear bombs and the hideous costs of radioactive waste.

ignus omneconsumens  (discovered here) 


Barbara Grothus, Albq., NM Pollens of Power & Destruction: denudes imperium (empire), ignus omneconsumens (nuclear), caecus imperitum (blind stupidity), 2005, mixed media, 6’x48?x12?

Thank you, Barbara Grothus, for all that you do toward creating a better world, and for all that you are as a human being.  You’re a treasure, indeed, as are your family. I hope you’ll be able to take a bit of time from your busy schedule and answer and questions or comments.

Over Easy: Around the World

Welcome to Thursday’s Over Easy, a continuation of Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner and its tradition of giving an overview of news our everyday media doesn’t cover, issues that we ought to consider outside the U.S. scene.

A continuing emphasis on the role of mankind in creating climate change has been undeterred by criticism of the Vatican for insistence on the factual and provable nature of our contamination.

The Vatican Science Academy has challenged politicians to end their “infatuation” with a form of economic growth that is ruining the Earth. (more…)

Sunday Food; Munch the Lettuce



(Picture courtesy of liz west at

A main product of my gardens has always been lettuce, something I’ve always loved fresh and homegrown.   The perfect salad is easiest to make when you walk out into the yard and pick the ingredients.

Lettuce was first cultivated in ancient Egypt for the production of oil from its seeds. This plant was probably selectively bred by the Egyptians into a plant grown for its edible leaves,[21] with evidence of its cultivation appearing as early as 2680 BC.[9] Lettuce was considered a sacred plant of the reproduction god Min, and it was carried during his festivals and placed near his images. The plant was thought to help the god “perform the sexual act untiringly.”[22] Its use in religious ceremonies resulted in the creation of many images in tombs and wall paintings. The cultivated variety appears to have been about 30 inches (76 cm) tall and resembled a large version of the modern romaine lettuce. These upright lettuces were developed by the Egyptians and passed to the Greeks, who in turn shared them with the Romans. Circa 50 AD, Roman agriculturalist Columella described several lettuce varieties – some of which may have been ancestors of today’s lettuces.[9]

Lettuce appears in many medieval writings, especially as a medicinal herb. Hildegard of Bingen mentioned it in her writings on medicinal herbs between 1098 and 1179, and many early herbals also describe its uses. In 1586, Joachim Camerarius provided descriptions of the three basic modern lettuces – head lettuce, loose-leaf lettuce and romaine or cos lettuce.[12] Lettuce was first brought to the Americas from Europe by Christopher Columbus in the late 15th century.[23][24] Between the late 16th century and the early 18th century, many varieties were developed in Europe, particularly Holland. Books published in the mid-18th and early 19th centuries describe several varieties found in gardens today.[25]

Due to its short life span after harvest, lettuce was originally sold relatively close to where it was grown. The early 1900s saw the development of new packing, storage and shipping technologies that improved the lifespan and transportability of lettuce and resulted in a significant increase in availability.[26] During the 1950s, lettuce production was revolutionized with the development of vacuum cooling, which allowed field cooling and packing of lettuce, replacing the previously used method of ice-cooling in packing houses outside the fields.[27]

Lettuce is very easy to grow, and as such has been a significant source of sales for many seed companies. Tracing the history of many varieties is complicated by the practice of many companies, particularly in the US, of changing a variety’s name from year to year. This was done for several reasons, the most prominent being to boost sales by promoting a “new” variety or to prevent customers from knowing that the variety had been developed by a competing seed company. Documentation from the late 19th century shows between 65 and 140 distinct varieties of lettuce, depending on the amount of variation allowed between types – a distinct difference from the 1,100 named lettuce varieties on the market at the time. Names also often changed significantly from country to country.[28] Although most lettuce grown today is used as a vegetable, a minor amount is used in the production of tobacco-free cigarettes; however, domestic lettuce’s wild relatives produce a leaf that visually more closely resembles tobacco.[29]

Hopefully, you have some small or large plot for planting this perfect home product.  Growing your own takes just a bit of time, and I plant it in series, so that some fresh is coming up while the earlier planting is getting too old for picking.

Saturday Art: Local Artists, Oil City, PA


Drakes Well by Edward Kuhlmann

A community with the interesting history of having the first producing oil well in the U.S., developed from one the native Americans had used in times beyond memory, has a variety of creative artists enlivening the area.   Their work is given a home in a bright brick downtown building, and gives a distinctive cachet to the downtown.

The National Transit Building is a local historic and artistic treasure. Built in 1890, with the Annex added in 1896, the building originally served as the headquarters for the National Transit Company, a subsidiary of Standard Oil. The lavish decoration and materials used throughout the building are evidence of its rich beginnings. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, and was rescued from demolition in the mid-1990’s by Ralph Nader, who then gifted it to the community non-profit which now manages it, the Oil City Civic Center.  It is truly a unique and beautiful piece of Oil City’s history which has also served as the heart of its downtown from its earliest days.

Drakes’ Well, pictured above, brings visitors from all around and still is kept operating in its historic inventive way, showing the ingenuity that began the steam engine phase of the country’s development.   Now displayed at the artists’ workshops, a retrospective of work by a local Lutheran minister, Edward Kuhlmann, in Graffitti Gallery at the Seneca Street artist locale, features local landscapes that ring true to the time he worked and the scene of the Oil City area peopled by a prosperous working class and redolent of their Pennsylvania heritage.

Edward Kuhlmann (1882 -1973) was an American landscape artist, but was also a Lutheran minister in Oil City during the 1920s thru the 40s. He is a listed artist of some note. He taught art classes in Oil City, showed at many exhibits [primarily in the Midwest] and sold his work every summer at Chautauqua. He also had the habit of gifting his paintings to couples he married.

Local artists who maintain working space and sales operations in the downtown galleries are widely varied.   Some are featured in this post.   The building features an antique metal cage elevator and many of the wrought iron touches the Pennsylvania business area was distinguished by.

Illustrator, musician, porcelain, eclectic decorative household ware, photographer and others brighten a historic atmosphere with work the community produced, and appreciates.


Wig 2, by Susette Jolley

Susette Jolley exhibits in Oil City and Franklin, PA, and has been secretary of the Archaeological Society of Venango County as well.   She unearthed a piece presently under study at Mercyhurst Archaeology Department which appears to be the only known fabric artifact found in NW PA.   Her work includes decorative household pieces as well as hanging art.

Illustrated top of Table created by Jolly
Art in Pieces, Lineman’s Porcelain

Linda Lineman creates objects and art out of porcelain, describing the process here;

This technique utilizes the translucency of china paint to create color, depth and light. Reflection, shadow and shapes can all be used in the background to add interest & dimensions to the paintings. The painting is followed by the kiln firing (baking) process, then multiple more painting & firing that creates a three-dimensional piece.

Nest picture by Mary Morgan, owner/operator of Mosaic Cafe

Only portrait known by Kuhlman, of a young immigrant nurse to one of the original oil barons


Illustrator John Manders has a studio and can often be found there, with some of his works that include P IS FOR PIRATE, a Pirate’s Alphabet, and several other Pirate works.  He is now working on Escape from Netherworld.

There are other artists in the area, some with studios in the building, that I did not get to.   The community has created a facility that contributes to the creative life, and its artists have a marvelous setting for their work.