Artist of Repose: Sculptor Tinka Jordy’s Profound Humanist Vision

Sculpture, like all other art forms, has always ridden along on historical waves of style and sensibility. It both joins in with and helps to direct the prevailing currents unique to any given era.

Not much cottoning to the hottest new trends in painting, sculpture, literature, music or film? Just give it 20 minutes and, as in springtime, the clouds will probably shift again and the light may manifest in ways more to your liking.

But as we look through the long-running project of humanity trying, with a considerable assist from its artists, to define itself within and against the world, we can recognize certain enduring, classical currents that manage to keep percolating, however sparely, through every era. Probably foremost among those is depiction of the human body in a way that at least dignifies—if not exalts—the remarkable, uniquely self-conscious life form that it is.

This humanistic sensibility...

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A Few Notes on Paddling and Faith

Reader David Moriah wrote a heartfelt comment in response to my previous post on “Is the Center No Longer Holding?” I offer it to you here as a prelude to a brief meditation of my own, because I believe, among the various important points he raised, none is more vital and literally noteworthy for our time than the implications of the “faith” that he sketches with the powerful imagery that he does.

His comment in full:

“I have reached a stage in my life and amidst the accelerating centrifugal forces at loose on the planet when I surrender to my inability to forecast where we are headed. There are times when I sense an impending darkness capturing more and more of the globe, and most disturbingly many of the supposedly enlightened corners that have been cleansed of tribal lunacy by liberal democracy and both secular and religious messages of tolerance and good will toward all...

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Is the Center No Longer Holding?

We seem to be living in riven times. (Though one could ask with substantial justification: When hasn’t humanity lived in riven times?)

Schisms abound, and they appear to be more rancorous and sharp than at any time in recent memory. The European Union is fragmenting; the French may well follow the lead of their counterparts across the channel by doing a “Frexit,” with the added dimension of electing an overt racist to lead them.

Much of the world stays mired in intractable poverty under the autocracies and kleptocracies that serve as both its cause and effect.

And in the United States, we endure, in a kind of downcast awe, the awfulness that is Donald Trump.

So is the vaunted center, that core of shared values and aspirations and steady-minded tending of continued progress in the human project, whatever the differences in means and tactics to achieve it, slipping away from us?

Is the center no longer...

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Contemplating the Season With Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Spring”

I’d been browsing earlier in the week for poems about spring, with the intention of sharing one or two on this blog’s or my personal Facebook page. Find a lovely photo of a flower or mustard field to accompany it, rejoice in all the rebirthing metaphors and imagery, have a feel-good post in time for the feel-good day of Easter Sunday, when the very heavens (or at least all our cultural icons) seem to sing in lush harmonies about the joys of the season.

And so here popped “Spring” by Edna St. Vincent Millay onto my computer screen—and there went the easy breezy mood of spring along with it.

Darn these dead-serious poets and their recalibrations of all we cling to as balm for our aching souls!

***

“Spring” appeared in the volume “Second April” in 1921, when Millay was 29 years old and accomplished enough that a mere two years later she would become the third woman ever to win the Pulitzer P...

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The Puffed Up Self in Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”

“Our Delight in Destruction,” read the headline from a recent philosophy blog in the New York Times. (Yes, actual philosophers blogging in readable English in a daily newspaper—hope lives!)

This was just a day after I had come across and held to my eyes a treasured volume, “Irrational Man,” a 1960s-era study of the great existential philosophers who detailed the human penchant for, well, not always behaving in the optimal fashion to promote our own best interests (nor the well-being of those around us).

And through both those works, a long chew through Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance,” a far-reaching, soul-stirring anthem celebrating, no matter how “destructive” or “irrational” it might appear to those other thinkers mentioned above, the absolute primacy of the Self, the lone self-reflective individual, our own deepest heart of hearts, for whom the Bard of Concord intoned:

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