Sunday, September 27, 2009

john canny, words can not tell how i miss you

it was a week that began badly and hit bottom when i received a call telling me that my closest, but far away, friend, john canny had died from brain cancer. we often spoke of the perpetual choice between cynicism and optimism in the face of an all too real world. i suspect he would now gently smile watching me struggle to celebrate him with a broken heart.
we met over 40 years ago when we each were law clerks to federal court of appeals judges, his in cheyenne and mine here. he and his wife and son lived in evergreen colorado in a special house just far enough into the mountains to allow peace to him and his and to me and mine every time i came to visit. john began his life of lawyering and following the democratic political road. i bounced around towards being what was called a 'street lawyer'. we usually met at his place and i can easily say that every visit was special. i brought my life to him and his awaited me there. i watched the house grow always better and more comfortable always with the poster of young justin swinging. the many friends and family i brought there were always made to feel welcome and left better for their time there.
anytime i was there we eagerly talked and shared discoveries - and even without him i happily wallowed in his always increasing library. one of those mutual discoveries was kenneth patchen whose poem you see above. we shared personal joys and tragedies of all of our lives in ways that i believe occurred no where else each for either of us. and we experienced the joys of colorado.
in the more recent years there were fewer trips but the internet and the phone provided some measure of repeating those moments and keeping alive the friendship. when last i visited it was only for a short time about a month after the onset of the cancer and his first operations. he had newly imposed restraints of mind and body but i went home believing that my friend was still there and would be until i returned. of course, i was wrong to my eternal regret.
i believe that john and i were initially brought together by a kinship of heart about right and wrong. we both grew up in days when economic and racial discrimination and prejudice were the rule and the rules were enforced - and enjoyed - by conservative white protestant men. but our college age included the beginning of protest against all this and the brief presidential life of john kennedy gave hope that we could live life differently than our past suggested. our friendship remained because we each played out our resultant lives acting on these instincts, tempered with a determination to allow ourselves the joys of reading, listening and thinking. the sad irony that john was felled by an attack on his brain can not dull my belief that he lived a good life following thru on what he believed and had a marriage and family that he could be proud of. i will miss him as a special friend and a very special person.
a p.s. sitting alone late monday night still wrestling with reality after writing. i happen on the documentary channel showing 'the last buffalo' a wonderfully silent 30 minute flick that takes me far away magically until its conclusion. and i am taken back to a special moment flying in from newark to denver 35 years ago and going with john and jeanny to see another movie. it was after a snow and downtown denver was quiet and snow covered. we went directly from my plane to a showing of a movie called 'el topo' by a mexican director jadorowsky which i havent seen since but go back to in memories ever after. the mutual enchantment we felt with it was only accented by seeing something more mundane but popular the next day.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, September 20, 2009

nitebird art
saturday began for me with my usual visit to jen’s place. she offered on the rocks dedicated to her father and also mentioned that she has been ‘reallowed’ to offer her parody nightpenguins. apparently cafepress, through which she sells her penguintoons as posters, etc., had briefly concluded that she was actually selling edward hopper’s nighthawks. this sent me on a day reminding myself about hopper and the work and today you see the results on rosh hashannah which begins the jewish new year 5770.
i first discovered edward hopper during the early 1970's while living in new york and new jersey. i think i most hooked on to the sparse, big city and east cost reality including people who retained the precious anonymity i felt when i was there. neither i, nor they, needed to tell the story - or be judged for it - unless we felt like it. later i learned more officially about about the artist.
chicago art institute, which houses nighthawks, describes hopper somewhat succinctly:

‘although trained as an illustrator, Edward Hopper spent five years studying painting under Robert Henri, a member of the Ashcan School of painters who focused on the gritty realities of the city. The Ashcan School influenced hopper’s style, though he tended to depict not the chaos of urban living but the sense of urban isolation.‘

'Edward Hopper (1882–1967), creator of art that novelist John Updike described as "calm, silent, stoic, luminous, and classic," is one of the most enduring and popular American painters of the 20th century. His paintings have been celebrated as a part of the very grain and texture of the American experience.’

nighthawks has been described as iconic and one of the most recognized american art works. it’s the cover art on my most recent american painting survey find. it also appears to be the most ‘covered’ image in art since the mona lisa. check out wikipedia and nighthawks revisiting and revisited.
one way or another nighthawks took over an even more special section in my when i found out something new in the immediate post 9/11 days. hopper painted nighthawks in 1942, the year of my birth and the year after the japanese pearl harbor bombing. apparently hopper began the painting immediately after the attack. it symbolized a generally dazed american public and perhaps the thought of an attack even on new york. i sent out an email to whomever which is now lost so today i’m happy to try the blog way of keeping my discovery around.
p.s. that's van gogh's night cafe trying to take over the art spaces at the top; sorry the real nighthawks is so small.

Labels: , , , ,