JOURNAL: Nature, art, cultural perspectives
How does their fantastic plumage develop across the hugely diverse array of the species – and by what process do we (and the creatures of their own habitats) perceive it?
Enjoy the amazing footage in this project video:
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Aldo Leopold was a conservationist who made important natural surveys of the Colorado River region in the early 20th century. His observations, and the stark warnings he made about the wanton misuse of resources and interference in its well-established eco-systems are a relevant prophecy today:
“Do we not already sing our love for and obligation to the land of the free and the home of the brave?,” he asked. “Yes, but just what and whom do we love? Certainly not the soil, which we are sending helter-skelter down river. Certainly not the waters, which we assume have no function except to turn turbines, float barges, and carry off sewage. Certainly not the plants, of which we exterminate whole communities without batting an eye. Certainly not the animals, of which we have already extirpated many of the largest and most beautiful species. A land ethic of course cannot prevent the alteration, management, and use of these ‘resources,’ but it does affirm their right to continued existence, and, at least in spots, their continued existence in a natural state. In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it.”
What would he say to the fact that the Colorado is now so vastly overdepleted from supplying some of the world’s fastest growing metropolitan & agricultural centers in regions that could never support such populations?
Wherever natural crisis occurs, human disaster is not far behind. That’s the cycle that Leopold recognized. His investigations, and the development of engineering works on the Colorado, are detailed in a new book from anthropologist/ethnobotanist Wade Davis. It reminds me of Timothy Eagan’s excellent work on the Dust Bowl, “The Worst Hard Time,” in its bleak forecast of needlessly repetitive history.
Wade Davis is an author & National Geographic resident explorer, better known to many of us through his tv documetaries delving into the daily lives & traditional philosophies of indigenous peoples.
Ivan Kramskoy (also Kramskoi, 1837-1887) was one of the leaders of the original student protest at the Academy, and a founding force of the Itinerant movement. He is known primarily as a portrait artist; beginning in the 1870s he compiled a series of portraits of famous contemporaries – writers, scholars and fellow artists – who formed the backbone of the cultural revolution.
Self-Portrait, 1867 One of several self-depictions
In keeping with his democratic vision, his portrayals extended to every part of the social spectrum, from the nobility to the most humble peasant classes. His portraits are outwardly simple, but full of a psychological complexity that reflected his prowess as a critic. His artistic style was bold, decisive, and masterful – a fitting reflection of his inspired and driven character.
Christ in the Wilderness, 1872 A thought-provoking portrayal of Jesus’ forty days, with a deeply human Christ weary and alone in a desert moonscape.
Portrait of Leo Tolstoy, 1873 One of the best-known portraits of the great writer and philanthropist. In many ways, his familiar literary works embody the philosophies of the Itinerants.
Mina Moiseev, 1882 One of Kramskoy’s best “peasant paintings,” an individual he painted again several months later:
Peasant with a Bridle, 1883 An outstanding example of the high degree of realism achieved in this style of art. Like many of his contemporaries, Kramskoy favored the dramatic contrasts of strong chiaroscuro that add gravity to an otherwise ordinary scene. The elaborate and careful detail elevates the subject to an almost sacred level.
Click here for a larger detail view)
Portrait of Dr. Karl Rauhfus, 1887 Kramskoy died while painting this portrait. The medium he used here, known as sauce (pronounced sow-say) is a partly liquid blend of pastels made with rich Chasov Yar clays. He used this method in black and white elsewhere, with a similar effect to charcoal:
Portrait of Painter Ivan Shishkin, another famous Itinerant artist
Sophia Kramskoy, the artist’s daughter – one of many famiy portraits
Ivan Kramskoy, the artist’s son
Josephine Kramskoy, the artist’s wife
Images courtesy of Wikipaintings. See more: WIKIPAINTINGS – Ivan Kramskoy Gallery
Check out this infographic from OnlinePsychologyDegree.net (Creative Commons BY/NC/ND)
“Supposedly, the world should have ended about a month ago, on December 21, 2012. If you’re like many other people who were at least kind of expecting the apocalypse to actually come through, don’t beat yourself up about it—the fact is, humans have a long, long history of believing wholeheartedly that the end is near, only to have the world stick around for another few thousand years…”
“Yosemite Winter Night” by Wally Pacholka, as featured on National Geographic and the fantastic TWAN website. Does anything give you chills like a gorgeous shot of the night sky? Feast your eyes on this panorama! I couldn’t think of a better way to usher in the new year than with a timeless view of the Milky Way.
TWAN (“The World at Night”) is an international effort to capture the universal wonder of the starry sky – an experience that humans have held in awe since the dawn of time, and sadly one that comes at a premium in urban areas where light pollution robs millions of this quintessential joy.
Here’s another from this outstanding gallery, a view of the Milky Way over a Chaco Canyon kiva:
The Peredvizhniki (Russian for “Itinerants” – think the English word “peregrine”) were a group of 19th century Russian artists who, like the early Romantics of western Europe, ushered in an artistic revolution that rebelled against convention, embracing nature and emphasizing the beauty and drama of common life.
What started out as a protest against restraints in the academic community evolved into a new genre where realism of staggering beauty met with the freedom of impressionism, firmly establishing Russian art talent as some of the foremost in the world.
In 1863, fourteen students withdrew from the Imperial Academy as a protest against what they felt was socially polarized art. Several years later, they formed an artist’s cooperative that organized itinerant art exhibits all over the country. Their ideals about the democratization of art, and the traveling displays that earned their name, helped express the liberal principles they espoused, bringing the diversity and realism of freelance art to the public.
Right: An interactive collage of Peredvizhniki artists (WikiPaintings)
The Itinerant movement was loosely associated with a wider group of intellectuals, including many of the great literary minds of the era, and other intelligentsia who supported social reform and freedom of expression. While much of Western Europe was in the throes of political upheavals and intense struggles over censorship, Russia experienced a kind of cultural explosion, a brief window for a striking brand of individuality and creativity to blossom.
Among the great names of the Peredvizhniki, Ivan Kramskoy, Ilya Repin, Nikolai Ge, and others celebrated the expansive beauty of Russian landscapes – brought unparalleled drama to the portrait genre – painted Biblical scenes with a strangely candid new intensity – and made lowly, mundane aspects of peasant life into a poignant expression of fine art.
Next, KRAMSKOY: The Master
It’s about that time of year (for me, at least) when days are shorter, itineraries are longer, and blog posting wanes. My part of the country was fortunate to enjoy a spectacular jewel-toned autumn before the trees lost their leaves for the season, but the long stretch of suspiciously mild weather left many wondering if winter had lost its way. Late maybe, but not lost, judging by the mountainous clouds and frosty-smelling air. Christmas may be wintry after all?
So all this had me thinking about some of my posts from years past, and generally all things “winter” – among them a little tangent exploration of the humble snowflake:
Ice castles anyone? From National Geographic:
NatGeo: In Praise of Winter
And some especially appealing shots of the British Isles under the spell of a winter blast a couple of years back:
Let’s not forget the elegant swan, winter’s most graceful totem. If your December is as hectic as most people find it, a moment of “swan therapy” might be just the prescription. Few animals are as inspiringly soothing to see in photos.
Need to brush up on your reindeer trivia? Here’s some bite-sized factoids to keep handy when Rudolph comes calling:
Of course there are plenty more to choose from. Feel free to browse my archives at your pleasure! If time allows, I’ll soon have a new project in the works: a musk ox portrait to suit the season. More to come soon!