Arts History Update for early November 2014

3 Nov

Arts History Update for early November 2014 by David Cummins

Vincent Van Gogh 1853-1890 left Paris in February 1888 for Arles in the Provence [just north of the Carmague on the Mediterranean]. He immediately painted landscapes but also still life such as Shoes (1888). Shoes depicts the flooring of the Yellow House in Arles where Gauguin was living at the time and Vincent spent many hours At an earlier time in Paris he painted A Pair of Shoes (1885) that is now in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. This painting has been variously called Boots With Laces, Old Shoes With Laces or simply Shoes. It is an intellectual masterpiece as well as an art masterpiece, generating many conversations.

Lesley Chamberlain writes “Boots With Laces radiates a conceptual persona, extending painting into philosophy. Like Cervantes Don Quixote and Dostoyevsky’s Idiot and Kierkegaard’s Seducer, The Shoes does not just exist as a work of art but creates a special plane of thinking within their space”. Lesley Chamberlain, A Shoe Story: Van Gogh, the philosophers, and the West (Harbour Books Ltd 2014) ABE Books $18.29 incl s&h

The pair of worn work boots is painted in the dull brown of his Nuenen palette set against a fresh background of gold, thick paint with distinct brush strokes in the foreground and a cross-hatch pattern in the back so the surface has as much importance as his subject. The boots are highly charged moral and symbolic objects. Chamberlain says “I think it has the conceptual persona to open up a space in which we feel the products of more than a century’s profound reflection on work, and reason, and truth, and happiness ….”

Martin Heidegger 1889-1976 wrote a short treatise The Origin of the Work of Art based on a series of lectures he gave in 1935-1936 first published in German in 1950 after the War, and often reprinted (transl. Zygmunt Adamczewski, University of Waterloo 1963 at 71 pages). He spoke of the shoes painted by Van Gogh as belonging to a peasant woman who works in the fields. They are her equipment. He said “This equipment belongs to the earth, and it is protected in the world of the peasant woman. From out of this protected belonging the equipment itself rises to its resting-within-itself”. Heidegger was interested in how human beings struggled to feel at home in their skins, having written a masterpiece of philosophy Being And Time (1927).

Meyer Schapiro 1904-1996 an art historian wrote The Still Life as a Personal Object – A Note on Heidegger and Van Gogh (1968) that appeared in his book Theory and Philosophy of Art: Style, Artist and Society: Selected Papers (George Braziller 1994) Texas Tech Library N66.S345. Here is the Note on Heidegger and Van Gogh in 21 pages the professional art historian dissected the famous philosopher’s speculations while entirely missing the point or thrust of the philosopher’s message.

Enter Jacques Derrida 1930-2004 in 1977 at Columbia University with Meyer Schapiro in the audience, saying “What does Schapiro do? This is an investigation that smells of the police”. Jacques Derrida, The Truth in Painting (transl. Geoff Bennington & Ian McLeod, University of Chicago Press 1987) Texas Tech Library BH39.D4513. We would do well to recall that it was Cezanne who replied to an inquiry by saying “I will provide the truth in painting”, and said no more. The inquirer did not understand and thought Cezanne stopped short of doing what he said he would. Cezanne obviously thought each of his paintings provided the truth in painting.

We would all do well to look at art and do what Heidegger was doing which is to release things from their status as commodities and to internalize our appreciation of the thing by making it a part of our journey in life.


Funkadesi is the musical sound of a future global village by a Chicago group of musicians, Friday November 7 at 7:00 pm Texas Tech University Student Union Building Allen Theatre $18 by Presidential Lecture & Performance Series and


At Arts History Lecture Series in the Texas Tech Museum Jones Auditorium Dr. Christian Conrad suggested that the late paintings by J.M.W. Turner 1775-1851 anticipated Impressionism and the Modernist movement. A book J.M.W. Turner Painting Set Free (eds. David Blayney Brown, Amy Concannon & Sam Smiles, Getty Publications November 2014) agrees.

The EY Exhibition: Late Turner – Painting Set Free is at Tate Britain in London England September 10 – January 25, 2015 and covers the period 1835-1851 when his peers judged him harshly and thought him indulgent and overly dramatic. Those may have been misjudgments.

Dr. Conrad did two lectures on Edouard Manet 1832-1886 and in the second discussed a time [1874] when Manet, Monet and Renoir were all outside of Paris to the northwest on the Seine River at Argenteuil. Willibald Sauerlander, Manet Paints Monet: A Summer in Argenteuil (transl. David Dollenmayer, Getty Publications December 2014) available for pre-order.

Faces of Impressionism: Portraits From the Musee d’Orsay exhibition is at the Renzo Piano Pavilion of the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth Texas from October 19 through January 25, 2015 catalogue $45 hardcover $29.95 softcover 272 pages with 170 color illustrations

Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity exhibition was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City from February 26 – May 27, 2013

Intimate Impressionism from the National Gallery of Art exhibition was at the de Young Legion of Honor Fine Art Museums of San Francisco March 29 – August 3, 2014

The Age of Impressionism: Great French Paintings from the Sterling and Francine Clark Institute exhibition was at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston from December 22, 2013 – May 4, 2014

Overview of impressionism


Nothing but the Clouds Unchanged: Artists in World War I (eds. Gordon Hughes & Philipp Blom, Getty Research Institute November 2014 hardcover 192 pages) the physical and psychological devastation of the war altered the course of art history. available for pre-order.


Texas Cowboys’ Christmas Ball is a 19th century dance reenactment at Pioneer Hall in Anson Texas north of Abilene
December 18-20, 2014 at 8:00 pm – midnight $10 tickets with the Muddy Creek House Band performing. Or read about it Paul H. Carlson, Dancin’ in Anson: A History of the Texas Cowboys’ Christmas Ball (Texas Tech University Press November 15, 2014) pre-order at $22.17 n the 1880s, there wasn’t much in Anson, Texas, in the way of entertainment for the area’s cowhands. But Star Hotel operator M. G. Rhodes changed that when he hosted a Grand Ball the weekend before Christmas. A restless traveling salesman, rancher, and poet from New York named William Lawrence Chittenden, a guest at the Star Hotel, was so impressed with the soiree that he penned his observances in the poem “The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball.”
      Reenacted annually since 1934 based on Chittenden’s poem, the contemporary dances attract people from coast to coast, from Canada, and from across Europe and elsewhere. Since 1993 Grammy Award-winning musical artist Michael Martin Murphey has played at the popular event. 
      Far more than a history of the Jones County dance, Paul Carlson analyzes the long poem, defining the many people and events mentioned and explaining the Jones County landscape Chittenden lays out in his celebrated work. The book covers the evolution of cowboy poetry and places Chittenden and his poem chronologically within the ever-changing western genre.
      Dancin’ in Anson: A History of the Texas Cowboys’ Christmas Ball is a novel but refreshing look at a cowboy poet, his poem, and a joyous Christmas-time family event that traces its roots back nearly 130 years.

The poem was set to music in 1910 listen up Chittenden published the poem in Ranch Verses (1893) and its 15th edition is free at Google Books, scroll down to pages 12-17 for the poem

Candlelight at the Ranch is December 12-13 at the National Ranching Heritage Center at Texas Tech University where volunteers in period costume re-create pioneer/ranching holiday scenes from 6:00 – 9:00 pm.

WRCA Working Ranch Cowboys Association 19th Annual World Championship Ranch Rodeo is November 6-9 at Amarillo Civic Center and Rules of the Rodeo are different from professional rodeo and stress teamwork rather than individual achievement. Events are Bronc Riding, Stray Gathering (four person team) Branding (four person team) Penning (four person team) and Wild Cow-Milking (four person team) the latter a curious event that hails from the need to check cows on the range with the capacity for milk to sustain calves. Sandhill Cattle Company from Earth Texas [62 miles northwest of Lubbock] won the top rodeo team twice over the years, most recently in 2013.

Cowboy Up!


On Tuesday October 21 jury selection began in the trial of Thomas Dixon, MD for the July 11, 2012 killing of Joseph Sonnier III, MD chief pathologist for Covenant Medical Center, in his Lubbock home. Sonnier was shot and stabbed. David Neal Sheppard pled guilty to the killing in August 2013 and was sentenced to life in prison. He said that Dr. Dixon paid him to perform the killing. Trial began Monday October 27. with Matt Powell Sunshine Stanek and Zach Johnson conducting the prosecution and Dan Hurley and Frank Sellers representing the defendant. Opening statement by the prosecution was as expected, for the first time publicly identifying Richelle Shetina as Dixon’s former girlfriend and Sonnier’s present girlfriend at the time of the murder. Defense opening statement revealed its strategy laying the blame for the killing entirely on the demented mind of David Neal Sheppard and attempting to cast him as unreliable in his current stance of naming Dixon as his employer.

Murder for hire is a rarity in these parts so this matter has attracted much attention.


October 12 has long [since 1937] been celebrated nationally as Columbus Day in honor of the Italian sailor Christopher Columbus 1451-1506 who explored for the Spanish Crown and discovered something that was named America [in honor of Amerigo Vespucci], was thought then to be the East Indies and the people he found were named Indians, but was actually the Bahamas and Cuba and Hispaniola [Haiti and Dominican Republic today]. He was not so much an explorer as he was a conqueror, seeker of wealth and colonizer using the Native people as slaves and causing hundreds of thousands to die. He made two more voyages to the Caribbean Sea area. The Carib “Indians” were decimated by the conditions of slavery. It is difficult to find a Carib today. The federal government continues to recognize Columbus Day holiday on the second Monday of October, but the states of Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, California and Washington, states with substantial populations of Native Americans, no longer recognize a Columbus Day holiday. In October 2014 the City of Seattle replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day and the City of Bellingham Washington replaced it with Coast Salish Day in honor of the Salish “Indians” who still live there. I have a ceramic piece of art in my home made by a Salish artist but he is an inland [Bitterroot Mountains] Salish who lives in the confederated tribes area in western Montana the Flathead Reservation of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

The City of Minneapolis Minnesota took the lead and in April 2014 designated the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day. Seattle and Bellingham followed a few days ago. We can probably expect more of this in the future. Berkeley California was first to proclaim Indigenous Peoples Day in 1992 Italian-Americans who traditionally enjoy celebrating Columbus Day are offended but they may celebrate as they wish.

Artist Gregg Deal expresses disgust by Native Americans, depicting Columbus Day as a day of false discovery, conquest by the sword, and a skull emblazoned with a Christian cross to recognize the scourge of death brought by the conqueror.

Columbus sailed for the “new world” three times 1492-1504, only on his third voyage finding the Orinoco River of modern Venezuela and recognizing that it was a large land mass and not an island. He continued to believe he had found an approach to the East Indies.

For the record Amerigo Vespucci 1454-1512 was a Florentine sailor who made four voyages 1497-1504 to the “new world” and established by his 1501 voyage to Brazil and the West Indies that these lands were part of a separate continent [now two continents North and South America] and were not Asia’s easterly outskirts. He was a navigator and cartographer and the land mass was named America for him, later divided into North America, Central America and South America.


If you’ve heard those snippets of information on national public radio titled Texas Originals, you may wish to access them at your leisure and focus on specific persons in whom you have an interest. Humanities Texas sponsored them and they were produced at KUHF Public Radio of Houston Eighty two are available for listening as podcasts.


CIROBE – the Chicago International Remainder & Overstock Book Exposition is October 27-30 at Hilton Chicago Hotel 720 S. Michigan Avenue. Attendees buy bargain books for resale, believing that they can sell what wasn’t sold by publishers and book retailers. Texas Tech University Press has a booth and is offering some of its non-selling books.


Azizah Al-Hibri, The Islamic Worldview: Islamic Jurisprudence – An American Muslim Perspective (American Bar Association Book Publishing 2014 at 241 pages $99)


Lubbock Artists Local Color Studio Tour is Saturday and Sunday November 8 and 9. Ten to 6:00 pm Saturday noon – 6:00 pm Sunday where 49 artists in ten studio locations will be present and selling their original art at reasonable prices. A map is online or at any of the studios. One of the more popular locations will be a famous 19th Street home across from Texas Tech currently owned by Dede and Paul Rider at 3017 19th Street. Rider is a 1968 Tech graduate and now his daughter is also. The home was owned by Texas Tech and used as a home for its Chancellor John Montford from 1999-2008. It was built in 1938 for a prosperous Lubbock family.

This is the 18th annual Lubbock Artists Local Color Studio Tour.



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