LITTLE JEANIE IS NOW ATTENDING
THE WARREN G. HARDING SCHOOL
Decayed Tooth, Balsa Wood, and Silly Putty
I made my debut in show biz in an oral hygiene pageant. I played “Bad Breath.” No, no, I’m wrong! I’m just being rotten here. Actually, what I played was “Decayed Tooth.” They had me all dressed up in a “Decayed Tooth” costume. Dawn Strickland played a toothbrush, Jack Robinson played a squeezed tube of toothpaste, and Alex Joshaway played “Mouthwash.” I’ll never forget it. The lavish reviews came out the day after in the Warren G. Harding School’s Daily Bugle.
Our school, by the way, was the result of some of the aftermath of the Teapot Dome Scandal. One of the local contractors had a big balsawood surplus. It was the only school I ever knew anywhere that was built out of balsawood and silly putty. I’ll never forget the day it burned down.
Unfortunately, none of us was in it. Just realize how little you understand what fate plays in your life. How many of you ever had a school that you went to burn down? This is an unsung dream to most kids. And yet they don’t really want it to happen. There’s a certain amount of affection connected with the old dump. A certain amount of “Gee whiz! Wow!” You feel like you belong. You walk up the steps and somehow you feel warm. Especially if you’re there on time that day and got your homework done. And then there’s other days—your guts are sweatin’ and you arrive at school with a terrific feeling of incipient disaster. That any minute now everything in the room is gonna hit the fan. A lot of stuff in the room is gonna hit it and you’re gonna be right in the way of it. It’s the love/hate syndrome.
This was one of the problems that we went through in America in the 1960s. Millions of people both loved and hated America. Anything you owe a debt to you hate, ultimately. The thing that you’re always involved in personally—the thing that cradles you, figuratively, and gives you your place in the world, you will always hate for it. And, at the same time, love for it.
[END OF PART 1]
Although I’ve seen hundreds of original great paintings in museums, most of my viewing over the decades has been looking at reproductions in books. I know from comparing the original with the image in the catalog of the exhibit, that there is a difference in several ways, not only in scale, but in the accuracy of color. Considering the scores of art books I own, I have recognized but accepted these differences, and, in truth, forgotten the color differences. I suppose this is a psychological lapse, accepting what can’t be avoided if I want to frequently see and feel some presence of great art.
Landscape painting, compared to pictures with people, has contradictory responses from me. I tend to consider landscape somewhat lower on my scale of values. Yet I have the highest regard for landscapes by Cezanne and Turner (seascapes), and Van Gogh among my personal group of favorite paintings. And, although Vermeer is one of my favorites, his few landscapes didn’t appeal to me until one of them surprised me greatly. And the same thing happened to me upon seeing a Van Gogh I’d seem many times in reproduction. Seeing the originals is a different world.
VIEW OF DELFT MAURITSHUIS, THE HAGUE
Having noted it many times in reproductions, I’ve immediately turned the page, never giving it a thought. Just a nice view of a city seen from across some water. Then I encountered the real thing in The Hague museum. I was stunned. It was a living, breathing entity! In part it may be the tiny dots of sunlight paint that Vermeer scattered throughout. It must be in such details, only visible in the original, that he captured life. The rapture. I’ve never seen such richness available in reproductions.
THE HARVEST VAN GOGH MUSEUM, AMSTERDAM
Having seen it many times in reproductions, I never gave it any special thought. Just a view of farm-fields from a distance (although this reproduction does have a lot of vitality!). This, despite my great enthusiasm for many of Van Gogh’s landscapes. Then I saw the original. Glowing, vigorous, a rich aliveness–the fullness of bright life, the breath of all human and vegetative activity, a living entity in the summer sun. I do not know where that life comes from in the original. I only know that it is there. The rapture.
I can’t capture such joy here.
Technology can’t capture such joy in reproductions.
But most of the time it’s our only option.
How many other reproduced paintings lose their values thusly?
I can only provide pixels of reproductions of reproductions of reproductions.
None of them are like the originals, so you just must believe me!