GreenasSky A gambol in the goodies by Sloan Nota

Children in Interesting Times

Milky Way's local supercluster.

Milky Way’s local supercluster.

I grew up in an educated household that did not believe in space aliens. Period.  What were we, idiots? Yet now you and I live in a time of serious and costly scientific searches for beings somewhere else in the universe. Of course we are, how anthropocentric we were back then! Vanity. Law of averages. Great big infinite universe. Bound to be other intelligences. Right?

So I was shaken by this recent science headline: 100,000 Galaxies, and No Obvious Signs of Life.  Silly, but I feel bereft. Like a vacuum has sucked fellow-feeling from the universe and we’re back to being the Only Ones.

Reminds me how often contemporary life requires paradigm shifts.  Deep down, the bedrock of what is keeps shifting. Remember when our bodies were us?  Now our personal cells are outnumbered ten to one by bacterial cells.  A Scientific American article can say, we are practically walking petri dishes. Funny, you don’t look like a petri dish.

And now I don’t only have a brain in my cranium I have another brain in my gut.  The ENS [enteric nervous system] was serving animals as a “brain” long before vertebrates swam along with their spinal chords and crania.  The ENS remains active in us today.

The Eden of biotic diversity of my youth has given way to a Great Extinction.  Polar bears, tigers, elephants — pillars of animal majesty — are on the rout. Pluto was a planet, now it’s just a rock.  Crouching under school desks  is no way to escape an atomic bomb.  People with darker-than-white skins are inferior (unless they surf).  A human outer ear can come out of a 3D printer.  And here comes Augmented Reality. A future insult may be Who’s writing your augmentation?


These are big changes for a psyche to absorb.  The givens get taken away.  Although no animal we know of processes reality in abstractions, other beasts have a sense of continuity, of what feels normal.  What would it do to a chimp if you kept changing its habitat — a cage with a stainless steel feeding bowl, then spacious open lands, then housed next to a noisy train terminal with its shrill pace. My guess is the chimp would go a little mad.  Be disturbed.  So I wonder what happens inside humans who adapt and adapt and adapt as what’s true keeps morphing out from under them.

I ask myself and I hear the supposed Chinese curse May your children live in interesting times.

Categories science, nature, technology | Leave a comment

Botanicals in Art

garden painting by Lebasque

Le Cannet, Madame Lebasque Reading in the Garden, painted by Henri Lebasque. via Wikipedia Commons.

Say you’re in a garden, a palette of greenery, petal colors, everything seems tamed and peaceful.  Yet right next to you a vine pushes upward in loose spirals while a tree limb edges away from the shadow of a neighboring tree.  A basil patch detects hungry ants and sets internal defenses off as rootlets of the fruit tree grope their way around an underground rock. Humans don’t perceive at this time scale but everything alive is busy.  A dandelion rockets seed out into trajectories predetermined by the sphere it has become.  If it had stayed the plate-shape of its yellow flowering then its seeds would have a punier reach.

dandelion seeds

Taraxacum officinale seed, Photo by Greg Hume.  via Wikipedia Commons.

Cave paintings ignored the plant world at first but a few trees bloomed before the rock-art age was done. That end appears closely tied with the onset of agriculture and settled living — being rooted in a place.   Domesticated animals perhaps made hunters obsolete. Danger, blood and guts — that’s so yesterday.

What hunters didn’t note ensuing generations have made up for.  An eden of botanical species depicted in a splendor of styles and materials.  Art made today remains in vigorous bloom.

Michael-Sherrill mixed media, Yucca.

Temple of the Cool Beauty, Yucca by Michael-Sherrill. Silica bronze, Moretti glass, porcelain with abraded glaze.  via American Craft Council.


David Ligare painting

Naturaleza muerta con cactu -y naranjas,David-Ligare. Painting. via Trasdos.


Zadok Ben-David, Blackfield


Zadok Ben-David, Blackfield

Zadok Ben-David, Blackfield. Painted laser-cut steel. via


El sueño de DAlembert by Carlos Forns Bada

El sueño de DAlembert by Carlos Forns Bada. Paint.   via espaitactel.


Laura Letinsky, Unntitled #35.

Laura Letinsky, Untitled #35. Photography. via artsblog.


These artists hint at the vigor of plantlife in the modern imagination.  Go enjoy an armload today.

The artists:

  • Michael Sherrill.  A range of forms and techniques.  Some very wonderful creations.
  • Zadok Ben-David.  His Blackfield (shown above) is a space-specific floor installation containing up to 20.000 steel etched flowers deriving from 19th Century Victorian encyclopaedias.  Black on one side, colored on the other.
  • David Ligare.  He calls himself a Post-Modern, Neo-Classical American artist.  Paints still-lifes and figures in gorgeous light.
  • Carlos Forns Bada.  A wild imagination where flora  and fauna uneasily converge.  Note at the bottom of his work above — a line of mechanisms has joined the cast of characters.
  • Laura Letinsky.  Among other things she’s a still life photographer with a brain.  It’s fun watching as her styles evolve.


See also my Pinterest boards:

Categories contemporary art, Gaea, history, science, nature, specific Pinterest boards | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Face It


If you can’t paint, don’t try selling us your paintings.  I get impatient with the profound smudge, the swashbuckle of off-the-shelf colors, the — oh, this is the worst — the emotionful portrait in which the face has met a calamity while the hair, the shoulders remain intelligible.  Either the features — note: we call them features — have been scraped or blurred or blotted, or the sitter has just met with an unfortunate airplane propeller.

Rembrandt’s great portraits?  How about he twists his biggest brush into wet paint over the eyes nose and mouth? Ah, but Rembrandt could paint. So why would he?

Here are examples of blotchy brushwork.  As in Rembrandt’s late portraits you don’t miss the emotional humanity on display.  For me this ability to capture elusive nuances of expression is among art’s highest achievements.  Whereas the Mona Lisa’s fun but she leaves me cold.


painting by Linda E Anderson

half torso of a man by Linda E Anderson


Tai-Shan-Schierenberg painting

male head by Tai-Shan-Schierenberg


When You Get There, by Mia Bergeron

When You Get There, by Mia Bergeron


Male Head by  Ho-Jun Lee

Male Head by Ho-Jun Lee

Categories art | 4 Comments

The Potency of Life Force

Snowbound Tree, Feb 24, 2015

Snowbound Tree. Feb 24, 2015

Trees in my yard are still piled round with snow from the year’s record snowfalls.   A fruit tree first had snow piled well above where branches spread out from the trunk.  Snow-line above my head.  Then days of wan sun, days of tepid melting, and life force becomes part of the act. Celestial sun melts snow from the flanks of the pile — but sap rising in the tree also melts snow packed against the trunk.  A snowbank with a doughnut hole.

Life, which we still so little understand, generates warmth.  Generates.  Because trees trap celestial sun and knit it into living cells that busy themselves in organic processes.  When you rub your hands together you get warmth.  A living tree harbors a million simultaneous activities, chemical, mechanical, electric — and those traveling cells, dividing cells, porous then impermeable cells, fending-off-intruder cells act as a billion pairs of rubbing hands.  Heat that melts the snow.

Life emerged into a universe that had done fine without it for billions of years.  Matter up to then had been acted upon but had never been an actor.  Yet life acts. Creates.  Pushes onward.  The urgent spread of living forms — pansies, turtles, grasshoppers, kelp — suggests that life force isn’t ultimately focused on the shape of a donkey’s ears but on keeping life force itself from ever being stopped. To self-replicate self-replicate self-replicate and never get snuffed out.

We don’t have scientific language for this yet but life force seems to bestow willfulness unto aggregates of atoms.  Life seems to include the imperative, keep living, that mere elements such as boron do not show.

Emerging tree Mar 31, 2015

Emerging tree Mar 31, 2015

Categories Gaea, science, nature | Tagged , | Leave a comment

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