Had a great few days visiting son in Philadelphia.  Undertook examination of several different important bits of our culture. 
      First was Kenny Powers, the lead character of the HBO show Eastbound and Down which you’ll find disgustingly hilarious if you’re a guy.  Only disgusting if you play for the other team. 
      Kenny never read any Greek tragedies otherwise he’d have recognized his hubris and the show would have been one-of and not a series.  It starts with him, as a rookie pitcher, winning the World Series for the Atlanta Braves.  He immediately develops a hugely oversized ego, declares himself a free agent, and begins a long obnoxious fall.  
      Our star levels out as a substitute high school gym teacher living with his brother and family.  He happily tells the school principal that his fiancé was an old KP flame and the flame that he was still in love with her chest. Drunk and high on ecstasy at the school dance he parts the crowd to strut his stuff for her.  
      There is a video of it on You Tube which I thought about inserting here, but didn’t after wife said “You better be careful, I’m a substitute too.”  Matter of fact, I looked at all of the clips on You Tube and found none appropriate for this more or less PG space.  
      Next day son and I went to an incredible show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art – Cezanne and Beyond – which intersperses about sixty works by the master with over a hundred by his heirs.  The experience makes for the enlightenment of even the most benighted philistine.*  Just take the two pictures below. 
      On the left Painting with Two Balls 1960 by Jasper Johns and (one of many of) M. Cézanne’s Mt. St Victoire (1903) on the right. johns-j-painting-with-two-balls  There is an elemental simularity – without the balls and thrust of the mountain both would be pure abstraction.  In a cezanne-msv-2very real sense the one by Johns is a reflection of the other.  Relation I mean.  Cezanne himself said “In my thought one doesn’t replace the past, one only adds a new link to it”.  So here we have the Fin de Siècle revolutionary dressed up for the 60’s.  Shows the truth in the saying: “Mediocre artists borrow.  Great artists steal”. ** 
      Son then had to take an exam (Mr.”I got ’em all right…” since the crib) and I went to another museum – the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts where many great American artists took training.  Importantly for me, this included William Merrit Chase whose (one of many) portrait(s) of his wife hangs in our museum here in town.


      I have returned many times to visit  Mrs Chase In Pink starting years ago when I was younger than both then were to now older making all manner of attempts to divine something of the nature of their relationship.  Without success.  I was never able to learn anything.


      Thus I was pleased to find another portrait of her at a much younger age in PAFA thinking that a youthful impetuosity might betray something for me.  No luck.  Thinking about this while reading a review of the Cezanne show I came across a description of M. C’s portrait of Mme. C calling her his “inscrutable muse”.  Aha!

      I’ve written in a post below how it feels to be caressed by the cerebrations of an artist/spouse and realized first that both women enjoyed each sitting.  More to the point neither was a mistress, but a life partner and a hint of ire or eroticism or pretention or whatever (while well within the power of the artist/ husband) would indeed be a betrayal of confidence and likely the last such opportunity.

      Later that afternoon as I was relaxing in son’s apartment enjoying the urban street noises below and waiting for him to return I looked through a book by one of his professors: Arup Uber Engineer Cecil Balmond.  In it (Element)  he draws attention to the, uh, congruence of all the myriad wonderful patterns found the world about  and says: “We are the nervous system of a great mystery”


      Ya, but I’m working on it. 

    *Given a hint and some time, even Kenny would figure out to what the two balls relate…

    ** Jasper Johns said about a Cezanne picture: “As for the Cezanne, it has a synesthetic quality that gives it great senuality-it makes looking equivalent to touching”.

One Response to “Philadelphia”

  1. andrew Says:

    I had a great time with you here. Im glad we went to the Philadelphia museum of art, for me the “Gross Clinic” was cool to see. Especially after spending three years in Philadelphia. Cant wait for you to come back in a month. By the way, “Eastbound and Down” was just signed for another season.

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