Several deaths in the art-at-large world today, Feb 1, 2012

Today offers a sad and strange co-incidence of reports of the deaths of several well-known people in the world-of-all-things-considered-art: artist and, of lately, poet Dorothea Tanning at 101, Polish poet and Nobel prize winner Wislawa Szymborska at 88, Soul Train founder, host and producer Don Cornelius at 75 (of suicide in LA) and artist and punk musician Mike Kelley at 57 (also of sucide, also in LA).

Harriet Blog has posts of Dorothea Tanning and Wislawa Szymborska.

One of Tanning's most popular paintings was Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Tanning also had many books including two memoirs, Birthday, named after a famous painting (I picked this link even though it veers from the topic of the painter and more towards how people can respond to her work. It was an interesting post.) of hers, and Between Lives. Read an excerpt from her poetry book on her publisher's page at Graywolf Press.

Some of Wislawa Szymborska's writings translated into English can be found at the following link: her Nobel Pize speech, her poetry from the Nobel site, and poetry and reading from Harriet.

Read about Don Cornelius's important and culture changing public life and sometimes troubled private life at the Huffington Post. I'm grateful for what Soul Train brought to American and World Culture and music.

The intriguing work and sad end to controversial installation artist Mike Kelley is covered at the Guardian. "It is totally shocking that someone would decide to do this, someone who has success and renown and options," said Helen Winer, who used to represent Kelley. But I just saw the play "Red" last night, about the painter Mark Rothko who also ended his own life back in 1970, and upon the tails of that script, to me it is not surprising. Kelley was the artist who created the strange doll pictured here on this post. This thing stared at me (always catching my attention for a moment before getting to the music inside) from the cover of my Sonic Youth CASSETTE TAPE of the album "Dirty."

The thing about deaths of artists, or anyone, is that it brings to light things we all should have been paying attention to and honoring before the deaths of the people. I'm sorry I wasn't more aware of the work of some of these artists. It shows how much there is out there to learn about and learn from, before the artist is gone.

I will end with a poem titled "On Death, with Exaggeration" by Szymborska, retrieved from her Nobel Prize page.

On Death, without Exaggeration


It can't take a joke,
find a star, make a bridge.
It knows nothing about weaving, mining, farming,
building ships, or baking cakes.

In our planning for tomorrow,
it has the final word,
which is always beside the point.

It can't even get the things done
that are part of its trade:
dig a grave,
make a coffin,
clean up after itself.

Preoccupied with killing,
it does the job awkwardly,
without system or skill.
As though each of us were its first kill.

Oh, it has its triumphs,
but look at its countless defeats,
missed blows,
and repeat attempts!

Sometimes it isn't strong enough
to swat a fly from the air.
Many are the caterpillars
that have outcrawled it.

All those bulbs, pods,
tentacles, fins, tracheae,
nuptial plumage, and winter fur
show that it has fallen behind
with its halfhearted work.

Ill will won't help
and even our lending a hand with wars and coups d'etat
is so far not enough.

Hearts beat inside eggs.
Babies' skeletons grow.
Seeds, hard at work, sprout their first tiny pair of leaves
and sometimes even tall trees fall away.

Whoever claims that it's omnipotent
is himself living proof
that it's not.

There's no life
that couldn't be immortal
if only for a moment.

Death
always arrives by that very moment too late.

In vain it tugs at the knob
of the invisible door.
As far as you've come
can't be undone.

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