Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Chickens in the Grass. . . Alas . . .




Seeing the yard birds out wandering around yesterday made me think of  Gertrude Stein and her famous "Pigeons in the grass, alas.." 

Though what is 'alas' about birds in the grass, I don't  know -- pigeons (or chickens) on the porch, leaving pigeon (or chicken) poo all over, now that would be worth an alas or something stronger.

Stein was one of the literary figures of the 1920s -- known for her Paris salon where all the ex-pat writers gathered. (She was also an early patron and collector of Picasso, Braque, and Matisse.)

 I must admit that I've never been able to make my way through any of her writing except for The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas -- (which is not an autobiography though it is told through the voice of Toklas, Stein's life partner. )
 
I'm not alone in finding much of Gertrude S. unreadable, The following is from her obituary in the New York Times (July 1946.)

Although Gertrude Stein could and did write intelligibly at times, her distinction rested on her use of words apart from their conventional meaning. Her emphasis on sound rather than sense is illustrated by her oft-quoted "A rose is a rose is a rose." 

Devotees of her cult professed to find her restoring a pristine freshness and rhythm to language. Medical authorities compared her effusions to the rantings of the insane. The Hearst press inquired, "Is Gertrude Stein not Gertrude Stein but somebody else living and talking in the same body?" Sinclair Lewis concluded she was conducting a racket.
 Probably in every area of the arts, there are controversial figures  -- I'm thinking of the shark in formaldehyde guy, the composer who limits himself to one note, the performance artist who covers herself in chocolate -- and I'm wondering, Are they pushing the boundaries of art to reveal something new and illuminating? 

Or are they conducting a racket?

 Chickens in the grass, alas . . .
 
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12 comments:

Ms. A said...

I'm not familiar with her work, that I know of, however... chickens and poop I'm familiar with. (and pigeons)

Martin said...

I studied Aesthetics for the final year of my degree. I'm still not sure if it was a help or hindrance to my understanding of art. There's an interesting article here which gives Julian Spalding's opinion of Damien Hirst's work.

Merisi said...

I find myself muttering rather often "a rose is a rose is a rose" - in my eyes, that line alone made her a formidable artist/writer. Now that may be due to my own formidable lack of imagination, nevertheless, she's added some spark to MY thinking, limited as it may be.

I think all that "senseless" trying of pushing the limits is what art is all about. Have we seen enough nudes in paintings, photographs, sculptures? Yes, if you are thinking about depictions of reality as presented before our own eyes. "Seeing" and interpreting differently is what artists do, pushing the boundaries, if we "like" them or not. Think of Mondrian, for example, looking at his paintings, learning how he arrived at those "simple" forms and colors, a whole new way of "seeing", one of many.

Brian Miller said...

ha we will call it art because we have no other word for it....ha...

Tammy said...

I do like the chickens......;-)
Tammy

Tammy said...

I do like the chickens......;-)
Tammy

Wayfarin' Stranger said...

Chickens in the grass produce free-range eggs with deeply colored yolks and flavor no caged bird can match. Chickens in the grass, alas? No! Chickens in the grass, yes!

Kath Marsh said...

No alas to those beautiful chickens in the grass. And fascinating thoughts on Gertrude Stein. Love the discussion you've prompted.

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

I think they are conducting a racket. I think art is in the eye of the beholder not something that is pushed at you through commercialism. -- barbara

Victoria said...

I could never make it through anything by Stein, not even "The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas." I've always thought that most, not all but most, 'artists' who indulge in that kind of behavior probably don't have a lot of talent so they resort to trying to sell their version of "The Emperor's New Clothes."

Vicki Lane said...

Martin. that's a terrific article -- at least, I think so because I pretty much agree.

On the other hand, I have seen and 'appreciated' some art that others, no doubt, would consider rubbish.

These ladies, Jim, do indeed produce those wonderful deep colored yolks.

Victoria -- Emperor's New Clothes is definitely applicable.

juliet said...

Nice post Vicki. I love the chickens, and like you could never make sense of Gertrude Stein except for the Autobiography of Alice B Toklas.
The 'Alas' is completely enigmatic. Is there a certain superiority that comes from being obscure?