Weekly musings on the arts and current events.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Time Out

TallTchr will be in the air and on the road this week. Check back at the end of next week, say around October 2nd, for a new post. Thank you to any and all who visit this site.

Roadtrip; a computer generated image by Steven Stahlberg. Click on the picture for a closer look.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Art of Healing

Permit an analogy. When Thomas Eakins painted The Gross Clinic, he meant it as a tribute to the advent of corrective surgery. The canvas is of heroic dimensions and the composition is classical, with the doctor attending and lecturing in a halo of light. Dr. Gross doesn't merely hold a scalpel in his bloodied hand, but the future of medicine.

Looking at this scene today, however, we are more likely to recoil, like the woman on the left. The physicians are in street clothes and there is no attempt to keep any part of the procedure sterile. We don't see the future of the healing arts, but their crude and brutal past.

Today we are faced with reforming health care in America, and as the President told us last night, we are the last developed democracy to do so. We have a system that permits insurance companies to cherry-pick their clients, charge wildly varying rates, deny benefits in bad faith, and circumscribe doctors. And yet, a vocal minority in America resists change.

It's difficult to know what part of the present system conservatives are trying to protect. Perhaps they believe that medicine will become more impersonal, more vulnerable to political machinations, maybe even more expensive. Perhaps they're simply frightened of the unknown the way all of us fear doctors and hospitals.

I think the present system is untenable and will one day look as primitive as Dr. Gross and his operating theatre. Change will come. The question is: will our nation be healed by it, or overtaken?

The Gross Clinic by Thomas Eakins, 1875; 8' x 6.5'. Click on the picture for a closer look.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Cataclysm

Southern California has been hot and ablaze this week. It may be a fortnight before the flames are extinguished and the air begins to clear. Our sunsets are the color of blood oranges.

Our charred hills and forests were home to deer, rattlesnakes, racoons, opposums, hawks, squirrels, owls, chipmunks, skunks, coyotes, mountain lions, and bears, among many other species. How many of them have perished? Their plight made me think of this allegorical painting by Franz Marc.

The artist had the cataclysm of World War I in mind when he painted The Fate of the Animals and inscribed on the back of the canvas: "And all being is flaming agony" (Und Alles Sein ist flammend Leid). Marc was later drafted and fell at Verdun in 1916.

Here in the city, we've watched the plumes of smoke spread into an opaque haze that burns the backs of our throats. We've read about those who've lost their homes and about the sacrifices of the firefighters. We're tired of it all and wish to be done with it. As for the agony of the fauna of the hills, it is almost too much for us to contemplate.
Tierschicksale, 1913. Click on the picture for a closer look.