living in truth, Risk, Uncategorized, Uncertainty, urban sketching

Half-Truths and Lies

Events recently reminded me of sketches done while wandering in the halls of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. not so long ago.  This is an inspiring place which often is missed by visitors to the capital because it is not on the Mall. It is is a bit off the beaten path.  But in this Gallery is so much history, so much art, and so much that is astonishing.  It is a relaxing place too with lots of places to sit, including in a covered light- and plant-filled atrium.

tennyson

“A lie that is half-truth is the darkest of all lies.” – Alfred Lord Tennyson Illustraton: Pencil sketch by Black Elephant Blog author of a bronze bust of Alfred Lord Tennyson sculpted by William Ordway Partridge and located in the Smithsonian Museum of American Art

Co-joined with the Smithsonian’s Museum of American Art (which is where I came across an intriguing bust of Alfred Lord Tennyson), this entire city block is devoted to the proud history and artistic accomplishments of the people of the United States, and visitors to the United States, right up to the present time.  Like the National Constitution Center and Independence Hall in Philadelphia, these two museums present powerful evidence of the fact that this nation is built on a pretty solid foundation, if only we would bother to understand and protect it.

With so much to keep up with these days, it’s more likely than not that we will pay inadequate attention to the requirements for this solid foundation–which is a huge risk that has been with us at least since the onset of the digital revolution.

In our social media-saturated world, we are more likely to be guilty of rushing to judgment than pausing long enough to try to understand what’s going on.  That’s why taking some time out to sit in the National Portrait Gallery can be helpful!  Sketching has a way of concentrating the mind at the same time that it opens us up to new perspectives.  At the National Portrait Gallery, you can bring your drawing tools right inside, and the atrium/courtyard is a perfect place to practice drawing people in motion too.

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Innovation, Risk, Surprise, Uncertainty

Reading in a New Fiscal Year

Lake scene 2

Illustration: Watercolor and ink by Black Elephant Blog author

Today begins a new month, a new fiscal year even, and fall is in the air. Since every now and then, someone asks what I am reading, I have turned my attention to the question myself.  Some books on innovation have been covered earlier on this blog, particularly here.   But, why begin with innovation if we are not sure where, when or why, it matters?  Context can be helpful.

Upcoming on this blog, therefore, will be a few brief overviews of some important, and possibly even provocative, books which provide fresh optics on historical contexts, and which were published in the last year.  Some of these books review how we got to now and make suggestions for how to move forward.

These include:

The Shape of the New:  Four Ideas and How They Made the Modern World, by Scott L. Montgomery and Daniel Chirot.

Fields of Blood:  Religion and the History of Violence, by Karen Armstrong, an expert on comparative religion.

This Changes Everything:  Capitalism vs. The Climate, by Naomi Klein, who may be familiar to some for her investigation into “disaster capitalism.”  This book is so sweeping “and of such consequence,”  in the view of The New York Times,  that it is “almost unreviewable.”

But, to lighten the load, some fun reading is also in order.  I recommend:

Illustration: Painting by Giovanni Boldini (1888) - Wikipedia

Illustration: Painting of Madame Marthe de Florian by Giovanni Boldini (1888) – Wikipedia

A Paris Apartment, by Michelle Gable, a book which also came out last year. It is based on the true story of an apartment the contents of which came to light in 2010, 70 years after its tenant had hurriedly left Paris.

Illustration: Self-portrait of Giovanni Boldini (1892), from Wikipedia

Illustration: Self-portrait of Giovanni Boldini (1892), from Wikipedia

In the apartment among antiques and other valuables, which had been untouched or unseen by anyone in all this time, was an original painting of a beautiful lady. Martha de Florian, by Giovanni Boldini.  Boldini was a contemporary of Edgar Degas, whose life and works was discussed earlier on this blog, in mid- and late-19th century Parisian artistic circles.

The painting depicts Madame Marthe de Florian whose diaries also were in the apartment when it was opened in 2010.

The novel, A Paris Apartment, recreates this true story in a fictional modern context.  The author has a fresh writing style which makes the most of her talents for creating realistic dialogue and alternating between periods of time separated by more than a century. Boldini himself–not to mention Madame de Florian–come alive here in a story that includes other better known figures of their time.  All this…a true story…and a fictional story…because of one real-life dusty old apartment filled with stuff no one wanted for nearly a century.

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