Unexpected Awe

Advances in travel and comunication may make the world seem small. However, every once in a while one is in awe of a place larger than one could imagine. I had this experience as a child when I saw the swimming pool at the Flanders Hotel in Ocean City, New Jersey. The pool was so impressive that I found it both facinating and a bit frightening. In my child’s mind I thought, who would build their own ocean and how could someone get to the middle without drowning.

It was hard to imagine being struck by such a similar feeling as an adult. However, while on a train from the Polish city of Gdańsk to the town of Sopot, I saw building larger than my conception could accept. I later read online that such a building may have up to 6000 people living it. To be living in the middle of it seems simultaneously intruiging and overwhelming.

Image of the building found on google maps.

Along with the fleeting feeling of being impressed by the enormity of the building, there was an experience of being on a train and on a trip to the sea. I created a drawing in an attempt to document this memory. In the drawing below the autumn day, the building, and the journey to sea become locked together.

En route to Sopot, Watercolor & Ink, 41cm x 13cm (15″ x 5″)

It is easy to realize that the two places described, the pool and the building, are small compared to oceans, planets, and the wider universe. However, size is relational and our thoughts are expansive. With reflection the cracks and corners of our existance may yield wider vistas. Description and a creative perspective provides ways to unfold an endless stream of details and reinvent a sense of wonder.

En route to Sopot (Detail)

The Known Unknown

When we say a name we associate it with a person and accept it. The name fits the person and the person fits the name. However, when I investigated the namesake of my son Simon, I found surprising details. I knew there was an apostle named Simon. However, little is known about him. Additionally, the apostle Peter is referred to as Simon Peter and I also found a reference to Jesus having a brother Simon. When I began to see depictions of Saint Simon (also referred to as Simeon) it was not often the apostle, rather it was a Simon born later. This Simon, presumably named after the apostle, was an ascetic that spent much of his time on a pillar. I also found there were two Saint Simons who inhabited a pillar (Saint Simeon Stylites the Elder and the Younger). In paintings and illustrations sometimes the pillar appears as a column and other times as a tower. In Aleppo, Syria Simon’s stone ‘pillar’ is a site to see, and a round stone has been placed on top of it. However, what originally inspired my investigation was a calendar image depicting Saint Simeon Stylites.

Above is an image of the calendar where I found Saint Simon. Below is the page where Simon can be seen depicted on top of his pillar.

Św. Szymon Słupnik (en. Saint Simeon Stylites),
Belarussian icon, end 18th century, tempera on board,
Orthodox church in Milejczyce, Poland.

Upon translating the text on the calendar, I found that the image was originally published in a book of 300 icon images titled Ikony w Polsce. Od średniowiecza do współczesności by Micha ła Janochy. All the icons were found in Poland. Although I learned more about Saint Simon, my investigation is just beginning.

East Polska

Recently I took a trip to the eastern part of Poland near Białowieża National Park. This area of Poland is known for Eastern Orthodox Churches and the European Bison (in Polish “żubr”). I learned that there are few żubr left in Europe and they are related American bison. While I was able to see churches in their natural habitat, it proved more difficult to see żubr. In the end I had to pay to see captive bison.

This Orthodox church was striking to me because of its blue color and strong relationship with the sky.

Metal Cross in the yard around the church.

Much of the remainder of my time in this area was spent walking through small villages. It seems that many old wooden houses are being renovated and there are at times striking signs of new architecture.

While I do not completely understand this, there are nests set up to aid storks in most areas of the countryside it Poland.

I also often see a kind of folk sculpture that is carved in wood. I particularly enjoyed this carving of an old man. He seems a bit stiff and strait like the beam of wood. It felt like the wood was made for him or he was made perfect for the wood.

For three nights I stayed in a wooden building built for guests. The owner explained that it was build from the materials of two barns. The food was vegetarian and very good and the other guests were great to be with. Here is a view of the front and back of the house.

Pets were are also allowed at the guesthouse. I counted four dogs and a cat. Humans and animals all had a good time.

A Trip to Bydgoszcz, Poland

It took a long time, but I finally was able to update this website and migrate posts from blogspot. After a year of slowly revising the design, I am pleased to start blogging at kipdeeds.com.

Beyond changes to the website, 2018 provided many new events. I got married, inherited a dog, and have been living in the countryside outside Warsaw, Poland. There has been little time for art making, traveling, or making blog posts. However, this past week a two day trip was taken to Bydgoszcz, Poland. Turoń is a nearby sister city (included as one of the Seven Wonders of Poland). Bydgoszcz is about a three and a half hours drive from Warsaw. While there I walked around old town and went to the Modern Art Gallery (focused on Polish artists in the modern era). I did not take pictures in the gallery and unfortunately the website does not seem to show much. However, I did take pictures on my walk. Included here are some samples.

Hotel Chopin
One night was spent at Hotel Chopin. It was clean and newly renovated. The Architecture was said to be in the Art Nouveau style.
Old town center
The old town square is being renovated.
Sculpture dedicated to martyrs
A sculpture dedicated to martyrs is found at the end of the town square.
Around the old town is a canal that looks newly renovated.
Outside of the old town there was a variety of Architectural styles.
There are many signs of improvement in Poland. Here a park is being developed with the help of the European Union.
Public Sculpture
I enjoyed these sculptures. Everyone is wearing a slightly different shaped hat.
Public Sculpture
A tree carved into a sculpture.
A very good supper was had at Restaurant No. 1. I had a non-alcoholic drink there. It was not quite beer and not quite soda but something in-between. It was tasty.

After A Time in Poland

Before my trip to Poland I was preparing to make a print.

Merriam Webster states, Romanticism is ” a style of art, literature, etc., during the late 18th and early 19th centuries that emphasized the imagination and emotions”.

At the beginning of the year I posed three questions for myself. Two questions were answered previously. I am going to re-caste the last question and attempt to answer it.

Question Three: In relationship to imagination, what role does a personal and emotional place represent? Does a lack of interest in this realm mean that personal visions, while flavorful, are limited exercises without broader relevance?

Perhaps I am wrong, but I feel as if the deep kind of imagination that leads to unfathomable vistas, to creatures yet formed, and worlds that are hidden behind stones has somehow been lost. I am under the impression that there is a more stark focus on issues both formal and political (some examples). While I do not want to dismiss imaginative avenues within these subjects and I am generalizing, it seems that art in the vanguard of critical attention has moved from a palpable imaginative place to a more didactic message driven realm.

What surprised me most is that a trip to Poland revealed to me a critical case (if not a necessity) for imagination in current life and art. Between two trips, I read two books about Poland, The Heart of Europe by Norman Davies and the novel Poland by James Michener. The former confirmed the history of the latter. I learned how a nation maintains its nationhood when it has been taken. Poland was divided by other nations and there was a systematic attempt to replace its culture. Two philosophical perspectives help maintain the Polish identity (Positivism and Romanticism). Polish Romanticism was different then elsewhere in Europe because it had practical implications. It was part of a covert program to endure and outlive the occupying powers.

While I had read Plato’s Republic, this is the first time found philosophies that reached deep into the individual and define and preserve the self. In many ways Positivism and Romanticism were two sides of the same coin (the practical and the fantastic). Granted we need both but the latter often gets maligned as folly or false hope. However, without hope we have no future at all. Even those who have to be focused on practical concerns need a sense of hope. In order to get to this exalted place, we need to investigate the self and the ongoing change that can be both regenerative and caustic.

Imagination may involve brainstorming and many seemingly random acts. However, sprawling actions and ideas can become noise that leaves one with little place to focus. I encourage my fellow voyagers to think deeply about connections. Where does the wandering lead? Do any of the connections made in the wild world of process and symbols provide the following?

  1. Escape routes from oppressions
  2. Resolve the questions too big for words
  3. Usurp soulless perspectives

While the notion of romanticism in our day may be pushed to a corner or trampled on, it is not merely fantasy or whim. At its deepest root, romanticism provides a vision of the life we aspire to and provides tangible evidence of a world beyond earthly bounds. We all long to swim in this collected water because it shows signs of our humanity.

Progress made while staying in Poland.