mark sayers

2019.34 (Unknown, Portrait of Franciscus de Wulf)

            I have to punt a bit this week for the blog. Varying schedules have overlapped to keep me busy and if I have to cut something, it probably needs to be the couple of hours I spend writing and editing a self-indulgent 2,000-word reflection on a piece of art and whatever else springs to mind as a result.

            School starts for me next week which means preparation went into full swing. In addition to that was the return of a number of family obligations. On top of that, my elbow turned red in a feverish manner and swelled up a bit. I went to the doctor and he did what everyone wants from the doctor. He grabbed my arm and looked at it and said, “Oh man, I do not like this at all. Oh man.” The next 15 minutes were spent getting bloodwork and a giant shot of antibiotics in my…uh…hip, then getting a set of prescriptions for a bunch of other antibiotics. Long story short, I was diagnosed with a case of septic arthritis. Who wants to see those two words put next to each other on a sheet with your name on it? Septic. Arthritis. The drugs appear to be working. Hopefully they will take care of all of this. If not, I will be sent to an orthopedic surgeon to “clean out the joint”. That sounds painful. The only time I want to hear the phrase “clean out the joint” is in a gangster movie when someone is supposed to rid a speakeasy of a bunch of ne’er-do-wells.

            If my body loses this battle, my elbow could become crippled to the point of not be able to be used. Depending on which online medical symptom checker you use, I have a 15% chance of dying. Not to be a downer, but you probably have a 15% chance of dying every day that you leave the house anyway. This is why you don’t look at online symptom checkers. With the rate of improvement that I have experienced since Monday, I doubt either of these worst-case scenarios is going to occur, but this is why we follow doctor’s orders and pray.

            So, for at least one more week, I’ll be downing pills and hitting the heat pad.

Unknown painter,  Portrait of Franciscus de Wulf,  oil on canvas, early 18th c., 100x78cm, image courtesy of the St. John’s Hospital museum catalog, Bruges

Unknown painter, Portrait of Franciscus de Wulf, oil on canvas, early 18th c., 100x78cm, image courtesy of the St. John’s Hospital museum catalog, Bruges

            For your viewing pleasure in relation to this development, I present you with an unknown painter’s Portrait of Franciscus de Wulf, from St. John’s Hospital museum in Bruges. The hospital is best known for its large collection of Hans Memling paintings but, I don’t think you can visit this place without stopping and staring at this piece. De Wulf apparently was famous for his treatment of cataracts. That’s all I know. “Famous” is vague. Was he well-known because he was good at it or because of the way he did it? “C’mere, kid. Look up and don’t squirm.” De Wulf is rendered well. The kid’s head and arm, not so much. But I do appreciate the giant black shape to render de Wulf’s body and the shock of red in the bottom to bring you to the child. Your eye sees the red and you look down, focus your eyes and think, “Noooooooo.” The focal points are created in isolated pockets of light surrounded by darkness, not unlike Thomas Eakins’ Gross Clinic or something similar. It’s a harsh reminder of where we were and where we are. We won’t live long enough to be around in 200 years where people in 2219 look at our medical instruments and think, “Noooooooo.” You go to war with the army you have.

            I’ll try to get something more properly composed together for next week, even though it already almost is next week. I have no idea who cares about this or not. It’s not like I’m sending out surveys or asking for reviews. But do know, that if you were looking forward to something more substantial this week that I am sorry that I couldn’t provide it.  


If you need a proper breakdown of my week in relation to things that might interest you:

1.     If you live in the Nashville area, there’s art up in Sumner County that you should go see. First, in Hendersonville (my hometown- Go Commandos!), the Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center just opened their Picasso: Master in Clay and Mouly: From Clay to Canvas shows. There are approximately 60 of Picasso’s limited-edition clay pieces, his Vollard Suite of etchings and a number of Marcel Mouly’s paintings. I’ll probably write more about the Vollard Suite later. Mouly was unknown to me but I appreciated his paintings quite a bit. He’s like so many 20th/21st century painters: the child of Picasso and Matisse. His color is saturated and intense, and he works in a modified Cubist language. They work really well.

2.     Volunteer State Community College (where I teach in an adjunct capacity) will soon host a 2-person exhibition between Jeffrey Cortland Jones and Heather Jones. The installation was in-progress when I was there, but it already looks sharp. The show opens on August 26th and runs through September 19th. If you have no idea where Volunteer State Community College is located, technically it’s spread all over middle Tennessee on multiple campuses, but this show is on the main campus in Gallatin in the Humanities Building. The gallery is on the first floor right when you walk in the door.

 3. I started reading Mark Sayers’ Reappearing Church. So far, I’m only 10 pages into it.

4. Also, Bryce Harper hit a grand slam to the moon when it was most needed and made every Phillies fan a believer again.


            Our internet has been unreliable for the past two days, which I would assume would make me happier considering how much dissatisfaction with the modern age that I ascribe to it, but I find myself irritated. I was re-watching Stranger Things to get ready for season 3. I was in a good work rhythm with that on in the background and nonstop 80s hits beamed into my house. The Boomers had “oldies” stations in their middle age years. For a while it was 50s and 60s. Then it was 60s and 70s. I waited patiently for an 80s radio station. Instead, we get “the best of the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s.” So, like nonrepresentational office art, everyone is equally dissatisfied rather than just irritating a portion of the audience. The internet was picking up the slack recently. I had plans to make playlists for each year of the 80s- each year’s list would have every song that cracked the top 40. Then I realized that could mean 10 playlists, each with 500 songs. Maybe I’ll just do the top 20. Or maybe I’ll just keep streaming the 80s station that I found. Some stuff slips through the cracks though. I’ve been listening for a couple of weeks and no one’s dialed up Timex Social Club’s “Rumors” yet. 

            The Nashville Symphony performed Olivier Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphony this weekend. It was the first symphony performance that I have attended where they explained it from the stage before they performed it. It wasn’t necessary, but it was appreciated. You could always read about it in the program they give you, but it was nice to hear from the performers. Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet had been able to seek advice about the symphony from Messiaen and his wife (pianist) Yvonne Loriod while he studied in Paris. He had Loriod’s marked score for the symphony in his collection. She was, in some ways, the inspiration for the piece so it felt like, at least for the piano, this was as close as someone could get to the source for a performance. Thibaudet’s comments on Friday were semi-off-the-cuff and touching. Conductor Giancarlo Guerrero (please don’t ever leave Nashville, Giancarlo) talked about his hesitancy to take on such a complex piece and left you with the impression that, hey, you came for a live spectacle…who knows what’s getting ready to happen. It was great though. It’s a beast of a symphony. 10 movements. 75-80 minutes. 100-110 musicians onstage. Guerrero appeared to look to the Thibaudet right before the 10th movement with a look on his face that read, “I think we’re going to pull this off.”  

            We took a 2-week trip to Utah 10 years ago to wind through the national parks in the southern end of the state. Our flight home was out of Las Vegas. It was a jarring re-entry into the world of people. I can’t call Las Vegas “civilization”. There are a lot of buildings and people. That’s as far as I want to take it. Being surrounded for two weeks by the variety and majesty of creation (coincidentally, the same area that inspired Messiaen’s Des Canyons aux étoiles) and then plopped down into the hellscape of Las Vegas was a reminder of just how awful people are when left to pursue whatever they want, free from restriction. Stepping out of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center on a Friday night was a pocket-sized version of it. I went from Messiaenic grandeur to e-scooters, pedal taverns and bachelorettes in the span of 5 seconds. The reprieve was nice while it lasted, I suppose. Two symphony musicians were behind us on the way back to the parking garage. I was still trying to mull over what I’d just seen but that was colliding with the musicians talking about Hilton Head. It was a lot of gear-shifting for my brain to deal with in such a short amount of time. Ultimately though, I’m grateful. I never thought I’d get to see the Turangalîla performed and never expected to only have to travel 7 miles to do it.

            Other than that, I started a couple of new still life drawings. I feel like drawing for the summer and setting aside painting. I had a skull/vanitas theme in the most recent drawing so my first thought was that I shouldn’t put a skull in the next one. My second thought was that I should put a skull in ALL of them. If you’re miserably out of step with the market, keep dancing. I also started experimenting with cyanotypes. There is a lot of trial and error ahead.

            I tried to go to an art event, but parking was in serious overflow mode, so I had to go home. That’s a good problem to have for an art show.

            I started re-reading some Mark Sayers books in anticipation of his new book coming out in the late summer/early fall. Between re-reading those and re-watching Stranger Things, I guess I’m setting myself up for a letdown. Not really. I’m almost 45 years old. I don’t set my clock by album, book or movie releases like I did when I was 14...or 20. Ugh. I still remember going to a midnight madness sale for R.E.M.’s Monster album, getting back to my dorm room at 1AM, putting on the disc, listening and thinking, “All of that for this?” That might have been my last midnight sale.

Currently reading:

The Book of John



St. Augustine: City of God

Facing Leviathan- Mark Sayers

Quote for the week:

“All the things that God would have us do are hard for us to do -- remember that -- and hence, he oftener commands us than endeavors to persuade. And if we obey God, we must disobey ourselves; and it is in this disobeying ourselves, wherein the hardness of obeying God consists.”

Herman Melville, Moby Dick