Sketching in Monaco

I fell out of the habit of sketching three years ago when I entered Wellesley because I got sucked into academics. But this past year, I slowly started drifting back into it. In Monaco, I went to the Japanese Botanical Gardens and Larvotto Beach intending to sketch.

Art has always fascinated me, because with the exception of photorealism, artists never show the world as it truly is. I wonder if artistic “creativity” is sometimes simply perception error causing a rift between what they see and what they put on the page. But whatever it is, through their morphing of reality, we see a more aesthetic, ideal vision of the world.

I sat on a rock overlooking the koi pond while I sketched. Curious strollers would stray off the path to watch. And a few times, we had some brief conversations – one Moroccan young woman whose brother lives in LA, and one Monaco native who also enjoyed drawing.

During the trip, I also talked for 3 hours with a man on the bus about everything from Benin culture (his wife is from Benin) to the olive and cork trees that are cherished in southern France. He showed me photos of his grandson who is growing up quadralingual and taught me a lot about the Jean de Florette-esque life of Provençals. I also had a long exchange with our Blablacar driver, who taught us about Carnaval traditions and the beauty of Eastern France.

It’s these kinds of brief encounters that I and many others simultaneously crave and fear. Pleasant connections with individuals who teach us how to appreciate the world around us, who remind us of small things that make life special, but who disappear after helping us discover a bit more.

Memory is faulty. The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve condemns even the most seemingly indelible of memories to transience. But that is why we do things like draw and write, I believe. Making art of a situation captures the memories in a way that Instagram photos cannot. By imbuing our memories with our subjective perception – however inaccurate – we remember not only how we saw the world in that moment, but how we felt then too.

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Gallery V: Storm in the Mountains

A series of loose Petrarchan sonnets meditating on the Hudson River School. These were featured as part of “Falling for Pawling,” a musical production based on student works performed by the Sherman Chamber Ensemble. This is the fifth and final poem in the series.

If in eternity’s arms, Rome was built in a day (1),

If solar storms flood the earth, the galaxies sprawl,

And time scores our lives away to nothing at all,

I don’t blame you for thinking it doesn’t matter anyway.

But things do matter, like fireflies in the Hudson Bay

That glimmer on our fingertips and in jars, or small

Spirals of rainbow in marbles, or the way your hair falls

Over your eyes, tangling shadow and sunshine rays (2).

I do not care that the universe spins and grows,

Not when stars that die still reach and bend

To give us light, and there are emerald seas (3). No one knows

How long we have, but the real meaning of life depends

On all the small things we can’t see. Life may ebb and flow

Towards nothing, but I think by knowing this, the world never truly ends.

  1. Ruins-Campagna of Rome by Albert Bierstadt
  2. Sunshine and Shadow by Albert Bierstadt
  3. Emerald Sea by Albert Bierstadt

Continue reading “Gallery V: Storm in the Mountains”

Gallery IV: Starrucca Viaduct

A series of loose Petrarchan sonnets meditating on the Hudson River School. These were featured as part of “Falling for Pawling,” a musical production based on student works performed by the Sherman Chamber Ensemble. This is the fourth poem in the series.

We’re like the two fish in the sea (1), once asked

By a wise old fish, “How’s the water?” They swam on

Without care, till on the both of them it dawned.

“What on earth is water?” they asked, flabbergasted.

We swim, like them, in moonlit rivers (2), steadfast

In drifting, never dreaming of snow on a Swiss lawn (3),

Of Greenwood Lake (4), of falling gardens in Babylon,

Of love; unconscious, floating, thinking this is the last.

We think this is the world, for all we know is here.

And in our future, everything above will still not matter.

But one day we must open our eyes, and that I fear.

I fear the day we must wake up and gather

The air in our lungs, when it all becomes clear,

When we see the truth, and realize, “This is water. This is water.” (5)

  1. Looking Out To Sea by Jasper Francis Cropsey
  2. Moonlit Lake by Jasper Francis Cropsey
  3. Winter in Switzerland by Jasper Francis Cropsey
  4. Greenwood Lake by Jasper Francis Cropsey
  5. “This Is Water” by David Foster Wallace

Gallery III: View Toward the Hudson Valley

A series of loose Petrarchan sonnets meditating on the Hudson River School. These were featured as part of “Falling for Pawling,” a musical production based on student works performed by the Sherman Chamber Ensemble. This is the third poem in the series.

Our splashing in puddles after storms (1) in August noons (2)

And chasing butterflies with light mesh nets by our hips

Have turned to mist and a cigarette between your lips.

We were bound kindred spirits (3), I used to assume

But we grew up. You breathe a ring of fumes

And murmur you forgot those Shandaken (4) trips

Long ago. I suppose it’s me and me alone who grips

To the past, but I’ve not forgotten how your smile blooms

When catching monarch butterflies in your light mesh net,

Or smelling mother’s rose perfume, or when

You cried at the sight of the Hudson River sunset.

These may be reminiscences of mere old men (5),

But though I can’t see through the smoke quite yet,

I find I still hope to see you smile again.

  1. Gathering Storm by Asher Brown Durand.
  2. An August Afternoon by Asher Brown Durand.
  3. Kindred Spirits by Asher Brown Durand
  4. High Point: Shandaken Mountains by Asher Brown Durand
  5. An Old Man’s Reminiscences by Asher Brown Durand

Gallery II: Morning, Looking East Over The Hudson Valley From The Catskills

A series of loose Petrarchan sonnets meditating on the Hudson River School. These were featured as part of “Falling for Pawling,” a musical production based on student works performed by the Sherman Chamber Ensemble. This is the second poem in the series.

One day you’ll learn the sky is not tinged blue

From the color of the Aegean Sea (1), and you will learn

That the lights of the Aurora Borealis (2) dance and burn

From magnetic fields, and everything you thought you knew

Is a lie, like seeing the Great Wall from the moon

Or wishing on shooting stars (3), hands clasped in taciturn

Prayer, or thinking that Earth revolves and turns

Around the Sun; but the Barycenter (4) is the true

Center of our universe. But even though you were wrong,

You will know of electromagnetic spectrums and such bores,

And you will know the true Barycenter of our universe belongs

In the warmth and gravity of a child’s hand in yours.

One day you will learn you were wrong all along,

But it will no longer matter, for you will have opened new doors.

  1. Aegean Sea by Frederic Church.
  2. Aurora Borealis by Frederic Church.
  3. The Star in the East by Frederic Church.
  4. “One way to find a planet” from NASA.

 

Gallery I: A View of Two Lakes and a Mountain House

A series of loose Petrarchan sonnets meditating on the Hudson River School. These were featured as part of “Falling for Pawling,” a musical production based on student works performed by the Sherman Chamber Ensemble. This is the first poem in the series.

They have told me be patient – Rome was not built in a day

Yet I’ve heard of heavens making men by breathing dust,

And I’ve seen art of travelers who, in wanderlust,

Sail their lives in a year in the Hudson Bay.

They have told me to just follow the signs that point to the way

But all this time I’ve been circling adrift on the unjust

Oxbow rivers. I’ve been lost and found and have rushed

To find who I am, and I’m still far away.

In a month they built this nation on the peaks of the Catskills

With oil paint and rivers dripping down on blank canvas.

Yet I’ve been dropping bricks on soil since February,

Dragging my fingers through the dirt on the rolling hills.

I’ve treaded stone oceans since my forever began in blackness,

Searching for myself, not halfway there yet, and already weary.