Thursday, September 29, 2011

Aleph

In Jewish Mystical Teaching, the 22 letters of the Hebrew Alphabet are the energetic building blocks of creation. Like the periodic table of elements, God formed all things in the universe through combinations of Hebrew letters (just as atoms of oxygen and hydrogen combine to form a molecule of water). Hebrew letters each have a meaning and a numerical value. Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew Alphabet. It symbolizes that "God is One" and that He is the Master. It is a silent letter and is not spoken just as the name of the Lord cannot be spoken. Aleph stands for Adam (the first man), for Abraham (who recognized there is only One God) and for Abba (hebrew for "father"). The poet Jorge Luis Borges wrote that Aleph is a point in space that contains all other points. Anyone who gazes into Aleph can see everything in the universe from every angle simultaneously. (4" x 6", black ink print)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sam Land

Uncle Sam was named after New York meatpacker Samuel Wilson who supplied beef to the US Army during the War of 1812. The beef barrels were labeled with the initials "U.S." which soldiers joked stood for Uncle Sam. During World War II, America was codenamed "Samland" by the German Intelligence Agency. This woodcut depicts the famous US Army Recruitment Poster which first appeared in 1916. It was used sparingly during WWI but became ubiquitous during WWII. The designer James Montgomery Flagg gave his subject a stern and threatening demeanor. No doubt the army was trying to "scare" citizens to enlist before mandatory conscription began in 1940. The slogan "I Want You" was a friendly euphemism. A more accurate slogan would have been "Your ass is mine!" (5" x 7", black ink print)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Jack Palance

Yes, he was this scary in person. I worked with Jack Palance in 1992 on the tv series "Legends of the West." He was intimidating. His height, his sharp cheekbones, his intense silence--all added to an aura of quiet menace. Yet when I gained the courage to speak with him I learned his silence was merely shyness. He told me about his fondness for watercolor painting, his love of poetry, his huge cattle ranch in Bakersfield. He shared his concerns over his son Cody who was battling drug addiction (Cody worked as a stuntman on the production.) He also told me about his ongoing battle with hemorrhoids and how he was apprehensive about riding a horse in the next few scenes. Palance's stark appearance was partly due to his time in the military. He was badly burned during WWII when a bomber he was piloting crashed.  The resulting plastic surgery gave his face a taut, leathery look. Jack Palance died in 2006 after losing his son Cody to melanoma in 1998. The attached woodcut shows the fierce Jack Palance, ala the gunslinger from "Shane." Behind the mask he was a great guy. He was also a hell of an actor. (4" x 6", black ink print)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Monkey Man

A few days before the freak show came to town, news reports began circulating of a strange monkey-like creature that was appearing at night and attacking people. Eyewitness accounts were inconsistent, but the creature was described as about five-feet tall covered in black hair and amazingly human-like. Imagine it's 1908, you're a young child in London, you've survived another flu season and your dad is taking you on a stroll down Piccadilly Street. You make it within a block of Hyde Park and there outside the Pickard Theater stands a monkey in a business suit. At least you think it's a monkey. The sign on the theater marquis advertises Solomon the Monkey Man. This was the nature of the circus in those days. Bearded ladies, strong men, two-headed boys and animal-human hybrids. The attached woodcut depicts an actual poster for a traveling circus/freak show from turn-of-the-century Europe. "Solomon" was supposedly found in the Solomon Islands. I have no idea what his performance consisted of, but if I were a kid in 1908 I would've killed to see him. (5" x 7", black ink print)