In May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes,
I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods,
Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook,
To please the desert and the sluggish brook.
The purple petals fallen in the pool
Made the black water with their beauty gay;
Here might the red-bird come his plumes to cool,
And court the flower that cheapens his array.
Rhodora! if the sages ask thee why
This charm is wasted on the earth and sky,
Tell them, dear, that, if eyes were made for seeing,
Then beauty is its own excuse for Being;
Why thou wert there, O rival of the rose!
I never thought to ask; I never knew;
But in my simple ignorance suppose
The self-same power that brought me there, brought you.
The above poem entitled The Rhodora is one of my favorites of Emerson. It offers a wonderful Transcendentalist’s view of nature and the rapport with the universe, and hence it feels appropriate after a restful summer (except perhaps for those like me who become anxious in a natural setting where the sound of crickets is the only option for sociability at night. I must confess that I can identify with Woody Allen when he said, “I love nature, I just don’t want to get any of it on me.”)
At any rate, all of us New Yorkers are eager to relish the forthcoming fall with non-stop art exhibitions, theater, operas, music and dance performances, poetry readings, film screenings, even the highly anticipated new Knicks (will Camelo Anthony be able to adjust his game for Phil Jackson’s triangular offense?)!
One thing is certain: the longer I live here the greater appreciation I gain for this ever-complex and lively city. In regards to continuing violence across the world—in South Sudan, Myanmar, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Missouri, Gaza, and elsewhere—I am reminded of Horace Kallen’s famous 1915 essay “Democracy Versus the MeltingPot”(published in two parts in the Nation) in which the aspiring concept of the “symphony of civilization” that states:
Every type of instrument has its specific timbre and tonality, founded in its substance and form; as every type has its appropriate theme and melody in the whole symphony, so in society each ethnic group is the natural instrument, its spirit and culture are its theme and melody, and the harmony and dissonances and discords of them all make the symphony of civilization […][where] the playing is the writing […] the range and variety of the harmonies may become wider and richer and more beautiful.
I’d like to thank my friend the artist Abby Leigh for telling me about the New Yorker cartoon by James Stevenson that describes how I feel about nature, and how I feel about being a New Yorker. The image is of three frogs, two small ones facing a bigger one all sitting on a lily pad, and one of them says, “Tell us again about Monet, Grandpa.”
Lastly, you’re all invited to the opening reception of the next Rail Curatorial Project Migration to the Interior at Red Bull Studios (220 West 18th Street) on Thursday, October 9th, 2014 from 6 to 9 p.m.
P.S. On behalf of the Rail I’d like to thank Arne Glimcher for sending Richard Tuttle to Paris to review the magnificent exhibition I, Augustus, Emperor of Rome… at the Grand Palais, as well as Richard for his beautiful and poetic review, which is included in this issue. This issue is dedicated to David Rosand and Sherman Drexler. Our heartfelt condolences are sent to their respective loved ones and friends, as well as endless admirers.