Current/Recent Reading List

09 August 2007

Henryk Fantazos (Wow!)

Other than the rotting-corpse stench coming off Hal Crowther's opinion piece in the back, the latest issue of Oxford American (which I'm only now getting to) looks quite promising indeed. The issue is already worth it for me because of the profile done on Henryk Fantazos, a Polish painter who settled here in North Carolina a couple of decades ago and decided to use the region as his medium. His comments about the South are wonderful- he speaks of his motive "to honor the proud individuation of all objects in view" - and place him squarely in the same camp as Faulkner and O'Connor. And these paintings? Wow! Like Flannery's stories put to canvas! Please watch the short slide show on his southern work at the bottom of this post.

Also wonderful are the comments of Jack Gilbert, who wrote the profile. I especially love this section:

But he does not paint ideas or propaganda. His works are free of defeat and guilt, of the knots and gnawings of poverty and status and family and wealth. Free also of progressive dreams and nightmares, free of any New South programs (which remind him of bureaucratic octopuses in the Poland of 1970).

In the “Face of the South” cycle, Henryk affirms such Southern legends as “fragrant overabundance,” courtesy, and friendliness.

But he eschewed the progressive ideology that, from the 1950s, I witnessed and, mea culpa, took part in; it was an intellectual program for a new Reconstruction that was implicit in jokes at the faculty club, in lectures, novels, movies, and newscasts. What were we pushing? Great educational leaders, sociologists, journalists? Having made a beginning of the end of racial discrimination, what next?

A funny bunch of notions: to remove the restraints on lovemaking, now called “sex,” pregnant with meaning (why all the energy spent for an activity well able to mind its own occasions?); to undermine devotion to concepts of honor or personal integrity (antisocial they are); to do the same to love of country or region or tribe; to correct (with the confident help of a humane intelligentsia) the erratic distribution of wealth; and, less honestly than Mao, to embrace quietly the prejudice that religion is poison, especially if it makes any difference.

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