Gary’s Bunt’s oil painting “The Righteous.” 12 x 12 inches. Sold by the Portland Gallery in London.
This is a very simple subject. A man and his dog sit on a hilltop to enjoy the first or last sun of the day. The two are static, like lumps. They look like porcelain figures set into the scene. But the abstracted landscape around them is filled with energy.
And it is the landscape they see that gives the painting life. I love the deep expressionistic cuts of the hills going down to the deep green between, the yellow fire from the sun, especially as it illuminates the hilltops, the gray of the sky, and, of course, the brushstrokes that energize it all.
The painting does not make me feel so much like I know the man as that I know the wonder that he and his dog are experiencing. It makes me remember a time as a boy when I sat with my dog on a hill in a pasture well behind our house. A hill that marked the watershed between Lake Michigan and the Gulf of Mexico. And I looked out over the hills beyond.
With another artist, I might suspect sentimentality. But I find the strong feeling in Bunt’s paintings to be sincere. However complicated his life may actually be, I believe he lives a simple and appreciative life when he paints. And his paintings make me happy.
For several years this space has been used as a static site for displaying past work. Life Small as a Sparrow has served as my all-purpose blog. Now the blog feature of Fire Above the Land is being reactivated with a limited focus – to display recent art that I find interesting, using photos and links available on the net. Posts are expected to begin after some site reorganization, sometime in July.
Yesterday at work I mentioned that my dad’s birthday was November 11th. One of my coworkers observed that Dad was born on Veterans Day.
Sort of, I told him, but I noted that Veterans Day hadn’t been created yet. It was Armistice Day back then.
But later I thought about it and realized that the Armistice actually went into effect on my dad’s birthday. When Dad was born the First World War had only been on for a year.
So I found a few pictures of Dad from about the time the Armistice was proclaimed.
Bernie Smetzer and the Chickens
Bernie Smetzer and chickens
Bernie Smetzer and Chicken
Bernie Smetzer in Hat
Bernie Smetzer in Tub
Dad and I look something alike, except that Dad looks like he could be a little rascal.
Most of us cook ham or lasagna or lamb for Easter dinner. But what meat do the poor folks back home cook for the day after Easter?
My great-great-grandfather James Barton was much given to writing verse. Here is the only piece I have, from a copy of a newspaper clipping my mother kept.
(Composed by J. Barton, Co. I, 25th Indiana.)
Come, all ye true-born Union men
That love your country dear;
Just listen for a little while –
A story you shall hear.
‘Tis about a Hoosier regiment
I shall compose my ditty,
Who fought so well at Davis’ Mills,
In the state of Mississippi.
The Twenty-fifth Indiana boys –
You’ve heard of us before –
Four times we’ve seen the Elephant
And often heard it roar;
We are the boys that did the work
And kept the Rebels back;
We wouldn’t let them cross the creek,
Nor yet the railroad track.
It was in last December,
Upon the twentieth day,
The Rebels they took Holly Springs
And drove our men away;
As soon as we did get the news
That Holly Springs was gone,
We set to work and built a fort,
Knowing to us they’d come.
It was upon the twenty-first,
About the hour of one,
The Rebels came five thousand strong,
And tried to make us run.
They thought to find us napping,
But it was a great mistake;
For when they came within our reach
They found us wide awake.
Two hundred twenty strong were we,
And that was few, you know,
Against five thousand mounted men,
and they a daring foe.
Three times they tried to charge on us,
Although it was not sweet,
Each time they tried they were repulsed,
So then they did retreat.
For four long hours we fought them,
We fought most manfully,
‘Gainst fifteen times our number
in men we could not see.
Then they finally concluded
For them there was no show,
So they turned their backs upon us
And away from us did go.
Five slightly wounded was our loss
But that was scarcely any
For four hours’ fighting with the Rebs,
In which they had so many.
Three hundred men the Rebels lost,
As near as I can tell,
For they left many killed and wounded
On the field just where they fell.
We are not always sleeping
Though we sometimes shut our eyes.
The Rebels they need never think
To take us by surprise;
For we keep too good a look-out
For them and all their train;
So if they are not satisfied
Just let them come again!
So now, kind friends, I will conclude
And end my little ditty
About our fight at Davis’ Mills
In the state of Mississippi.
I think I’ve told you nearly all
About our glorious fight,
So, kind friends, for the present
I will bid you all good-night.
- Harriett, Barbara, Christena, Olive, May & Lydia Smetzer
- Christena (Smetzer) Clayton, baby, May Smetzer and Lydia (Smetzer) Bowers
On the left are Michael and Christina (Smeltzer) Smetzer’s five daughters. When a Smetzer marries a Smeltzer I guess you could expect the children would all have the same weird and rather disturbing hair. Together the sisters are a formidable formation. Didn’t the Roman legion use a series of these toothed formations against the ancient Brits? The other photo is more comforting. One Smetzer sister can actually smile.