Herman Maril, Africa, and Imagery

“The Essential Herman Maril” is the title of the art show currently featured at  Acme Fine Art in Boston.  The exhibit of works selected by Gallery owners James Bennette and David Cowan provides the viewer with an opportunity to become acquainted with some of the subject themes important in my father’s life. . His career spanned from the 1930s until his death in 1986. There is the boat, the sea, construction in the city, a garden with clothes line, looking out through a kitchen window, and one of my favorites–a black rotary wall  telephone .  My father painted what he knew and what he saw; selectively reducing and refining figures and shapes to depict on the paper or canvas what he felt to be important.

My dad, who divided his time between Maryland and Cape Cod, did some traveling and he sketched when he traveled. Writers put their notes in a journal.  Herman’s notes took the shapes of trees, coastlines, people, and buildings.  He visited the Southwest, California, Mexico, Spain, Italy, and Portugal, but he never made it to Africa although he had a modest collection of African Art that he prized. In addition  to several masks and  locks from a Chief’s hut, there was a sculpture fetish that was said to have been caked in mud  and  containing a lion’s ear when Herman purchased it.. He admired the simple carved shapes of these treasures, which he displayed in the front hallway and living room of our home at a time when such objects were not particularly fashionable.

As a child in the days when there were only three or four television stations, I’d watch wildlife nature shows with my dad,   mesmerized by the images on the black and white TV. Expansive plains, tall grasses waving in the wind and the close-up of a hungry lion in pursuit of dinner, chasing a fast moving gazelle had us on the edge of our chairs. It was a shared time, just me an my father, and during my recent visit to East Africa I thought of him often, wishing he was with me to see the expansive plains, baoba trees,  lions, zebras, gazelles, giraffes, and wildebeests in person.

When I told my brother David Maril  I was going to Africa, he sent me a photograph of the bird sculpture Dad had painted in the oil painting below, “Artist Contemplating African Bird” now in the collection of  Adirondack Community College, originally acquired by his close friend the poet William Bronk, known to our family as Bill.

Artistw:African Scu;pture

“Artist Contemplating African Bird” oil on canvas by Herman Maril, Collection of Adirondack Community College

David  was hoping I might be able to identify the origin of the sculpture, if I saw something similar.While I saw many large handsome birds during our travels on the Wami river and on our safari excursions overland by jeep inside Ngoronguru Crater and Masai Mara National Reserve, I saw no original pieces of bird sculpture during my visit. Walking in and out of all the tourist shops that line the narrow streets of the Stone Town portion of Zanzibar I mostly encountered the usual wood carvings I suspect are probably mass produced in China. My husband Peter and I found one quality merchant who was selling the older tribal pieces along with fine Middle Eastern jewelry and artifacts– but no bird sculptures.

Our favorite memories from the trip are those moments seeing the animals on the move in their natural environment. Watching hundreds of zebras, wildebeests, and gazelle making their way across the Serengeti Plain in search of fresh grass and sitting in a boat yards away from massive Hippos, hearing their deep sonorous groans as they submerge themselves underwater and reappear,  is an experience of a lifetime. It reminded  me that wildlife, and the variety of animals we grew up visiting at the zoo,  is not something we can take for granted.  It’s important we  try to preserve the earth  and protect our endangered species that include the Black Rhinoceros and Leopard, both of which I had the privilege to see, albeit from a far distance. (This is when field binoculars come in handy).

Nature and the images  we see, whether they are exotic animals  or the shape of flowers that bloom on the tree outside our window, can inspire the artist in all of us. You don’t have to travel half way around the world to see something worthy of inspiration, but some times taking a journey can give us perspective to appreciate what we have when we return home.

 

 

 

Long Nook Beach Truro After Winter

 

Climate Change

Swathed in layers of sweaters

beneath jacket and gloves

I tighten my hood covering hat and ears

Wind pushing against my body

I advance to explore

The pristine beach

Bottle green ocean and cliffs of sand.

A straight line is etched in the sand

Its origin a mystery

I seek the creature who drew the line to the sea

And find a small square rock.

Stones and pebbles falling

Urged downwards by the wind

Slipping, tumbling rolling down the dunes.

Zig zags, pressed ovals, triangular marks

Patterns impressed by the weight of the earth

Returning to the sea.

I am amazed by the uniqueness of each individual trail

All temporary, easily erased by a change of breeze or tide

I bear witness in my lifetime

To the change in the silhouette of dunes and shoreline

Shifting sandbars and creation of islands

Loss of homes, cities, cultures and species

And the small wonder of lovely patterns

I witness for a moment, pressed into the sand.

–by Nadja Maril

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“Little White Lie” will be showing Saturday March 28th at the Annapolis Film Festival

  • Just stopped by a panel discussion event at today’s Annapolis Film Festival on “The Pitch” and am looking forward to seeing a few movies this weekend.  In case you’re curious, I got to preview one of the wonderful feature documentaries entitled, “Little White Lie,” written, directed and produced by Lacey Schwartz;  and below I share a post/review.The evening I watched “Little White Lie” I’d just returned from a visit to my family home in Baltimore. Standing around the dining room table, my brother David Maril, our cousin Ron Becker and I tried to identify a stash of old family photographs. We searched our memories trying to recognize names and face of relatives going back several generations. There were photographs of my grandfather, a child sitting on a rocking horse and as a soldier in postwar France. Another larger photo showed my grandmother, as a young girl posing for a picture surrounded by her parents and four brothers and sisters in Bel Air Maryland where the family once had a farm. My grandmother, the eldest child, was ashamed of having been born in Russia. When the courthouse burned down and the birth records destroyed, she told everyone she was born in America. That was her little white lie. But some lies are much larger.The documentary “Little White Lie” begins with archival footage of the Jewish community in Brooklyn during the mid 20th century and there are old photographs and a timeline showing the Schwartz family arriving in the United States at the end of the 19th century. There is footage of old home movies showing parties, bat mitzvahs, picnics and other family events. Everyone looks happy.

    We all grow up hearing stories about our grandparents and great-grand parents. But what if a one line of our ancestors had been completely wiped from the family history and another group of ancestors put in their place? What if our true heritage has been hidden?

    Lacey Schwartz grew up believing both of her parents were her biological parents and that she was the descendent of Eastern European Jews, but that was only half the truth. The little girl and young woman in the family movies has darker skin and fuller features than her parents. When she asks questions about her appearance as a child she is told that her mother’s family had a Sicilian great-grandfather and that is why her skin is so dark. She accepts their explanations and when she looks in the mirror does not acknowledge her bi-racial heritage.  Children believe their parents.

    The movie is framed within the preparations for a wedding, Lacey’s wedding. As she tells her story, she shares with the viewers her belief that she did not feel ready to join her life with someone else’s until she understood the actions of her parents. They divorced when she was a teenager. What did her father know about the identity of Lacey’s biological father? Did he realize his wife had been unfaithful and that her lover had been African American? Why had her mother not been forthcoming with the truth about her heritage ? Her biological father was a family friend named Robert Parker, but he dies when Lacey is 30 with no opportunity to develop a relationship.

    Lacey’s dad Robert Schwartz is the only father she has ever known. Although her bridegroom is African American, Lacey holds steadfast to Jewish traditions complete with the breaking of the glass as the two are pronounced man and wife. She decides to retain her last name of Schwartz, delighting in the double symbolism. The word “Schwartz” means black in German.

    One of the many fine films coming to THE ANNAPOLIS FILM FESTIVAL.

Ice Day Poem by Nadja Maril

Ice4

Ice Day

By Nadja Maril

As soon as I see the sun

I reach for my coat in the closet.

It is time to walk

On this ice day.

Frozen bits melt into drops

Slide down gutters, pipes, trees

Plop on to the cold wet mush we once called snow.

 

I match my steps to my dog’s  wet prints on the asphalt

Keeping her leash firmly taut I choose my path

Carefully inspecting the speckled road and pavement

Remnants of ices to be avoided, clumps of salt

Detours created for the sake of Chloe’s paws.

 

This is a strange time of year

Transition from Winter into Spring

Cold and wet ooze

Sloppy puddles, chilly mush

I think of snow cones so desirable in summer

Now distasteful as the wind blows briskly on my face.

 

The sun’s rays warm  my armor

Heavy jacket, wool cap and padded gloves

Ultimately  arctic blast seeps into my bones

Hastens my return to shelter

Listening to spinning wheels and scraping shovels

I admire the still blue sky from my window.

High in the Andes Mountains of Peru the Number Three Has Many Meanings

I hold three crisp green Coca leaves…messages delivered to the fabric of the universe….

The Sacred Valley approaching Mlantaytambo
The Sacred Valley approaching Ollantaytambo

The Power of Three

 

I hold three crisp green Coca leaves

Arrange carefully their graceful elongated shapes

Admiring the small bouquet

An offering, grasped between my thumb and two fingers.

 

The chime of the bell signals it’s time

To inhale and expel three breaths imbued with my intentions

One for the underground snake

One for the prowling puma

One for the condor in the clouds.

 

Bits of fluffy cotton ask for rain

Sugar candy begs for a sweet life

Quinoa for sustenance and strength.

We sprinkle many things and make our requests

On the cloth of our existence

Creating a small bundle to be buried or burned

Messages delivered to the fabric of the universe.

 

Our demands are great.

Our offerings small.

The lack of balance spins the circle around

Creating a never ending spiral

Propelling us to repeat the journey

Humans on a spinning top, likely to fall from grace.

 

An altar placed within a church where once a temple stood

A holy place filled with memories and dreams

The trinity of life; past, present and future

The father, the son the Holy Ghost

The sun, the moon, the stars

The father, the mother, and the child

The three points of the triangle, a mountain stretching towards the sky.

 

We reach for the heavens

Forgetting to embrace the present

We stumble and repeat past mistakes

Searching for the answers

Trying to find our way back home.

______Nadja Maril   1/27/2015

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Machu Picchu, High in the Sky and Close to the Clouds

Approaching the realm of the condor
I ascend stairs of stone

Our first afternoon at Machu Picchu standing near the "Guard House"
Our first afternoon at Machu Picchu standing near the “Guard House”

Machu Picchu

Approaching the realm of the condor

I ascend stairs of stone

Deep breaths expand my lungs and mind

Transported by magnificence

I imagine the puma stalking his prey without fear.

Built without wheels or written words

Knowledge kept alive through textiles and storytelling

Knots of rope tabulating the harvest

I count the steps and bravely climb, afraid to fall.

Touching the clouds

I feel the labor of many hands

Pushing, pulling, shifting the weight and burden

Of boulders, the mountain’s power

The secrets of Mother Earth pressing beneath my feet

I stand amazed.

————Nadja Maril  1/25/2015

California Graduation Visit Class of 2014

Like every campus, Cal Poly has a few traditions.  Girls are given a lei by proud parents rather than a bouquet of flowers. It is customary to lavishly decorate the top of your cap and go drinking the night before you “walk”.   A large breakfast is recommended during the wee hours of the night, prior to downing a few more stiff drinks at 6:00 a.m.  Some parents accompany their son or daughter to the bars. We didn’t. On Friday morning we were out scouting the campus to see where the big commencement was taking place  on Saturday morning while Alex was at a second job interview. That afternoon we went grocery shopping with the help of Alex and her boyfriend T.J. to prepare for a Graduation Eve barbecue for Alex and her friends.  They enjoyed our food and libations and we enjoyed meeting the friends who were in town. (Many not yet graduating had gone home for the summer or weekend).   Good news arrived for Alex. A job she wanted working as a patient care technician in a local dermatology office which will provide her with both steady employment and needed experience towards her goal of becoming a Physician’s Assistant (P.A.).  My dear friend Barbara, former college roommate and my West Coast sister, made the trip from L.A. with her husband Ron to be there on Alex’s special day. It was hot sitting up in the stadium bleachers and hot for Alex below. By the time she met up with us after the large ceremony she was grateful for water and a muffin.  (She was starving too.) After some picture taking, it was on to the smaller ceremony for the various departments, where the graduate’s  names are actually called and students are personally graduated by the head of their department. In Alex’s case, she graduated with a B.S. in Psychology from the College of Liberal Arts.  On her sheet she elaborated on her name by adding the words “Amazing” and “Meow”.  A few more photos and we returned to Alex’s house for brunch. (Plenty of food was leftover from the night before and just to make sure we had plenty, we stopped at the grocery with Ron & Barbara to buy more). There was time in the afternoon for rest and a swim before a celebratory dinner.  Sunday was Father’s Day. We spent the afternoon at Montaña de Oro State Park referred to in my captions as Los Osos, the community it is adjacent to on the coast. Monday, our last day with Alex, we spent part of the time at Avila a small beach front town 20 minutes away from San Luis Obispo and walked on the windy pier and beach.  Tuesday it was time to leave, early in the morning for a drive down the coast to LAX and our return flight. Hope to visit soon.

Shopping Three at graduation  Proud dadstadiumbefore  Los Osos Meow