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Stone from Delphi

November 8, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

[Aphrodite, Wendy Artin]

We flew to New York overnight Friday, arriving early Saturday morning, as I described in my last post. I anticipated writing a series of posts on our New York activities, but here we are, back in Seattle for 48 hours, and I’ve written no more. A little too much going on, while there and, since our return, here. Including an election to keep track of. Let me see if I can get caught up on a few items.

First up, the International Fine Print Dealers Association’s annual print fair at the Park Avenue Armory, to which I alluded in the last post. It ran last Thursday evening through Sunday. We would not ordinarily have gone. Indeed, we would not ordinarily have known it was going on. But by good fortune, I got email three weeks earlier from the wife of my graduate school advisor in which she forwarded her daughter’s announcement of an opening reception at the fair. The daughter, Wendy Artin, is an artist in Rome who had contributed watercolor drawings to a new book published by one of the fair exhibitors, Arion Press in San Francisco. The book is Stone from Delphi, described as “poems with classical references by Seamus Heaney, selected and with an introduction by Helen Vendler, with sixteen watercolor drawings by Wendy Artin,” published just this month.

We have long hoped to see Wendy’s work. Years ago — perhaps it was our honeymoon, many years ago — she had a show at a gallery in Paris just when we were passing through. We chose a morning to visit the gallery, only to discover that it was closed that day. The first of several misses. When Jean sent me the announcement and I realized the fair coincided with our trip to New York, I knew we had to go, all the more since it was only 10 blocks from our hotel.

With our early arrival in the city, we had no hotel room Saturday morning. And we were tired. We hung out in my sister’s hotel room, had some breakfast with her and my brother-in-law, visited my parents, and left at 2:00 PM with the afternoon free. From there, it was about a 16-block walk to the armory. Off we went. On arriving, we bought our entry tickets, picked up a map and list of exhibitors, Gail looked up the location of Arion Press, and we made our way there. Along their three walls were tables with a series of books, and prints from the books hanging above. Maybe a half dozen people were milling around, plus two press representatives, each engaged in conversation with one of the visitors. We quickly found Stone from Delphi, which was marked as not to be paged through without assistance.

Let me quote more from Arion Press about the book.

The Arion Press is proud to announce its publication of poetry by Seamus Heaney, Stone from Delphi, a collection of his poems with classical themes, chosen by Helen Vendler. The classical past is fundamental to the work of this great contemporary poet, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995, who, like James Joyce before him, illuminates his times and his own psyche through the lens of antiquity. Vendler’s introduction, “Seamus Heaney and the Classical Past”, tells us that in Ireland Heaney grew up hearing the Latin of Catholic liturgy, then pursued the language and literature at school. For fifty years, he has translated and adapted classical texts and alluded to them in his own poems, be their subjects his family, the Troubles, astronauts, or the fall of the Twin Towers.


Wendy Artin is an American artist who has made the classical world, in particular the architecture and statuary of her adopted city of Rome, the subject of a remarkable body of work. Skilled in drawing the figure, Artin says, “The statues of Antiquity are my favorite models.” Eric Fischl, who observed her drawing from live models, recounts, “I was unable to take my eyes off watching her work. I’d never seen anyone capture, with such fluid grace and comfort, the depth of observation of the human form the way she was able to do so quickly and so accurately in water-color.”

The press has more about Wendy here and a gallery of her drawings for the book here.

We waited patiently for someone to help, while looking at the page to which the book was opened and the drawing above. Once a man was free, we explained our interest in the book and asked to see it. He sat us down at a table, paged through it for us, then seemed to lose interest and drifted off to talk to others, at which point we paged through the book ourselves. As we were about to go, the other exhibitor stopped by to ask if we had questions, and we again explained our interest. She mentioned the exhibit of Wendy’s watercolors for the book that the press would be hosting in San Francisco and the option — if one buys a book — of buying watercolors as well. We talked about getting in touch once back in Seattle, then headed off to see other fare wares.

We had gotten to the end of the aisle, turned the corner, and worked our way down a bit when to our surprise, the Arion Press woman to whom we had been talking caught up to us, another woman in tow, eagerly introducing her as someone who grew up with Wendy, who happened to be exhibiting for another gallery just across from Arion. Before she could finish explaining the woman’s background, I saw from the tag that this other exhibitor was Renee Bott, and no further explanation was required. The Bott of Paulson Bott Press, she was also undoubtedly the daughter of the late, great mathematician Raoul Bott. When I was an undergraduate, the informal, student-produced guide to courses stressed that he was the person in the department from whom one must take a course. Alas, the one year I might have been able to do so, he was teaching a graduate algebraic topology course, for which I was not sufficiently prepared. I attended lectures he gave in later years, but never studied with him or knew him well.

In any case, we spent a few minutes talking with Renee about the world of mathematicians, the milieu in which she grew up, the friends of her parents while she grew up whom I knew as teachers. It was the most marvelous mini-reunion, albeit with a perfect stranger, but one I felt a kinship to.

After that, the remainder of our time at the fair was anticlimactic. Except that there was some wonderful art on display, and we had good fun exploring it. Next time we get down to Berkeley, we’ll be sure to drop in on Renee. Farther afield, we need to get to Rome and drop in on Wendy.

Categories: Art, Books, Math
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