Category Archives: People I wish I could have known

Number 76 – Marc Chagall

I don’t really know why I love Chagall’s paintings.  There’s a feeling to them that is sort of indescribable.  I love the calm cool colors contrasting with the vibrant warm colors.  I am so interested in Chagall’s personal history and how is life is reflected in his art.  I love magical realism in literature and in art.  I love the confusion and inspiration of seeing his paintings.

I saw a huge Chagall exhibit at SFMOMA a few years back.  I was amazed at the skill and the stories in Chagall’s paintings.  It blew me away to be quite honest.

When I was last in Paris, I missed his famous Opera ceilings (I will rectify this gross error next summer), but I did get to see his incredible stained glass at the UN building in New York.  It’s amazing how he made glass look like paint.

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Number 60 – Pierre-Auguste Renoir

When I was little I had this art game that had a bunch of postcards of different works of art.  This was one of my favorites.  I remember looking at the woman’s expression and wondering what she’s thinking.  It always fascinated me – still does, in fact.  I still can’t tell what she’s thinking.

I have always loved the soft focus and pale-yet-vibrant colors that Renoir used in his paintings.  There is a sense of motion and depth in his subjects, whether they are people, landscapes or still-lifes.  I love impressionist painters and Renoir is one of my absolute favorites.

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Number 57 – West Side Story and Leonard Bernstein

When I was little Ed Ragozzino would produce a musical every summer.  I remember listening to the cast recordings on cassettes in our car all summer to get ready for the production.  They were quite amazing for a little town like Eugene to produce.  One of my favorites was West Side Story.  I remember asking my mom who the good guys were – the Sharks or the Jets. She said there were no good guys, or bad guys in West Side Story.  This blew my little brain right out of the water.  I knew that I loved Anita and her feistiness, but I think I figured Bernardo and the Sharks were bad guys since Tony (my hero) was a Jet.  This was a story where the antagonist was a situation, not a person.  That might just be what makes this story so beautiful and believable (I know that most of the credit goes to Shakespeare for this one…).

This year at the Oregon Bach Festival there was a concert of Bernstein’s musical works narrated by his daughter Jamie.  Jamie told some lovely stories about her father and about how West Side Story came to be.  The most interesting to me was that Bernstein had the idea some years before he actually wrote the musical.  At the time there were intense gang wars between Jews and Catholics on the upper East side. When he got around to writing it, the East side gangs were gone but some Italian and Puerto Rican gangs were fighting on the upper West side.  Not only did this change the title of the show, but it also gave Bernstein the fodder he needed to begin writing the music.  Now he had direction for the two gang’s musical styles – upbeat jazz for the Jets, sultry mambo for the Sharks.

When I was in high school I got to see Bernstein’s Mass.  This was a life changer for me.  I remember sitting in the audience, very aware of how beautiful and genius the music was.  I don’t recall any of the music or melodies, but I do recall the feeling I had.  People say that Leonard Bernstein was one of – if not the most – influential composer of the 20th century.  I couldn’t say whether or not that’s true, but I can say that he is one of my absolute favorites.

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Day 40 – Ole Frosaker

Ole Frosaker was my dad’s dad’s dad.  He emigrated from Norway in 1883, when he was just 4 years old.  I wasn’t able to find where he first landed stateside (perhaps Dad knows…?).  He ended up in North Dakota where he bought an automobile dealership with his brother in 1921.  This dealership – which became Frosaker Motors – was a successful business for him and later my grandpa.

I wonder what kinds of stories Ole told… He lived almost a century – from 1869 until 1962.  I’m not even sure what kind of a man he was.   I will need to ask my dad about what he remember of his grandfather.  I wish that immigrants in those days tried harder to hold onto their cultures – I think it is such a shame that they gave into the ‘melting pot’ idea that was so popular at the time.  I would love to know Norwegian or at least know more about the Norwegian culture.

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Day 30 – Vincent Van Gogh

(I can’t believe I missed TWO days!! I’m a bad blogger! Apologies…)

Van Gogh has always been one of my favorite painters, perhaps because he was one of my dad’s favorite painters.  I think I saw this painting at the MET in New York (or at least a similar one) and really loved it.  I love how Van Gogh’s paintings show motion.  Just look at the sky and branches in this painting.  You can see the wind.  I love it.  It’s the sort of fantastic reality in which I would like to live.

I saw this painting at the Getty Museum in LA long ago, when the Getty Museum was in the old Getty mansion, not up on top of the city as it is now.  I love the vibrancy of the colors in this painting… the blues, oranges and even the whites seem to live on the canvas.

I really love how Van Gogh was able to capture life in his paintings.  I love the mood and feeling of this painting.  It’s such a sweet moment.

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Day 20 – Nine Stories

Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger is one of my favorite books of all time.  It is – as its name suggests – a collection of 9 short stories.  My favorites are “A Perfecct Day for Bananafish” and “For Esmé – with Love and Squalor,” but I will write about those on another date.

I have always loved J.D. Salinger and short stories, so this is a perfect pairing for my tastes.  Salinger was such a gifted story writer.  It takes a lot of thought and talent to create a well-crafted short story, and Salinger was a master.

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Day 19 – Oswald West

Oswald West was my mom’s mother’s father – my great-grandfather.  He was a man ahead of his time.  He was Oregon’s 14th governor, from 1911 until 1915.  During his time in office he passed laws that gave women the right to vote, end capitol punishment and made Oregon’s coast public land.  He also passed prohibition laws, but let’s not hold that against him.

On the campaign trail

Oswald West had the foresight to make the beaches part of the Oregon highway system, thus ensuring that no one could ever privately own the beaches.  Oswald West State Park is named for him.  It is one of the most beautiful stretches of the Oregon coast and one of the most beautiful parks in Oregon.

"If sight of sand and sky and sea has given respite from your daily cares, then pause and thank Oswald West."

My mom loved him as her grandfather.  She called him Go-Go because he would always take her on walks around his Portland neighborhood and down the street to the park.  When he died in 1960, the Oregon Journal wrote of him, “perhaps no one in the state’s history leaves a more lasting impression on it than West.”

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