Friday, May 14, 2010

TC: Pink Trees


Selden Connor Gile, Pink Trees

The message erupts each springtime
What we do know we don't know till we know it
Has slipped away through the airy spring branches
To drift up in thin grains through the gray-white sky
And here on the blue clay earth below it
Down a yellow Spanish East Bay hillside flow
The pink trees

Pink Trees: Selden Connor Gile, 1919


Curtis Roberts said...

I've been returning to this poem, knowing that I knew it and that you were now pairing it with a different image. Then when I looked for it, I tumbled to the fact that it was now retitled, which made sense in light of its "re-visioning". Seeing it again with new eyes certainly opened up my day, as did discovering Selden Connor Giles, a painter and member of a "school" of painters I wasn't familiar with either. The gallery that collects and sells his work in New York City, Spanierman, is one I passed by every day for years and I must have seen a work or two of his in their window at some point and foolishly passed over it in favor of those depicting more familiar (probably east coast) geography. The US coasts sometimes seem incredibly really far away from each other (as if they were on different continents). I’ve visited California frequently and for long periods, but its history has always seemed much more remote to me than the European history we all were made to study in school. I told this to a college friend, whose family has been in California forever and who inevitably returned there to live, and she told me she felt the same way about New York.

TC said...


Much appreciation as always for your good sense and great eye.

Selden Connor Gile was the real genius among a little group of painters called the Society of Six who worked in this territory hereabouts. They brought in their response to the East Bay landscape something of what had been learned from the Impressionists and Fauves. But Gile also contributed a significant and specific gift of his own for plein-air painting, a particular colourist's eye and the bold, sure hand of a master.

Born in Maine (1877), he left business college to Go West as a young man, got a job as paymaster on a ranch in Northern California, fell in love with the ranch owner's daughter, and when her disapproving parents then shipped her off to Europe, where she quickly married another, reacted by pretty much steering clear of women the rest of his life.

In 1905 he moved to Oakland, sold ceramic construction materials to those rebuilding after the '06 Quake. He loved the outdoors and hiking, painted his landscapes "wet" and direct from nature and often thus completed a painting in a matter of hours.

Gile was a legendary host and provider for a group of artists, became the center of a rough and ready male-painter milieu, befriended Jack London and asserted a sort of working-artist ethos that seems consistent with the freshness and immediacy of his painting.

He worked in the East Bay until 1927, when he moved to Marin County, where among comparatively elevated social circumstances he fell to heavy drinking, and his work suffered in consequence. There are some late paintings from New Mexico. He died in 1947 and is buried in the cemetery at Mt. Tamalpais in Marin--a talismanic mountain he had loved to paint.

Curtis Roberts said...

It's the best thing always to find something new to look at, learn about and explore. The new, changed pairing of words and image is terrific and I like going back and forth between the two versions. As for being a "legendary host and provider", that's a great way to be remembered.