Commonplace book: A personal journal
in which quotable passages, literary excerpts,
and comments are written.

(definition from The American heritage dictionary of the English language, 1969)


[Thomas Jefferson] adored detail, noting the temperature each day and carrying a tiny ivory-leaved notebook in his pocket to track his daily expenditures.
(on Thomas Jefferson, passed on by Daniel Starr from a biography he was reading)

***

Hieronymus Bosch was the father of all art, as far as I am concerned. In the triptychs that Bosch used, I see a precedent for contemporary installation. You can open them, close them. The panels create a narrative device of enormous complexity.
(Francesc Torres, quoted in Art news, May 2010, p. 78)

***

Yesterday is the Past, Tomorrow is the Future, but Today is a gift, that's why it's called the Present.
(embroidered sampler above check-in desk at highway motel near Maryhill Museum of Art, Washington State; quoted by Nick Mauss in Art in America, Apr. 2015, p. 35)

***

I used to think strategy, execution and culture were a three-legged stool. Now I realize that if you create the best culture, the other two will follow.
(Robert Reid, chief executive of Intacct, in the "Corner Office" column, New York times, Dec. 21, 2014, p. BU 2)

***

I am beginning to think that, in reality, space is not a significant part of our preoccupations in life. Only time is, that spills and slips through our fingers when we try to catch it.
(Luis Mansilla, 1959-2012, in tribute by Stanley T. Allen in Architect's newspaper (The East), Apr. 18, 2012, p. 9)

***

No need to hurry, no need to sparkle, no need to be anybody but oneself.
(Virginia Woolf)

***

Went with Angelica to the Rondanini Palace. You will remember that, in one of my first letters from Rome, I spoke of a Medusa which made a great impression on me. Now the mere knowledge that such a work could be created and still exists in the world makes me feel twice the person I was. I would say something about it if everything one could say about such a work were not a waste of breath. Works of art exist to be seen, not talked about, except, perhaps in their presence. I am thoroughly ashamed of all babbling about art in which I used to join. If I can get hold of a good cast of this Medusa, I shall bring it back with me.
(Goethe, Italian journey, 1786, quoted in "History lessons: imitation, work and the temporality of contemporary art," Art history, Sept. 2014, p. 807)

***

A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.
(Joan Didion, quoted by Sarah Cash as wall text for 2013 reinstallation at the Corcoran Gallery of Art)

***

Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.
(Gustave Flaubert, quoted by Julianne Moore in a profile in the New York Times, Sept. 7, 2014, p. AR 54)

***

The worry is that the exploratory nature of longer forms of criticism is increasingly replaced with the quick-fire list which can be easily viewed on an iPhone -- distracted cultural snacking.
(Omar Kholeif in "To blog or not to blog?" in Art monthly, March 2014, p. 9-12)

***

Being naked approaches being revolutionary; going barefoot is mere populism.
(John Updike, quoted in Passport, March 2012, p. 4)

***

It's only when the tide goes out that you discover who's been swimming naked.
(Warren Buffett, quoted in Passport, March 2012, p. 4)

***

Because God created it, the human body can remain nude and uncovered and preserve its splendor and its beauty.
(Pope John Paul II, quoted in Passport, March 2012, p. 4)

***

Sometimes I like to run naked in the moonlight and the wind, on a little trail behind our house, when the honeysuckle blooms. It's a feeling of freedom, so close to God and nature.
(Dolly Parton, quoted in Passport, March 2012, p. 4)

***

Was his work more influenced by art movements or the movements of the wind and water?
(on a Tom Thomson t-shirt purchased at Art Gallery of Ontario)

***

You have a good relationship with your mother now though, don’t you?
Yeah, I do.
You went on holiday with her recently?
I did. I’m the one she can call at the last minute because I haven’t got the same commitments as my brothers and sisters. I’m the loser. (Laughs) I like going with her. She likes to sit in the sun all day and I just do my writing. I was running every morning and writing up to 2,600 words a day. I like nature. Nature is easy. It’s people that are hard.
(Aiden Shaw, gay porn star and author, interviewed by Paul Flynn, Butt, 26, April 2009, available online:
http://www.buttmagazine.com/magazine/interviews/aiden-shaw/)

***

Architecture has to have poetry, to lift the spirit.
(Keith Zawistowski, paraphrasing Samuel Mockbee, quoted in Metropolis, Oct. 2012, p. 26)

***

The two sources of words with the prefix "port" are "to carry" and "door." I wonder if a portrait carried the traits or was it a door to the person.
(Lucy R. Lippard, in I see/you mean (Chrysalis Books, 1979), p. 53)

***

Silhouettes of stereotypes, in other words, negative images of negative images. Were pictorial representation a mathematical equation or a linguistic construction, [Kara] Walker's double negatives would cancel themselves out, become, instead, positives, in other words, affirmations. But that is not their logic or signifying structure. At stake and at play in Walker's work is negative form coupled with negative content, one reinforcing rather than negating the other, doubling rather than defusing their power, a negativity at once unredeemed and unredeemable.
(Lisa Saltzman, Making memory matter (University of Chicago Press, 2006), p. 89)

***

Everything will be alright in the end, so if it's not alright, it is not yet the end.
(Sonny, the hotelier, in the film "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," directed by John Madden, 2011)

***

Are we all just information addicts, churning out bad Xeroxes of something we once saw?
(Adam Fisher, in an article on Frankfurt artist Michael Riedel, New York times magazine, May 13, 2012)

***

But on closer inspection the country seems more like a panorama of madness and delusion worthy of Hieronymus Bosch: of sturdy blue-collar patriots reciting the Pledge while they strangle their own life chances; of small farmers proudly voting themselves off the land; of devoted family men carefully seeing to it that their children will never be able to afford college or proper health care; of working-class guys in midwestern cities cheering as they deliver up a landslide for a candidate whose policies will end their way of life, will transform their region into a "rust belt," will strike people like them blows from which they will never recover.
(Thomas Frank, in What's the matter with Kansas? (Metropolitan Books, 2004), p. 10)

***

Write as much as possible in the presence of the actual object and return to it if you have second thoughts.
(J.J. Winckelmann, advice to Charles-Louis Clérisseau, quoted in Dr. Kimball and Mr. Jefferson by Hugh Howard (Bloomsbury, 2006), p. 62)

***

Too much of a good thing is often wonderful!
(Mae West, quoted by Garth Clark in introduction to Postmodern ceramics, by Mark Del Vecchio (Thames & Hudson, 2001), p. 8)

***

Too much is never enough!
(Morris Lapidus, quoted by Garth Clark in introduction to Postmodern ceramics, by Mark Del Vecchio (Thames & Hudson, 2001), p. 8)

***

The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another.
(J.M. Barrie; shared by Martha Walker, friend and colleague in art librarianship)

***

George was an atheist, and so am I. But how I long now for an afterlife -- a world of light or of deep dazzling darkness, where he and the others we've lost reside, unscathed, forever accessible -- to have tea with, to talk nonsense with, to reinvent the world with.
(Samuel Steward on George Platt Lynes, from an index card he kept on his desk until his own death; quoted in Secret historian by Justin Spring (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011), p. 230)

***

Its figure style is still Romanesque, but the tension is being relaxed: the artists are beginning to be interested in the human form in its own right instead of taking it as a departure point for abstractions.
(C.R. Dodwell, in The pictorial arts of the West, 800-1200 (Yale University Press, 1993), p. 404)

***

The funny thing about regret is that it's better to regret something you have done than something you haven't.
(Gibby Haynes, quoted by Bob Nickas, in Flash art (international edition), Jan./Feb. 2011, p. 36)

***

Beloufa's 2010 video Untitled, for example, grew out of an anecdote he heard about terrorists who supposedly occupied a modernist house near Algiers for three years in the 1990s and left it in great condition. Intrigued, the artist talked with the landlord, the neighbors, and the gardener and took pictures of the building and its surroundings. Then, using a large paper model of the house as well as blown-up photo reproductions of it, he shot a film based on his interviews, with actors playing the witnesses.
(Milliard, Coline, "Neil Beloufa," Modern painters, Dec. 2010/Jan. 2011, p. 49, one of "Nine to watch")

***

Please, no matter how we advance technologically, please don't abandon the book -- there is nothing in our material world more beautiful than the book.
(Patti Smith, upon accepting the National Book Award for her Just kids, cf NY Times, Nov. 21, 2010)

***

More than once I've awakened with tears running down my cheeks,
I have had to think whether I was crying
or whether it was involuntary like drooling.
(from an installation at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, early 1980s; for a long time, I didn't know the source/artist, but I eventually traced it to Jenny Holzer. A Holzer bench with this text was on display at the High Museum in Atlanta when ARLIS/NA met there in spring 2007) (and it's on a bench in the sculpture garden at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, seen during VRA-ARLIS/NA joint conference 2011)

***

I'd give the world to have been photographed by Carl Van Vechten, but I was only a little boy when he died and hadn't done anything yet to distinguish myself as a homosexual or a modernist.
(Kevin Killian, in Likeness: portraits of artists by other artists (San Francisco: CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, 2004), p. 27)

***

Nature does not proceed in a straight line. It is rather a sprawling development. Nature is never finished.
(Robert Smithson)

***

Would my work function at all if it were a mere documentation of my sex life? Does Cindy Sherman sit at home with a clown's mask on her face, rolling around in her own vomit from time to time?
(Matthias Herrmann, in Hotel_tricks (Toronto: Art Metropole, 2006), inside back cover)

***

Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.
(Abraham Lincoln, in his second Inaugural Address, quoted by Dean Murphy in The New York times, Nov. 7, 2004)

***

We [Democrats] are the party that genuinely believes in government, and the role that government can play in society. I don't think we ought to apologize for that.
(Tom Daschle, Senator from South Dakota, 1987-2005; quoted in New York times, Dec. 12, 2004)

***

If I don't sleep for the next 16 days,
it will be like four more years.
(Bill Clinton, at the end of his presidency,
quoted in The New York times, Jan. 6, 2001)

***

Eros, weaver of myths.
Eros, sweet and bitter.
Eros, bringer of pain.
(text in Coronation of Sesostris (2000), a painting by Cy Twombly, quoting the late Bronze Age poet-warrior Alkman, seen at Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2 Jan. 2001)

***

He was not cut out to be a soldier, he thought, but neither were most of the young men of his class and acquaintance who went to fight. It was not wisdom which kept him away, he believed, but something closer to cowardice, and as he walked the cobbled streets of his new town, he almost thanked God for it.
(Henry, the narrator, in The master, a novel based on the life of Henry James, by Colm Tóibín)

***

I would rather sleep in Chartres Cathedral with the nearest toilet two blocks away than in a Harvard house with back-to-back bathrooms.
(Philip Johnson, quoted in obituary in N.Y. times, 27 January 2005)

***

Fewer and fewer things are not television.
(Herbert Muschamp, in an article on renovating Lincoln Center,
New York times, Arts & leisure, Jan. 2001)

***

Insanity is when you do things the way you've always done them and expect a different result.
(variously attributed to Albert Einstein and Ralph Waldo Emerson)
http://hangingtogether.org/?cat=9 - from report on RLG Forum (thanks, Guenter)

***

"My mother made me a homosexual."
"If I give her some wool, will she make me one, too?"
(graffiti quoted by Silverstein, p. 52)

***

When life is like
the chaos of a bramble,
follow with your eyes
one branch ...
You'll find its beginning;
its end will touch
the freedom of the air.
Like so many endings in peace ...
(Christmas greeting by Dorothy Scorelle, 1983)

***

I have a different feeling in New York [City] than I do anywhere else. I feel like no harm is going to come to me, that this is my city. I almost feel like I know everybody and everybody knows me and we're all pals. Now, obviously, that can't be true, but so much of how you relate to life is how you feel. And that's my attitude in New York. I am a child of the city. The relationship is maternal.
(Richard Dean Parsons, New York times, Dec. 9, 2001)

***

If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me.
(W.H. Auden)

***

If there is such a thing as a just war, then murder can be necessary for the sake of justice.
(W.H. Auden)

***

She had, however, a peculiar taste: she liked to receive cards. ... Nothing pleased her more than to find her hall table whitened with oblong morsels of symbolic pasteboard.
(Henry James, The portrait of a lady, p. 59 in Penguin classics edition)

***

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
(Arthur Conan Doyle, The sign of four)

***

Never lend books, for no one ever returns them, the only books I have in my library are books that other folks have lent me.
(Anatole France)

***

How shall I ever find the grains of truth embedded in all this mass of paper?
(Virginia Woolf, A room of one's own)

***

Give me the luxuries of life and I will willingly do without the necessities.
(Frank Lloyd Wright)

***

Put your money in your head, then no one can take it from you.
(Rita Mae Brown, Southern discomfort, p. 66)

***

What you get is a living, what you give is a life.
(D.W. Griffith, quoted in Lillian Gish's autobiography, conclusion)

***

All Lord Burlington's books which survive are in mint condition. None is torn, dog-eared, worn or appreciably thumbed, with the single exception of the copy of Palladio which he bought in Vicenza in 1719 and carried around with him on his pilgrimage to villas and churches in Venetia.
(James Lees-Milne, Earls of creation, p. 137-138)

***

If one has no hope and nothing to lose, no reason to obey law.
(Richard M. Nixon, in reference to riots, 1967?)

***

Chamber rules for the House of Lords require that all double-barreled names have hyphens.
(in an article on Andrew Lloyd Webber, aka Lord Lloyd-Webber,
in the New York times, 10 Jan. 2000, front page)

***

My father could walk in the sky.
He promised to teach me how,
But he left without saying goodbye,
I don't cry. I'm a grownup now.
(Duane Michals, caption for photo entitled
"My father could walk in the sky," 1989,
exhibited Pace MacGill Gallery, Feb. 2000)

***

On the positive side, I had a student from mainland China in a[n art history] survey class who wrote something like this about Renaissance art: "I was raised in communist China and they taught us religion was like a drug, it stole people's minds. But, I think religion must be a very powerful drug if it can inspire people to make art this beautiful."
(contribution to a discussion about bloopers and misconceptions on examinations and in papers, on CAAH list from Rett Lorance, 17 December 2005)

***

I want to live there again. I want to live in that dark alley named l'Impasse des Deux Anges, and have those little pointed jeweled blue velvet shoes at the Cluny copied, and get my perfumes from Molinard's and go to Schiaparelli's spring show to watch her ugly mannequins jerking about as if they were run with push buttons, hitching their belts down in back every time they turn, giving each other hard theatrical Lesbian stares. I want to light a foot-high candle to Our Lady of Paris for bringing me back, and go out to Chantilly to see if they've turned another page in the Duke's Book of Hours. I'd like to dance again in that little guinguette in rue d'Enfert-Rochereau with the good-looking young Marquis -- what's his name? descended from Joan of Arc's brother. I want to go again to la Bagatelle and help the moss roses open; in cold springs, they get stuck, poor things, halfway -- all you do is loosen one outer petal and there it opens, before your eyes! I want to do that again. I'll go again to Rambouillet through those woods that really do look just as Watteau and Fragonard saw them. And to St. Denis to see again the lovely white marble feet of kings and queens, lying naked together on the roof above their formal figures on the bier, delicate toes turned up side by side. I never saw such rainbows as I saw over the city of Paris, I never saw such rain either.
(Mrs. Treadwell, on going back to Paris, in Ship of fools by Katherine Anne Porter, p. 211-212)

***

Love the pasture, hate the people.
(pony, in Sharon Chickanzeff's dream, 30 October 2006)

***

In a few years' time, I'd [Bob Dylan] write and sing songs like "It's alright Ma (I'm only bleeding)," "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Lonesome death of Hattie Carroll," "Who killed Davey Moore," "Only a pawn in their game," "A hard rain's a-gonna fall" and some others like that. If I hadn't gone to the Theatre de Lys and heard the ballad "Pirate Jenny," it might not have dawned on me to write them, that songs like that could be written. In about 1964 and '65, I probably used about five or six of Robert Johnson's blues song forms, too, unconsciously, but more on the lyrical imagery side of things. If I hadn't heard the Robert Johnson record when I did, there probably would have been hundreds of lines of mine that would have been shut down -- that I wouldn't have felt free enough or upraised enough to write. I wasn't the only one who learned a thing or two from Johnson's compositions. Johnny Winter, the flamboyant Texan guitar player born a couple of years after me, rewrote Johnson's song about the phonograph, turning it into a song about a television set. Johnny's tube is blown and his picture won't come in. Robert Johnson would have loved that. Johnny, by the way, recorded a song of mine, "Highway 61 revisited," which itself was influenced by Johnson's writing. It's strange the way circles hook up with themselves. Robert Johnson's code of language was like nothing I'd heard before or since. To go with all of that, someplace along the line Suze had also introduced me to the poetry of French Symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud. That was a big deal, too. I came across one of his letters called "Je est un autre," which translates into "I is someone else." [sic] When I read those words the bells went off. It made perfect sense. I wished someone would have mentioned that to me earlier. It went right along with Johnson's dark night of the soul and Woody's hopped-up union meeting sermons and the "Pirate Jenny" framework. Everything was in transition and I was standing in the gateway. Soon I'd step in heavy loaded, fully alive and revved up. Not quite yet, though.
(Bob Dylan, Chronicles, volume one, 2004, p. 287-288)

***

I am an unbeliever who has a nostalgia for belief.
(Pier Paolo Pasolini, quoted in The New York sun, Nov. 29, 2007, review of Pasolini film series of the Film Society of Lincoln Center at Walter Reade Theater)

***

Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind.
(James Russell Lowell, poet, editor, and diplomat (1819-1891); quoted by Nancy Silverrod in her sigfile)

***

A closed mind is like a closed book: just a block of wood.
(Chinese proverb; quoted by Nancy Silverrod in her sigfile)

***

[I] think one travels more usefully when alone, because he reflects more.
(Thomas Jefferson, quoted in Dr. Kimball and Mr. Jefferson by Hugh Howard (Bloomsbury, 2006), p. 62)

***

You manage change, problems and emergencies. But you never manage people. You help them improve and, if needed, you become their mentor.
(Frederik G.H. Meijer, quoted in his obituary in the New York times, Dec. 7, 2011)


Last edited: 16 May 2016


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