SEB Blog

Sarah Elizabeth Banks



August 2017                                                  Submitted by Sarah Banks

My painting Collapse evolved logically from earlier work. Last year’s travels in southern Italy, and opportunity to revisit Caravaggio’s  and Gentileschi’s work in Naples,  concentrated my thoughts and intentions. The misery and horror of the Middle East wars—Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria-- recall Goya’s prints on the Peninsular War horrors of the 19th c in Spain. Many of Goya’s etchings on the Disasters of War record  women facing rape and death—images that equally  could show Yazidi  women and girls forced into sex slavery or killed by Isis.  And of course that made me think of Artemesia Gentileschi’s revenge through art—a magnificent work that has endured centuries. The gods are, indeed, angry.

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July 2017                                                  Submitted by Sarah Banks

While painting in Portugal’s Alentejo region this spring I was thinking of Poussin and Cézanne—and the wonderful way they created a sealed and self-contained world. I experimented with size and created a series of teenies, 5x 7 oil sketches on canva paper, an attempt to force myself to eliminate all but the essential. I was trying for images of compression that concentrate and stress the overall design.

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May 2017                                                  Submitted by Sarah Banks

baby and women

I just reread Chris Hedges book, War is a Force That Gives us Meaning. I wonder what a lost generation of Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan children would say?

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February 2017                                                  Submitted by Sarah Banks

I was thinking about García Lorca today--his writings that always spoke truth to power. He gave voice to the often voiceless--scenes from Blood Wedding come to mind. It's the joy/exuberance mixed with sadness that has always struck me--"at the heart of all great art is an essential melancholy". Which is how flamenco, the gypsy lament, melds exuberant dance with mournful song. Así es la vida.....

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January 2017                         Art Inspiring Poetry                      Submitted by Sarah Banks

Dear Thetis"
By Teya Priest Johnston
Inspired by “Thetis"
This is what happened.

I was eleven, sequestered,
hellish, angry, Florida, summer.
Mercy a constant longing.
A reprieve in mother’s drug cabinet.
I slept, not for lack of love,
but a solemn anguish holding vessel.

There were pools everywhere,
except not in our backyard.
The slap of awakening
was severe. The house hotly full,
with no sound of baby sister.
I leaped,
the first time seeing,
every curtain closed,
meant no sight of tricycle,
no red wagon carting dolls,
no way to know the world.

Across the street, a manicured yard,
lines of black trim along the white
flat-topped pebbled roof,
no cars in the drive,
a snake-curve of sidewalk led
to the filigree iron gate,
hanging open.

In a fire walker’s
singular hysteria,
no pain, not knowing
how I arrived.
I held my breath.

Thetis, there she was
leaned over, peering down,
hands upon her precious knees,
little mouth pursed
with deciding.

Immortal Mother
By Wendy Osserman
Inspired by ‘Thetis”

Is she drowning him?
Costumed in strips of water
     she holds him straight upside down
     his baby ankle cupped in her hand

I read the title
she is Achilles' mom
     Now I see the blade of moonlight
     pointing at his heel

Sky and field
past and future enclose her
     a goddess who can change shape
     and prophesy

She would hover here forever
to protect him
     She might save him
     if she let him go

This sea daughter will learn
what mortal mothers know
     giving birth
     is giving death

by R.W. Schindler
Inspired by Alhambra Dreams
by Sarah Elizabeth Banks

Swaddled in unspoken words
Moorish squatter poses –
azure sea of time
still life, golden walls

scissored surreal
arms breasts ebony hair
lavender blue green
stark Muladi stare.

Inscriptions of lovers
restore Palacio scene
geometric letters by
poetic queen
views beyond
the door Alhambra Dreams.

This year´s Bank of the Arts National Juried Exhibition, New Bern, North Carolina offered Alan Shapiro, 2015 Pulitzer Finalis ,as the Judge for the Poetry competition/Ekphrasis 2016 to complement the visual art selection made by Dr Larry Wheeler, Director of the North Carolina Museum of Art. My collage Thetis inspired two poems. Dear Thetis by Teya Priest Johnston was awarded First Place.

And in 2015 R.W. Schindler was inspired by my collage Alhambra Dreams at the Bank of the Arts National Juried Exhibition. .

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On a recent trip to Spain I drove west from the capital at Madrid into the wild west of the 16th c, Extremadura—home to saints, mystic poets, and soldiers of fortune. My first stop was Ávila, a chance to ponder a statue to Santa Teresa of Ávila in her birthplace and consider her contribution to the Age of Conquest as a mystical writer/ reformer saint associated with the Counter-Reformation. My next stop was Trujillo, a small town surrounded by cork oak and olive trees where the only nighttime sound is the ringing of sheep and goat bells. The Plaza Mayor is one of the prettiest in Spain; in a corner of the plaza rises the equestrian statue of the  Conquistador Francisco Pizarro—Hapsburg-like chin pointing off to distant lands. He’s encircled by 16th century palaces built with his plunder from New World adventures. His motives were pure—an adventure in pursuit of wealth, with only the King sharing the spoils. The wealth extracted was so phenomenal, and the cost so high to the conquered peoples, that eventually it was necessary to recast the Spanish wars of conquest as a moral crusade, a crusade to civilize and Christianize. And it started here in Extremadura with these huge personalities—plunder, and prayer.

Easy money. It wasn’t long before the Spanish Empire grew addicted to gold. Instead of using it to invest in the country’s future—irrigation canals, improved agriculture, sanitation systems, industry, education—the gold went into ostentatious display in churches and palaces, and funded wars of expansion. Within a century, Spain had spent itself into debt—a resonant story. While wars erupted in its colonies, famine and plague swept through Old Castile.  A people so weakened, eventually the Inquisition became the ultimate moral arbiter. But long before then, Pizarro had enjoyed his spoils. And Santa Teresa her ecstasy.

And that’s what I was thinking about on a wet autumn day in Rome as I contemplated the meaning of Bernini’s Santa Teresa’s Ecstasy in the lovely Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria.

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  January 2017                         Bridge Building                         Submitted by Sarah Banks

Building bridges has been a theme in Bilbao since the iconic Guggenheim Museum rose among the blackened buildings of this once industrial city—from the elegant bridges that link to the museum to dazzling exhibits that expose this northern corner of Spain to great art. On a long holiday weekend/or bridge, I meandered through crowds of children climbing on Chillida sculptures to the Bellas Artes Museum to see an impressive retrospective on the work and mutual influences of Zamacois, Meissonier, and Fortuny. Eduardo Zamacois was a local lad, tragically for the art world dead at 30 in 1871. A student of the brilliant French painter Meissonier and fellow traveler with the Catalan Fortuny, Zamacois’ mastery of watercolor was breathtaking. The beautifully curated show seduced with exotic scenes of southern Europe and North Africa, voluptuous still lifes and didactic history paintings. France and Spain after the Paris Commune, on the cusp of the Franco-Prussian War, in the midst of the French and Spanish exploits in North Africa—they recorded it all in oil, pen and ink, gouache, watercolor. And I left feeling I’d crossed a bridge to an almost forgotten era.

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Sarah Elizabeth Banks