Herman Maril, Father’s Day Appreciation

Dad enjoyed the interaction of looking at student’s work and discussing with them what they thought they saw. He’d ask them questions and they would have to rethink how they’d put their perceptions down on paper, analyzing ways to make their work better. I sensed their respect and enjoyment of the class as soon as they entered the room and it made me feel proud.

Father’s Day is approaching, and thus I thought it fitting to reprise an essay I wrote about my dad, Herman Maril the artist.   For Herman Maril fans, you can learn more about his career and work at HermanMaril.com.

Nadjapainting
Portrait of Nadja Maril, age 17 By Herman Maril ( 1908-1986)

My father, Herman Maril, used to take me to work with him once a year. On this one day, I’d wake with him at five in the morning, when the sky was still dark, and put on the clothes I’’d laid out the night before. We’d sit by the window waiting for the taxi driver to arrive.

My father would be drinking a cup of coffee and eating a package of orange cheese flavored crackers, spread inside with peanut butter.
“Here take one,” he’d say offering a cracker sandwich.
“Too early in the morning to eat,” I’d say .
More of these crackers could be found inside his desk at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he taught painting twice a week. A full professor and head of the studio department for many years, my father arranged his class schedule so that he only needed to make the trip from Baltimore to College Park twice a week, while he fielded phone calls regarding administrative matters seven days a week. His “at home” days gave him time in his studio to sketch and paint.

Dad didn’t drive, although he retained his driver’s license for identification. That’s why we were waiting for a taxi. Years earlier when I was about two years old, he’d forgotten to put on the emergency brake after getting out of the maroon Studebaker sedan, my parent’s first car,, while I was still in the backseat. The Studebaker started rolling backwards down a hill and while he was able to jump out and stop the car, he took it as a sign to stop driving. My dad was not interested in the mechanics of driving, he wanted to look out at the scenery; people, colors, shapes, and landscape. So my mother took on the role of family driver, leaving my father’s mind free for other things.

Frank, the taxi driver, drove my father to the downtown Baltimore bus station where Dad would take a bus to College Park . Dad was one of his regular customers, and in the morning there’d be banter between the two I could barely follow. Frank’s Baltimore accent was thick and I was too fascinated studying the pattern of criss-cross marks on the back of his neck to listen closely and decipher the words. The wrinkles signified to me that Frank was old. How did those marks get so deep, I’d ponder. A scrawny man, he wore a baseball cap and his nose was shaped like a beak. My father seemed to enjoy talking to Frank, but then he enjoyed talking to just about everyone.

Unlike my mother, who was somewhat aloof with people she didn’t know, my father would engage in conversation with just about everyone we encountered. I admired this trait because I was always afraid to talk to anyone I’d just met, fearful I’d say the wrong thing. I longed to feel comfortable enough to speak to strangers.

The bus ride to College Park was a blur. Sometimes I dozed off while my father looked out the window, perhaps studying the scenery, formulating a future canvas he might paint.

The walk up the hill to the building that housed the art department, in one of the many red brick buildings, was a long one. I struggled to keep up with my father’s confident steps. I was excited. Which students would I meet? What would those college students, almost adults, be talking about and what would their pictures look like?

I remember once spending the day in another professor’s class, a printmaker, where I created an entire etching on copper plate from start to finish. Excited to learn a new skill, I proudly showed my father the prints I’d created when I returned to his classroom but also recall saying, “What a relief to smell canvas and paint. The smell of ink and acid is awful.” The smells of my father’s studio were familiar and comforting.

Another year, I remember I was the model, for a drawing class. One of the students had neglected to bring paper, and when everyone was directed to sketch me sitting perched on a desk, the student had to use a roll of brown paper towel from above the sink.

“No money for art supplies?” My father chided. The student kept working
I peeked at the various sketches. The only ones I remember were the ones in blue pen on the. brown paper toweling. Despite the lack of materials, those sketches looked the best.
“Is he one of your best students?’ I asked. My father tried not to show any preference for particular students, believing everyone had potential. He ignored my question.

Dad enjoyed the interaction of looking at their work and discussing with them what they thought they saw. He’d ask them questions and they’re have to rethink how they’d put their perceptions down on paper, analyzing ways to make their work better. I sensed their respect and enjoyment of the class as soon as they entered the room and it made me feel proud.
Adjacent to his teaching studio was a small office with a battered oak desk. He’d retreat there to smoke his cigarettes. When the sergeant general started cautioning the public on the dangers of smoking, Dad changed from Kents to Larks for their lower nicotine levels, but he couldn’t totally give up cigarettes. “Daddy smoking is bad for you,: I’d tell him. “Don’t worry I don’t inhale.” He’d say.

Smoking was one of the small pleasures important to my father’s enjoyment of life. The other small pleasure was a good cup of coffee. The coffee needed to be real perked coffee, not instant, full-bodied and hot. Find a place that served a good cup of coffee and he was highly appreciative.

Food was also something my father enjoyed, but the food did not need to be fancy. To economize, he brought sandwiches with him for his lunch which he washed down with coffee. In later years, he’d tell us about lunches he enjoyed with his colleagues at a Chinese restaurant near the school. He’d extol the virtues of lots of vegetables and rice with very little meat, before stir fried cooking and Asian diets were popular in the US. He’d describe the sauces in great detail and I would salivate thinking about the exotic food he was describing. Perhaps, that’s why to this day, I enjoy cooking variations of stir-fried Asian dishes.

For many years, in my office desk drawer I used to stash a few packages of peanut butter crackers, preferring the ones that were golden brown. They’d take the edge off my hunger when I wanted to continue working and I needed a small snack. I’d wash the crackers down with a strong cup of coffee. The habits of our parents are hard to break.

Nadjaguitar
Nadja and Guitar by Herman Maril 1971

Maril Aaron Levin Photo_email size

Herman Maril, Africa, and Imagery

“The Essential Herman Maril” is the title of the art show currently featured at  Acme Fine Art in Boston.  The exhibit of works selected by Gallery owners James Bennette and David Cowan provides the viewer with an opportunity to become acquainted with some of the subject themes important in my father’s life. . His career spanned from the 1930s until his death in 1986. There is the boat, the sea, construction in the city, a garden with clothes line, looking out through a kitchen window, and one of my favorites–a black rotary wall  telephone .  My father painted what he knew and what he saw; selectively reducing and refining figures and shapes to depict on the paper or canvas what he felt to be important.

My dad, who divided his time between Maryland and Cape Cod, did some traveling and he sketched when he traveled. Writers put their notes in a journal.  Herman’s notes took the shapes of trees, coastlines, people, and buildings.  He visited the Southwest, California, Mexico, Spain, Italy, and Portugal, but he never made it to Africa although he had a modest collection of African Art that he prized. In addition  to several masks and  locks from a Chief’s hut, there was a sculpture fetish that was said to have been caked in mud  and  containing a lion’s ear when Herman purchased it.. He admired the simple carved shapes of these treasures, which he displayed in the front hallway and living room of our home at a time when such objects were not particularly fashionable.

As a child in the days when there were only three or four television stations, I’d watch wildlife nature shows with my dad,   mesmerized by the images on the black and white TV. Expansive plains, tall grasses waving in the wind and the close-up of a hungry lion in pursuit of dinner, chasing a fast moving gazelle had us on the edge of our chairs. It was a shared time, just me an my father, and during my recent visit to East Africa I thought of him often, wishing he was with me to see the expansive plains, baoba trees,  lions, zebras, gazelles, giraffes, and wildebeests in person.

When I told my brother David Maril  I was going to Africa, he sent me a photograph of the bird sculpture Dad had painted in the oil painting below, “Artist Contemplating African Bird” now in the collection of  Adirondack Community College, originally acquired by his close friend the poet William Bronk, known to our family as Bill.

Artistw:African Scu;pture

“Artist Contemplating African Bird” oil on canvas by Herman Maril, Collection of Adirondack Community College

David  was hoping I might be able to identify the origin of the sculpture, if I saw something similar.While I saw many large handsome birds during our travels on the Wami river and on our safari excursions overland by jeep inside Ngoronguru Crater and Masai Mara National Reserve, I saw no original pieces of bird sculpture during my visit. Walking in and out of all the tourist shops that line the narrow streets of the Stone Town portion of Zanzibar I mostly encountered the usual wood carvings I suspect are probably mass produced in China. My husband Peter and I found one quality merchant who was selling the older tribal pieces along with fine Middle Eastern jewelry and artifacts– but no bird sculptures.

Our favorite memories from the trip are those moments seeing the animals on the move in their natural environment. Watching hundreds of zebras, wildebeests, and gazelle making their way across the Serengeti Plain in search of fresh grass and sitting in a boat yards away from massive Hippos, hearing their deep sonorous groans as they submerge themselves underwater and reappear,  is an experience of a lifetime. It reminded  me that wildlife, and the variety of animals we grew up visiting at the zoo,  is not something we can take for granted.  It’s important we  try to preserve the earth  and protect our endangered species that include the Black Rhinoceros and Leopard, both of which I had the privilege to see, albeit from a far distance. (This is when field binoculars come in handy).

Nature and the images  we see, whether they are exotic animals  or the shape of flowers that bloom on the tree outside our window, can inspire the artist in all of us. You don’t have to travel half way around the world to see something worthy of inspiration, but some times taking a journey can give us perspective to appreciate what we have when we return home.

 

 

 

Ice Day Poem by Nadja Maril

Ice4

Ice Day

By Nadja Maril

As soon as I see the sun

I reach for my coat in the closet.

It is time to walk

On this ice day.

Frozen bits melt into drops

Slide down gutters, pipes, trees

Plop on to the cold wet mush we once called snow.

 

I match my steps to my dog’s  wet prints on the asphalt

Keeping her leash firmly taut I choose my path

Carefully inspecting the speckled road and pavement

Remnants of ices to be avoided, clumps of salt

Detours created for the sake of Chloe’s paws.

 

This is a strange time of year

Transition from Winter into Spring

Cold and wet ooze

Sloppy puddles, chilly mush

I think of snow cones so desirable in summer

Now distasteful as the wind blows briskly on my face.

 

The sun’s rays warm  my armor

Heavy jacket, wool cap and padded gloves

Ultimately  arctic blast seeps into my bones

Hastens my return to shelter

Listening to spinning wheels and scraping shovels

I admire the still blue sky from my window.

High in the Andes Mountains of Peru the Number Three Has Many Meanings

I hold three crisp green Coca leaves…messages delivered to the fabric of the universe….

The Sacred Valley approaching Mlantaytambo
The Sacred Valley approaching Ollantaytambo

The Power of Three

 

I hold three crisp green Coca leaves

Arrange carefully their graceful elongated shapes

Admiring the small bouquet

An offering, grasped between my thumb and two fingers.

 

The chime of the bell signals it’s time

To inhale and expel three breaths imbued with my intentions

One for the underground snake

One for the prowling puma

One for the condor in the clouds.

 

Bits of fluffy cotton ask for rain

Sugar candy begs for a sweet life

Quinoa for sustenance and strength.

We sprinkle many things and make our requests

On the cloth of our existence

Creating a small bundle to be buried or burned

Messages delivered to the fabric of the universe.

 

Our demands are great.

Our offerings small.

The lack of balance spins the circle around

Creating a never ending spiral

Propelling us to repeat the journey

Humans on a spinning top, likely to fall from grace.

 

An altar placed within a church where once a temple stood

A holy place filled with memories and dreams

The trinity of life; past, present and future

The father, the son the Holy Ghost

The sun, the moon, the stars

The father, the mother, and the child

The three points of the triangle, a mountain stretching towards the sky.

 

We reach for the heavens

Forgetting to embrace the present

We stumble and repeat past mistakes

Searching for the answers

Trying to find our way back home.

______Nadja Maril   1/27/2015

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Machu Picchu, High in the Sky and Close to the Clouds

Approaching the realm of the condor
I ascend stairs of stone

Our first afternoon at Machu Picchu standing near the "Guard House"
Our first afternoon at Machu Picchu standing near the “Guard House”

Machu Picchu

Approaching the realm of the condor

I ascend stairs of stone

Deep breaths expand my lungs and mind

Transported by magnificence

I imagine the puma stalking his prey without fear.

Built without wheels or written words

Knowledge kept alive through textiles and storytelling

Knots of rope tabulating the harvest

I count the steps and bravely climb, afraid to fall.

Touching the clouds

I feel the labor of many hands

Pushing, pulling, shifting the weight and burden

Of boulders, the mountain’s power

The secrets of Mother Earth pressing beneath my feet

I stand amazed.

————Nadja Maril  1/25/2015

Less is More

Lately I’ve been using the phrase “less is more” . It applies to so many things from why I put less sugar in my apple pie to why too many chairs in a room make the space look cluttered.

It’s the phrase I use to explain why it’s better to leave open space on a dinner plate if I want to make what’s on the plate important. It’s why it’s better to wear less make-up and less aftershave.

Yes, less is more applies to many situations including size. Does a piece of artwork have to be large to be important? I say no. Many of my favorite paintings are very small oils, little paintings I could put inside a suitcase and take with me when I moved from Maryland to California. Easily they made the cross-country journey more than once.

“Less is More “ is the title of a national juried art exhibit opening next week at the Mitchell Gallery at St. John’s College in Annapolis.  The work was selected by distinguished juror Domenic Iacono, director of Syracuse University Art Galleries You can see all the items in the exhibit, which will be hanging until June 15th online. The profits from exhibit sales will help fund educational programs.

On Wednesday May 28th there will be an opening reception from 6:30- 9:30. Sip wine, beer or an artini. Listen to the music of the Rob Levitt Duo. Sample gourmet food provided by leading caterers in Greater Annapolis. Be one of the first visitors to the exhibit to make an art purchase. Tickets are $100. https://community.stjohnscollege.edu/lessismore-2014

or call 410-626-2536 to purchase a ticket.

I hope to see you there at the Mitchell Gallery on the evening of May 28th so you can decide for yourself if Less is More.

Coneflower Summer Relief print, collage Size: 8"W x 10"H   By Beth A. Bynum
Coneflower Summer
Relief print, collage
Size: 8″W x 10″H
By Beth A. Bynum
The Big Move oil on canvas Size: 4"W x 6"H  The Big Move oil on canvas Size: 4"W x 6"H  By Ned Axthelm
The Big Move
oil on canvas
Size: 4″W x 6″H
The Big Move
oil on canvas
Size: 4″W x 6″H
By Ned Axthelm

Poetry on a Cape Cod Beach

Long Nook Beach in Truro
Long Nook Beach in Truro

Easter weekend on Cape Cod, walking on a windy beach, the sun shining in your face. It can’t get much better than this!

Patterns on the Beach

Shapes that look like fish bones

Pressed into the wet sand

The impressions of undulating waves

A thumbprint of the sea.

I walk along the ocean’s edge

at Long Nook Beach and try not to get my shoes wet.

It’s too cold to take them off.

The wind at the top of the cliffs is strong

Strong enough to lift a parasail glider and suspend him

High above the beach with the tall cliffs at his back.

We admire him and the view he must have

Looking down on the sand bars and rippling water below

Seeing from a distance

the water’s patterns in the sand.

Sand closeupselfie