Posts Tagged ‘Kirk Douglas’


“Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.”

Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn


In times like these, it is even more important to consider the words above from the classic book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. In days that often filled with anger, anxiety and sometimes despair, we must remember to take in the simple wonders that surround us, to pay notice to the beauty and magic of the natural world surrounding us.

As the death of the great actor Kirk Douglas yesterday reminds us, how much time is guaranteed for any of us here? Do we want to leave this world not having paid attention to the simple wonder within our reach?

I’e been in my current studio for over twelve years now and have looked out its windows tens of thousands of times. But even after all that gazing I still am able find new things to see. Trees I have never noticed. The way the sunlight comes through and hits certain limbs at a certain times. The way the wild turkeys gather under the maple trees beside the studio when its raining and face the house, sometimes gobbling at it as though they believe I can come out and shut off the rain.

If I could, I would do that for them.

Small things. Simple things. But wonders nonetheless.

I find myself sometimes stopping in the woods and looking around, taking notice of the small wonders within my sight. I try to take a snapshot in my mind of that place in that moment, thinking that if I were to suddenly pass away, I would have as an image to carry with me from my last day.

You would be surprised how much comfort I take in that little moment, standing still on a woody path.

This is the gist of what this painting at the top of page is saying to me. Titled In Simple Wonder, it’s part of the Little Gems exhibit at the West End Gallery that opens tomorrow evening.


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Actor/Producer Kirk Douglas turns 103 years old today. As the last of the Hollywood’s Golden Era stars, it would be easy to simply point out the highlights in his long and fabled career. For god’s sake, he was Spartacus. That in itself might be the headline for most people.

But he starred in and made so many great films in so many genres that to focus on one seems to short him in some way. There is the anti-war classic Paths of Glory, the great boxing film Champion and Out of the Past, a film noir gem. He played a modern cowboy out of step with the ever changing world in Lonely Are the Brave, a rising jazz star in Young Man With a Horn and the epic hero Ulysses in the film of the same name.

There are so many others that I could go on and on but I want to focus on one film. It was his portrayal of Vincent Van Gogh in Lust For Life that that really hits for me. It’s a beautifully made film from director Vincent Minnelli with lush colors shot in locations in France that lend it an air of authenticity.

Douglas plays the artist to what feels to me like perfection, capturing Van Gogh’s manic passions and frustrations as well as his fragility. You feel like you are watching Van Gogh and feel his sense of self epiphany that comes from the creation of many of his paintings. It is a performance that is a mixture of strength and vulnerability, much like you see in a Van Gogh painting.

There are a lot of fine films that wonderfully portray artists but this remains a favorite of mine. It’s one of those movies that I can tune into at any point and immediately engage with just because of Douglas’ portrayal and the the beautiful visuals of the film itself.

Like I said, there are tons of films to talk about with Kirk Douglas but there is much more to celebrate with Kirk Douglas’ 103 years on this planet. He has the ultimate American biography. Son of immigrants, raised in a very poor family, worked since he was a child to help his family, talked his way into college, served in the Navy during WW II, became a stage actor ( he was the original Randle Patrick McMurphy in the Broadway production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which he also produced) and then a real movie star.

Plus, he had severe stroke back in 1996 and has flourished in the years since.

It’s been a big life. To make it through all that to be 103 years old, he must have, like Van Gogh, a real lust for life.

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