Surgical Strikes

[strike (n.) A sudden achievement or valuable discovery, as of a precious mineral.]

My husband and I were in Houston for a week for his spinal surgery at Houston Methodist in the Texas Medical Center. Two days before the scheduled operation, we had an afternoon to ourselves in between the pre-op procedures that morning and the imaging appointments in Radiology the next day. In the midst of the stress and apprehension that accompanies any major surgery, I suggested we visit the Rothko Chapel in the Museum District of the city, not far from the hotel at the medical center where we were staying. I thought we could use some peace and tranquility in a prayerful space.

The chapel houses fourteen canvases painted by abstract expressionist Mark Rothko. That particular movement in art had never appealed to me, but I, along with my husband, was willing to be persuaded to a different opinion by the experience. A quote from co-founder Dominique de Menil in the chapel brochure in the foyer impressed me from the first moment.

The Rothko Chapel is oriented toward the sacred and yet it imposes no traditional environment. It offers a place where a common orientation could be found-an orientation towards God, named or unnamed, an orientation towards the highest aspirations of Man…

It is a place, then, where each visitor can create her own meaning, can be led to serenity by his own pathway, art, God, architecture or the integration of the three.

There’s no doubt that the paintings are meant to dominate. The octagonal design of the chapel’s architecture merely creates the space in which the art reigns. Rothko’s fourteen works are massive and monochromatic, colossuses which the painter said he wanted to overwhelm the viewer. About the “color field” technique of abstract expressionism, Metropolitan Museum of Art educator Stella Paul says that these artists held the sublime as a goal in their paintings, not the beautiful. They wanted the viewer’s experience to transcend pure aesthetics (as with just a pretty representational picture) to the level of spirituality through the emotional power of color and size.

I had read, too, that the abstract expressionists were heavily influenced by Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious and believed that humans share a hard-wired catalog of meaningful images and that these can be exploited by artists to express universal human conditions. And, I swear, the longer I gazed at Rothko’s paintings, the more archetypal visions I could make out in his overlapping subtle shadings of black and inky plum. The canvases looked almost like they’d been loosely upholstered with crepe de chine; they flowed with color. By the end of our thirty-minute visit, I could see biblical beards and Mosaic robes, multitudes of upturned human faces, crosses, slopes of spruce forests, rippling river water, seascapes, all merging and transforming with the shifting cloud shadows through the skylight overhead. Dominique de Menil said further about the chapel, “It is a place where a great artist, turned toward the Absolute, had the courage to paint almost nothing.” The more I let myself see, the more I saw. And so did my husband, his own perceptions. We left quietened and calmed, strengthened, I feeling the presence of God, he trusting the potential greatness of human ability, in painters and surgeons alike.

Two mornings later when we checked him in for surgery at 10 a.m., we were stressed again now that the time had come. Even though we had confidence in the neurosurgeon’s stellar reputation (and the people who had recommended him), in the excellent hospital and all the careful pre-op, it was nevertheless alarming to know that my husband’s spinal canal would be cleaned up and repaired during the upcoming decompression surgery to relieve pressure on two spinal discs and their attendant nerves, thus ending his pain. “What about the spinal cord?” I wondered, silently so as not to multiply my husband’s own worries, hoping there wasn’t a thought balloon visible above my head with images of Christopher Reeve swirling around in it. “What if it’s severed or damaged during the procedure?”

It wasn’t until he was actually in the OR and my cousin (my official hand holder) was googling around on her tablet in the waiting room that I began to feel faith in those surgeon’s hands, long-fingered and supple as Van Cliburn’s. An image of spinal anatomy showed that the cord ends at vertebrae L1/L2, while my husband’s surgery was in the spinal core well below that, at L3/L4 and L4/L5. All would be well, all would be well, all manner of things would be well. The surgeon confirmed this when he came in later and reported to me, although the procedure had been “a hard one,” he said.

The large waiting room was jammed with families anxious, like me, for information about their loved ones undergoing surgery. During the hours I was there, some received good news, others did not. One young man sat at a table with his head in his hands while an older woman—probably his mother—consoled him. The man from Waller, Texas, sitting next to me learned that his wife’s brain surgery had revealed an abscess, a deep infection from a prior operation. The surgeon held little hope of her recovery. As I headed out for supper (and a glass of wine) at about 6 p.m., the man requested that I pray for her. I asked his wife’s name. “Virginia,” he said, “and I am Jackson.” When I returned to the hospital later, I saw him entering Post-op, finally called to see his wife after her seven-plus hours in the OR. As a point of comparison, my husband’s procedure had lasted one hour and forty-five minutes from the time of incision, forty-five minutes after he’d entered the OR.

At 9:15 I called the hotel. The next day I would brave Houston traffic and scarce medical center parking to pick up my husband from the hospital in our rental car upon his release, but for now the hotel shuttle was the best mode of transportation. My husband and I had been using it to and fro for the past three days and appreciated its convenience and efficiency. The van arrived fifteen minutes after my call and I was the only passenger. I sat in front with Coleman, the driver—a man probably in his early 80s—who had brought me over earlier. “How’s your husband?” he inquired. “Good news, Coleman,” I replied. “The surgery was a success and he’s doing fine. But some people didn’t get such good news today, and I feel so sorry for them.”

Coleman pondered that for a moment or two and then spoke, his Texas drawl patient with words and the spaces between them too. “You know, it’s a myth we all have that we don’t have to suffer grief if we’re right with God. But we all have to lose someone someday.” He went on to say that sometimes the truth comes out of the mouths of babes, and to illustrate he told the story of kindergarteners who were asked what you have to do to get into heaven. Among their answers were, “You have to say your prayers”; “You have to go to church”; “You have to always be good.” But one child spoke up, “You have to die!”

Coleman next told me that the only passage he knew in the Bible that passes on Jesus’s advice on loss is the story about Lazarus being raised from the dead. He quoted the Lord as having said to the two grieving sisters, “Let him go, let him go!”

When I got to the room, I went immediately to the Gideon Bible there and looked up the Lazarus story, John 11:1-44. Coleman was right, Jesus did say, “Unbind him, and let him go.” Coleman interpreted that Jesus was instructing Mary and Martha, the sisters and his dear friends, to accept that death, to grieve, to go through the pain in faith and let the loss transform them. And I found I agreed with my new philosopher friend, even though he had taken the quote out of context from the Bible’s story, where Lazarus indeed experienced resurrection, foreshadowing Jesus’s own and affirming Jesus’s identity as the Christ with this final powerful act in a series of miracles. Coleman’s perception instead made of the story a parable, a teaching tool: death is a part of life too; we will suffer loss; and through this suffering we can be transformed, a keystone precept of Christianity.

I then knew how to pray to God, thanks to Coleman, for Virginia and Jackson, and I said, “The darkness can’t be lightened or eliminated, but their fear of it can be. Be with them.”

And be with us.

Finding The Right Oil Rig Jobs

Offshore oil rig jobs are not for everybody. The majority of these jobs are international and require a lot of travel. It is a risky and difficult task which has to be done in inclement weather. However, they offer fantastic incentives, growth potential as well as learning. The remuneration or salary is completely not an issue for the reason that, even the dishwashers earn as much as seven hundred dollars per week as starting pay.

Kinds of Jobs

There are several kinds of jobs available when working offshore on an oil rig. For example, people are hired to work at the deck, the control room, electrical and mechanical department, the catering department, rig management, as well as for drilling. Others are employed as radio operators, scaffolders, mud engineers, training and safety coordinators, rig welders, painters and medics.

The catering team comprises the camp boss, cook and the stewardess who take care of the cleaning, laundry and catering.

The rig management is made up of offshore installation managers and tool pushers. Offshore installation managers are charged with the responsibility of managing the entire rig, while tool pushers work within the rig floors and rig offices.

The mechanical department employs motormen, maintenance supervisors and mechanics who are tasked with all the mechanical operations. The electrical department hires electronic technicians, maintenance supervisors and electricians who ensure that all electrical equipment is in good working order.

On the deck, individuals are employed as roustabout and foremen. Their task is to look after the deck region. Also, there are crane operators who take charge of all crane operations. Pumpmen and Roughnecks are charged with looking after the equipment as well as taking mud weights. The dereckman’s major responsibility is maintaining the equipment in the mud.

Control room workers comprise control room operators, assistant CROs, and barge engineers who man the control room.

There are also several entry-level offshore oil rig jobs. The lower positions do not require any formal education. However the higher level jobs require some higher education. The oil industry is growing at a very fast pace and thus pursing a career within this field is very bright and prosperous. It offers you a chance to work anywhere on the globe within a work environment that has very high safety standards.

The beginning salary for an individual with no prior experience is something between forty thousand dollars to sixty thousand dollars per annum, and workers are required to work for only six months per year. In addition, the major oil firms provide life and medical insurance. It is an exciting and highly rewarding career.

These jobs require you to be in excellent physical condition; also you have to pass some medical examinations. Even though the mean age for these jobs is 26, you are free to apply for drilling contractor or coast guard posts, if you are under eighteen years of age.

Oil rig jobs are quite easy to get, if you search in the appropriate place and prepare very well. You should exercise some patience, join the industry at the entry level and climb the ladder with experience.

Georgia O’Keeffe – The Legend of Modern Abstract Art

Georgia O’Keeffe or Georgia Totto O’Keeffe was an American painter, who revolutionized the concept of modern abstract art. Born on November 15, 1887 in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, Georgia O’Keeffe grew up in Virginia. She graduated from the Chatham Protestant Episcopal Institute in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1904, and studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago (1905) and the Art Students League of New York (1907). She later moved to Texas and headed the Art Department at the West Texas State Normal College in 1916. The charm of the barren landscape caught O’Keeffe’s fascination, tilting the balance of her artistic skills towards capturing the beauty of the valleys and plains that surrounded her.

Georgia’s paintings drew up a close-up view of desert flowers, backdrops, cow skulls, and Calla Lilies. Her work won her a passionate audience. Her artistic brilliance was first noticed in her charcoal drawings of bud and flowers in 1916. Ace photographer and art gallery director of 291, Alfred Stieglitz, whom Georgia later married, exhibited 10 of her drawings in the same year. She had the knack of capturing and representing natural beauty in her own distinct ways. April 1917, O’Keeffe held her first solo show at the art gallery, 291.

1920s witnessed some of the best artworks of O’Keeffe. Her first large scale flower painting, “Petunia, No.2 (1924),” was first exhibited in 1925. She canvassed the buildings of New York in “City Night and New York–Night (1926)” and “Radiator Bldg–Night, New York (1927).” In one of her painting, ‘The Black Iris (1926),’ she magnified a flower beautifully, giving it a startling and an unusual look. Later in her career, O’Keeffe introduced different patterns of the sky, which she observed during her travels by air. Her mural, ‘Sky above Clouds (1962-63),’ is one of her largest illustrations.

Georgia O’Keeffe finally settled down in Abiquiu, New Mexico, after her husband’s death in 1949. She continued to fascinate the world with her emotive and simple paintings of exotic southwestern landscapes. By the time her illustrious career ended with her death in 1986, Georgia had carved a niche for herself and had left behind a legacy, which became a major source of inspiration for the other artists.

O’Keeffe always maintained that anything around her that came to her notice and intrigued her, she simply brought to the canvas. She was awarded the National Medal of Arts by the National Endowments of the Arts Washington, DC in 1985, which was presented to her by President Ronald Regan. She was also awarded the Medal of Freedom, which is the nation’s highest civilian honor. The National Institute of Arts and Letters awarded her a Gold Medal for Painting. She also held the distinct honor of being the first woman to exhibit her art at the Museum of Modern Art.

Texas Artists and Art Movements

Edgar Byran Davis – Philantropist

From “Texans Always Move Them: A True History of Texas”

When Texas wildcatter, Edgar Byram Davis struck oil near Luling, Texas, everyone benefited. After making profits on his discovery, he used his funds to improve Texas. Davis celebrated by hosting a huge free barbecue. He invited friends, employees and associates in Luling, Texas. He shared his profits by contributing to charitable organizations, purchased golf courses for Luling, improved hospitals and supported the arts. Among his patronage was supporting the Broadway play, “The Ladder” for two years and the controversial figure Edgar Cayce. Davis personally paid for tickets to the play due to his belief in reincarnation which the play emphasized and that it was written by a friend of his.

Texas Impressionism

Edgar B. Davis also underwrote the Texas Wildflower Competitive Exhibitions of art. The $5,000 prize money awarded in the competition was the richest art award offered in the United States. Prizes were given for national and state-wide competition. Davis liked the Texas wildflowers, and had possibly been inspired by Texas artist Julian Onderdonk (1882-1922), who was known as the “Bluebonnet Painter” and “Father of Texas Painting”. His paintings of the Texas landscapes often portrayals of areas near his home in San Antonio gained him a national reputation. His father, Robert Jenkins Onderdonk (1852-1917) was also an established artist.

These art competitions brought painters to Texas along with encouraging native born artist to pursue painting. These competitions almost single handedly brought about a painting style known as “Texas Impressionism”. Texas Impressionism sought to portray the effects of sun and light on outdoor subjects. The Impressionist movement, which began in France, was brought to Texas through this movement. Texas born artists Jose Arpa (1858-1952), Robert Wood (1889-1979), Rolla Taylor (1871-1970), and Porifirio Salinas (1919-1973). and Dawson-Dawson Watson (1864-1939) was born in England, yet his close association and similar style with the Texas painters lumps him in with the Texas impressionists.combined the popular painting style of impressionism with Texas landscapes. The artist Porifirio Salinas met fellow artists Robert Woos and Jose Arpa by selling them art supplies. From them he learned their unique style, even cooperating with them on some paintings. From those lessons, he mastered his own style. One of his later students, Palmer Chrisman (1913-1984), became an acclaimed artist.Chrisman provided medical services in trade for art lessons. Chrisman’s paintings were given out as gifts by President Lyndon Johnson during his presidency. This new style encouraged painters to come to Texas, with the Dallas area becoming a center of the new Texas school of artistic painting.

Modern Texas artists whose paintings reflect this style are Dalhart Windberg and Larry Dyke.Dyke’s work has hung in the White House and other prominent locations. Larry Dyke’s paintings have his signature Bible passage reference on each work, which is one of his unique markers.

Lone Star Regionalism

Davis’ financial patronage was one of the bright spots during the economic hardships of the depression in Texas of the 1930’s. Between his patronage and WPA projects encouraging the development of artists and writers, a new style developed known as “Lone Star Regionalism”. This new style gradually gained dominance over the previous movement of Texas Impressionism. The new style used darker colors to portray subjects unique to Texas. Some critics may claim that the dark colors reflected the dark mood of the times. The artists attempted making their subjects easy for the common man to understand. The ‘regionalists’ chose everyday life as subjects for their art and writing. This increased emphasis on regionalism occurred in art and literature. Writers like J. Frank Dobie were part of this regionalism movement. J. Frank Dobie and Texas native, Tom Lea pooled their talents in joint ventures during this time. Artists in the movement included Clinton King (1901-1979),Thomas Hart Benson, Jerry Bywaters (1906-1989), Alexandre Hogue, Henry Nash Smith and David R. Williams. These artists were inspired by writers such as John Dewey, George Santayana and Constance Rourke. A group of the more prominent artists living in Dallas became known as the “Dallas Nine”. The regionalist artists were influential on art throughout the United States. At the 1939 World’s Fair held in New York City, after seeing the work of the Texas artists, the President of the exhibition commented, “The exhibition indicates that New York is still the art center of the nation, but it shows clearly that during the recent years there has been a marked decentralization, and that a number of cities and towns throughout the country have risen to challenge the leadership of the eastern metropolis.”

Artists during these harsh times resorted to many creative techniques and mediums. They painted on railroad cars, burlap, and almost any surface that paint would adhere to. In their resourcefulness, they made their own frames and canvas stretchers. The government program of WPA employed artists to paint murals for public buildings such as post offices. The post office and court house works often used murals to convey Texas and historic themes. Among the leading mural painters were Texas born artists Tom Lea (1907-2001) and Ruth Monro Augur.

Tom Lea’s work was featured on federal buildings and post offices throughout the nation. He also served as a military artist during World War II. At the 100th anniversary of his birth, President George W. Bush requested the Tom Lea painting of Rio Grande from the EL Paso Museum of Art would hang in the oval office. The work was eventually purchased and is currently on display in the oval office of the White House.

Texas Still Lifes

There were some Texas regionalism artists who were grouped into a subgroup of Texas Still Lifes. These are still a part of Texas regionalism, yet with works focused on still life subjects. Among this group were Lloyd L. Sergeant (1881-1934),Robert J. Onderdonk, Alexandre Hogue, Florence McClung, H. D. Bugbee, Olive Vandruff, Emilio Caballero and Isabel Robinson. Many of these artists were located in North Texas or the Panhandle sections of the state. They shared a common theme of still life painting within the Texas Regionalist style and painted their works in the 1920’s and 1930’s.

Modern Artists of Note

Another modern Texas artist of note is Bruce Marshall. Marshall is known for his portrayal of Texas historic events and persons. His depictions of military uniforms and the accuracy of his detailing has earned high praises. He has written and published books on early Texas history and uniforms. His art was renowned enough to be knighted for his accomplishments, so that he is now known as “Sir Bruce Marshall”. He and his wife reside in the Austin, Texas area on land that has been in his family since colonial Texas.

JOHNNIE LILIEDAHL is another Texas artist with an international reputation. Her instruction and art are in demand around the world. People from Europe, Australia and Asia attend her classes to learn how she captures her subjects in a classic realistic stye reminiscent of the European masters. Johnnie continues teaching art classes at her studio in La Porte, Texas.