Archive for January, 2015

bury me here


Day of the Dead, Codogno, Italy © Jim Korpi

A king of one of the last monarchies died last week. The unmarked grave was a simple pile of stones. No name for a dead king, no tomb.
A few years back I searched a small fishing village in Maine for the grave of a painter I admire. It was supposed to be in a field near the home of a family he had painted often. I arrived at the house just before sunrise. The old wooden siding of the house was peeling and most likely still is. Through the age-distorted glass of the house I could see the simple museum dedicated to the family who were subjects in well known water colors.
For over an hour I searched through the over-grown fields around the house for signs of a grave site. I wanted to see where a man like this would want to lie indefinitely. The subjects he painted in this house he had grown close to. You could see this in the work. But to ask to be buried near a subject said something deeper about the artist.
The sun came up and I was about to give up. Fisherman were driving past on the way to the docks and sending the looks only strangers send other strangers. I crossed the road from the house and saw another five acre field open from the trees lining the road. At the far end of the field I could see what looked like a small country cemetery.
Walking through the field toward the dozen subtle stones poking from the ground, one stone stood slightly higher and darker. On the grave was simply Andrew Wyeth 1917-2009.

language of stones


Poplars at Sunset, Caselle Landi, Italy © Jim Korpi

“A language is a flash of the human spirit. It’s a vehicle through which the soul of each particular culture comes into the material world. Every language is an old-growth forest of the mind, a watershed, a thought, an ecosystem of spiritual possibilities.” – Wade Davis, TED Talk, Dreams from Endangered Cultures

There are pockets, small bubbles, hidden in the crevices of the United States, where, if people stay long enough, their language takes on a character of their place. Time, weather, and the minerals in the soil form something unique, similar to the way these influences shape a jagged stone.
Urban life somehow polishes these rocks smooth, tumbled by movement into a conformity. One stone is undetectable from the next.



Sleeping Sow, Codogno, Italy © Jim Korpi

Three separate social gatherings:

Washington, D.C.: “Where do you work?”

New York City: “Who do you know here?”

Codogno, Italy: “What did you have for dinner?”

a new religion


Baby Jesus For Sale, Italy © Jim Korpi

“Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? Embossed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us, by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope amoung the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe? The sun shines to-day also. There is more wool and flax in the fields. There are new lands, new men, new thoughts. Let us demand our own works and laws and worship.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Introduction to Nature

back to the future


College Students, After-Math Series, Athens, Ohio © Jim Korpi

In 1989, when Back to the Future II was released, 2015 seemed a long way off. Anything seemed plausible.

Bells cling-clanged off the clay roofs in the farming village of Codogno, Italy, to introduce me to the year 2015. Red and yellow fireworks exploded over the church clock tower as it struck midnight. On this day 1989 seemed a long way off.

In the 1989 version of the future there is no need for roads. Cars fly. In this future wall-sized televisions project scenes of nature in front of windows, shoes tie themselves, re-hydrators turn mini pizzas into large, hot, steaming meals in seconds, children wear digital projection glasses to the dinner table to watch shows and answer telephone calls while they eat. Gadgets do what we wished we could and what we no longer wanted to do.

In the present 2015 I still have to tie my own shoes, and the man down the street spins pizza by hand from the center of a small mountain of white flour.