Violet Oakley

I have always loved Violet Oakley’s murals.  They are like jewels on walls.

Violet Oakley (1874-1961) was an American painter, author, teacher and speaker.  Her art blended Pre-Raphaelitism and Art Deco and contained a hint of Impressionism.  Her themes were peace and equality, depicted in historical and literary allegories.  Among her many works were stained glass, book and magazine illustrations, portraits, manuscript illuminations, posters and, especially, murals.  Her murals adorn the Pennsylvania State Capitol, Germantown First Presbyterian Church, the Fleisher Art Memorial, Vassar College and numerous other sites.  Oakley also published Law Triumphant, a portfolio of portraits of League of Nations delegates and other dignitaries.  She was awarded the Gold Medal from the Saint Louis International Exposition, the Gold Medal of Honor from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Medal of Honor from the Panama–Pacific International Exposition.

Oakley was greatly influenced by Quaker testimonies.  Her interest was inspired by William Penn, whose life she had researched for the Pennsylvania State Capitol murals.  A supporter of the League of Nations and the United Nations, she was also a nuclear disarmament activist.  She was a feminist, too, demanding parity in fees with male painters.  Quaker painter Howard Pyle was her teacher and mentor.  After receiving healing from asthma, she became a Christian Scientist, though she always retained Friendly beliefs.

A quote:

“In time I became so impressed by the belief or testimony of the Quakers against carnal warfare that this idea, the victory of law, or truth over force, became the central idea of my life”.

Below is “Penn’s Vision”, a mural at the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg.

Gary Sandman

November 2021

Eric Knight

Eric Knight (1897-1943) was a British/American journalist, novelist, short story writer and screenwriter.  Among his works were Invitation to Life, This Above All and The Flying Yorkshireman.  His most famous book was Lassie Come-Home, the story of a collie who travels a thousand miles back to her young owner.  As well, he co-wrote the “Why We Fight” series, short films explaining American involvement in World War Two.  Knight was a member of the Special Services Division, the United States Army propaganda unit.  He died on a military mission, his plane exploding over Dutch Guiana.  (Captain Otis Bryan, President Roosevelt’s pilot, speculated that a bomb had been planted on Knight’s plane in a botched assassination attempt on the President.  Roosevelt had flown in the same kind of plane and on the same route one day before on his way to the Casablanca Conference).

Knight was from an old Yorkshire Quaker family.  A “Fighting Quaker”, he served in both World Wars.  The first conversation he ever had with Jere Brylawski, his future wife, was about international peace.  Though he believed that peace was desirable, Knight felt that war was inevitable.  He admired conscientious objectors, however.  He was also known to use the plain language with his wife. (In a letter, he wrote her, “It’s me and thee, kid!”)

Knight was a fine writer.  His Lassie Come-Home is a delightful, deceptively simple book.

Gary Sandman

October 2021

Marjory Lester

Marjory Lester (1914-97) was a British painter of watercolors and pastels.  Her subject was the city of Banbury in Oxfordshire, especially the downtown area.  Late in life, after retiring, she began painting.  The paintings were initially for her children and grandchildren.  Memories of Banbury and These Golden Days, her two books of paintings, also included reminiscences of her life in Banbury.  To her surprise, they sold quite well.

Lester was a member of Banbury Quaker Meeting.  She painted two pictures of Banbury Meeting, one depicting Friends entering the Meetinghouse, the other showing Friends sitting in Meeting for Worship.  Both are a mix of Quakers in plain and contemporary clothes, a reflection of the transition of Friends in the early 20th century.  A series of her prints, Quaker and non-Quaker, hang in the Meetinghouse.

Marjory Lester was a charming painter, a sort of Quaker Grandma Moses.  There is an innocence about her pictures.  When I first saw her them, I thought they were a child’s paintings.

Gary Sandman

September 2021

Quaker Artists Book

Dear Friends,

Some Friends have approached me, inquiring about my “Quaker Artists” book. I have been writing a monthly column about Friendly artists since 1983, published the first edition of “Quaker Artists” in 1992 and the second edition of “Quaker Artists” in 2015. Below is some more information. You can also find a large excerpt of the second edition as well as the columns I’ve written since the second edition’s publication at my website at garysandmanartist.com.

DID YOU KNOW ….

*that Judi Dench, James Michener and Annie Oakley were Quakers?

*that Joan Baez, Ben Kingsley and F. Murray Abrahams have attended Friends Meeting?

*that Dave Matthews, Bonnie Raitt and James Dean were raised Quakers?

*that Popeye the Quaker Man, a Quaker Tapestry and Quaker stained glass exists?

*that Bolivian Friends, Rwandan Friends and Chinese Friends art exists?

*that Ben Franklin and Walt Whitman were influenced by Friends?

*that William Penn and Margaret Fell wrote poetry?

The second edition of the book Quaker Artists contains the stories of the above artists and more: 286 reviews in all, a history of Friends, a history of Quaker art, study questions, artist’s queries, 44 reproductions of the artists’ works, 51 illustrations, a bibliography, an alphabetical index and an artist’s index. The period covered is 1659 to 2015. Friends from 18 different countries are included. Poets, painters, dancers, musicians, films and 13 other categories are included. (It is three times the size of the first edition!) Quaker Artists is an entertaining and celebratory read in itself but it has other uses, too: as a resource for study groups, a reference for libraries and a curriculum for First Day Schools.

Gary Sandman, a member of Roanoke Meeting in Roanoke, Virginia, is the author of the second edition of Quaker Artists. To purchase, send check or money order to 214 Summit Way SW, Roanoke VA 24014, garysandman@cox.net. (Please note: I get more of the money from the book when you purchase it directly from me).

To purchase the book online, look at an excerpt or see updates on new QA writings, check his website at garysandmanartist.com.

Paperback, 287 pages: $21. Ebook: $6.

The Conscience Bay Meetinghouse Photographs

In May 1967 unknown persons defaced the Conscience Bay Friends Meetinghouse on the north shore of Long Island. During the night they painted on its walls, “TREASON! TRAITORS! THERE CAN BE NO COMPRIMISE [sic] WITH COMMIES!; $10,000 FOR V.C., A KNIFE IN THE BACK FOR AMERICAN G.I.’S; THE AMERICAN DEAD WILL BE AVENGED!” Several hammer-and-sickle emblems and the words “SAT CONG” also decorated the Meetinghouse. (“SAT CONG” translates as “Kill Communists”). And next to the entrance was scrawled: “THIS IS A GOD-IS-DEAD SO-CALLED ‘CHURCH.’ ” The slogans were in red and brown paint, some of them two feet high.

Conscience Bay Quakers had witnessed for peace during the Vietnam War, writing letters to government officials, giving speeches and joining demonstrations. They had published an American Friends Service Committee statement about the war in local newspapers. As well, they had sent money to Canadian Friends to be forwarded to North Vietnam and to the ship the Phoenix, both contributions to be used for medical supplies for civilians.

Conscience Bay Friends met together, in shock and sadness, after the incident. Considering several options, they decided that they would notify the police, since the vandalism was a felony, but would not prosecute if the vandals were arrested; issue a brief statement to the press; and schedule a time to repaint the Meetinghouse, inviting all who wished to help.

On May 21, about 200 volunteers, including 40 Conscience Bay Quakers, gathered at the Meetinghouse. Included were three Catholic priests, two Unitarian and two Episcopalian ministers, along with members of their congregations, as well as members of the neighboring Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist churches, Temple Isaiah and the Ethical Culture Society. Friends from Westbury and Fifteenth Street Meetings and representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Suffolk County Human Relations Commission also came. Some people were not affiliated with any group. Others had called or wrote or sent checks for the paint. A local painter said that he would paint the Meetinghouse for free if “they make a mess of it”. Most of the paint was donated by the Pentagon Chemical and Paint Works in Brooklyn.

People mixed paint, climbed ladders, scraped walls and painted. At one point, so many volunteers had shown up that there was a line waiting to make a symbolic stroke of paint. Children scampered round. Friends served sandwiches and coffee and tried to get everyone to sign the guestbook. By the end of the day, the Meetinghouse had received two coats of paint.

George Nicklin of Westbury and Shelter Island Meetings took two photographs of the work party. One is a close-up; the other is a long shot. Above is the close-up.

In the late 1990’s, I delivered one of my “Quaker Artists” talks to Long Island Quarterly Meeting when it gathered at Conscience Bay Meeting. I was very moved by my visit to the site of this luminous response to hate.

Gary Sandman

August 2021

Hozier

Hozier, full name Andrew Hozier-Byrne, (b. 1990), is an Irish musician. He has been influenced by folk, soul, blues and African music and often focuses on religious and political themes. He is also an admirer of the poet Seamus Heaney. His albums have included Hozier; Wasteland, Baby!; and Nina Cried Power. The singles “Take Me to the Church” and “Nina Cried Power” were international hits. The former is about Russian homophobia; the latter is about the struggle against oppression. Hozier is a member of Home Sweet Home, an organization formed by Irish celebrities, which works on homelessness. As well, he supported the Irish abortion referendum and has donated royalties to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Black Lives Matter movement. He is an outspoken critic of the Catholic Church in Ireland.


Hozier was raised a Quaker in County Wicklow. Now an agnostic, he retains a great admiration for Friends. He mentions especially the Quaker beliefs of looking for God in each person and the Peace Testimony. He adds that when he was a child, he studied the pattern in the carpet during Meeting for Worship, but as an adult, he thinks he would get more out of the worship.


Hozier is a remarkable artist. His “Nina Cried Power” namechecks many of my heroes: Curtis Mayfield, Patti Smith, John Lennon, Pete Seeger. Like people in the video of the song, it had me weeping.


Here is a link to “Nina Cried Power”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2YgDua2gpk


Gary Sandman

July 2021

Norman Morrison Poster

Norman Morrison burned himself to death in front of Secretary of Defense McNamara’s windows at the Pentagon on November 2, 1965.  This was in protest of the Vietnam War.  He had been inspired by the Buddhist monks setting themselves on fire in Saigon.  Morrison was a member of Stony Run Meeting in Baltimore, where he was its Executive Secretary.

The Democratic Republic of Vietnam created a poster honoring Morrison in the mid-1960’s.  It depicts him standing in flames.  On his right is part of a banner that says “Stop US Bombing”; on his left are American warplanes.  The caption reads “Certains se sont trouvés culpables” (Some are found guilty).  The artist is anonymous.

The Vietnamese people regard Morrison as a national hero.  They feel he gave his life for their country.  (He is known there as Mo Ri Xon). During the Vietnam War, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam issued a stamp in his honor, and the poet Tố Hữu dedicated the poem “Emily, My Child” to him.  After the war, the cities of Đà Nẵng and Hà Nội named roads for him.  In 2007 the President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Nguyễn Minh Triết visited a site near where Morrison died and read Tố Hữu’s poem to commemorate him.

I remain convinced that Norman Morrison’s act was wrong.  But I remain haunted by it.

Gary Sandman

June 2021

Geoffrey Durham

Geoffrey Durham (b. 1949) is a British magician and author.  For several years he performed as “The Great Soprendo”, a parody Spanish magician, and later as a comedy magician under his own name.  Among the television shows he appeared in were Crackerjack, Countdown, 50 Greatest Magic Tricks and Puzzle Panel.  He was a consultant on the Doctor Who episode, “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy”.  He also appeared widely on stage.  (His catchphrase was “Piff Paff Poof!”).   Durham is a member of the Inner Magic Circle and the International Brotherhood of Magicians.  (Until it allowed women to join, he declined membership in the Magic Circle).  He won the Maskelyne Award in 2002.  He is retired now.

Durham became a Friend in the mid-1990’s.  He noted that he sat in a traffic jam every day for three weeks staring at a Quaker poster that said, “Peace is a process to be engaged in, not a state to be reached.”  Intrigued, but wary that someone would try to convert him, he began to attend Meeting for Worship.  Not only was he not pushed to become a Friend but he himself became involved in spreading the Quaker message.  For many years he participated in Quaker Quest, an outreach program, and he still speaks regularly about Friends at Quaker events.  Among the books he has written are The Spirit of the Quakers, Being a Quaker: A Guide for Newcomers and What Do Quakers Believe? as well as a contribution to the Twelve Quakers and … series.  Durham was married for several years to Quaker actor Victoria Wood.  He has said that Quakers are “the single most inspiring, moving and rewarding thread running through the whole of my adult life”.

I found Geoffrey Durham’s magic cheerfully corny.  His Quaker Quest presentation (with another Friend) is wonderfully clear and moving.  The link for this is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFzQNZDdyFE.

A quote:

“A Quaker Meeting isn’t a vacuum, it’s full… a Quaker silence isn’t sudden, it’s planned… (the aim is) a nurturing stillness.”

Gary Sandman

May 2021

   

A Drawing of a Seeker

A drawing of a Seeker appeared on the frontispiece of Ephraim Pagitt’s Heresiography in 1645.  A second version was included in the book’s sixth edition. 

The Seekers were the precursors to the Quakers.  They were founded by Bartholomew, Walter and Thomas Legate in London about 1605, though their roots probably lay further back in Holland and Germany.  Seeker groups existed in London, Bristol and in Cumberland and Westmorland counties in the north of England.  When George Fox encountered them in the late 1640’s, they were waiting for a prophet to lead them.  The Seekers were inspired by Fox’s preaching and formed the core of the new Quaker movement.  Friends adopted the Seeker practice of silent worship.  (In other words, Quakers did not create Meeting for Worship).

Ephraim Pagitt (c. 1575-1647) was a Presbyterian minister, theologian and writer.  His Heresiography is a catalog of the minor religious sects in mid-17th century England. 

I thought the Seeker drawing was charming.  I liked his friendly smile and the way he doffed his hat.

Gary Sandman

April 2021

A Painting of John Dillinger

A painting of John Dillinger has been created by Wingsdomain, an anonymous San Francisco artist. It is a brightly colored portrait, covered with squiggles. The painting is based on a 1934 Tucson, Arizona, Police Department photograph taken after Dillinger’s arrest and later used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for its Most Wanted poster.

John Dillinger (1903-1934) was, of course, the American bank robber. During his brief criminal career, he and his gang robbed 14 banks, looted guns and bullet-proof vests from two police stations and staged three jail breaks. They also killed 10 men and wounded seven others. Dillinger was charged with the murder of an East Chicago policemen. In a speech given by U.S. Attorney General Cummings, he was named informally as the first Public Enemy Number One. The American public largely looked on him as a modern Robin Hood.

Dillinger had a loose association with Quakers. He attended Mooresville Friends Church (WYM) as a young man. His first arrest occurred when he stole Friend Oliver Macy’s car from in front of the church. (Macy declined to press charges). Dillinger later tried to rob a man in Mooresville and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. When he was released in 1933, Pastor Gertrude Reiner was asked by his parole board to help him. He and his father attended a service at the Friends Church, and she preached about the Parable of the Prodigal Son to him and his father, both of whom began to weep. Dillinger approached Reiner after the service, and told her, “You don’t know how much good your sermon has done me. I’m going to go straight”. (Within a month, however, he had robbed his first bank). Dillinger also had attended Disciples of Christ churches in Indianapolis and Mooresville when he was younger, and a Disciples of Christ minister delivered the eulogy at his funeral.

It is difficult to ascertain what Dillinger felt about Quakers. It appears, at least from the Reiner story, that there was something meaningful in Friends for him. But it is also clear that what Dillinger felt was most meaningful for him was money and that the easiest way to get it was to steal it. That was the path he chose.

The John Dillinger painting is a beautiful object. I loved its wild colors.

Gary Sandman

March 2021