Avant-garde at Christmas

The Christmas Festive Season is the time when we indulge in long-standing traditions such as the  Christmas tree, presents, Christmas cards, carols, families together around the Christmas table and turkey. 
Christmas is also a wonderful magical time of superpower and irrationality. 

That makes me wonder what a meeting of the magic of avant-garde art and the traditions of Christmas would look like. 
The answer came in the form of an Interesting story by Ann Swanson published in the Washington Post. 

 

Hallmark Cards is the oldest and the largest American company in the greeting cards production business. It was established by Joyce Hall in 1910. It is a family-own company and its headquarters are in Kansas City, Missouri. Since 1940 the company have promoted the art of famous painters such as Pablo Picasso, Paul Cezanne, Paul Gaugen, V. Van Gough and Georgia O’Kaffee to the Americans through the  greeting cards market. 
In 1959 they approached Salvador Dali, the well known and popular surrealist painter. The deal was very lucrative for Dali – he was paid $15,000 in advance for the creation of 10 Christmas card designs without a deadline, subjects and he retained the copyright.
Eventually Dali produced 10 surrealist interpretations of the Christmas tree and the Holy Family. Hallmark cards company use only two of them – “The Nativity” and “Madonna and Child”. The greeting cards were not subjected to a great demand by the American public and Hallmark took the unsold cards off the shelves. 
It seemed like an unhappy ending for modern art. No, no, do not forget – it is Christmas, the  magical time, 
The Christmas Fairy made everyone happy. The Hallmark greeting card company was awarded the National Medal of Art in 1985. The few hundred Christmas greeting cards by Dali that are still in existence today are a collector’s dream. At Christmas everyone wins. 
I wonder which Dali Christmas card you would choose to send to your family, friends and neighbours. Please write your answer in the comments. 

My favourite is: The Christmas tree

“Life is worthwhile if you just smile”

 
Recently I read an article by Ron Gutman published in Forbes some years ago. Ron discovered a simple, powerful and free way to improve his life and the lives of others. The revelation came to him when he was running. He noticed that smiling helped him to go through the pain and struggle of the run so he went on a quest to “uncover the untapped powers of the smile”
 
Some of his discoveries are amazing:

1. If you smile in your photographs you probably will live 7 years longer than the people who do not smile in their photographs.

2. Children smile around 400 times a day. 30% of adults smile around 20 times a day and less than 14% smile 5 times daily.

3. Smiling makes us feel good. It is not only because we feel happy that we smile – it is actually because we smile that we feel happy. 

4. When you smile others smile back to you. Swedish researchers revealed that seeing another person’s smile suppresses the facial muscle controls compelling others to smile back. And smiling back makes them feel good. 

 

 

5. A British study found that a smile stimulates the brain the same way as eating 2, 000 chocolate bars and having £16,000. 

 

6. Smiling is a free therapy – it keeps you healthy, reduces the level of stress hormones,  increases good mood hormones and lowers the blood pressure. 

 

 

F. Scott Fitzgerald said it all beautifully: 

 

 

It was only a sunny smile, and

 

little it cost in the giving

 

but like morning light

 

it scattered the night 

 

and made the day worth living. 

What I talk about when I talk about getting back to running (thank you Naruki Murakami)

Long-distance running was not my first love – that was swimming. Running has became a fundamental activity for me since 2007. I ran many races and half-marathons all over Europe and two full marathons – in Rome and Paris. 
One of my favourite novelists, Naruki Murakami, said in his book “What I talk about when I talk about running” that the motivation for running is to run against time, to improve yourself, to be better than yesterday. Maybe that was true for him and for many other long-distance runners but for me running was always about freedom and belonging. 
Nothing compares to a long run along the beach. Breathe in, breathe out, strong core and leg muscles and the wind in your face. The world is your oyster and the sky is your limit. You can conquer the world. 
 
On the other side of the coin, when you run in a race you join a global community of the same natured people. No need to speak or explain, you know you are all a family. You look at their strides, their equipment, their nervousness, their smiles, pain and struggle and you know and feel good. You will finish the race together, you will reach the finish line with some of them. 
Suddenly, 3 years ago I stopped running. I do not know why. It just happened. Naruki called it runner’s blues. I moved to yoga and even though I liked it I never experienced the euphoria of the wind in your hair. Life continued.
Then one day during the yoga session the thought appeared from nowhere – time to get back to running. It appeared and disappeared but kept manifesting itself in the old photos on FB, finding running books and magazines in the attic and using stretching techniques I knew from the running days. It persisted until one morning I knew that the next day I would run. God, that was one of the great moments in my life – the joy, the feeling of coming home, of sensing there is something more to conquer, all that was there
The next day the sore muscles reminded me of life with limits but here I was – back in the running business. And this time I agreed with Naruki, “What is going to be much more meaningful to me now is how much I can enjoy myself. I will enjoy and value things that cannot be expressed in numbers”.