Any dictionary will tell you that chiasmus comes from the Greek "χιάζω or chiázō" which means "in the shape of the letter X". According to Wikipedia.org the device is used in speech and in prose to achieve a kind of parallelism of thoughts and to establish a sense of balance (hence my zodiacal connection).
My own introduction to chiasmus came from its more recent, but still historical usage, in African American literature of the 19th and early 20th centuries. I've never quite been able to devise any decent 'chiasmi' of my own, so I'll borrow from the masters to illustrate its power and eloquence when employed correctly and efficiently.
Here we go with a some examples I enjoyed from the wikipost:
"Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind." John F. Kennedy
"You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man." Frederick Douglass
"I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy." Tom Waits
"Well, it's not the men in your life that counts, it's the life in your men." Mae West
"In peace sons bury their fathers, but in war fathers bury their sons." Croesus
This last is partuicularly appropriate for our times. Chiasmus can be succinct or befuddling. Sometimes the phrase's meaning jumps off the page and other times it requires some turning over in the mind. In more contemporary uses, like the Tom Waits quote, quirkiness and humor are what make the chiasmus form ring so truthfully.
Our President is a fan -- I've heard him use chiasmus more than once in speeches on the campaign trail -- but then again so are folks like Regis Philbin and your next door neighbor, probably when he's trying to sound wise from over the fence.
So, I declare, chiasmus for them and chiasmus for the rest of us!
Peter Milton is a major force in the printmaking world. Using etching and engraving techniques, Milton often spends a year or more to create his large and complex images. At Yale University under Josef Albers, Milton developed a concern less for the surface appearance of objects, but rather for the explication of their underlying, substantive qualities. Milton conveys meaning through a contextual environment of people, places, and moments in time.
Milton’s imagery frequently draws on elements from the late 19th and early 20th century English and French literary world. Rendering such imagery in a rich tonal scale of black and whites, Milton manages not only capture the mood of another era but also mid-century cinema. He cites among his major influences Ingmar Bergman and Fellini. With time and reflection, a narrative in Milton’s densely symbolic and historically referential images unfolds. Milton has received numerous awards for his prints, has a published book titled Peter Milton: Complete Prints 1960-1996, and is in every major museum collection.
Ben Moreau ~ Again, Davidson provided no biographical info on Moreau. His work, with its comic book/superhero humor, speaks for itself though.
Robert Marx is part of a small group of important American figurative artists who comment on what it means to be human in an inhuman age. A kindred spirit with such great but often overlooked social protest artists like Leonard Baskin and Leon Golub, Marx's work speaks only to those who wish to be challenged by an artist's idea --those who seek an intense and enduring dialogue with works of art. One of America's most important exponents of the north European expressionist tradition that goes back to Bosch, Grünewald, and Bruegel, Marx's work explores the futility of trying to bring universal order or give conclusive meaning to the human condition.
The fine, intimate scale drypoints and etchings by Japanese print artist Shigeki Tomura offer spaces of quiet contemplation, where the viewer has an opportunity to pause and reflect.These serene rural landscapes depict a natural world untrammeled by human development; we find only oblique acknowledgement of a human prescence - a pathway or a thatched roof. Tomura’s imagery conveys a stillness in time, but in this quietude, there is a lightness and an implied sense of soft movement - the rustling of wind in the trees, the whisper of thawing snow, or the first drops of rain on leaves. The artist reminds us to recognize and appreciate these poetic moments in the normal context of our lives. Tomura was born in 1951 in Aomori Prefecture, Japan.He studied drawing and printmaking at the IWATE University from 1970 - 1976.Tomura has exhbited in many international print competitions and has earned many rewards for printmaking, including the prestigious Medal of Honor at the Small Graphic Forms Exhibition in Lodz, Poland.This is the first exhibition of his work at the Davidson Galleries Contemporary Prints and Drawing Center since 2000.
Mezzotint artist Mikio Watanabe was born in 1954 in Japan and currently lives in France. He is most known for his elegant, evocative black and white nudes. In these images the artist alternates between full figures and the sensuous ambiguity of closer cropped body parts. The female figure emerges out of the rich, velvety black shadows. Watanabe skillfully manipulates the subtle gradations of gray that are available in a mezzotint with careful burnishing and scraping of the plate. More recently Watanabe has added flora and fauna subjects, using multiple plates for the color. These new works have the same quality of grace and delicacy found in his nudes, but are playful in spirit.
This is Watanabe’s first solo exhibition at Davidson Galleries. His works are part of the permanent collections of the Bibliotheque National in Paris, the Central Academy of Art in Kuala Lumpur and the New Orleans Museum of Art.
Michael Barnes ~ I don't think these figures (more like creatures) are supposed to be humorous, but for me, there's a playful element to them. The cornbelt must hold some mysterious inspiration for Professor Barnes. See bio below:
Michael Barnes, Illinois, studied printmaking at the University of Iowa and is now Associate Professor, Head of Printmaking at Northern Illinois University. His lithographs are from his most recent series featuring strange hybrid creatures he calls The New Breed. This series addresses the human desire to control and possess.
In his recent Comedy Central special, the crass British comedian Russell Brand made one point that I found rather astute. The joke he framed as "Reciprocal Altruism" or thereabouts.
He commented on giving to the homeless and how that generosity is generally not the end of the action but is instead meant to garner a type of cosmic reaction. More correctly, the kindness of giving a dollar or two to a homeless person is, for some, more a form of "karmic" insurance, where one good deed might sort of cover the giver for the rest of the day, thus bestowing a reciprocal amount of good luck for the remainder of the day.
I thought that idea was clever and amusing, but also farily poignant. Is that the only reason we give, to feel good about ourselves? This notion may even apply to large scale philanthropy. You can be sure that Bill and Melinda Gates are feeling pretty lucky considering what they give to the world's impoverished and underserved communities, and they rightly should feel pretty good about it. He's the epitome of extreme dorkiness in most circles, but in the karmic sense, he's like an ancient repository of good luck waiting for the right juncture to be used to the greatest effect.
Indeed, it's a cynical view of doing good deeds, but I did get "a bit of a laaff" out of it.