Thursday, July 9, 2015

Back again 2 years Later

I have no idea why my last entry was in Feb. 12, 2012 and I resumed writing on Saturday night Feb.15th, 2014.  It's the third major winter storm in the last two weeks. Several layers of snow upon ice, rain upon snow.
I would like to write what I paint and paint what I write.  My work has always been a visual narrative journey. Reluctant to press the publish key my son reminded me I didn't have to publish it. I want to thank him for the reminder and obvious solution.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Weekend in Palm Beach Gardens

I was treated to a lovely weekend in Palm Beach Gardens - air fare et all.  I had known my hostess for several years., she is a wealthy and generous woman.  She had planned for me to get a massage  (not knowing that I hate them), and a facial (don't hate them). I entered the "club", was given a white terry cloth robe and rubber slippers; told to wait in the lounge till I was called. While waiting, I drank many cups of cucumber water. I was called in with the seriousness of being escorted to heaven.  The few times I have gotten a massage, the masseuse commented on how tense I was.  This time was no different. On my stomach I put my head in one of those open pillow things that allowed me to stare at the floor. She rolled down the sheet to just above my ass. - immediately uncomfortable - then a too hot oil ( gluten free) on my lower back.  The dark low-lit room with yoga music did nothing to relax me. My claustrophobia was setting in along with creeping anxiety.  Oh why can't I relax like 'normal people"??
My tension mounting.  She suggests I breathe deeply and think positive thoughts.
Breathe in  (my son is angry at me and doesn't want to speak to me).
Breathe out (I may die broke and alone)
As she was escorting me out, she "thanked me for sharing my time with them today" I think I said "no problem".

The facial was less invasive.  I asked her how long the facial experience was.  When she said 50 minutes I asked if she might do 40. She explained she was putting a cinnamon enzyme on my face which might burn a little. It certainly did -I kind of felt like a Cinnabon.

Next was the mask which became tighter the longer it was on. I finally had to tell her I would prefer to look only five years younger instead of 10 and could she please start wiping it off.
The best part of the experience was laughing with her.

We had some excellent meals:
Hawaiian sea salt crisps in a tomato bath. Was the shaved Parmesan the soap? I forgot the dollop of Sonoma goat cheese topped with ribbons of Basil.
For cocktails I experienced an organic sunshine martini (organic vodka? - I guess it could exist.)
The frisee salad had a zesty mustard and Yuzu (?) vinaigrette.
 Duck wing 'lollipops' with Korean Gochujang (?) red chili glaze - with a side of creamy cheesy cheddar grits. This should be washed down with either a Monk in the Trunk Belgium or the highly recommended Cigar City Jai Alai IPA.
And, it will all be accompanied by a micro tower of Wasabi.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

My Uncle Bobby - Memories and Images

"Everything has it's wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in , therein, to be content."        Helen Keller

Uncle Bobby

My Uncle Bobby was a very handsome man.  Ironically, past the age of 32 he could no longer see himself as he had gone blind as a result of diabetes.  This was before the sophisticated markers monitoring blood sugar levels had become prevalent. As his eyesight failed it was he who did the comforting of my aunt,(my mother's sister).
To this day this is the scene I remember:  I was entrusted to walk him a few blocks down some city streets to the local barber shop. Not paying attention, he went smack into a red, white and blue swirling barber pole attached to the outside of the shop. Although I received some admonishment from the adults (and rightly so), I have (miraculously) not carried the blame all these years.  He was to die from a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 40.

It was decided I was too young to attend the funeral.  Instead, I was sent over to my Aunt Bessie's. She sat me down at her massive mahogany table where I was given crayons and sheets of white paper. There I sat doodling in my child's scrawl as her parakeets chirped in their cage and she kept watch behind me.

Did this begin my long fascination with Barbershops?  My compulsion to document my sons' haircuts at every length? The photographs I would quickly snap before my son or the barber would become annoyed. The photos from Rocco's, Tony's, Carmens and Sal's all turned into etchings and drawings and paintings.

Aunt Bessie and I were immortalized in several different versions of painting and print. Though she and her parakeets are long since gone, I am still able to recall the day in "living color"
Afternoon At Aunt Bessie's

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Separate Peace (Thanks to John Knowles for Title)

Petite and Sexy  - auburn haired olive skinned Jewess - successful artist, seeks sensitive, intelligent M. 35-45 with wit and soul for serious passionate relationship.

This was the ad I placed in the personals in NY magazine before, J-Date, E- Harmony and OMG-I-can'

"Come on. We can do this together and compare notes", said Susie. 
What have you got to lose - it will be fun.
In spite of myself I composed an ad.  Much to my amazement  an abundance of mail poured in. Professionals, uber professional, and assorted weirdos. I had not requested a photo, always thinking it a bit unfair but soon wished I had. Susie helped me sort through the stack.  She came upon a letter and photo of a handsome, distinguished looking man, in a suit, glasses, and lots of brown hair brushed back. His letter was articulate and thoughtful with all words spelled correctly. He was a VP at a Wall St. firm but not your 'conventional' type as he rode a BMW motorcycle;  a former musician who still played a mean guitar.  He was 'seeking a mutually nurturing relationship'.
You know, I can really see you with this guy.
David and Jessica's wedding Day
I don't  know.
For whatever prompted me I gave him a call. do you really want to do this thing?  (you don't really want to do this thing do you?)
Sure why not?
Jeremy Gerard  2 yrs. old
We met at the Chelsea Hotel and had a long, long dinner. He was a good listener, highly intelligent and kind.  The next day I received a bouquet of flowers. Ok, a little corny, I thought but my addiction to romance had won me over.
As not to draw this saga on too long......after three months he moved in. Another three we were married at City Hall. Three months after that we were married again (why?) at the Plaza Hotel. A beautiful Sunday afternoon affair for all our friends and family to enjoy. Some I have not seen since. About nine months later I gave birth to a perfect, beautiful baby boy. He was loved and adored and continues to be. Our nuclear family enjoyed about 14 years of Leave it to Beaver bliss. Around the fifteenth year things began to unravel......and ....unravel...... until the twenty second year nothing was left but the remnant of the long thin thread that had once tied us so tightly together.
The sordid details shall remain silent to protect the guilty.
What started as normal petty annoyances, turned into mistrust, accusations and arguments with full blown imploding anger leading to unhealthy stress. Large sums of money were lost, financial pressure and opposing child rearing conflicts became the order of the day. To salvage what remained of out damaged psyches, we have separated. Our son, (now 21) who has always been his own person, encouraged us to PLEASE DO NOT STAY TOGETHER!
I have found a modest, light filled apartment. We began to divide our material possessions.  Neither wanted anything. No expensive carpets, no antiques, no dishes, no cut glass heirlooms. A new twist: you take it---no you take it!
Ten years ago I was living exactly a block away in an expensive carriage house on 3/4 of an acre.  A large deck encased a hot tub, sporting a state of the art grill and pricey patio furniture which allowed for great barbecues with friends and neighbors. Did I mention the long winding gravel driveway?  The cute shed book ended by beautiful wildflower cutting gardens I had lovingly planted? Atop the shed was a cupola. Atop the cupola was a rooster perched on an arrow. In the midst of a bad storm the arrow had spun south.
"David and Jessica"  mixed media on canvas
Life continues to be an ever turning wheel.  Nothing stays the same. Time marches on and destinies march with it. We can only go with the unavoidable but necessary changes hopefully finding purpose as our  lives unfold.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My Wednesday Job

"I think these difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way and that so many things that one goes around worrying about are of no importance whatsoever" Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixon) 1885-1962

Every Wednesday, for the past several years, I have taken the 8:50 train  to Penn station and walk down 34th St. to the NYU Cancer Center  between Third and Lexington.  I am greeted by the wonderful Angie, who calls out "what floor are you on today sweetheart?"
I'm on 5 Ange - they should have the table for me. " Well if they don't you just let me know."
 I will, Thanks.

My job is to work with cancer patients as they are getting infusion, offering art projects of various challenges from the simple painting of small wooden boxes, to paper weaving, collage, jewelry making, or watercolor. I am not an art therapist but rather, work under an 'art as healing' premise which takes form as cathartic creativity.  Although I am not an art therapist, I have seen more than one painting of bare trees in the middle of summer. I walk around, knock on a curtain, (which still causes me discomfort) as I do not want to intrude on a vulnerable and personal experience.  I politely explain who I am, what I do, and emphasize it is a free service offered to patients, their aids, family members or whoever might wish to participate. Everyone has always been polite and gracious when declining, but the majority are interested, and willing to try something a little different. More often than not I hear the inevitable - I have no talent - can't draw a straight line with a ruler. At which point I might pull out (one of the wooden boxes?)

I have met a lot of patients who are really good artists i.e. alchemists as they have managed to spin great art out of limited materials. This is always a treat.

The range of illness comes in all forms and stages.  Cancer does not discriminate. There are wigs, turbans, short short hair, no hair, or possibly a stubble starting to grow back. Clear plastic lines attached to ominous bags of fluids with ominous sounding names of chemicals  drip, drip, dripping into ports, and the veins of arms and hands. Sometimes a bleep goes off indicating there might be air in the line, and a nurse appears more quickly and  efficiently than one would expect.  A lot of times, opting out of art, a patient may just want to talk which I gladly do.  I am surprised at how many are not only open, but eager to discuss their illnesses. I listen attentively, finding the more advanced cases surreal.

Shamefully, I am someone who gets a cold and complains for the entire duration all the while scarfing down every over the counter medication - drowsy, or non, vitamin C, zinc, echinacea, cough syrup and Advil. 

I am understanding that an illness becomes a full time profession as one winds their way through tediously long waits and the maze of medical bureaucracy. In addition, many are waiting for test results that will determine the length and course of their next regiment,  a stray metastatic cell or whether the severity of the treatment they have chosen to undergo is even working.

My mind boggles, I find myself at times sobbing in hallways after being blindsided by the news that a long time patient has died over the weekend. My mind boggles at the grace with which so many  handle the worst. I have come to believe in a true aristocracy simply comprised of the people I meet on Wednesdays.
All photos by Jessica Lenard

Friday, October 21, 2011

Udder Faith: A brief foray into the start of an art career...........

"The need to be a great artist makes it hard to be an artist, the need to produce a great piece of art makes it hard to produce any art at all."     Unknown

Udder Faith

The first painting class I ever took was at the Boston Museum School of Fine Art.  I entered the class with no expectations and a frenzied fearlessness a lot of 19 year olds are fortunate enough to  have. I was intoxicated by the arty smell of turpentine, linseed oil, a paint splattered cement floor and the large slanted skylight romantically  reminiscent, I imagined, of a Parisian atelier.  Easels set up. First assignment:  paint model (clothed ) in chair with striped horse blanket on back of chair.  Boring.  What was not boring was a primitive mural of a cow in a pasture on the distant wall.
The instructor of the class was T. Lux Feininger, noted artist and son of the famed Lyonel Feininger.  The obvious direction I went of course in order to make this a not too boring painting was to incorporate the cow, thereby giving it some meaning and interest. I was slightly unsure and insecure of what I was doing but had the confidence at the time to not really care and follow my own vision.  (It has been said that confidence is the feeling you have before you really understand something). I looked around at the other paintings which were far more academically structured and anatomically correct with form and shading in the right places.  The torsos were not foreshortened and the noses did not look like those of a cartoon character.
Group critique time came around.  At this point I was starting to get a little nervous preparing myself for what I hoped would be only a little "gentle criticism".

From T. Lux :  what are your thoughts on this piece?
No response.
I'll tell you what I think. I think it is the only piece in the room with any art sophistication.
I did another painting and another..... with many more to follow.                
Portrait of Michael

Reclining  model    art school  101

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Friend Lisa

 "Thank Heavens For Friends"

I first met Lisa by a set of mailboxes in the shabby lobby of the factory warehouse where we were both renting studios. It was located at 111 First St. in Jersey City about a block from the Hudson River.   Lisa was a tile restorer who had done many jobs for the NY subway system until 9/11 came and kind of dried up the funding. The Spring Street mosaic comes to mind as one of the most prestigious. The large brick building in which we were renting advertised in large white letters P. LORILLARD & Co. on the front of the building. This was a former cigarette factory where Lorillard cigarettes were first manufactured.  To prove it, brown stains of tobacco juice ran down the walls of most of the studios.  The building was filled with about 150 artists of various skills, talent, and eccentricities. Some of the talent included neon sculptors to an architect whose sole job was designing interior layouts for yachts.  Nothing was ever constructed but he was kept on retainer to change the plans monthly. We were a close knit group enjoying many openings  and parties in the "community gallery" - curated by both professional and non-professional artists.

Lisa and I began talking about a young guy we had hired as an assistant. He was an endearing, sweet and talented guy, who, when he showed up, gave 150%. We could not understand the mystery of his lack of dependability vs. his stellar work ethic.  One day we received a phone call from his girlfriend saying that Richard, at 25 , had died from a heroine overdose. The puzzle was solved. The memorial service we both attended was held at a well known restaurant in Hoboken with Richard's fantastic photographs showcased on the walls.  Since then, Lisa and I have remained friends.  Together, we have concurrently and cynically coined many phrases that have proved useful in depicting our feelings. Some of these include: "I wish I cared", and a T-shirt business we will start which reads on the front: "I Hate Everyone" - turn around and you will see: "And Everything!" When describing our business venture to a few friends, I am immediately met with a dry and straight-faced "I'll take one".

Over the years, we have developed a well-scripted dialogue of one of our many, many, phone conversations.  It goes something like this:
What's new?
Nothing, what's new with you?
Nothing.  Ok, I'll talk to you in 10 minutes.
Ok, Bye.
As many times as we say this we both laugh.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Philip R. Lenard 1924 - 1997

"Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower; We will grieve not, rather  find Strength in what remains behind: "  
Intimations of Immortality by William Wordsworth  
- an excerpt from the poem read by his daughter Jessica as part of the eulogy.

 Today is the 14th anniversary of my father's death. 2:30am on a Saturday to be exact. I don't understand the time factor. Wasn't it yesterday he lay in a hospital bed in the bedroom  he shared with my mother for 50 years?  Wasn't it yesterday I heard the foreboding sound of a death rattle and ran to his bedside to hold his hand?

I love you Dad.
You have been a wonderful father.

 One breath,...........a second breath,............... a third breath, and he was gone at the all too early age of 73.  Adenocarcinoma had won the battle over a strong, youthful, energetic and courageous man. Within a half hour the team from the mortuary came to wheel him out. Within 18 hours he was cremated (dust to ashes had been given real meaning).  Within 36 hours there was a standing room only funeral for my father - a special man whose infectious charm, humor, and charisma made him loved by many.
After three days of Shiva, endless platters of food marching through, the challenge of recruiting 10 men for a nightly minyan (neither my father nor many of his friends were very religious but still.....) After the sorry's were said, regrets and "shouldn't have happened", expressed, the family, as things go, were left alone to deal with their pain, loss, and sorrow.

A not brief history:   Philip Raphael Lenevitch was born the son of Russian immigrants.  His father was a junk peddler.  Despite early poverty, he was blessed with a preternatural energy, boundless creativity, and a genuine lack of fear.  He was an entrepreneur, a self-made man whose business philosophy was basically summed up by 'deal honestly with everyone'.  His ideas and businesses were responsible for providing livelihoods for countless people and families over the years.  He felt a responsibility to help the newer wave of immigrants, employing them at every opportunity, helping them to reach their dreams.

As a young man, recently discharged from the service, (he was an infantryman in WW II), He was waiting in a very slow moving line to pick up his dispensation check.  Never long on patience, he saw a sign across the hall that said 'salesman wanted'.  He left his place in line, and followed the sign into a jewelry shop. Although he had no experience, he asked the owner to give him a job, saying he would work for free until he started generating business.  He went on to prove himself in a big way, remaining in the jewelry business for over 40 years.  His financial success provided security for his family for over two generations.

He was a free spirit of many interests; flying (he attained his pilots license), sailing, (he bought a boat), bridge, racquetball, fishing, photography  -  a student of history and politics - a love of classical music. His interests were insatiable.  He seemed to accomplish things by sheer dint of energy and will power.  His philosophy and humor never wavered.  As the end of his life was drawing near, my sister and I asked him if there was anything he would have done differently. "Yes", he said, "I'd have lived longer".

An oak tree was purchased and planted on the beautiful land, along side the large pond behind the home my father had built.  A place he looked out on with solace and pride.  His two daughters, son-in-laws, and five grandchildren stood by waiting for the hole to be dug deep enough to plant the tree. We each took a handful of bone and ash and tossed it in. 
His wish was carried out.

He wanted to think of himself as growing with the trees.  And so he has.  He has grown upward towards the sunlight, and has cycled through many seasons of barren trees and new green leaves.  Now, years later, although sorrow  and memory have not evaporated, he still remains a part of all that is simple, not fancy, essential, not trivial, and like himself, ultimately genuine.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What's In A Name?

"When bankers get together for dinner, they discuss art.  When artists get together for dinner, they discuss money."
-Oscar Wilde

I first met Eileen when I was a substitute teacher in a painting class.  I was immediately drawn to her for her adorableness, lack of pretension, and guile.  Also, her endearing and self-deprecating insecurity.  Here is a woman, I thought, who might even be more self-deprecating, insecure and cynical than I am. (Is this possible)?  She was also very, very, funny  All of these traits made for an immediate bond.  Although probably nothing could have convinced her at the time, she was a very good artist.
Flash forward.  Eileen shows up for a printmaking class I am now teaching. The years have brought with it more confidence, a developed talent and style, more biting sarcasm, and if that 's not enough - sharper wit.  We made each other laugh  - I loved her!  I had been peripherally involved with a "sort of" gallery in the city called 'Contemporary Art Network', which used the acronym CAN. They had yearly group shows and because misery loves company, I convinced her to enter it with me.  For each show title, the letters CAN had to be incorporated.  I'm thinking Cannabis, Can Opening....., but no, this show was called 'Candlemas" !?? (was there one s or two - I forget). I immediately called Ei and said I was going to bail - I would not or could not be involved with a show called "Candlemas(s)".  Dude, said Eileen - you will not leave me alone during the high holy days of Candlemas. What could I do?  I was nothing if not loyal.
Come opening night. The lights could not have been dimmer - I guess they decided to save on electricity that night  which led us into the predictable comments of  - Oh, we should have brought our own candles.
Side anecdote:  I had asked my son Ari to meet me at the opening.  It was a very hot night in July.  As luck would have it, my 'midtown direct' train was indirectly railed through Newark to the Path train from Hoboken, making me an hour late.  I get a text from my thirty year old son demanding to know where I was because "this is a freak show and you're not even here!" Um, wasn't this scenario supposed to be the reverse?
Key Elements 1,      monoprint       Eileen Murray
This summer, Eileen had again signed up for printmaking.  At this point, (mostly because of her job promotion and long working hours), I am reduced to begging and bribing with offers of money (I think I am now up to $1000) to sign up for the class.  If she refuses I threaten to hold my breath until I pass out.  She reminded me it was our one year anniversary of "Candlemas(s)" quickly adding..........."Let us bow our heads and 
 pray ".

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Breakfasts with Hal

" For the essential thing about art is that it is work, and very hard work too"
  Joyce Cary 1888-1957

Several years ago I was at a party in Summit NJ - I believe it had a 50's theme. At least there were miniature hotdogs wrapped in dough and a layered jello mold of various color with canned mandarin oranges trapped inside. While holding my whiskey sour with the maraschino cherry dropped in for authenticity, I was challenged to dig up some cocktail party talk. I heard from across the room someone mention he was reading "The Ha Ha" by Dave King. Now I was also reading this book. It had just come out with great reviews in the NY Times book review.This has become the only thing I ever read in the Times, as Arts and Leisure and the Travel section leave me with too much wistful envy. I immediately crossed the room and we began discussing the book. In brief it's about a man who has lost his speech caused by a trauma to the head in the Vietnam war. The liner notes said something about how we were privileged to know this man who was flawed and funny; complex and tragic, - in other words - unforgettably human. We  enthusiastically dove into our what have you read lately conversation. Hal is a successful playwright, painfully articulate, a former writer for some soap operas with a brilliant ear for dialogue. We immediately started our own two person book and movie club meeting for breakfast every couple of weeks to dissect and recast  recent books and movies. Oprah's Book Club favorites? Eh. "The Corrections"? -way overwritten.  Wally Lambs recent? - both disappointed.

Hal orders the broccoli and cheddar omelet with potatoes.  I order the spinach and feta egg white omelet without potatoes - toasted rye, butter on the side, please.  Of course we digress with our small but ever present complaints. Are we the only two people in our exclusive little east coast version of 90210 that rent?  Surely we are not the only two who are not investment bankers. Although, we do leave large tips for the amount of time we sit there and have coffee poured. The latest set of books we have taken to discussing are self-help books. Those daily profound, truthful little meditations for the disconnected and isolated, mostly and hopefully because of the nature of our work. If only I could practice and remember them two minutes after closing the book! He is also very proud of his talented son who has been the star of every major high School production over the last four years. Hal's favorite lament - when did I turn into Mama Rose!?

One July 4th, we were invited over to Hal and his lovely wife Diane's for dinner. Hal had just perfected Aunt Bee of Mayberry's famous chili recipe. When I walked in I noticed five Emmy's humbly sitting on his mantel. I was sufficiently impressed. Right, he said, that and a quarter could get you on a bus to Bayonne. And... we never did make it to the fireworks.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Motherlode:   a principal vein or zone of veins of gold or silver ore.  The term is also used metaphysically to refer to the origin of something valuable or in great abundance.

 The definition of this term as well as describing my mother as a "golden lady" works on another level - my father was a jewelry manufacturer and a gold refiner who, when pouring molten metals into a crucible was left with ingots of pure gold. I don't think I would be exaggerating if I referred to her as "pure gold".

Some truths and observations about my mother Estelle Lenard nee Schapiro:
  •  My Mother is smart - she is always reading. She adores her five grandchildren and two daughters more than anything . We are her world. (although for the record I was the 'bad' daughter and still am).
  • She once washed the bathroom floor on her hands and knees with a broken wrist.
  • She has a touch of OCD. - well, maybe more than a touch.
  • She washes out her sheer knee-hi panty hose stockings every night no matter what. If the house was on fire she would wash the stockings before leaving.
  • She weighs the same now as the day she got married and except for a few pounds here and there - always did.
  • She lost her husband (my father) after a long and difficult illness. She cared for him scrupulously although broke down a few times with "I can't take this too much longer"  and she didn't have to.
  • In later years she learned to knit and knitted afghans for her daughters, her grand-kids, and when she finished those started on her friends grand-kids. Everyone could pick out their own two colors although as her eyesight started getting weaker from macular degeneration they were limited to lighter colors.
  • Anyone who is lucky enough to be a guest at her Boca Raton condo is treated everyday to a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice or grapefruit juice or both. This was treated about the same as stocking washing because if she runs out of oranges there is no rest until more is bought.
  • My mother loves her martinis. She calls "Grey Goose" "Blue Goose" when ordering.
  • She loves going out for dinner whether Applebees, Denny's, or a five star restaurant. She hates to cook (we call her 'blando') and loves all food served to her proclaiming it 'the best (fill in the blank) she ever had.
  • My mother is now 86 and has recently undergone 4 hour surgery for spinal-stenosis which has left her without the use of her right leg. Although she is not a complainer, every once in a while she comes out with "I can't take this too much longer".

      Monday, March 14, 2011

      Untying the knots

      "In a knot of eight crossings which is about the average size knot, there are 256 different over and under arrangements possible...Make only one change in this over and under sequence and either an entirely different knot is made or no knot at all will result."  The Ashley Book of Knots

      Life is amazing - like the knot - you turn right you turn left - the decision can determine everything. A chance meeting -the unknown entities.  I will not even apologize (to myself) for not having made an entry in (four months?). Once again fear is getting the better of me - along with technophobia.  After a several month lull in creating art which caused me growing concern (have I lost my talent forever?!) along with the prospects of producing yet another piece which would find its home within the drawers of my flat file (getting crowded in there) - I have returned ( a trip to Paris helped) with a resurgent but albeit modest degree of enthusiasm. Forgive the many parentheses.  This has also been fueled by the positive energy of my next door studio friend Carol. Are you reading this Carol? Carol is a fabulous sculptor  - five feet tall , who with her power saws and heavy chisels creates 8' wooden sculptures of interesting people each with its own personality.

      Carol and I recently discussed the 'artspeak' version of the old adage  - "if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?." If art is created and no one sees it 'does it exist?' or 'should it exist?' I think I have long exhausted the "I am doing it for myself" theory. If one person is moved by a work is that the same as 50 or 100 moved? We concluded (maybe we had to ) that one is enough. Now I have to convince myself that I really believe that. No matter - I'm working again! This year I am trying for two!

      Wednesday, January 12, 2011

      Staying Afloat

      "I heard a nice little story the other day," says Morrie.  "Okay. The story is about a little wave, bobbing along in the ocean having a grand old time.  He's enjoying the wind and fresh air-until he notices the waves in front of him, crashing against the shore.  "My God, this is terrible, the wave says. "Look what's going to happen to me!" Then along comes another wave. It sees the first wave looking grim and it says to him, "Why do you look so sad?" The first wave says, "you don't understand! We're all going to crash! All of us waves are going to be nothing! Isn't it terrible?' "The second wave says, 'No, you don't  understand. You're not a wave, you're part of the ocean."  Morrie Schwartz from "Tuesdays with Morrie" as he lay dying with ALS.

      If I ever feel any spirituality at all it is when I am at the ocean - my beloved ocean.  I always gravitate towards creating beach scenes because of my love for the power and mystery of the ocean. Rumor has it that I could swim before I could walk.  I was born in Miami Beach - we lived in a pink stucco apartment (before air conditioning) down the street from Biscayne Bay. Flash forward many years later to the Jersey shore - a poor substitute for the turquoise warm waters of southern Florida (but all I have right now).  I people watch at the beach, photograph at the beach, and store the images away for artistic reference. It almost appears to be a silent movie as all the activity and noise is drowned out by the roar of the ocean. People congregate in small groups, their chosen spot of real estate for the afternoon, each an isolated group within a crowd. I watch the children with their pails and shovels digging holes that quickly fill up with water, the constant and diligent watch of the parents as they struggle to keep an eye out for their kids lest they get swept out to sea, the overweight men and women spilling out of bathing suits that should have been retired long ago, and the couples walking hand in hand, seemingly still in love. I love the ocean.

      Thursday, November 4, 2010

      Back to the Blog....

      "Love the art in you not you in the art"

      Several years ago I came across an article in the NY Times entitled : Louis Bannet: the Dutch Louis Armstrong. It told the story of a horn player in Amsterdam during WWII and the amazing odyssey of his survival of Nazi Germany. Another of the chosen musicians to play cheerful marching music for the inmates as they entered the gas chamber. The article also showed a photograph of Louis and his band. One of those dark European noiry 1940's things that I cannot visually resist.  This quickly became the inspiration for a new piece- sort of a musical montage tribute in dark browns, blues and blacks.  The caption at the bottom read: "The Nazi's barred Jews from nightclubs and concert halls.  Mr. Bannet was arrested and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. While waiting to receive the number that would replace his name, he was recognized by an inmate - a Dutch pimp who had been to many of his shows. Louis, you must play for your life. On May 9th 1945, he was liberated." (Jazz Survivor: The Story of Louis Bannet, Horn Player of Auschwitz, Ken Shuldman)

      I was very happy with the piece.  Several years later I received an email from someone who asked how I came upon the idea. I told him I had read an article in the NY Times.  He was the author of that article. We met and he told me how he had interviewed Louis over the course of several years at his home in Toronto.  We discovered we lived in the next town from each other and spent a pleasant afternoon talking about our mutual interest.
      Shortly after that, I received an email from a Casper Bannet in Amsterdam asking how I came up with the idea for the piece and was it for sale. He would be in NYC in May and no, sorry it wasn't for sale but I would make him a print. He only said he was a relative of Louis and was going to see his horn which had been donated to the Jewish Heritage Museum.  Would I like to meet there?  Absolutely. I really had no idea what to expect. Because he only identified himself as a relative, I didn't want to press the issue. What I saw was the 31 year old handsome warm-eyed  grandson of Louis Bannet. He, my husband David, and I spent a great afternoon walking around the museum talking and going out to eat. I gave him his print - he was thrilled and said it looked even better in person.  The best part of this story for me is the excerpts from the correspondence that follows:

      Dear Casper,
      I just wanted to tell you what a pleasure it was meeting you and what an enjoyable time we both had.  I regret that I did not get to introduce you to my son Ari who is exactly your age.  You would have hit it off tremendously as he is hip, smart, and like you, a worldly and successful business guy.  Had you walked into his apartment you would have seen the "Louis" print front and center on his wall.  Know that you have a place to stay anytime you are in the U.S. - stay in touch and I think I will sign this.................
      With love,

      Dear Jessica,
      It took me a while to write you back because I wanted to find the right words to describe our time together. Although I still haven't found them I wanted to email you now because it has been too long.
      The absolute highlight of my stay in North America was meeting you.  I don't know what it was but I felt like we had known each other for 30 years.  I was smiling the rest of the day.  Normally I am not so comfortable with strangers but in a way we weren't.  I will definitely sign this with love,

      I was smiling the rest of the day.

      Tuesday, October 12, 2010

      Another Post and Still Trying

      "Where does discontent start?  You are warm enough but you shiver. You are fed enough yet  hunger gnaws you.  You have been loved but your yearning wanders in new fields. And to prod all these there's time. The Bastard time."  John Steinbeck

      The Sweet One  (Homage to Hannah Hoech)
      You have been blessed with  the talent and eye of an artist, yet you keep struggling to produce. You have produced yet you ask why.  You have a constant dialogue with the work you are producing - the image speaks to you as a friend yet the loneliness and isolation is a hard cross to bear - you exist in a vacuum while you create always seeking some validation which is exhausting and depleting as you keep drawing from yourself. Yet I keep going on...

      Tuesday, October 5, 2010

      Even scarier

      "The worst thing that being an artist can do to you is that it would  make you slightly unhappy constantly"  - J. D. Salinger  - De Daumier Smith's Blue Period.

      In the Studio, Etching

      Let me pessimistically add: for the rest of your life. Although trying hard to dispel the myth. This is the 2nd installment of the already stalled blog.  My mind is scattered, unfocused, searching for the hook that will reel me in to the real. I have about 100 yet un-scanned pieces of art. It will be a slow and steady stream of imagery until a story  will unfold and becomes told.  A peace-offering to my soul. Imagery as poetry? 

      I am hard on myself enough without the extra scrutiny, hyper- self-focus and perfectionist problems.  I finally figured out that,
      despite controlling my art, I could not carry this over to my life.  Someone once said and I misquote - " art is 10% talent and 90% staying power." This is the truth. Although no one could have persuaded me to do anything else at the time, I probably picked the wrong profession.

      Tuesday, September 28, 2010

      1st entry - It's scary!

      "We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."     T.S.Eliot

      I'm starting a blog to hopefully make sense of what I have been doing with myself for the last 35 years. The plan is to give myself a mini retrospective  - or introspective as the case may be. The idea is to sort through journals, notebooks,  sketches and photographs, put them in some kind of order - maybe chronological, maybe emotional, and post them for whoever is interested to see.  Some of the work is terrible, some mediocre, and some great. I plan to show the great stuff.  The art world is, for the most part, a seemingly impenetrable profession. Artists appreciate art most of all - I have come to think of myself as an "artist's artist", as the ones who truly love and understand my work have for the most part been other artists whose work, I might add, I mutually admire.
      I have come to realize at this stage in my life, I no longer have the luxury to stay in my studio and create art, but too quickly approaching the fearful (and incredulous) age of 60.  Have to figure out Plan B - second half of life.  And finding myself with no skills except having some artistic talent which doesn't get one too far these days, I am in the challenging position (after a long and prosperous run) of having to make some money. Things are further complicated by my immobilization brought on by such things as depression, fear, anger and anxiety to name a few. Armed with these insights, I have begun.