Thursday, September 24, 2020

Something That's Driving Me Crazy

     I try to keep my posts uplifting or at least upbeat, but here's something I can't get over.  Have you seen this? It's an ad posted on our city busses and I am appalled.

No, I do NOT lay in bed.  I lay me down to sleep, I lay down my sword and shield, but I LIE in bed.

     Here's what Mirriam Webster says:

Lay means "to place something down flat," while lie means "to be in a flat position on a surface." The key difference is that lay is transitive and requires an object to act upon, and lie is intransitive, describing something moving on its own or already in position. Beyond the present tense, the pair can become more confusing because lay is the past tense of lie, and laid is the past tense of lay.

     They also say, 

Lay and lie have been tripping up English speakers for 700 years, and no one should be judged harshly for being among the confused.

    Okay, I'll calm down, and thank you for letting me get that off my chest. 
But for an ad on city busses, shouldn't someone have checked? Where was the copy editor? 
    Now, here's one that's beyond the pale.

   Isn't this beautiful?  Hirschfeld is another of my favorites and an inspiration. I'll have to do a full post for him. This is a Christmas card from the New York Public Library, thanking me for my support. but look at what's inside!

    To quote my beloved Aunt, Jan, "Holy Hat!" 

 This is the New York Public Library!  

I'm reminded of a card I once saw that said,

"Dear Everybody,
Not to sound slutty, but please use me
Signed, Grammar

I know, I'm not one to talk.  Typos have appeared in my work even after countless rigorous proofreadings. Let's recognize what a hard job all copy editors do and give thanks for all the times they get it right.  

To lend on a note of aspiration and reminder of the best in all of us, let me present
 my Great Niece, 

Maya Devi Nampoothiri Swanson

Thursday, September 17, 2020

A statue of someone we can feel pretty good about

In all the talk and uproar around statues, I've found some that we can ponder and appreciate.

This is Doctor Benjamen Rush, Founding Father, a signer of the 
Declaration of Independence, physician, writer, educator, humanitarian, author of one of the first major essays against slavery in the Colonies, founder of the first anti-slavery society in America.

He said, "Temperate, sincere, and intelligent inquiry and discussion are only to be dreaded by the advocates of error. The truth need not fear them..."

He wasn't perfect; in 1778 he wrote an anonymous letter criticizing George Washington and suggesting he be replaced as Head of the Continental Army, and this fervent abolitionist actually owned a slave. 
Huh?  It's always complicated--he never said much about this; as I would imagine not.

As an educator Rush believed that, as nurturers of virtue in society, women deserved to be educated and patriotism should be deeply ingrained in women's thoughts. He wanted them to be instructed in the principles of liberty and government as well as sewing and housekeeping.  Not that he thought women should be leaders, but that they would raise men to be leaders.

Wouldn't it be nice to look at his ideas as antiquated but almost two hundred years later, Dick Gregory, the great comedian and Civil Rights activist, spoke at my women's college.  We got all excited about joining the cause and then he said, "Ladies, what can you do? Why, yours is the hand that rocks the cradle.  You're gonna raise enlightened men."  
Really, Dick?  That's all women can do? You're going to wait for another generation for freedom and justice?  

That's l'esprit d'escalier speaking,  or what I should have said--what I wish I'd said.  
I'm glad to say I didn't just rock the cradle and neither did any of the women I know and love although we've raised some pretty fine citizens while seeking to change the world for the better.

We're all doing our best and I mean everybody!

Here's a statue we can love whole-heartedly.


Thursday, September 10, 2020

Thank the Teachers

Fall is almost here, which means it's back to school.

 Mr. Rogers once began a talk by saying, "Let's be quiet for a minute. Think back to a teacher who made a difference in your life."  My friend, Jim Carroll, was there; he said it was a sacred moment.

Do you remember your teachers?

One I remember is Mrs. Brilliant--that was really her name. Doesn't she look like a kid?

I was a terrible math student but when she made me stay after school for extra help and I stood at the blackboard, algebra suddenly made sense to me.  I aced the next test and when she looked over my shoulder to see that I had solved the extra credit question her face absolutely lit up.  
That look has stayed with me all these years. 

I didn't realize it then but Mrs. Brilliant showed me what to work towards in my life--to get that much joy from my work.  Not as an algebra teacher, but as something meaningful. I wish I could let her know how much she meant to me.

This year will be and is already especially hard for the teachers.  How can we help them? Maybe hope for a Secretary of Education who's worked in a school?  Who believes in public education? Can somebody tell me how we've let it come to this, that teachers have to buy their own supplies? 

Okay, I'll take a deep breath.  Here's a quote from Dorothy Parker I just happened upon. It's about New York City, but I want to apply it to us all.

"New York is hopeful; always it believes something particularly good is about to come through and it must hurry to meet it."

So be hopeful. Think about your teachers, send them good thoughts and maybe a letter if you have their address. If you can, do something nice, like this.

Where would we be without them?

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Another Artist I love; Hilary Knight

 Drawing faces with just lines is hard.  I've studied many who succeed-starting with Durer, 

Hans Holbein the Younger


Charles Dana Gibson, 

Aubrey Beardsley, well, now that I look at his work, he does what I do--put in lots of texture and pattern so you don't notice that the faces are not all that great.

Mark Summers: This is a portrait of Dr. Seuss.

You see, I've stolen from the very best. A favorite is Hilary Knight, best known for his illustrations for Eloise the waif of the Plaza.

 He won my heart with his illustrations of my edition of Dr. Spock's classic Baby and Child Care.  Dr. Spock marched against the war in Viet Nam, saying,

"What is the use of physicians like myself trying to help parents to bring up children healthy and happy, to have them killed in such numbers for a cause that is ignoble? "

He was a mensch, and he was a big help to me. When I was about to leave the hospital with newborn Jessie the obstetrician and the pediatrician stood in the door of my room and said, "OK, you're on your own now."  

I was terrified. Wait, shouldn't I have to take a test?  Get a license?  

Dr. Spock said,   "Trust yourself, you know more than you think you do." that was a big help.

Here's a picture by Hilary in the chapter about when a new baby comes into the family.  I think he  captures the ambivalence of a big sister--and look at that poor baby brother! 

His work is so expressive and at the same time economical. 
He also did Betty MacDonald's Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, about a magical woman, maybe she's a good witch, who helps parents cure their children of the usual maladies. Here she is

This one is less economical--full of telling details.

Here's the Bully-scary, isn't he?

A little here, a little there and eventually I came up with my own style. I'm still working on my people.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Everyone's Talking About Statues

This week, as I reminded you, we saw the unveiling of the Women's Pioneers Monument in Central Park. An officer of the Fire Department, and I wish I could remember her name,  sang America the Beautiful amending one line to be

"And crown thy good with sisterhood."  

On a day like this,  we can take a little license.

I'll give credit here as I should have done a few weeks ago; the Women's Pioneers Monument is by Meredith Bergman,  Frederick Douglass is by Ivan Schwartz.

I began drawing New York's statues a long time ago.  If I had to choose a favorite among my drawings this would be high on the list.  It's the New York Chamber of Commerce with as many statues as I could fit in.

This combines my love of New York's beautiful architecture with its outdoor sculpture and I really had fun doing it.   do you recognize anyone? There are some favorites and some you may not know.  All but two reside in Manhattan. If you can identify all of them let me know and I'll send you a prize.

Right in the middle is Augustus St. Gaudens' Sherman Monument, no relation; William Tecumseh Sherman, led by the Spirit of Victory, with a branch of a Georgia pine beneath the horse's feet.

At the unveiling, a southern visitor was heard to comment,

"Well, isn't that just like a Yankee, to ride while the lady walks." Here they are in their close-up.

When we were expecting our firstborn I considered naming her Georgia for Georgia O'Keeffe, but my Kentucky friend, David, said, "You can't name a child Georgia Sherman, she won't be welcome below the Mason-Dixon line!"  So we named her Jessie, after my great-grandmother, Jessie Lewis Brown, because of this story my mother told me.

Grandpa said to her, "I know you think of Grandma as an old lady who walks with a limp but you should have seen her when she was should have seen Jessie running, with her long black hair flying out behind her."

 Here are Sherman and his lady friend visiting the library.

Now I'm starting a new series I"ll call 
"Statues of People We Can Feel Pretty Good About"
and I'll be posting them for your enjoyment so stay tuned.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Walking Further on My Street

 Last year I wrote about my neighborhood and this sign at 254 West 12th.

It says,
“If we all do one random act of kindness daily
 we might just turn things around.” 
Martin Kornfeld.

A few weeks ago I noticed a new addition;

The new one says, 
"You don't have to love just don't hate."

I think that's setting the bar too low.
This week I noticed another sign.

It says, 
"Whatever your color you have certain feelings about the others. 
 Recognize them and get rid of them." 

Village people let you know where they stand.

Next, we come to the Village Den, our neighborhood coffee shop for years before it was remade into a vegan/vegetarian cafe. 
Eating lunch in midtown years ago I recognized the waitress and said to her,
"I remember you from the Village Den!  My husband had coffee there every day with our son before nursery school." 
She gave me a long look and said,
"I remember your husband--toasted English, butter on the side."  
Don't you love New York?

Next, in the triangle made by the intersection of West 12th Street, Greenwich Avenue, and Seventh Avenue we see...

The Aids Memorial, made of intersecting steel triangles. The Triangle is a fitting motif. In the Nazi concentration camps, gay people were forced to wear pink triangles, just like the yellow stars forced on Jewish people. 
Across the street is the late lamented St. Vincents Hospital, 1845-2010. In 1984 St. Vincent's opened the first and largest AIDS ward on the east coast and became the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic. 

The triangles make lovely shadows on the ground, where Jenny Holser has organized Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass into carving on the pavement.

this section says,

 to fetch me at first
keep encouraged, 
missing me one
place search
 another, I stop 
for you"

In 1911 the survivors of the Titanic were brought here.  And in 1912, survivors of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory were brought here. It's a historic place of healing and solace.  
Contrary to Greenwich Village rumor, Edna St Vincent Millay was not born here; her uncle, very ill, recovered here and her parents gave her the name in gratitude.

Now the hospital is gone, replaced by yet another luxury high-rise and we have a beautiful park.  

The park is lovely, but I miss St. Vincent's.  My most vivid memory of September 11 is walking past and seeing a row of gurneys covered in clean white sheets, standing by the open doors, waiting to help. 
The hospital is gone, the victim of debt and mismanagement, but I hope our spirit of reaching out and helping each other is still strong.
Continue to stay safe, wash your hands, and wear your mask.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Another Artist I love: Wayne Thiebaud

This is a good time to Celebrate Wayne Thiebaud, American painter, born in 1920; that makes him one hundred years old; at least he will be on November 15.  And he's still painting!

This was my first Thiebaud; I found it in the postcard rack at the Whitney gift shop.  I couldn't believe it was a painting and I couldn't stop staring at it.  Those patterns, the lush paint, those creamy pies.  It was delicious. I loved that something so fun, so pretty, was thought of as ART.  

Stephen Kinzer wrote in the NY Times, 

"In other hands, these objects could easily become Pop Art or Kitsch.  Mr.Thiebaud, however, paints them respectfully, without a hint of irony."  

In February2001 the Phillips Collection in Washington DC held a retrospective of his paintings.

This is the Corcoran Gallery, also in DC, and they held a show of Thiebaud's prints. It's a handsomer building than the Phillips.

This is the page in my diary from the week I visited that show.  I read about it in the Times and even though it was coming to New York in the spring I didn't wait. I made a date with two of my southern relatives, my sister-in-law, Donna, and cousin Kate.  We met there and had a fabulous time.

Can you read the quote from Barnet Newman? It says about  a painting of three gumball machines,

" Shiny objects of desire...This painting is hope and possibility...evocation of the American Dream...All those globes of colored beauty-and for a penny out comes something sweet and wonderful."

The Phillips Collection Newsletter says "the artist's colorfully modern style combines representation and abstraction, seriousness and wit, historical references and direct observations."

I bought the catalog.

He also paints humans and landscapes.

In the book, I've kept all reviews from that time.

Thiebaud says he steals from other artists. "It's hard for me to think of artists who weren't influential on me because I'm such an obsessive thief." He lists Ingres, Vermeer, Horace Pippin, Rockwell Kent.

 I found something in Thiebaud to steal.  He often gives his figures a heavy outline in a contrasting, or complementary color. Here I tried it with Mariano Rivera.

Who do you think is on the cover of the New Yorker this week?  A double scoop of Thiebaud! He's one hundred years old and he's still making art!
Here's a link to a short interview with Wayne and Francoise Mouly.

I'm not waiting 'til November to say Happy Birthday, Congratulations and Thank You,

Wayne Thiebaud!

(It's pronounced Teebow)

Something That's Driving Me Crazy

     I try to keep my posts uplifting or at least upbeat, but here's something I can't get over.  Have you seen this? It's an ad...