Monday, October 28, 2019

Something you've just got to do

This is an image of the first painting by Georgia O'Keeffe that ever caught my eye--it was the poster for her retrospective at the Whitney Museum in 1970.  

From the first time she rode in a plane, she wanted to paint the clouds.

This is what she said about it;"I painted a painting eight feet high and twenty-four feet wide—it kept me working every minute from six a.m. till eight or nine at night as I had to be finished before it was cold—I worked in the garage and it had no heat—Such a size is of course ridiculous but I had it in my head as something I wanted to do for a couple of years so I finally got at it and had a fine time—and there it is—Not my best and not my worst."

the painting hung in the Whitney show then traveled to Chicago.  It was too big for the other museums on that itinerary so it still hangs in a stairwell at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Joan Didion wrote that when her daughter, then aged 8, saw this she said, "Who drew that?  I gotta talk to her." I know the feeling; I wanted to talk to her too.
  I also know the feeling of an idea that won't leave me alone until I put it down on paper.

Like this one,

This collage was inspired by a photograph in the New York Times Magazine about the author, James Salter.  He was a pilot in training and crashed into this house somewhere in the midwest on VE Day.  In the photo, the lady of the house stood on the porch with a look of wonder on her face.  She's portrayed here by my beloved Lady Cecily Heron, by Hans Holbein.  The image stayed in my head for a few years until I sat down and did it.  Glad I didn't work on a step ladder in an unheated garage.

It's been like that with the Christmas carols; the images danced through my mind every December and often on into January and February. Now I've completed twelve drawings and various trimmings and I'm getting ready, with the help of Izzy Nova and Mary Kathryn Monday, to take it to the printer.  I'm excited, and I'd love to share it with you.

In case you haven't seen it yet,

Click to go to "12 Carols" Kickstarter

A little something to get you in the mood!

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Friends Write Back

I love it when you respond to my posts.  Recently two good friends shared stories that I think you'll like too.

First, Carol, the youngest of the Skinger girls, who grew up with my friend, Valerie, 
(post for March 3, "My Friend, Valerie") responded to my September 3 post, "Let's Sit down and read" with this story.
"Reminds me of when the 3 of us went looking at colleges. We were in Philadelphia staying right in the center of things near City Hall. It was Friday night and we went next door for dinner at McKormick & Shmicks and there was a line. They asked if we’d eat at the bar as there was immediate seating. Yes. Upstairs the bar scene was jumping and it was a free show just watching the masterful bartender fill all the orders.  After a while, Adam took out an enormous paperback, I don’t recall what but some fantasy action-adventure tale. It was very very loud and our dinners took a long time to order and to arrive. John and I enjoyed watching the bartender and the general din of all the talk of workers in business clothes ending their week. Adam just stayed immersed in that book. When dinner arrived and he put it in his backpack the bartender came to talk to him. He said 'I’ve been watching you and I am so impressed. If I had lost myself in a book more often I wouldn’t be doing this job. Keep doing what you are doing.' "

Carol is an artist-here are some of her recent works.--

Carol's website is

Then my friend, Fran Bealler, wrote back to my October 3 post, "WRITE!" with  this story.

"I used to be a big letter writer, too, back in the day. I had a friend ... a best friend who moved to Israel when we were 12. I was devastated. I wrote to her often even though over the years she hardly ever wrote back. Moving to a new country with a new language was not easy for her and she didn't want to burden me with her sadness. When I was a little older I visited her and later she moved back to the States. She told me that my letters were a lifeline, apologized many times for not writing, and thanked me for never giving up on her. We are best friends to this day."

I love that Fran kept writing even when she didn't hear back from her friend.
Here are a couple of her painting that include actual paper letters and envelopes. 

this is titled "The Letter."  A woman sits off to the side, maybe dreaming about whoever wrote the letter ... what does it say? This oil was loosely based on a favorite Degas painting. 

"The Date"--a blind date date arranged by old fashioned letter.

You can see more at

this is what I've been hoping for with my blog--a conversation.  So thank you, Carol and Fran, and to all of you who read me and write back--thank you so MUCH. I love hearing from you.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

A Historic event


On October 16, 1969, The Mets won the World Series and I was there.  I'd like to say I was in my baby carriage but I was at my job in midtown, watching tons of shredded papers fall from office windows.  those were the days when you could open windows.

But first, a little family history.  In the months before I was born my mother stayed with her in-laws while Dad finished his semester at Babson College.
Everyday Mom and MomMom would go to the ball game; to the Bronx to see the Yankees or to the Polo Grounds to see the Giants.
I had always thought we were exclusively Yankee fans but look at this picture of Alan, aged five.  That's a Giants uniform--he wore it every day. I don't know how Mom ever got it off him to wash it.

Here he is with our grandfather, PopPop Brown.  You still can't see the writing, but the orange and black socks are the clue.  This is definitely a Giant's uniform. 

Dad always used to say, "Say Hey!"  That's a quote from Willie Mays, the great Giants center fielder. I can still see him teaching Alan the basket catch--Willie's signature move where he held both hands in front of his belt buckle to make a catch.

I even remember a poem Dad used to recite:

"These are the guys who give me the woe woe Willies;
Kirkland, McCovey, and Mays
A trio of bullies with bats' stead of billies
Kirkland, McCovey, and Mays.
rippin' my curveball,
smashin' my hummer
makin' the home fans glummer and glummer
makin' me feel like the world's biggest bummer
Kirkland, McCovey, and Mays.
Willie, Kirkland, Willie McCovey, Willie Mays.

Very literary, no?

I asked Alan why I had these Giant memories when I thought we were life-long Yankee fans.
"No, he said, Dad was a Giants fan."
Exclusively? No Yankees at all?"
"It was all Giants.  He told me he once touched Carl Hubbell's elbow."
He took me to a Giants game and we saw Willie Mays hit two home runs. We loved the Giants.  I named my dog Willie May, even though she was a girl...
But the Giants moved to San Francisco and Dad said, 'From now on, we're Yankee fans.'"

Doesn't it sound like a Papal decree?

"From this day forward...Choose you this day whom you will cheer,  but as for me and my house, 
we will cheer the Yankees."

For a few years, New York was a one-team town. In 1962 The Amazin' Mets were born.  It was a rocky start, with 120 losses in their first season under the leadership of the legendary Casey Stengle, who was quoted as saying, "We're coming along slow but fast."

"Come out and see my Amazin' Mets," he said,  "I been in this game a hundred years and I seen ways of losing I never knew existed before."
He also said, "Doesn't anybody here know how to play this game?"

Casey retired in 1965 and Gil Hodges came on board.

 In 1969 everyone celebrated, even we Yankee fans--we're all New Yorkers. And the Mets had come so far in such a short time.  It was a miracle.
Willie Mays returned to New York to play the last two years of his career for the Mets in 1972.

I think Dad did well in choosing his hero.  this is what Leo Durocher wrote about Willie Mays:

"If someone came up and hit .450, stole 100 bases, and performed a miracle in the field every day I'd still look you in the eye and say, Willie was better.  He could do the five things you have to do to be a superstar: hit, hit with power, run, throw, and field.  And he had that other magic ingredient that turns a superstar into a super superstar.  He lit up the room.  He was a joy to be around."

He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.

The Move to California wasn't a tragedy for everyone; Lawrence Ferlinghetti was inspired to write a wonderful poem;

Baseball Canto

Look it up--you'll be glad you did.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Another Artist I love; Claus Oldenburg

Oldenburg's work is an interesting combination of serious and silly.

 Spoonbridge and Cherry 
The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

  To think of a giant spoon with a cherry is one thing, to draw that image is another thing. To convince the world that it's serious art and then to carry it into reality takes a lot of conviction, plus serious engineering, not to mention money.  This piece with the graceful curves of the spoon, the birght red of the cherry on top is perfect. It speaks to me of pleasure-- anticipation or satisfaction?  Do you eat the cherry on top of the sundae first or do you save it for last?

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

I love the birght white diagonals against the sober beige horiaontals and verticals of the building.  Badminton speaks to me of summer afternoons and tea on the lawn.

Oldenburg's wife, Coosje van Bruggen was his partner and collaborator and I approve of that.

 There’s so much more—a giant lipstick standing on a caterpillar tractor that was seen as a protest against the Viet Nam War,  A monumental clothespin, a safety pin for the diaper of a giant baby, but I think my favorite is this self-portrait.  I had a lot of fun making these collages.

Claus with Jane Morris, model and muse to the pre-Raphaelites.

Here he is with Fidel Castro before the Eiffel Tower.  We once spotted Fidel in Paris;
 he was svelte in an Armani suit.

Knocking at Snow White's door.

Relaxing in a lovely pink ensemble.  Thank you, Mr. Oldenburg and Ms.van Bruggen for all the fun and inspiration.

Thursday, October 3, 2019


I heard a voice from Heaven saying unto me, Write.

That's from the book of Revelations in the Bible.
I once  read in a novel, I can't remember the title or the author, "Finding a handwritten letter in the mail is like spotting a cardinal in the bird feeder."

What's so amazing about a cardinal in the bird feeder?

I couldn't resist that. Thank you, Charles Addams.

  Here's a cardinal caught by my brother, Rob, at his birdfeeder.

But enough about birds--I really want to talk about letters.

This collage is from 1998, in my early days of decorating my datebooks.  On the right is the envelope for a birthday card from my friend, Doug.  I remember the lift I felt at finding it in the mail-- seeing hisdistinctive writing and the Georgia O'Keeffe stamp.

My grandmother was a letter writer.  Dad told me that when he was in the army, in training at Camp Hale in Colorado, he got a letter every day.
A man who worked in the mess hall said to him, "How's Janet?" Dad realized he had been reading the letters Dad threw in the trash.  I so wish we still had those letters--they must have provided a lively picture of life at home.  Uncle Dan told me that each one of her children, and she had five, received a letter every day when they were away at school. She had a laundress and a cook, but still.

I love getting letters.  When I was teaching at Trinity School and Robin Lester was the Headmaster I would frequently find a handwritten note in my mailbox--"Great job!" "I passed a group of kids admiring your pictures in the hallway!"  "Congratulations!"
I wasn't alone-- my colleagues said they got notes as well.  I've kept those notes and read them over once in a while, to bring back those days.  Robin believed that teaching is a noble profession and he made his encouragement real--he put it in writing!

I've also kept letters of condolence and I sometimes re-read them.  Yes, it makes me sad, but it also brings back my lost loved ones and reading that someone else knew and loved them is a lovely thing.

My mother used to say, "To get a letter, write a letter."  So I try.  I'll never live up to MomMom
but I try. If I could send you each a handwritten letter every Friday--Wouldn't that be nice?

Christmas in July

I've been feeling a little uninspired and overwhelmed by papers and stuff, torn by needing to clear the decks and get rid of everything ...