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Showing posts from March, 2020

More Subway Art

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Tom Otterness at the A, C, E, and L Station. at 14th Street and 8th Avenue Tom Otterness  (born 1952) is an American  sculptor  best known as one of America's most prolific public artists.  His sculptures of chubby little creature allude to sex, class, money, and race.          Tom Otterness studied at the Art Students League in 1970, the same time I was there but I don't think our paths crossed.  He would have been 18 and I was 22; a big gap at that age.  Besides, he would have worked in the sculpture studio in the basement, and I in the graphics class on the third floor. I've found a terrible story in his past that makes me revisit the old saw,  "Don't get too close to an artist, he might smell bad."  If you look behind the curtain, or more closely at your heroes, you might not like what you see.  It's a twist on "Love the sinner, hate the sin."   It becomes, "Love the art, beware of

looking back and Walking forward

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I said last week that I'd share with you another of our grandfather's great works.  Here it is. The Float There it is in the background, with my Dad and little brother Robby, throwing stones in the bay. .  It was  a wooden platform with a ladder and diving board that sat upon empty oil barrels.  Here we all are enjoying it on a beautiful calm day on Peconic Bay.  It sat high above the water so you could swim under the barrels and come up beneath it, where everything had a green hue from the reflection of the water, and your voice echoed off the empty barrels.  It was a magical place.  Unfortunately, it was quite top-heavy so it could turn over with too many people on it, but that was exciting, too. Launching the float every spring was a huge job.  Here's how Uncle Dan describes Float Day. "The Float was kept on the beach without barrels during the winter. The putting in the water days and the taking it out of the water days were traumatic. Da

Even More Subway Art

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Here's another wonderful subway station installation with CROWS, The A,C, and E at Canal Street and Sixth Avenue.   Canal Street used to be a regular haunt for me and many other artists because of the late lamented Perl Paints; four or five floors of art supplies staffed by artists who really knew their stuff.   I once told a friend I was headed there and she said, "You're going to the candy store."   But, alas, Mr. Perl forgot to pay his taxes and that was that. Life will never be the same. I don't get there much anymore, and so it took me a while to discover these guys. This is one of the cooler among many cool art installations in our subway system. I was talking about it with a woman I met at Ellen Grossman's opening at  The Yard , a co-working space that's probably not open now.  and she told me that she once found a crow that had fallen off his perch.  She didn't know who to alert and admitted she was tempted to t

First Week of Self Quarantine

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The flowering pear trees are in bloom all over the Village. The daffodils are popping up. Spring is coming, no matter what. Arthur and I are staying home but also taking long walks.  A man walked by as I shot this tree and said, "Lovely magnolia--it means hope." I'm trying to use this quiet time to work but it's hard to settle down and concentrate. I began one piece but I've already discarded it to started over--the composition was too one-sided.   So I started looking through old photographs and I've decided to share some happy memories.  My grandfather Swanson, PopPop, worked hard and expected everyone else to do the same, but he also knew how to have fun.  He thought up some wonderful toys, like the Putt-Putt, a little car with a vacuum cleaner motor that we could actually drive. Here it is in an early stage, with my Dad and Aunt Jan.  Nice hat, huh? PopPop's company had a fleet of delivery tr

More Subway Art

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Houston Street After my post about the Weimaraners my friend, Louanne, reminded me of these amazing mosaics at the Houston Street station on the number 1 line. Designed by Deborah Brown in 1995, they show marine creatures frolicking in our subway cars and stations.  In 1995 it was amusing, now in the age of climate change and rising sea levels it’s ominous. But at the moment we have other things to worry about.  let’s just enjoy that we have a subway system that believes art is important and if you're avoiding the subway right now, here they are. A manatee looking over a reader's shoulder.  This one may be my favorite. I'm sorry not to have the whole picture in some of these, but standing with my back to the subway tracks gave me flip flops in my stomach.  Let them inspire us to be active in saving our mother, the earth.

Pink Balloons

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Pink Balloons Today, March 13, would be my grandmother's birthday.  Last year I posted this story about the day she died and I'm reprising it now.   My grandmother, Louise Mayhew Russell Swanson, we called her MomMom, died at home early in the morning on my daughter Jessie’s 7th birthday.  We were there, and after several hours of phone calls and business, after the doctor and the undertaker had left, I looked at Jessie and thought, this little girl needs a celebration.  So I drove to town to buy a cake, then went to the party store and bought 7 pink balloons and one purple to grow on. I headed out the door. The spiky chandelier in the entryway caught a balloon and P OP!   I went back, they replaced it for free and I headed out again, this time holding my bouquet very low. On the street, I passed a woman with a lit cigarette and POP!    I went back to the store and this time I paid for the replacement. I headed out again, holding the balloons in a tight clust

RESPECT

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Last week after I posted pictures of Will Wegman's Weimaraners I made a tour of some of my favorite subway art.  Here's one that really tickles me.  In August 2018, this graffiti began to appear. Then someone put a homemade sign in the Franklin Street Station that said, RESPECT the MTA heard about it and said, "Hey, that's a great idea."  And they caused to be made an official MTA sign. Now both Franklin Street in Manhattan and Franklin Avenue in Brooklyn bear tribute to the Queen of Soul. Isn't that cool? A bureaucracy said Yes . It reminds me of Mayor Bloomberg's response to Christo and Jeanne-Claude when they came to him with the crazy idea of planting saffron-colored ceremonial gates all over Central Park.  He said, " Great, let's do it ." Christo and Jeanne-Claude said, "Huh?"  They were used to spending years struggling to get their projects moving.  they weren't ready for a yes. It also rem

Roberto

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A Great Teacher  Roberto DeLamonica  1933-1995 I want to tell you about Roberto, who taught at the Art Students League. He taught printmaking, but the structure and discipline he instilled in me have stayed with me all my life and guided my work. Here is his class  handbook, which I still treasure, 20 pages of instructions and recipes;   In the file with the handbook, I found my notes for the talk I gave at Roberto's memorial at the League in 1995.  I quote from it here.  I began studying with Roberto in 1971.  I showed up for my first day of class expecting to go home that night with an etching but it didn’t work that way.  To study etching with Roberto De Lamonica you had to start at the beginning. First,  assemble your supplies. This meant searching through the most obscure reaches of New York City; automobile supply stores, religious supply stores, shops like City Chemical, Superior Ink, Continental Felt, all  located in neighborhoods that w