Thursday, May 28, 2020

Some New Rhinos

Since the quarantine I've been spending a lot of time in my home studio, and I got infected with the Kondo virus--you know--"The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up."  It's not a bad exercise when done in moderation.
 You know all those annoying little things around the house that you look at and think, "I ought to fix that..." and never think about and a few years go by? I've been taking care of them, and it's SO satisfying!
Several trips to the hardware store and a visit from the handyman-I guess he's an essential worker.  His name is Angel and he lives up to it. I'm feeling so proud that when I wake up in the middle of the night I come in here and just look.
Then I went through my flat files and sorted all my drawings into categories--I even made labels for each drawer; I found several pieces that I'd abandoned as hopeless and thought, "Hmmm, this is really not so bad; I think I can do something with this."

One of those is Rhino and the Little Ballerina.  I never hated it, in fact,

it's on my website, in the Rhino Gallery, but I looked at it and decided to give it a night sky.
I think it's an improvement--the black makes the building and the figures pop.  What do you think? Did I do the right thing or did I wreck it?

I found this one,

of my rhino standing on Pont Alexandre III, gazing at Aristide Maillol's "The River." I wasn't sure about this when I finished it but now that I look at again I'm glad I didn't throw it away.

Some pieces never give me a moment's doubt--this one,
"The Rhino at a Model of the Louvre in Medieval Times"
 practically drew itself, at least that's how I remember it.  It's unusual for me because there's so much white space

I had a good time placing the gorgeous rhino from the Plaza of Musee D'Orsay in different scenes around Paris.

I also found this old friend,

a portrait of a Bald Eagle, from my early days at Trinity. Some said it looked like a person we all knew and loved but I'll never tell who that was. To my old Trinity pals--what do you think?

Then there were these cows.  I thought I'd write a story but never got around to it.
Their names are Elizabeth and Jessica and they hate it when the farmer calls them Bessie and Jessie.

This is "In the Pasture."

This is "In the Barn". I keep forgetting to finish the Barn Owl's nest with three eggs, in the upper right hand corner.

I was speaking on Zoom this morning with a bunch of artist friends and one of them said,
"I had so many plans for the quarantine; I was going to exercise, I was going to paint every day, and I haven't done a thing."  And then she went on to list a whole raft of new ideas and online techniques she had tried and things she had accomplished.
This is such a weird time-for some of us, staying in, for others, going out and risking their lives.
Here's a poem to address all this.

Thursday, May 21, 2020


Sunday was the anniversary of the day Lucy came to live with us.

To celebrate I commissioned my friend, Ryan Bauer -Walsh, to paint her portrait dressed like a Jane Austen character.
Which character? Let's look at Pride and Prejudice.
She's beautiful and sweet-tempered, so, Jane, Mr. Bennett's eldest daughter.
She can be a bit wanton in her affections and her manners; when greeting an old friend she sometimes gets so excited she has to pee. We call it the Pee of Joy.  That would make her kind of a Lydia, the flighty youngest Bennett sister.
Out on the street, I'm afraid she has a bit of Lady Catherine de Bourgh in her treatment of big dogs and skateboarders; "By what right are you on this sidewalk?  How dare you, and be gone immediately."

But look at those fine eyes and what my friend, Bunny, calls her look of intellectual curiosity. Consider the discernment with which she regards the gentlemen dogs who approach her. She is definitely a Lizzie.
so here she is, Lucy Russell Sherman as Miss Elizabeth Bennett.

It's not the first time Lucy's been enshrined in art.

And here's Molly's portrait of Lucy.

A great muse inspires many artists.

One of the first things I did when I moved into my own apartment in New York City was to get a dog,
a West Highland White Terrier named Maude.

When I met Arthur I told him she was part of the deal.
At the age of two she came down with a mysterious and painful malady.  The vet told me they'd have to do tests, it might be rheumatoid arthritis, she would suffer, and I'd be facing the terrible decision that usually doesn't come until a dog is very old.
Arthur picked me up at the Animal Hospital and as I told him the story he was so unnerved by my sobs that he made an illegal left turn and got pulled over by a cop.  He stepped out of the car and explained what had made him so careless.  The officer looked in at me and said, "Is that right, Ma'am?"
I said, tearfully, "Yes, I don't know what's going to happen to her, I might have to put her down, she's in terrible pain..."
He said to Arthur, I don't know, sir...if it were a child I might...You'll have to tell it to the judge," and wrote him up.
So Arthur went to traffic court and told the whole story to the judge, who threw out the ticket.
"I know how it can be," he said,  "I know if it were my Archie..."  And Arthur walked.
I'm happy to say Maude recovered and lived another fourteen years.

When she died Arthur wanted to get me a yellow Labrador like our family's Clete

but my mother talked him out of it.  I hate to admit it, but she was right.  I had my hands full and a big dog might have done me in.
So we had two cats, and we loved them but after the kids left home for good I started to pine for a wagging tail. On a beautiful spring day I happened to run into the annual Dachshund Parade and came home full of yearning.
Arthur did the Dad thing about no, no, you won't take care of it, it's too much trouble but all the time he was plotting, looking online at portraits of puppies and on my birthday, Lucy flew in from Council Bluffs, Oklahoma.  Her kennel name was Stormy but we swiftly changed that and so here we are.
We love her to pieces.

I often think of our neighbor and friend, Doris and her little cairn terrier, Mitchell.  Doris was quite elderly but active and very alert and interested in everybody.  I often met her in our lobby and she'd ask me what I was up to, how are the kids, make a comment on what I was wearing, where I was going--she was all outward-facing, not at all self-centered. Mitchell was a big part of her routine and her social life--she met other dog lovers and invited them to her dinner parties.  We got to know many of our neighbors through her.
I'm sad to say that when Mitchell died Doris didn't really recover from his loss.  Six months later his dish still sat in her kitchen, she no longer went out for walks, and her memory began to fail.  It's hard to measure how important he was to her well-being.

Harry Truman said, "Children and dogs are as essential to the well-being of the nation as railroads and banks."  I say, Hear, Hear.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Something Else I Love

I love chairs.

I like to draw them.

I collect little chairs.

I gave most of my collection to Molly; she sits her dolls in them and they play school.

I bought this one in Havana.  It's from a painting by Wilfredo Lam.

Some chairs seem to open their arms and say, let me give you a hug.

Some remind me of people I love.

Some seem to say, "Let's have a party!"

I googled "Paintings of chairs" and got an endless list.  At the top of the list was this one; I know you know this painter.

To draw a chair is also a pretty good lesson in perspective.

There's something about an empty chair that evokes a human being without actually presenting one.
Think about the Oklahoma City National Monument.

My Aunt Jan bought this little beauty for Jessie when she was just a toddler.  Jessie took one look at it and sat down, delighted to find a chair she didn't have to climb onto. She could sit with dignity, like a grown-up.

Sit down and get to work, or think, or visit over a cup of tea, (or a glass of wine) take a nap, snooze, cuddle with someone you love--the chair is there for you.

I've posted these shots before; it makes me happy just to look at them, so I'm sharing them again. This time it's more about the chairs.

I'm thinking of all the friends I can't sit down and visit with, except on the phone or Zoom. Here's a message from a door on my block.  My neighbors said it all.

Sunday, May 3, 2020


One Spring day when Jessie was very little she looked up and said, “Oh, look, the leaves have come back from where they go in the winter.
I think new leaves do look kind of like butterflies resting on the branches. And oh that shade of green really speaks to me.
One of the joys of parenthood for me was the way my children played with language as they learned.
There’s a quote I can’t find, I think it’s Nabokov in Speak, Memory, or maybe it’s Tolstoy, about the private jokes, mispronunciations that become standard usage, little sayings families share that bind us together.

Listening to other people’s baby-talk can be obnoxious, so I won’t go any further, except to share the time I said to my father, "Where's the  garbage can?" and he said sternly, “In this house we say Bo-Bo Can.”

Now that we’re practicing social distancing, long walks are one of the things we can still enjoy as long as we wear our masks and New York is looking great.

Did you hear me complain about missing the snow this winter?  I’ll be quiet now because the mild weather was easy on my rose bush and my lovely vine, which I don’t know the name of, and they’re now flourishing.

Did you hear me complain about April’s raw,  damp and windy days?  The tulips have been dazzling, and long-lasting; they’re still around in abundance.

The city is looking swell but I remember when it wasn’t so pretty. 
In the spring of 1969 when I was in Burlington, VT, taking classes at UVM  I heard Howard Cosell on the radio. He was probably talking about Muhammed Ali and the battle over his draft evasion, conviction, and eventual return to boxing.

Howard said, in perfect iambic pentameter,

This has got to be the greatest hassle in the history of awganized spawts!”

Those words, that cadence sang to me, and I said to myself, “I’ve gotta get back there.” New York City held a glamour for me, and, now that I know her much better, the glamour and excitement are still there. 

Some call the early seventies dark days for New York; I was so happy to be starting my life that it all looked pretty sunny to me.  I loved the energy and the crowds.  I’d look at all the people on the street and realize that each person I saw had just as big a circle of family and friends as I had, which meant there were multitudes of people beyond my own.
The city was strapped financially, but not me.  I was making a hundred dollars a week, paying fifty dollars a month rent. I was sitting pretty. Some days I would walk from my apartment on 93rd street to my job in Rockefeller Center through Central Park.  The zoo was open then, you could walk right through, so I’d visit the polar bear and the seals.
My brother asked me where I would live if I could live anywhere in the world. I said, right here.
He said, "I mean if you could live anywhere."
"I know," I said. "right here."

Those were tough times for New York, with “Ford to City, Drop Dead”, and “Ladies and Gentlemen the Bronx is burning”, but things got better.  We face another kind of tough time now and I can't promise things will get better.
things are so uncertain.  Let's just keep on keeping on, wearing our masks, washing our hands, and staying six feet apart as we find electronic ways to be together.

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 ...