Thursday, May 27, 2021

a good idea

Don't you love it when someone says, "You know what would be fun?" and someone else says, "Yeah, let's do it!" and they get a lot of other people together and share their ideas and get to work and then something magical appears? That happened this week in my neighborhood. Well, it took a few years but...

 Here it is  


 Little Island. a four acre public park built on pillars and the remnants of pier 55. I'm afraid my pictures don't really show the wonderfulness.  

Go to littleisland.org 

and see videos of the amazing construction process.  I think it's kind of Tolkien-y, with those giant mushroom supports.


 From 6 am until noon you can just walk in; in the afternoon when it gets crowded you need to make a reservation but it's still free. I visited Monday morning; I followed the winding trail past gardens and open sloping lawns all the way to the top and saw from there the Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano Bridge!

On my way down the path I ran into two artist friends-Regina Silver  and Norma Greenwood. Regina had already started a painting with her tiny watercolor set.  Here it is.



This miracle took more than just a few people and a good idea--architects, engineers, financiers, landscape architects, electricians, plumbers, gardeners, -all working hard just to makes something nice or as Barry Diller said, “ to build something for the people of New York--a space that on first sight was dazzling, and upon use made people happy.” 

I think there's a special grace about the act of saying, "Yes, let's." Or, "That's a good idea-how can I help?"

I've seen this happen before.  Michael Bloomberg will always have a place in my heart because when Christo and Jean-Claude went to him, after twenty years of struggling to get approval for their plan to erect an extravaganza in Central Park, he said, "Sure, let's do it!" 

And our city and people from all over the world rejoiced in the Gates.



I desperately wanted to be part of that project but had no idea how to apply. How did I get in?  Well, that's another story.

Around 1995 the artist and arts educator Barbara Ellman looked at the art world and said, "This feels like  an exclusive club." Lots of artists complain about that, but what to do? Barbara gathered a few artist friends and said, "There must be a better way." They kept meeting and talking and now we have the New York Artists Circle. Here's our story.

We are the New York Artists Circle (NYAC), a group of professional visual artists who connect to share information, opportunities, skills and resources. Exhibiting and selling artwork are priorities. Since 1996, we have built a collective bank of expertise through monthly meetings, an active listserve, a dynamic social media presence, and a group website. We support our members in their professional growth, fostering groundbreaking ideas, fresh approaches and innovative collaborations. Working together in community helps us to meet the challenges we face in our solo practices, proving that there is strength in numbers!

Learn more at nyartistscircle.com

The New York Artists Circle listserve posted instructions for signing on to the Gates and I was all set.


I spent a magical two weeks, standing guard over my assigned area, keeping the curtains unfurled, answering questions, shoveling snow, and thinking and getting inspired. 

 I thought, if Christo and Jean-Claude can do this, I should be able to hang some art on the walls of my church.  I asked our pastor, Jon Walton, if we could start an arts program and he not only agreed, he urged me forward, saying, 

"A church in Greenwich Village should serve the artistic community." So we started Art at First, and held shows in the Great Hall.  Now we're expanding to include the performing arts as well.  We've got big plans, so watch this space for further developments. 


and, by the way, have you met our new neighbors?

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Serendipity and Synchronicity and Diligence

 You know how when you learn a new word and suddenly you see that word wherever you go?  Is that synchronicity?  When I got the news that Arthur and I had a brand new granddaughter and her name was Sunny I was on a Zoom chat with my friend, Sunny Buick. 

In the following three days I saw two Sunny's in the credits of TV shows. 

This morning I heard a new word; duplicative--that is, of or meaning  a duplicate and I heard it agin this evening.  I expect to hear it constantly for the next week. Is that synchronicity or coincidence?

Then there's serendipity. I've been thinking about how sometimes images fall into place and I feel delight and my work almost does itself.  Sunny gave me a few thoughts on Serendipity from her journal-she spoke so fast I'm not sure I got it all down but I think she said,

"Opportunity aligns with readiness; Luck and preparation create magical alignments or miracles."

This spring I planned to submit work to an open call for a gallery show.  I was all set with the drawing of my choice when I read the fine print-a size limit of 20 inches in any direction.  Oh, NO!  When I work small I can't get all the details in and the work just doesn't enchant.  I thought I'd have to give up.

But I dragged out an old portfolio with a collection of pieces I didn't know what to do with and came up with...


The Bear and the Bison.  I've always loved these two portraits but never knew how to finish them. This time I just put them down on the starry sky and the golden wheat field and that was it. Now they're hanging at Gallery Sitka in Shirley MA until June 1.

https://gallerysitka.com/earth-day-2021/

Thank you curator, Beth Barry!


This conflict between diligence and inspiration takes me back to my class with Leo Manso at the League.  I've told you how he looked at my detailed pen and ink drawings and said; 

"I can tell you're a conscientious person, but nine to five isn't ART."  

What I don't remember in all the years that I've re-told that story is that he also said, "I see a lot of skill here but..."  Was he saying I should throw every thing away and start over? I couldn't do that but I looked hard at what I had been doing and wondered how much thought I was putting into it. That was a turning point for me, and I recorded the struggle in the little book-notebook, sketchbook, journal, diary, talisman that I started to carry with me everywhere. 


There are some great quotes here in many different handwritings, all jumbled in with cut out images, doodles, clippings for me newspaper.

"Fortune favors the prepared mind."  "The happy accident favors the informed mind." 

"Diligence is the mother of good fortune." then in my own words-Diligence is driving me crazy.

"If it's not working check the balance, size, shape. Repetition--is it subtle variations on a theme or boring repetition?"

"Attention is an act of will." 

for LM "Art should be psychologically relevant, aesthetically pleasing and well-crafted."  

"Art should be revelatory. "

"Joseph Cornell pursued connections through emblems and symbols. Conjunctions of ideas, sympathies, aesthetics, histories, interests and practices"

"What's good and what's not? When it works I really don't know why. " 

"Unexpected poetry in the most basic alterations of physical materials"

"The imagination. the unconscious"

"The skill gets in the way of revelation"

"The dizziness that comes from too much possibility"

"effortless unity, tired subjects redeemed by fresh context"

"delight in the act of seeing without trying to immediately trying to reach a conclusion about what you are seeing"

all the time I was staring at --and playing with--this drawing, Lady Cecily Heron by Holbein.




One more quote: "When I'm crosshatching doing handiwork that doesn't require intense concentration the mind is free to wander focused but free--keep a pen and ink drawing going at all times-record the ideas when they come in..."


I can work for hours covering the paper with tiny marks and then something happens that feels beyond my control; like the way this pelican found his way to this table.  So, diligence is fine in its place and so is spontaneity.





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Sunday, May 16, 2021

I hope you can come see another presentation of Fragile Earth tomorrow evening! 

New York Artists Circle presents:

Fragile Earth / Artists Talk On Art 

Please join us on Monday, May 17th 6-7:30pm ET
For a Special joint NYAC / ATOA Event

Five artists showing in Fragile Earth: Artists Respond to Climate Change will present their work and discuss their relationship to environmental issues.

Fran Beallor • Pauline Galliana • Eleanor Goldstein 
Jenna Lash • Barbara Sherman



    Thursday, May 13, 2021

    Contemplating Loss and Joy through the Prism of our Favorite Beatles Songs

    My work is currently in an online show titled Lost and Found on the New York Artists Circle website . 

    "The New York Artists Circle presents the unique visions of 117 selected Artists who explore and reveal what is truly important in our lives, as they cope with waves of serial losses and change during this Pandemic time. 

                                    https://nyartistscircle.com/curated-shows/lost-and-found

    Besides submitting artwork we had to write 40 words on the subject. Here's my piece and what I wrote.


     We’ve lost the freedom to just go.  To protect our health and that of our neighbors we’ve settled in, turned inward and explored ways to travel, connect and explore with our imaginations and the help of the internet.

     I found a new music platform and tuned in to the Beatles station--I enjoyed a full day of Beatlemania--almost every song in no particular order.  Oh my goodness, what happiness; so much variety, so many different moods and they all made me feel great.  I danced while I drew and while I fixed dinner.

    I was in the tenth grade when the Beatles arrived on our shores, March 1964.  We had lived through the assassination of President Kennedy the previous November; we needed a little joy and boy did they deliver. 

    I asked my brother Alan what was his favorite Beatles' song and he said, "Anything in "Revolver." Up 'til then I thought they were bubble gum and I preferred the Stones."

    Excuse me?  I had no idea he was so discerning. He was twelve, so what did he know?  If the early Beatles were bubble gum it was the very highest quality bubble gum.

    When our granddaughter, Molly, was in the first grade her class learned a Beatles song every week.  It seems the Beatles' vocabulary works very well with the early reading curriculum. That's a lot more fun than Dick and Jane. Molly's favorite was "Black Bird;"

    Black Bird Above Snow-Covered Red Hills
                                                                            Georgia O'Keeffe
     
    She would play it on repeat as she fell asleep at night. It's a lovely lullaby. If you google it you can learn what Paul was thinking as he wrote it. When she gets older I'll show her Wallace Stevens' "13 Ways to look at a Blackbird."

    And then Ringo made an appearance on A Late Show to respond to Colbert's Questionert.  

    Steven Colbert said, "OK, you can hear only one song for the rest of your life-"  

     Ringo didn't think it over, he just said, "'Come Together!'"

    "Come Together" is on "Abbey Road," the Beatles' last studio album. I've always loved this image and someday I'll put it in a drawing. Someday.


     
    It was a time of turmoil for the Four, with artistic and financial disputes and Yoko Ono. As George put it, “Apple was getting like school, where we had to go and be businessmen: ‘sign this’ and ‘sign that'."

    I can't speak for Ringo but I felt sad when he spoke of making "Come Together, "

    "Because of the way it goes and because working on it--John was being John."  He said, "It's been forty years..."

    December 8, 1980.  

    My friend, Robin, said "Of all the assassinations we lived through, that one felt most like a violation."  

    The day after we heard the news, "Imagine" came on the radio;  I started to weep and Jessie, age 17 months and just beginning to talk, toddled over to me and patted my shoulder saying "Awww." It was a sign that she was developing empathy, a tiny moment of joy.

    This past Tuesday morning I called my brother, Rob, to share the news of the death of the great Lloyd Price, one of the godfathers of Rock and Roll, who sang what I consider the definitive version of Stagger Lee.  My dad taught me to do the Lindy to that song and Rob sang it as a lullaby to his three daughters, so this was a moment we needed to share.

    Rob said, "I'm out looking for something to shoot." He has the perfect job for him; he drives around the Champlain Islands shooting scenes for the local paper, The Islander.

    "I've got nothing," he said, "I feel like I've done everything at least a hundred times."

    I said, "Well, you know, a cliche is an oft-told truth.  There's nothing new, you just have to find a new way to look.  So, what's your favorite Beatles song?" 

    "Hmmm, well, Norwegian Wood.  That's pretty good.  Also, Back in the USSR."

    "That's one of my favorites, too."

    "Yeah you had the album [The White Album] and listening to it stretched my little mind.[Rob is 7 years younger than I] I had thought the Russians were terrible and here they were, glad to be back home, loving their home, just like me."

    Back in the USSR is said to be a parody of Chuck Berry's "Livin' in the USA" and The Beach Boys' "California Girls;" I prefer to call it a tribute.  

    Then Rob said, "Oh, shit!  Hold still--hold still!"  and we hung up. He must have found something to shoot.

    He took this yesterday; I'd love to believe he was telling the clouds to hold still. 

    I've had a great time this week roaming through Beatle land, asking people their favorite song. Everybody has one, even if they say they can't choose.  Each song brings up memories and places me where I was upon first hearing it.  Arthur loves, "Here Comes the Sun," which I've programed as my wake-up call.   Nancy says "So many great Beatles songs--hard to choose but 'Let it Be' is up there for me. "My friend Fran said she couldn't choose, then said, "Michelle,'' "Yesterday" and "Yellow Submarine." Since I'm working on an underwater scene, I'll add a yellow submarine. I've already done an Octopus's garden.



    We were talking about Lost and Found, sorrow and joy.  Happy memories often come with sad ones. Have you ever laughed at a funeral, when the speaker tells a story and the dearly departed is suddenly with you? You then begin the process of incorporating the loss and your memories so that you can carry on.  

    My friend, novelist Alexandra Marshall, is writing about the losses she has suffered.  She said, 

    "Yes, loss accumulates. I think of loss as an aquifer running beneath us, each loss distinct but joined and amplified. In my one life of repeated loss, the only “help” is the ability to create, a gift for which I’m so thankful." 

    I look up the word aquifer to be sure of its meaning.  It's an underground layer of permeable rock containing water.  So, a solid foundation and a source of life sustaining water.  

    Thank you, Lexa.

    George  said about Here Comes the Sun, "Anyway, it seems as if winter in England goes on forever, so by the time spring comes you really deserve it."  That goes triple for this spring of 2021.

    Tuesday after my talk with Rob as I walked across 14th Street a man came towards me, singing loudly.  I thought I heard the word "sun."  I thought if he were singing "Here Comes the Sun" that would be too perfect but he was singing "The Sun'll Come Out Tomorrow," which will do.




    Thursday, May 6, 2021

    Still in the GREEN


    I'm still swimming in green, although the lilacs appeared in the green market this week so I'm also enjoying a little purple. 



    There was more green at my friend Paula Heisen's show titled Light, and Time at the Painting Center.


                                                    www.paulaheisen.com   www.thepaintingcenter.com

    When I say swimming in green I really mean it because my two current works in green are underwater fantasies.  House of Green is just about finished.  I put it away for a while so I could see it with fresh eyes and decided to fill the last empty windows with several phases of the moon.  Here it is.


    Drawing the moon makes me think of a beautiful line from Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World;

    The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night.


    Now I'm working on a new piece--the interior of House of Green. Here's the first step. It's not easy to see; I keep my pencil work faint because I'll erase it as soon as I go over the lines with ink.  some people leave the pencil marks in their art but I can't wait to get rid of them.



    It's starting to take shape.


    Wallpaper and curtains


    I never do a complete preliminary sketch, I prefer to let the picture evolve.  Actually, I don't have the patience.  I'm always eager to get started and sometimes that gets me in trouble. In the floor here I wasn't sure if I liked the checkerboard tiles and thought I'd make another drawing of waves to cover them up.  But I kept at it and now I like them. At least I can live with them.  That reminds me of the time I made a suggestion to a second grader about her work.  I thought my idea was brilliant; she thought it over and said,
    "I don't love it.  But I can live with it."


    Two porpoises a shark and a whale.


    Drawing and thinking about water takes me back to when I was a shivering blue-lipped kid with pruned up fingertips. I just loved the water.  I don't  remember my mother ever telling me to get out and warm up; I guess she assumed I'd know when I was too cold.

    Do you have a secret place to go in your thoughts?  A place to feel safe, or just quiet, to comfort your spirit? I think mine is here. This is the Float,  designed and built by my grandfather. You can't see it here but it had a ladder so it was easy to climb aboard. That might be me jumping off the diving board.   It sat upon six oil barrels and with too many people it could tip over which was always exciting. My secret place was underneath.  To get there you had to dive under the barrels then you'd come up in a place lit from below with a green wavering light and your voice would echo from the barrels. I loved it there, especially because not everybody was brave enough to dive under the barrels.  


    This also reminds me that Teddy, two summers ago when he took off his Floaties and swam on his own announced to his parents, "There's a new fish in the family!"
     
    Back to the drawing table.  You can see I have a long way to go.  It may seem tedious but as my left hand keeps moving across the paper, back and forth to and from the ink jar, my mind takes off. That's when the ideas come.


    I'll keep you informed as to my progress.


    It's My Anniversary

     I got serious about posting this blog, Seeking the Sublime in the Everyday, three years ago right about now and I haven't missed a week...