Thursday, June 24, 2021

Here Comes Summer

Monday, to celebrate the Summer Solstice, we hosted a garden party at First Presbyterian Church, inviting artists to enjoy the fresh air and greenery and maybe draw or write.  The weather cooperated with sunshine and cool breezes.

Tamara Wyndham came as the Pocket Lady. Her beautiful skirt has 49 pockets tied with ribbons, each containing a "blessing." She invited us to take one and I have to say, the one I chose was the exact message I have needed for this week, and maybe for all my life. 

Here it is, from painter Agnes Martin;

 "Of all the pitfalls in our paths and the tremendous delays and wanderings off the track I want to say that they are not what they seem to be.  I want to say that all that seems like fantastic mistakes are not mistakes, all that seems like error is not error; and it all has to be done.  that which seems like a false step is the next step."

That reminds me that I used to tell my students, "If you make a line you don't like, don't erase it.  Leave it because now you know where you don't want to go.  Let it show you where you do want to go."  And then move on. Don't let perceived mistakes slow you down.

Thanks, Tamara, I needed that.

That advice works for the everyday but how do you move on when the unspeakable happens?

Monday was also the fortieth anniversary of the day Larry died. 

How can we make sense of the death of a beautiful boy? I miss him and everything that should have come.  I miss his wedding and welcoming his bride into our family. I miss the nephews and nieces I might have had. I miss seeing Larry coaching Little League and walking his daughter down the aisle. I miss my brother.

How do we carry on when a random accident ruins everything?  We just do.  Because what else can we do?  We carry on, cherish the memories and live as he would have lived--with purpose and joy.

The photograph of Larry age eight is by Ronnie Kirkwood.  Larry at age twenty-one is by either Rob Swanson or Jan Swanson. 

Friday, June 18, 2021

I Love Coffee


Ready for some unadulterated good news?  Tuesday, in the New York Times, Jane Brody wrote; 

"Wake up to the Good News about Coffee."  

She said, "The latest assessments of the health effects of coffee and caffeine, its main active ingredient, are reassuring indeed. Their consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of all kinds of ailments, including Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, gallstones, depression, suicide, cirrhosis, liver cancer, melanoma and prostate cancer. 

In fact, in numerous studies conducted throughout the world, consuming four or five eight-ounce cups of coffee a day has been associated with reduced death rates. In a study of more than 200,000 participants followed for up to 30 years, those who drank three to five cups of coffee a day were 15 percent less likely to die early from all causes than were people who shunned coffee."

OMG!!! I thought all I got from my morning cup of Joe was a little lift and now this! You know Dayenu, the wonderful Passover song sung at seders?  We sing to God, "If all you had done was to rescue us from bondage in Egypt, that would have been enough but then you led us through the desert and dropped manna from Heaven to feed us." The verses go on forever, each telling of another blessing bestowed upon us. It's a great hymn of gratitude.

So let me sing a song to my morning coffee.   I often wake up feeling a little worried.  I write three pages in my notebook, (Thank you, Julia Cameron of The Artist's Way), I do a few brain sharpening puzzles on my phone and then I'm up and at 'em. 

I give Lucy her required tummy rubs, put on her leash, tuck some money and a compostable bag in my pocket, don my mask and head out. 

On the street I often see the sanitation workers, one crew in particular who have since retired. I miss those guys. If Lucy was in their way as she did her business they'd wait, and one of them would say, "Hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go." And  when I picked up after her he'd say, "Aw, throw it in here--usually I don't take that from anybody but you look like a nice lady."  He liked that line a lot--I heard it several times. 

Here's my tribute to our sanitation workers--what would life be like without them?

I walk to Kava Cafe on Washington Street.  I had been getting my coffee across the street at Three Owls but they shut down in the early days.  Kava's been there for me through the entire pandemic and so now I'm faithful.

At first I ignored the No Dogs sign and took Lucy inside but then I met the owner who asked me politely if she was a service dog and I had to say no.  He was really nice about it and so now she waits outside, keeping her eye on me.

 Arthur bought me this cup. I use it everyday-saving the planet one cup at a time!

To get there I walk by this park, that was once a parking garage. I'm usually too early for the gates to be open but the trees have grown so tall that they arch over the street in a lovely green canopy.

Then I come home and do the crossword puzzle and then I can face the day.

Oh, Coffee, my Friend! It would have been enough if all you did was taste good and wake me up.  Now that I know how good you are for me I'm more than triply grateful.

coffee cup illustration by Gracia Lam


Thursday, June 10, 2021

Loving Day and Pride

 The world open is0pening up again and we're welcoming back the Pride Parade and the Evelyn Davidson Water Table at First Presbyterian Church. We've been serving water to thirsty marchers since I don't remember exactly but a long time.  It's the best way to see the parade.  

Lately there's been a debate over who gets to march. Nobody asked me but this is what I have to say.  Twenty-five years ago it took courage for a police officer to come out and I was deeply moved to see a group of officers marching under a Pride Banner.  I'm sorry that that won't happen this year.

Rodney King said, "Can't we all just get along?"
Andy Warhol said, "I want everybody to like everybody."
Does that sound silly?  Inane?  It's certainly aspirational--

This month we celebrate Loving Day, the anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the aptly named 1967 Supreme Court decision that vacated the two 1-year sentences of Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter Loving who each pled guilty to a law criminalizing marriage between persons of different races, on the grounds that the Virginia statutory scheme violated the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. 

The decision was relied upon in U.S. v. Windsor, which granted Edith Windsor a marriage exemption of $363,053 after her Canadian-wed wife passed away and the IRS denied her estate tax refund striking down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional in the process.  

It was most recently cited in Obergefell v. Hodges, which held that Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee’s statutory definition of marriage violated the Fourteenth Amendment and recognized a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state.

Here is part of the Supreme Court decision--I think by Justice Kennedy.

These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

An Invitation


I have a drawing in this show, and I'll be speaking about it at a Zoom event tomorrow at 7 ET! I hope you can come.

Lost and Found: A Personal Vision

The New York Artists Circle is thrilled to announce
An Exhibition and Series of Four Inspiring Roundtable Events and More!
Our Spring and Summer programming is based on our curated online show.
Lost and Found: A Personal Vision
The NY Artists Circle presents the work of 117 selected artists who reveal what is truly important in their lives, as they cope with waves of loss as well as surprisingly positive personal change during this Pandemic time. They give us a wide-ranging array of personal explorations on the theme of Lost and Found, from the concrete and tangible to the sheer existential.
Exhibition dates: May 1 – Aug 31, 2021
Go to The show is divided into four unique sub-themes focusing on different aspects of what is Lost and Found: The Personal, The Iconographic, The Societal, and Artistic Discoveries. Each offers thought-provoking and inspiring reflections on our shared human experiences during a Global Crisis.

 THIS Wednesday June 9th at 7-8pm ET
(Stay for Our Inspiring Artist Discussion! which follows for 30 minutes from
8:00-8:30pm ET)

Wed June 9th at 7-8pm ET
These artists explore multiple interpretations of the Pandemic in objects, metaphors and symbols, from anxiety and grief to recovery and new beginnings.
(Stay for Our Inspiring Artist Discussion! Which follows for 30 minutes (8:00-8:30pm ET and is optional). Poet Jennifer Franklin will read "March", her heartfelt, illuminating and powerful view at the beginning of the pandemic -  March 2020.  Jenna Lash will read a poem she wrote for this event.


Meeting ID: 858 1075 6508      Passcode: NYAC

Exhibition link:
Please share this Press Release with anyone who might be interested.
Looking forward to seeing you at our events!

Thursday, June 3, 2021

You're invited for a studio visit

I'd love  to show you where I work.

My studio was once our daughter, Jessie's bedroom, before that a nursery for Jessie and baby Sam. 

In 1981 Arthur and I bought a loft--an empty room with a kitchen and a bathroom in a former warehouse on the edges of the meat-packing district; not the new chic meat-packing district but the original where meat was actually packed.  We had a little girl and the baby we were expecting was gender unknown, so we made that big room into a two bedroom apartment. When the baby turned out to be a boy and got too big to share a room with his sister we built another room for him.  

When our children grew up and moved out our apartment grew as well.  Suddenly Arthur and I each had a room of our own.

For thirty years I worked in a studio on Broadway at 81st Street.  It was upstairs from Shakespeare and Company, on the same block as Zabar's, walking distance from the kids's school. So in the beginning I'd escort them, then they'd make me leave them on the corner, then at the subway, then one day they didn't want to wait for me and they took off on their own. 

I loved my studio--it was full of light, facing east and north with big windows.  I'm sorry I never took pictures, but here's a view of the view from my drawing table by my studio mate, Susan Cohen.

 Working there, with few distractions, I was a real nine-to-fiver and I churned out a lot of drawings. Over the years a series of lovely people, I was joined by beautiful artists to share the rent and work together.  But the landlord or the city kept hitting me with a real estate tax bill that eventually became too much and I said to myself, "Hey, I live in Greenwich Village!"  And I had a room of my own.  So I moved downtown.

This is what it looks like.

Here's my drawing table with a work in progress. The windows look east at my neighborhood.  

Here's a detail of the table and my pens and inks. I like having everything right at hand but this all takes up a lot of space, so I just ordered a wheeled cart from the Container Store. It'll be good to have the whole table for working.

 Here's the North facing wall.

Looks kind of busy, doesn't it? The wallpaper is William Morris' "Willow." He said, "Have nothing in your home that you do not believe to be either beautiful or useful."  I really love this pattern.

The big painting is a view of factories on Tom's River, NJ. It came from my aunt and uncle's attic.  

On the left, 

from top to bottom, my diptych etchings titled "Iowa Wheat Fields," portraits of my dad and my Aunt Jan; my grandfather commissioned portraits of all five of their children as a gift for my grandmother, and at the bottom. another diptych, two Adirondack chairs.

On the right;

A poster Arthur gave me--a woman at her easel, dressed to the nines, just like me. Below that, a mono-print from my League classmate, Martha Bloom.  On the left, from the top, a page from a book about ladybugs, another diptych by me,"A Bald Eagle and a Red-Tailed Hawk," and a gold leafed image of men in a boat, that my mother bought for me in the market place in Istanbul. 

My studio assistant. I don't know what I would do without her.

Here's the west facing wall, a workspace within what was the closet. Above it I hung  my Joseph Cornell inspired boxes displaying my children's shoes.

 It's all blue and green with orange accents-those are the fabric remnant mementos of the Gates project. 

On the wall at the right is a framed Winsor Newton calendar with their charming ink bottle labels. 

 It's for July 1976-our wedding anniversary.  Unfortunately, the ink runs, so I don't use it in my work.

On the bulletin board I've posted  several meaningful sayings like,

"Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final"   Rilke

And, "I decided that the only thing I could do that was nobody else's business was to paint.  I could do as I chose because no one would care." Georgia O'Keeffe

And, "The serious problems in life are never fully solved. If ever they should appear to be so it is a sure sign that something has been lost.  The meaning and purpose of a problem seem to lie not in its solution but in our working at it incessantly.  This alone preserves us from stultification and petrification." Jung

And, from Haydn's "Creation,"   “Now Chaos ends and Order Fair Prevails”

  I'm still waiting for that to happen.

Here's the south wal; scraps of what was once the wallpaper on our kitchen ceiling which I chose because it looks like Alma Thomas's painting Big Red.  On the top shelf is my collection of little black collage books.  I've just completed number 23, and that will be the last because the company has stopped making that particular little book.  I thought it might be a crisis but I found another book that might be better.

And finally, behind the door, my rack for over-sized books.

I miss my studio uptown and the concentrated, focussed way I worked there.   I even miss my ride on the 1 train but often I'd just be getting a drawing going and I'd have to close down and go home to start dinner and I didn't like that. Now I have the distractions of the kitchen, the refrigerator, the husband--but I can put a pot on the stove and go back to work while it heats up. I can greet a drawing first thing in the morning and check on it after dinner, and before I go to bed, and in the middle of the night if I can't sleep.

When I told Barry Kostrinsky, the founder of Artists Talk on Art about this he said, "It sounds like a bed time story, like, "good night painting, good night brushes, good night lamp." Maybe I should write that?

Some artists keep their surroundings pristine and uncluttered.  I say less is a bore, although I reject the term clutter--I stick with William Morris-everything here is either beautiful, useful or dear to me.

Thanks for dropping by.


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...