Portrait of Jessie

Helloooo friends! Hope you all had a great weekend. Is it just me or is this summer just flying by? I need to get more sun because pretty soon I’ll wake up one morning and it will be Labor Day already!

I’m hoping to get down to DC this week for two shows: Degas/Cassatt  at the National Gallery and Artists and their Models at the Archives of American Art. I also have two modeling gigs and possibly – hopefully – a family sit-down to straighten out our issues. Oblivious to all of this human drama is Jessie the cat, who hasn’t made an appearance on Museworthy in a long time. I realize that cat pictures are not exactly rare on the Internet, but I couldn’t resist sharing this one with all of you. Sweet Jessie was taking a nap in the garden this afternoon so naturally I had to disturb her for a little photo shoot. My girl :-)

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Thank You Robin

The evil beast has snatched another victim. Or the “Black Dog” as Winston Churchill called it. No matter the descriptive epithet, depression is an absolutely brutal, unforgiving, unrelenting vicious illness. Those of us who suffer from it can try to convey its debilitating effects to non-sufferers and hope that they simply take our word for it. Clinical depression is nothing short of a fiend. A malicious demon that battles for your very soul. It keeps you constantly on the defensive, menacing you, taunting you. Yesterday, beloved actor Robin Williams tragically reached the point – the point of no return – where he just could not make it through one more day. In his California home, he took his own life. He was 63 years old. God rest his soul.

A shy, bullied only child, raised in the midwest, often left alone to his own devices, Williams seized his coping mechanisms, carried them into adulthood, and spun them into pure magic. A husband, father of three, Julliard alum, Oscar winner, stand-up comic, devoted friend, tireless supporter of the USO and St. Jude Children’s Hospital, actor of such astonishingly vast range he could communicate, and communicate with complete authenticity, both hilarity and heartbreak, joy and pathos, absurdity and earnestness. The performer who can transition between comedy and drama is a rare breed. Jack Lemmon comes to mind, as does Tom Hanks. But Robin Williams as an individual revealed a warmth and self-deprecating candor that is uncommon among show business types. He made no secret of his drug and alcohol addictions, his insecurities, and of course, his decades long struggle with depression. He sought, above all else, to entertain us. And boy did he.

Robin Williams, our genie and jester. Our alien, our mime, our english teacher, our Boston shrink, our stream-of-consciousness talk show guest … ours. Rest in peace. And thank you.

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Hand in Hand

Tumblr has become my go-to place these days for discovering and browsing art, photography, and lots of other cool things. It’s a remarkably easy to use microblogging platform and if you follow the right people you can really enjoy yourself passing the time. My Tumblr page is “Meanderings”.

I happened upon this image of an Edouard Vuillard painting that caught my eye. It’s titled Seated Woman with Joined Hands, from the year 1916. I really like what Vuillard did here in terms of his palette, composition, and capturing of the subject’s presence. I tried to find out the identity of the sitter, as Vuillard used mostly friends and family members as his models. It’s very possible that this woman is his longtime mistress Lucy Hessel, but I can’t say with certainty. This is Lucy here. What do you think?

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There is another reason why I studied this painting for a while; the clasped hands. In my earlier years as an art model I avoided putting my hands together, folded-style, for poses. Why? For one thing, I was so busy showing off my entire body and trying to be “exciting” that stodgy, old-fashioned hand-folding just wasn’t in the cards. It’s stupid, I know. Also, part of me just doesn’t like the gesture all that much. From a body language standpoint it can come across as stiff and guarded, putting up a “barrier” if you will. I also reasoned that since human hands are so expressive it seemed a shame to knot them together and hide the fingers. My paternal grandmother is seated with folded hands in almost every old family photo and I’ve never liked it. Just reminds me of her somewhat stern and less than warm personality.

But Vuillard’s depiction here works very well. The woman’s arm is leaning on the leg, like one would sit if casually talking. And if you zoom in to view the hands up close you can see that Vuillard used just a mess of short brushstrokes in darks and lights. Very nice. And by the way, you’ll all be happy to know that I have expanded my posing repertoire since the early days, so I do fold my hands now, albeit in small doses ;)

Some other artworks with folded hands. Compare and contrast these with Vuillard’s.

Girl With Folded Hands, Wilhelm Trubner, 1878:

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Frans Hals, Portrait of a Middle-Aged Woman with Hands Folded, circa 1640:

(c) The National Gallery, London; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Augustus Leopold Egg, A Girl with Clasped Hands 

(c) Paintings Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

I’ll Fly Away

Hello dear friends.  I believe I alluded to some family strife in a previous blog post. I wish I could report that the situation has improved. Sadly, it hasn’t. The last couple of days have been difficult. Of course you all understand that it’s not appropriate for me to go into detail here, as it is family stuff and I don’t want to speak negatively on my blog about people I love and care deeply about, no matter how incredibly frustrated I am. Just pray for us, if you’re so inclined.

For now, I’d like to share a video that I discovered through Fred Hatt’s blog Drawing Life. Fred posted about his photography experiments with the GoPro camera, which captures very cool visual perspectives. Here, a GoPro was strapped to an eagle as it soared through the French Alps. It is absolutely breathtaking; a real “bird’s eye view” that makes we wish I was riding on the eagle’s back, flying away from turmoil, taking in the extraordinary splendor of the earth, without a care in the world. See you all very soon.

An Artist Unearthed

To disobey a person’s wishes in the event of their death seems an inconsiderate thing to do. I know I’d be pissed if the instructions I left behind were ignored. But in some rare instances it might be wise to respectfully defy the wishes of the deceased. Such is the case of Arthur Pinajian, an Armenian-American artist who died in 1999 and whose body of works were discovered in 2007 in a dilapidated cottage in Bellport, Long Island. With no heirs or loved ones with a vested interest, Arthur Pinajian insisted that after his death his artwork be thrown in the garbage – specifically, dumped into the Brookhaven landfill. His sister, with whom he lived, knew of Arthur’s wish for the works to be discarded but allowed them to languish – paintings, drawings, and notebooks in disorderly piles, under a leaky roof, splotched with mold and mildew. After she died a few years later, two investors, Thomas Schultz and Lawrence Joseph, purchased the property with the intention of renovating it. Little did they know that the angels of fortuity would drop an enormous stash of never before seen art in their laps. Serendipity happens, folks. Believe it.

I feel a bond with this story for two reasons. One is that Pinajian was Armenian, as am I. And when a talented Armenian receives positive attention that makes me happy. The other is that I am an inveterate saver. I can’t bring myself to throw out anything that holds even an iota of value, whether it be sentimental, historical, or practical. I never would have been able to carry out Pinajian’s wishes, and how lucky we are that his discoverers couldn’t do it either. As Thomas Schultz himself explained, “I didn’t want to be the person responsible for throwing a man’s life’s work into a dumpster”.

I was thrilled to see the Pinajian exhibit when I was in East Hampton last week. Howard Shapiro, the curator at Lawrence Fine Art Gallery, was kind enough to let me take a few pictures which I’ve posted here. It’s just a miniscule sample of a breathtakingly versatile artist who, at his best, rides neck and neck alongside Picasso, Gauguin, Kline, Mondrian, and his Armenian brethren Arshile Gorky.

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While Pinajian may not have found his way into the upper echelons of the fine art world, his life and career were not at all misspent. A child of Armenian Genocide survivors, Pinajian grew up in New Jersey and became a self-taught and well-respected cartoonist. He created comic book illustrations during the 1930s and 40s. He won a Bronze Star for valor in World War II, and attended the Art Students League on the G.I. Bill. Pinajian was personally acquainted with his contemporaries, the abstract expressionists who dominated the postwar art scene, and experimented vigorously with style and color. But he was, for whatever reason, unable to break through into Pollock and de Kooning levels of acclaim.

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There is something really bittersweet about this kind of story; an artist toils away in the shadows for decades and can’t get a gallery owner to return his calls, and then after he dies is “discovered”, purely by chance, and galleries clamor to hang his work, some of which is selling for tens of thousands of dollars. My mother owns a Pinajian, a small abstract pastel of gentle colors.

Some good reads on the Arthur Pinajian journey from obscurity to posthumous recognition:

Arthur Pinajian: An art world genius lost, found, and now worth millions

Who Was Arthur Pinajian? Master of Abstraction Discovered

The Pinajian Discovery

Short video on YouTube about Arthur Pinajian

Revealing the Art of Arthur Pinajian, Armenian Weekly

Arthur Pinajian website

and the Facebook page of the Estate Collection of Arthur Pinajian

Light Years

I was going to open my birthday blog post with some “wise” and insightful quote about how aging is really a liberating, beautiful experience full of maturity and honesty or whatever, but come on . . . those quotes are all horseshit. And if anyone tells me that as a woman at 46 I am “ripening” they’re getting a knee to the groin. Ripening? What am I, a banana?

It goes without saying that I am grateful to be alive, healthy, and celebrating a birthday as opposed to, you know, NOT celebrating one. On the other hand, I can’t exactly bring myself to jump for joy either. It doesn’t help that I overheard a conversation between two guys on a crowded subway a few weeks ago. One of them was telling the other about a woman at his gym who flirts with him regularly. While he conceded that she was very nice and looked good, attractive and fit, he said he’ll never ask her out because, and I quote, “She’s old. She’s like 40!”. His friend shared in the horror by replying “Ew! That sucks.” The “ew” was a nice touch, don’t you think? There I was standing right next to these guys, trapped with no way to escape until my stop came up. The conductor’s announcement of 14th Street never sounded so good. I was outta there. What a relief.

Just a couple of New York jerks, right? Not worth getting upset over? Perhaps. But that attitude is much more prevalent than you think. Much much more. Especially in this city, which has ruthless tendencies. Yes, that attitude is hurtful, even cruel at times. Take my word for it. I have extensive firsthand experience. So today, on my 46th birthday, I feel like I have to apologize for not being Kate Upton.

My mother gave birth to me in 1968 and there’s nothing I can do to change that. Nor can I change, apparently, my habit of taking selfies on Photo Booth after knocking back a couple of Mike’s Hard Lemonades. Heck it’s my birthday. If I want to make an ass out of myself I will ;-)

4-up on 7-21-14 at 7.47 PM (compiled)

4-up on 7-21-14 at 7.48 PM (compiled)

4-up on 7-21-14 at 7.48 PM #13 (compiled)

A Brief Interlude

Hey gang. I’m gonna hit the beach in East Hampton for just a couple of days. It’s a short getaway but a welcome one. As long as the weather cooperates I’m ready to don my bikini and feel warm sand between my toes. I’ll be back very soon, and there’s plenty of blogging to come!

I was going to post a beachy, summery art image, but today was Rembrandt’s birthday so I’m going to honor him instead. Here’s one from the master, Woman in a Doorway, year 1657. Cheers everyone :-)

Rembrandt