It’s already 7:30 in the evening and I still haven’t put up a post for my brother’s birthday!! Couldn’t help it, I was out all day. But it’s still not too late. Chris was born today, September 29th, in 1964. I found a video that has personal significance to he and I. Those of you who are old enough may remember the Herbie Hancock album from the 70s, “Headhunters”. The big hit from that album was called “Chameleon”, and Chris and I used to play that thing over and over and over again, really loud in the house, until our Dad was ready to lose his mind! The track went on for like 15 minutes!
My brother was so funny. He used to play air bass and do his best funk musician impression. I, as the little sister, sat on the bed laughing and enjoying the show, attempting air drums and air keyboard. Chris was much better, though. He’s got the funk!
Happy Birthday Chris!! I love you so much! You are the BEST older brother any girl could ask for
This is some vintage 70s right here. Chris will be cracking up laughing when he sees this. Peace, and funk out my brother!
Hellooo, helloooooo!! Greetings from a rainy Sunday in New York. How is everyone? On the heels of Museworthy’s birthday bash, I’m sitting at home snacking on chips, spicy salsa, and avocado slices, AND typing away on my computer at the same time. See how I multitask!! Next I’ll add juggling and crocheting to the mix and you’ll really be impressed!
For the blog, I plan to make some minor changes that are long overdue. I desperately need to start a third Image Gallery page, a chore that I have neglected for a while now. So much time has elapsed, and many art images have been published without being stored in a gallery for browsing. Sorry about that! I’ll get on it soon, I promise. I’m also going to reconfigure my sidebar with new categories for the blogroll. Then I want to do something better with my Events/News page, but I don’t know what yet.
Fall has arrived. The nippy chill in the air is proof of that. For me this time of year signifies steady art modeling work, and a lot of family and friends birthdays/anniversaries. I have presents to buy! Also, the fall heralds the new seasons for New York’s cultural institutions. Tickets are on sale for both Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. I’ve been perusing the schedules for both online and still can’t decide which programs to attend. I like so many! For many years my father used to buy the subscription series, which was great. But that’s not practical for me because of my erratic work schedule. If a modeling job comes up on the date of a purchased performance, I have to miss the concert, and that sucks. So I buy individually. If I can pick up some Nutcracker tickets for my niece that would be excellent. And I already have tickets to Alvin Ailey in December. Yay!!
I’m really looking forward to the start of Ken Burns’ new PBS documentary tonight on the National Parks. And I have my fundraising Walk for Farm Sanctuary next Sunday. Totally psyched! I also have to sign up for fall projects with NewYorkCares, of which I am a member. But again, I have to work around modeling jobs.
I can’t conclude this post without some art, right? The big talked-about event in New York right now involves just ONE painting, believe it or not. The Milkmaid, the famous work by the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer, is on loan to the Metropolitan Museum from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. I went to see it yesterday with my mom and it was truly exquisite. Vermeer’s colors and composition are masterful. Trying to view the relatively small work meant maneuvering among a crowd 20 deep, huddled around the painting, monopolizing the area, pointing, having discussions, taking their sweet time and rudely hogging the area like they have it all to themselves. It makes you want to yell, “Move along people! We ALL want to see it, OK?? MOVE ALONG!!” But hey, that’s what you get for going to the Met on a Saturday.
Vermeer’s The Milkmaid, 1658:
I have consumed my chips and avocado, so I bid you farewell for now. Regular blogging will resume again very soon. Cheers!
Well friends, here we are again, in celebration mode!! It’s a festive gala, a jamboree, commemorating this blog’s 2nd birthday. You know what this means, don’t you? It means Museworthy has now entered the “terrible twos” phase! HAHAHAHAHAHAAA!!! :breaks china, throws pillows, starts fires, floods, and food fights:
I hope it’s been as good for you as it’s been for me. Together we have explored art, honored muses, models, and art modeling, discussed painting and drawing, music, animals, and New York City. We’ve shared plenty of laughs and smiles. Most of all, I want to take this opportunity to once again thank everyone for your loyal readership and delightful participation in Museworthy. And that includes your sympathetic – and empathetic – support during my personal turmoils, insecurities, and meltdowns For two terrific years now, you guys have truly kept this blog spinning, seeking, and striving. That’s no exaggeration.
To show my appreciation and express my sincere gratitude, I am down on bended knee. This picture was taken by the only photographer that this confirmed artist’s model will work with, the talented and inspiring Fred Hatt.
For a song last year I used “Amoreena” by Elton John, and I’ve decided to go with another Englishman. This is David Bowie:
Yesterday’s modeling assignment took me on a nostalgic time travel journey. I was thrust back twenty years into my past, to a time when I was young, wide-eyed, and had my whole life ahead of me. My friend Clarity Haynes, an amazing artist and instructor, is now teaching at my old stomping grounds, my alma mater Adelphi University. When she asked me to pose for her drawing class I answered enthusiastically, “At Adelphi?! Absolutely!!”. Coolness. My old college
It was such a trip driving out there from Queens to Garden City, Long Island, on a familiar route I drove countless times, usually speeding down Jericho Turnpike because I was late for class. As I pulled my car into the parking lot yesterday a wave of sentimentality washed over me, and I smiled. Hey, why not? I enjoyed college, and Adelphi University was good enough to grant me a degree. How I managed to earn my credits amid so many youthful distractions – namely my college girl crushes on the history professors – is still a miracle. But I pulled it off.
Clarity told me that the campus is looking beautiful and she was right. It was magnificent! Adelphi has always had a gorgeous campus but it looks even better than I remember it. Clean, perfectly landscaped, garden flowers and shrubbery, birds chirping, and fabulous sculpture pieces scattered among the greenery. Oh my god, Blodgett Hall! There it is! And the Library! Site of many an exhausted nap during final exam week.
For four years I was a hardworking, dutiful student at Adelphi. (Well, dutiful most of the time!) And here I was returning 20 years later, not to teach or attend an alumni event, but in an entirely unrelated capacity – to strip nude and pose for a drawing class! That Bachelor’s degree in History is really going to good use, don’t you think? But life’s course is unpredictable, and as long as we are true in ALL our pursuits, we are successful. I was genuine as a student, and now I’m genuine as an art model. And yesterday they met, in room 308 of Blodgett Hall. Good to see you again Adelphi! Thanks for the education.
Watercolor by John Singer Sargent, Genoa, The University, 1911:
While I’d like to claim credit for thorough, meticulous planning of each and every art post I compose, I must confess that, in some cases, my post subjects have been discovered purely by accident. I’ll be searching for something when an unexpected image loads onto my computer screen. My curiosity is triggered. Oooh! What’s that?! I embark on an investigation, and an unplanned blog post is born.
I came across this stunning portrait by the English classical painter Lord Frederic Leighton that I had never seen before. My first thought was, “Who is the model?”. (As an artist’s model myself, that is usually my first thought). Some quick Googling produced the name Nanna Risi and, as always, there’s a story behind the the woman and the artists who painted her.
In 1858, Leighton was living and painting in Rome, where he met Nanna, a cobbler’s wife with dark hair and a smoldering gaze. She posed professionally as a model and sat for many of the expatriate artists working in Italy at the time. Leighton is generally known to dress up his models and use them to depict mythological or historical figures, consistent with classical tradition. But in the case of Nanna Risi, he painted her as herself. Apart from the showy peacock feathers, this portrait is of Nanna the woman, as Lord Leighton saw her:
Nanna Risi then met and posed for the German artist Anselm Feuerbach. While Leighton’s relationship with her was platonic, Feuerbach fell passionately in love with the Italian beauty. The feeling was mutual, and Nanna left her husband and child to be with him. Feuerbach painted Nanna’s portrait at least 20 times, often posing her with her head downcast, partially in shadow, a hand resting on a shoulder, wearing the jewelry, scarves, and garments he had given her. Strikes me as an effort to state his possession – his “ownership” – of his mistress.
It’s interesting to me that the artist who had a romantic relationship with the sitter painted a colder, more formal representation of her, while the platonic relationship produced a more winsome and engaging one. Feuerbach has Nanna draped in a ton of heavy fabric, contemplating in darkness, solemn and withdrawn. Leighton, in contrast, has her looking over her shoulder, gazing directly at the viewer in crisp light and beauty, wearing a white, airy peasant blouse. Feuerbach renders her as passive and isolated. Leighton depicts her as active and keenly present.
After five years, Nanna left Feuerbach for another man. Seems to have been a pattern with her. That relationship apparently didn’t work out either, and Nanna was left in a lonely destitute condition. Feuerbach later recognized her begging in the streets, poor and bedraggled. He did not stop to help her. I wonder if Lord Leighton would have lent a compassionate helping hand to his muse?
Last Sunday night was the opening reception for Jordan Mejias’ art exhibit at Spring Studio. I confess that I don’t attend every art opening to which I’m invited. But I would not miss Jordan’s. So I was there along with Jordan’s many friends and admirers, and what a great time we had! Food, drinks, music, laughter and buoyant spirits all around
My pictures came out just so-so. Glarey and out-of-focus. It’s hard to be diligent and attentive with the camera when you’re also trying to drink, converse, tell jokes, and flirt all in one night But I still tried to document the evening, through all the wine and the hugging and kissing. So I’m going to share my pics and bring you all along for a little taste of a SoHo art par-tay!
I actually like the way this picture came out because of the pillar in the middle, right between the two watercolors on the wall. I didn’t plan it, but it looks kinda cool.
Jordan Mejias “Works on Paper”
On display at Spring Studio through October 9
64 Spring Street, New York City
How do we go about judging a famous artistic figure? Do we treat them as a stand alone individual, or do we evaluate them in relation to their peers? I’ve often grappled with this subject and, true to my intellectually ambivalent nature, still haven’t parked myself in either camp. I go back and forth, insufferably so. Keeps discussion interesting I guess. I hope!
I remember many years ago, listening to my father (a trumpet player) having a lively discussion with another musician (also a trumpet player) about Chet Baker. The topic was whether Baker’s talent squared with his popularity. My father’s position was a definitive “no”. Let me explain the context. The year was 1954, and my Dad, 22 years old at the time and jazz lover to his core, opened the pages of Downbeat Magazine and saw that Chet Baker was voted Best Trumpet Player of the year in a reader poll. Best Trumpet Player. Of 1954. A glorious year for jazz. A year when the competition included not only greats like Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, but my father’s idol, the gifted young prodigy Clifford Brown. So it was in that context that my father forged a mild but persistent resentment of Chet Baker. I tried several times to get my dad to warm up to Baker but he simply couldn’t no matter how hard he tried. He didn’t dismiss Baker’s talent outright, mind you. He just held trumpet playing in such high regard that his standards were earnest and precise. In other words, if Clifford Brown was on the scene, Baker had to take a back seat. No Clifford, then Baker deserves a shot. (“No Clifford” came soon enough. He was tragically killed in a car crash in 1956. A promising young talent gone at the age of 25).
Chet Baker, photographed by Bob Willoughby:
Like my dear friend Fred Hatt, Baker was a native Oklahoman. Born Chesney Henry Baker Jr. in 1929, “Chet” joined the army after dropping out of college. Upon his discharge he set down his jazz roots in Los Angeles, at a time when a genre split was forming in the jazz community – “cool” West Coast jazz versus East Coast bebop. The geographical labels are less significant than the actual sound, which is where the true distinction is realized. East Coast jazz was intense, frenzied, edgy, and introspective. West Coast jazz was laid-back, uncluttered, very “listener-friendly” and accessible. East Coast jazz embraced dissonance and radical chord changes, while West Coast jazz relied more on smooth arrangements and a light swinging feel. It must be noted also that the East Coast crew was comprised mostly of black musicians like John Coltrane, Bud Powell, and Charles Mingus, while the West Coast crew was primarily white, its main figures being Dave Brubeck , Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan and, of course, Chet Baker – the classic, chiseled, handsome, corn-fed American white boy if there ever was one.
Books and scholarly articles have been written about the rivalry between Matisse and Picasso, and their work is often assessed in contrast to each other. The same treatment has been done to Michelangelo and da Vinci, Pollock and de Kooning, Lennon and McCartney, Hemingway and Fitzgerald, The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, Marlon Brando and James Dean, etc. The list goes on and on. We like to frame everything as a competition. But is it fair? Well, it’s not necessarily unfair. In spite of their self-absorption and individualism, artists do not exist in a vacuum. They are, for better or worse, part of a group. A club. A particular era in time. If you are an artist and the other guy is doing something new, original, and groundbreaking, you would be smart to pay attention. Creative souls feed off each other, challenge each other, influence each other. That competitive interplay generally raises the quality of everyone involved. So it is inevitable that an artist’s contributions will be evaluated in the context of his peers. Depending on the artist, that can be either a blessing or an albatross.
The public (especially women) adored Chet Baker, but many jazz critics eviscerated him. He was a “lightweight”, they said. He couldn’t read music. He had no upper register and couldn’t hit a high C. He represented style over substance. He was a poor man’s Miles Davis. Okay, but let’s consider what Chet Baker did bring to the table. He was insanely photogenic. A stylish Beat Generation hipster. It may sound shallow, but that kind of thing scores a lot of points. Never underestimate the resonant power of “image” in popular culture. Also, in addition to the trumpet, Baker played an excellent flugelhorn. Most notably, Baker offered something extra to communicate with and engage his audience. Unlike the moody, mercurial, introverted East Coasters, Chet Baker could chill out and sing. He didn’t just sing. He was a seductive crooner. That reaches out to people in an intimate and sensitive way, and the listening public gobbles it up.
William Claxton’s famous photograph of Chet Baker with his second wife Halima:
Most impressive, in my opinion, was the supportive endorsement Chet Baker received from none other than the legendary Charlie Parker :bows down in worship: If Bird saw something in the guy, then that counts for an awful lot. Parker even invited Chet to join him on tour for his West Coast dates.
But still, there’s the race thing. The pesky, unavoidable race thing. There’s no denying that race played a significant role in Baker’s easy rise to popularity. Remember context? Well, this was still racially segregated, pre-Brown vs Board of Education, pre-Civil Rights Act 1950s America. Was it fair that Chet Baker was promoted more aggressively than black musicians? That he could travel freely throughout the country and play in any venue and stay at any hotel? That he could talk to a white cocktail waitress without being hassled? (which happened to Miles Davis). Of course it’s not fair. But conversely, the race card can also be played to belittle Baker’s talent, and that is equally unfair. It carries the suggestion that a pretty-boy white guy can’t play jazz, and that’s just silly. Chet Baker did possess unique interpretive skills, and he brought subtle inflections to his playing that were lyrical, vulnerable, and haunting. And while Baker’s critics have accused him of lacking inventiveness and musical innovation, one could counter that argument by crediting him with popularizing jazz and attracting a broader audience to an art form that was previously regarded as insular and esoteric.
Chet Baker and Charlie Parker together onstage:
So what’s my opinion of Chet Baker? I know you’re all on the edge of your seats in eager anticipation! Well, I like him. I just don’t love him. I understand that he was an easy target of ridicule by jazz critics who, much like art critics, can be a snotty, mean-spirited bunch. I also understand that Baker clearly benefitted from advantages that were non-musical in nature; matinee idol good looks, youth, and race. But I can’t fault the guy for circumstances that were out of his control. My main issue with him as a musician is based solely on my personal taste. It’s a lack of fearlessness. I like fearlessness in creative people. Baker’s trumpet playing, to me, often feels timid and restrained. He plays with no authority. His horn sounds fragile, like it’s about to break at any second. I do enjoy listening to Chet Baker, but at times it can be exasperating. In my mind I start thinking, “Play! Play man! Blow! BLOW INTO THE HORN, DAMMIT!”. Grrrr. But that’s just me
If Chet Baker didn’t deserve jazz “street cred” through his music in the eyes of some, he certainly earned it when it came to his personal habits. In the tragic, cliched tradition of jazz musicians, Baker was hooked on drugs throughout his adult life. Although he tried many times to kick his heroin addiction, the stays in rehab and methadone clinics didn’t stick. He was in and out of jail many times in both Europe and the United States. The low point came in San Francisco in 1966, when Baker was beaten up during an alleged drug buy. All his teeth were knocked out and he had to wear dentures from then on. He also had to learn to play the trumpet all over again.
In his later years, Baker’s physical appearance changed dramatically. With the drug use and wild living having taken their visible toll, the transformation was astonishing. The once handsome, fresh-faced young trumpeter now looked gaunt, ghostly, beaten. A broken shell of a man.
His demise, predictably, was grisly. In 1988, Chet Baker’s dead body was discovered at 3 AM on the street just below his hotel room window in Amsterdam. He was only 58 years old. Although the death was ruled an accident, speculation has raised questions as to whether it was a suicide, or even a murder. Does it even matter?
Some creative artists rise to incredible historic heights. Picasso, Shakespeare, Beethoven, etc. Their artistic contributions are permanently seared into the annals of art and held up as awe-inspiring exemplars of brilliant creative output. Trailblazers. Prodigies. Mad geniuses. But let’s face it. That is a very, very select and exclusive group. Chet Baker was not, and could not be, Dizzy Gillespie. And we can safely assume that Chet himself knew this. Maybe Chet Baker just didn’t have the soul of an innovator. That kind of thing has been said about Degas you know. Everyone agrees that he was great, but critics remind us that he didn’t “change” anything, didn’t assert enough influence. Oh man, who cares? Who sets these rules anyway? Maybe Chet Baker was both conscious of his limitations and aware of his strengths. If so, there is absolutely nothing wrong or inauthentic about that. If anything, it is profoundly authentic. It means that the man knew who he was as an artist. And if that’s the case, I say we just enjoy the music. Enjoy the art. Enjoy the expression . . . from wherever and whomever it comes . . .
I have some priceless words of wisdom to share with my readers. Are you all sitting down? Do I have your undivided attention? Are you prepared the take notes? Ok, here goes; riding a bicycle with a flat tire is not a good idea. Wow!! A revelation!
Yes, I speak from firsthand experience. Just today I endured the “riding a flat tired and rattling gears” bike experience, and I have the sore hamstrings (and butt) to show for it. I love my bike, and yet I treat it shabbily Lately it’s been in need of some serious TLC. So when I took it out for a ride over the Labor Day weekend and noticed the flat front tire, I concluded “Okay. Maintenance time!”.
The bike shop is about a mile away from my house. I decided to ride it over there and I must say it was rather unpleasant. The tire was so flat I was basically riding on the rim, made even worse because the route is full of right turns then left turns, uphill then downhill. Northeast Queens is not a flat area topographically. So I rode along, with my iPod turned up loud, forcing the gears, getting no leverage, beating the crap out of the poor thing. I evaded some potential collisions with pedestrians on Northern Boulevard, and then, in some kind of karmic retribution, almost got cut off by a skateboarder! I swerved, I weaved, and then my house keys fell out of my pocket. So I had to stop and pick them up. Generally, the whole escapade was perilous and ill-advised. I really should be locked up. I’m a menace to society
But I made it to the bike shop alive and uninjured. My bike is now in the trusty hands of the repair guys on 235th Street. They assured me it will be in tuned-up, tip top shape by the weekend. Yay!
Okay, maybe I spoke too soon in my last post. Yeah I had a rough first day at FIT, but I let it prey on my mind too much and impulsively posted my concerns on the blog. Ooops! Sorry everyone! You see, after that Wednesday double I posed Friday at Spring Studio and it was a terrific night! The usual gang of artists/friends was there – Eleni, Ray, Damian, Bob, Kamal, John, and Minerva the director of course. People I’m very fond of and feel comfortable around. We all had a lot of fun! I was in good spirits and very pleased with my modeling. There was laughter all around, enjoyable conversations on breaks, and Minerva didn’t get mad at me for accidentally hitting her in in the face (don’t ask!). What a difference a day makes. Well two days. Whatever.
So it behooves me to retract my previous concerns, and consider this post a formal renunciation of the last one. Just call me Ms. Backpedaler! Perhaps I should try a career in politics
I do – and STILL – love art modeling. It’s hard not to when you pose all night and then see results like this watercolor by Sandro LaFerla. I first met Sandro at the Salmagundi Art Club a couple of years ago and he has painted me many times since then. Sandro was at Spring on Friday night and managed to capture, in ten minutes, this standing pose I did – stepping forward, arm placed behind me resting across my lower back.
Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday weekend. Just a note that Museworthy’s birthday is approaching and more fun stuff is on the way! By fun stuff I don’t mean me reporting every nuance of every mood and every neurosis and every insecurity that strikes me. I have to stop doing that! <— who am I kidding? Of course I'm gonna keep doing it
It’s arrived. The fall school semesters are upon us. Upon me. Even though I worked during the summer, albeit sporadically, this is the real deal. This is the full swing. This is the return of mayhem. Back-to-back bookings, muscle pulls, exhaustion, filthy platforms and paint stains, sprinting for subways, eating hastily during breaks, calling and emailing all day about bookings and scheduling.
I started yesterday, with a double! And which educational institution is so heartless and cruel to summon us back before we’ve gotten the August laze out of our system? BEFORE the Labor Day weekend? Evildoer, thy name is FIT
In the past I have greeted the new school year with joyful enthusiasm, and felt a “back to work” thrust of invigoration. I’m strangely missing that feeling this time around. In its place is a bit of discontent, a touch of dread, and fatigue. Fatigue? Now? WTF? It’s September 3rd! That is way, way too premature. By December I’m fatigued, but September? When I was posing at FIT yesterday I felt enervated. Weak, almost. Both physically and mentally. Less comfortable than I normally do. Less confident. Less strong. Less motivated. What’s the deal?
Hmm. I’m not sure I like the implications of this. Ah, maybe I’m just reading too much into it and overanalyzing, which I am prone to do. I am wondering, though, if I am simply getting too old for this? All the hectic commuting, all the posing, all the erratic, insufficient meals and too cold studios, and a simmering shorter fuse (on my part) in dealing with difficult instructors and artists with an attitude? Is that it? Am I just getting too old for all this? My answer to you, my loyal readers is an emphatic “no comment”. Not yet. It’s too early to call. My gut feeling is that me and art modeling are just having a little lover’s quarrel. Working through a rough patch. I predict that we will smooth things out in due time.
So let’s take on the fall semester! I did have a nice smile yesterday when I turned the corner on Seventh Avenue and caught a glimpse FIT’s colorful, festive new window display: