Strings and Sensibility

This blog reached its all-time high stats on Saturday, and THEN went on to break that record the very next day, Sunday September 26th. Hmm, interesting. You don’t think it has anything to do with the extreme closeup, ful-frontal nude reclined photo that’s been up over the weekend, do you? Naah. I say it’s just a coincidence ;-)

First let me direct you all to Fred Hatt’s newest blog post; a marvelous discussion of foreshortened figure poses with dazzling drawings accompanied by Fred’s great commentary. He also mentions a bit about our photography session the other day which is pretty cool.

As for me, I’m fine, I’m working, and life is good. Well, I’m not 100% fine in that I’m a little on the distracted side. Both my mind and heart are preoccupied with a certain something/someone/situation and it’s making me a little cuckoo. Nothing at all to worry about my friends. I know you all care about me :-)

But it’s a heady feeling, even with this pinch of anxiety I have. Strange how one can experience uncertainty, exhilaration, frustration, ardor, ambivalence, desire, and stress all at the same time! I’m like a hot simmering soup of many spices and flavors. That’s an awful analogy but I can’t think of anything better right now. I’m distracted, remember?

Anyway, let’s move on to “Music Monday”. I recently “re-discovered” an artist who I have really only known from one painting at the Met. I’m somewhat ashamed that I haven’t paid more attention to him. He is the American painter John White Alexander and I was reminded of him again when I came this across this lovely painting. I’ve been keeping it on reserve in my image stash for a Music Monday post. Alexander began his career as an illustrator in New York, but went on to pursue formal fine arts training in Europe. While there he befriended fellow American expatriate artist James McNeill Whistler. By the 1890s, Alexander was producing work mostly of female subjects and portraits. To achieve his decorative, graceful painting style, Alexander employed linear contours, broad brushstrokes, and a soft palette.

This is John White Alexander’s Ray of Sunlight, or The Cellist, from 1898:

Happy 3rd Birthday Museworthy!!

Here we are again, my dearest friends! Commemorating another Museworthy birthday! :-) Three years of  joyous blogging on WordPress. Oh man, it’s been great fun, hasn’t it? I swear, starting this blog was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Because of it I’ve met all of you.

On the first blog birthday it was like “Yes! One full year! I made it! Milestone.”. On the second it was like “Whoa. Two years. Heavy. I’m a real blogger now!”. And this year, it’s just ,”Ooh, yeah. Nice. Cool. Sweet. Awesome.”.

For our celebratory photo we’re taking a departure from the previous two years and going black and white. That was Fred’s excellent idea. Yes, the one and only Fred Hatt, my dear, dear, dear friend and collaborator. We took this picture just last week, when I was without electrical power due to the tornadoes. Fred took me in like a stray dog and let me hang out at his place. I didn’t get a biscuit, though :lol:

Is there any way for me to adequately thank you all – my readers – for your warmth, engagement, intelligence, and friendship? I don’t think so. Hopefully the above photo expresses my gratitude. As for this blog, I definitely feel another year in me. Stay with me and come along for the ride, won’t you?

Keeping with tradition, I invite you all to groove with me to a song. This is the Jackson Five doing their version of “It’s Your Thing”. Sing if for me, Michael . . .

I wish peace and blessings to each and every one of you, from the bottom of my heart.

Love, hugs, kisses . . .

Your muse,

Ship of Fools

I’ve been meaning to get Hieronymus Bosch on this blog for the longest time now. Though I am inclined to feature art of beauty, nudity, and inspiring qualities, I am not  averse to an occasional foray into the gloomy or grotesque. I have posted Caravaggio’s severed Goliath head which is pretty nasty. A dramatic, masterful painting, but still nasty. Bosch, however, differs from Caravaggio in that he employs allegory and symbolism, rather than realism, to depict the human condition. In the case of his 1500 work The Ship of Fools, that human condition is one of wretchedness and depravity.

Understanding the true motivations behind Bosch’s bizarre, often freakish imagery is difficult since few details of his life and personality are known. He kept no journals or diaries, and seems to have written not one letter – nothing that has survived at least. But we do know that Bosch’s works deal with the subjects of profound human failings, frailties, and sins, and have been called “wondrous and strange fantasies”, “gruesome to look at”, “morbid” and “sinister”, among other things. Loaded with demons, fanciful creatures, chimeras, and unfortunate souls, Bosch’s paintings are trying to tell us something about our inherent nature which is either evil or just plain pitiful.

In this painting The Ship of Fools we are, collectively, sad, desperate beings. Humanity drifts on a tiny, cramped, aimless boat, its passengers acting like jackasses; stupid, corrupt, dissolute, succumbing to fatal character weaknesses. There are nuns and monks in there, and I think the guy on the right is puking overboard. Truly a “ship of fools”:

Are we missing a satirical element in Bosch’s message here? Doubtful. One of the few things we know about Bosch’s biography is that he was a member of the Brotherhood of Our Lady, a conservative religious order. In Bosch’s place and time – a Dutch city in the late Middle Ages – religion still permeated life. So we can infer that Bosch was a strict moralist who subscribed to the doctrine that human nature is congenitally wicked and immoral. I hate to say it, but I suspect there is no hidden parody behind this painting. In other words, I think Bosch was dead serious and this is what he really thinks of us. But is he right? Are people, when left to their own devices, without adhering to a guiding moral code, nothing more than embarrassing losers who act out on their debauched tendencies? Personally, I like to think we all have something honorable and heroic inside us, so I’m gonna stick with that. Besides, Bosch needs to lighten up. A little “debauchery” now and then can be kind of fun ;-)

Speaking of fun, I ask everyone to try and stop by the blog on Friday for a special celebration. See you then!

Just Another Natural Disaster

I’m relieved to announce that I am writing this blog post from my laptop, in my home, with the lights on, and the coffee-maker brewing. Yes my friends, I have power!! Woo hoo!! I’m back online and back in civilization. At least the house smells nice and fragrant from all the scented candles I had to burn. Eucalyptus . . . mmm.

Our fair city is nowhere near fully recovered, though. The tornadoes hammered us hard. Then again, we are urban dwellers and not accustomed to tornadoes at all. Muggings, carjackings, burglaries yes. But not tornadoes!

We’ll have no Music Monday for today so I can share the tornado encounter with all of you. The funny thing is that I was actually supposed to be working that day, holed up in a studio in the New York Academy of Art. But I was informed the day before that the class had been cancelled. I had an unexpected day off, so purely by chance, I was home when the tornado came. There I was, sitting at my kitchen table, when all of a sudden an eerie green cast fell over the street. Everything looked green, like you were looking through a green filter. I figured it was just an approaching rainstorm. But then came the wind. Not your everyday, garden-variety wind. I mean WIND. Violent gusts of aggressive, turbulent, intense, spinning wind. A really, really badass wind. I thought, “Whoa, what’s going on?!”. Next thing I knew, garbage cans and flowerpots are flying down the street, doormats are blowing up in the air, branches are snapping off trees and crashing to the ground, and soon there was no visibility at all. As I ran around my house closing windows, I heard a cracking sound which was absolutely ear-shattering. What the hell was that???? I was really scared.

It turned out that the source of that cracking was directly across the street from me, at my neighbor’s house. Here it is:

Is that insane, or what? Poor Barbara and Gary. At least 50 people have taken pictures of this fallen tree. It’s bizarre the way it ripped out. Where are the roots? Once the tornado passed, which lasted only about a minute and a half at the most, I opened my front door and started screaming, “Oh my god!!!”. I ran over there because I knew they were home. Thankfully no one was hurt. Freaked out, but not hurt.

Here are a few more post-tornado pictures I took. These are all within a five block radius of my house.

Tornadoes in the boroughs of New York City. Now we’ve seen it all, kids! And it’s been terrifically documented. Check out these reader photos from the NY Times. And if you want to watch two guys in Brooklyn going berserk over the tornado, check out this YouTube video. Despite all the “dudes!” and “holy shits!”, they captured some pretty cool footage.

Where Have I Been??!!

Hellooooooo!! My dearest darling readers! My apologies for Museworthy”s inactivity. In Queens, NY, where I live, we were hit by a tornado! What the hell is this, Kansas? I feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz :-) It ripped through my street on Thursday afternoon and left a ton of destruction in its wake. Trees are down everywhere, cars got crushed, power lines are dangling.

So all the power is knocked out, Internet service is dead, phones are dead. Right now I’m here at Fred’s place, hanging out, charging my Blackberry and my iPod, using Fred’s computer because he’s just the coolest, most awesomest friend in the whole wide world!! We might draw and take some pictures too, that way I’m not a complete freeloader :lol:

I just wanted to let you all know what’s going on and that I am still alive. Will share tornado story and pictures when I can get back online. Unfortunately I have no idea when that will be because ConEd SUCKS!!!!!! Get our power back boys!

See you all soon, hopefully.

Lennon and the Libras

This whole September/October time of year is a big birthday period for me. As it turns out, many of my family members and good friends have birthdays during these months. Wedding anniversaries too. The span of early September to late October includes the zodiac signs of Virgo, Libra, and Scorpio, and I have people very close to me, whom I love dearly, born in each of those signs. Astrology buffs out there will know that those are majorly different signs too. See all the personalities I have to deal with? :razz:

My Mom’s birthday is late October, so she’s a Scorpio. My best friend Stephanie just celebrated hers on September 9th. She’s a Virgo. My friend Janet is another Virgo. But the whopping membership belongs to Libra. I have been surrounded by Libras my whole life. Libra MEN to be exact. My brother Chris – Libra. My ex-husband – Libra. An unrequited love infatuation from my youth – Libra. Even the man I was recently seeing – Libra. What’s up with all these male Libras?? Gosh, even my artist friend and Museworthy commenter Daniel Maidman is a Libra! The longer I live, the more Libras I meet. Not that there’s anything wrong with that :-)

But in this particular year one famous Libra takes front and center. Had he not been tragically, brutally shot in cold blood in 1980, John Lennon would have turned 70 years old next month on October 9th. Can you even picture a 70 year-old Lennon? Shit, that’s only five years younger than my mother!

My awesome Libra brother got tickets for us to a John Lennon birthday celebration concert, and I absolutely cannot wait! It’s going to be great. Thank you Chris!

I was going to post a “Lennon-only” video, but for my friend and recent birthday girl Stephanie I chose a clip which also features that Gemini Paul McCartney. She’s a Paul fan, so this video will make us both happy. For today’s “Music Monday”, here they are with the rest of the Beatles, Ringo Starr (Cancer) and George Harrison (Pisces).

Portrait of a Lady

“Every time I paint a portrait I lose a friend”

-John Singer Sargent

Funny quote there from Mr. Sargent. I think we all know what he’s implying about the nature of portraiture, artists and sitters, honesty, and, well, delicate egos. Christine Beck, however, can rest assured that I shall happily remain her friend after this portrait she painted of me over the summer. In fact, I think I’m officially her best friend! I was posing for John Wellington’s class at the New York Academy of Art, and while all of John’s students did a marvelous job during the eight sessions, Christine created a work of great sensitivity and depth.

This was a standing pose and not nude. But Chris wisely followed her artistic instincts and decided to paint just my portrait. Portraiture inhabits its own exclusive category of art, as it should, since portrait painting brings it’s own set of unique challenges. Based on the above quote, John Singer Sargent understood those challenges well, and apparently suffered the consequences! Poor guy.

Maybe it’s because I’m a professional art model, or just reasonably secure as a person, but I have rarely seen portraits of myself that I’ve found offensive or insulting. In my entire career, I can recall maybe two or three that were, let’s say seriously unflattering. (I’m not including the ones that were just badly painted because that would be unfair.) But I can see how a non-model person, especially a vain one, would have sensitivity issues with artists’ renderings of them.

By the way, I didn’t choose this post title to be a smartass. I am a lady. No, really I am. I am, I swear! Yeah, that’s right. Everyone stop laughing!! I iz a lay-deee, dammit!!! :lol:

So let’s celebrate the wonders of portrait painting, and contradict the great John Singer Sargent. Here I am by Christine Beck. Thanks Chris!

Vermeer’s Virginals

Hi everyone!!! Hope you all had a terrific weekend. Today is Labor Day but it’s still Monday and that means . . . :drumroll: . . . “Music Monday”! :-)

This 1665 painting by Johannes Vermeer is called either A Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman or The Music Lesson. I don’t know which one is correct. Either way, I love it. Before I even began writing this post, I gazed at this work for many minutes admiring the composition. The perspective is genius. You can really perceive the depth and space of the room and the presence of the objects; the cello on the floor, the pitcher on the table, the windowpanes. Vermeer’s placing of the figures at such a distance – the farthest away point of the room – has the effect of enhancing their significance rather than minimizing it. The viewer looks right at them, feeling as if we are eavesdropping on a private lesson:

A virginal is a keyboard instrument similar to the harpsichord that was popular in the Medieval and Renaissance periods. (The word “virginals” with an S can denote both singular and plural.) Although a smaller instrument, the virginal shares a similar internal construction to the harpsichord; wire strings are “plucked” when played. Many virginals, though, were not built on legs like harpsichords and pianos, but instead were just placed on a table. The origin of the name “virginals” is not known for sure. Wikipedia discusses a few possible explanations:

One theory derives it from the Latin virga meaning a rod, perhaps referring to the wooden jacks that rest on the ends of the keys. However, this theory is unproven. Another possibility is that the name derives from the instrument’s association with female performers, or its sound, which is like a young girl’s voice (vox virginalis). Other views are that the term comes from the word virgin as it was most commonly played by young women, or that the name derives from the Virgin Mary as it was used by nuns to accompany hymns in honour of the Virgin.

Here is the acclaimed harpsichordist Sophie Yates performing a piece on virginals called “The Queen’s Command”:

Again from Vermeer, this is Lady Standing at a Virginal:

Virginals fall into one of two categories: the “spinet” style which was constructed mostly in Italy and England, and the “muselar” style constructed in Northern Europe. The main difference is that in the spinet virginals the keyboard is placed left of center, while in the muselar it is right of center. Also, some virginals are built with the keyboard protruding from the body, while others have a recessed keyboard within the body. Depending on the region and social class, virginals ranged anywhere from a plain, no-frills, unadorned wood appearance, to an elaborate showy design with mother-of-pearl inlays, ivory, marble, even semi-precious stones.

I was thrilled to come across this outstanding blog post from the Essential Vermeer art history website. It is a must-read for all things Vermeer, and they did a terrific job discussing his virginals paintings. Here’s an excerpt:

Vermeer’s virginals appear so authentically rendered that we can scarcely believe he did not paint them from model. However, such expensive instruments were surely out of his economic reach. Dutch music expert Edwin Buijsen believes that they could have been seen at the home of the music lover Cornelis Graswinckel, who was related by marriage to Vermeer’s patron Pieter van Ruijven. Nor is it impossible that on one occasion Vermeer traveled to nearby The Hague to admire the famous collection of musical instruments belonging to Constantijn Huygens.

There are more music samples on that site so check it out. I will conclude here with one more beautiful Vermeer. This is Lady Seated at a Virginal from 1672. Isn’t she adorable?

A Muse for Maidman

The Maidman of the title is Daniel Maidman, and the muse is me! Yay! I blogged back in July that Daniel and I were about to start private work together, and I’m happy to report that it’s going splendidly!

I must clarify with regard to this post’s title, that Daniel has many muses among the art models of NYC. Not “many” like a hundred, but a select group of several models who particularly inspire him. Daniel “discovered” a few of us from the drawing sessions as Spring Studio. I am honored to be among Daniel’s chosen subjects which includes such popular, professional local artist’s models like Alley, Lillian, Luke, Cassandra, Rainbow, and Piera. They are the cream of the crop. And you can throw me in there too, I guess :-)  :gets all choked up . . . starts crying:

Daniel is about midway through his painting of me, so here’s where we’re at so far. From this photo you can easily see that Daniel does not do the common practice of blocking in his base colors from the outset. Instead, he works piecemeal, section by section, which is why I have a Venus de Milo thing going on! We did the left leg today, and soon my hair will be completely brown because a blond Armenian is just wrong :lol:

I know Daniel is going to post a comment and share his thoughts on his progess and painting technique more at length, so take it away Daniel!