So remember a few days ago when I was gearing up for a jam-packed modeling schedule? Well that has since been altered a bit, courtesy of hurricane Sandy. And by “a bit” I mean all my classes this week have been cancelled thus far. If FIT cancels tomorrow, which seems likely, then the whole week is a bust. Funny how things work out. But there’s nothing funny at all about the catastrophic damage inflicted by the storm, particularly in the New York and New Jersey area. I’m sure most of you have seen pictures of the devastation. People have died, homes have been destroyed, and our vast, complex transit system has been brought to its knees.
I was incredibly lucky in that my little section of Queens did not lose power. It’s a miracle really. As long as I’ve lived here, we have been susceptible to power outages during severe weather. It’s almost guaranteed, that’s why it’s amazing that we made it through this particular storm. My mother, however, was not so lucky. Her Queens neighborhood is without electricity, heat, and internet.
Today is also Halloween, but a somewhat compromised one. Kids in ravaged areas can’t go trick or treating I was going to post some spooky art images in honor of this “lost” Halloween, but my friend Fred Hatt already published a superb post that I couldn’t possibly compete with. I highly recommend clicking the link and visiting Fred’s rich, inspired collection of death and horror imagery. A marvelous assortment of works.
I will present just one offering of spectral theme. An atypical, unconventional one from a modern artist I’m quite fond of, the Swiss-born expressionist and surrealist Paul Klee. From 1931, this is Departure of the Ghost, in watercolor, gouache, pen and ink. It’s a strange, minimalist apparition. I can’t explain why I like it. I just do.
I hope all my readers who were in the path of Sandy are safe and well. Happy Halloween everyone! I’ll see you all real soon
It has long been my favorite place to model. Unique, authentic, true to the spirit of life drawing, Spring Studio is a little hidden gem in a blustering giant of a city. I use the word “hidden” not to suggest that it’s unknown. It’s very well-known in the New York art community. It is hidden in that it resides underground, literally in a basement space. Just feet from the Spring Street stop on the Lexington line subway, artists and models descend a staircase to enter the studio. Except in the very cold weather, the street door is always left open to allow air circulation. It also, for better or worse, allows for the myriad sounds of the city to travel down into our special space. For an operation that demands absolute quiet when model sessions are in progress – cell phones must be turned off, iPod volumes kept low, no talking, no disruptions – this is a very funny paradox.
I can’t emphasize enough how close the studio is to the street, its existence in a basement notwithstanding. The streets of SoHo are small, too small really to handle the traffic and activity. The area is crammed, almost claustrophobic at times. During the day, at our busy corner of Spring and Lafayette, the open street door means blaring taxi horns, chattering shoppers, revving motorcyclists, delivery trucks unloading, banging, clanging, and deafening jackhammers from the endless – and I do mean endless – construction taking place throughout the city. And then there’s the subway itself, which rumbles basically right alongside us. The model on the platform can feel the vibrations mid-pose. And at night, especially on Thursdays through Saturdays, the open door sends down the voices of revelers, tourists, and loitering smokers, often after enjoying a libation or two at the many so-called “hotspots” of the trendy nabe. Sometimes it’s laughter, sometimes it’s snippets of a conversation, sometimes it’s even a lovers’ quarrel.
Remember folks, this is New York City. This town bellows out more noises – some recognizable, some not – than you can imagine. Yet still, amid all the urban cacophony, life drawing persists in Spring Studio, the artists’ eyes and hands remain focused, blissfully impervious. They are undisturbed, unruffled. Noise? What noise? There is “silence” under Spring Street
Created at Spring Studio on Thursday morning, these are my quick poses, my movements and gestures captured in pastel and conte by the delicate, effortless hand of Bob Palevitz:
Hellooooo everyone!!! I’m sorry I haven’t blogged all week. Just been immersed in the painting workshop at the New York Academy of Art and trying to gear up for my escape to Martha’s Vineyard. Right now I have about ten minutes to post something for you all and then head off to our last day of the workshop, which has gone wonderfully by the way.
I saw this Winslow Homer painting in the American Wing galleries at the Met. I’m a Homer fan anyway, but this particular painting moved me very much after I read its background and description on the wall text. Given the strained mood of our country right now it seems especially poignant and apropos. From the Met’s curators:
The Veteran in a New Field, 1865
Painted soon after Robert E. Lee’s surrender on April 9th, 1865, and President Lincoln’s assassination five days later, Homer’s canvas depicts an emblematic farmer, revealed to be a Union veteran as well by his discarded jacket and canteen at the lower right. His old-fashioned scythe evokes the Grim Reaper, recalling the war’s harvest of death and expressing grief at Lincoln’s murder. A redemptive feature is the bountiful wheat – a northern crop – which could connote the Union’s victory. Referring to death and life, Homer’s iconic composition offers a powerful meditation on America’s sacrifices and its potential for recovery
Not quite as profound, here is a picture I took of some pigeons hanging out on the ledge on the Fifth Avenue facade of the Met. Oddly, they had no opinion of the Homer or of art in general
Only eleven more days until Martha’s Vineyard!! Not that I’m counting or anything I’m sorry everyone. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I’ve never felt such an intense desire for a vacation than I do this summer. This restlessness and need to get away is exacerbated, I think, by my lovesick longing for a certain man. A diversion is definitely in order, for my own sanity! Also, I am more than ready to get the hell out of this city. Did I, the born-and-bred native New Yorker just write that? Yes I did. I love New York with all of my heart, but I’m gonna tell the blunt truth here: this city is full of fucking sickos, jerks, and assorted jackasses. Some guy thought that it would be a fine idea to haul a three piece furniture set onto a crowded N train during the evening rush. Yeah that was smart. Sure, crush my foot and smash us all up against the doors why don’t you? We’ll all suffer because you’re too much of a cheapskate to rent a van. That people attempt this crap in an already dysfunctional city is beyond me. Oh and to the guy on Seventh Avenue who asked me to show him my boobs? Bite me. And to the two attitude-laden hipster coffee baristas who couldn’t be bothered and ignored me at Starbucks even though they saw me standing right there, you girls can bite me too
Here’s an art image that’s totally unrelated to anything I just wrote, although I did do something similar at work the other day on my modeling break. Someone left an art magazine lying around the studio so I perused it, in the nude, because I didn’t feel like putting my gown on, and because nobody in that class cares, and because I don’t even care, because I just want to go on VACATION dammit!!
If you have any doubt as to an art group’s ability to meet on a steady, committed basis and sustain it over a long period of time, I have three words for you: The Painting Group. Established over 50 years ago – yes FIFTY- the Painting Group has met every week since it began in New York City in 1958. Its founders were some very accomplished men; renowned portrait painter Aaron Shikler , illustrator and legendary caricaturist for the New York Review of Books David Levine, who passed away in 2009, and one of my favorite people, realist painter Daniel Schwartz. Over the decades, as the American art scene veered further and further away from classical figurative art, the Painting Group doggedly persevered, against the prevailing trend of New York artists toward Abstract Expressionism and other modern art scene fads, to keep realism and the the figure subject alive. We models are grateful for that.
The Painting Group has an itinerant history, traveling from their original location in Brooklyn, to 54th Street in midtown, to the Upper West Side, down to Greene Street in SoHo, and now in their newest space in Chelsea off Seventh Avenue.
I have had the pleasure of posing for the Painting Group many, many times. In fact, I am one of their regular models, and am currently posing for the first half of the summer. It’s a wonderfully sociable group of artists, and the model is welcomed with a chorus of friendly hellos and cheerful greetings upon entering the studio.
Irene Vitale is a longtime member of the Painting Group. She has worked from my modeling both there and at at another private art group. She’s a lovely person of great warmth, humor and kindness. At last Wednesday’s session I admired the intermediate stage of her painting. I am posing for the group on a couch with a boring white wall behind me. So the artists are letting their imaginations run wild with the background, making it different colors and even patterns. Irene made the interesting choice of using green. I mentioned to her that it would look nice on the blog. But when I suggested that we should wait until the painting is finished, Irene happily said, “You can post it as a work-in-progress!”. Indeed, I can. Why not? As long as Irene at some point gives me a mouth I’ll be happy
This week’s Music Monday is inspired by New York’s classical music radio station WQXR and a fun article they posted on their blog the other day. It was a map of locations in New York City that were once home to famous composers. George Gershwin spent most of his life living on the Upper West Side, from W 110th to 103rd and then Riverside Drive. Sergei Rachmaninoff was also a West Sider. From 1926 – 1943 he resided at 505 West End Avenue. But the East Side had its share of music luminaries as well. Samuel Barber lived on Fifth Avenue, Leonard Bernstein had a 15 room duplex at 895 Park Avenue, and Kurt Weill’s home was on East 62nd Street.
I’ve chosen to highlight the residence of Gustav Mahler during his Upper West Side days. He lived on Central Park West and 72nd Street, an intersection that, for some people, instantly brings to mind the famous Dakota building. But Mahler’s residence was the building directly across the street. Back then it was called the Hotel Majestic and was originally constructed in 1894 in an opulent style. But by the time the Great Depression came along the Majestic, like many of the old 19th century New York hotels, had been converted and redesigned as more modest apartment units. The Majestic still exists today in that second incarnation, a 29 story art deco structure with two rising towers overlooking Central Park. Famous past residents of the Majestic include Milton Berle, newspaper columnist Walter Winchell, Conan O’Brien, and a slew of mob gangsters, among them Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky. Frank Costello was shot in the lobby of the Majestic by Vinny “The Chin” Gigante. An informative page on the history of the Majestic can be found at the NYC Architecture website.
The only place I was able to find an image of the old original Hotel Majestic was in the digital gallery of the New York Public Library. They have a remarkable collection of images, by the way. Start browsing their archives and you’ll be wondering where the time went! Here is the Hotel Majestic as it existed during Mahler’s residence, in a beautifully illustrated postcard:
Mahler’s days at the Majestic carry an interesting anecdote. According to his wife Alma, Mahler heard the muffled sound of a beating bass drum in the street outside their 11th floor window. It was a funeral procession rolling down Central Park West to honor a fallen firefighter. Mahler was so moved by the emotional weight of the drumming sound he incorporated it into the fifth movement of his Tenth Symphony which he composed three years later.
A photo of Gustav Mahler, a befittingly serious looking man who composed profoundly serious music:
Like many creative types – artists, composers, writers – Mahler quickly grew fond of New York City and its inhabitants. “People here are unbelievably vigorous”, he wrote. Immersing themselves in the New York scene, Gustav and Alma thoroughly enjoyed the city and all its offerings, had dinner at the Madison Avenue home of Louis Comfort Tiffany, and even traveled out to Oyster Bay to visit Laura Roosevelt, cousin of Teddy. For more on Mahler in New York, check out this terrific article from PlaybillArts. A great read.
faintly ironical smile
if I should
buy a shirt
your color and
put on a necktie
where would they carry me?
– Summer Song, William Carlos Williams
Yesterday was the Summer Solstice. The dog days – the dreaming days – are here. In the next few weeks we will the crack open new watercolor sets, open new books, join in games with children, kick off our shoes at every opportunity, pen little stories, ride our bikes to the water’s edge, toss frisbees and softballs, spray hoses, and laze under the big yellow ochre ball of the sun
Summer Night, Riverside Drive, George Wesley Bellows, 1909:
I had the great pleasure of hanging out with a fellow blogger yesterday. Dave Levingston, photographer of Exposed for the Shadows, was in town visiting. He and I were lucky to find a few mutually convenient hours to meet at the Met on a positively gorgeous New York afternoon. Dave was most interested to see the “Naked before the Camera” exhibition and I was delighted to see it with him. The show explores the history of photographic nudes, from the earliest examples of the 1800s to the present.
I’ve learned that it’s advantageous to see a photography exhibit with a photographer. They share with you their passion and enthusiasm, and provide opinions and insights that not even the informative wall texts can offer. Dave was no exception. The man knows his stuff.
Because all the photographs belonged to the Met’s own collection we were allowed to take pictures, which I did. But as I prepared this blog post I found that the images on the exhibition page were really amazing. So the choice was between my crappy pics with glares and glass reflections all over the place, or the superb resolutions on the museum site. Kind of a no brainer. I’ve chosen just a few which I admired for various reasons, but do visit the selected works as there is much more to see.
So I was just about to get off the computer when a tweet came up in my Twitter timeline. It was posted by the New York Academy of Art, a superb art school where I am honored to work as a model and have mentioned many times on this blog. They’ve shared a terrific video by Life + Times which takes you into the school on a behind the scenes tour led by President David Kratz. It’s really excellent. Thought I’d pass it along here on Museworthy.
Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend! I am on babysitting duty tonight with my niece Olivia. I don’t know exactly what she has planned for us but I’m fairly certain that mayhem will ensue
Is there such a thing as an “ordinary day”? People use that expression all the time, myself included. But as I grow fonder and fonder of the life I’ve made for myself, of the city that’s been my home for all my 43 years, and of the friends, colleagues, and acquaintances I’ve made along the way, I realize that “ordinary” is a term rarely applicable. Rather, it minimizes and cheapens, and deprives the much-maligned “daily life” of its subtle, unique soul.
Tuesday morning I modeled for a small life drawing class at the New York Film Academy. Never thought my art modeling career would bring me there but, alas, it did. And it was fun. Nothing ordinary about doing nude poses in the “Billy Wilder” room, which, by the way, is next door to the “Jonathan Demme” room. Sure, I did come within an inch of getting accidentally clocked in the head with a tripod on a mad dash for the ladies’ room. But hey, it’s always something, right? An easel in art school, a tripod in film school. In any case, concussion averted.
When that job ended at 12:00, I walked out of the film academy building, crossed the street, inhaled a deep breath of fresh air, and enjoyed a leisurely stroll through Union Square Park. It was a bright, sunny, buzzing New York afternoon. At the northwest corner of the park, I noticed the sitting area resplendent with bright green garden chairs and blue umbrellas. I found the crisp, clean colors and their chromatic effect quite pleasing. So I took a few pictures. This one is not an ordinary scene if you consider the colors, the perspective, the curving flowerbed border edging in the bottom right and the tilted birdhouse in the tree in the upper left:
So I made my way to my 2:00 job, but stopped first for a quick lunch at Loving Hut on Seventh Avenue. There, I had the best veggie burger ever, anywhere, in the annals of veggie burgerdom! It was perfect and delicious. So NOT ordinary. Yum
Less than hour later, I was posing for the students in Vincent Arcilesi‘s class on the 6th floor at FIT. During the fast pose warm ups, Vincent sat down to sketch the model along with the rest of the class, which he often does. I took an active standing pose and Vincent did what all good artists should do in that instance – captured the gesture. I was standing still of course, but the forward stepping movement and arm/leg extension is strong in Vincent’s quick sketch. Loose, spontaneous, a one-of-a-kind Arcilesi. Not ordinary at all.
Things are only ordinary if we, through own our jaded disinterest, choose to dismiss them as such. But for some of us, a life as a professional artist’s model, working in a big, lively city, where shapes, colors, sounds, encounters and experiences can be found literally everywhere around us, nothing should be regarded as “ordinary”. Every day is unique. Every day is a blessing to be valued and appreciated. Thank you for allowing me to share my “extraordinary” day with you
The great Bill Veeck famously said, “There are only two seasons – winter and Baseball.”
As a baseball fan myself I can somewhat relate to the sentiment. Winter. Ugh, winter. That bleak dormant interval between the last out of the World Series and the first pitch of opening day. Winter gets such a bad rap from so many corners. The short days and limited sunlight dampen our mood. The cold weather forces us to put on uncomfortable restricting layers of clothing (my personal pet peeve). Fanatical baseball fans lament winter. Beach bums lament winter. Folks who suffer from “seasonal affective disorder” lament winter. Even hibernating bears lament winter so much that they curl up and sleep through the whole damn thing
I think we could all learn a lesson from pagans, who know how to extol winter’s significance through their sacred celebrations of the solstice. From Stonehenge to Guatemala to Morningside Heights, it’s a hell of a party. Here in NYC, the Paul Winter Consort has been commemorating the winter solstice for the past 16 years with a glorious annual concert at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in upper Manhattan.
For those who haven’t been to St. John the Divine you are missing one of the most spectacular, spiritual, and magical places in New York City, if not the world. It has been under construction in perpetuity for 100 years and will likely remain forever unfinished. That’s part of cathedral’s charm, believe it or not. You often hear in conversations, “Have they finished St. John the Divine yet?”. Answer: “Nope. Still working on it.”
The solstice is arriving today in the Northern Hemisphere. Last year saw a rare winter solstice event – the miraculous coinciding with a lunar eclipse . To celebrate today here is a great video, also from last year, of the Paul Winter concert at St. John the Divine. Absolutely worth watching not just for the music, costumes, and dance, but to chase away the winter blues. Everyone, rejoice! Remember, the sun will be re-born and the light will return. And so will baseball
It breaks my heart a little to write this new blog post and knock the Museworthy Art Show off the top spot of the home page :sob, sniffle: But it was a great success! One last time I’d like to say thank you to everyone to participated and to all of you who generously linked to the post on your blogs, Facebooks, Twitters, and shared it with friends through email. I think we may have to do it again next year
Friday night my brother and I went on one of our concert dates to Lincoln Center. Our superb hometown orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, performed Strauss’ “Don Quixote” and Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, “Pastoral”. Both Chris and I are tremendous – and I do mean tremendous - Beethoven fans, so “Pastoral” was the main reason we chose this particular concert. Although “Don Quixote” was phenomenal.
As if mine and Chris’ lifelong adoration of Beethoven weren’t enough, New York’s classical music radio station WQXR is has been sponsoring Beethoven Awareness Month in November. They’ve been spreading the word around the city with this fantastic poster designed purposely to emulate the style of Shepard Fairey. I totally love this. Only in New York could a classical radio station be so badass:
After the performance at Avery Fisher Hall, Chris and I went our separate ways. He headed home uptown and I went into the subway to catch the downtown 1 train. There, under the city streets, in the tunnels of our transit system, this happened. It. Was. Awesome. When I first got to the platform, the sax player was still licking his lips preparing to play something. In typical blasé New Yorker fashion, I just strolled past him. Then, with his saxophone case open at his feet and a cap on his head, the musician began to play his song. Echoing throughout the underground tunnel, the sweet notes reverberated luxuriously in the confined urban space of concrete, metal, tile, and asphalt. It was “Pastoral”. It stopped me in my tracks and I made a 180 degree turn. All of us concertgoers, still clutching our Playbills, shared beaming smiles and delighted surprise. In an instant, dollar bills started dropping into the saxophonist’s instrument case. You gotta love a subway musician who knows that evening’s program at Avery Fisher Hall. Bless him
So on Friday night, two quintessential urban settings that are a study in contrasts if there ever was one – an elegant, sparkling, multi-million dollar cultural institution like Lincoln Center, and the everyday, utilitarian, not-so-glamorous grimy transit system – were each imbued with the music of Beethoven. And his music, albeit in extremely disparate renditions, soared in both.
But an even greater irony exists in my little story. The musical composition I discuss here, the “Pastoral”, is a paean to country life and the joys of nature, not the city. Beethoven’s symphonic works are often described as ferocious, intense, swarming with the impassioned drama of Romanticism. While that is frequently true, it is not applicable to “Pastoral”. Beethoven often sought refuge and solace in the woods, mountains, and suburban parks outside of Vienna. He loved nature and animals, and was clearly inspired by it. He composed, after all, an entire symphony to the delights of earthly beauty, its rhythms, harmonies, movements, and the spiritual uplift they unceasingly provide. Beethoven was not all fire and torment. He was both a man and a composer of immense range and profound sensitivities. He was a man tragically isolated in his deafness but still miraculously, stunningly, deeply engaged with the world around him, deafness be dammed.
The concert Playbill quoted from a letter Beethoven wrote to Therese Malfatti in anticipation of his visit to the country. He said, “How delighted I shall be to ramble for a while through the bushes, woods, under trees, through grass, and around rocks. No one can love the country as much as I do. For surely woods, trees, and rocks produce the echo which man desires to hear.” Yes, they do. I wonder if Beethoven would be surprised to know that the 1 train subway platform at 66th and Broadway produces an interesting echo as well
For those of you unfamiliar with the Pastoral melody, shame on you! I will slap you silly! :just kidding: So here it is, for Music Monday. In all its buoyant and cheerful joy, this is the first nine minutes of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony “Pastoral”, performed by The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Herbert von Karajan. Take note of Beethoven’s brilliant melodic structure and instrumentation.
Hellooo everyone!! Greetings and salutations! Before I get to Music Monday, I want to thank those of you who have already submitted your works to the Museworthy Art Show. They’re great! And it’s really exciting to see them in my email inbox To everyone else, you still have plenty of time to submit. The deadline in November 1st, so no worries.
This weekend here in NYC was – and still is! – the most magnificent October weekend on record. The weather has been positively sublime, with clear blue skies and unseasonably warm temperatures. Gorgeous, wonderful. I was on the Upper West Side all day yesterday doing various things, but my main destination was to Strawberry Fields in Central Park where the annual commemoration for John Lennon’s birthday (October 9th) was taking place. I’ve been attending this gathering for years and years. Musicians set up around the Imagine circle, play Beatles’ songs and lead the crowd in a sing-a-long. I managed to maneuver my way to an empty spot on a bench where I could stand up and take some pictures.
One of my favorite John Lennon post-Beatles songs, and one of the best for the Strawberry Fields sing-a-long, this is the excellent “Watching the Wheels”, digitally remastered. Great lyrics, great vocals by John. Enjoy
RIP Tim Welty. FDNY Squad 288 in Maspeth, Queens. Husband, father of two, carpenter, skier, bungee-jumper, fearless individualist . . . usher at my wedding.
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty.” — John F. Kennedy
Guess what everybody? I am now on Twitter! I may be avoiding Facebook like the plague, but I have nothing against Twitter. I’ve only been on it for two days, but so far it’s pretty fun! For those of you who are also on Twitter please follow and I will happily reciprocate! And for those of you not on Twitter you can still read my Tweets – heaven knows you don’t want to miss one word of my astounding brilliance, incisive wit, and endearing charm Ok, maybe not.
It’s a positively gorgeous August day here in NYC and I want to go running before work tonight. But I quickly want to mention some upcoming fall exhibits at MoMA which look pretty spectacular. The first one is a deKooning Retrospective which opens on September 18th. The other one is Diego Rivera Murals, but that doesn’t open until November. I am a big fan of Rivera’s work so I’m especially excited for that show. If you appreciate Rivera like I do, check out this excellent image gallery.