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

Models Front and Center

~ Be still my heart ~ Can it be? Is it real? A museum exhibition devoted to artists’ models? Why yes, yes it is! Hallelujah! :happy dance:

The Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian has organized “Artists and Their Models”, a collection of photographs, letters, journals, and drawings exploring the professional experiences and interactions between models and artists over many decades. From the exhibition page, one passage jumped out at me: ” Models are too often given short shrift in art history, their names and stories left unknown unless their fame came by way of scandal.”. How true that is.

Many thanks to Fred Hatt for emailing me this story from NPR and to Andrew for posting it on Twitter. Good work guys! The exhibition is on view until August 27th. Think I’ll be making a trip down to D.C. :-)

And now a snapshot into the current art modeling world that may find its way into “archives” someday. I took this picture at the National Academy, Saturday painting class with Dan Gheno. It was the long break and everyone left the studio for coffee and fresh air. That’s a work-in-progress of me on the canvas, and my modeling partner Raven resting on the platform. He looks comfortable!

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A Poet Departs

Touched By An Angel

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

RIP Maya Angelou  1928 – 2014

Somewhere in America, by Robert Brackman:

Brackman-somewhere-in-america-1934

 

Respighi and Botticelli

I don’t know about you guys but I could definitely use a Music Monday. A melodious distraction from life’s worries is never a bad thing. And today we have one that marries music with art, from the creative imaginations of two Italian fellas. In 1927, composer Ottorino Respighi wrote three orchestral movements inspired by the Botticelli paintings in Florence’s Uffizi Gallery. The works are known as the “Botticelli Triptych”. You can visit an excellent post about this on the blog Muddy Colors. Here we have “Spring”, or if you prefer, “Primavera”. See you all very soon :-)

Spero Meliora

Discontent is a peculiar thing. You think you can pinpoint its source but you can never really identify it with absolute certainty, no matter how much you turn yourself into knots. Where is it coming from? you ask yourself. My nonexistent romantic life is the problem. That must be it. That’s not it? Then it’s my dwindling bank account. That must be it. You seek to expose the pesky germ that is rousing your troubles. Because if you can just identify it then you can crush it, and everything will return to normal. Or so you believe.

Two nudes in studio, Jan Sluyters:

Sluyters-two-nudes-in-studio

I could, for example, point the finger squarely at the business aspect of art modeling and some of the untrustworthy and/or two-faced people who, through their egos and passive aggressive behaviors, make this field far more complicated than it need be. This isn’t brain surgery after all. I could also wonder if I should accept that a callow 20-something millennial has been placed in charge of bookings at a school upon which I depend for my income. And I could further wonder if it’s appropriate for said millennial to say to me, a 40-something model with years of hard work and experience at that school under my belt, that the reason she neglected to call me for work was because, in her exact words – “I don’t who you are, sorry”. Is that rude and hurtful? You bet it is. And I wonder how my journey through art modeling, to which I have devoted body, heart, and soul, has devolved into one insensitive, disrespectful and dismissive remark from the mouth of an art school-coddled child.

Model Sitting, Edward Hopper:

Hopper-model-sitting

On the other hand I could point the finger squarely at myself and wonder – in a wrenching exercise of humility – if I have, to some degree, worn out my welcome. In some circles that is, not all. Certainly not at Spring Studio, which is an exception in so many ways. Or I could wonder if I’ve lost the ability to let personal slights simply roll off my back, a skill I used to think I was pretty good at. Are my own insecurities and need for validation distorting my perceptions? Maybe. I don’t know. I wonder if I, as a 45 year old woman in New York City, am due once again for a “bob and weave” in life. Changing and adapting is the crucial key to survival as we all know. If you can’t bob and weave, you better learn.

The Model, Ilya Repin:

Repin-the-model-1895

While my love of art and art modeling is intact, my disillusionment with the art community and some of its players has grown exponentially over the past year. But that’s my problem, nobody else’s. Nor can I say for sure that the frustrations of the art modeling business are to blame for the way I’m feeling now. The seeds of discontent are nebulous. They refuse to show their faces and announce themselves. We are dodging an unseen adversary. Well, maybe not an adversary. Maybe – just maybe – the rumblings of discontent are not adversarial at all, but a signaling force agitating with good intention. Maybe it is the spirit of growth trying to tell you something.

Sweet City Stroll

9:45 in the evening. I trot down the steps of the National Academy after posing for Michael Leigh’s watercolor class. Modeling bag slung over my shoulder, lightweight spring scarf knotted around my neck. Off I go, south on Fifth Avenue. One of the most famous streets in the world. It’s quiet. Upper east side quiet. And if you think that “upper east side quiet” doesn’t have a character uniquely its own then you don’t know New York City. Posh residential buildings on one side, Central Park on the other. Starry sky, gentle breeze, street lamps aglow, just a few lone souls here and there, discernible only by their movement in the urban shadows. Why are they out in the street at that time on a weeknight, on the slumbering, proudly and complacently not “happening” upper east side? Well .. I am. Why not them? On that mild spring night, I think about how many times I’ve made that walk. I couldn’t even count how many times. That short walk from 89th to 86th where I catch the crosstown bus.

I pass the Guggenheim, whose chalky white wedge of a daytime presence transforms into a darker, ghostlier, more abstract form when the sun goes down. An ambiguous, eerie grey structure of circular lines and shapes that dance with the night sky. I stare up at it and think how I like the Guggenheim better at night. It’s closed and sleeping, but like all of New York’s cultural institutions, it keeps the lights on in the foyer.

Calm and content from a super pleasant art class with super sweet people, my walk is a saunter. A post-modeling on my way home kind of saunter. The relaxed pace we assume when we take an all-too-familiar route. At that time of night it’s as close to soundless as you’ll ever get in New York. All I hear is the clunking of my boot heels on the sidewalk. And it sounds even more pronounced and echoey in the crisp quiet air. And I am reminded how much I love this city at moments like this. Across Fifth Avenue, in the dark in the park, I see the spinning red reflector of a bicyclist pedaling toward the reservoir. An evening workout. At the next corner, a white-haired man strolls with his senior golden retriever. The dog has a slight limp and the man patiently allows him to take his time, to stop and sniff, to lumber around and investigate those unseen things only dogs are aware of. An aging but pampered pooch. I think then that the dog has probably made that walk on that particular Fifth Avenue corridor even more times than I have.

I pass the apartment buildings. At each illuminated entryway the doorman peers out and glances at me. He realizes he’s seen me before on many a night. He nods. I nod. I go on my way. To 86th Street. And at that intersection emerges the bus. The big blue city beast pulling up to the corner, blocking my view of the Neue Galerie. Gotta catch the bus. I speed up my walking pace just a little while whipping my Metrocard out of my wallet. The bus doors open. “Hi!” I say cheerily. “Evening ma’am”, says the pretty darn handsome bus driver. Doors shut. Left turn, then right turn, and through the park. And the upper east side recedes away. Until next time, when modeling brings me back . . . which won’t be long.

Georgia O’Keeffe, City Night, 1926:

O'Keeffe-city-night

Our Birds Besieged

What the hell. Have I left my little blog idle for almost a week? This is outrageous! Bad blogger. Bad bad blogger :lol:

Much badder than me is the Port Authority of New York, which has enlisted contractors to gun down over 18 species of migratory birds and waterfowl in the area of JFK Airport. Many of these birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. But they’re being shot anyway. The rationale behind this program is to prevent bird strikes on planes and nesting activities too close to runways. Didn’t the waterfowl get the memo? They cannot conduct their flying, migrating, mating, and nesting along the Atlantic coast or around the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge unless they stay safely away from planes. That’s the rule. Because jet airliners own the skies now. Those foolish ospreys and herons and egrets have to understand that they must accommodate the needs of modern man, and the millions of years of instinctual behavior embedded in their DNA cannot be acted upon, their natural primordial impulses to survive and breed must be squashed. And those snowy owls that were nesting on top of a taxiway sign at JFK? Those dummies should have known better. Now they’re on the kill list too.

Herons, by Christian Rohlfs, 1936:

Rohlfs-Herons

I apologize for the sarcasm, as I don’t mean to minimize the issues with regard to bird strikes and airplane safety. But this wanton killing of our coastal feathered friends upsets me a great deal. Among the birds being targeted are herons, egrets, plovers, ravens, and the gorgeous American kestrel. And redwing blackbirds! They’re shooting redwing blackbirds for heaven’s sake. There must be a better way. Surely we can find a solution more humane than just blasting innocent birds out of the sky?

Winslow Homer, watercolor, Redwing Blackbirds:

Homer-RedwingBlackbirds

It was disturbing enough to learn recently that our magnificent North American eagles – hundreds of thousands per year – are being sliced up in the blades of wind turbines at wind farms throughout the country. Our government has now granted the wind energy companies permission to allow these deaths without fear of penalty, for the next 30 years. Ain’t that grand?

Geese In Flight Before A Full Moon, Ohara Koson:

OharaKoson-geese-in-flight-before-a-full-moon

I love birds so much. I honestly don’t understand how anyone could not love them. They warble and sing outside my bedroom window every morning. They hop across my front lawn. They cheerfully perch in rows across telephone wires. They soar in the skies above my neighborhood. Eradicate all their colors, movements, and sounds from daily life and the absence would be sadly felt. And the observation of bird comings and goings inspires much of my other blog, The Salt Marsh. At this very moment as I’m typing on my laptop, one of those little downy woodpeckers is inching his way up the tree outside my kitchen. What a cutie :-)

A Bedecked Burmese Harp

Do you know what a saung kauk is? I didn’t until two days ago. After taking in the Carpeaux exhibition at the Met on Saturday, I decided to further endure the weekend museum crowds and visit some of my favorite galleries before I left. After a stroll through the magnificent American Wing, I stopped by the Musical Instruments. Though most of the objects are displayed in cases and tricky to photograph, I was dazzled by this old Burmese harp. I took a couple of pics for Music Monday, but I’m afraid they don’t do justice to the shimmering gold and detailed craftsmanship.

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The descriptive text reads as follows:

SAUNG KAUK.
Burma.
This richly decorated arched harp is tuned by twisting the braids attaching its strings to the neck. Often used to accompany songs, the sang kauk has its origin in ancient India and represents one of the eldest surviving harp traditions.

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This particular harp is from 1889, but the sang kauk is a centuries-old instrument, believed to originate as far back as 500 AD. You can read much more about this harp on Wikipedia.

I’m going to jump civilizations for a moment. Let’s leap from southeast Asia to ancient Greece, from one resplendent stringed instrument to another. This is Gustave Moreau’s depiction of the Greek poet Hesiod in Hesiod and the Muse. Technically that’s a lyre, but still a beautifully adorned instrument. Also I love Moreau, and any painting with the word “muse” in the title is most welcome on this blog :-)

Moreau-HesiodMuse

99 Years

Hey gang. Hope this blog post finds you well. I’ve had a busy week with Easter/church events, family stuff, fixing an email server problem, and modeling of course. My Friday gig has been cancelled, which isn’t such a bad thing since I can use the day off to finally get my car inspected! And maybe get to a much-needed yoga class. My muscles would appreciate it.

I spent a lot of time today on Twitter in solidarity with my fellow Armenians around the world, commemorating 99 years since the start of the Armenian Genocide, an atrocity of ethnic cleansing which took place under the Ottoman Empire. I’d write more on this critically important event but I’m pretty burned out from tweeting about it, as it is a harrowing topic, deeply personal to many of us. Instead, I’ll post a work of art by an Armenian artist, an unusual watercolor by Martiros Saryan titled Fairy Tale, At the Foot of Mount Ararat:

Saryan-fairy-tale-at-the-foot-of-mount-ararat-1904

I’ll also direct you to an old Museworthy post about Arshile Gorky that might be of interest. As for me, I need a couple of hours of feet-up relaxation with a glass of wine and TV. Catch you all very soon :-)

Furious Love

“The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian.”

– Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God

Christ With Mocking Soldier, Carl Bloch, 1880

Bloch-Mocking-of-Christ

Happy Easter

xoxo

Dewing’s Musical Maidens

If we can infer an artist’s interests from his body of work – and I believe we can – then Thomas Dewing, the American Impressionist, was evidently interested in women, music, and “tonalism”. The process of gathering images and material for Music Monday posts have put Dewing on my radar often. Whenever I searched via tags like “music”, “women”, “song’, “violin”, etc,  his elegant, soft-focus, monochromatic compositions of ladies and instruments would fill my laptop screen.

Music, Thomas Dewing, ca. 1895:

Dewing-Music

Born in Boston in 1851, Dewing was one of the founding members of “The Ten” – a clique of painters who broke from the Society of American Artists in an act of liberation from the status quo and generally rigid, uninspired standards of the organization. Dewing studied at the prestigious Académie Julian in Paris where he learned formal techniques. When he returned to the United States he became a practitioner of “tonalism”, a painting style which employs a dominant hue of color applied for nebulous, moody effect and, in some cases, figures or objects which are somewhat indistinct. If James MacNeill Whistler comes to your mind with that description, you’re totally grasping it. And you get a Museworthy “A” in art history. Whistler was the godfather of tonalism.

Whistler’s famous “art for art’s sake” philosophy was fully embraced by Thomas Dewing. His women are lovely, feminine, delicate . . . objects really. In this work by Dewing, The Lute, 1904, the women are arranged in a visually pleasing composition amidst a gorgeous veil of green. Unlike true art “subjects”, they seem to exist nowhere in particular, have no identity or reason for being. Can-can dancers, prostitutes, peasants, socialites, gypsies, duchesses, housemaids, beggars – Dewing’s women are none of these things. They are simply figures that emerge out of the tonal shroud in a detached world; a misty, amorphous “dreamscape”, serving an aesthetic that would make Whistler proud:

Dewing-TheLute

Here, in The Music Lesson, Dewing’s setting is again vague – a sparse, nonspecific space to emphasize the tonalism technique and his “woman with a musical instrument” motif.

Dewing-MusicLesson

The Song, 1891. Dewing sure liked green! I don’t blame him. Green is a beautiful color, and these ladies are bathed in it:

Dewing-TheSong

Compare these Dewing works with Vermeer’s scenes of young women practicing music. Surely Dewing was influenced by the great Dutch master. But Vermeer offered social context, perspective, and spatial dimensions. His girls exist in a place and time. And they are unique individuals, their eyes, dress, and postures emanating personality, like in this splendid work. Dewing’s world, in contrast, is ambiguous, uncluttered, indeterminate. Poems presented in a limited palette. Different from Vermeer without a doubt, but both men immortalized an enduring theme: women and music. I’m good with both of those things, no matter who paints them :-)

Young Woman with Violincello, Thomas Dewing:

Dewing_Young_Woman_with_Violincello

Vernal Expressions

The Enkindled Spring  - D.H. Lawrence

This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes.

I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze
Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration,
Faces of people streaming across my gaze.

And I, what fountain of fire am I among
This leaping combustion of spring? My spirit is tossed
About like a shadow buffeted in the throng
Of flames, a shadow that’s gone astray, and is lost.

My poetry/art mashups usually consist of one each: one poem, one painting. This time I’m treating us all to two artworks. The arrival of spring can’t be heralded enough as far as I’m concerned, especially this year, as we bid farewell to a fiercely harsh winter. D.H. Lawrence’s spring is a “leaping combustion” – described with heat-associated words like “flames”, “blaze”, “bonfire”, and “conflagration”, a vibrant expression of the flourishing, explosive growth of the season. Spring spreads like a wildfire in Lawrence’s poem.

Spring is also, to me, a time of discovery. Our old “friends” in nature – cherry blossoms, daffodils, the furry catkins on pussy willow branches – are born anew, and we delight in catching sight of them again. So here are two very different paintings from two very different artists of different periods, both expressing the joy of springtime discovery.

From Paul Gauguin, French Post-Impressionist, The First Flowers, 1888:

Gauguin-the-first-flowers-1888

And this one by British realist painter Frederick Walker, Spring, 1864:

FrederickWalker-spring

O’Museworthy

“To be Irish is to know that in the end the world will break your heart.”

– Daniel Patrick Moynihan

In a Dublin Park, light and shade, c. 1895, Walter Frederick Osborne. From the National Gallery of Ireland:

Osborne-DublinPark

Poets. Playwrights. Rebels. Iconoclasts. Wisecrackers. Saints and sinners. Lacemakers, footballers, farmers and whiskey distillers. Full of joy and cynicism at the same time. I would drink to the Irish for St. Patrick’s Day but I’ll be modeling for hours and hours. So I’ll get naked instead. Consider it a tribute to all the Irish bad boys I dated in my younger, more free-spirited years. Troublemakers ;-)

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, and Happy Music Monday! Here’s a group of fine Irish fellas. Maybe you’ve heard of them :-)

Ars Longa Vita Brevis

When I first met Janet Cook, years ago in Mary Beth McKenzie‘s painting class at the National Academy, I was struck by two things; her strawberry blonde hair and her dainty English accent. Then I had a look at her artwork, and I was struck again by her imagination and originality. We have been friends ever since. Over the years I’ve been impressed by Janet’s dedication to figurative art, her tenacity, and her willingness to tackle bold compositions and embellish her paintings with decorative accents like stencils and jewels, or as Janet calls it, “bling”.

Her solo show, “Ars Longa Vita Brevis”, is now on view at Dacia Gallery, and it is thoroughly beguiling. The models – some of the best in the city – command the canvases through a multitude of physical expressions – they gaze, they twist, they extend and fly, they coexist with birds, butterflies, and shimmering fabrics, as joyful players in the colorful, vivid flight of fancy that is Janet’s artistic vision.

This piece is titled “Away”, one of my favorites:

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I am not among the models in this show’s work, but I have posed for Janet many times. You can see some of our past collaborations here and here. I took this picture of Janet at the gallery last Sunday. It was so great to see her and support her. Rock on, Janet! :-)

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At School With Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Hellooooooo!!! Greetings darling Museworthy readers. We are a few more days closer to spring since I last posted here. Ain’t that grand? I thought I saw some crocus bulbs poking out of the ground the other day. :happy dance:

My friend Francisco Malonzo was recently profiled in The Palette Pages with a splendid Q & A interview and magnificent images of his work. One of them is a portrait of yours truly that also appeared in this Museworthy post. More of Francisco’s paintings of me can be seen here and here. He and I have known each other for some time through the National Academy, and I’m delighted that he’s enjoying exposure and success :-)

Here in the Big Apple our newly-elected mayor Bill de Blasio is waging a war against charter schools. The whole thing is a shitstorm of local politics that involves the teachers’ union, irate parents, and de Blasio’s personal vendetta against Eva Moskowitz, the founder of Success Academy Charter Schools. Lost in the midst of this imbroglio? The children of New York City, who deserve better. I was reminded the other day of an engraving I’d seen once by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Flemish painter and printmaker of the Northern Renaissance period. I found it on the Web. It’s called The Ass in the School, from 1556. The humorous scene depicts a classroom – more like a barn – of unruly children and a teacher about to discipline one with a spanking on his bare butt. A mysterious woman peers from behind a window, and a donkey, aka “the ass”, studies what appears to be sheet music from his perch. The inscription reads something to effect of “the ass goes to school but will never become a horse”.

BruegeltheElder-AssSchool

Bruegel could have been making a satirical statement about the folly of education, or rather certain aspects of it. Or perhaps a broad comment about human failings and our inherently flawed nature in the spirit of Hieronymus Bosch. If you enlarge the image and look closely, the faces of the “children” in the drawing don’t appear like true children but more like mini-adults. So Bruegel might be trying to suggest something there. Apart from the hidden commentary, the print is really great, in composition and character. Truthfully, I just wanted to post it because Bill de Blasio kind of looks like a donkey :lol:

Click on this link for a nice gallery of more Bruegel prints. Have a great weekend everyone!