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

Beacon

O grace abounding, whereby I presumed
. .So deep the eternal light to search and sound
. .That my whole vision was therein consumed!

In that abyss I saw how love held bound
. .Into one volume all the leaves whose flight
. .Is scattered through the universe around;

How substance, accident, and mode unite
. .Fused, so to speak, together, in such wise
. .That this I tell of is one simple light.

Yea, of this complex I believe mine eyes
. .Beheld the universal form – in me,
. .Even as I speak, I feel such joy arise.

– Dante Alighieri, il Paradiso, Canto XXXIII

Wash sketches of me by Eleni Papageorge, created at Spring Studio:

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Summer in Full Swing

Helloooooo friends! It seems that I left this blog in the hands of Gaston and Isabel for the past week. And what have I been doing in the meantime? Nothing particularly interesting. A little summer reading, a little gardening, a little bike riding.

As the hot temperatures have set upon us and a hurricane pounds up the east coast this Fourth of July weekend, I’d like to offer my yearly Auntie’s brag about my niece Olivia. She just completed the 6th grade with stellar marks and, to top it off, won the end of year award for “sportsmanship in softball”. Yeah Olivia! At the age of 11 she’s already a better athlete than I’ve ever been. My brother took this picture of Olivia at the last game of the season. As you can see, she’s contemplating her strategy for her next at bat. Love this girl :-)

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Olivia is now enrolled in summer day camp and having a blast. My brother is immersed in music composing jobs, my sister-in-law is doing some renovations at the country house in the Catskills, and Mom is working on paintings for her solo art show in the fall (more on that to come). As for me? Just taking life one day at a time, anticipating a summer of afternoon sunbathing in the park, some writing, volunteering, plenty of reading, visiting friends, going to church, and, lo and behold, some art modeling! Yes I actually have gigs booked in July. I had to hustle and harass for them, but I got them all the same.

I wish everyone a fabulous weekend whether you will have rain or shine, mild breezes or stuffy humidity. Happy Fourth of July! Be safe, be joyful, be grateful. I’ll see you all very soon. Peace, friends.

Central Park, New York City, July 4th, watercolor, Maurice Prendergast, circa 1903:

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Chasing Isabel – Gaston Lachaise and his Muse

So fellas, how far would you travel to be with the woman you love? The woman who inspires you? For French-born sculptor Gaston Lachaise the distance was 3,400 miles, though we can presume he would have traveled a lot farther than that for his muse, the person who set afire both his artistic imagination and erotic passions. For an attraction that powerful, a trip across the Atlantic is a mere walk down the block.

She was Isabel Dutaud Nagle, an American woman vacationing in Paris during the early 1900s. Gaston Lachaise was still a young 20 year old art student at the Académie Nationale des Beaux-Arts when he first caught sight of her walking along the Seine. He was instantaneously captivated. There was only one problem; Isabel was married. She was also ten years his senior.

Isabel Nagle photographed in Paris, 1904:

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The son of a skilled woodcarver and cabinetmaker, Gaston Lachaise received training in the decorative arts from the age of 13. Immersed in apprenticeships and a supportive family, Gaston Lachaise was on a solid path to a life of creating art. But then, with a promising career in sculpture ready to break out, Lachaise did the unthinkable. At a time when artists from all over the world came TO Paris, often without a dollar to their name, to study and create and live in the city that was the happening, stimulating hub of vitality for artists during the 1900s  - Gaston Lachaise did the opposite. He made plans to leave Paris and follow Isabel to her home in Boston. On the surface it seemed he was going in the wrong direction. For an up and coming artist in 1904, Paris was the place to be, the heart, the “scene”. But in a choice between hobnobbing with Picasso, Modigliani, and art dealers in Montparnasse, or packing up and relocating to America to be with the woman he loved, Lachaise chose the latter.

But the logistics of such a move were not without snags. In 1903, the year Lachaise turned 21, he was was drafted into the French Army. He served an uneventful 12 months during which he could not see his beloved Isabel. It was also during this time that Isabel had to return to Boston. Her husband was a wealthy businessman who refused to grant her a divorce until their son Edward was grown and enrolled in Harvard. Isabel accepted those conditions. In the meantime, Gaston Lachaise was discharged from the army and, instead of returning to formal study, secured a steady job in the studios of René Lalique where he cast jewelry, modeled vases and other art nouveau objects that were all the rage of the day. Before long he had earned enough money to pay for his passage across the Atlantic plus $60. His girl was waiting for him.

Isabel doing a nice nude twist on the rocks:

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On December 5, 1905, Gaston Lachaise set sail for America. He arrived in Boston one month later and was reunited with his muse. He would never return to France again. Lachaise found work in the atelier of sculptor Henry Hudson Kitson and enjoyed the time he and Isabel were able to spend together. They listened to music, discussed art and books, and attended concerts. When Kitson moved to New York City, to a studio on MacDougal Street, Lachaise followed him. Isabel came soon after. By 1912, Lachaise was assistant to Paul Manship and about to enter the period of formidable personal expression in his own work, driven of course by his enchanting and inspiring muse. Of Isabel he wrote, “through her the splendor of life was uncovered for me and the road of wonder began widening.”.

Gaston Lachaise’s figurative sculptures are known for their Junoesque stature and voluptuous dimensions. Certainly Isabel was no skinny waif, but she was not quite the imposing figure of Gaston’s work either. In reality she was only 5’2″ tall and weighed around 110 pounds. But like many artists are inclined to do, Lachaise exaggerated for artistic effect, amplifying the sensuousness, strength, and vigorous force of the human form. This is one of Lachaise’s most famous works of Isabel, “Elevation”, in bronze. A fascinating sculpture that presents a full-figured torso and thick thighs in an active gesture balancing effortlessly on the tiptoes of tiny delicate feet. It looks as if she could lift off and float away, light as a feather.

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It’s hard to miss the influences of Rodin and Maillol. They along with Lachaise exalted the human form to archetypes of potency, energy, and forces of nature. Committed to his vision of “Woman” as he felt it and experienced it through Isabel, Gaston Lachaise remained faithful to his passions and his artistic vocabulary.

This is Gaston Lachaise’s “Floating Figure” at the National Gallery of Australia, also inspired by Isabel. Completed in plaster in 1927, there are seven bronze casts in existence altogether. At first glance we see an almost caricature-like exaggeration. But Lachaise is presenting us with curvaceous lines and shapes, which are inherently womanly and feminine, a disproportionately small head, and a cross-legged seated pose with outstretched arms that communicates a peculiar mixture of control, tranquility, expansiveness. An odd, original, memorable work of modern figurative sculpture:

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1917 was a banner year for Gaston Lachaise. He became a United States citizen, finally married the now-divorced Isabel, and was preparing for his solo show of sculpture and drawing at Stephan Bourgeois Galleries in New York. The next seventeen years brought more exhibitions, commissions, great success and critical acclaim, and the purchase of a summer home in Maine. In retrospect, Lachaise’s infatuation-induced decision to leave Paris for America was a wise one, however impulsive it may have been. His union with Isabel was happily made official, and his career flourished in his adopted homeland. He called America “The New World” and added that “The American soil is fresh. It is fertile. Flowers and fruit of new species will come forth from it to lighten the world.” The old adage about following your heart is exemplified by the journey of Gaston Lachaise.

And then, in 1935, Lachaise’s life and career were cut short by the sudden onset of acute leukemia. He died just months after a triumphant retrospective of his work at the Museum of Modern Art. Isabel Nagle, who left her previous husband to be with Gaston Lachaise, was now his widow. He had written 567 love letters to her and credited her as his “primary inspiration”. Isabel lived for another 25 years after Gaston’s death.

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An invaluable source of images and information for this post came from the Lachaise Foundation . Definitely check them out to learn more. Also of interest, an old art review from the New York Times

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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Heaven and Hard Times

So it looks like this summer is going to be worse than last summer, and I didn’t think that was possible. Last summer sucked majorly for a couple of reasons; painful breakup with the boyfriend which still hurts over a year later, slow art modeling, and no vacation. This summer adds a new element of tension and troubles in the form of intra-family strife that only seems to get worse by the day. Isn’t that fantastic? The hits just keep on comin’. Ugh.

Coping mechanisms? Same as always. Hunker down among the good. Jettison the bad. Cling for dear life to that which gratifies and gladdens and edifies. Oh yeah, and blogging. Keep blogging :-) Art and music are two of the best pathways to salvation, I think we can all agree on that. And I’ve got one of each to offer today. A striking linocut print of yours truly by the wonderful Christian Johnson, followed by music for Music Monday. Gospel is a dependable source of solace for me as most of you know. The track is “I’m So Glad (Trouble Don’t Last Always)” by Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers.

A belated Happy Father’s Day to my dad readers. Hope you had a great day! I’ll see you all very soon, friends. And Christian … thank you :-)

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Art Model Funnies

It’s been ages and ages since I posted art cartoons. We’re long overdue! Here are a few that poke fun at some famous artists and works of art :lol:

Michelangelo the thug:

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The real story behind da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man”:

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The Venus de Milo at a discount:

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And the model for Atlas:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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 :-)

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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:

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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

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Happy Easter

xoxo