October 31st

As I hang out here at home waiting for the treat-or-treaters to come knocking on my door (they’ll be getting all natural fruit roll-ups whether they like it or not!), I’m debating whether to make this a Halloween post or a Reformation Day post. Children naturally have a blast on this day, but Halloween hoopla among adults seems much more over the top from when I was a kid. On second thought, maybe I’m wrong. I vividly remember the year my Mom took me and my girlfriends to the Greenwich Village Halloween parade when we were about 13, and we all shrieked when a man among the parade marchers opened his trench coat and exposed himself to the crowd. My poor Mom! She wanted to do a fun thing for us and instead we were traumatized by a creepy New York City flasher. Ew. And the Greenwich Village Halloween parade in general? That’s not for kids. Really really not for kids :lol:

So now after having strolled down memory lane, sleazy bits and all, I think I will, as a good Protestant, go with Reformation Day. There are a few epochal events in history that have had monumentally consequential and far-reaching effects. The Reformation was one of them. So here is a portrait of Martin Luther, the Ninety-Five Theses man himself, by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1526:

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Have a great weekend everybody! Happy Halloween! See you soon.

Repetitive Spirit

G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy:

“A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony.

It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.

Heaven may encore the bird who laid an egg. If the human being conceives and brings forth a human child instead of bringing forth a fish, or a bat, or a griffin, the reason may not be that we are fixed in an animal fate without life or purpose. It may be that our little tragedy has touched the gods, that they admire it from their starry galleries, and that at the end of every human drama man is called again and again before the curtain. Repetition may go on for millions of years, by mere choice, and at any instant it may stop. Man may stand on the earth generation after generation, and yet each birth be his positively last appearance.”

The Muse at Sunrise, Alphonse Osbert, 1918:

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Elaine Hajian, Artist

It is with great daughterly pride that I announce my mother’s solo art exhibition at the Queens Botanical Garden. Yay Mommy!! This event has been almost a year in the making, and what a joyous triumph it is. Mom’s show, titled “Evolution of an Artist”, has just been unveiled in the Visitor’s Building and will remain on view until January 17th. Also, Mom is teaching a Plein Air Art Workshop this Saturday at the Botanical Garden. So basically, Mama is on a roll! I can’t tell you all how proud I am of her, happy for her, and how much my brother and I are sharing in her palpable exuberance during this time of artistic renewal in her life. The reception will take place on Sunday, October 26th, which also happens to be Mom’s 79th birthday. How cool is that? :-)

Mom assembled a collection of her paintings that combine older pieces with new works, in oils and pastels, the latter being her favorite medium. Thanks to the invaluable assistance of her dear friends Joyce and Ed Morrill, the show came together magnificently, and the wonderful staff at the Botanical Garden are absolutely delighted to have mom’s paintings on display in their center. I took some photos on Wednesday.

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The reflecting pool outside the building can be seen through the floor-level windows:

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While most of the pieces are landscapes and cityscapes, this section was curated nicely to group together sentimental subjects: portrait of my great-grandfather, an Armenian farm girl, a knitting grandma, and my cat Monty in a special work Mom gave me as a present after he died. It’s “Not for Sale”, but rather “on loan” from the walls of my house:

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So you can fully grasp the beautiful setting of the show amid the Queens Botanical Garden, this is the view from the exhibition space. Much nicer than those windowless galleries on the west side if you ask me:

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The lovely Rose Garden on the grounds that would inspire any artist, still looking healthy and vigorous in early October:

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Congratulations Mom! You are so vital, so tireless, so youthful and enthusiastic in your outlook on life. I admire you, truly, with all my heart :-)

And Museworthy readers, Music Monday returns next week! So stop by in a few days and we’ll have lots of fun. See you soon!

Eye on Scotland

Hellooooooo friends!!! Hope this blog post finds you well. If anyone is wondering that I’ve forgotten about Music Mondays, I assure you that I haven’t! They will return shortly. I’ve just been getting back into the art modeling groove, booking jobs, and trying to make sure that my schedule is in order. I’ll be working for the first time later this month at the 92ndStY and some other new gigs, along with the old staples like the National Academy, FIT, and Spring Studio.

Tomorrow is the big referendum in Scotland in which the good people of that beautiful country will vote “Yes” or “No” for independence from the United Kingdom. I’ve been following the story mostly on Twitter where it has dominated the trending topics list for weeks, packed with photos, live tweets of rallies, opinion pieces, analysis, and hashtags galore. Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party, has been leading the charge and proponents of both sides of the issue have been passionately outspoken. Like, really outspoken! This is truly historic stuff and with reports of extremely close poll numbers, it’s impossible to predict the outcome.

Since this blog receives many visitors from the UK, I thought I’d do my humble part and offer a bit of painting to mark this hugely consequential event. This is To Pastures New by Scottish artist James Guthrie, from 1882. I suspect the geese are voting “Yes”, but I’m not sure. Just a hunch ;)

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My Town

I hadn’t intended to post for the September 11th anniversary, as it’s not something I do every year. I posted back in 2011 for the ten year remembrance but not since then. I think with the current global events and resurgence of terrorism threats, feelings of fear, anger, and unease have been triggered in many people – especially those of us who live and work in big densely populated cities.

There’s no question that the 911 attacks and their aftermath are deeply felt by all Americans. But it will always be different for New Yorkers; more acute, more personal, more harrowing. Unless you lived here at the time you can’t fully understand. I don’t mean in any way to diminish others’ feelings or ignore Shanksville and the Pentagon. I’d never do that. I’m just trying to express the unique and exceptional mindset of a unique and exceptional city that remains a bullseye for grievance-obsessed monsters. It is a city that will never stop inspiring people, a city that wallops its inhabitants with challenges and impossibilities, thrills and disenchantments, oddities and curiosities, scandals and triumphs, idealism and cynicism. We are a maddeningly paradoxical town, where neurosis and fortitude live side by side. We rebuild on top of rubble, and we hold up a collective middle finger to people who think they can destroy us. And to those who hate New York or don’t understand it, we respond in snippy Big Apple form: take it or leave it.

New York, by Franz Kline, 1953

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Love, peace, and blessings to all of you, on this day and every day …

Poetry in the Peat

Digging by Seamus Heaney -

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

Farmers Planting Potatoes, Vincent van Gogh:

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The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

Farmer with a Pitchfork, Winslow Homer:

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My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

A Man Digging Potatoes, Thomas Frederick Mason Sheard:

(c) Oxford City Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

A Vermeer Souvenir

I’m a sucker for museum gift shops. To me they are vastly different from the typical tourist knickknack stand. Why? Because a shot glass with the I <3 NY logo on it isn’t nearly as charming as a shot glass with Matisse’s Blue Nude. Then again, maybe shot glasses aren’t “charming” at all, so let’s ditch the shot glasses and consider the notecards and postcards, ready-to-hang prints, umbrellas, glass paperweights, and tote bags. Art museums are proud of their permanent collections, as they should be, and they happily hawk goodies that bear the images of the mainstay masterpieces which adorn their gallery walls.

The gift shop at the National Gallery of Art was huge! Like a floor in a department store. When I strolled in after viewing the Degas/Cassatt show I thought “I’m gonna be in here for an hour!”. Luckily I kept the time, and my spending, to a minimum. I came out with a bookmark of Vermeer’s Woman Holding a Balance, one of the National Gallery’s prized possessions. I was genuinely in need of a new bookmark so it’s all good. Here she is already at work holding a place:

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It’s a trivial thought, but I wonder what the great artists would think if they saw their work mass produced in this way .. on bookmarks, baubles, and magnets? How would Degas feel knowing that his Dancers were holding a grocery list on a refrigerator? Or da Vinci if he learned that people were sipping coffee from a  Mona Lisa mug? We’ll never know. The way I see it, if I’m going to use a bookmark, why not glance at a Vermeer when I turn the page? He comes with me as I ride the train and read, and to modeling jobs when I read on my breaks. How I love Vermeer :-)

And here is the full Vermeer painting Woman Holding a Balance, from 1664:

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This is a magnificent painting in so many ways, considered by some to be Vermeer’s best. The woman is most likely Vermeer’s wife Catharina, who was probably the model also for Girl Reading a Letter by an Open WindowOne can clearly see a resemblance between the two. As always with Vermeer, the composition is extraordinary. Horizontal, vertical, and diagonal “lines” are organized with geometric brilliance, and they converge at the visual center of the piece which lies at the woman’s hand holding the balance. And since a balance is a weighing and measuring instrument, Vermeer creates a fully realized work consistent with the theme of equilibrium. Also take note of the arrangement of color: two masses of blue in the woman’s jacket and the blue cloth on the table, and small dots of sparkle in the pearls in the open jewelry box.

The intriguing nature of Vermeer’s work takes us deeper when we analyze the subtext of this painting. Art scholars have stressed the significance of the painting in the background. It is a depiction of “The Last Judgment”, and you can bet not some random choice by Vermeer. The artwork page for this work on the National Gallery website offers this interesting assessment:

The woman’s gaze at the balance, when considered in the context of the Last Judgment on the wall behind her, suggests that Vermeer, a Catholic, sought to infuse this work with religious and spiritual significance. Saint Ignatius of Loyola instructed the faithful to examine their consciences and weigh their sins as if facing Judgment Day. Only such deliberation could lead to virtuous choices along the path of life. Poised between the earthly treasures of gold and pearls before her and Last Judgment painting’s stark reminder of the eternal consequences of her actions, this woman personifies the values of materialism and morality that jostled for dominance in 17th-century Dutch society.

Yeah, maybe that is too much to squeeze onto a bookmark! But I don’t care. Vermeer is marking my places as I read, and learn, and embark on journeys both intellectual and spiritual, and reminding me, with his serene and contemplative woman, to seek balance, harmony, and sound values in life.

Explore this painting further at Essential Vermeer