Mornings at the Museum

Hellooo friends! In the midst of a jam-packed art modeling schedule of late I’ve still managed to see the Michelangelo exhibition at the Met … twice! Eight years in the making, works loaned from 50 museums and private collections around the world, and it shows. And they let you take photos! Why does that excite me so much? Because I’m now the owner of a brand new iPhone 7 which has a superb camera. I’m gonna have fun with this device, and it’s good for Museworthy too. Better pics!

This piece was a real treat, and it exemplifies why artists love to look at drawings even more than paintings – observing a master’s hand at work as he explores ideas and formulates his vision. These are Michelangelo’s studies for the arm of God in the Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel. Interesting how he tested two different gestures. And since Michelangelo wasn’t wasteful and reused paper, we can see the faded centaur sketch in the background:

I posted those arms to Instagram. Yes I’m on Instagram now! You know, with all the cool kids 😉 I’m at artmodelnyc if any of you would like to follow me there.

Here’s another drawing that my art model readers will appreciate. The paper is in poor condition but the pose is intense. A male model (all of Michelangelo’s models were men) doing a deep torso twist, turned head and pivoted shoulders. Not easy! The model was most likely one of Michelangelo’s stone cutters or studio assistants:

And a little more fun with my camera in black and white, the Athena Parthenos in the Met’s Great Hall. I posted a video about this sculpture’s installation last year. She’s a beauty:

Survival Instincts

I came home from work so tired the other night I had no energy to make anything to eat other than a piece of toast with olive spread that I ate standing at my kitchen counter. That would have to suffice as ‘dinner’. All I wanted to do was get into bed under the covers and find something to watch on TV, as long as it wasn’t cable news. So I stumbled onto “Baboon Queen” on the National Geographic Wild Channel, which had already started 15 minutes prior. The program followed the life of Tubu, a female baboon in Botswana. These shows which focus on the trials and travails of a single animal are really effective at making the viewer feel emotionally invested in that individual. Because by the end of this thing I was bawling my eyes out, my head on the pillow, dabbing my cheeks with tissues. It was an embarrassing display.

The last days of Tubu’s life were heartbreaking. Old, lanky, and slow, she became separated from her troop, grunting out distress calls to them from tree branches to no avail. Tubu was left behind. The last images of Tubu show her despondently stooping down into the reedy backwaters under the golden African sun, and disappearing. She had had enough. She was done.

In my sobbing state, I was reminded – with the help of the program’s narrator – that Tubu had lived an extraordinary life by baboon standards. She reached an amazing 25 years of age, had multiple children, became a grandmother and a great-grandmother. The queen of her baboon troop. Over the years she grieved the losses of vulnerable newborns who didn’t make it and the murdered deaths of other family members. She battled with leopards and other predators, got sprayed with the venom of a poisonous snake and was temporarily blinded. The life of Tubu was marked not just by hardships and survival-of-the-fittest clashes, but also by tight-knit community, familial bonds, and affection. It’s because her life was so incredible that her demise was particularly heart-rending. After all she had survived in the wilds of Botswana, to die lost and alone like that . . I couldn’t handle it 😥

From the Metropolitan Museum collection, baboon ointment jar, ca. 1800-1550 B.C., Northern Upper Egypt. This is so cute. Can I have this? 🙂

Wildlife shows are illuminating in many ways. Apart from their standard educational value they can often evoke deeper, more universal truths. Survival instincts are not exclusive to wild animals on the African plains. Females everywhere require vigilance, acumen, and determination to preserve their lives. Big cities like New York are metaphorically called ‘jungles’, and they are. Whether it’s in an urban jungle, a workplace jungle, or a literal jungle, females have to protect their bodily safety and the safety of their children. Predators and dangers are out there .. everywhere. Tubu the baboon knew it, and she fought tooth and nail for her survival. We do what we have to do.

One of my favorite videos on YouTube. Watch this mother elephant protect her baby while crossing the road. The adorable little one is naturally curious and trusting toward the tourists in a jeep with their clicking cameras. Mama knows better. Check out the death stare look in her eyes around :37. It’s like she’s saying, “Try me. Just try me.”

I want to wish Museworthy readers a very happy Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for all of you! Enjoy your extended weekend if you have one. I know I’ll be enjoying mine, maybe watching more nature shows 🙂

Japonisme

Artists often seek to expand beyond their ‘comfort zones’, not just stylistically but culturally. There have been many examples of painters from the west traveling to other locales in search of new and different subject matter, and it’s understandable. I mean, how many times can one paint the Place de la Concorde? The foreign sojourns of famous artists have, in many cases, produced some of their most compelling works; Matisse in Morocco, Gauguin in Tahiti, Sargent in Venice, just to name a few.

With the Tokugawa period starting in 1600, Japan was ruled by a feudal military dictatorship and largely isolated from the west due to its ‘closed country’ policy, or sakoku, which lasted for over two centuries. I had to look all this up because my knowledge of Japanese history is abysmal! Around 1854, the campaign of Commodore Matthew Perry forced the opening of Japan’s commercial trade routes. As a result, demand for Japanese decorative arts, fashions, woodblock prints, screens, porcelains and the like, became quite the craze among well-to-do Europeans. Artists took note and drew inspiration from the Japanese aesthetic. It became known as Japonism, or the French ‘Japonisme’, and you can see these influences in many works from the mid to late 19th century.

Some painters opted to integrate eastern themes and techniques in their work from the comfort their studios, posing an evidently Western model in a kimono, while holding a fan, etc. Monet’s La Japonaise is a famous example, in which the artist’s wife Camille poses in Japanese dress. American expatriate James Abbot McNeill Whistler enthusiastically embraced the Japonisme fad. This work of his from 1865, Rose and Silver: The Princess from the Land of Porcelain, is a beautifully rendered studio creation despite the bogus title. The model is British-born Christina Spartali:

The Dutch also jumped on the Japonisme bandwagon. Between 1893 and 1896, George Hendrik Breitner painted a series of works depicting a young girl, sixteen year old Geesje Kwak, in variously colored kimonos. This one, Girl in a White Kimono, is a strong piece. The kimono is lovely, but I find Geesje’s facial expression and arm gestures more interesting:

I’ve posed in a kimono several times myself, and held fans. But I’d like to return to this post’s introduction about travel and highlight the works of two artist friends who actually packed up their supplies and made the trip to Japan, where they were able to observe its culture, its people, and its elegant gardens firsthand. They are two guys from Scotland, George Henry and Edward Atkinson Hornel, prominent members of the “Glasgow Boys” collective of Scottish painters during the late 1800s. They spent a year and half in Japan on a study tour and produced really colorful, striking, energetic works. Note how markedly different they are from the ‘staged’ Japanese-themed paintings.

First, three from George Henry.  Japanese Lady with a Fan, 1894:

A Japanese Pottery Seller:

Japanese Beauty, watercolor:

And three from Hornel. Dancing Geisha:

Street Scene in Tokyo:

Two Geisha Girls:

Predecessors

Mr. Buonarroti is coming to town! That’s a guy more familiarly known as Michelangelo. Renaissance dude, I think you’ve all heard of him 😉 Here in the Big Apple, the Met Museum is gearing up for what surely sounds like a spectacular exhibition. “Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer” will open on November 13th. Knowing my artist friends they will not only see it within the first week but will return for second and third viewings.

And now I’d like to share a vintage photo of an artist’s model being tortured, in the atelier of French sculptor Henri-Marius Petit, sometime during the 1930s. As you can see, she is holding the pose for the work ‘La Maternité’, without the breastfeeding baby of course. The leaning forward movement? That means eventual lower back pain. Her bent left leg and foot against the hard slab? That kills after an hour. This woman is in art modeling hell. And the men are all sitting around doing nothing while she does all the work! It must have been worth it though. The sculpture won the silver medal at the Salons des Artistes Français in 1934 and was purchased by the city of Metz, which renamed it ‘Monument to the French Mothers’.

This work – this arduous art modeling work – never changes, and I love it for that. The model in this photo is my ‘sister’. All the nude figures in art created from life are immortal images of my brethren. From Michelangelo’s men to Degas’ women, to all the men and women in academy studios and life classes throughout the world today and every day, we artist’s models keep carrying on …

A Note of Thanks

To those of you who reached out to me with expressions of support and concern after my “Ashes” post, you have my deepest gratitude. I’m incredibly touched by your kindness! You’ve been kinder to me than my family has been these past couple of years. So again, thank you – for the recommendations of Keranique and other products for hair loss, for sharing your own personal ordeals with family strife, and for assuring me that I don’t deserve to be taken for granted by people who are supposed to love me. These communications really, really help. During difficult times we all seek sources of strength wherever we can find them. My friends, my blog readers, my church, and my art modeling work make for a fine support system. Oh and Jessie the cat! She’s done her share by bringing me smiles and purrs on a daily basis 🙂

I’m getting out of town for the day on Saturday for a much needed change of atmosphere. But I’ll see you all right back here very soon. I wish you all grace and peace …

My portrait in red chalk by Livia Mosanu, created at the New York Academy of Art, summer 2017:

The Dancing Satyr

Imagine being an Italian fisherman and sailing off in your boat like you do every morning, to catch netfuls of squid, shrimp, mussels, etc – all the ingredients for ‘frutti di mare’, the sumptuous seafood dish that Italians prepare so well. Then imagine discovering a 2000 year old, barnacle covered bronze sculpture tangled in your fishing net along with the day’s haul of crustaceans and seaweed. You’d surely sail back to shore excited about your archaeological find. I know I would! That’s exactly what happened to Francesco Adragna and his fishing crew 50 miles off the southwest coast of Sicily in 1998.

The same fishing crew had found the left leg of the sculpture months earlier. They wondered when, if ever, they would pull the torso of the relic from that same spot in the Mediterranean waters. They did. And it was named ‘Satiro Danzante’, or the ‘Dancing Satyr’. What a beauty this is:

The ancient artifact, believed to be of Greek origin from the 3rd or 4th century B.C., was painstakingly cleaned and restored and determined to be a copy in the style of Praxiteles, or maybe even an authentic Praxiteles. The condition of the face is exceptionally good, and the active gesture of the body is both vigorous and graceful.

The ‘Dancing Satyr’ is on display at a museum in the Sicilian town of Mazara del Vallo. For more about this marvelous discovery, check out this New York Times article.

Ashes

Emotional pain is an insidious thing. Unlike a sprained ankle or a toothache, it burrows into nebulous recesses of the psyche and ‘hides’, until it finds ways to lash out from its dark chambers. Sudden, out-of-nowhere crying fits. Teeth grinding during sleep. Snapping at someone who didn’t deserve it. Still, you carry on, go to work, do grocery shopping, and try to maintain normalcy. What else can you do? Its not the flu which you know will pass eventually after days of bed rest. It’s the state of your life.

Six weeks ago when I sat down in a chair at the salon, my longtime colorist Gil ran his hands through my hair like he always does before he begins my treatment and said, “Do you know you have a bald spot here?”. Whaaattt?? With a large handheld mirror he showed it to me: a big round patch with nothing but the bare skin of my scalp where hair was supposed to be. Because of its location and my long hair, I hadn’t noticed it before. This was not common female-pattern hair loss. This was hair coming out in a concentrated clump. The hell!?? Jump ahead a few weeks and I’ve seen two doctors, a dermatologist, and had two blood tests, fully expecting to discover that I have a thyroid condition or an autoimmune disease or a vitamin deficiency or something – anything – that would explain this. The results? Nothing. There’s nothing physically or medically wrong with me. At one point I sat down a park bench, cell phone to my ear and sobbing a little, and asked the dermatologist what then she thought is causing my hair to fall out. She said, “It has to be stress”. Called the other doctor and asked him the same question. Answer? “It’s stress”.
“Will it grow back?”.
“Maybe. Maybe not.”
“What can I do to stop it?”
“Nothing.”

As if to purposely fuck with me for having seen doctors and had blood tests, my hair loss has accelerated over the past couple of weeks. Huge clumps coming out in the shower. In my hand. On my pillow in the morning. It’s only getting worse.

Two torturous years of family strife will not stop taking their toll on me apparently. The destructive, selfish actions of Chris Hajian, my vain, manipulative brother, have created this hellscape. He has stolen my mother from me with his bullying and brainwashing, made everyone suffer because of his stupid “mid-life crisis”, and walked out on his wife and child. Ever since my father died, my brother (the remaining MAN, of course) has held all the power in the family and he wields it like a weapon. Because that’s what angry, failed men do. Sure Chris Hajian used to be nice guy, way back when. But now he’s just an arrogant, preening douchebag.

After a pivotal, traumatizing event, I decided to stand up for myself once and for all. My mother and my brother were treating me in a way that could only be described as abusive, and I refused to put up with it any longer. I couldn’t for my own sanity and well-being. I expressed my feelings to them, repeatedly. But I was nothing more than voice in the wilderness. Rather than make adjustments in their behavior, and resolve to treat me with love and respect, my mother and brother have done nothing about it. That’s how little I’m valued in my family. It’s a profoundly painful, hurtful realization. I have no family anymore, and I’ve already been replaced. This is the thanks I get for being a devoted, supportive daughter; Mom chooses her self-centered, spoiled son in the end. A son who sees her only as his stooge. So yeah, this is seriously painful. Lost the mother I loved so much .. and now losing my hair 😥

It’s Music Monday, and Tom Petty passed away last week. His distinctly American brand of rock and roll gave us so many great songs. Here’s one of my favorites. Thanks for reading, friends …