Bison and Bucket Lists

Over the long break at a modeling job recently, some artists were chatting about their summer plans. Travel, naturally, was the main subject with one person talking about heading up to Maine for a relaxing couple of weeks, others hoping to go to Europe for painting sojourns in Italy and elsewhere. One of the artists mentioned that she was likely going to visit one of the National Parks with her husband, which particularly struck a chord with me. With the exception of a Hajian family vacation in 1973, which included a visit to the Grand Canyon that I can barely remember given that I was five years old, I’ve never set foot in any of America’s National Parks. State parks sure. But no Nationals. Not Yellowstone, not Yosemite, not the Everglades, none of them. And it kind of disappoints me.

When I think about the magnificent North American landscapes – their wildlife, rivers and hot springs, deserts and lakes and coniferous forests, flora and fauna and waterfalls, wolves and otters and eagles – I feel like an American who is missing out on “America’s Best Idea” as PBS called it. I really want to see bison. I do! I’m somewhat obsessed with bison. Why, you wonder? Well, why not? They are the largest land mammal in North America. They are herbivores who will charge your ass at 30 mph if you threaten them. They are the tough, enduring symbol of the American West. They have outlasted adversity at every turn. Bison have been slaughtered by Indians and ranchers alike. Bison bounced back from the brink of extinction in the late 1800s. Bison survived the Ice Age. They are sturdy, stubborn badasses who just don’t give a fuck. This is their continent, we just live on it. Also, their babies are incredibly cute.

American Bison photo from the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

The explorers Lewis and Clark wrote in their journals that enormous herds of bison “darkened the whole plains”. And in 1871, U.S. Soldier George Anderson wrote in a letter that it took a full six days for his men to pass through one herd of what seemed to be “millions” of bison in Kansas.

The Bison Trail by Charles M. Russell, 1908:

Although it can be an interesting, and at times revealing, exercise in exploring personal aspirations, compiling a “bucket list” isn’t something I’ve given much thought to. But to the limited extent that I have, going to Yellowstone National Park and seeing the bison would definitely be on my bucket list. Maybe the time has come for some of us who are middle-aged to start contemplating bucket list goals after so many years spent in a carpe diem style existence. I’ve never been much of a long term goal planner. Nor do I possess a go-getter, ambitious nature. I just don’t have that driven, ‘make things happen’ personality. But hey I can still assemble a bucket list! I think all the summer travel talk at that art class triggered something in me …. regrets over the places I’ve never been, and the things I’ve never seen or experienced.

But imagine a bucket list that allowed for time travel! Now THAT would be tremendous, because we could involve scenarios with individuals who are now dead. For me, that would include being a back-up dancer for Prince, getting bombed on gin & tonics at a bar in Paris with F. Scott Fitzgerald, seeing Charlie Parker perform at Birdland, and modeling for Raphael. Hell yes to all of those.

So here we go … my bucket list. One of these might actually happen and is sort of in the works. Another one was supposed to happen several years ago but never materialized. The others, well, let’s just put them in the “never’ category … for now 😉
1) Go to Burning Man
2) Get up on stage and tell a story at The Moth StorySLAM
3) Visit the Holy Land
4) Open a no-kill animal shelter
5) Snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef
6) Yellowstone + bison
7) Learn to play Beethoven’s Piano Sonata #23
8) Help build a home with Habitat for Humanity

So what’s on your bucket list?

Liberator

“The resurrection of Jesus was simply God’s unwillingness to take our ‘no‘ for an answer. He raised Jesus, not as an invitation to us to come to heaven when we die, but as a declaration that he himself has now established permanent, eternal residence here on earth. The good news of the resurrection of Jesus is not that we shall die and go home to be with him, but that he has risen and comes home with us, bringing all his hungry, naked, thirsty, sick prisoner brothers with him.”

– Clarence Jordan, farmer, New Testament scholar

Ecce Homo, Titian, 1560:

Happy Easter, Happy Passover, happy spring. May your gardens grow, your songs sing out, and your souls be comforted … even through fear and tribulation. I wish this for each and every one of you.

Love and blessings from Museworthy 🙂

Portraits & Pets – A Museworthy Art Show

Companions. Loved ones. Models. Friends. Souls – human and animal – with faces and gazes, personalities and body language, stories and histories. Followers of this blog contributed works of art – in a most glorious array of expressions – to a little online art show themed “Portraits and Pets”. Some included brief descriptions to accompany their work, others let their art stand alone. Each one is thoroughly unique, and a gesture of participation in this blog’s congenial community. And your blog hostess was honored to participate right along with you. I now present …”Portraits and Pets”! Enjoy 🙂

Ron Anticevich
Radar
oil on linen
Simi Valley, California

Mark Wummer
Finding Flint
watercolor
“Flint is a fifty-five pound black lab that started his life training to be a service dog but decided on a career change, and instead became our son’s family pet. He can curl himself into a ball of black fur so tightly that it’s tough to know what part of him you are looking at.”
Reading, Pennsylvania

Derek James Tewey
Mariama, my sister, 1935-2017
acrylic
“I miss her”
Brisbane, Australia

Dave Moran
Hero
graphite
“my pit bull mix”
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Fred Hatt
Leo and My Foot
Aquarelle crayon and gouache on grey paper
Brooklyn, New York

Todd Fife
Ilex
pencil, acrylic, coffee, gold leaf
Bowling Green, Kentucky

Daniel Maidman
Felix
oil on canvas
Brooklyn, New York

Bill MacDonald
Young Man with a Beard
colored pencil over graphite
Quincy, Massachusetts

Two from
Susan Berkowitz
King
gouache, watercolor, and acrylic on aquaboard
Brooklyn, New York

Susie
oil pastel

Rob Carroll
Lulu
HB pencil
Swindon, UK

Bruce Williams
Claudia and Ika
hand-colored drypoint
New York City

Two from
Judy Waller
Best of Friends
watercolor on paper
“At home in the studio where she lives and works, her little parrot Beatrix can almost always be seen sitting contentedly on Lita’s shoulder. Lita starts every day by holding Beatrix in her palm and stroking her feathers, much to the little bird’s obvious delight. They truly are ‘Best of Friends!'”
Roseburg, Oregon

Siesta
watercolor on paper
“My painting of Mike and his dog Sophie captures the tender affection between the two, in a peaceful moment of repose. Mike has a natural affinity for animals, and can befriend even the most reluctant dog or cat almost instantly.”

Elaine Hajian
Patriarch
pastel
“My grandfather who came to America to escape the Armenian Genocide. Honoring a gentle man who will live forever in our hearts.”
New York City

Mark Kurdziel
Blu
oil on linen
Jersey City, New Jersey

Christopher Hickey
Anne’s Black Bird
etching tinted with watercolor
“our cat Noelle has a cameo role”
Atlanta, Georgia

Francisco Malonzo
Connie 3
acrylic
New York City

Rosanne Kaloustian
Rose
pastel
“This painting of my aunt was created from an old black and white photo … remembering the good old days.”
New York City

Roberta Moring
Pauly
acrylic
“My muse is my beautiful African Ring-Neck parrot”
West Bend, Wisconsin

Claudia Hajian
Jessie and her Blue Toy
pastel on paper
New York City

Blog Buzz

Hellooooo friends! We’re just a little over a week away from the Museworthy “Portraits and Pets” Art Show. To those of you who submitted a work, thank you! And if anyone hasn’t submitted but would still like to, you’re welcome to do so. Still a few days left!

I’d also like to pass along an article from Vanity Fair about the current turmoil going on at New York City’s beloved Metropolitan Museum. Art lovers and museum-goers who haven’t heard about this fiasco might be interested. I always thought that the Met’s scheme to ‘re-brand’ and invest heavily in more modern and contemporary art and multi-million dollar expansions could backfire, and now it appears that its really happening. In a nutshell, the museum’s director Thomas Campbell has just resigned, and a so-called “gift” from businessman Leonard Lauder of a valuable Cubist artwork collection – and the construction of a new wing in which to house it – has become less a gift and more a financial albatross. Layoffs, huge budget deficit … it’s all a dismal story of managerial incompetence and the cluelessness of uber wealthy board-of-trustee types.

But this art institution – ‘this’ being the Museworthy blog – can happily report no behind the scenes upheaval! I suppose having only one ‘curator’, no billions of dollars at stake, and no real state on Fifth Avenue might make things easier. Just a little 😆 Which brings me to expressing my thanks to art student Yanjun for letting me post her drawing of me on the blog. This is my pose from Robert Armetta’s ‘Structural Drawing’ class at the New York Academy of Art. For long sitting poses, models can still position themselves in a way with subtle shifts, creating nuanced movement and shapes:

I’ll see you all back here on Tuesday, April 4th for the Museworthy Art Show! Between now and then, I’ll be modeling around town for another busy week of work. I hope you’re all doing well and finding rewards, joys, connections, and inspirations every day.

The Models Were Here

It was shiny. Freshly printed. Laminated. Brand new. And, above all, legible! It was my new photo ID card for the Fashion Institute of Technology, better known as ‘FIT’, New York’s City’s popular design, fashion, and art school on Seventh Avenue, and the institution where I have been modeling longer – continuously – than any other school after the National Academy, who were the first to hire me 🙂

When the security guard handed me my new photo ID I compared it to my old one; a faded, beat-up relic carrying ten years of wear and tear. My face in the photo was nearly obliterated, as was the lettering. The old card also holds a stack of stickers, as we are given a new one for each semester. I never scrape off the old ones but just stick the new one on top of the last one, resulting in a stump of stacked stickers that protrude a quarter inch off the surface of the card, like a mini mountain. So when I ran my thumb over the sticker stump of my old card, I got a little sentimental thinking of all the times I flashed that ID to enter the FIT campus, all the times I rode up and down the elevator, all the times I tossed off my gown and stepped onto the various modeling platforms on the 6th floor of the D Building, all the booking sheets I handed in and teachers I worked with and and countless undergraduate students I modeled for in my many years at this excellent school.

My new FIT ID card. Will this one carry me for another decade? We’ll see!

I have something of a fascination with ephemera. Over the years I’ve held onto a good amount of ticket stubs, postcards, letters, handwritten notes, business cards, etc. I’m not a thrower-outer. I still have the little pocket notebook that I used to record my early modeling contacts when I was first starting out. Almost every page is filled with the name of an art school, a model coordinator, and phone number; “Art Students League … talk to Sylvia”. Some cross-outs, some arrows and stars and underlines. It’s especially interesting to see the name “Minerva Durham” scrawled in my loose handwriting with the additional notes, “Spring Studio, life drawing 7 days per week, tryouts on Sunday. See email. Don’t be late!”. Little did I know back then, when I jotted down her name before ever having met her in person, how important a figure Minerva would become in my career, or that her studio would become my favorite and most gratifying modeling venue.

When you work as a freelancer – a professional with no true ’employer’, no pension, no benefits – the feeling of not existing ‘on paper’ or in official business records – can be a little odd. Apart from a biweekly check sent out from a payroll department, where are we? Who are we? Did we just drift down out of the ether, some nameless warm body who just poses and leaves? Eighty years from now, would there be any incontrovertible proof that an artist’s model named Claudia Hajian ever worked in New York City? It’s a strange thought I know, and I apologize for being dramatic, but I wonder about these crazy things sometimes. I imagine that we all care, to some extent, about our legacy, don’t we? Especially when we devoted our lives to something passionately.

I took this photo at the “Artists and their Models” exhibit at the Smithsonian in 2014. It’s a booklet documenting Florence Allen’s membership in the San Francisco Models Guild. She was, in fact, one of the founders of the Guild which still exists today as the Bay Area Models’ Guild. The pink stamps indicate her paid monthly dues. Flo Allen is something of an art modeling legend in San Francisco history. Her obituary in the SF Gate  is quite a good read. You can click and enlarge all these  photos for better viewing:

A model contract for Cleo Dorman at the Carnegie Institute, October 1937, with her hourly pay (75 cents) and class schedule. She was booked for Anatomy and “Dwg III” (Drawing III):

Various business cards of professional working models; in the center, Marguerite Bouvé of Boston, circa 1910, Richard M. Samuels’ card with a modeling photo of himself, and pouty lip print by Anna-Lisa van der Valk;

Most professional models I know have business cards, as they should. And a journal of all contacts is also recommended. Chronicle your careers, models. You’ve been working the circuit, putting in your time and sweat and dedication. It matters. For posterity? Maybe, maybe not. But you never know who might gaze upon your image someday in the future and find themselves curious about your existence, perhaps even your biography. You never know if your handwritten work notes will be displayed in a glass case at the Smithsonian 😉

After my father died, when my mother, my brother and I were going through his personal things, I jumped at the chance to keep his journal of work contacts. My father was a professional musician for over forty years and, at the time of his death, had not yet owned nor used a personal computer. His black, hardcover journal contains the name and phone number of literally every single musician/bandleader/booker contact he acquired over decades of work as a NYC musician, each written in small, clear penmanship. That was my father. And the journal is something I cherish to this day. My Dad, a fellow freelancer – keeping notes and recording his livelihood.

I suppose one could argue that today, in the Internet age, with everything digitized and easily transmitted and ‘saved’ as files, people’s lives are recorded and documented better than ever. And that’s a solid argument. Because the printed cards and handwritten journals – anything on paper – can fray, get lost, get burned in a fire, thrown in the garbage, and so on. So what in God’s name am I fretting about? My blog is firmly online for, well, as long as I keep it here. And artists post their works of models on their Facebook pages and Instagram accounts with our names, like “Rachel reclining” or “Standing Luke”. Which brings me to this – artists? Keep records of your models. It’s a nice thing to do. We are, and always have been, indispensable, bona fide members of the art world. –> No art student anywhere, at any time, learned life drawing without us. That’s simply a fact. We were here. We are here. We are an essential component of your education and your inspiration. Remember us. Let’s all remember everything … if we can.

Saints of the Streets

“Lost people matter to God, and so they must matter to us.”
– Keith Wright

Have you ever prayed with a stranger? On the streets of New York City and surrounding Metro area, a committed group of humble servants are doing it every single week. Through mobile outreach, these urban missionaries work tirelessly in the field, putting themselves squarely among  those in need; the destitute, the unlucky, the vulnerable.

I first volunteered with NYC Relief on their “Don’t Walk By” outreach, and the experience has stayed with me in ways I can’t describe in mere words. This past December, I volunteered with them again, this time on the Relief Bus. It was, I believe, the coldest day of our winter; a Friday morning with temperatures in the 20s that felt like the teens. But freezing temperatures can’t, and never will, hinder the work of this incredible organization of people. If anything, the bone-chilling air that day seemed to redouble our efforts in distributing fresh hot soup, bread, fruit, hot chocolate, and friendly conversation at 125th street in East Harlem.

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In addition to food and beverages, Relief Bus volunteers provide clothing and hygiene kits upon request, while staffers and team leaders sit down one-on-one to arrange referrals and guidance for job training, shelter, addiction treatment, and medical care. The Relief Bus mission is – and I can’t stress this enough – a profoundly hospitable, welcoming, and personal one, as volunteers do much more than simply hand cups of soup to hungry people. It is, first and foremost, about engagement and interaction. We learn their names and they learn ours. We set up folding chairs and tables on the sidewalks so folks can sit and socialize, and the volunteers alternate between serving from the bus kitchen and joining folks in their meal; chatting, conversing, laughing, listening, telling stories, sharing memories, asking questions, or just sitting across from them with bread and soup in quiet companionship, if that is preferred.

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For me, the most transformative part of Relief service has been the prayer. Nobody who volunteers has to participate in this aspect, as individuals of all faiths, or no faith, serve with the Relief Bus and are not expected to do anything with which they are uncomfortable. But for those of us who do pray with Relief Bus visitors, the act of supplicating to God on their behalf enriches the spirit in untold ways. When a person enters the bus to collect a hygiene kit or item of clothing, we volunteers are there to greet them and ask if they would like to receive prayer. Some say “no, that’s fine. I’m good, thank you”. The majority say yes. What do poverty-stricken folks request for prayer? You’d be astonished at the breadth and depth and thoughtfulness of their appeals: “to get my children back” … “to find affordable housing” … “for the healing of our country and for everyone to love each other” … “treatment for my addiction” … “relief from my arthritis” … “for my grandmother in Puerto Rico who has Alzheimer’s” … “to be reunited with my family who have given up on me” … “for those suffering people in Syria and those poor children being bombed” … “for the end of bigotry” … “for my brother doing 25 to life in Attica” … “for all homeless people everywhere” … “to know my son again, he lives in Texas and we haven’t spoken in five years” … “to get a job because I’m able and willing to work” … “for the strength to break my bad habits” … “I’d like Psalm 23 please, if that’s ok?” .. and, in a few beautiful instances, requests of “can I pray for you? Can I pray for all of you on the Relief Bus who come here every week to serve us?” Of course you can pray for us. Of course. And they do.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.”
Psalm 23

The NYC Relief mission is not the stuff of wild-eyed ‘fire and brimstone’ preachers who terrorize people with judgment and condemnation. It is none of the heresies and idolatry being passed off as Christianity these days. This is love and mercy, kindness and compassion. This is the Gospel. This is the understanding that God is about restoration, renewal, hope, and comfort. This is letting people who feel forgotten know that they are not forgotten.

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A class of first graders in Elizabeth, New Jersey gathered hygiene kits, packaged them in individually designed bags they created, and donated them to the Relief Bus. Wonderful colors! You can see a photo of these smiling angels on this Instagram page.

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On my last two experiences volunteering with the Relief Bus, I had the great privilege to serve side-by-side with extraordinary volunteers of a church group from Indiana. They are in town as part of their Christian mission and their grace, warmth, good cheer, and work ethic were an absolute inspiration to me. Magnificent people. Their personal stories, like so many stories that define us Christians, were ones of a calling, of salvation, of redemption, stories that bring forth the kind of humility that enables true servants to feel deep empathy and relate to brokenness, fear, and imperfection in our fellow man and woman. Because sanctimony has no place in service. So to the volunteers who came all the way from Grace Church in Noblesville, it was a tremendous honor. Thank you. And I hope to see you all again!

One of my favorite photos from the NYC Relief Instagram page is this one, as it perfectly captures the volunteering experience with this outreach organization. It makes me teary eyed every time I look at it. But I recommend viewing the entire Instagram and its excellent photos and comments, or you can watch this terrific video on YouTube.

Thank you all for reading. I appreciate it 🙂

Joyful Happenings

Hi everyone! Just a couple of announcements for our Museworthy community. Spring will be arriving in a few weeks – YAY!! – and it’s the time of year that reinvigorates us, lifts us up and out and about, gifts us with buoyant spirits and pours a feeling of expansiveness into our souls. So first, I’ve finally set a date for the Museworthy “Portraits and Pets” art show. Because I’ll be quite busy with a full art modeling schedule in March, the show will go up on the blog on Tuesday, April 4th. For those of you who still plan to submit something, if you could get it to me by March 26th at the latest that would be great.

The artwork of longtime Museworthy reader and friend to this blog Todd Fife will be on exhibit at the Tim Faulkner Gallery in Louisville, Kentucky. His “Oculi” series of bold, compelling portrait pieces created with graphite, watercolor, acrylic, ink, pencil, and gold and silver leaf, presents to the viewers a collection of expressive gazes in the eyes of various models. I am honored to be one of those models 🙂 The opening reception is on Friday, March 3rd at 6 PM and the exhibit will remain on view through March 30. You can read the press release for Todd’s show at this link. Congratulations Todd!

Lastly, the 2017 Whitney Biennial will open on March 17. New Yorkers and tourists who may be visiting our fair city this spring might want to check it out. Notably, it will be the first Biennial to be held at the Whitney’s new home in lower Manhattan. I wrote two blog posts about the new Whitney that readers can revisit if they’re interested; “Glass, Granite, and Urban Awakenings” and “Resurrection at the Whitney”.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you all soon, friends!

Brevity