Countenances

Helllooooooooooo friends!! How is everyone? 2017 is barely two weeks old and I’ve already had my bout with the flu! Ugh. I was in bed for a few days feeling pretty lousy, but I’m recovered now (mostly) and ready to return to work. First booking on my schedule is the two week Drawing Marathon at the New York Studio School again. I modeled for it at the start of the fall 2016 semester – posted here – and am honored to have been asked back.

Also, an update about the “Portraits and Pets” Museworthy Art Show. I’ve decided that it will happen in the spring – either late March or early April. So anyone who has not yet submitted something and would like to, you still have plenty of time! I encourage you to do so. Skill level is totally unimportant. All that matters is sharing, expression, and participation 🙂

Speaking of portraits, I’ve been looking at them a lot lately. More than nudes even. Something about the varied countenances and bearings of individuals, and how artists manage to capture those distinct airs through portraiture, is fascinating to me. Two in particular made an impression on me recently and I decided to share on the blog. Interestingly, both of them were painted by artists who are well-known mostly for their landscapes. The two men were not contemporaries (born 60 years apart), hailed from different parts of Europe and were raised in different socio-economic backgrounds. One was reared in a comfortable, middle class Parisian lifestyle, the other in a poverty-stricken, rootless existence in northern Italy.

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, the Parisian, painted this work, The Greek Girl, in 1870. The girl is not Greek at all. She is Emma Dobigny, a popular French artist’s model at the time and a particular favorite of Edgar Degas. The warm, honeyed tones and harmonious palette work extremely well, as does the composition. She is dainty and winsome. We look at her, but her gaze and attention are directed elsewhere. I also see the vertical shape of her long jacket contrasting with the roundness of her cherubic face.

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The next portrait is by the the Italian painter Giovanni Segantini who, as a young boy, was homeless for a time, living in the streets of Milan and placed in a reform school. I’ve always found him to be a very interesting artist. The bulk of Segantini’s work are scenes of Alpine pastoral life – sheep herders and peasant folk in the Swiss mountains. This is his 1881 portrait of Leopoldina Grubicy who I’m assuming was probably the wife of Vittore Grubicy, an art gallery owner, painter, friend and supporter of Segantini. Again, marvelous shapes. A mature woman. Luminosity on the skin, the fluffy white collar, and the gold hair clip are details which draw the eye.

segantini-portraitleopoldina

Dark Matter

A few weeks from now, we can send a cruise missile to retroactively blow up 2016, right? That’s doable? I hope so because, good grief, if there was a single year in the past decade or so that deserves to wiped out of collective human memory 2016 is it. Odd though, because I always thought “2016” sounds good spoken and looks good written. Twenty-sixteen. Should have been a winner but, alas, it wasn’t.

So when I sat down with my laptop to compose this end-of-year blog post, I went back, out of curiosity, to see what I had published as the first Museworthy post of 2016. It was Rough Beasts on January 2nd; a discussion of William Butler Yeats’ poem The Second Coming, with a dash of my own struggle with depression thrown in. Now, at the end of this year, it feels like things have come full circle. And Yeats’ portentous poetical expressions about the centre not holding, darkness dropping, and the falcon not hearing the falconer, carry even more foreboding weight than ever it seems.

Solitude by Jean-Jacques Henner:

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How can we describe 2016? I see it as having been a queasy concoction of harrowing human tragedy with a “bread and circuses” spectacle. From Orlando to Aleppo, Brexit and Brussels, floods and earthquakes, airstrikes and debate stages, cries of war and rebellions, sacred lands and murdered gorillas and divided nations, propaganda and venal bureaucrats, and a disturbing amount of people brazenly, shamelessly lusting for power. Power; the most effective corrupter of souls known to man. Sometimes I think we’re just going through one of the innumerable rough patches that the arc of history inflicts upon us, that feels more dire than it actually is. And that could very well be the case. But then other times I think we’re witnessing the the Book of Revelation coming to life. Or the movie “Idiocracy”. Not sure which one is more terrifying at this point.

But thank god for the Chicago Cubs, yes? Their World Series triumph was a genuine, albeit fleeting, moment of jubilation, not just for their long-suffering fans but for anyone who has a soft spot for underdogs and was receptive to a much-needed bright spot in this difficult year. Well done, Cubbies! You are “lovable losers” no more.

If only heartwarming baseball stories had a lasting effect on our mood and outlook. But they don’t unfortunately. And the undercurrents of anxiety, tension, and uncertainty that are in the air cannot be brushed away.

Weary Moon, Edward Robert Hughes:

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Is 2016 literally the “WORST YEAR EVER!!” as hysterical social media exclamations would have us believe? Well of course not literally in the entire course of human history. That’s just silly. But we are engaged in the present. We are consumed with the present. We are emotionally invested in the present. We assess present circumstances as predictors of our future and our children’s futures.

A Soul Brought to Heaven, 1878, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau:

soul-carried-to-heaven-jpglarge

For sure, 2016 did take from us many beloved and prominent figures – Prince, Muhammad Ali, Leonard Cohen, Elie Wiesel, Nancy Reagan just to name a few. And for us classical music fans, the passing of Sir Neville Marriner was a great loss. Among this latest spate of deaths in December, which has included George Michael, Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds, was a remarkable and accomplished woman whose passing on Christmas Day at the age of 88 seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle. Vera Rubin was the American astrophysicist whose tireless research confirmed the existence of “dark matter” in the universe. Hey that’s big! Quite an amazing and brilliant woman who took on the dual challenges of making discoveries in the galaxies and confronting obstacles for women in science. She was never awarded the Nobel Prize, which should be baffling but sadly isn’t when we consider that out of 203 Nobels awarded for physics only two in history have gone to women. Still, her enormous contributions remain, as do her wise words: “Don’t shoot for the stars, we already know what’s there. Shoot for the space in between because that’s where the real mystery lies.”

Vera Rubin as an undergraduate at Vassar:

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I’m going to hand over this final Museworthy post of 2016 to the man whose untimely death back in January seems to have set the tone for this crummy year. (An alternate interpretation is that he was really prescient and decided to bail early on 2016 before this shitshow kicked into high gear). Now he’s dancing among the stars and celestial bodies, and escorting Vera Rubin through the dark matter. Neither he nor the song needs any further introduction from me, except to say that it will give you chills.

I’ll see you in 2017, friends. God bless you all ……
Claudia xoxo

Love Divine

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.

— Christina Rossetti

Salvador Dali, Maria conferens in corde suo, watercolor and gouache, 1964:

http://art-dali.com

A merry Museworthy Christmas to all, and Happy Hanukkah, Happy Solstice, and blessings of all kinds to all people. Sing a song of joy, and remember that a light glows for you, illuminating the darkness, guiding you toward grace and truth . . .

Peace, friends.

Claudia
xoxo

Songs of the Season

Well it’s that time of year for Christmas music in every department store, market, and boutique. And by Christmas music, I mean the good, the bad, and everything in between. I think I’ve already heard the Mariah Carey “All I Want For Christmas is You”  about 20 times. And dare I mention Paul McCartney’s vapid “Wonderful Christmastime”? I wonder if he’s aware of how despised that song is. One hears it and asks, how could this be same man who wrote “Yesterday”? But for every McCartney dud there is a Nat King Cole perfection. Anyway, it’s all just a matter of personal taste. I might be in the minority when I say I actually enjoy Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. It’s fun, it’s jocular, and totally ‘Jersey’. In a word, it’s Bruce.

On this Music Monday, I’d love to hear from my readers their likes/dislikes of holiday season songs. So feel free to share in the comments! It will be our Museworthy ‘Christmas party’ 🙂

And I’ll share a Christmas song recording here. A few years ago I posted Bob Dylan’s “Little Drummer Boy” and let’s just say not everyone was pleased! 😆 But hey he’s a Nobel Prize winner now, so maybe we should reconsider? (Just kidding). Instead, here’s the great, great, great Otis Redding singing “Merry Christmas Baby”:

Life in Detail

Friday morning. I walk down tree-lined blocks in my neighborhood toward the train station. Have to catch the 8:14 to Manhattan. Suddenly, from overhead, that distinct harsh screech of a red-tailed hawk; “keeeee-aarr!!”. I look up and there he is. Circling effortlessly above the Duane Reade and Queens rooftops. Good morning you beautiful wild raptor. Seeing me off to work, are you? 🙂

25 minutes later, Penn Station, morning rush hour. A woman begins to struggle getting her stroller with a toddler up the stairs to the C subway platform. I bend down and pick up the front. Together she and I make easy work carrying the stroller for the ascent. “Gracias”, she says to me. “Muchas gracias”.

Downtown, 15 minutes before drawing session starts. At the overpriced hipster coffee shop, a pleasant exchange with the barista about the deliciousness of almond milk. He tells me to “have a great day!”.

At Minerva’s studio, I’m introduced to a man from Naples. A math professor who enjoys drawing in his spare time. He pronounces my name “CLOU – dia”.

Morning session, long pose. Afternoon session, gestures and short poses. I’m the model for both. Bang my shin. Can’t find my favorite hair clip. Feeling flexible. And creative. Finished at 4:00. Man who had been drawing comes over to me, presses a $10 bill into my palm. “Oh gosh, thank you so much!” I say. “No, thank YOU” he replies. “Great poses”. A rare modeling tip.

C train back uptown. Muscly hardhat guy gives up his seat for an elderly lady. My Blackberry beeps out a text message; a modeling gig inquiry for January. Group of tourists consulting a NYC subway map.

Penn Station again. Rush hour again. Homeless trumpeter is playing a plaintive “Silent Night”. His horn reverberates throughout the Eight Avenue concourse. I drop some singles in his instrument case. He nods at me without moving the trumpet mouthpiece from his lips.

Back on the railroad, track 21, the 4:46 back to Queens. Seat at the window. Man, mid-thirties, dark complexion, sits next to me. Takes out a leather bound Bible. Reads Corinthians for the entire ride. I put in my iPod earbuds. Scroll for music. Schubert’s piano Impromptus. Sit back. Finish my box of raisins.

Home in Queens. Jessie the cat rubs lovingly against my legs. Purring … “rrrrrr”. The ball of fur missed me. Can of salmon for her. Glass of wine for me. Day of blessings. Day of grace. Day of reminders, reinforcements, interactions, and taking nothing for granted.

From that day, my one minute gesture poses sketched by Bob Palevitz … in detail:

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Sustaining Days

Modeling by me. Sketches, notes, and anatomy lesson by Minerva Durham. Wednesday afternoon, 293 Broome St, New York City:

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So what have you all been doing the past few days? 😉 Hopefully being sustained, as I have, by doing what rewards you, challenges you, nourishes you, and galvanizes you through the tedium. I am grateful for my livelihood an an artist’s model, and privileged to work with inspiring individuals like Minerva, the best life drawing instructor in New York City.

It’s a busy time of year. So when I’m not blogging, you know what I’m doing! Early wishes for a happy Thanksgiving to all. See you back here very soon … peace, friends.

A Vote for Louis

So I’ve been avoiding like the plague any references to the Presidential election on this blog. “Plague” seems an apt word to describe everything that’s been going on, doesn’t it? Thankfully, my readers don’t come here for that stuff. Also, my readers comprise a diversity of political views and I respect that. Honestly, the whole election process goes on far too long in my opinion. This shit needs to be shortened by at least seven months. I’ve reached the point where I just want this purgatory to end. Tomorrow, mercifully, is the day.

But rather than evade the subject entirely – as I am a voting, tax-paying American citizen after all – I’ll just say that my cynicism and disdain for political personalities, and the whole unethical, dirty business of it, runs deep. Not that I wish ill will on anyone, mind you. But I’m starting to believe that there is something inherently wired in the character of people who devote themselves to pursuing power and high political office. That trait – a certain brand of ambition –  is something that I approach warily. Maybe I’ve just read “Macbeth” too many times. It’s one of my top three favorite Shakespeare plays. This whole election season brings to mind a quote from Act I: “And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray’s in deepest consequence.” Where is Banquo when we need him?

While today may be the Monday before Election Day, it’s still Music Monday here on Museworthy. And I think we could all use a reminder that America has produced cultural figures of sublime quality, talents, and inspiration. Politicians should take note.

In what I think is one of the finest jazz musician portraits I’ve ever seen, this is Louis Armstrong in 1956, photographed by the great Bob Willoughby. Look at that smile. The smile of a man who never forgot where he came from; born into poverty in New Orleans, son of a prostitute, grandson of slaves, sent to the Colored Waif’s Home for Boys when he was 11 years old. Grew up to become a virtuoso musician and the most innovative, influential trumpeter in music history. Enjoy the track below. I hope it dances through your head as you go to the polls tomorrow 🙂

LouisArmstrong

“He was born poor, died rich, and never hurt anyone along the way.”
– Duke Ellington on Louis Armstrong