Connecting the Dots

The month of July, now coming to an end, heaped a load of emotional turmoil upon me. I suppose, in a cruel joke sort of way, it’s fitting that it occurred in the month of my birthday. A week ago, I turned 48 years old, and though I would have much preferred to celebrate it downing margaritas and dancing til dawn, I spent most of it sloshing around in the morass. I wish it was possible to drown the monsters, to forcefully hold their heads underwater and bring an end, once for all, to the ogres of loneliness, regret, and self-doubt. But they are, I fear, undrownable.

As I glumly took a walk in the park on my birthday – that hot, sticky day, July 22nd, having been day one of the New York City heat wave – a turn of phrase that had impacted me once before poked its way again into my consciousness when I strolled past the softball fields: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward”. That is Steve Jobs, from his 2005 commencement address at Stanford University. As someone who tends to beat herself up about past decisions and questionable choices, I am astonished at Jobs’ remarkable ability to spin all the events of his life, including the failures, the ugly battles, and humiliations, into mere spokes on the wheel of a larger, fulfilling destiny. I’m astonished because it is an art I have not mastered. Not even close. I mean, this is a man who declares that, in hindsight, dropping out of college was one of his best decisions … to a class of recent college graduates! Who else but Steve Jobs could get away with that? This was also a man who, in 2005 when he delivered this address, was much closer to death than he knew.

My art modeling work is done for the rest of the summer, except for a weekly portrait class on Long Island through August. But in the weeks leading up now, New York’s art community graciously sent me off into my hiatus with much needed expressions of appreciation for what I do. It was wonderful. After every July gig came an enthusiastic verbal validation of my modeling. Where did this come from? From the ladies at the 92nd St Y to the diverse group of sketchers at Battery Park and even to the high schoolers in the pre-college summer art program at FIT, I was treated to the most generous words; “You are so fun to draw!”, “Your poses are beautiful!”, “You’re the best model I’ve ever seen!”, “It’s been a pleasure working with you”. Now, I’m not entirely convinced that I’m deserving of such praise, especially given my dejected mood of late, but gosh am I ever grateful. And it offset the emotional turmoil I alluded to at the start of this post. I could not have needed those complimentary words more than I did this past month. Like a gallon of water for a thirsty soul.

I’ve blogged more than a few times about the profound value art modeling holds for me, most recently in this post from May. So I think I may have actualized at least one of Steve Jobs’ commencement speech themes; allowing your inner voice to lead you to your passion and “find what you love”. Passions are, truly, what propel us through our lives, push us through adversity, and imbue us with a sense of purpose. The purpose for most of us, unlike Steve Jobs, may not be grand or revolutionary or trailblazing, but it’s purpose all the same. Obviously we can’t all possess the creative vision and business acumen of Apple’s co-founder, but we can all answer inspiration’s call.

I still have to work on the “connecting the dots” bit however. When I reflect backwards, as Steve Jobs proclaimed, I can’t see it in the collected experiences of my own life. The dots just aren’t connecting. Yes I made ONE good decision ten years ago which introduced me to a passion that had been dwelling inside me. But all the rest? I can’t piece it together like a triumphant puzzle the way Jobs did, no matter how hard I try. Maybe, someday, it will all make sense to me. But not now.

Sketch of me .. still reaching, still actively standing, still stepping forward … by Giovanni Lipari:

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Rocking the Stairway

“There’s only so many notes on a f*cking guitar!”. Those are the eloquent words of one Ozzy Osbourne, when asked his opinion about the recent legal victory for Led Zeppelin. As you may have heard, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant were hauled into a Los Angeles courtroom for a plagiarism suit brought by the estate of Randy Wolfe of the American band Spirit. The suit alleged that Led Zeppelin stole from Wolfe the iconic opening guitar chords of Zep’s famous epic song “Stairway to Heaven”As many people predicted, Led Zeppelin was exonerated.

If you crave more of Ozzy’s assessment of this matter go to this Rolling Stone article to read the rest of his profanity-laced interview😆

Also, I blogged about this topic – Led Zeppelin and their copyright infringement issues – in a Museworthy post from 2014 for anyone who might be interested.

A reminder to everyone that submissions are open for the Museworthy Portraits and Pets art show. I haven’t set a date for the show yet so of course you still have time. But do feel free to send your piece whenever you’re ready. Everyone is welcome to participate! I’m still working on mine:-)

I’ll be back very soon with another blog post. In the meantime, here is Led Zeppelin, in their prime, performing “Stairway to Heaven” live. Robert Plant is in full “golden god” glory, and Jimmy Page is pure rock and roll. Around 9:52 is my favorite part. For Music Monday:

The Ladies of Liberty

I’ve always found it heartily satisfying that throughout history “liberty” is depicted as a woman. Ladies, how cool is that?:-)  From the majestically imposing figure of the Statue of Liberty that rises above New York harbor, to Eugène Delacroix’s bare-breasted French flag-waver in Liberty Leading the People, women have provided the allegorical symbol of freedom since the classical age.

One of my personal favorites is the Statue of Freedom in Washington, D.C. A 19 foot tall bronze female figure, designed by American sculptor Thomas Crawford, which stands atop the dome of U.S. Capitol building. This is one badass gal. I’d honestly like to walk around in this get-up; the sword, the eagle-feather headdress, the fringed toga. Fabulous!

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The idea to blog about this topic came to me this morning at church, when a fellow parishioner handed me the program for the day’s service. In honor of the 4th of July weekend Fr. Byrne selected this lovely vintage Lady Liberty illustration for the cover:

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The church program reminded me of this superb lithograph by Currier and Ives,  again Lady Liberty with the American flag. This is Star-Spangled Banner from the online collection of the Library of Congress. Wonderful composition.

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A stunning $20 gold coin of Lady Liberty bearing olive branch and torch, minted 1921, designed by the renowned American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. From the National Museum of American History:

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A happy Independence Day to my readers in the United States, and blessings of liberty, goodwill, and inspiration to all. Let freedom ring …

Sing for Hope

For two weeks in the spring, the five boroughs of New York City are treated to a delightful public art project sponsored by Sing for Hope, a non-profit organization committed to bringing the arts to the public, particularly to those segments most in need. Arts education in public schools is a cause near and dear to my heart, having been raised in a family of artists and musicians. The Sing for Hope Pianos installation places fifty one-of-a-kind pianos all painted by local artists, in a communal space -usually a park or plaza – for the public to freely enjoy. After the two weeks, the pianos are then placed in permanent homes in schools, healthcare facilities, and community centers around the city. Absolutely wonderful. Sing for Hope was conceived and founded by arts advocates Monica Yunus and Camille Zamora, both opera singers and alumni of New York’s renowned Julliard School.

So when I drove over to the Queens County Farm last week to check out the early seasonal pickings from the farm stand, I checked out its Sing for Hope piano, which looked lovely against the historic farmhouse. This piano, called “The Wayside Rose”, was created by Brooklyn-based artist/printmaker Jamie Wilen, and I share my photo here for Music Monday:

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The piano was also just a few feet away from the farm’s herb garden, which is already thriving! (Too early for tomatoes, but they’re worth the wait.)

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I’ve gained quite a few new blog followers over the past few weeks. To all of you, thank you and welcome! I’d like to share two older posts that relate somewhat to this one: a Music Monday that I dedicated to my childhood piano teacher and a post from last summer inspired by the Queens Farm.

It’s unlikely that any of the passersby sat down and performed concert soloist-level virtuosity on the Sing for Hope pianos on their lunch breaks … but hey, you never know! We’ll conclude our Music Monday with the mind-blowing excellence of my favorite pianist, Vladimir Ashkenazy. This is him playing the third movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No: 23 “Appassionata”. Folks, it’s insane. I don’t know what Beethoven was thinking apart from his usual genius self, but this is something that for anyone other than a professional concert pianist is pretty much unplayable. Ashkenazy sounds like he has two sets of hands. A sublimely gifted and expressive musician. The final two minutes of this is simply riveting. Enjoy, and have a great week everyone!:-)

Welcome to Minerva’s Drawing Studio

Some of you may remember that I blogged many months ago about the imminent closing of Minerva Durham’s life drawing studio on Spring Street in the SoHo section of Manhattan. And longtime readers know well that Spring Studio has always been, hands down, my favorite place to model. I have since mentioned, in a post or two, that Minerva has found a new space in which to set up shop, and do what she does better than anybody: keep daily, open life drawing alive in New York City. A few readers have requested a formal introduction to the new space and I’m happy to oblige! First, a brief homage to the old Spring Studio with a photo of its distinctive red door, and the staircase descending into the basement studio we loved and depended on for so many years. Farewell 64 Spring Street. You are missed.

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And now ladies and gentleman, the sign and door of the new incarnation, renamed Minerva’s Drawing Studio! Broome Street, in the heart of Chinatown, just around the corner from the Grand St subway station. The excellent dumpling shop around the corner on Eldridge Street is enjoying a burst of new business customers from snacking artists!

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The Broome St studio space differs from the Spring Street space in two significant ways: it is above ground on street level, and it is blessed with natural light that bathes the room through tall windows overlooking a private courtyard. Upon entry, visitors are greeted by this marvelous large cityscape painted many years ago by Minerva Durham herself. Edward Hopper would be envious!

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Minerva has held onto the trusty half-circle arrangement with two “tiers” of seating for the artists to choose from. That’s me relaxing on the platform during the long break last Tuesday. Thank you Bruce for taking this photo!

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And I took this photo looking above from the platform; the model’s lighting, and I really like the ceiling tile design. Lovely detail.

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During the move between studios Minerva had to sell off or throw out a lot of her accumulated things, as the new studio is smaller and has less storage space. But this guy could never be left behind – an essential player in Minerva’s anatomy lessons:

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I was on the modeling schedule at the Spring Street studio into its last days, and I was on the schedule at the new studio in its first days … a transition that has defined for me – professionally and personally – the supreme sense of loyalty, purpose, and belonging that I’ve always felt from Minerva’s mission, her circle, and her stewardship. As an artist’s model, it is an honor to be aligned with this journey, and this courageous, inspiring woman I admire.

At the opening reception for the new studio back in January, Minerva spoke to the crowd and welcomed everyone to the new space. In the true spirit of this community, a man took the opportunity to sketch Minerva as she spoke:

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A pencil and pastel sketch of me by Chuck Connelly, from last week:

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And from the same session, a quick sketch by Jerilyn Jurinek. I was in a reclined-pose kind of mood that day:-)

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Amrita Sher-Gil

She has been called “the Indian Frida Kahlo”. To a fellow 20th century female painter with the same fearless and rebellious spirit as the Mexican icon, the moniker is no doubt a great compliment. Though her life and career were brief, Amrita Sher-Gil defied conventional norms and left a legacy as India’s most celebrated woman artist of the modern era.

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She came into the world blessed with privileged circumstances, and was reared with an Indo-European cultural identity that would shape her sensibilities as she matured. Amrita Sher-Gil was born in Budapest in 1913 to highly accomplished and well-connected parents. Her father was a Sikh aristocrat and scholar, and her mother was a Hungarian opera singer. Both of them encouraged and supported their daughter’s art education and training. The family moved to Shimla in northern India when Amrita was a child and she began creating her first artworks at the age of five. By the time she was in her teens Amrita, accompanied by her mother, was studying sculpture in Italy and, later, painting in France at the esteemed Ecole des Beaux Arts.

With the requisite formal academic training under her belt, Amrita was ready to discover her authentic voice. I find it fascinating how a young woman in the 1920s and 30s, whose experiences overlapped between the European west, British Raj, and traditional India, manages to find a sense of cultural belonging. Amrita’s fiercely independent spirit and fervent curiosity surely helped her navigate the unique cultural patchwork in which she found herself. In photos of Amrita taken during various stages of her life, she appears in some of them wearing traditional Indian dress, and in others wearing bathing suits and fashionable western clothing.

During her years in Paris, Amrita drew profound inspiration from the works of Cezanne, and post-Impressionists like Gauguin and van Gogh. Gauguin, with his subjects of native people and village life, and use of bold lines and rich palettes, became a particularly strong influence and is evident in many of Sher-Gil’s paintings.

Hungarian Gypsy Girl, 1932:

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One of Amrita’s most well-known works, this is Three Girls, 1935. It was her first painting upon returning to India from Europe. She wrote, “I realized my real artistic mission, to interpret the life of Indians and particularly the poor Indians pictorially; to paint those silent images of infinite submission and patience,… to reproduce on canvas the impression those sad eyes created on me.”

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Painting of Sumair, Amrita’s cousin, 1936:

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A lovely photo of a smiling Amrita with three of her paintings:

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In 1938, against her parents’ wishes, Amrita married her first cousin on the Hungarian side of her family, Victor Egan, and returned to India for good. Amrita realized that she was destined to paint in India and India alone, never having felt completely comfortable, artistically, in Europe. As she put it, “There [Europe] I was not natural and honest because I was born with a certain thirst for colour and in Europe the colours are pale – everything is pale.” The couple first settled in Uttar Pradesh, where Amrita immersed herself in painting themes of rural Indian life and the struggling poor, particularly the women and children, whom she portrayed with solemn empathy.

Hill Women:

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Part of Sher-Gil’s “South Indian Trilogy”, this is Bride’s Toilet, 1937:

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In 1941, Amrita and Victor moved to Lahore (present day Pakistan). Then, tragically, Amrita fell ill and slipped into a coma in December of that year. The cause of death is not known, although it’s been speculated to have been possibly food poisoning, peritonitis, or a botched abortion. She was only 28 years old. A woman of liberated modern mind who chose to remain artistically faithful to her indigenous roots. Frida Kahlo approves.

Portraits and Pets

My friends, it’s been far too long since we’ve had a Museworthy Art Show. Since December 2013 to be exact. We are way overdue for another one, so let’s do it! Here’s the plan: people can begin submitting works starting Memorial Day, May 30, all the way through the spring and most of the summer. Plenty of time! And by all means take your time, no rush at all. I’d like to publish the show post around mid-August, at which time the post will stay at the top of Museworthy while I take a little blogging break until Labor Day. Hope that sounds okay with everyone.

Our theme is “Portraits and Pets”, so you can choose one or the other. Many of you artists probably have a portrait in your collection all ready to go, and that’s great. Or you can create something new. For those choosing the pet option, we welcome dogs, cats, birds … any companion creature that inspires you to create a piece of art, like Matisse did with his “Goldfish”. As always, I will be participating right along with you. All mediums are welcome; oil, acrylic, pencil, pastel, crayon, watercolor, mixed media, collage, digital, iPad, sculpture, whatever you like! And ALL skill levels are invited – and encouraged – to participate, from beginner to advanced … because this is Museworthy and joyful expression is the most important thing here.

I will post periodic reminders over the next few weeks. And if you have any questions you can post them in the comments or email me. When you send your image, write “Museworthy Art Show” in the subject line, and make sure to include your full name, location, artwork title, and medium. I anticipate a charming and captivating array of works from my readers:-)

See you soon!

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