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

Mirror Image

In my experiences modeling for figure drawing classes I’ve seen teachers instruct a class to try drawing with their non-dominant hands. Obviously the resulting drawings are not – nor are they intended to be – artistic masterpieces. It’s just an exercise. But the looks of puzzlement on the artists’ faces afterward is amusing to see. I can relate though, as I have not an ounce of ambidexterity in me. I’m right-handed and anything I write with my left hand is barely legible. I’m right-dominant even beyond writing. I balance better on my right leg than on my left. When performing workout exercises, such as lunges and reverse lunges, side planks, etc, I feel more stable doing them on my right side than on my left. I can’t hammer a nail in the wall with my left hand, can’t throw a frisbee with my left hand. The list goes on.

They say that a mere 1% of people are fully and naturally ambidextrous. That’s quite an exclusive club! It’s all about our brain hemispheres and the degree of symmetry between the right and left sides of the brain. Michelangelo was ambidextrous, as was Benjamin Franklin, Nikola Tesla, and Albert Einstein. NBA superstar LeBron James is ambidextrous, along with some other famous athletes who display ambidexterity in their respective sports, such as tennis player Maria Sharapova and soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo.

Perhaps the most famous ambidextrous figure in history is the original “Renaissance Man”; the one and only Leonardo da Vinci. And as if his genius and ambidexterity weren’t impressive enough, da Vinci took it a step further. He was adept at the skill of “mirror writing”. Mirror writing is writing that is backwards – from right to left – and can’t easily be read on the page, but appears normal when reflected in a mirror. I remember, as a young child, not understanding why the word “AMBULANCE” was written backwards on the front of the emergency vehicle. My dad explained to me that it was so the word could be read in the rear view mirrors of drivers on the road. That’s an example of mirror writing in the world around us.

In this page from his notebooks exploring the anatomy of the arm, Da Vinci’s notes are done in mirror writing:

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So the question is, why did da Vinci do mirror writing? The answer is we don’t know for sure. It remains a mystery although speculations have been offered. One theory is that he wanted to retain some degree of secrecy with regard to his studies and discoveries. Let’s say some idiot troublemaker broke into Leonardo’s studio and stole his notebooks. He’d later look through them, thinking he got his hands on the genius’s precious work, and ask, “What the hell is this? Dammit!”. Another theory is that the mirror writing provided better neatness. da Vinci painted with both his left and right hands, but he wrote with his left hand, and as you southpaws out there can attest, smudges and smears can be a nuisance when writing right-to-left. Yet another theory – my favorite – is that da Vinci simply enjoyed mirror writing and found that it fueled his creativity and intellect. He’s Leonardo da Vinci, after all, so why the hell not? 🙂

You’ve all seen this iconic study of human proportions. It’s da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man”, c. 1490, again with notes written in mirror writing:

Vitruvian Man c. 1492.

So because I felt inspired by a brilliant polymath like Leonardo da Vinci, I decided to do my own mirror writing. I did it with my right hand … and it still sucks! Thought I was running out of space and got jammed. I took a picture of it in reflection. For what it’s worth, I actually have pretty nice handwriting when it’s done normally. Now if only I can come up with some engineering inventions, timeless portraiture, and detailed anatomical studies, then I’ll be on my way to greatness. Watch out, Leo! 😆

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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

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.

Pumpkinhead

A dear friend of mine – someone very special to me – had a birthday this weekend. So I emailed him an artwork that I knew would make him smile. It did 🙂 Then, while modeling today, it occurred to me that it might make a fun Museworthy Halloween post.

The work is a ‘self-portrait’ by Jamie Wyeth – son of Andrew Wyeth and grandson of N.C. Wyeth. Yes, it is a man with a pumpkin head. I will let Jamie Wyeth himself explain how this painting came to be, with an excerpt from an interview he gave with a public radio station in Boston:

“I had been elected to the National Academy of Design in New York, and one of the requirements was that you give a portrait, a self-portrait of yourself. Well, I didn’t want to do myself in a self-portrait, but I love pumpkins. It’s the sinisterness, the Halloween I’ve always loved. It’s a little bit edgy. So I did it and of course they were furious and rejected it.”

Pumpkinhead, 1972:

jamiewyeth-pumpkinhead

That Jamie Wyeth submitted this odd, quirky pumpkinhead as his ‘self-portrait’ membership requirement to a panel of stuffy academicians might be my new favorite art anecdote. A scion of a family of great artists, who have been unfairly dismissed by the fine art establishment as mere “illustrators”, submits an offbeat work instead of something safe and traditional. Gotta love it. Team Wyeth all the way!

Happy Halloween everyone! I’ll see you all very soon with cool stuff, photos, updates, drawings and dispatches from the modeling platform. Peace, friends.

Départ pour le Sabbat by Albert Joseph Pénot, 1910:

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Hail Jupiter

I hadn’t planned to post a Music Monday this week. Right now it’s 10:30 PM New York time and I’ve decided to squeeze one in just under the wire because of a video I came across on Classic fm, a UK-based classical music site I visit from time to time. In the post, “The awe-inspiring counterpoint in Mozart’s final symphony”, musicologist Richard Atkinson provides an analysis of the symphony’s breathtaking and majestic finale. The symphony, No 41, is known as the “Jupiter” symphony, and it was Mozart’s last and longest. The Jupiter is universally adored and held in the highest esteem as one of the greatest symphonic works ever composed. It’s hard to argue with that status, which is probably why nobody ever does.

I have blogged about Mozart previously. That post touched upon a particular aspect of his genius. The video below illustrates the actual complex workmanship that Mozart employed. Atkinson uses the language of music theory to show us precisely how Mozart achieved the brilliant musical effects he did, with a nuts-and-bolts breakdown. He also uses color coding to highlight the recurrent themes and motifs which I found helpful. Back in my piano studying days my teacher would give me worksheets in music theory, and the more advanced they became the more confused I got! Challenging for mere mortals like me, but simple oxygen for Mozart. But I do love the vocabulary of music theory: counterpoint, intervals, triads.

The Jupiter symphony is a piece that, when you listen to it, you want to shout, “Go Wolfgang, go!! Yeah!!“. Pure joy. Pure uplift. The gleaming musical diamond atop the canon of Western civilization.

I know my fellow classical music geeks will appreciate this. And I also think everyone can enjoy the feeling of underachieving slackerdom and inferiority that comes when exposed to Mozart’s genius. Just kidding! I kid 😉

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For those less inclined to classical music deconstruction, something else from Classic fm – a doodle by Mozart on his music sheet. The lovely lady was his pupil, Barbara Ployer. I wonder if Mozart taught her any counterpoint?

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