Giving and Receiving

I’m not embarrassed to admit that I take better care of my cat Jessie than I do of myself. She eats better than I do, sleeps better than I do, looks better than I do, gets better medical care than I do, and has more leisure time than I do. Her life is one of unfettered individual liberty. She commits violent crimes by killing birds and mice and answers to no one, and can roam freely outdoors and trespass on my neighbors’ property with impunity. Why can’t I trespass on my neighbors’ property? 😆 The other day I purchased for Jessie a brand new cat bed – soft, cushiony, and a bit more expensive than I can really afford on my shoestring budget. But like I said, she is the beneficiary of my limited largesse. And I’m not alone. In 2017, it was estimated that Americans spent almost $70 billion on their pets. Billion. 

So I presented the cat bed to Jessie, and for six whole days this is how she responded to it. “Eh? What is this thing? I’ll stick with the floor”. Dammit! The cat bed was a bust.

Yes, it’s funny. And at least Jessie blends in beautifully with the colors and pattern of my rug, doesn’t she? So then I was modeling for Kamilla Talbot‘s watercolor class and showed the picture to everyone. After a few laughs, one of the students suggested that, since cats are somewhat turned off by unfamiliar things, I should put an article of my clothing on the bed so she can smell me. Seemed worth a try. I placed my folded sweatpants on the cat bed and, lo and behold, here’s my sweet girl. Cat bed: Take Two. Mission accomplished! Never thought my purple sweatpants had such magical powers.

There is, of course, much more to give in this life than overpriced cat beds. Our time for one thing. So after tending to my pampered feline, I turned to my fellow humans and had the privilege of volunteering with my favorite local outreach organization, NYC Relief. Their primary service is the Relief Bus, a mobile soup kitchen that serves at various locations throughout the city. I blogged about it in 2017. On this day, I helped out at the Relief Co-op in lower Manhattan where we distributed clothing and other items to New Yorkers in need while they awaited Life Care consultations with staff members. Our clothing closet was fantastically well-stocked, and the volunteer team worked attentively as “personal shoppers” for each client. It was a great day.

For those of who you are on Instagram, I recommend following NYC Relief there. They post wonderful photographs and stories: @nyc_relief

Matthew 25:35-40

Children of the Arts

When my father died in December 2004, my mother, my brother, and I managed to organize the funeral arrangements as we not only processed our heartbreak, but also while in a collective state of shell-shock. Numbing, bewildering shock. Dad died suddenly, you see. He collapsed onto his bedroom floor, brought down by a catastrophic stroke. He was dead in an instant. As the three of us spent the next couple of days making phone calls, sorting through old photos and mementos, writing our eulogies, and comforting each other in our grief, we agreed to let family and friends know that in lieu of flowers they should make a donation to the Save the Music Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to preserving music education in public schools. For those of you who may not know, my father was a musician – a trumpet player who once contemplated a career trading stocks on Wall Street but opted for one in music instead. He supported his family, paid the bills, and put food on the table for over forty years by playing his trumpet.

Arts education in schools in an issue near and dear to my heart, and to my family’s heart. I was reminded of this subject with the recent passing of Roy Hargrove, jazz trumpet player and Grammy award winner, who burst onto the scene during the 1980s. I distinctly remember overhearing my Dad ask a fellow musician, “Have you heard this kid Hargrove?”. To say there was a ‘buzz’ surrounding him in jazz circles would be an understatement.

Born in Waco, Texas, Roy Hargrove attended the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas. It was there that the 16 year old Hargrove was discovered by Wynton Marsalis who was blown away by the young trumpeter’s skills and took him under his wing. The Booker T Washington School was originally founded in 1892 as a school for African-American students. During the 1970s it was transformed into an “arts magnet”; a public school with specialized curricula devoted to arts study.

Here in New York City, magnet schools of all kinds, both arts and academic, have been an integral part of our public school system for decades. (When I was growing up we didn’t call them magnets, we called them “specialized schools”). From the Bronx High School of Science, to Art and Design in midtown, to the old High School of Music and Art which resided adjacent to the City College campus in Harlem, to the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Queens, magnets have provided the young people of NYC with priceless opportunities for enrichment, to grow, thrive, and explore their innate talents. I know many, many people – native New Yorkers all – who are alumni of our city’s arts magnet schools, and every one of them will attest to the significance of their high school experience and speak with tremendous fondness for that period in their life. It far surpasses their feelings about college.

Innate talent was something Roy Hargrove had in spades. Would he have found success had he not attended an arts magnet? It’s impossible to know. But we do know that his future mentor, Wynton Marsalis, found him there. Marsalis wrote a magnificent, deeply touching tribute to his protégé on his Facebook page. The news of Hargrove’s death was quite shocking, as he was only 49 years old. The NPR obituary for him is worth reading. This descriptive passage stands out:

“A briskly assertive soloist with a tone that could evoke either burnished steel or a soft, golden glow, Hargrove was a galvanizing presence in jazz over the last 30 years. Dapper and slight of build, he exuded a sly, sparkling charisma onstage, whether he was holding court at a late-night jam session or performing in the grandest concert hall. His capacity for combustion and bravura was equaled by his commitment to lyricism, especially when finessing a ballad on flugelhorn.”

For our Music Monday, we pay tribute to both Roy Hargrove and all the young creatives encouraged and celebrated at arts magnets throughout the country. While we all go about our days living our busy lives, remember that in a school somewhere in America, a teenager is sitting in a music room practicing on her violin, or gathering with classmates after lunch to jam some jazz riffs, or choreographing an original dance number. Those young people need us. More importantly, we need them. And props to Booker T Washington School for the Arts in Dallas. Keep up the great work! Here’s Roy and his band killing it at the Newport Jazz Festival in 2001. RIP.

Model Musings

Greetings from a recently baked and broiled New York City! The hellish heat wave has now passed, thank God. Still, summer is in full swing, and for nude art models working during this season it means no need for studio space heaters 😆

Speaking of art modeling, Museworthy reader and model Dave kindly sent me an article that I thought was well written and enjoyable. “The naked truth about nude art modeling” by Robin Eileen Bernstein. One of the models quoted in the article, Alan, is a good friend of mine. The piece has lots of good insights throughout. Folks interested in the subject as either artist or model might want to give it a read. Thanks for sharing, Dave!

And since we’re talking about posing nude, here is a work-in-progress of my torso from an ongoing summer gig, Sculpting the Figure at the New York Academy of Art. By Matt White:

Heavenly Bodies

Every spring the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute puts on a themed exhibition. It is launched with the star-studded, red carpet Costume Gala – a fundraiser chaired by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. While previous themes have been hit or miss, this year’s theme, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination”, is enigmatic and quite spellbinding. Now I’m no fashionista by any means. The lone black Calvin Klein party dress in my closet is my one go-to garment for special occasions. And I bought it on sale! 😆 But it can’t be denied that couture designers are true artists. They are full of creative expression, vision, and virtuosity, doing things with silk, satin, tulle, chiffon, beading, draping, and accessorizing that I couldn’t imagine ever doing myself. Pairing these designers with the Catholicism theme would naturally produce an exhibition that is theatrical, intense, mystical, and visually dazzling.

The Catholic faith practice utilizes a treasure trove of accoutrements and adornments. It is rich and elaborate, beautiful in its devotion and layered depths and textures, with saints, statues, and icons, incense and chalices, veils and intricate vestments, Madonnas and Virgin Marys, angels and archangels, holy water and rosary beads, Latin mass and “in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti”. Put these inspirational elements in the hands of fashion creatives and you have quite a show. But as one would expect, this year’s theme also brought its share of controversy. While New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan was completely supportive and even attended the gala, other Catholic voices and clergy were not so approving, calling the display sacrilegious and profane. They were particularly offended when pop star Rihanna showed up wearing a miter – the headdress that is worn only by bishops.

I recently attended the exhibition with my dear friend Janet Cook and we really enjoyed experiencing it together. So much fun! I want to share some of my photos here. “Heavenly Bodies” is on display in three locations: there are papal robes and accessories on loan from the Vatican in the Anna Wintour Costume Center. No photos were allowed there, but they’re definitely worth seeing. Then there are the fashions displayed throughout the Byzantine and medieval wing of the Met. And third are more garments and objects uptown at the Met Cloisters. My photos are just from the medieval wing. “Heavenly Bodies” is on view until October 8, so if you’re visiting New York this summer, check it out!

Angel wings by Alexander McQueen:

Christian Lacroix:

Thierry Mugler:

Valentino:

Dolce and Gabbana:

Riccardo Tisci:

Yves Saint Laurent:

Various designers in the ‘Celestial Hierarchy’ gallery:

A row of glittery Versace:

John Galliano:

This Jean Paul Gaultier was one of mine and Janet’s favorites:

And this is the one that got us in trouble. The description said the fabric was jersey, and Janet and I wanted to touch it. So Janet, for what seemed like only a millisecond, touched the fabric between her fingers. Sure enough, a hawk-eyed Met guard came right over to us and said, “Ma’am, ma’am, please, you can’t do that!”. Busted. We apologized, then laughed and cowered away in shame 😆

Alphabet City with Fred

Today is the birthday of my very dear friend Fred Hatt. Happy Birthday Fred!!!! 🙂 Fred and I are both celebrating significant birthdays this year: 60 for him, 50 for me (July). So to commemorate our milestone decades we plan to prolong the party through the summer and deal with aging in the best possible way; by having fun, appreciating each other, and enjoying the big city we both call home.

Last Thursday night Fred and I attended an event in the East Village; “I Ching Alchemy” sculptures and video projection show by our mutual friend Lili White. It was held outdoors in Le Petit Versailles Garden between Avenue A and B – the section of downtown Manhattan known as ‘Alphabet City’. Nobody is better at converting dumpy urban lots into community gardens than East Villagers. They have a gift for it. The space of the Petit Versailles garden was, decades ago, an auto chop shop. Now it’s flower beds, trees, little rock-lined paths, pottery shards, empty picture frames, glass balls, mirrors, ribbons, strings of skull head lights, Tibetan figurines, loose tiles, and any quirky found object that occupies a spot. A busted ceramic urn? Stick it in there. It’s a garden folks, East Village style. The residents down there are fiercely civic-minded, and they will take care of things themselves if the city ignores them. Actually, they prefer it that way. And if raising rents force some thrift shop or vinyl record store out of business they have a collective meltdown 😆

Hanging out with Fred means seeing him suddenly whip out his camera to snap a photo. Nothing escapes this man’s eye! He spotted the shadow shapes that formed on the brick face of the building, just around dusk. With the warm glow of the light strings it created an interesting vision. So I took a photo myself:

The 1958 baby and the 1968 baby 🙂 Fred and I, selfie in the garden. My brilliant, beautiful best buddy whose friendship I value beyond words. The very first friend I made as an artist’s model.

Drawing of me by Fred from 2015. Created at Figureworks Gallery in Brooklyn:

It’s not a Music Monday but we’ll have a Music Tuesday instead! As Lili’s video installation projected onto the side of the building, a fantastic old song accompanied her images. A great choice that truly reflected the spirit of the evening. Please enjoy “Wake Up Everybody” by Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, a classic R&B song from 1975. Buoyant, catchy, uplifting, meaningful. So good. You’ll be up and dancing by the end. 🙂

Paintings and Parties

Hellooooo Museworthy!! The muse is here. You didn’t think I forgot about the blog, did you? Never! Still I apologize for the sparse postings. April is a very busy art modeling month so I’ve just been doing that, and paying taxes, and trying to attend yoga class when I can. One more hectic week coming up and then my schedule lightens up a bit and I can get back to more leisurely things like writing, gardening, and reading.

I’ve spent a good amount of time lately at the New York Academy of Art, the city’s foremost graduate school and MFA program. Last month I had the pleasure of modeling for a two-day Master Class taught by Steven Assael, during which he carried out one of his renowned painting demos. As I sat for the portrait, I observed as the students were quietly transfixed on Steven’s work. Not surprising, of course, as he is one of the most highly esteemed representational artists of his generation. And a really nice guy too. Great working with him.

In addition to master classes, thesis critiques, special lectures, and student open studio nights, the Academy was also gearing up for the Tribeca Ball, the school’s annual fundraiser where art world insiders, celebrities, and other glitterati come to mingle and get their pictures taken. I did not attend the Tribeca Ball (I’m not a glitterati!) but I did take pictures of the gallery while it was being prepared for the big night. This year’s theme was “Poetic Astronomy”, and the decor had an appropriately celestial feeling.

From the Academy’s Instagram page, some photos of the models who worked that night and the artists sketching:

I did attend a party that was less glamorous but just as much fun. A birthday party for my sister-in-law Gayle, just two weeks after she had hip replacement surgery! If you can imagine a 59 year old woman in a black evening dress playing hostess while limping around with a cane, that’s Gayle 🙂 Here’s a photo of me at the party with Gayle’s daughter, my lovely and hilarious niece Olivia.

Hope you’re all well, my friends. I’ll see you back here very soon 🙂

Women in Red

On the night of a severe windstorm here in the NYC area last week, as trees were ripped out of the ground at the roots and toppled over, power lines downed, and garbage cans and their contents were blown all over the streets, I bundled up and braced myself to head outside in the typhoon-like conditions. It was a wild night. I placed in the trunk of my car a shopping bag full of clothing to bring to the women’s shelter at Church on the Hill in Flushing, Queens where I was scheduled to serve for the evening. Among my clothing haul was a lovely red open style cardigan sweater that I found on sale at Macy’s the day before. At a 35% markdown it was a terrific bargain. It was so pretty and stylish that I was tempted to keep it for myself!

The bus from the Olivieri Center – a drop-in facility for the homeless on Manhattan’s west side – arrived at the church around 7:00, and we were ready to greet the eight women who would be spending the night. I placed the red sweater and my other items where all the clothing donations were laid out, making sure everything was neatly folded and well displayed. As I assisted with serving coffee, chicken and salad, I kept one eye on the clothing browsing to see if anyone would choose the red sweater. Sure enough, I saw one of the younger women unfold the sweater and hold it up against herself to assess the size. I dropped what I was doing and scooted right over to her. “That color is great on you!” I said, and it was. She smiled and replied, “This is nice. This is really, really nice.” The red sweater was claimed! And I was filled with joy. The woman then asked me to help her choose some other things, and we spent a good amount of time putting together outfits, sharing conversation and laughs.

The next morning I had a modeling job at the National Art League. I’ve posed for this particular class before and am aware that they often opt for a portrait sitting rather than a figure pose. So to provide a dash of color in case I needed it, I grabbed one of my scarves (and as a scarf person I have many!) before I headed out the door. I chose my red one. Was it a conscious choice to honor the young homeless woman who rode back to Manhattan that morning with the nifty red cardigan? Yeah, I think so. Here’s to the women in red 🙂

And as predicted, I did sit for portrait that morning and I did wear the red scarf as a color accent. Artist Paul David Elsen created this splendid alla prima painting of my pose: