Concrete Jungle

“New York is a city of daily irritation, occasional horrors, hourly tests of will and even courage, a huge dollops of pure beauty.”
– Pete Hamill

Forty minutes early for my modeling gig at NYU, I decided to take in a little streetball at the West 4th Street Courts in the Village, better known around town as “the Cage”. Pick-up basketball in this urban mecca is not for the faint-hearted. Play hard, play gusty, trash talk… or else sit your ass down.

Springtime has arrived, and it’s bringing the rhythms, the strides, the chatter and cheer and big city sun. I’m ready! Farewell winter … until next time:-)

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The Garden, 1986

Have you ever sat third row/center at a concert? I did, once. When you’re accustomed to seeing your favorite bands from the nosebleed seats a football field-length away from the action, the third row is an experience like nothing else. Exactly how my friend Faby and I managed to snag such prime seats for the Prince concert at Madison Square Garden in the summer of 1986, I honestly can’t recall. But I can tell you it wasn’t through the box officeūüėČ

How can I describe that night seeing Prince perform live? Mesmerizing. Groovy sounds and glittering lights. A rush of adrenaline and shocks of electricity. Shiny instruments, colored smoke, thumping rhythms and sumptuous vocals. Prince’s female bandmates riffing, soloing, being utter badasses. Satin and lace. Funk and psychedelic. A legendary arena packed to the brim with the most diverse crowd of concert-goers I’ve ever seen; 15 year olds and 40 year olds, a Brooklyn Italian guy over here, a Bronx Puerto Rican woman over there. A Manhattan East Side professional, and a gaggle of girls from Long Island. Good kids and troublemakers. City and suburban. Screaming, perspiring, standing on seats and singing along with the lyrics. Prince was, in a word, spellbinding. ¬†A 5’2″ dynamo of talent, charisma, and originality.¬†

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But allow me to share the single most unforgettable detail of that night, one that I can easily replay in my mind like five frames of a film reel because, when you’re 18 years old, this kind of thing burns an indelible imprint in your memory, along with the thrills and chills that accompany it. Prince was dancing at edge of the stage. Faby and I, like I mentioned before, were in the third row. Prince was right there … so damn close it felt like if I had stood on the back of my chair I could launch right into him with one full throttle leap. The fabric of his jacket, the scarves, boots … right there .. right in front us. And then, on the downbeat of the music, he froze for two seconds .. and made eye-contact with me .. and smiled … and … WINKED!!!!! Yes!!! YES HE DID!! Faby turned to me, her mouth wide open, and the teenage girl-screams came forth in crazy shrieks. “Prince winked at you!!! Did you see that??!! Oh my God!!!!!!!”.¬†Thirty years later I can still it, vividly¬†– Prince’s big brown eye looking directly into mine. Annnnndd … W I N K !!!!! It’s my giddy, cherished memory, and no one can take it away from me.

Lest you think that Prince was an indiscriminate winker, I was wearing a purple halter top with my boobs half hanging out, and huge dangly earrings, and 25 bracelets going up my forearm, and waving my hands in the air and blowing him overt kisses all night long. So I’m fairly comfortable saying that I :ahem: got his attention. Mission: accomplishedūüėČ

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When the news broke of Prince’s death, my Mom sent me a text: “Awful news about Prince. I know you loved him from the very beginning”. Mom is right, because “very beginning” for fans like me means pre-Purple Rain. When his fame blew up and hit the mainstream, we weren’t the least bit surprised. We had recognized his talents.

In the midst of all the “grief porn” flooding the Internet, and the pretentious “thinkpieces” being penned by “cultural critics” (or whatever we’re supposed to call these people) let’s have a different take and consider the impressive state of Prince’s life when he left us at the age of 57. He died having the staunch respect and admiration of his musical peers and colleagues. He died having the loyalty of his faithful, devoted fans. He died having found spiritual enlightenment and religious awakening. And, after the epic legal battle he waged against his record company Warner Bros, he died owning his own masters – no small feat in the notoriously rapacious music business. Although fiercely private, Prince revealed himself in the way all true artists do – through his art. Over the course of his long career, we witnessed him evolve from a raunchy, seductive lothario to a teetotaling Jehovah’s Witness, metamorphosing through the personal stages of his life with the same mastery and imagination with which he navigated all styles of music. And he remained, always, a consummate musician, prolific producer, arranger, performer and songwriter. Influential. Inventive. Enigmatic. Often mystifying. We know we won’t see the likes of Prince anytime soon, if ever.

Special condolences should be expressed, by all Prince fans, to the people in and around the Minneapolis area. They lost a fellow Minnesotan, a native son, a neighbor, a supporter of the community and its music scene. When celebrities reach Prince’s level of fame and success, many of them move to a mansion in Beverly Hills, a beach house in Malibu, or a penthouse in New York. But Prince stayed right where he came from.

And no there’s nothing wrong with your tablet or your computer …. this blog post is written in purple font. Your eyes don’t deceive you!¬†Now you probably think it isn’t possible to “out-cool” Lenny Kravitz, but here’s Prince doing just that. (Sorry Lenny). Watch him shred at 4:47. This is Music Monday. Rest in Peace, purple one … and thanks for the winkūüėČ

Bring the Children

I don’t know if any of you have ever slept for 14 straight hours, but I highly recommend it. ¬†Yes, that’s what I did when came home from Manhattan on Saturday – my last day in the chaotic city until the new year. Weeks of jam-packed subways, throngs of tourists, and drunken Santa Clauses can take their toll. Feeling completely frazzled and weary from commuting and modeling , I got into bed at 7:00 PM and stayed there until 9:00 the next morning. Gotta say, it was awesome:-)

So now I can enjoy the Christmas break, yay! I look forward to holiday fun, activities at church, and hopefully catching up on some reading. I hope you all have wonderful plans as well.

I’m posting a video for Music Monday that I meant to post a few weeks ago, but I believe it got bumped for Bruno Mars! But I didn’t forget about this one. It’s delightful. Some New York City second graders were brought to Carnegie Hall for a surprise concert, and their reactions are priceless. Enjoy, my friends!

A Wing and a Prayer

As a professional art model in New York City one of my biggest fears has always been that some misfortune would befall Spring Studio, our town’s singular life drawing studio for artists of all skill levels and my absolute favorite venue in which to pose. Sadly, that day has come. Minerva Durham, Spring Studio’s founder and director, is being ousted from her space at 64 Spring Street. Why? You can probably guess why, using the words “landlord”, “market value”, “rent”, and “real estate”, not to mention the very nature of this city, its strenuous commitment to shift and transform, and its myriad David vs Goliath battles among businesses and residents with divergent interests. Here is the NY Times article about the Spring Studio situation: “SoHo Artist’s Studio, a Space Detached From Time, Is Forced to Move”. Now I don’t want to jinx anything and write about a possible new space for the studio. But if anyone has the resilience and the determination to keep their passion alive, it’s Minerva. So we’ll just leave it at that. In the meantime I, and everyone else who cherishes Spring Studio, will be keeping our fingers crossed.

On a less depressing note, my New York Mets are 1/3 of the way into a rollicking postseason run, and we diehard fans are loving every minute of it! Except for the stressful, feel-like-you’re-gonna-have-a-heart-attack parts, but hey that’s the price you pay for being in the playoffs:-) But I take nothing for granted. All the teams are formidable and they all want to win. It’s all magic and mayhem, fastballs and breaking balls, diving catches and stolen bases and utterly deranged fans!

So as of now I’m praying for my very dear friend and mentor Minerva Durham, and my beloved NY Mets. May they both survive and prevail and continue to bring joy to those who love them.

Prayer, by Kazimir Malevich. Tempera on wood, 1907:

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Art Around Town

Well hello there friends! It wasn’t my intention to go so long without a new blog post. I’ve just been completing a long sculpture pose at Grand Central Atelier and then jumped right into a weekend workshop with Max Ginsburg. So it’s been modeling duties, and the resulting body rest, that have occupied me for the past several days. I was worried that pilates class on Monday would be agonizing, but it wasn’t! Felt really good actually. My spine was grateful:-)

My good friend Francisco Malonzo shared something with me that I’d like to share with all of you. It reminded me that artists and models can appreciate the same experience of seeing artwork on the wall – artists delight at seeing their creation on display, and we models delight at seeing ourselves on display. A collector here in NYC took pictures of Francisco’s pieces in his Upper West Side apartment and they’re wonderful to see. A portrait of me is among the collection. You can view them on Francisco’s blog. Francisco’s dazzling work has appeared on Museworthy several times over the years. You can view previous posts here¬†and here¬†.

Also, I thought I’d share a photo from the sculpture class at Grand Central Atelier. It was a terrific gig with a lovely small class. I did a standing pose, which is fairly common for sculpture, and it was well worth it as you can see in this impressive work by fourth year student¬†Charlie Mostow:

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Lastly, in keeping with three-dimensional creations, a photo I took last night at a gathering at the Armenian Diocese here in New York, where a new sculpture was unveiled to commemorate the centennial of the Armenian Genocide. Michael Aram designed this stainless steel work called “Migrations”, and on a beautiful moonlit October evening in the city, clergy members, artists, and Armenian New Yorkers were deeply moved by the dedication of this piece. My phone pic is okay but you can see it more clearly at Architectural Digest¬†with an accompanying article.

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That’s all for now, friends. I’ll see you soon!

Resurrection at the Whitney

Back in May I posted about the grand opening of the new Whitney Museum here in New York City. I finally visited the Whitney since that post, and am pleased to say that I enjoyed it immensely, much more than I expected to. Of course, it helped that I was accompanied by my dear friend Fred Hatt, who was also seeing the new Whitney for the first time. Fred is a fantastic museum buddy:-)

Much of the new Whitney experience, for New York museum regulars, is seeing “old friends” hanging on display in their spanking new home. The galleries are crisp, uncluttered, flooded with clean, nuanced light.

This de Kooning is one of the old friends from the original Whitney on the upper east side. It’s looking mighty fine in its new downtown digs:

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But it was in the 8th floor gallery where I was momentarily awestruck by a painting I don’t recall ever seeing before. As Fred and I strolled around leisurely, taking in the surroundings, I stopped in my tracks in front of this striking piece and thought, “Whoa”. Heavily abstracted paintings don’t usually make me go “whoa”, but this one sure did. Here is a photo I took of Resurrection¬†by John Covert. And click here¬†for the artwork page of this piece on the Whitney Museum website. My picture includes the frame which I think presents the painting even better.

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The wall text offered no background description, only that the work was created in 1916 using oil, gesso, and fabric on plywood. In person, it is absolutely luminous and magnetic. It thoroughly owns that corner of the gallery in a way I can’t describe. Fred and I studied it for a while and agreed that Covert’s modernist, avant-garde depiction of Christ’s resurrection was like no other we’d seen. Note the stony shapes of a tomb, the rising shape in the center, and that spot of red, presumably the blood of Christ, strategically placed to draw the eye. The entire composition works magnificently. But of course, no photograph can really do it justice.

Covert’s painting of this subject also reminds me of a comment exchange I had with Bill MacDonald here on Museworthy. On my blog post for Easter this year, he and I wondered about the strange lack of effective and powerful art renderings of the Resurrection. It’s rare that a modernist painter outdoes Renaissance or Baroque masters on a Biblical event, but Covert may just have done so in this case. I welcome thoughts from readers, so feel free to share!

I looked up John Covert on the internet. He was a Pittsburgh-born American painter who trained and worked for years in the conservative academic style. Upon returning to the United States after studying abroad, Covert settled in New York City and started to break out of his traditionalist bubble. He became more receptive to the modernist and cubist influences that were shaking up the art world around him, and jumped on board. Covert befriended Marcel Duchamp and was one of the founding members of the Society of Independent Artists.

In my blog post from May I talked about how the new Whitney’s location in Manhattan’s meatpacking district was, in itself, central to the spirit of its new incarnation. Fred took this excellent photo from one of the museum’s many outdoor terraces, where visitors can take in the sweeping views that extend from the Hudson River and New Jersey, lower Manhattan and the Freedom Tower, midtown, and everything in between. The patio with the colorful seating is another level of the Whitney, the trees indicate the High Line, and down below on the left there’s a sign that’s hard to read. It says “Weichsel Beef”. Hey it is still the “meatpacking district” after all. And there you have the epitome of urban juxtaposition and invading entities; a beef wholesaler adjoining a $422 million art museum. Welcome to New York:-)

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The Karaoke Guy

I don’t know what’s gotten into me lately, but I’ve been listening to an inordinate amount of 80s music … and loving it all over again. The 1980s was my coming-of-age decade, the era of nostalgia for those of my generation. Malign the 80s all you want for exalting money and materialism as noble pursuits – a la Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street” – but the period nevertheless produced boatloads of notable pop culture phenomena and plenty of kick-ass songs. Maybe I’m swimming in nostalgia these days because my birthday is rapidly approaching and my subconscious is mercifully steering me away from the reality of turning 47. Whatever the reason, I’ve found myself enthusiastically singing along when Huey Lewis’s “The Power of Love” comes on the radio as I’m driving on the Long Island Expressway.

Songs of our youth inevitably carry memories. And a memory came rushing through me recently, prompted by – of course – an 80s song on the radio. That oldies station is getting quite a workout on my car radio these days! The memory is not a major one in my life. It has no significant meaning or any kind. In fact, it’s meaningless. But it is vivid. And fun. And offers a tiny, fleeting glimpse of my youthful years when I was boy-crazy, flirty, and spent a lot of time in the drinking establishments of my native Queens. A little side note, Queens is the hardest boozing borough of the city of New York. This is a 100% true statement and it’s not open to debateūüėČ

So here’s the scene. It was 1989. I was 21 years old. Me and my then-boyfriend (who many years later became my husband, and then my ex-husband) were out with a gaggle of friends at a bar in Kew Gardens, Queens for karaoke night. I was probably wearing some skimpy tank top and had my hair pouffed out as big as I could get it. My stomach was filling up with pints of Guinness, and my boyfriend’s loudmouth buddy was ordering shots of J√§germeister¬†for the group that no one ever requested but were forced to drink at gunpoint, figuratively speaking. This was not some fancy-schmancy Manhattan martini place full of suits, mind you. This was an old-school, working class joint that had been there forever – a joint that had played host to generations of electricians, mechanics, and off-duty firemen, boys who worked in their fathers’ heating and air conditioning businesses and construction companies. That kind of joint. A place where they laugh at you if you ask for a glass of chardonnay.

The Bartender, by Toulouse-Lautrec:

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So the next karaoke singer stepped up to the microphone. He was super cute, maybe 24 or 25. He had brown hair and green eyes (my favorite combination) and wore jeans and one of those long-sleeved thermal shirts, dark blue. Before the music recording began, he pushed up his sleeves to reveal a tattooed arm. He was muscular, but not a meathead. And he had an unlit cigarette wedged behind his ear. It’s amazing the minuscule details one can remember. And I remember that cigarette.

And then it began. Cute green-eyed Queens guy launched into his rendition of Billy Idol’s 1982 hit “White Wedding” . . . and HE. WAS. AWESOME. Friends, you must understand, this guy rocked the house. From the moment the lyrics “Hey little sister what have you done?” flowed through his voice, every girl in the place, myself included, just stood there with our mouths open. Whoa. This guy. ¬†After an hour of awful karaoke singers, most of whom were drunk and kept messing up the lyrics, this guy got up there and was killin’ it. He was exciting. He was a potential American Idol finalist in an age before American Idol even existed. And it kept getting better. When he got to the part of “Start agaaaiiiiinn!!”, cute guy nailed it, his voice on pitch and deep and smooth with just the right amount of rough rock and roll edges. He sang that song, dare I say, better than Billy Idol.

When the song was over, cute guy received a thunderous round of cheers and applause from the inebriated bar crowd. He flashed a smile and returned oh-so-casually to his group of friends. He snatched that cigarette from his ear and lit up. Mission accomplished.

Interior of a Tavern, by Peder Severin Kroyer:

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In case any of you are wondering if I sang karaoke that night, the answer is yes. Another girl and I got up there together, because we were too chicken to go solo, and performed Blondie’s “Call Me”. It was an abomination. Cute guy was watching .. and no, he never called me. Only in my dreamsūüėČ

A Music Monday inspired by a Guinness-fueled karaoke night in Queens from 26 years ago. Why not? Music acts as a marker of memories, both profound and prosaic. Actually, the music memories that aren’t sappy and sentimental or wrapped up in mawkish emotion are rich and intense in their own way. I wonder what happened to Mr. White Wedding? Here’s Billy Idol … trying to sound as good as the guy from Kew GardensūüėÜ