The Healing Hawk

The big blizzard of 2016 has finally melted away into the pavements and parks of New York City. Yesterday’s rains made efficient work of washing away the last remnants. The January storm really was a doozy. One for the record books. I had two modeling jobs cancelled and, instead, got more upper body workout from one afternoon of snow shoveling than I get all year :P

But friends, I haven’t been feeling well lately, and I just wanted to let you know. I haven’t been blogging as frequently, or as joyfully, as I normally do. I apologize. You find yourself sliding helplessly into a hole, trying to process various forms of disillusionment, isolation, and frustration with both family and friends, and then the prospect of pulling yourself out of the hole feels like scaling a 500 foot wall … without a rope. At least I’ve managed to pull myself out of bed and get to my modeling jobs, where I’m trying my best to pose with some modicum of enthusiasm and vigor.

The “Snowpocalypse” did provide a magical moment of awe that is still bringing me a sense of peace and comfort when I recall the sight. The day after the storm (which is always a beautiful day, have you noticed?) I decided to take a walk around my neighborhood. It was bright, all brightness: bright white blanket of thick snow, bright clear blue sky, bright light reflecting everywhere. When a storm system passes away after doing its damage, it’s like everything opens up, stretches its limbs, and affirms its existence in the aftermath – we’re still here, we’re alive, we survived! – the trees, the houses, and of course the people, the people who can finally emerge after hunkering down indoors for  36 hours. Now it’s people shoveling snow, neighbors chatting and commiserating next to their buried cars, teenage boys zipping down the streets on snow buggies, groups of bundled up children toting sleds to the park. It was near that very park around the corner from my house that some wild movement at the top of a pine tree caught my eye. I looked up and it was a red-tailed hawk, knocking batches of snow off the branches as it landed down to perch. The sight of that handsome hawk made me so happy, and I stopped in my tracks to observe and enjoy him. He hung out for a minute or two surveying the area and then took off, spreading his impressive wings, revealing his markings, and flied away slowly, confidently, gliding over our park in northeastern Queens, like he was king of the kingdom.

It probably sounds corny and cliched, but experiences with nature, however brief, can truly do wonders for one’s state of mind. It has quite the restorative effect. Why do you think that is? Maybe because they are creatures completely removed from the worries and anxieties we humans deal with? I feel like that’s part of it. I envy animals and wildlife because they don’t give a damn about any of the shit we stress over. They function in harmony with nature’s patterns and rhythms and their innate God-given purposes. Their lives are all about survival and simplicity and existing in their “space”. No traces of discontent, no traces of inadequacy or complications, no personal standards that can’t be met or impossible quests for “fulfillment”. Two weeks later, I can still see, in the vividness of my memory, the form and physique of that hawk against the bright blue sky of that Sunday afternoon. I can still see those batches of fresh powdery snow tumbling down to the ground from that high pine tree branch when the hawk landed. And I can still see that same branch bounce up and down, like a diving board, the moment the hawk pushed off to take flight …

Goshawk Hunting by Bruno Liljefors:

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Wildlife sightings are always welcome here in Museworthy. If you’ve experienced any cool critters or special nature moments this winter season, please share in the comments :-)

Flying Colors

A funny bit of synchronicity happened the other night when I was modeling at the National Art League in Queens. For an eight session booking with instructor Rob Silverman, I am set up wearing a skirt, hat, and shawl, sitting on a lawn chair, reading a book. The clothing is mine, which I brought to the first session at Rob’s request, but the book was a last minute addition. I didn’t have one with me, so we took one from the League bookshelf. We models are sometimes asked to do the “posing while reading” routine, as it makes for a nice composition, showing the subject more “active” than just sitting in a chair and staring into space. And with our set-up, the student artists can paint in an “outdoor” nature setting for the background and experiment with that, if they so choose.

So the book I’m reading is an old publication from the 1950s called Color for Profit by Louis Cheskin, who I’ve learned was the marketing brain behind “The Marlboro Man” ad campaign. Though the title is less than inspiring, the book is actually quite interesting! It’s a manual that discusses the effective use of color in advertising, packaging, and commercial design, in addition to exploring the science of colors and their various psychological effects. Out of curiosity, I looked the book up on Amazon and lo and behold, there it was. Although my pose-reading during the class is a bit hampered by my not be able to wear my reading glasses, I have been able to decipher some interesting lines through my blurred vision. For example, yellow is not a “preferred” color for many people, but it has strong “retention”. “Peach”, on the other hand, is a well-liked color but is also more easily forgotten. Also, there are regional preferences in colors among consumers. What goes over well on California billboards and store shelves may not go over well in New Jersey’s.

Moving along, Rob was doing was one of his very informative demos for the class. He’s really a superb teacher and I’ve posed for him many times. He took this photo of me in a pose from a class last year. So I was in the pose for the demo, and when a student asked a question about background colors, Rob’s response was, in substance, the exact same thing I was reading at that very moment in the Color for Profit book – page 95:  “Because warm colors advance and cool colors recede, overly warm colors should be avoided on backgrounds”. What a coincidence! I was listening to the discussion while posing, eyes downcast, and a smile crept across my face. If I wasn’t such a consummate professional (hehe) I would have jumped out of my chair, held up the book and said “Haha, I just read that!”. Now even though the book is dealing with packaging and merchandising, the qualities of colors remain the same no matter what – in fine arts, in commercial arts, makes no difference.

Here is Rob’s demo work of me in my “sitting and reading” pose. And there’s the book!

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And this color study is by Paul David Elsen, class monitor and a wonderful artist who has been an absolute pleasure to work with. I love these kinds of loose paint sketches.

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Rough Beasts

Well hello there everyone. Happy New Year! My holiday break is almost over and I spent an inordinate bulk of it curled up in bed under the covers, wrestling with anxiety and insomnia. If that strikes you as a symptom of depressive behavior you’d be correct. Sure I could ascribe it to the “holiday blues” syndrome, which I’m told is a legitimate thing, or I could just be honest and acknowledge that I’m prone to this disorder, and have been for some time. So forgive me if I don’t offer a blog post bursting with good cheer, high hopes, and sanguine sentiments for the new year. However, you have my word that I’ll soon shake off this gloom and doom weepy dark cloud, or the “black dog” as Winston Churchill called it.

What’s interesting to me is how fear, anxiety, and disaffection have been potent catalysts for creative expression throughout history. While joyous, uplifting works of art are certainly among the greatest, most memorable of all time (Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” is a prime example), the ominous, and at times alarming, works of expression are compelling in a much different way. And just as memorable.

I’ve stated before on this blog that William Butler Yeats is one of my favorite poets. I’ve featured him here, here, and here and I’m going to feature him again right now. This very well-known Yeats poem is one that I find apropos with regard to the world right now. Here is The Second Coming”:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

I came across an excellent essay in The Paris Review which describes The Second Coming as “the most thoroughly pillaged piece of literature in English”. It discusses the remarkable scope of references to the poem in pop culture and the arts, ranging from rock bands, comic books, artists and writers .. all of whom could not resist appropriating Yeats’s haunting and evocative turns of phrases. Who can blame them? The man was absolutely brilliant. Think about what he communicates with the imagery of  “the falcon cannot hear the falconer”. Here’s a paragraph from the Paris Review piece:

Yeats began writing the poem in January 1919, in the wake of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and political turmoil in his native Ireland. But the first stanza captures more than just political unrest and violence. Its anxiety concerns the social ills of modernity: the rupture of traditional family and societal structures; the loss of collective religious faith, and with it, the collective sense of purpose; the feeling that the old rules no longer apply and there’s nothing to replace them.

George Frederic Watts, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: The Rider on the Black Horse, 1878:

(c) Walker Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Comfort and Joy

On Christmas Eve, a Merry Museworthy Christmas to my beloved readers. For all of you, warm wishes and hopes for happiness, good health, answered prayers, and revealed truths.

Perhaps one day I’ll get to Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy, where I can see in person Giotto’s celebrated frescoes. Here is a detail of “Nativity: Birth of Christ” from that 14th century masterwork.
Blessings …

Giotto-Nativity

Fraternité

“He who contemplates the depths of Paris is seized with vertigo.
Nothing is more fantastic. Nothing is more tragic.
Nothing is more sublime.”
– Victor Hugo

St. Genevieve (patron saint of Paris) makes confidence and calm to frightened Parisians of the approach of Attila, by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes:

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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!