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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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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Pietàs of Passion

The word “pietà” means “pity” in Italian. Its Latin origin translates into “piety” or “duty”. In art, a Pietà is any representation of Mary mourning the dead body of the crucified Christ. It is a scene of powerful emotional import. If other figures from the New Testament are also depicted, the work is often called “Lamentation”. On this Good Friday, a collection of pietas for my readers.

The pietà subject presents many options for artists, both compositionally and stylistically. Some are horizontal, others are vertical. Some depict the body of Christ with blood and wounds, while others omit them in favor of an unscathed figure. Some emphasize the pain, agony, and grief of the moment, while others take an almost serene, quietly mournful approach.

We’ll start with the archetype, the pietà that sets the standard for all others; Michelangelo’s sculptural masterpiece located in St. Peter’s Basilica. Completed in 1499, and carved from a single slab of Carrara marble, it is the only work by Michelangelo that he ever signed. It received much criticism for its portrayal of an impossibly youthful Mary, who appears far too young to be the mother of a 33 year old man. But Michelangelo defended his choice. Designed in a pyramid shape, Michelangelo’s Pietà is considered a foremost example of Renaissance sculpture:

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One of my favorite pietas is this painting by Annibale Carracci, 1600. The hand gesture of Mary is an extraordinary detail, and I love the lights and darks:

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William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s Pietà, 1876, is presented in the French academic style for which the artist is known. Mary stares straight ahead, surrounded by sorrowful angels:

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A striking Pietà by Luis de Morales, 1570. Again, the prominent placement of Mary’s hands.

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Andrea Del Sarto, 1524, oil on wood. Christ’s face is barely visible here, as the surrounding figures seem to dominate the composition:

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A surrealist Pietà from Salvador Dali who clearly modeled this work after Michelangelo. His works of religious themes are really impressive. I’m a huge fan. I posted his Ascension of Christ here a few years ago:

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Sebastiano del piombo’s Pietà, ca 1515, takes a different approach, with Christ lying flat on the ground as Mary prays:

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Lamentation Over the Dead Christ, 1485, in tempera by Carlo Crivelli, is a fine example of the early Renaissance style:

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Pietà by Moretto da Brescia, ca. 1530. Sorrow and pain come across in the facial expressions and gestures:

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The desolate landscape works to great effect here in this Pietà, 1854, by the superb symbolist painter Gustave Moreau:

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And here’s something you won’t see in any museum. A “pieta” on the streets of New York. Spring Studio‘s Minerva Durham plays Mary to a Jesus acted out by artist’s model and dancer Magic Distefano, in the middle of Lafayette Street. That’s Andrew Bolotowsky on flute. There wasn’t a music accompanist at Calvary, but there is in SoHo:

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To all my readers, a blessed Easter weekend … lift up your hearts in rebirth, renewal, the coming of spring, and light everlasting …

Love you all:-)

Claudia

Crazy Cat Lady

It was about six years ago when a pillowy, brindle colored stray female cat started hanging out my garden. She was one of most lovable cats I’d ever met. I fed her and, naturally, she never left. I named her Jessie, and she’s still with me:-)

Jessie spends most of her time outside but never roams far. When I call her from the kitchen door steps she appears usually within three minutes. We’ve been through a lot together –  surly male cats trespassing on Jessie’s turf, raccoons, vet appointments for her bronchitis, Hurricane Sandy. These days I give her daily meds and spoil her with a superb diet. I took this picture of her just after she finished scarfing down a can of brisling sardines. Look at that pink tongue!

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And here’s a quick charcoal sketch of me by my friend Bruce Williams. During a private session at Bruce’s studio, his cat Ika decided to join us and jumped up onto the platform. She’s a fine modeling partner and a great little cat. But Jessie will always be my number one girl.

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Artists seem to have an affinity for cats. I wonder why? Andy Warhol owned 25 cats, and Ai Wei Wei has over thirty! Matisse, Picasso, Dali, Klimt, Georgia O’Keeffe – all cat people. Honestly, I love all animals equally and would love to have a dog. Ok .. two dogs, six cats, a giant aviary full of canaries, a 300 gallon aquarium full of tropical fish, a horse, a rabbit, a turtle, and a peacock. That’s all really😉

Suzanne Valadon, Study of a Cat, 1918:

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Sculpture, Picasso Style

Regular museum visitors know the rules when it comes to photography. At most New York museums, photography (with no flash) is allowed in all the galleries which house works of the permanent collection. Special exhibitions, however, prohibit photography of any kind. Try to take a quick pic on your iPhone and you can expect one of the guards to admonish you. “Sorry ma’am, no photography”. You will then be handcuffed and escorted to an interrogation room <– just kidding😉 So imagine my delight when I was told that photography WAS allowed at the recent “Picasso Sculpture” show at MoMA. Yay! The show ended its five month run on February 7th, and I saw it in its final few days, which is how I see most of the big acclaimed art shows in town – when the end date is looming! I’m very glad I didn’t miss this one.

Picasso had formal training in painting and drawing only. So his approach to sculpture was motivated by experimental impulses, ingenuity, and his fertile creative mind, all of which were abundantly on display in this exhibit. What we witnessed, from gallery to gallery, was a man engaged in self-taught exploration, working in three-dimensions, letting his imagination run free, salvaging metal and wood scraps, found objects, paper and paint, cardboard, string, nails, plants, plaster, bronze, and anything he could get his hands on. In a wide array of subject matter – women, animals, children, instruments, etc. -Picasso’s sculptural expressions alternate from childlike to muscular, classical to avant-garde, spontaneous to engineered. He worked big, he worked small, and continued to experiment with sculpture for decades – a perpetual student – up to the mid-1960s. It was a truly fun and fascinating show.

This is just a sampling of the works, and among the ones I’ve chosen to post there is surely something for everyone here. I took all the photos in this post, so feel free to download, keep, and share!

Woman with Hat, painted sheet metal:

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Maquette for Richard J. Daley Center Sculpture, oxidized welded steel:

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Head of a Woman, painted sheet metal and iron wire:

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Little Horse, painted metal with wheels:

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Sylvette, painted sheet metal:

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Kneeling Woman Combing Her Hair, bronze:

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Head of a Woman (Fernande), bronze:

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Guitar, ferrous sheet metal and wire:

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Picasso did six versions of this, Glass of Absinthe, in painted bronze with an actual absinthe spoon. He made the sugar cube also from a piece of bronze. A very popular alcoholic spirit in Picasso’s day, absinthe was prepared by pouring it over a sugar cube and then diluting with water:

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Guitar, painted sheet metal, painted tin box, and iron wire:

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Composition with Glove, glove, cardboard, plants sewn and glued, coated with sand:

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Seated Woman, bronze:

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Part of the memorial monument to Guillaume Apollinaire, French poet and friend of Picasso who died in 1918. Head of a Woman, iron, sheet metal, springs, and painted metal colanders:

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Also from the Monument to Apollinaire, Woman in the Garden, welded and painted iron:

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Head of a Woman, plaster:

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One of my favorites, The Reaper, plaster and wood:

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And another one of my favorites, this rough but quirky Little Owl, painted bronze with nails:

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Woman Carrying a Child, painted wood and section of palm leaf:

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Cat, bronze:

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The Orator, plaster, stone, and metal dowel:

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Man with a Lamb, bronze:

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The Bathers, wood and gesso:

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I’ll let the man himself sign off this post. Picasso’s signature on the back of one of his sheet metal creations:

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Advent

Waiting. Anticipation. Mystery. Hope. Redemption. Incarnation .. the themes associated with the season of Advent, which has just begun. The sight of the Advent wreath in my church on Sunday inspired me to take a photo after service to share with all of you. I also wanted to include our stained glass windows, which are truly radiant. To accompany the photo, I’m posting some words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer – theologian, Lutheran pastor, martyr. This is a portion of his famous “Overcoming Fear” sermon which he delivered in January of 1933 when Hitler was just coming to power, and an ominous climate of fear was very much in the air. Bonhoeffer was executed by the Nazis on April 9th, 1945.

Fear is breathing down our necks … Those who would try to keep up their pride, as if all this had nothing to do with them, as if they didn’t understand what it’s all about, would hardly be human. No one human could fail to understand what the people of the world have to be afraid of today.

But look here, right in the middle of this fearful world is a place that is meant for all time, which has a peculiar task that the world doesn’t under­stand. It keeps calling over and over but always anew, in the same tone, the same thing: Fear is overcome; don’t be afraid. In the world you are frightened. But be comforted; I have conquered the world! Christ is in the boat! And this place, where this kind of talk is heard and should be heard, is the pulpit of the church. From this pulpit the living Christ himself wants to speak, so that wherever he reaches somebody, that person will feel the fear sinking away, will feel Christ overcoming his or her fear.

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