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. 🙂

Glass, Granite, and Urban Awakenings

New York City is, and always has been, a study in stark contrasts. The route of the IRT Lexington Avenue subway line, which travels from some of the lowest income neighborhoods in the city (the Bronx) through the highest income neighborhoods (upper east side) exemplifies such a contrast. And it seems rather fitting that the Lexington line continues south to make a stop at – where else? – Wall Street in the Financial District.

This week, the new Whitney Museum has opened with much fanfare, and I do mean MUCH fanfare. After many years in the making, the plans for a new Whitney have finally come to fruition. With a $422 million price tag, the museum’s new digs were designed by the architect Renzo Piano. The 200,000 square foot structure of steel, concrete and glass sits along the West Side Highway in downtown Manhattan in what is known around here as the “meatpacking district”. But don’t let that historical reference to New York’s long gone turn-of-the-century slaughterhouses and packing plants fool you. The meatpacking district is, today, one of the trendiest, “hottest” neighborhoods in the city, replete with high end boutiques and restaurants. The planners for the new Whitney chose their real estate wisely, as “location” is everything in this town. Flanked by the High Line and Gansevoort Street, the Whitney is the sleek spanking new jewel of New York City. With a glass-enclosed lobby and a panoramic view of the Hudson River, it is the new home of the museum’s American art collection of Hoppers, Warhols, Pollocks, and company.

NewWhitney2

Just a few miles north of the new Whitney, an art space of a different sort also held an opening, but with significantly less fanfare and without the First Lady, the New York elite, glitterati, or art magazine critics in attendance. The old Bronx Borough Courthouse, which had been abandoned, neglected, and boarded up for 35 years, has been rescued from its squalid, dilapidated state by an organization called “No Longer Empty”, which avails community engagement to “revive underutilized properties” according to their mission statement. Constructed in 1905, the four story Beaux-Arts building would have been most likely demolished had it not secured historic landmark status in 1981. But though it remained standing, the structure still fell into disrepair, its cavernous interior and stately architectural features sealed off from the public. Now, as debris is cleaned away and the light is let in, the Bronx Courthouse is experiencing a renewal as a space for art, installations, and symbol of the neighborhood’s heritage. You can read all about it on CurbedNY.

BronxCourthouse

O Henry once said that New York “will be a great place if they ever finish it”. What O Henry didn’t know, presumably, was that New York will never be “finished”. Ever. Those of us who have lived here our entire lives can attest to the fact that the city will do whatever the hell it wants, and as New Yorkers our famously held skills of adapting and improvising are only strengthened in the process. Make no mistake, this is a town of deaths and births and reincarnations, relentlessly so. This town makes decisions that will either boggle the mind or thrill the spirit. This town will break your heart and ignore your tears. Some salivate over new constructions and state-of-the-art modernization, while others bemoan losses, cling to relics and shadows of the past. New York has certainly not thrown off its history, but its dogged impulse to surge forward will never be subdued. Nor should it be.

In the spirit of this diverse, crowded, maddening metropolis of contrasts and confounding changes, I offer a warm welcome to the new Whitney, and an equally warm welcome to the “new” old Bronx Courthouse.

Sunday in the Park with John

Hellooo everyone!! Greetings and salutations! Before I get to Music Monday, I want to thank those of you who have already submitted your works to the Museworthy Art Show. They’re great! And it’s really exciting to see them in my email inbox 🙂 To everyone else, you still have plenty of time to submit. The deadline in November 1st, so no worries.

This weekend here in NYC was – and still is! – the most magnificent October weekend on record. The weather has been positively sublime, with clear blue skies and unseasonably warm temperatures. Gorgeous, wonderful. I was on the Upper West Side all day yesterday doing various things, but my main destination was to Strawberry Fields in Central Park where the annual commemoration  for John Lennon’s birthday (October 9th) was taking place. I’ve been attending this gathering for years and years. Musicians set up around the Imagine circle, play Beatles’ songs and lead the crowd in a sing-a-long. I managed to maneuver my way to an empty spot on a bench where I could stand up and take some pictures.

One of my favorite John Lennon post-Beatles songs, and one of the best for the Strawberry Fields sing-a-long, this is the excellent “Watching the Wheels”, digitally remastered. Great lyrics, great vocals by John. Enjoy 🙂

Zonked

I’m wondering which brand of exhaustion is worse. The “art modeling” brand which comes from a busy work schedule and hours of posing, or the non-art modeling “holiday activities” brand, which involves shopping, Christmas parties, and volunteering. I’m beginning to think that the latter is more draining. Lately it’s been kicking my ass worse than art modeling.

But it’s all rewarding, wonderful goings-on and I assure you I’m not complaining. Well maybe I am complaining just a little bit about the transit system which has been screwing me lately. Last night, the 1 train subway traveled uptown at an infuriating snail’s pace and it took literally 30 minutes to get from Penn Plaza to 86th Street. That’s insane. And today, an M4 bus blew right past me as I was waiting at the bus stop on Fifth Avenue. I kid you not. The driver saw me standing there and just kept on driving!  What am I, chopped liver? Thanks MTA 😆

Anyway, my brother and sister-in-law threw a fantastic holiday party at their apartment last night. So festive and spirited. I had a great time! I was all dressed up and looking pretty, and I indulged in a few glasses of red wine. I got home late and then had to be up bright and early this morning (not too hungover thank god!) to help out at the Yorkville Common Pantry. All the volunteers worked really, really hard. No breaks, no goofing off. We packed hundreds of bags and handed them out to the needy families who started picking up their groceries around 10 AM.

So now I’m just beat. I don’t want to move, I don’t want to walk. I just want to lay around, do nothing, and recharge for the upcoming week and  another round of holiday madness!

Enjoy the rest of the weekend my friends. I’ll see you on Monday. Until then, I’m out!

zzzzzzzzz

James McNeill Whistler’s The Arabian, circa 1892:

Imagine . . .

John Lennon once referred to New York City as “Rome”. He was right. It is Rome. You can interpret that comparison however you choose.

Our city has “adopted” millions of people from all walks of life, John Lennon famously among them. His love for New York is well-known but what’s always amazed me is that Lennon praised this place at a time when the city was, arguably, at its worst – the 1970s. I remember it all too well. It was during that period that New York earned its reputation as a polluted, unruly, gritty, crime-ridden place. I’d argue that point if I could but I can’t. It was like that.

But on the other hand, the city was affordable back then for many, many more people than it is now. It was also not run by authoritarian killjoy mayors like Guiliani and Bloomberg who put the needs of millionaires, tourists, and commercialism above those of artists, musicians, and the native working class. Patti Smith described it well when she criticized Mayor Bloomberg’s reinvention of New York as a “shopping center” and a “hip new suburbia”, and predicted that “One day, all the people who have driven out the artists and have only these fancy condos left are going to turn around and say, ‘Why do I live here?'”. Although I basically agree with her in that pre-gentrification New York was indeed a place like no other, I also think not everything about New York back then should be romanticized. I for one do not miss the litter and filth. It was a fucking toilet.

This week, on Wednesday the 8th, marks thirty years since John Lennon was shot and murdered at the Dakota apartment building, where he lived with his wife Yoko Ono and their five year-old son Sean. The city he extolled for its freedom, energy, and laissez-faire attitude, where the people didn’t treat him like a celebrity or harass him other than to call out “Hi John!”, as he walked the streets like every other New Yorker, is the same city in which he was, tragically, ironically, vulnerable. Living in “Rome” comes with its own set of risks.

As the city of Dallas carries the shame of Kennedy’s assassination, New York City carries the shame of John Lennon’s murder. One of our most famous and beloved residents, John Lennon loved and appreciated New York when it kind of sucked. He could have lived anywhere, yet he chose a dangerous, decaying, bankrupt city. Forgive us, John, for not keeping you safe.

Enjoy this video for “Music Monday”. The psychopathic dickwad Mark David Chapman appears at :51, when John was signing an autograph for him, just hours before Chapman shot him:

“Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.”   – John Lennon

Friday Night Lights

Once or twice a year my brother Chris and I have a brother/sister “date night”. We don’t do it nearly as much as we should, but when we do we always have a terrific time. Chris and I are super close and enjoy each other’s company. We’ve always gotten along extremely well. Last Friday night we attended the New York Philharmonic concert at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. The program was first rate. I’m going to share it here for “Music Monday”:

Glinka, Overture to Russian and Ludmilla

Tchaikovsky, Violin Concerto in D Major

Debussy, Nocturnes, “Clouds”, “Festivals”, “Sirens”

Stravinsky, Suite from The Firebird

Chris and I, both huge Stravinsky fans, were there mainly for The Firebird, which is as stunning and dazzling as a musical composition can be. I always feel sorry for the orchestra during that piece because some of those parts are really hard to play. The brass section definitely has its work cut out for it! Gotta love loud trumpets 🙂

Lincoln Center was looking gorgeous on Friday. It was a cold night but that didn’t deter people from milling around the Plaza outside to marvel at the fountain. Here’s a picture I took, with frostbitten hands, just a few minutes before Chris and I went inside:

Yesterday I sent out an email to literally my entire address book. Now I’d like to make the same announcement here to my blog readers. The December issue of ARTNews magazine, now available on newsstands, features an article titled “Nothing Like the Real Thing”. Wonderfully written by Gail Gregg, it explores the growing popularity of artists working from life models. I did a phone interview with Gail a couple of months ago and am quoted in the article. Other models are quoted too, along with artists such as Philip Pearlstein, Sigmund Abeles, and my friend Daniel Maidman. And check this out: “Museworthy” is mentioned in the article by name. How cool is that? It’s the first time Museworthy is referenced in a print publication, so it makes me feel pretty good 🙂 Wait, it gets better. Jean Marcellino’s pastel drawing of me from this blog post, appears on page 71 of the ARTnews article. Yay! So if any of you find yourself in a Borders or Barnes and Noble, head on over to the Art section of the magazines and pick up a copy. The article is a great read on a topic very near and dear to my heart.

Street Jam

My birthday is this week – Thursday to be exact. This year I’ve decided to buy myself a birthday present. It’s not something I usually do, but when you are a woman in the 40-something age range, anything that can divert your attention from that depressing reality the better! Nah, I’m just kidding. That’s a load of crap. I don’t really care about my age, I just want a new camera 😆

For almost three years, my trusty Canon PowerShot has served me very well. Small, compact, and lightweight, it sat snugly in the in the inner pocket of my Vera Bradley bag, ready to be whipped out in an instant when I saw something I wanted to photograph in the streets, parks, museums and art schools of New York City. Like a reliable friend, the little blue camera caused me no trouble and never burdened me with extra weight or bulk. It was the most unobtrusive item I carried, as opposed to, say, my makeup pouch. Now that’s bulky!

But the time has come for an upgrade. I’ve assessed my photographic needs and concluded that, much like the Tom Cruise character in Top Gun, my need is for speed. Speed baby!  So I have my eye on a great looking Nikon DSLR. Hopefully I will buy it this week. Yay! I’m still keeping the small one of course. I might as well have it on hand on the days I don’t bring the larger camera.

I thought I would use this “Music Monday” post as a swan song to my old Canon. I went through all my pictures and found a few shots I had taken of street musicians, of which we have many here in New York. They’re everywhere in our teeming metropolis – sidewalks, corners, parks, subways, train terminals – entertaining the swarming masses with their music. Some are ignored, some draw an audience, and some get their picture taken by artist’s models on their way to a job 🙂

A jamming saxophonist on the number 7 Train platform at Grand Central Station. The echo in that tunnel is intense, and sounds, musical or otherwise, really reverberate. This guy was a cool cat:

This is a poor photograph. A musician was playing the steel drum in Penn Station during the rush hour commute. His hands and head were moving constantly and came out terribly blurred. I can’t help but think that the scene would have been captured so much better with a faster camera. Or I just fucked it up, that’s always a possibility 😆

Outside the Metropolitan Museum at the bottom of the steps, a sax and bass combo performed for the art crowd.