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!

IMG_7104

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.

P1170852

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:

Chavannes-StGenevieve

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:

Malevich-prayer-1907

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:

IMG-20151001-01212

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.

IMG-20151006-01253

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

Emperor

Art and the world – the turbulent, disillusioning world – are frequently at odds with each other. Art seeks to convey beauty, or some variant thereof. But the world too often has other plans and instead obscures the beauty with violence, despair, and the fear and hopelessness of terrorized people. Look no further than the current events of today; the heartbreaking photos of desperate migrants and refugee children drowning during passage to safer lands. So what is the inspired artist to do when confronted with horror and chaos? Well, they can imitate life as art often does, something Picasso exemplified masterfully with Guernica. Or they can defiantly push forth with sheer beauty in spite of political and personal turbulence.

It’s hard to imagine what it was like to live in Europe during the Napoleonic Wars. Beethoven was a firsthand witness to much of it, and the great composer found himself and his art roped into the tempestuous atmosphere, unwittingly or otherwise. Like all future tyrants, Napoleon rose to power as a “liberator”; a revolutionary who sought to demolish the aristocracy’s control over the common man and secure rights for all citizens in an egalitarian ideal. An appealing message to be sure. And to the authority-hating Beethoven, who resented class distinctions and roundly rejected the idea that any grown man should bow to another, Napoleon’s message resonated deeply as it did for so many.

Mounted Trumpeters of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard, 1814, Théodore Géricault:

theodore-gericault-mounted-trumpeters-of-napoleon-s-imperial-guard-1813-1814

But Beethoven eventually learned a lesson with regard to charismatic political leaders and their promises. After completion of his monumental and miraculous Third Symphony, which he had named the “Bonaparte” in honor of Napoleon, Beethoven was informed that the supposed liberator Napoleon had now declared himself “Emperor” of France. Emperor. Oh dear. Enraged with feelings of betrayal by a figure he had respected and admired, the composer angrily scratched out the dedication on his manuscript’s title page. Beethoven refused to honor with his music a man he now realized “will become a tyrant like all the others” and “think himself superior to all men!”. In a principled, albeit impulsive, gesture Beethoven changed the Bonaparte to “Eroica”. But that was not the end of Beethoven’s irritations with the French megalomaniac.

Napoleon Receiving the Keys of Vienna, by Anne-Louis Girodet:

??????????

In the spring of 1809, after Austria had declared war on France, Napoleon’s army laid siege to Vienna. While many had fled before it was too late, Beethoven remained in the city. With his house in the direct line of artillery fire, he relocated to his brother’s house which unfortunately didn’t provide the relief he had hoped, as there was no real escaping the onslaught of Napoleon’s military forces. Holed up in the cellar, the 39 year-old Beethoven was determined to finish composing his Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major. But the circumstances were harrowing. This was a man who was already enduring the traumatic process of going deaf, with relentless buzzing and ringing and diminished auditory capacity. For a composer of all people, this is pure hell. Now he was being assaulted by the ear-splitting sounds of cannon fire day and night. Beethoven pressed pillows against his ears to block out the din, crouched in corners of the room in anguish, terrified that his already delicate and deteriorating ear drums would be blasted into dead silence .. permanently. And yet somehow, remarkably and incredibly, during and after that war-ravaged spring in Vienna, Beethoven did what brilliant and persevering artists do: he created his work. And boy, was it a doozy. His fifth and final piano concerto. Arguably his best. Although it has come to be called the “Emperor Concerto” that moniker was not Beethoven’s doing. It’s actually something of a cruel irony that the piece has been named as such, given Beethoven’s feelings about the matter.

The death mask of Napoleon. It was cast in May of 1821, two days after Napoleon died while in exile on the island of St. Helena. For a man of such an egomaniacal nature it’s unusual that he didn’t like to sit for portraits. Virtually all of the portrait paintings of Napoleon were done from secondhand accounts with some imagination thrown in. The man in this mask with the chiseled features is the most accurate representation of what Napoleon really looked like. Well, in death at least.

Death mask of Napoleon Bonaparte, 1821

And now, on our Music Monday, the beloved and exquisite 2nd movement of Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto. I selected a recording with two acclaimed greats of classical music: conductor Bernard Haitink and pianist Claudio Arrau. This is the creation Beethoven fought for tooth and nail during that miserable, besieged time, amid shelling, explosions, and his busted ears hanging on for dear life. In a melodic, spiritual dream of pathos and joy, art’s transcendent beauty emerges from a deafening war zone. Napoleon may have been defeated at Waterloo, but he was truly “conquered” by Beethoven. God bless this man.