Scarlet Letter
Tramp Steamer
Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man


January 30, 2011

Photos by Eric Horner/All Rights Reserved

While the people's revolution in Egypt picks up power, so does the revolution in our lives - the twins, or Baby A and Baby B as they are known at the hospital.

Chad, on the left above, and Chase are two days old now and are so tough that despite being born a month early they don't need an incubator.

Here you have one set of  delighted grandparents, Babbie and me, at the hospital in Manchester, New Hampshire. Oh, I forgot, they are the sons of Eric and Michelle (Gagnon) Horner.

Pretty soon Michelle and crew will be home and the lives of Eric and Michelle will change radically. They are very excited about having the boys. And so are we.

They are fraternal, as opposed to identical, twins. Michelle and Babbie can tell them apart without difficulty. Me? I'm not so sure. Wait a second, I'm gaining confidence that I could. I know I could.

Either way, they're both beautiful, and they both are going to be well loved.

This blog, being written at the hospital, is being posted about 10 hours early because I have an internet connection here.


January 28, 2011

Part One

Photo by Eric Horner/All Rights Reserved

Introducing Chase and Chad Horner, fraternal twins who were born yesterday afternoon. They are the sons of our son Eric and his wife Michelle.

With their birth Babbie and I saw the number of our grandchildren double. Riley is 11 and Roan is 3.

Chase and Chad, whose middle names, respectively are Peter and Daniel - names taken from Eric's Uncle Pete and Michelle's brother Dan - are getting a lot of rave notices in our family.

From their skull caps you can see that they also have aliases - Baby A and Baby B.

They will be loved deeply and prized, as are their parents.


January 28, 2011

Part Two

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

My idea in the Killing Fields series was to use dead flowers. But working with roses recently has opened my mind to the power of using them fresh in my collages.

I think you can see why in the photo at the top. Encapsulated in acrylic, they're like a natural beauty who dons lipstick.

It's not that her lips, or a rose, need help. But the plastic lends either a flattering veneer the way the glistening sugar coating on a candy apple changes the apple.  


These photos are from Killing Fields Number 14, a memorial to my late college roommate Monk.  I'll show it to you when it's done.

In this post I also want to talk about computer deprivation. Both of mine were at the shop yesterday, the laptop to infuse its contents into the iMac, which had crashed.

All it takes is a day without one to realize how central a role the computer plays in our life. I suffered withdrawal symptoms.

The situation was also the reason my blog, for the second time this month, didn't make its every-other-day deadline. That failure, I noticed, failed to put the blogosphere into a tailspin.


January 25, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Here are Killing Fields 12 (below) and (13) above. Two others were completed this month as well. You can scroll down to January 15 to see Number 11 and to January 7 to see Number 10.

I'll tell you about Number 13 first. It starts off with a 4' x 2' panel painted black. On top of  that there is an old self portrait on stretchers. Poinsettia, rose, begonia and magnolia leaves are incorporated. So are yellow and red roses, aluminum armature wire, and three blocks of wood are incorporated into this piece. Oh, I forgot to mention the two stainless steel nails that help hold the self portrait to the panel. Or maybe they're aluminum.



Next come detail shots of Number 12, which is the same size as Number 13 and the rest of the series. It includes a sketch of Megan that I made along with about 5 others on New Years Day 2002. Also employed are four copper nails, Echinacea stalks from Babbie's garden, thistles, shards from a broken Christmas tree decoration, a flower from a Christmas cactus, roses, lilies, carnations, acrylic and powdered pigment.

The acrylic medium I used to encapsulate the flowers and coat everything else smeared some of the lines on the drawing, doing strange things to her mouth and nose and the upper lip. I'm a little afraid to try to rework the face so they may stay like they are.




January 23, 2011



Photo by Babbie Horner. The rest are by her husband Grier.

This post was going to start off like this:

It's 7:10 in the morning - very early for me to  be up. But I fell asleep at the computer last night and couldn't make my 2 a.m. deadline. So I'm writting now.

It's -1 outside and there are ice crystals in the still air.

The Exchange with Sol LeWitt opened last night at MASS MoCA, but when I saw my piece in it my heart sank. It looked sort of alone, washed out and amaturish.

You get your expectations up for something for so long, and then  the actual event can never live up to them.

But it's no longer 7:10. I didn't start to write until 9:26. In the meantime, I used the new plunger to unplug the toilet, brewed coffee for myself and Babbie, who was still asleep.

About 8 I talked to the pistol Nancy. She was so up it was hard to be down anymore.

So the winter of my discontent started morphing into winter of content. And then the sun came out strong and the way it's shining on the deep snow and the birches secured that.

I messed around with the photos I took at MoCA and here, for better or worse, are some of them.

Above is a piece by Jorg Jakoby, one of my favorites in the show, which was set up by MoCA and Cabinet Magazine to commemorate LeWitt's generosity with his work. He often exchanged it for works by obscure artists, as well as ones who were established. So these were gifts to LeWitt, who died in 2007 before his three-story wing at MoCA opened.


My bust of Sol, I've decided now is OK and since my granddaughter Riley helped me pick out the glasses is more than OK.

But my true gift to Sol, among the more than 1,000 that artists submitted, is this one of the tattoed girl in red.


Here are some of my favorite entries - sorry they lack the artists name in most cases.


The one by Damiano Bertoli was on target because LeWitt liked to mess up perspective.


This one fits that bill, too.


This one by the 4th graders at Chester Elementary School, captures LeWitt's work very well. They must have a great art teacher.

This one, which was in a loose leaf folder and which I didn't see at MoCA, is probably on view at Cabinet in Brooklyn. I'm not sure what it has to do with LeWitt. But maybe he liked martinis. I do.


I think this is also in Brooklyn. It may be a gift an old man like LeWitt would appreciate.


Now this photo  of a straightjacked guy getting a trim at home is a fascinating shot. But I can't get its connection to LeWitt. Come to think of it, I guess there doesn't have to be one if you making a  gift. Here are some more:






OK, now let's take a look at some of the people at the exhibit.

Babbie is at the far right in red. The woman in the stripped shirt is Denise Markonish, one of MoCA's two curators. She is talking with Richard Scullin, director of development.

The woman on the right is Katherine Myers, head of publicity and marketing at MoCA.


Here's a bundled baby get an early introduction to art.

This shot was taken at MoCA's other opening last night, Ruse, by Sean Foley. Sean is at the left beyond the wine bottles.

I just found this photo of the Sean Foley wall on artdaily.org thiis morning in a piece on the Sol LeWitt exchange. Don't know who the photographer is. But the magazine mistakenly used Foley's piece as a Sol LeWitt. I'm glad I never make mistakes!



His mixed media mural covers the long hall outside the Hunter Theater. This shot was taken outside looking in and takes in only a small section of it.



After the show we went to the restaurant on the MoCA campus. They were booked, so we didn't get much further than the manikin in the mall. Someone thoughtfully threw a coat over her bare shoulders in light of the frigid weather.

Next we tried our favorite North Adams restaurant, the Hub, but they had a line extending out into the street. Babbie thought of Taylor's so we went there, got a table and a good meal.

Finally to conclude this long ramble of a post is a parting shot of my bust of Sol, in all it's glory, cracks and twisted wires. I finally figured out why I don't like it in its MoCA guise. The intense lighting makes it look washed out. I've messed with this picture to give more contrast.I have no idea how many of the entries were from the Berkshires. But other than museum staff I didn't see anyone there I knew.

And even though I got into MoCA the easy way - through an exhibit where they included every entry - I'm in MoCA. And to me it's great to be in my favorite museum. And 4.25 years before the deadline I set for myself - 80.




January 21, 2011

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Years ago I told Joe Thompson, the director of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, that I had to be shown there before I was 80.

I've beaten that deadline by 5 years. My Bust of Sol with Glasses, above, is part of an exhibit, An Exchange with Sol LeWitt, that opens Sunday and runs through March.

The reception is from 4:30 to 6:30 tomorrow evening (Saturday the 22nd). I hope you come.

The exhibit, curated by Regine Basha, commemorates LeWitt's penchant for exchanging gifts of art with artists famous and unknown.

Everyone who submitted something to this show - and it turned out to be almost 1,000 - was assured their contribution would be exhibited either at MASS MoCA or the showroom of the co-sponsor, Cabinet Magazine in Brooklyn.

So I got into MoCA just by driving this sculpture down to Cabinet. But I'm psyched about being at MoCA. This is my favorite museum.

Like LeWitt's work, I expect many of the entries will be conceptual. An example is this piece, Boarding Pass by Paul Ramirez Jonas, which is a ticket for LeWitt to fly to the moon. It is dated for the day he died.

In conjunction with Yale University and Williams College, MoCA restored a three-story building in it's complex to show LeWitt's wall drawings.

LeWitt played a central role in designing the interior and choosing where each piece would go. He did not live to see the project completed. He died in 2007 at 78. It opened the next year.

Below is an example of his work at MoCA. I have been through this building about a dozen times. It's mesmerizing and sometimes disorienting.

There is another opening tomorrow. It's for Sean Foley's Ruse in the Hunter Theater hall. Foley is actually the main event. But for me the main event is the Exchange.



January 19, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

This is downtown Pittsfield last Saturday night. I took the shot, which is a view of South and North streets where they merge, while waiting for the light to change at Park Square.

All the photos in this post are night lights. The one below is a blowup of the moon. Blowing up the moon, incidentally, isn't something that should be done idly. It could throw the whole solar system out of kilter.

Then comes the birch tree on the side of our house. The light on the trunk is coming from the dinning room window. The Christmas lights are mounted on our flag pole.

And here's the back of the house from the spot where I took all of the pictures.



January 17, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner  unless noted/All Rights Reserved

Henry Klimowicz has made a heroic piece of art and it is hanging at the Berkshire Museum. Disc II: Bright Star, shown above at Saturday night's opening, is a transcendent piece of art.

Tipped toward the viewer, it is suspended by wires from the room's massive skylight and I found it almost impossible to take my eyes off it. It is both ethereal and commanding, spiritual and perhaps slightly ominous.

Bright Star is the centerpiece of an impressive show, Construct, that is spread through three galleries. It a show that I believe MASS MoCA would have been proud to mount.

Like Rumpelstiltskin who spins straw into gold in the fairy tale, Klimowicz's alchemy is spinning cardboard into art. All the work in this show is made of that humble packing material.

The moment I saw Bright Star through the doors to the museum's Ellen Crane room I was stunned by its force and beauty, by its gravitational pull.

Nothing at the museum has grabbed me like this since it acquired

Mark Milloff's contemporary Moby Dick masterpiece some years ago.

Bright Star is the largest work of art that the museum has ever shown, to my knowledge. The museum puts its diameter at 20 feet but it looks larger. Even though Klimowicz made it in four sections, it didn't fit in the elevator and a crew, that included the museum's innovative director, Stuart Chase, carried it up the stairs.

Under Chase, the museum has mounted two major shows by regional artists - something I don't think has been done before.

The breakthrough was the show in the Crane room by Joe Wheaton and Susan Rogers last year.

One of the great things about Bright Star is that it is porous, allowing light to pass through. You can see that, and get an idea of how Klimowicz makes it.

His tools are a utility knife and a hot glue gun. His technique is labor intensive. He says 4.5 miles of cardboard strips went into Bright Star. To fight tedium he listens to recorded books and videos.


In this photo Klimowicz is telling a member of the large opening-night audience how the disc is supported by internal wires and a series of external wires suspended from the another set of wires spanning the room's giant skylight.

Needless to say it was not the average job in the museum staff's life. You can see  a short time-lapse video of the installation on the museum's website.

Why cardboard: "It is a statement about the possible — that all things can be redeemed, often for more than what was deposited. And that creativity can be that redeemer.”

Many people in the crowd seemed mesmerized by the work. The next five photos are of people gazing at it. The first is of the artist and me (I'm the old man.)

Photo by Susan Geller


Photo from Henry Klimowicz's website.

Here is a photo of the gallery that Klimowicz has created in the hay mow of the former dairy barn on his property in Millerton, N.Y., which is about an hour from Pittsfield.

Klimowicz said he gave up his artwork for a period of years while he was doing billing for his wife, a doctor, and taking care of their daughter.

But he has plunged back into the art in the last couple years and is an artist on fire.

While I have been focusing on the big disc, the photo above shows his work is varied, as is his museum show.

The curator for the show is Maria Mingalone, shown above as she spoke to the crowd Saturday.

She met Klimowicz about 25 years ago. He was a friend of the man she was married to.

"We were a bunch of scrappy artists working out of the same warehouse on the Brooklyn waterfront," she said last night. Now the neighborhood is called Dumbo.

But she hadn't seen Klimowicz's work in a long time  until visiting his barn last year. She was very impressed with its maturity and clear vision.

"It kind of spawned for me the idea of working with artists who haven’t had significant museum shows," she said.

I hope it is an idea she pursues. She is in a position to help shape direction. Several years ago Chase made her the director of interpretation, a position in which she oversees exhibitions, education and the collection at the museum.

She is also the curator for the M. C. Escher show that opens next week.


Here Donald Clark of Pittsfield's Ferrin Gallery and two other opening-nighters talk about this Klimowicz piece. Below are two additional pieces in the show, which is spread over three galleries.



And finally another work of art, Pittsfield artist Colleen Quinn. I like her, her work and the great purple coat she wore to the opening.

You can find helpful reviews and advance articles on this show by Charles Bonenti in the Berkshire Eagle , Dan Shaw in Rural Intelligence ,

and Leslie Ann Beck in Berkshire Living.

Klimowicz's website is henryklimowicz.com.


January 15, 2011

Photos by Grier Honer/All Rights Reserved

Now comes Killing Fields (Number 11) in all its glory: flowers past their prime, magnolia leaves, golden stalks of grain, purple coated chocolates and a sketch of Magin.

I used a lot of photographs of Magin in my posts of September 24 and 22. She is a very handsome young woman making her way in New York City.

There is a grommet in each corner of the canvas on which she is drawn, and a copper nail has been driven into the panel at each grommet.

You can see the deteriorated condition of the yellow roses that I encased in a liquid plastic that hardens. The purple dots at the top of the painting are coated choclates Babbie gave me for christmas.

Here are the magnolia leaves, tiger lilies and some reddish flowers I can't identify.

I posted Number 10 in the series on January 7. The paintings - more accurately collages - in this series are all on 4' x 2' panels.


January 13, 2011

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

So what do I give you on this wintry day? Our cars looking like beached whales after Tuesday night's heavy snow? Bird's swarming our feeder? Me snow blowing?

No, I'm giving you a couple of Lee Price's hyper realistic paintings of women indulging a guilty pleasure in bed or in the bathtub.

Lee Price, Jelly Doughnuts. Oil on Linen, 40'x 64"


Lee Price, Self Portrait in Tub with Ice Cream, Oil on Linen, 32" x 59"

Lee Price, Cherry Cheesecake II. Oil on Linen, 28″x68″

Lee Price, Grilled Cheese II. Oil on Linen, 38″ x 72″

I'm always amazed when someone can paint so realistically the work looks like a photo. And she is one of the best at that I've seen. And the subject matter in this series is wonderfully contemporary. I don't know which is sexier, the young women or the food.

Price is a painter I know very little about. I stumbled across her work on my daily email from Flavor Pill on Tuesday. You can see 11 more paintings in this series by going to that site.

Even going to her website doesn't give you much, other that she graduated from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1990, lives in Beacon, N.Y., and is represented by galleries in Santa Fe and Anaheim.



January 11, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Hanging low over the Coltsville section of Pittsfield on Friday was this small sunbow, the first I had ever seen.

Riley, my sharp-eyed granddaughter spotted it from the back seat as Michael drove along Dalton Avenue.

I had never heard of a sunbow, much less seen none, but Riley knew all about them and this wasn't her first.

This one was shot through the window of Michael's red rental car.

According to the American Heritage Science Dictionary, a sunbow is "a prismatic arc of colors, similar to a rainbow, resulting from the refraction of sunlight through a mist or spray of water."

Sunbows must bring good luck because from Wednesday through Sunday Babbie and I saw, in stages, all three of our kids and their families. All of us are anxiously awaiting the birth of Eric and Michelle's twin boys.

P.S. Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man, which posts every other day, failed to publish on January 9 due to technical difficulties. The worst of these was the crashing of my iMac. The experts at Mad Macs in Pittsfield are trying to salvage its lost files. Cleverly, I had not backed anything up. Thousands of my photos hang in the balance, among other things.



January 7, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Here is Number 10 in the Killing Fields series. Like the others it is 4' x 2' and the paint is acrylic. I made the mask of wire mesh with a glued on newspaper backing and clay. Flowers, weeds, and a copper disc were also used.

When I shot this yesterday the sun was shining and cast a shadow across the bottom of the collage. The shadow was cast by me.

The purple flowers are asters, I think. I love the color.

I'm sorry but I can't identify this flower. As you may remember the mask has Cone flowers for eyes.





January 5, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/From a Black Swan trailer

As the pure and lovely white swan, Nina, played by Natalie Portman, is perfect. But Nina's quest for perfection is her problem the artistic director tells her over and over in the Black Swan, a fevered, beautifully filmed melodrama directed by Darren Aronofsky of The Wrestler fame. It blocks the passion and abandon necessary to play his wicked black swan.

In the struggle to cope with getting in touch with a dark side she has to first develop, in her fear of being replaced by her rival, in her inability to shake off her controlling mother, Nina goes crazy.

Portman makes Nina's disintegration so convincing she is considered Oscar bound.

"It's a perfect storm of disaster for the self-mutilating and cripplingly insecure Nina, who lives with her infantalizing single mother, a failed ballerina (Barbara Hershey), in a claustrophobic Upper West Side apartment full of stuffed animals" says Lou Lumenick in the New York Post.

Portman in her insecure mode in photo taken from Rotten Tomatoes

"Black Swan is no more about the behavior of ballerinas than its central pretext, Swan Lake, is about the habits of birds," says New York Times critic A.O. Scott. "It is, rather, an inky, unhinged fairy tale, a swirl of intuitions and sensations visited upon and realized through the body of its star..."

But enough analysis. Here are more photos I took from the trailer playing on my computer screen last night.

This is the start of a passionate sexual encounter - which may or may not have happened - between Nina and her rival, Lily, played by Mila Kunis after Lily has talked her into a night on the town.

On opening night Nina attacks Lily in an imagined fight that frees Nina to dance the white swan perfectly and the black swan with abandon. She is applauded wildly. You knew she would triumph.

But in the next moments the movie ends in a way I had not expected. Maybe it was inevitable but I didn't see it coming.

Usually I forget what movies were about in a week or, more often than I like to admit, in a day. But this one will join a small group of films like The English Patient and My Stepmother Is an Alien as one that has etched a lasting impression on my brain.




January 3, 2011

Maggi Hambling, an English painter and sculptor, is a hard smoking, whisky drinking 64-year-old who since 2002 has been concentrating on the sea.

She paints waves boldly and beautifully. In a 2010 interview in The Examiner, she explained her fascination:

"It's the power and the energy and it's very sexy. As a wave approaches you and gets itself together and rears up and becomes almost solid and then dissolves, it's like an orgasm."

Ordinarily the next photo I would show would be another of the artist's paintings. But this time I'll show you Maggi Hambling with one of her paintings (the one at the top of this post).

Now for a sculpture, one that I love.

Photo by Andrew Dunn

It's called The Scallop. And the words cut into it - "I hear those voices that will not be drowned" - are from Benjamin Britten's opera Peter Grimes.

The Examiner quote in which Hambling compares waves to orgasms is really fun to read. I think it is by Mischa Haller, but I can't find her byline on it.

You can read it here. It starts out this way:

   Maggi Hambling – OBE, CBE, painter, portraitist, sculptor, and so pretty much the full Monty, art-wise – lives part of the week in a cottage in Suffolk, so the deal is if I get myself to Saxmundham train station she'll pick me up, as she does. She is waiting on the platform in her paint-splattered boots and a T-shirt enlivened by the slogan "Do I look bothered?". She is 64 and, in photographs, looks rather forbidding, like some hooded bird of prey poised to pick you up in its beak, thrash you about a bit, and then have you for breakfast but, in the flesh, she is quite soft, with wavy grey hair and lovely blue eyes framed by a ton of mascara. She is famed for always wearing a ton of mascara. And the best brand? "The best one is undoubtedly Princess Borghese," she says, "but you can't get it in this country any more. I think I use Lancôme at the moment."
    We walk to her car. It is not a car you could ever miss. It is a massive white Chrysler thingummy (sorry, not good at cars) which, she says, was always being mistaken for a wedding limousine so now she's personalised it with red trim and wheels, and a number plate ending in "GAY". It is very glamorous, very Scott Fitzgerald, although she calls the car "Marilyn" because it's so "sexy".

One more painting and I'll call it a night.



January 1, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Buffalo Bill's

by e e cummings


Buffalo Bill's

              who used to
              ride a watersmooth-silver
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeons justlikethat
he was a handsome man
                                          and what I want to know is
how do you like your blue-eyed boy
Mister Death


Since I've been mentioning death in the dying stages (get the dying tie-in? - of 2010, I thought I'd start 2011 with that poem by ee cummings. I have a hard time memorizing. And there are few if any poems I can recite all the way through.

But I do remember some lines from poems. And one of those is "how do you like your blue-eyed boy Mister Death Only I, and a lot of others, apparently had it wrong. I thought it was "how do you like your blue-eyed boy now Mister Death.

For my latest Killing Fields collage, I made this sculpture a couple days ago. I started thinking of the poem as I was looking at the empty eyes. I stuck two dried out Cone Flowers from Babbie's garden in the sockets. Since the sculpture is not Buffalo Bill, I don't have to come up with a blue flower. So I think I'll stick to these. Their formal name is Echinacea, which is sort of cool, don't you think?


By the way, Happy New Year.



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