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Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man


February 27, 2010

Here's the invitation to my talk at the Berkshire Museum next week. It's free. As it should be, you say. No, after you see my paintings projected on the movie screen and hear what I say, you will leave the auditorium like a crowd that has just seen The English Patient. Or would Psycho be more apt?

Certainly I'm psyched about doing it. I've been  loading slides into my software in wild abandon and now have 142.

Every time I go in to prune, I end up adding more instead.

I have 45 minutes to talk. So I will get serious tomorrow about timing and trimming. I'm not just including my own stuff but have paintings by others, mostly famous.

Here are a couple old paintings of mine from a series where I was using words as the images. I'm not sure they'll survive the cut.

The first two paintings use words ripped off from poetry by Ed Ochester. The next one is the word Magic written in dripped paint hundreds of overlapping times, sometimes upside down, sometimes sideways and sometimes the right way and once in giant letters across the page. All three, as you might imagine, are six footers.



February 25, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner

I've started taking photos of videos playing on my computer . Here are some I shot while watching a video of Stefanie Weber's dance ensemble - Creatures of Habitat. In this shot: Karen Lee, left, Lita Lundeen Setchfield and if you look closely, me.


In this one my camera is a fire-breathing dragon. Ben Pender-Cudlip made the video. Take a look at it here.

Another fire shot. This time I'm shooting Guns and Roses singing.

Who turned the lights on. Here are Karen Lee, left, and Stefanie Weber. Part of Stefanie's new work, habitat (de)fragmentation, is danced in the dark.

It will premiere April 17 upstairs at Jae's Spice in Pittsfield with two performances, one at 7 and the second at 9. I'll let you know when you can make reservations.


P.S. We had more than a foot of snow yesterday. And we may get more today . But we're still way behind the 50 inches they got in the mid-Atlantic states a couple weeks ago. New England used to be the snow belt. I think that the belt is being worn lower on the map in the last few years.



February 23, 2010


Photos by Grier Horner

Welcome to the wonderful world of Emma Amos' art, on view at the Flomenhaft gallery in Manhattan through Saturday. (After i wrote this the exhibit was extended to March 3.)

Amos, who is in her early 70s, created most of the work in the show last year. (And you can imagine how I love artists still coming up with compelling work at that age.)

The giant triptych at the top of this post, Higher and Higher, celebrates the rise of African Americans from slavery to the White House.

Like much of the work in this show, the painting is fringed with African fabric and instead of being stretched or framed, hangs from a pole inserted through a pocket in the top. Below is a detail from the painting.

In All I Know of Wonder (above) and Fall (below), Ms. Amos gives the main characters several different skin tones. Katrina Ellis, the gallery manager, said this reflects the artist's bi-racial heritage. The artist obviously likes to take on issues of race and gender.

You can view a video of Ms. Amos talking aspiring artists to have a story to tell by clicking this link. It ends abruptly after a minute because it is a teaser for a longer video you have to by. There is also a 10-minute video about the artist you can see on this other link.

She is a Skowhegan governor, a newly-retired professor/chair at Rutgers' Mason Gross School of the Arts, is a former editor of Heresies Magazine and was featured in a 2009 film premiered at MoMA in October.

Flomenhaft is located at 547 West 27th Street, Suite 200, in Chelsea.


February 21, 2010

Photo by Grier Horner/All rights reserved

Viola Frey was 70 when she died in 2004, leaving a legacy of big, bold, I-dare-you-to-ignore-me sculpture that broke new ground in ceramics. The one above is Stubborn Woman, Orange Hands.

I saw Ms.Frey's work for the first time last week at the Nancy Hoffman Gallery, 520 West 27th Street in Manhattan. The show closed yesterday.

But if you missed this excellent show, you are in luck because the Museum of Arts and Design has her work on exhibit through May 2. It is located at 2 Columbus Circle in New York.

There you will see the colossal Weeping Woman (below.) It is my favorite Frey work from what I have seen on Google. I have not gone to this exhibit, Bigger, Better, More: The Work of Viola Frey, but plan to.

New York Times photo

Viola Frey was not a slave to beauty. Her awkward giants are raw, arresting, garish and very good. According to what I've read, Ms. Frey had a strong work ethic and was in her studio six days a week.

Exhibition view at Viola Frey show at Nancy Hoffman Gallery in 2002.

Several strokes in her later years hobbled her, but not her art.  A portable lift in her studio let her keep working.

"Because of their size and their blank or seemingly angry expressions, they may remind you of what it was like to be a child among grown-ups troubled by incomprehensible problems," says Ken Johnson in a New York Times review.

Her collosal men and women "are among the underappreciated wonders of late-20th-century art," he says. To read his appraisal go to this link.

I photographed Standing White Majestic Man at Nancy Hoffman. She had started doing some figures in white, but I miss the aggressive splashes of color. When I stood beside this figure, the top of my head didn't his outstretched arm. A ceramic painting of hers is behind him.

Photo by Grier Horner/All rights reserved





February 19, 2010

Photo by Grier Horner/ All rights reserved

This is the outlet of Pontoosuc Lake, which is the headwater of one branch of the Housatonic River, a river that empties into Long Island Sound. It is the view you see just before turning into my road.

I've passed it so many times that I sometimes don't even look. But when I walk on the lake in winter I inhale the view. Don't worry the ice is very thick despite the open water here. If you squint you can see two pickups on the lake in the center of the photo.

I live in an incredibly beautiful place.

Right now in this incredibly beautiful place it's a little after 4 a.m. and the wind is howling around the house. And I've been trying to retrieve thousands of photographs that I lost by a drastic mistake I made on the computer's Aperture software a month or two again.

I've spent more hours than I'd like to think retrieving these supposedly unperceivable pictures.

I'm not a computer wizard but I'm driven to get as many back as I can. I've had some success - more than I expected at the beginning. They keep showing up in odd places where they weren't supposed to be.

Yesterday Babbie and I took our rented truck down to Bard College at Simon's Rock. With the help of the curator, Margaret Cherin, we took the paintings from my show down and packed them into the truck.

It makes me a little sad to take down a show, and it makes Babbie very sad. She wants paintings to leave the house - the repository for some 460 of them - not return to it.



February 17, 2010

Photo by Grier Horner/All rights reserved

Driving along Valentine Road Friday morning I saw an awe -inspiring shaft of light rising from the sun - hidden just below the crest of the hills - to a low-lying cloud.

I was headed for Wassaic to catch the train to New York City for Gallery Quest 7.

I pulled over, lowered the window and fired away with my Nikon Coolpix.

Thank God for pocket-sized cameras. I take it with me everywhere.

I had never seen anything like it before: I'm almost always in bed when the sun comes up.

Often I retouch photos in my Aperture software. But this one is straight from the camera. I wish I could show it to you in its full 4000 x 3000 pixel format.

Seeing this made me think of one of my first memories. As a child I was staring out my bedroom window looking at the sun come up. Suddenly large spots of light started emerging from the sun and moving toward me slowly and entering my eyes. It was visual magic.

The other day two friends of mine mentioned a talk they gave at their December show at the Storefront Artists.

"I wish you had told me you were giving a talk," I told Susan and Julie. "I would have like to have heard it."

"Grier," Susan said. "You were there."

But I can still remember those moving sun spots 70 years ago or more.



February 15, 2010


Paintings by Grier Horner/All rights reserved

Today I'm showing you some paintings I don't think you've seen before. The ones at the top and bottom are of Linda Baker-Cimini, the person I've painted most often.

Below is one of Babbie and our granddaughter when she was younger. Next is a 9/11 painting. After that is "Thin Cool Veil of Blood" that uses a line taken from a poem by my sister's husband Ed Ochester.

I've been thinking about some of my older work in connection with a powerpoint talk I'm preparing for the Berkshire Museum at 7 p.m. March 4. It's sponsored by the Pittsfield Cultural Council and is free.



February 13, 2010

Photos by Grier Horner/All rights reserved

Yesterday was Gallery Quest 7. But this isn't the day for gallery stuff. Today its about street life. And on this street, West 26th near 10th Avenue, if I remember correctly, was this beautiful Ford GT with its windowed hood cocked open to show the engine.

The man in the leather jacket was involved in whatever was happening here. I think it was some sort of photo shoot.

After taking this shot I went up the block and went in a couple galleries. I came back looking for the Susan Inglett Gallery at 520. It should have been right across the street. But I couldn't find it. Finally I figured it out. Wrong street.

By this time there was more activity. Inside and out there were a number of women who looked like models. I didn't stay long enough to see what happened.

In Manhattan the blonde population is high.

And so is the pouch population. Here two help their mistress cross 10th Avenue.

The poster count is also high. I can't remember what this one was advertising. But I'll take two, please. The obscured top line says "Smart May".

In college my roommate Bob Gersky used to muse that as the population increased there wouldn't be enough land to continue burying people one to a grave. He envisioned the eventual necessity of stacking coffins like they stack cars at this parking lot on 10th and 20th, only underground.

I forgot to mention the wind was blowing.




February 11, 2010

Jenny Saville

Back in the glory days of Abstract Expressionism, the critic Clement Greenberg said:

"In today's world it's impossible to paint a face."

To which Willem de Kooning responded:

"That's right. And it's impossible not to."

Here are some of the faces that have impressed me.

Lucien Freud


Tony Sherman


Alex Katz


Chuck Close


Andrew Wyeth




February 9, 2010

It was cold on Pontoosuc Lake when I walked on it to get the Sunday Times. The wind was blowing in my face as I headed North and I had to pull on my orange fleece headgear.

I hated taking my gloves off to  take pictures. But it was one of those mornings where you had to take pictures.

One of the shots I took was this one of myself. I had earphones on and was listening to my CD of The Woman in White, the 1860 mystery by Wilkie Collins.  The one below is looking north. The cloud banks contained hints of mauve and rose.




February 7, 2010

Photo by Barbara Horner/All rights reserved

Babbie stepped barefoot on an elephant a couple days ago and that's how I ended up cooking the Chicken Tetrazzini yesterday.

That's not an easy thing to do - stepping on an elephant, or cooking Chicken Tetrazzini, for that matter.

The thing is we use a heavy iron elephant, which started life as a bookend, to hold the bedroom closet door closed.

It was an accident waiting to happen because Babbie passes within a foot of it every time she gets into or out of bed.

This time it had stampeded into her path and gashed the bottom of her foot. In the emergency room they used seven stitches to close it and put her on crutches for a week.

That's the reason I cooked the Tetrazzini. That involves about 17 pans and 24 bowls and 87 ingredients and assorted kitchen utensils. To say nothing of making a sauce that uses half a cup of butter, 2/3 of a cup of flour and 6 cups of chicken stock, which is derived from simmering the chicken in water for an hour.

I won't bore you with all the details. But it took a long time to make it and I had to keep consulting Babbie, who had made it many times before, and who gamely simmered the chicken hopping around on her good leg. Babbie, not the chicken.

After it was all laid out in its large baking dish waiting to be shoved into a 350 degree oven, I felt a little rattled. So I had a glass of wine while I washed the 17 pans and 24 blowls and all the other assorted pieces of kitchenware.

It tasted great. Which is fortunate because it should last for another two suppers.

I replaced the photo originally accompanying this post with a reconstruction of the scene taken by Babbie a few minutes ago.

P.S. The recipe is from the second edition of "Good Eating around the Clock" by the women of the Second Reformed Church in Tarrytown, N.Y. I went to that church and so did Babbie. And that's where we were married in 1960. I think the cookbook dates from that era. When I looked at the beginning of the book, I realized I knew four of the seven women on the Cook Book Committee.




February 5, 2010

Photo by Riley Nichols/All rights reserved

Riley and I were involved in drive-by shootings one afternoon last week. No one was hurt. We were shooting with a camera.

The sky was dramatic and the late afternoon sun was hitting buildings and tree tops.

She got the great shot of downtown Pittsfield from the back seat while we were headed south on Center Street.

Before I turned the camera over to her, I got the picture below while we were stopped for a traffic light.

Then we went to Dottie's for a treat and my 10-year-old granddaughter gave me tips on how to use my cell phone, an instrument that baffles me.


Photo by Grier Horner/All rights reserved

Part Two

Last night I took in Bob Stone's show at Berkshire Community College's downtown gallery at the Intermodal Transit Center on Columbus Avenue. Here's a painting of his that I like a lot.

Bob has a sign painting business down in the old Wyandotte Mill below Pontoosuc Lake. I like the way he works some of the techniques he uses in his trade into this painting, and the one below.

I love the photo of Bob on this card for the show. It was taken by Sue Geller. (And in fact Sue took the picture of the card for me. Thanks Susan.) Before the show ends February 27, Bob plans to replace all the work with new pieces.



February 3,  2010

(Post 1)

Photos by Grier Horner/All rights reserved

A student sits in front of this fine abstract expressionist painting at Bard College at Simon's Rock in Great Barrington. I'm embarrassed to admit I can't remember the painter. (Margaret Cherin, the curator of my show at Simon's Rock, filled me in yesterday. It is by Nicolas Carone, a New York artist now in his 80s.)

She was one of many attending the opening reception an panel forum for Illumination:The Diversity of Contemporary American Ceramic Art - a terrific show at the Gallery at Liebowitz (the red barn across from the school's main entrance).

Here two women contemplate Boxer by Sergei Isupov of Cummington. His studio is in Project Art, a residency project housed in a building owned by Isupov and Leslie Ferrin of the Ferrin Gallery in Pittsfield.

That's Leslie on the left in the photo below, which illustrates the back of Boxer. She was one of the three panelists.

And below that are two students, a self portrait in a gallery skylight, and This is What You Were Born For (after Goya), a work by Richard Norkin, another of the 25 artists in the show.

Illumination is open on Fridays through Sundays from noon to 5 through February 24.


February 3, 2010

(Post Two)

Photos by Grier Horner/All rights reserved

Last night I gave my first Powerpoint presentation. It was before the Community Development Commission. In it I showed slides of the 77-acre Ponterril property across from my house.

Ninety three houses are planned there. I urged preservation of the hedgerows and protection of the ridge line show in the photo below. (See my January 27 post.)

The third shot is a self portrait with burrs encountered during me trek through the property. I'd like to say the commission gave me a standing ovation. But I'm not going to lie.




February 1, 2010

Today we're looking at photos I took of a fashion video on my computer screen. They are also self portraits.

Photos by Grier Horner/All rights reserved

A note on readership.  In January Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man recorded 101,406 hits - a record. The previous high was 88,477 in November. Another record was set in January when the blog had 4,868 visitors, beating the previous high by more than 1,000. Circulation is climbing.


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