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Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man


March 31. 2009



That's not open water out on the lake beyond the white ice in the foreground. That's decaying ice. My lake walks are over for the season.

I took this photo yesterday noon. It was raining and the wind was blowing hard. Earlier it had snowed and it would snow again. Typical spring weather in the Berkshires. At least the snow didn't stick.

I took Nicole's projector back to Stephentown in the morning and just as I did the day I picked it up I got lost. I could not find the road to her house. I mean I really couldn't find it and I'd just been there six days ago. I drove up Route 43 several times, twice all the way into Stephentown Center looking for the place it slices off 43 on a curve.

After 20 minutes of hunting, I was really frustrated and flustered and a little scared. At my age things like this make you thing Alzheimer's. Finally I stopped at a real estate office and got directions. The problem: Her road doesn't slice off Route 43. It slices off a road that slices off 43.

I couldn't remember a very simple route. And I hadn't taken the GPS unit Eric gave me for Christmas because I have trouble programming it. I've got to sit down and read the manual.

Sorry to bore you with old man stories.



March 29, 2009



For her birthday last Monday, Babbie and I went over to the greenhouses at Smith College to get a preview of spring. Here's Babbie with a ton of tulips.

Soon - well actually not that soon - she'll be out in our yard planting annuals in her fantastic flower beds in the yard. Her's aren't the gardens where you can see ground between the plants. In her's the flowers grow in such profusion weeds don't stand a chance. Here's what I mean:



This was her front garden last summer. The ladder's up because I was scraping peeling paint from the side of the house.

After meandering through the green houses at Smith in Northampton we drove over to South Deerfield to see the butterflies.

You go into this warehouse-like place with a glass roof and butterflies of infinite variety and in great numbers fill the air, perch on trees and plants and occasionally on the patrons.

You can tell how pleased Babbie was when this one landed on her shoulder and spent the next five minutes or so with her. None landed on me.

 In 2010 we will have been married 50 years.


March 27, 2009



Me and Joan at Zeitgeist last night. By the way we didn't get raided by the FBI. Babbie took the shot. Today (Friday) I'm at the Berkshire Community College Art Gallery, 1 Columbus Avenue, from 1 to 4 to talk with people who drop in to see my Dresden Firebombing show.


 March 26, 2009




This statue of Joan of Arc is at the Cathedral at Rheims.



Tonight there's An Evening with the Artist  at the Zeitgeist Gallery at 684 North Street, Pittsfield. The subject is Joan of Arc and I'm the artist. It's taking place in conjunction with my show, Jeanne d'Arc, that opened there last Saturday. (See my March 23 post.)

It starts at 7 and I expect to talk a little about Joan of Arc and then open it up to a conversation with the audience - I hope there is one. You're all invited.

While I'm talking, Carl Th Dreyer's classic silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc will be projected on the wall thanks to Nicole's magic machine. That gives the audience a distinct advantage. You can watch the movie instead of listening to me.

Renee Falconetti, as Joan, gives what many consider one of the screen's finest performances.

Playing the movie could provide some excitement. The FBI could raid the joint. You know how you're warned at the beginning of each DVD not to show this in public for love or money? Well this is one of those illegal showings. The Swat Team could burst in at any time, adding a little drama to the proceedings.

By the way, this is for love, not money. For all this potential excitement, there's no admission fee.



P.S. This Friday I will be at the new downtown Berkshire Community College Art Gallery from 1 to 4 if you want to drop in and see my show, The Dresden Firebombing, which opened there March 13.


March 23, 2009

My second show in a week opened Saturday night and this is a shot of me, 73, with two of my Jeanne d'Arc paintings - numbers 25, left, and 8. Almost all the photos here were taken by my granddaughter, 9. (See everything in this paragraph has a number.)

This show is at the Zeitgeist Gallery in Pittsfield and is up through April 5. The first show is at the new Berkshire Community College Art Gallery downtown and is up through April 17.

In this shot Betsy Dovydenas, left, Carrie Saldo, Dusty Bahlman and Don Spier.

A detail from one of the paintings.

Eliza Cooney and Peter Kosiba of Florence with Jeanne d'Arc Number 24.

My granddaughter with Map of Dresden, which was put in this Joan of Arc show to tie in with my Dresden show on view at the new BCC Art Gallery downtown.

Looks like a Mace attack

Painter Paul Graubard

Carrie Saldo and me

Stephen Capagna, left

Peggy and Don Spier from Columbia, Maryland, with Leslie Harrison, whose first book of poetry, Displacement, is being published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and me.

Zeitgeist founders Karen Boutet and Alan Nidle

Harriet Cuyler

My granddaughter took this shot of the car lot and apartment buildings on Kent Avenue from the front window of Zeitgeist. The crane rising to the right is being used in construction of the new parking garage at Berkshire Medical Center.



March 21, 2009



Look at this gallery glow. This is what you would have seen if you drove down North Street last night as you passed the Zeitgeist Gallery across from the Dollar store. Paintings by Grier Horner. Lighting, and a lot of other stuff, by Brent Whitney, who is assuming a major role in the gallery operation.

And tonight from 6:30 to 9:30 people will be dropping in for the opening. Hope you are among them. And if you're a glutton for punishment, there's An Evening with the Artist this coming Thursday at 7. We'll talk about Joan of Arc and how she turned the tide in the Hundred Years War. And if all goes according to plan, a classic silent film, The Passion of Joan of Arc, will be projected on the wall while we talk.

Along with Alan Nidle, who started the gallery last year, Brent and I hung this show of 19 of my paintings about the life and death of Jeanne d'Arc. And Brent put in the new wall at the far end of the gallery, painted, installed more lighting and made the paintings catch fire. He did a brilliant job.

I swept the sidewalk and the curb line of its winter's worth of sand and gravel, cigarette butts, cans and papers. I felt like the Dutch scrubbing their stoops. Take a look at the sidewalk. I think you'll find I did a brilliant job.

Here is another shot I took last night, this one taken from inside along the same wall I showed you two days ago in daylight.

So as of tomorrow I have two shows along the North Street corridor. This one and my Dresden show at the new Berkshire Community College Art Gallery on Columbus Avenue just off North. I hope you won't think I'm bragging. But of course that's what I'm doing.

I started painting this series last May and by this January I had done 33 of them. As you can imagine I don't really have room for them in my house - storing large paintings is a large problem. Even though it's only temporarily, Babbie is glad to get them out of the house, where they've been stacked against the walls.

I am grateful to Alan for giving me this show and to Brent for putting in so much work to present the gallery and paintings in their best light. Until last night I hadn't seen the dramatic impact lighting could have on them. It's 1:35 a.m. and I'm going to bed so I won't nap through the opening.




March 19, 2009



For the last several days we have been getting things ready for the Zeitgeist Gallery show of my Jeanne d'Arc paintings. I took this shot of them on the gallery wall yesterday afternoon.

Of the 33 paintings in the series, 19 are in this show. Some of them are pretty big. The two in the foreground are 7' x 5' and won't fit in my van.

So I rented a bright orange truck Monday and Paul, Babbie and I loaded it with paintings and took them to the Zeitgeist. The same day Brent and I hauled three portable wall sections. I use the term portable loosely. Each was 8' x 4' x 1' wide and weighed a ton.

Using a chain fall, Brent lowered two of them from the cargo door in his second-floor studio.  It was heavy duty stuff. I wish I'd had my camera to capture his technique wrestling these babies around.

Back at Zeitgeist he used them to build a small room at the back.

Brent, Alan, Lisa and I hung and rehung the paintings. I think they look great but I don't know how they're going to be received. They are so different from the Dresden Firebombing paintings being shown at the new Berkshire Community College Art Gallery. To see Peter Dudek's review of that show click this link.

If you'd like to come to the Zeitgeist opening, consider yourself invited. It will be held from 6:30 to 9:30 this Saturday. Zeitgeist is a little bit of old SoHo. It is the brainchild of Alan Nidle who also has a gallery in Cambridge. At this place, the sound system is a wooden record player that spins Alan's collection of vintage 33 rpm records.

Saving the best for last, let me switch gears. I watched my granddaughter play the haughty queen in a grammar school production yesterday and I think a star was born. But then you know how grandfathers are. The crew of third, fourth and fifth graders was under the direction of two coaches from the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge. Performing before friends and relatives, the kids had the audience with them all the way. It was great fun. Riley looked wonderful in her pink boa and "crown."






March 15, 2009


This was the opening Friday evening. The place was jammed. There were speeches commemorating the new Berkshire Community College Art Gallery. The pictures shown here were taken by my granddaughter, who is , 9, and Joe Goodwin, who snapped the third and seventh pics.


Paul Graubard converses with Donald Clark of the Ferrin Gallery. Mary Hannah is on the right. Over Paul's shoulder is Colleen Surprise Jones.


     Babbie and our daughter Shannon.

In this one she caught the painter in a moment of great dignity. Peter Kasiba on the left must have just said something so funny that I'm struggling to retain a mouthfull of Coke while Peter Dudek reads the card for the show.



Here we have Mark Tomasi, Kristen Luttinen, Ryan Weightman and Eric Drury.

"And She Was All of Solid Fire"


In this shot, from the left, Dick Miner, Babbie, Gene Dellea and BCC President Paul  Raverta (center).

These are casts I made of dolls heads salvaged from a burned out German factory.


From the left, Ted Griffith, who helped Lisa and me hang the show, Emrys Yetz, the old man.

BCC Art Professor Lisa Yetz, who made this show happen.

Grier and Autumn


Paul Nichols, who helped load and unload the paintings.

And we leave you with Riley's shot of the tracks reflecting the setting sun. After all this gallery is in the Joseph Scelsi Intermodal Transportation Center. Which is the combined train, bus and taxi station in downtown Pittsfield. Joe, by the way, was a friend of mine. Joe was president of the City Council when the train station was an unheated Lexan shed and the bus station parking lot flooded every time it rained hard. He didn't live to see his idea become reality.


March 13, 2009



OK. It's arrived. Friday March 13. The day I've been waiting for. The grand opening of the Berkshire Community College Art Gallery putting my Dresden paintings center stage. I'm psyched, flying, hallucinogenic.

The 13th. Will the paintings fall from the walls? Will I get run over crossing the street to the gallery? Will an earthquake drop the building on us all during the reception? Will there be anyone at the opening for the concrete to fall on?

I took this shot yesterday morning. I had helped Lisa Yetz, the BCC art professor, put the lettering on the front windows Wednesday. Last night I went back to get a shot of my paintings bathed in light and visible from the street. Lisa had told me they made the interior glow. But there was an electrical problem and the gallery lights weren't on.

Certainly they will be on tonight. As I keep telling you - Babbie says my constant promotion of this show shows where one of our kids got his love of attention - the opening is from 5:30 to 7:30. It's in the Joseph Scelsi Intermodal Transportation Center, 1  Columbus Avenue right off North Street. (As a reporter I knew and admired the late Joe Scelsi, who was the City Council president. So it's nice having the show in a building named for him.)

This shot was taken from the sidewalk looking in. From the reflections in the glass you can tell that it is across from the Columbus Avenue parking garage - which you enter from Summer Street one block north. So there's plenty of free parking. You can also park in the subterranean reaches of the transit center.

The gallery is a showcase for work by BCC students and alumni. I qualify. In the late 1990's and the early 2000's I took art classes there under three great professors: Lisa Yetz, Benigna Chilla and Mark Miloff, all impressive artists as well as instructors. Mark is the guy who did the gigantic, frenetic and awesome painting inspired by Moby Dick that hangs in the Berkshire Museum. As Pittsfielder's know, Melville wrote Moby Dick while living here - perhaps the city's greatest claim to fame.

The beat goes on. On March 21 I have another opening. This one's at Zeitgeist from 6:30 to  9:30. About a dozen of my Jeanne d'Arc paintings will be hung. In fact I just rented the truck to cart them there. I love these Joan of Arc paintings, my first serious plunge into abstraction. Maybe you'll hate them. Babbie does.



March 11, 2009



This is a sketch in oil that I did about a year ago. It derived from William Blake's painting Pity.



I converted the woman on horseback to an angel, because that's what the figures of the horses and the man with the outstretch arms suggested to me. It had occurred to me that I could use it as the model for a new painting in my

series on the Dresden firebombing by the Allies in World War II. Instead of a child in her hands she could have an incendiary bomb.

"And she was all of solid fire," Blake wrote in one poem. And that is the way I would try to paint her. That was also my goal in painting the angel in this detail (below) from another Angel of Incineration. It is one of six Dresden paintings I have at the new Berkshire Community College Art Gallery. The grand opening for the gallery in the Joseph Scelsi Intermodal Transportation Center downtown is this coming Friday from 5:30 to 7:30. Hope you can make it. I plan

to use the Blake-derived sketch as the basis for a new painting for another Dresden show next winter at Bard College at Simon's Rock. I love Blake's reclining figure, but haven't decided whether to let her stand-in for the burning German city, or to paint in the burning buildings. All this leads  

obliquely into an angel subject I've been discussing with a friend via email. Should angels have arms. It seems to me that wings, arms and legs would give the angel too many appendages, that wings would substitute for arms as they do in a bird (even though that isn't the way I've painted my angels). At least one old time sculptor saw it the way I did. I can't remember where I got this photo, where it is or who did it. It's too bad that I went over this one with a pen. I was trying to work something out. But you get the idea of the arms becoming the


wings, instead of wings sprouting out of the angel's back. Here is another of my Dresden angels in the BCC show. At least one person has called the show satanic. And I guess he would be right in at least one way: Surely killing 25,000 to 40,000 people in a firestorm was not an act of God.










March 9, 2009



Paintings are stacking up all around the house as I get ready for two shows (see my March 7 post), one opening March 13 and the other the 21st.

Let me give you an idea of the size of these things. The painting in the foreground is more than a foot taller than I am. The one peeking over its top goes almost to the ceiling.

The six in the first show, Dresden, are already hung in the Joseph S. Scelsi Intermodal Transportation Center.

For the last four weeks I've been building stretchers for my Jeanne d'Arc series. That's been a lot of work because there are more than 30 of them. Maybe half of those were already stretched. But the others were painted on canvas tacked over older paintings. So now I've had to pay the price for not building them as I need them.

I like building the stretchers - the wooden framework the painting is stretched over. But it takes me a lot longer than I think because after I work a few hours I need to rest, or nap. At this point I only have one or two to go. When I get rich and famous I'll hire an assistant so I don't have to do all the cutting, gluing and screwing.

Now the task is choosing about 10 Jeanne d'Arcs to hang. I was talking with Alan Nidle, the Zeitgeist operator, Saturday at a lively opening at his place. Going on the less is more theory, we decided to give each painting some breathing room. (in addition Alan wants to hang a couple Dresden paintings to tie in with the other show which will be running concurrently.

Our new hanging scheme means some paintings I've already made stretchers for won't make the cut. I had originally been thinking we'd have room for more.

Below is a photo of a stretcher under construction in my studio this week with one of the Jeanne d'Arc paintings behind it. Not sure it will be in the show. But the painting in the top photo will be.



March 7, 2009

I should apologize for putting this invitation on. By this time you have probably gotten it by email. For some reason I had to put a space between each section to keep them from taking a weird configuration.



March 5, 2009

I want to tell you how it was out on the lake Wednesday - a day so clear everything was in sharp focus. The houses along the shore, the tall white pines at the inlet, the mountains stretched out like women on their backs, everything was etched, three dimensional.

I was listening to Wally Lamb’s intensely emotional novel “The Hour I First Believed” as I walked out on Pontoosuc. The lake was studded with islands of snow in a sea of glare ice. You could walk confidently on the snow but the glare ice was treacherous. So I looked for snow links between islands, which took me on a circuitous route, and when I couldn't find them I did my old lady - or rather old man - routine, taking mincing steps bred of fear of falling.

Lamb’s main character, Caelum Quirk, is reminiscing about his Aunt Loli, a prison guard rebelling against the new get-tough policy in the women’s prison where she was a guard, a prison named for her mother, its humane long-time warden.

His aunt has just died and as he thinks about how much he had loved her, had failed to tell her, how in the last years of her life he dreaded her phone calls, bored by her rampages against the prison, rampages he later realized were fully justified. (This is all prelude to the shootings at Columbine, which his wife, a school nurse, survives.)

So with the words in my ears and the wind in the eyes, I labored to keep tears from flowing. It all made me think of my mother who I dearly loved and my regrets in not being able to help and comfort her in the final stages of her manic depression, the stages where she would lie silently on the floor for days, gripped by fear and curled up as to if to protect herself from it. How I wish I had lain beside her, put my arm around her, talked to her, with her.

I thought of her after a number of electric shock treatments - treatments she had begged me to stop. How burned out she was, the soul of her, the compassion, the empathy, the ebullience all burned out of her.

It was only later that I would read Two Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and realize she was right about the searing pain of shock treatment. And it was only recently that it dawned on me that it was the shock treatments that had turned her into this shell, this lovely, drained shell.

So I picked my way along the islands of snow, the occasional bunched shards of upended ice, the patches of glare ice, staying far from the seven or eight pickups scattered across the lake as their drivers fished through holes cut with shrill gas-powered augers.

I couldn’t find a snowy archipelago that would take me to the north end of the lake, where I wanted to go. A wide band of glistening ice cut off that route.

I haven’t walked the lake much this winter. I keep telling myself I don’t have time. Yesterday I knew I would make time. The lake in winter is compelling, as was my mother before she took her life at 58.

(Her portrait above is one I made by blowing up her passport photo on a Xerox machine and wrapping it around a large Sona Tube.)




March 3, 2009



Evalene stretched out on my left leg last night while we were watching Frozen River on the TV last night.

Good movie. Melissa Leo, who was nominated for an Academy Award, delivered a great performance as she delivered illegal aliens into the US from Canada.

Evie didn't watch but luxuriated in front of the fire while I stroked her silky black coat. She's about 16 and can't leap like she used to and is getting a few gray hairs. This cat is really loud when she cries for food or attention. The vet figures her voice has gotten stronger because she's loosing her hearing: in order to hear herself she had to turn up the volume.


March 1, 2009



Here it is, the 1st of March already. My mother maintained that if the first words out of your mouth in a new month were "Bunny Rabbit" you'd have good luck all month long. I almost always forget. But it came to me as I wrote this at 12:22  a.m. today. So I said Bunny Rabbit out loud in a house silent except for the clicking of the baseboard radiators.

I took this photo of the sun streaming into our house late yesterday morning. I love that red door and the Christmas spray that Babbie hangs above it. Hope she keeps it up a while longer. Our Christmas lights hoisted on the flag pole are still lit every night. But she's saying it's about time to retire them for the season.

In the afternoon Babbie and I walked through the woods to the Beautiful Field. On a day like yesterday, with the snow still covering the ground, the sun gleaming, the sky a spectacular blue and the bears still hibernating, I remember why winter is my favorite season. Then we hit an art opening at the Ferrin Gallery and in the evening drove up to see an open rehearsal of new work by the dancer Stefanie Weber and her crew. What a great day.








Seth Harwood, writer

Leslie, poet

Joe Goodwin, painter

Juliane: bimbopolitics

Lisa Reinke, painter

John Mitchell, commentary

Charles Guiliano, MAVERIC, art critic

Saatchi Gallery

Steve Satullo, movies

Christine Heller, artist





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