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

March 29, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Watching the news last night , I saw both Brian Williams - the TV is to the right of this living room window - and the setting sun. Truth and beauty at the same time.

Babbie and I walked in the woods across the street on Sunday. When we moved into our house in 1965, this was a field. We had an Irish setter named Kelly then and I loved to watch her run through the tall grass.

This is is part of the YMCA's Ponterril property and the trees had been planted by the Wise Men's Club a few years earlier. In '65 they were still so short that they didn't show above the hay. The pines grew fast and for years we pirated our Christmas trees from what we continued to call "the field."

Most were 12 and 14 foot monsters. Putting them up was no picnic until our son Eric started lifting weights in his early teens. For his remaining years at home the annual tree raising was a piece of cake.

Eric and two neighborhood kids, Jeff and Tommy, cleared a network of trails through the woods to ride their bicycles. In the foreground of the photo is a mound of dirt that the recent generation of boys shoveled into the path to create a bike jump.

The Y plans to build a housing project on the 77-acre Ponterril tract. But this stretch of trees going back 200 feet from our road will be left as a buffer. And thanks to the city's new zoning so will the natural woods that widens out from here.

Widening out is an understatement. The woods you see above is part of hundreds of acres of forest. Despite the 92 units of housing, you will still be able to walk in woods all the way from our house to the "beautiful field," the GEAA golf course and down to the Piggery and up the hill to the ridge that runs to the mall road. When you get deep in the woods, the noises of civilization end, except for an occasional plane.

Our late dog Max and I used to roam the woods all year long. But once we encountered a black bear and since then I stay out of the woods pretty much except in winter when the bears hibernate. I am not brave about bears.




March 27, 2011

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Through a glass darkly seems an apt description of this photo of a wine glass I took last night . There is a beauty and mystery to the phrase, which comes from the Bible. In Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul talks about love in the famous sequence that ends like this:

"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."

I had just drunk a generous glass of sauvignon blanc after seeing the movie The Lincoln Lawyer at the mall. It was pretty good. I used to drink red wine. But in recent years I've turned largely to white. Currently my wine of choice - because of taste and price - is Frontera Savignon Blanc. It's $7.99 at the grocery, but specials often bring it down to $6.99. And that's for a 1.5 liter bottle. Cheap and good.



March 25, 2011

(Updated March 26)

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

If you've seen these paintings before, bear with me. They are from the Jeanne d'Arc series I did several years ago, a series I revisit from time to time because I like the paintings so much. The series, which consists of 35 paintings, most of them large, was done in 2008 and 2009 and shown at Pittsfield's Zeitgeist Gallery, which is, unfortunately, no more.

Above is one of only two horizontals in the series. In these paintings I used silver mylar. But relatively few of the paintings got that shimmering surface.



Here's one of the larger paintings in the group. In the first edition of this post I had shown you an earlier version of this painting. It looked wrong to me and I remembered I had reworked it. So the one above is the completed painting and the one below is its earlier incarnation. It's shown against the back doors of our house. At the very bottom of the post, you have a detail from it. I'd love to see the Jeanne d'Arcs get another exhibition.







March 23, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

I love the glass buildings in Manhattan because of the way they mirror the sky and their surroundings. I think the best of it is when the new reflects the old, as in the one above that I took Saturday when we were in New York celebrating Babbie's 75th birthday.

Jesus looks over the pedestrians on Fifth Avenue, above. And below is another shot contrasting old and new New York. It was taken from the new Museum of Modern Art on 53rd Street. For scenes inside the museum scroll down to my March 21 post.



March 21, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Right's Reserved

While his girlfriend snaps this red-headed desperado in front of Andy Warhol's Double Elvis, I got in a couple shots too. The scene was at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan on Saturday. I'm impressed that the kid in his enthusiasm managed not to cross the stop-here line on the floor. You've heard of action painting. This is action spectating. I got a real kick out of it.

Babbie and I were in New York celebrating her 75th birthday a few days in advance. Here she is during lunch at MoMA's dinning room. The bar looks like an alcoholic's dream. We had white wine, tart flambee and red snapper in a cream sauce. Man, everything was delicious.

Here we have (on the left) Bruce Nauman's Punch and Judy II Birth and Life and Sex and Death

mounted on a wall papered with an Aids design by a collective called General Idea. It's a riff on Robert Indiana's Love. Meanwhile, on the right Patty Hearst in Cady Noland's stand-up picture looks like she's a plugged the woman with long red hair. Between Nauman and Nolan there's a lot of gun toting going on.

A little girl is dwarfed by the sign for MoMA's abstract expression show.

Here's a favorite of mine, one of Robert Motherwell's series Elegy to the Spanish Republic. I think he painted about 150 on this theme over a period of years.

No matter how much body language the tour guide in the green sweater threw into her job, the attention of the seated boy strays to me shooting a picture. I wanted to get in the tour guide and her group as well as the woman posing in front of a monumental Jackson Pollack.

I'm an enthusiast of Abstract Expressionism. But either it's long-held grip on me is weakening or the show was a little boring. I expected to be bowled over but wasn't.




March 19, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Above is Killing Fields Number 23 and below is Number 22 which I previously displayed as a work in progress on March 13. Both are 3' x 2' on panels.

In both works, the face in the collage is my mother's. She has been the central figure in this portion of the series.

The change I made in Number 22 is the addition of a Man Ray photo called Electricity which I overlaid with gold lines. These were my representation of electricity. They were added over the wavy white lines Ray had imposed across the nude's torso.


I used Man Ray's photo again in 23, but this time laid on its side like a body on a gurney, as if she were being given electric shock treatment like the ones my mother endured in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Here are some more details from Number 23.

I used eucalyptus leaves in the details above and below. They have a wonderful scent but I suspect that coating them in acrylic gel imprisons the aroma. The red and yellow print in the detail above is a fireball that I took from the internet.





March 17, 2011

This is a guest post by Australian photographer Nicole Trevillian.

Photos by Nicole Trevillian/All Rights Reserved

Thanks Grier for having me as your guest blogger. Two years ago I realized I had a lot of photos of a particular sub-culture in London that I had taken over the decade. I edited the photos down to about 80 and sent them to publishers. Charta Art based in Milan and New York offered to publish the photos and with the help of journalist Leonie Cooper, the book London Club came to be.

London Club is available through Amazon and Charta.

It all started on a Monday night in September, in the year 2000. I met up with Dan Jones, a music writer for UK fashion magazine i-D, in a café bar in East Soho, London. We were asked by i-D to shoot and interview Erol Alkan, the founder of a club night called Trash, which was located around the corner from our meeting place.


I hadn’t been to Trash before, had no idea what to expect and something about going to a club on a Monday night intrigued me. Trash was held at a place called The End that was situated on a surprisingly deserted street for inner London. We walked inside. It was dark, smoky, and packed with people - people looking fabulously unique. They were wearing fashion that I hadn’t seen in clubs before. It seemed to complement the music which was an eclectic mash up of new wave, electronica with the odd Dolly Parton thrown in.

I started to take photos of those who caught my eye. At the time I was using a medium format, hand held Pentax camera that had manual focus and roll film. I had a ‘soft box’ on my flash that was fashioned out of a plastic Marks and Spencer mushroom container. Shooting in there was pretty hit and miss and I wasted a lot of film.


Nights later I went back but this time as a patron. The fashion continued to amaze me and so decided to bring my camera back and take more photos. I asked a sailor-dress-clad regular if I could document her and her friends on her next night out. She agreed and we started the series with her getting ready for Trash, walking to Trash and then at Trash with more of her friends. I showed the series to the editor of i-D who proceeded to exhibit them as part of an exhibition they were holding at Milan Fashion Week.


Following Trash’s success, club nights with similar themes started to emerge such as Nag Nag Nag, Drama, Computer Blue, Electric Stew, Return to NY, Kashpoint, then eventually Smash and Grab, Yo-Yo and DURRR. The late British fashion designer Alexander McQueen and Kate Moss were spotted amongst regulars at Nag Nag Nag, as were other celebrities at other clubs.

I continued to take photos of those who naturally caught my eye but now using a digital camera and sometimes a huge studio light that I had brought with me. Towards the end of the decade I started to shoot the clubbers out of context at places such as their home or favourite bars.



The decade spanning the noughties (2000-9) in London was a creative explosion both musically and with fashion but for me it was about turning the spotlight off the celebrities and onto the dance-floor. Fantastically, with the onslaught of digital cameras and social media, there are a lot of great images celebrating the decade out there.



Born in Australia Nicole Trevillian moved to London in 1997 but has been based in Sydney since 2009. She has had two solo shows in London, one just recently at Harvey Nichols, and has been exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery, also in London. Her photos have been seen in more than 10 publications. Nicole is currently focusing her lens on Australian culture. She has been surprised by how far London Club has traveled across the world. This is her second post for this blog. The first was on August 26, 2008.




March 15, 2011

Radiant, funny, animated, mesmerizing: Those are my impressions of the actress Rinko Kikuchi when I saw her on Screen Test, a video feature of the New York Times. The Japanese actress now living in Manhattan  was nominated for the Academy Award in 2007 for her role in Babel. She must be in turmoil now due to the disaster in her country. I wouldn't be posting this now if this were a mass circulation blog she was likely to see.


In the top photo she had just been asked to introduce herself, which she started to do in English, and then stopped and said, "I can't."  So she switched to Japanese and gave her name. Then she gave a thumbs up, broke into a wide grin and applauded (above). The translations on the four photos below are a nutshell of two parts of the interview.


Time magazine interviewed her in 2007. In the preface to the interview, the publication said:

"Rinko Kikuchi's breakthrough performance as a troubled, sexually exploring, deaf-mute teenager in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Babel was so convincing that co-star Cate Blanchett didn't know the Japanese actress could actually talk until Kikuchi spoke to her off-camera. Her country's first Oscar-nominated actress in 49 years, Kikuchi talked to TIME's Michiko Toyama." The picture at the right shows how she looked then. It was taken by Vince Bucci / Getty.

Her nomination was for best supporting actress. A quiet, lovely nude scene ends Babel. You can see it by going to this link.

The New York Times video was directed by Robert Maxwell. David Perez Shadi was the director of photography and Jennifer Pastore was the interviewer.



March 13, 2011


Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Do you know what this is? If you're like me, you find this print I took from a photo and then messed around with on the computer very hard to read up close.

But looks what happens when you back up. The face pops into focus the way a Chuck Close does. This collage is Number 22 in the Killing Fields series. I haven't decided yet whether it is finished.  The element that I might change in some yet undetermined way is the amethyst and yellow streak in the center.

I just noticed that the clock on the computer changed from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. Spring back, Fall ahead. An hour less sleep tonight, unless I stay in bed until 10. I have mixed feelings about daylight lasting longer. In winter, buried in snow as we are this year, early dark seems appropriate. But Daylight Savings is a harbinger of spring and that is welcome about now.


P.S. For better or worse I added some elements to this collage yesterday. I'll show it to you soon.




March 11, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Two more collages based on interpretations of photos from my mother's life. They are Number 20 and Number 21 in the Killing Fields series. Each is 3' x 2' with Xerox copies of shots that I photographed and altered, acrylic encased flowers, and acrylic paint on panels. Both were done this month.

The one at the top of this post symbolizes the periods when her manic depression would reach its extremes. The mirror image collage is taken from the same portrait photo taken when she was 18. ( See my March 9 post for more information and four more paintings. )

This yellow rose and the red rose petals below are their natural color. But they will turn a burnished brown over the next few weeks. Then I will have to decide whether to cover them with paint to restore their color or leave them alone. I'll show them to you again at the point of decision.


These roses are part of the mirror image piece and were dunked in dark charcoal paint before being attached to the panel. When that dried I brushed on some purple.




March 9, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

In this post are four new paintings from the Killing Fields series, Numbers 16 through 19; all 2' x 2' and all derived from a passport photo of my mother when she was 18.

In Number 16 at the top and Number 17 below, I used a negative of the photograph I had taken of that picture. I glued the lone flower in Number 17 to the panel and then crushed it with a hammer.

My photo of the passport image is used in Number 18 below. She hated that photo. I don't know why. I have cherished it since her death.

For Number 19 below I photographed a black and white portrait I had done of her. I introduced the yellow, purple and red tones on the computer.

A word about some of the color choices: Amethyst was her favorite color; Red and yellow are colors that represent the electric shock treatments she dreaded. It was like being electrocuted, she said. And for weeks afterwards her memory  was erased. But the shock treatments worked, bringing her back from a soaring high or crushing low.

Over time though, they burned her out. In her last years the indomitable spirit that was her life preserver had disappeared and she seemed a shell of herself. (Current electric shock treatments use much lower voltage.)

I used pieces of a crushed Christmas ornament in Number 17 and 18. To me they stand for the spirit I talked about, which was crushed in the end. The detail above is from 17. If you look closely you can see my reflection, upside down, in the silvered inside of one piece. The red pills under her picture in Number 16 at the top of this post represent the barbiturates that claimed her life at 58. When my father came home from work that evening, she was unconscious on their graceful curved sofa - a furnishing from a more affluent period in their lives. A bottle of bourbon was on the glass coffee table, along with an empty bottle of the barbiturates prescribed by her psychiatrist, who said he was not surprised that this had happened. That infuriated me. I thought he should have warned my father so he could have saved her. But my father was already worried about her. He called her every noon to make sure she was okay. She hadn't answered that day.

I also used some green eye shadow in Number 17, which you can see in the detail above.

I used a piece of the ornament - I love its color - to ring a rose stem on 19 and yellow roses to crown her face. Roses were one of her favorite flowers. Fresh when I encased them in acrylic medium, they have started to turn brown.





March 7, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

I'm taking bets. Will my bust of Sol LeWitt make it through the current MASS MoCA show, An Exchange with Sol LeWitt? I'm putting my money on it lasting even though it looks like it was hit by an earthquake registering 7.4 on the Richter scale. Actually, it was cracking well before it got to the museum. It's just that some of the cracks seem to be widening.

Is this what they mean by deconstructivist art?


Little bits of the self hardening clay have fallen off and are collecting in the base I built. When we were up at the museum a few days ago, Babbie thought the jagged orange wires exposed in the base were further proof of impending disaster. But those were there from the beginning. I thought they looked cool. The wires go up inside the head, forming a strong superstructure.

I think the odds are with Sol surviving. The show, which started in late January,  runs through the end of March. So it only has to hang together another 24 days. So if you find yourself in that gallery, please tiptoe around.  



The piece's right side is in better shape. Below is a portrait of the late sculptor. I do not know who took it. An entire wing of the old Sprague Electric factory which houses the museum was rehabilitated a couple years ago to provide three big floors of LeWitt's wall drawings. Wouldn't it be nice if a bronze cast of the bust, cracks and all, was placed in the impressive space that houses the grand steel stairway linking the floors?




March 5, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

On December 22 I posted about the opening of Katherina Grosse's stunning installation at MASS MoCA in North Adams. Yesterday I returned with Babbie and in bright sunlight it looked as good, if not better, as it did under the lights on opening night.

In my mind its a combination of Arctic ice jams and islands of dirt colored vibrantly by Grosse who wields a mean spray gun. It's up through October so there's still plenty of time to take it in. Grosse is a German artist who has had an incredible number of museum shows in the last 15 years.

I'm a big fan of her work and couldn't resist shooting it all over again.

I wonder if there's any other room in the world with this many windows.  The gallery is about the size of a football field. It was carved out of one wing of the sprawling former Sprague Electric factory. This place is my cathedral.

That's Babbie walking past a section where Grosse trained her gun on the walls and windows, which is standard procedure in her museum work.


One of the many things I like about MASS MoCA is that some windows look out over the Porches Inn at the house where Babbie and I lived for the first six years of our marriage. It was a great apartment with big windows, lots of light and a big lawn. The rent was $65 a month back in the early '60s. Two of our kids were born when we lived there.

P.S. I wrote this blog the night of March 4, but I must have been so sleepy when I finished that I forgot to publish it.




March 3, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

This is the revised Monk Memorial, 14th in the Killing Fields series. It commemorates the friendship of three college roommates and the girls in their lives. And it is a memorial to Monk, who died too young.

The last time you saw Monk (see my February 11 post) the piece was half the size it is now. It took a long time but it finally dawned on me that the piece was awkwardly skinny.

So I added wings on either side. Now it is a triptych measuring 4' x 4'.

The young men flanking Monk are me, on the left, and Bob. Bob's wife Sue is above me and my wife Babbie is across from me, drinking a beer in our navy blue '53 Ford convertible.

I didn't have a photo of any of Monk's girlfriends so I gave him a stand-in - Ingrid Bergman. Incidentally, Nancy Nirenberg was the first to correctly identify Ingrid. That makes her the winner of the all expenses paid trip to Sweden. Collecting it may prove harder than coming up with the answer.

In this detail shot, you can see that the fresh red roses have turned a burnished brown inside their acrylic cocoons. You can also see the Gauloises cigarettes that I've attached because Monk smoked them in college. I got a carton on the internet for $28 with free shipping - a great price. It's been 25 years since I've smoked a cigarette but I have to admit I was slightly tempted.  The packages serve as bumpers, keeping other paintings from crushing the flowers when I stack them against my studio wall.

The French don't fool around with the health warning. "Smoking kills" the pack states in big letters. Above the pack are poinsettia leaves and stems.

The other bottom corner is graced by mandarin oranges on branches that broke off our aging plant.

Bob and Monk and Babbie and I went to Brown and Sue would come up for weekends. I didn't like the college much, but I loved them. That was more than 50 years ago but the memories are still vivid.

P.S. Speaking of Nancy, here's a link to a YouTube video she sent me. I found it a hilarious takeoff on The King's Speech.


March 1, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner Unless Otherwise Noted

Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable were  red hot in Gone With the Wind, one of 120 shots I took of the TV screen during the Oscars Sunday night. Red hot on the red carpet was Jennifer Lawrence who I think should have won for best actress in her right-on performance in the gritty Winter's Bone.

She lost out there but was the clear winner on the red carpet , I thought. The 20-year-old's sleek glamour came as a revelation to me who had only seen her in the movie, where she wore flannel shirts, jeans and boots.

Internet photo

This is Jennifer in Winter's Bone in a photo I lifted from Rotten Tomates.

As expected the Academy named Natalie Portman best actess for her tremendous portrayal of a ballerina losing her mental balance in The Black Swan. Below she gives her acceptance speech.


Portman's rival in the movie was Mila Kunis, above with Justin Timberlake.

Hailee Steinfeld, 14, was up for best supporting actress for her role in True Grit. Since she was almost always on screen it was hard to see this as a supporting role. Hailee was great. But so was Melissa Leo won for the driven mother in The Fighter.

James Franco and Anne Hathaway, above, were the Oscars hosts. She changed her gown a million times and always looked great. They did not get rave reviews, but I enjoyed her. She seemed natural. And there was a clever runup to the program that injected the pair into nominated movies.

James Franco - well that was something else. As the Washington Post put it:

"Anne Hathaway hosted the 83rd Annual Academy Awards on ABC Sunday night, as scheduled. And her co-host, James Franco, did what exactly? (Besides a little Marilyn Monroe drag?)"

To give more of the evening's flavor on TV, I've included this colorful shot from a commercial. I can't remember what product it was an ad for.

Here's a shot of a short film , God of Love, that won it's category.


Here's Helena Bonham Carter , whose gown was denounced from fashion pulpits, gets low marks every year. Ffashionistas consider her costumes odd ball. Here it is. I like it. What do you think?

Two time Academy Award winner Halle Berry was a presenter. Gwyneth Paltrow , below, sang as did Florence and the Machine.

Best original screenplay went to David Seidler for The King's Speech, the top movie and one I loved. At 73, Seidler is the oldest person in the history of the Academy Awards to win this award. Seidler was a stutterer who said he was inspired to overcome that handicap by King George VI's triumph over the same condition at the start of World War II - the subject of his movie script.

"My father always said I'd be a late bloomer," he joked. I have a special affinity for late bloomers, aspiring to become one in art.


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