Scarlet Letter
Tramp Steamer


Portrait of the Artist as an Old MaN

March 30, 2012

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

This is a detail from my new Runway painting. It is Number 15 in the series and isn't quite finished. The dress is by the designer Tess Giberson. I have not been able to identify the model. I think she is a real beauty even though she crippled me. More about that later.

Below you see the painting in full length. One of the things I like to do before finishing a painting is photograph it and study the photos. Sometimes I do it more than once along the way.

Sometimes things that should be obvious when I'm working on the painting escape me but jump out in the photo.

This time one of those things is that I've lightened the dress around the breasts too much.

I'm having difficulty capturing the background's purples with the camera.

This painting has taken a toll on my left hip joint. To reach the face, I had to stand on a chair because her eyes are 82 inches off the floor. So for a few hours it was on and off the chair. Step down to mix another shade of paint. Step back up. Step off so I can back up to see if what I've just painted works. Step back up.

It's like working out on a stairmaster, which is something I can't do. Since my late teens I've had a form of arthritis called A.S. If I stress my joints too much, the A.S. kicks in a few days later. So for much of this week my hip has been bad. For the first few days walking from one room to another hurt like hell. Things have calmed down now.

In the lower picture you can see the way I convert a photo into a painting by applying a grid to both. See the numbers along the left side and top? They correspond to numbers on the photo. And since the lines on the canvas are scaled to correspond to those on the photo, I can use them as guides when I draw the figure.

Start with the head, for example. On the photo her head is between the vertical lines 3 and 5. So I draw the sides of the head between those same lines on the canvas.

The horizontal lines help me establish the chin, the mouth, the nose and the eyes.

The same technique applies to the rest of the body.

Simple, n'est pas? I've been doing it this way for the last five canvases. But historically the grid has served artists for centuries.

My lines are drawn with red China marker over the background paint. Parts of the lines disappear as I make the figure and other objects. I've been letting what remains of the lines show in the finished work.



March 28, 2012

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

A sparrow takes flight at MASS MoCA. She had been perched in the pipe below her companion who watches. This is the north wall of the building that faces the contemporary art museum's public parking space.


The sunlight was so intense that the wing is translucent and amazingly that shows up in the shadow. Or is that an optical illusion? I wonder if they're nesting in the pipes.





March 26, 2012 (Revised)


Photos by Grier Horner

Whoa. Who's this guy emerging from the waves?


I think I'll just walk with him for a while.



He doesn't even see me. "Hey, Mister. Over here."


Now he's looking at me, but I don't think he's going to stop and say hello.



So I'll just get in step. Downhill's easy.



This is a collaboration between Sanford Biggers, my granddaughter and me. Only Biggers was kept in the dark about it. This is his beautiful and dramatic video playing on both sides of two screens in the dark gallery behind the big gallery at MASS MoCA.

The guy Biggers is shooting in this piece called Shake is Ricardo Camillo.

Shake was my favorite part of Biggers big show - Cartographer's Conundrum - which opened last month and will be up through October 31.

What's Shake about?

I'll turn to curator Denise Markonish for that:

"This video is the second part of Sanford's Odyssean trilogy about the formation and dissolution of Identity."


Here's a shot without Riley. Camillo has morphed into what I imagine Johnny Depp would look like playing a rock star. Arms outstretched, face the same silver as his high-heeled boots, the waves crashing, it is a wonderful moment.





March 26, 2012





Sanford Bigger's main work at MoCA is the Cartographer's Conundrum, seen here. It looks like this magnificent gallery had been hit by an artistic tornado. Piles of musical instruments and mirrored stars, many of them broken, are scattered across the floor. Church pews, perhaps heaven bound, fly into the air. Organ pipes, instruments and a piano are sucked up from the disintegrating altar at the far end of the gallery.






I knew in advance that Biggers, who is in his early 40s, was paying tribute to John Biggers, who died in 2001 in his mid 70s. Walking through the gallery I assumed that John Biggers was a shattered musician. But while music has a lot to do with the installation, I discovered in Denise Markonish's essay that John was a painter. A facsimile of his gigantic and complex Quilting Party hangs in the loft at the far end of the space. Here it is:


Back to Markonish for guidance about the show she curated:

"This is a tale of two Biggers - John and Sanford - cousins of a kind, linked by lines of sacred geometry rather than by those of geography or conventional familial relationship, both explorers of hidden visual rhythms, both descended, one might say, from the same funked up Mothership."

That paragraph, Ms. Markonish, is a tour de force.

The two artists' works converge, she says, "with their interest in sacred geometry, and in the realm of Afrofuturism, a movement that they have both influenced - and been influenced by."

Afrofuturism, she says, encompasses "artists, writers, filmmakers and musicians who re-imagine the history of the African Diaspora through the lens of science fiction, cosmology and technology."

But if you prefer you can take the show in by simply allowing it to seep into your soul by osmosis.

We were at MASS MoCA Friday because that was part of Babbie's planned celebration of her 76th birthday. We took Riley, who had a half day of school, to lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, the Hub in North Adams.

Later Eric, Michelle and the twins surprised Babbie by driving down from New Hampshire to join the birthday party that evening. Babbie and I will be the same age for three months. But on June 30 she once more will be the "younger woman" who lives with me.

March 22, 2012

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved


A mild winter and a hot March have launched an early spring in the Berkshires. Not only are wildflowers like this show of Colts Foot along Partridge Road in Lanesboro  starting to put on a show, but early blooming trees and shrubs are doing their thing extra early.



Look at these willows along Crane Avenue in Pittsfield.


Look at these shrubs on my street, East Acres Road.


Or at these trees going wild along Route 7 in New Ashford. Don't they usually do this in May, not March.

But I guess I shouldn't be surprised. As my friend Clarence Fanto reported in a front-page story in yesterday's Eagle, this month's heat wave is "so far off the charts that veteran meteorologists are awestruck."

Record highs have been recorded on March 8, 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20.

"Forecasters flabbergasted," the Eagle headline said, capturing the situation colorfully and alliteratively in just two words.

If this continues it's going to screw up the famous beginning of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land:
























APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.



March 20, 2012

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

The ice left Pontoosuc Lake on March 16 or 17, which is incredibly early, but what you'd expect with the otherworldly weather we've been having.

The earliest Babbie can remember the ice going is March 26 - a few days after her birthday. She can't put a year to it.

Lee Lahey, a long-time Eagle reporter, lived on the lake and would always record when the ice left. But she died quite a while ago.



Here are two photos that illustrate how early the ice disappeared this year. The one above was taken March 14 this year. There were large patches of open water and the remaining ice had turned green. For ice, green is the color of goodbye.

Below is a picture I took when the ice - marked by the arrow - turned green in 2007. That photo showing the same conditions was taken on April 19 - more than a month later.



Back to 2012. Babbie and I disagreed on what day the lake was ice-free. I said the 16th, but that day she saw a smudge way out on the lake that she maintained was ice. So in her mind it was the 17th.


That probably explains the dream I had last weekend. In the dream it was March 17 and big chunks of ice were flowing into the channel and toward the dam. The jagged pieces of ice filled the channel from bank to bank and were moving fast.
"Babbie was right," I said in the dream.





March 18, 2012



Saturday afternoon Babbie and I went to the Marketplace Cafe on North Street near the Beacon to have iced coffee and cookies and to listen to a soulful sophomore, Katherine Winston, sing (below). Then we walked over to the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts on Renne Avenue to see Outside In: The Art of the Garden (above).


It was a good two hours on a balmy afternoon. Katherine can really sing and there is some pretty wild stuff at the Lichtenstein - as witness this 126-inch long painting by Resa Blatman of Somerville. It's on panels edged with elaborately cut out floral motifs.

When this painting was included in a 2009 show at the Danforth Museum of Art, Denise Taylor wrote in the Boston Globe wrote:

"Newer artists also abound, such as Resa Blatman, whose mammoth, frilly and freaky "Beauty and the Beasties" panel (in oil, acrylic, and glitter) is a show in itself."

"Resa Blatman is definitely an artist to watch," said the museum's director, Katherine French. "Her engagement in materials is fascinating. Her work doesn't look like anyone else's, and she's so ambitious in the sense that she's trying things that nobody else is trying and she's really succeeding."



Katherine Winston sings every Saturday afternoon from 2 to 4 at the Marketplace. She's a sophomore at Lee High School. I think she has a future. I'm not the only one. Last fall the 15 year old won the first Lee Idol competition. Yesterday her dad, Paddy Winston, accompanied her on the guitar.


Back to the Lichtenstein. Here is a large and lovely picture by Julianne D. Bresciani, a Berkshire photographer who specializes in garden photography. And here's another. The reflection of a gallery window shines in the photo of the peony.


Another piece of art that I liked at the Lichtenstein show is this painting by Scott Taylor. Go in and take a look. The gallery, which is a lovely space, is open from 12 to 5 on Wednesdays through Saturdays and the show runs through April 14.

It is being presented by the Pittsfield Office of Cultural Development, in partnership with the Berkshire Botanical Gardens, Pittsfield Garden Tours and Hancock Shaker Village. Included in the show is a table-top garden shop with heirloom seeds and Shaker Garden Manuals.


Before I turn off the computer, here's a detail from Beauty and the Beasties.











March 16, 2012

As one man points to a detail high in Nymphs and Satyr at the Clark's Stone Hill Center, Keith Shaw, left, and Graydon Parrish discuss William Bouguereau's painting. Photo by Grier Horner
No painting in the Clark Art Institute's major collection has drawn as many giggles from middle school students touring the museum as Nymphs and Satyr by William-Adolph Bouguereau.

And it doesn't draw that response because they don't like 19th century academic painting. If it did that would align them with much of the 21st century art world.

But a painter, Grayson Parrish, who is an admirer of Bouguereau's, said in a talk at the Clark on Saturday that this style is making a comeback in contemporary art.

The 1873 painting has just been cleaned by Tom Branchick, director of the Williamstown Art Conservation Center located in the museum's Stone Hill Center.

Photo by Grier Horner

From this detail you can see why Bouguereau was very popular with rich male Victorians - to say nothing of current seventh graders. You can count me among the admirers of Nymphs and Satyr. It makes me smile (but not titter) and wonder how he could paint so well - and so irrelevantly. Never the less, I think it is an amazing painting and maybe that's the test of relevancy.
I got a kick out of comments about the painting on The Clark Now website:

Paul Richardson, assistant exhibitions manager has "a love-hate relationship with Bouguereau in general...but these masters surely could draw and paint!"

"I really love the back story that it once hung in a hotel bar in New York City where it inspired cigar-box labels, plates and urns. It is also interesting that it is the one over-sized picture that Sterling Clark purchased and it provides a dramatic comparison to the more intimately scaled paintings that the Clarks otherwise collected."

Monica Henry, education coordinator: "The action in this work centers around a struggle between the nymphs and the satyr at the water’s edge (satyrs can’t swim, and the nymphs, who have had enough of this satyr, know that). The scene is so idealized that despite this struggle, there are no splashes, and all of the nymphs stay clean as a whistle (no mud!)."

Besides the Nymphs look to me like they're having a wonderful time. They look too playful to be out for revenge.

This is Graydon Parrish's "The Cycle of Terror and Tragedy: September 11, 2001" at the New Britain Museum of American Art. It is 210 inches wide.

I can't say I'm wild about a resurrection of the classical approach as personified in this huge painting by Parrish. I admire his technique, but his naked imagery seems hopelessly old fashioned to my eye.

Paul and I went up to the Clark for the lecture and to see the cleaned up Bouguereau. It's mirror finish was marred by smudges, like when you're washing windows but miss a few spots. But Parrish and others said that this is because this is not the final finish, which will be applied soon.

While the new Tadao Ando wing is being built - construction is underway - Nymphs and Satyr will be at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


March 14, 2012


David Henderson's sculpture requires spectators to crane their necks, as this man did at the Saturday opening. Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved
David Henderson's etherial white sculpture almost fills the Helen Crane Room at the Berkshire Museum but because of its incredible lightness of being does not weigh the room down.

Called A Brief History of Aviation, the piece is spiritual and dynamic, classic and contemporary and it lifts the sky-lit space. Its inspiration was the fan-vaulted ceiling of the 16th century Bath Abbey, an English cathedral.

But instead of building his piece with the fan vaults on top, as in the church, Henderson turned them on their side.

In a telephone interview yesterday, the Brooklyn, New York, sculptor explained how he came to do that. When he put his photographs of the ceiling in his computer, the software turned the picture on its side.

"I was fascinated looking at it when it wasn't supporting the roof," Henderson said. A long held interest of his is "removing a functional structure from its function."

This is not Henderson's photo of the fan vaults but one taken by Tony Hughes. Turn it on its side and you'll see what the sculptor was talking about.


Among the many things I like about Henderson's piece is that, unlike the large sculptures by Mona Hatoum, Jeff Koons and Anish Kapoor, it was handmade. Henderson made it. The others ship their stuff off to an art fabricator with sophisticated equipment that turns out perfectly finished pieces like the one below by Coons.

"If you look at my piece up close it's a mess," he says, which is an exaggeration. "If I had $100,000 dollars for a fabricator, it could be perfect. But I don't think I'd want it super finished."

In this close-up of his piece, you can see the fiberglass material, gobs of resin and other marks that make the piece hand made.


Above Henderson, 56, is talking about his work with people who attended the opening of his show Saturday evening.

The desire to build the great cathedrals was "aspirational," Henderson said in the interview.

"The will to build a building like that without knowing if it will collapse, is sort of like flying."

The cathedral builders' aspiration was "to get closer to God," a desire he sees as similar to man's dream of flight, a dream that lead to Icarus getting too close to the sun and, finally, to the Wright Brothers takeoff at Kitty Hawk.

Henderson does not consider his work religious but does deal with "forces greater than us."


"I came to realize that if I make them (sculptors) really light I can make big things without being rich or having a patron," Henderson said.

So for this piece he enlisted materials like those used in ultra light aircraft. He did the engineering on his computer then used a jig saw to cut the Styrofoam that forms it's structure. He wraps the foam in fiberglass cloth that he saturates with resin to add structural stiffness. In strategic places where greater strength is needed, he adds a carbon fiber wrap.

Dacron is used to cover the forms, making the piece translucent. He needed some extra manpower for this project but his art is essentially "a one-man operation."

In its first incarnation, where it was in a gallery in which the sculpture's sides rested against the gallery walls, it took about two-months to build. Another two months was required to make it a free-standing sculpture. Click here to see Henderson working on this sculpture. And here to see it being unloaded and installed at the Berkshire Museum.

Maria Mingalone, the museum’s director of interpretation and curator, says Henderson was invited to show his work now "because of how well it complements our current exhibition Taking Flight: Audubon and the World of Birds.”

The sculpture will be up through May 13. A Brief History of Aviation has been shown at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston and at two spaces in New York. It will go on to Auburn and The University of the South.

For now, Henderson says, he expects to make some smaller works.

When I was leaving the Ellen Crane Room yesterday, a woman asked me, "I wonder what Ellen Crane would have thought of this?" The implication was, that she might be turning in her grave. Of course there is the possibility that if she was alive today she would be as thrilled as I was.

The magnificent room is named for the wife of Zenus Crane of Dalton, who founded the Berkshire Museum in the early 1900s.



March 12, 2012

This fire hydrant is one of Hamish McPuppy's favorite sights on his walks in Pittsfield, his mistress said authoritatively in a presentation that drew rounds of laughter Thursday night from a crowd of 100 at the Berkshire Museum.

Lesley Beck did the speaking for her dog as he sat on the stage ignoring the slides of his dogs-eye view of his neighborhood. Here's McPuppy himself. Ms. Beck's presentation was one of the most popular as Pecha Kucha made its first appearance in the Berkshires - in Western Massachusetts for that matter.

Craig Langlois, the museum's education and public programs manager, called the turnout "awesome." The staff had expected about half as many people. Langlois staged the event after the museum's new director, Van Shields, passed the idea to him.

What is Pecha Kucha, pronounced peh-CHA-ku-CHA? The name comes from the Japanese term for chit-chat and was developed in 2003 by Tokyo architects Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham to make design presentations less monotonous, according to the Albany Times Union. It has been spreading to cities around the world.

In Pecha Kucha speakers get 6 minutes and 40 seconds to tell their story, aided by 20 slides spaced 20 seconds apart. Thirteen showed their slides Thursday, including Ms. Beck, who is communication's director at the museum.

Langlois got things rolling with his Pecha Kucha about Pecha Kucha. He explained how the idea had come to its creators in this sketch below. The stork delivered it.

Tessa Kelly, who will receive her master's degree in architecture from Harvard this year, showed work she had done for her thesis. Among her ideas were converting unused mill chimney's into observation towers in Pittsfield. Another, illustrated in the slide below, was to reproduce rooms where famous authors had written in this area and build them as retreats for this generation of writers. In this slide the room is derived from the 2nd floor room in which Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick.

Leigh Strimback, cofounder of the WAM theater, spoke in Shakespearian couplets delivered with the authority of a skilled actress. (Ms. Strimback is an assistant professor of theater at Russell Sage College in Troy.) WAM stages plays about women and girls and the profits go to organizations who benefit women and girls.

The group, which has performed at BCC, Lenox High School, and the Storefront Artists, may stride the Berkshire Museum stage later this year. Here's a scene from one of their plays. Karen Lee is on the left. I'm sorry I can't identify the others.

Linda Pilgrim of the Ferrin Gallery talked about the First Friday Artswalks that are to begin in Pittsfield this May and run monthly year around. Stores, restaurants, bars, and galleries have been recruited to show art and participate. It is the brainchild of Leo Mazzeo, an artist and director of Gallery 25, and Mary McGinnis, owner of Mary's Carrot Cake and Gallery 25.

Below is one of Ms. Pilgrim's slides. In a takeoff on the classic RCA ad, it shows the mascot at Mad Macs, which will be one of the participating businesses.

Dina Noto, who teaches at IS 183 in Stockbridge, talked about making animated films about her dreams. Below this slide illustrates how she converts herself into the love cat for the screen.

Clover Bell-Devaney of the Berkshire Actors Theater, which is to give a series of plays at the museum this year, talked about what makes the group tick. Here's Ms. Bell-Devaney in a scene from one of its productions.

Megan Whilden, the city's cultural director, focused on this summer's festival celebrating Herman Melville and his great novel, Moby Dick.

Among the attractions will be one reading a day of the 135 chapters in the book. Below is a mock-up that will be used to build a giant puppet of the white whale. You can get an idea of the projected size by looking at the wire figures below it.
This post is taking up far too much space. So I'm arbitrarily cutting out the pictures for the remainder of the participants. Sorry.
Chris Post's how he got his Wandering Star Craft Brewery up and running in Pittsfield. He provided free beer for the event, which couldn't have hurt attendance.

Peter Garlington, a local furniture builder, spoke about the tradition of making furniture so well designed and well built that it will be handed down from generation to generation.

Mark Pedrotti's presentation was an homage to the Coan brothers, who he called the best directors in the business. Pedrotti makes films himself.

David Hyde, an English intern at the museum, humorously compared things and customs he has come across here with their counterparts in England.


I also did a Pecha Kucha. I posted about it yesterday, giving my own presentation a big play. Hey, that's the advantage of writing the blog.

The museum plans three more Pecha Kucha nights this year.  Those interested in giving presentations should contact Langlois at the museum.


March 11, 2012


































UPDATE: According to the Berkshire Museum, a 69-year-old woman was the oldest person to give a Pecha Kucha presentation at one of the 250 cities in the world where they have been held . If that is right, a new age record was set Thursday night when I performed. I'm 76.

For me Pecha Kucha Night at the Berkshire Museum on Thursday was a chance to howl. This was the first of the 20 slides I showed and to introduce it I inflicted my best Aooooooooo on the audience. Aooooooo as in Warren Zevon's Werewolves of London. (See photo below.)

If you believe the photographic evidence in that slide, evidence I contend should be conclusive, that's me embracing a wolf while wearing an "urban guerilla" outfit, the one that got me interested in fashion in the first place.

About 100 people attended the event in the auditorium in which a dozen people each showed 20 slides that played on the Little Cinema's screen for 20 seconds. That gave the participants 6 minutes and 40 seconds to talk about their subject.


Here's another slide I showed, this one offering two of my Red Riding Hood pieces. The photo on the right captures a Riding Hood with a lot of street style. The hole in her tights is a nice touch.

In my painting on the left, Red is wreaking revenge on the werewolves in London. That's me being stomped into oblivion.


When this slide hit the screen, I said something like, "Oh, just a minute, my phone's vibrating."

I pulled the cell out of my pocket, opened it, and said hello. After a pause I said, "Oh, hi Gizele..."

"Really, Tom doesn't want me to say any more about what you said after the Super Bowl? 

"OK, don't worry. I won't."

I had planned to add this: "I understand Angelina plans to wear that Alexander Wang coat to the Academy Awards next year." But I had to launch into my spiel about the next image on the screen.



When I pulled the phone out of my pocket, my daughter Shannon told me she thought, "Oh, no, why's he answering his cell now?" So I fooled at least one person in the crowd.

Before my allotted time expired I talked about 10 of the life-sized paintings in my Runway Series, like the one below, and photos I'd taken on the streets of New York.



I had hoped to post something about the other performances at the museum's Pecha Kucha Night, the first in Western Massachusetts. But it's 3 a.m. and I'm falling asleep. Maybe tomorrow.




March 9, 2012
Here's a sign I got a kick out of in the window of an Amherst tatoo parlor.
March 7, 2012

Fashion designer Stella McCartney fits a dress on a model. Photo by Damon Winter/The New York Time
PechaKucha Night is being held for the first time in Western Massachusetts tomorrow (Thursday) night and I'm excited to be one of the dozen participants at the 7 p.m. event at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield.

Each of us will show 20 slides and talk for 20 seconds between each. It adds up to 6 minutes and 40 seconds on stage. You can read all about the event, organized by Craig Langlois of the museum staff, in the white box below.

My presentation is called Slave to Fashion. I'm going to show slides of my Runway paintings, photos of stylish women taken in New York, etc. I may even have a surprise up my sleeve.

The graceful photo at the top is one of the few slides I'm using that isn't my own work. Damon Winter of the New York Times took it to illustrate a story about the designer Stella McCartney. She is the one closest to the model being fitted for a dress.
McCartney - yes, she's the daughter of the Beatle - is doing very well in the high fashion business. Cathy Horyn's article about her appeared in the Sunday Times Magazine February 22. About a dozen photos go with the piece. Try it, I think you'll like it.

I'm psyched about performing. My one disappointment is that my 12-year-old granddaughter, who helped me set up my presentation, may not be able to attend. 


March 5, 2012

Photo by Babbie Horner

I'm at work in this photo on the background for a new painting in the Runway Series. This will be the fifteenth. Fourteen isn't quite finished. But I thought I'd give it a rest because I've been working on it so long.

For this painting I've tacked the canvas to the wall. That's the way I had always done my paintings until the Jeanne d'Arc series, in which the canvas had to be on a stretcher because I was pouring the paint and had to be able to tilt the painting back and forth and sideways to control the flow of the paint.

One advantage of painting against  the wall is that once it's done it takes a lot less space for storage. The number of paintings and large photos in our house is pushing 500 and storage space is at a premium.

Below is the canvas after I painted the background yesterday. Writing this reminds me that I have to go downstairs and close some paint cans after I finish this.

Brace yourself. Here comes an abrupt switch of subject.

Now that I've finished the Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides' new novel, I've been reading some reviews and interviews. Two reviewers said one of the main characters, Leonard, seemed to be based on David Foster Wallace, a brilliant novelist who committed suicide. Eugenides dismisses that idea, saying he didn't know Wallace.

Leonard is a manic depressive. Wallace was depressed. In any case, Eugenides writes brilliantly about manic depression - which I know something about because my mother struggled with it much of her life.

"His understanding of the agony and the ecstasy of manic depression displays a level of empathy for the illness never yet found in a novel," says Prospero in his review in the Economist.com.

The trouble with having a mentally disturbed hero is that his depression becomes yours. But it's fascinating to follow Leonard through his ups and downs and see how it wrecks his marriage.

This is Eugenides' third novel. I don't think it was as good as his second, Middlesex. But nevertheless it is very good. I have to read his first, The Virgin Suicides, but that may not happen for a long time.

The reason: I've decided to read all 10 novels by Virginia Woolf in chronological order. I finished the first, The Voyage Out, and the second, Night and Day, is on order. I had to get it in book form.

"Do you think you can deal with a real book," Babbie asked me. I listen to books on my CD player and iPod. But I think I can. Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?

My son Michael, a novelist in search of a publisher, jokes that I'm reading eight too many of her books. She doesn't hit the style that made her famous in her early work.

I told Michael I'll probably be 91 by the time I finish all 10. That gives me 14 years, which should be enough.

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved
March 3, 2012

Photos by Grier Horner except as noted.

A collective of Chicano artists who took their art to the streets of Los Angeles in the 1970s is being celebrated with a retrospective at the Williams College Museum of Art.

Called Asco, the group staged performances like the one above, called First Supper After a Major Riot, 1974. The photo was shot by Harry Gamboa Jr.

They didn't publicize the events in advance and never really became famous, which explains the show's title - Asco: Elite of the Obscure.

"Taking their name from the forceful Spanish word for disgust and nausea, Asco used performance, public art, and multimedia to respond to social and political turbulence in Los Angeles and beyond," the announcement says. Asco remained active until the mid-1980s,

The opening was celebrated with a well attended walk-through of the exhibition with the curators, C. Ondine Chavoya, associate professor of art and Latino studies at Williams, and by Rita Gonzales, associate curator of contemporary art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. They are shown in the photo below. The exhibit was mounted by the two institutions and opened last year at the California museum. It will be at Williams through July 29.


The strongest piece in the show, to my mind, was the large diptych above by Gronk. He was one of the core group, all from an East Los Angeles high school. The other three were Gamboa, Willie F. Herron III and Patssi Valdez.


The photo below shows the cool crew in its heyday. From the left the members are Gronk, Valdez, Herron and Gamboa, who took the picture. The three shots below this one are of the three members who attended the opening.



Patssi Valdez at the reception.


Here's Willie Herron with his girlfriend Doreen Minor and the man below is Harry Gamboa. Herron created a new mural in his neighborhood for the Los Angeles museum as part of the show.



Professor Chavoya talks about Asco's art during the walk through (above). Chavoya worked with Asco artists in the late 1980s, Charles Bonenti wrote in Friday's Berkshire Eagle. And he has spent more than 10 years gathering videos, photos, collages, posters and other material relating to Asco's work.

Asco was overlooked in the performance art movement of the 1960s and 70s, Chavoya told Bonenti, partly because of their ethnic and geographic isolation - the major action was in New York City - and partly because much of their art was performed without a lot of documentation.


Here a young woman takes in some of the Asco photos in the show. A public symposium with the artists and curators is scheduled from 1 to 5:30 today at the Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall at Williams. Reservations were advised so seating may be tight. If you're reading this early enough to try making the event, try calling 413-597-4545.



March 1, 2012

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Of Time and the Channel

I've been thinking of time lately, grappling with the concept of time and how to calculate the speed of its flow - not in calendar and clock time but in the time of the mind.

Say you returned from vacation a week ago. Often Babbie and I find ourselves saying Doesn't it seem like our trip to the Cape was a long time ago? Time is going by so fast.

In other words Time Flies.

But if that Cape vacation seems like it was months ago instead of just seven days ago, I've been wondering lately whether that doesn't mean the opposite of time flies.

If that sojourn seems so long ago, hasn't time slowed down in the sense that seven days equals months instead of a week? Maybe I've just defeated my own argument.

In any case I think that what is clear that when time flies we are living in the moment. What is happening today - whether it is riveting or not - distances us from what happened in the past.

Then there is the expression it seems like only yesterday. In that case time has flown: something that happened 20 years ago seems current.

If you go to the icon for "contact" at the top of this blog, you can email me to say it's my brain that has slowed down, not time. As we know time waits for no man.

The photo, by the way, was taken at the Channel at Pontoosuc Lake. The Channel is a narrow stretch of water behind the dam erected in the 1800s or early 1900s to enlarge the lake to provide a reliable source of power for the big mill complex just below the dam. In the flow of time, whether it flies or creeps, the Channel has been a favorite subject of mine.





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