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

May 31, 2011

I couldn't  find a credit for this photo of Ruslana Korshunova, who had hair that hung to her knees.

There's been an upsurge in interest this month in Ruslana Korshunova, a striking Russian model who killed herself in 2008 by jumping from  the 9th story of her apartment building in Manhattan.

As far as I can tell, the interest was spurred by a Newsweek article, Lost Girl, that ran in the May 1 edition. It's secondary headline read, "Why did a supermodel at the top of her game — hauntingly beautiful and only 20 — kill herself in 2008? A filmmaker describes his three-year quest for clues, and answers."

The filmaker, Peter Pameranstsew, theorized that her suicide, and that of her friend Anastasia Drozdova a year later, was related to their sessions at Rose of the World.

"There are 40 people in the hall, who are asked to confess their worst experiences," according to Pameranstsew. "Tales of rape, abusive parents. Ruslana, I learn, was the most enthusiastic speaker. She spoke about her father’s death, her failed romance — cried publicly, laughed violently. Three days of shouting, recalling repressed memories, meditation followed by dancing, tears followed by ecstasy. Every intense emotion you’ve ever had, stuffed into three life-changing days."


"The Rose’s website reveals its trainings are based on a discipline called Lifespring, once popular in the U.S. What the site doesn’t mention are the lawsuits brought against Lifespring by former adherents for mental damage, cases that caused the U.S. part of the organization to shut down in 1980," according to Newsweek.

I'm skeptical of claims that cults kill - and I don't even know if Rose is a cult. And suicide rates among young women in the former Soviet Republics are among the highest in the world. On top of that the models are young, insecure, often naive, under great pressure, prayed upon, says Pameranstsew. In the case of models from the former Soviet bloc, who are the big thing now in the American fashion industry, there is the added element of being in a strange country.

Anyway, the Newsweek article is interesting. You can read it at this link. A two-minute film by Erik Madigan Heck, taken the day before she died, shows a beautiful but - I think - deeply sad woman. A still I took from that film is below.






May 29, 2011

Two promising high school artists were given a joint reception Saturday at the Storefront Artists Project in Pittsfield following a mentoring program by two storefront artists.

Photographer Monika   Sosnowski  worked with Alyssa Whipple, a Taconic High senior who took the shot above, and sculptor Craig Langlois worked with Davinica Newtzow, a Mount Greylock Regional High senior who created the painting below.

Davinica's piece, which was shown on the floor, illustrates the problems of obesity and hunger and their impact on health. The heavy man is confined to a wheelchair by his weight, while behind him a mother screams over her child who has died of starvation.  Her installation of three paintings and five photographs focused on problems she says Americans need to confront.

"I wanted my first real gallery show to be bold and controversial," she said in a printed statement .

This is what the installation looks like:

This is one of the five photographs, a comment on gender equality.

And this is Davinica with one of the paintings. The painting is done on copies of The Berkshire Eagle glued together. She created two stencils - one for red and one for  blue - to create the figure of the heavy man. She said that by doing it on newspaper it is a comment on bloated government.

The image of the man in a wheelchair came from this shot she took at a Third Thursday event in Pittsfield.

She called Langlois an "amazing mentor " - he was unable to attend because of a special wine auction at the Berkshire Museum where he works - who made her realize her art should have a message. "I have always been a very opinionated person and now I feel like I can make a difference with my art instead of just painting a bowl of fruit."

She is headed for Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia this fall.


This is Alyssa with Monika Sosnowski, her mentor, in front of some of  her photos. Alyssa said she likes doing portraits because "When you take a photograph of someone, you can read their expression and imagine what their personality is..."

Working with her mentor she said she learned to think of composition, perspective and atmosphere in her work. Alyssa is going to go Berkshire Community College and then plans to head for an art school. Below are more examples of her work.


Ms. Sosnowski said that during the 12-week mentoring program "you start caring about the young person's future...I really want her to follow her dreams. " She tried to give Alyssa reinforcement and instill the importance of being disciplined in her approach to art.

And for Alyssa it had this impact: "Before this program I was not confident in myself, but now that has changed."

Started in 2007, Storefront Artists Project's annual Mentor Program is funded by Greylock Federal Credit Union and SAP's 12×12 on 12/12 benefit. (This is what all those 12's stand for: Works 12" x 12" are donated by artists so SAP can see them on December 12.)



May 27, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Here are a couple things I'm working on in the section of the Killing Fields series focusing on my mother. Yesterday I started reworking this 1999 painting of her doing a handstand. The photo that the painting was taken from was shot by my father about 70 years ago. The painting is 74 inches high.

The painting was in my first solo show, Family Album, at the former Fig Gallery in North Adams. Yesterday I started reshaping the legs and worked on sections of the bathing suit, sky and one hand. I've meant to return to this painting for years. Now it's a work in progress.


At the same time the photo of my mother above is in the works and the narrow one to her left is is under consideration. I've been preparing a 72" x 36" panel to accept the print of my mother's face, which will be produced by Massive Graphics. They will run the panel and print through their magic machine which, using pressure, mounts the photo to panel.

The photo, doctored on the computer, is again from her passport picture which I used to produce the piece below, which I showed you earlier this month.


I still have a lot more photos to tap in this memorial to a woman who died young and tragically.



May 25, 2011

(A reconsidered version of the original post)

Photos by Grier Horner except where noted/All Rights Reserved


Tobias Putrih manages to instill an incredible lightness of being into several of his large, black sculptures at the Meulensteen Gallery in Manhattan. You can see it through June 25.

The one above, light shining through its perforations and the cutouts at its base, overcomes its weight and size to almost float. It implies volume without creating it.


The 39-year-old Slovanian artist who lives in Boston, is known locally for his brilliant homage to the Hoosac Tunnel (above) at MASS MoCA. The piece was taken down at the end of February and I miss it, as I miss the Anselm Keifer paintings and sculpture that were there before it.

The Meulensteen show took me by surprise. Where the MoCA work was ethereal, these sculptures have substance. But the more I think about them I can see the light hand of the same artist. And if you'll look at the last three photos on this post, you'll see Putrih is full of surprises.

He is getting a lot of recognition. In 2010 when he was being exhibited at MASS MoCA, Putrih also had a solo show at the Pompidou in Paris and was represented in the Sae Paulo Biennial, Brazil; the Musee d'art contemporain de Montreal and Nottingham Contemporary in England.





The Meulensteen show, called Apartment, consists of sculptures made of black aluminum sections bolted together rather than welded . Theoretically its modular panels can be taken apart and reconfigured.

I would like to own the three black pieces I've shown you so far. In the one above the hot pink tabs and visible nuts and bolts are a nice touch. In another room in the gallery, the artist has a second exhibit, Patio (Solaris), which didn't grab me.

Below are works from other Putrih shows. Impossible to pigeonhole, isn't he?


Photo, Baltic Center for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, England


Photo, Meulensteen Gallery


Photo, Meulensteen Gallery

Meulensteen is located at 511 West 22nd Street and like most New York galleries is closed Sundays and Mondays.




May 23, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

New York in this collection of shots has hard edges, imposing walls, appraising looks, sumptuous clothes, high hemlines and hard commutes.









May 21, 2011

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

When you find a sculptor like John Henry who works on a heroic scale in steel (and machined aluminum), if your synapses fire like mine, you want to write something like "John Henry is a steel driving man, lawd, lawd, John Henry is a steel driving man."

But the play on the folk song doesn't quite work. Unlike the folk hero, this John Henry doesn't drive his steel into the ground but thrusts it into the sky.

Best known for monumental sculptures like the one below, the current show at the Flomenhaft Gallery, 547 West 27th Street, Manhattan, exhibits work on a human scale.



The photo at the top of the log is a detail of his Red Sonata - which at 103 inches high is no midget.

The one above is his Star Pointer installed in Sarasota. It was part of Henry's ambitious Peninsula Project in which his large sculptures were erected in seven Florida cities in 2009. This one is 70 feet high.


Here we're back at Flomenhaft at gallery scale and the pieces are of painted machined aluminum.

With this blue Villa Incognito a well-heeled collector doesn't need a hugh yard and a zoning permit to have a Henry. It costs $18,000 and only rises 23 inches off the ground.

My problem as a lover of large art, is I'd rather see it punching up 23 feet even if it meant reinforcing the floor and opening up the ceiling.


Here's another view at Fellowmen, one of my favorite galleries. The one below is a close up of a different work.

In an interview with photographer David Finn, Henry talks about his work and early influences like Mololy-Nagy, Vladimir Tatlin, Alexander Calder and Robert Grasvenor.

"There were other influences: David Smith, working in series like a chapter in a book, the work ethic of Richard Hunt and Mark di Suvero; and Franz Kline I considered a space painter. His works are about space and spatial relationships.

"The pieces are almost classical in one sense, but in another they almost break into outer space - They have a sense of structure, expansion, cosmos, alluding to the nature of work, to the man-made element."

When Finn asked him what made his work distinctively John Henry, the sculptor said:

"I began by choosing to limit my aesthetic vocabulary in order to make a strong individual statement."

The inserted photo is of the sculptor. Below is a dramatic shot of a Henry work by Robert Boyd.


The Flomenhaft show, John Henry/poetic builder, will be up through June 18. And this Tuesday, May 24, Henry will talk about his new and very thick catalog and sign copies at the gallery from 6 to 8 p.m.




May 19, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Another headstone. The third. It was finished yesterday. It is Number 28 in the Killing Fields series. This one like the last is 72" x 18" on a hardwood panel supported by a framework of clear pine. And again it is using Antoni Milkowski steel. (See my May 17 and May 9 posts.)

Cutting the mild steel with a circular saw equipped with a special blade left this hook-like tracing, which I incorporated into the piece. There is a smaller tail at the bottom of the steel plate.

The two photos above show the rust patterns on the steel. The photo below shows a piece of the foil cap of a wine, Apothic Red, that I bought at the variety store at the end of the lake.






May 17, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Headstone Two, above, is Number 27 in my Killing Fields series. I hope you can see where the black portion of the painting begins and ends against this dark background. The streaks of red and green on the right should help. This piece is 72" x 18" and almost 1.75 inches deep.

In this photo Headstone Two is hung with Portrait of My Mother, which the headstone pieces are designed to complement.

The rusted metal attached to this panel is from the supplies the minimalist sculptor Antoni Milkowski left behind when he died in 2001. I only have two more so I will have to turn to purchased steel. But I will miss the connection these scraps of metal gave me to this artist whose work I admire so much. I wish that along the way I had met him.

Technical difficulties prevented this post from being published until noon today, when it should have gone on the internet late last night. To the hordes this undoubtedly disappointed, my deepest apologies.


May 15, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Venture underground with me into that teeming flow of humanity that rides the New York subway system. Me, I'm headed toward Grand Central  after an afternoon in Chelsea's art world.

WHY THE PAIN? the sign asks. Because I'm tired after prowling the long block between 10th and 11th Avenues along 27th, 26th, 25th, 24th, 23rd and 22nd Streets in my gallery quest, then trekking over to 8th to catch the E Local to Times Square where I walk a long long way, climbing and descending stairs in the process, before catching the S to Grand Central, a stop that isn't really Grand Central because to get to that terminal I still have another long walk. There I'll have a sandwich and a coffee at the lower concourse and then ascend into the magnificent Main Concourse where I'll buy a ticket, climb another flight of stairs to the crowded mezzanine bar where I'll have to stand to drink my martini before catching the 6:52 on Track 23 to Southeast where I'll transfer to the train to Wassaic.

How's that for a long sentence packed with information. You'll forgive me, I hope. I'm writing under the influence of David Foster Wallace and his brilliant novel, Pale King, which I was listening to on my Ipod before falling asleep on the train and being awakened by the conductor in Southeast. There it took me a few seconds to realize where we were and get off the train in a semiconscious state.


Anyway, these pictures were taken with my small Nikon held at waist level as I shot blind while walking. I wasn't using a flash. So I could shoot inconspicuously.

I picked these from the dozens of shots I took in that fashion.




May 13, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

This crew was engaged in a spirited discussion yesterday afternoon in New York City's Chelsea art district. Some of them are eating lunch, some aren't. The good looking guy on the left was charismatic. It seemed rude to listen in, so I I kept walking. Here are some more shots of interactions in Manhattan on a pleasant spring day.


All these women needed was a place in the sun to sit and lose themselves in conversation.

This twosome looked in absolute agreement on directions at first. But that only lasted a moment.


It was such a pleasant afternoon that this bar opened to the sidewalk.

These men were having a good time hanging out at the London Terrace Grocery, probably solving a lot of the city's problems in the process.



May 11, 2011


Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved


Plus this

Plus this


Equals this.

And what that yellow-green stuff on the roof of my van, above, is is pollen. And I think it comes from the birch tree next to our house (top photo).

Pollen has something to do with the sex lives of trees - although I don't understand what or how. And it gives people hay fever.

From what I can gather from Wikipedia, spring blooming species such as oak, birch, hickory, pecan and early summer grasses produce the windblown pollen that coats our cars, and sometimes even our roads.

Wind doesn't pollinate most showy flowers. Bees and other insects do the job for them.

Now if someone would just explain the birds and bees to me I'd be grateful.


"You're not really going to write about pollen, are you?" Babbie asked me before she went to bed last night. I have to admit it was a challenge because I don't get it. But as an ex reporter, writing about something I know nothing about, has been part of my life. Besides it gives me a chance to run the pictures of the tender greens of Spring.




May 9, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

This is Number 26 in the Killing Fields series, A Headstone For My Mother. It is 6 feet high and just under a foot wide. It is composed of a rusted steel plate, a dried rose and two pedals from the rose. The paint is semi-gloss black acrylic, lightened in this photo so it would not disappear on the black background. The steel is nailed to the wooden support for the painted panel.

A little history: In front of our house there was a specimen tree, a weeping hemlock whose dense foliage draped to the ground, creating an inner chamber.

My father and I crawled into that chamber one night after her death and scattered her ashes. When my father died less than a year later, I crawled in again, again under the cover of night, and scattered his ashes there, too.

They both loved the trees they bought to grace our suburban yard and I can't think of a more fitting place for their ashes. I like the idea that they are intermingled and are with a symbol of their quest for beauty.

Of course there are no headstones for my parents and I can't go into the front yard, long owned by another family, to pay my respects.

So here's one, minus words, for my mother, who I still think about frequently 46 years after her death. This is a companion piece to Number 25, a large-scale photo of my mother, Elizabeth "Beth" Hall Horner. To view that go to my April 26 post.


This is a detail of the steel plate. The widow of the minimalist sculptor Antoni Milkowski gave me this piece and other material left in his studio.

If you've been to the Empire State Plaza in Albany, New York, you've probably seen one of his works, Salem 7, which is positioned at the base of the architectural standout called The Egg. I grabbed this shot of it posted on Flicker by Bennett V.

I thought my use of Milkowski's steel carried on his minimalist approach. I suppose it would have been purer to omit the rose and pedals. And I thought about that. But my mother grew roses.

A note about the white matter you can see on the rose and the petals. It is acrylic gel and will eventually dry to a clear, transparent finish. I use the gel to protect the flower and to glue it to the panel.






May 7, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Sometimes when it's raining and I want to get my exercise without getting wet, I  go to  Pittsfield's parking garage on McKay Street (just west of North) and climb up and down the stairs. Every time I do I'm staggered by the rust.

This is a 25-year-old facility that the city seems to have given up on. To the eye of a novice like me, rust seems to be taking its toll on the structure's integrity. But if this were true the city would close it to protect the public. Wouldn't it? Maybe it's superficial?

Some one tell me this place is safe. Official policy seems to be to let nature take its course. Water seeps into the garage. Every piece of structural steel around the periphery of the building seems to be afflicted by rust. Things are not as bad in the structure's interior.

Rust-colored puddles illustrate the problem. (below).

Back in 2005 the city spent $517,000 to refurbish this garage and the one on Columbus Avenue. Pittsfield has had problems from the start with this garage. Was it poorly designed, badly built, indifferently maintained? I don't know, but it looks like it needs to go to the ER.

From the outside everything looks good. But inside corrosion is king. You walk up and down the stairs and wonder, "How many years before this thing collapses?"


May 5, 2011

Part A

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

I was sitting in the passenger seat of the Prius parked in Guido's lot  in Lenox when I took this shot around noon yesterday. Babbie was inside getting some sword fish, which she cooks in a great way. I was in the car sipping coffee I'd bought at Stop & Shop.


In this one I was shooting through the sun-shield band across the upper windshield and zooming in on the trees. That added the spooky darkness.

Not everything was gloomy in the rain. Here's a shot I'll call Window Dressing because of the reflections of the arched windows on either side of the mini-skirted outfit in the back window of Deidre's in Pittsfield.

Turning around after shooting the window I took this show of the side of the Beacon Cinema building. You can't see the rain in this one, but it has a wet feel to it.




Part B

This is a photo of my painting Surely, Surely. The quotation is from Hester beseeching Rev. Dimmsedale in The Scarlet Letter to fling off their lives of separation and shame and run away together. Ultimately, he was too tethered to guilt to buy her line that they had surely "ransomed one another with all this woe."

I've given it to HospiceCare in the Berkshires for its upcoming gala. It will be among items auctioned off.

This 2006 painting with its attached sculpture was one of 140 I did for my Scarlet Letter series. Many of them have been sold

Talk about woe, last night we went to the Beacon with Shannon to see Cary Fukunaga's "fiery and elegant" Jane Eyre. (The quote is from Rotten Tomatoes.) Before it reaches its happy ending Charlotte Bronte's book has plenty of woe to go around. Mia Wasikowska (below) is spell binding in the title role.




May 3, 2011

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Now this is a crew I would have loved to get together for dinner:  Sol LeWitt, bottom, Elizabeth Hall (my mother) top left , and Gae Elfenbein.  What a rollicking good time they would have had.

Gae and my mother could be two of the best dinner companions you could wish for - funny, warm, engaged, humanistic. Gae also could have an edge. I never met LeWitt but I think he would have been enchanted. How could he not have been?

Their depictions are all my works, Sol sitting on a sofa temporarily - or not so temporarily -  and collages of my mother and Gae peaking over the back of the sofa. It was taken last night.

From the hundreds of responses to our May 1 question, we have a winner. Darol Bates correctly identified the photo ( below ) as the cooking surface of a stainless steel skillet. When I notified Darol that she is the winner, she emailed: "haha I knew it!! From one cooking lover to another!" Darol is my niece. Unlike more scrupulous contest operators, I don't disqualify relatives. Her father David also entered but his answer, while imaginative, missed by a mile.


May 1, 2010

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved


Here's a photo I took recently in the house late at night. Can you tell me what it is of?


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