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Portrait of the Artist as an Old MaN

June 1, 2012

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Sometimes, perhaps most of the time, the sky is amazingly beautiful. I went through a period of a couple years where I couldn't stop shooting pictures of clouds. I've calmed down on clouds in the last year. I'm not sure that's a good sign.

When Babbie and I were walking on the playing fields at Ponterril recently, a took a couple dozen shots of the sun setting under storm clouds. It was hard to pick a favorite. I hope you like this one.



May 30, 2012

Ever wonder about the stories behind the photographs gracing the balcony above the main reading room in the Berkshire Athenaeum? Stretching for 158 feet they were all taken by Nick DeCandia of Lanesboro and last night he told an audience, which braved tornado warnings  and heavy rain to attend, about the people and events depicted in this large-scale project.

For example, this little girl attending the wedding of her aunt and uncle atop Mount Greylock started crying just before the ceremony was to start. Her mother Beth pulled a lollipop from her purse "and voila, Miriam stopped crying,” DeCandia recounted, and the wedding went on. The photographer, who also plays a mean trumpet, provided music for the nuptials.

The photo montage was installed in 2001. Unlike conventional photos, these are printed on cloth that hangs almost like curtains, giving them a wavering surface. Michael E. Sinopoli of Greylock Productions made a video of DeCandia talking about this collection and it was played last night. After it was screened, DeCandia answered questions.

Here this youth is driving his Uncle Clint’s horses King and Neon on their maple sugaring rounds. "Clint could do anything," DeCandia said. "He built his house and his barn on the side of a hill. The stream that gave water to his house he redirected to go to his barn as well" before continuing its course.

The horses, Percherons, were brother and sister and majestic, the photographer said. "Each weighed a ton. They had beautiful faces. At the end of each day, he’d put his arms around their noses, hug them close and say, 'My babies.' Clint was a marvelous man."

Relaxing with his grandson is the late Sunny Williams, proprietor of Sunny's tractor place in Hancock, who held Saturday gatherings at his place. DeCandia, who had moved to the Berkshires from the New York area, was a regular. He had a great time sitting in with the farmers.

"Nothing could top the moment when Sunny leaned forward and pointed to the house across the way and said to me, 'You see that window. That’s the room I was born in.'"

Nick DeCandia. Photo by Grier Horner


In this shot DeCandia's daughter Katie-Rose was wiping the condensation from a window at their house. When her father asked why, she said, "Because I really love the world." His daughter, grown up now, composed and played the music for the video and took photos last evening.

This is the Rev. Willard Durant, who for years operated Pittsfield's Christian Center with his late wife Rosemary. The couple exemplified those who care about others, DeCandia said. The photographer spent a year shooting pictures at the Christian Center. They were shown at the Berkshire Museum and at the State House, where then Gov. Michael Dukakis spoke at the presentation.

Durant said the event gave the bus load attending from the center "a great deal of pride," DeCandia said, adding, "And that's what Will does naturally, instilling the feeling of pride and love.”

DeCandia said he learned a lot about Mount Greylock from Bud Hoover in the photo above. "He told of the times he and his sons walked the trails. And we walked them too. He’d pull out his crow caller and blow into it - Caw Caw - and say, 'watch this.' In a few minutes some tricky vultures would come flying by as if to say hello. He knew I thought it would bring in some curious crows. But old Bud knew it would be vultures that would be curious."

Hoover told him about the former World War II bombardier who after the war flew deliveries from New York to Albany. Lost in the clouds one time he crashed into Greylock and died.

"The frame of his plane is still there, exactly where it came to rest," DeCandia pointed out.

When the road up Mount Greylock was closed for two years during its recent reconstruction, DeCandia said, Hoover worried that the improved road would bring congestion to the mountain. The old man died before it was finished.

"It's OK, Bud," DeCandia said, "Mount Greylock is still beautiful.

P.S. You can watch the video by clicking this link. The DeCandia photos in this post were taken from the video.






May 28, 2012

Maxime and Anna yesterday put the 470 on their trailer and started the trek back to Montreal. That sailboat, which I used to race on Pontoosuc Lake, has been upside down in our backyard for about 25 years.  Seeing them drive down the street with it made me a little nostalgic.

I'd won a few races in it, but lost a ton more. Once when we had a regatta at the YMCA boat club on the lake, 40 470s competed over two days. My daughter Shannon, about 12 or 13 at the time, was my crew. We had decided that we would be very happy if we came in 15th because there were a lot of out-of-town hot shots sailing. I think we came in 30th. Oh, well.

Maxime was interested in the boat's history. We bought it in 1969. It was made by Morin in France and was one of the first three racing dinghies of its class in America. It went on to become an Olympic class.

The trouble with sailing is that you have to have a crew to race. Babbie and I had gotten in enough arguments in the boat that she mutinied and wouldn't crew anymore. I was having trouble getting anyone to go. I started riding a bike, and gradually it became a passion. I put in a lot of miles. On my 50th or 55th birthday in 90 degree heat I rode from Pittsfield to Burlington, Vermont. I made the 150 miles in a day - in just under 11 hours.

Back to the water. Long before I retired I decided that when I turned 65 I would sail the boat the 19 miles between Point Judith, Rhode Island, and Block Island. It was going to be a real adventure. But the dreams of one year are not always the dreams of another and I never set sail.

Babbie, tired of a boat in the backyard, suggestion we advertise on the 470 Association website. We had three interested parties this spring. We were literally giving the boat away. Maxime was the first in line. Anne and he are a charming couple and I'm glad they have the boat.

I'm a little sad, though, to know my life on the bounding main is over.







May 26. 2012



Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved


While I go by Grier Horner, my full name is Winfield Grier Horner 4th. That's awfully Waspy says my friend Nancy, who belongs to a once Waspy club that isn't so Waspy any more. I don't know if the birthers among us will accept this Certificate of Birth as proof. You'll notice that it is only a copy and I added the words in red to prevent identity theft. I'd like to call your attention to the fact it bears the signature of Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia*.

Turning 65 - as I did something like 104 years ago - made me become much more conscious of my full name. Medicare automatically lists me as Winfield G. Horner. So when a medical aide at the doctor's or optometrist's office calls my name it's always Winfield. I've gotten used to that. I even sort of like it.

But lately I've been thinking of calling myself "WGHthe4" and "the4" for short. To my closest friends - who are legion(I cite as proof of that my 449 friends on facebook) - I might just be "4", or should it be "IV"? Maybe IV is too much like intravenous, or too aristocratic. But then again when you're the 4th it already sounds a little aristocratic.

Unfortunately I don't have time or inclination right now to document my lineage.


Liz Whitney Quisgard with some of her work. I don't know the name of the gallery or the photographer


Now I'm taking a sharp turn. Bear with me. No, not bare with me. I want to talk about the initials museums use as acronyms.

I got an email from the Berkshire Museum yesterday announcing that Liz Whitney Quisgard's Kaleidoscope is now installed in the Ellen Crane Memorial Room. It follows David Henderson's brilliant A Brief History of Flight which has taken off for other places. Her exhibit will be on view through October 21.

Anxious to see her work and listen to her talk about it, I went over to my calendar, flipped the page to June and made a note. Here's how it went.

Not that great. My wife had already jotted down something about getting the car inspected. That didn't leave much room for Ms. Quisgard's talk at 4, which the museum said will be provocative, and the reception from 5-7. All on June 2. I didn't even have room for the artist's name.

That's because the museum's name simply eats up too much space. So I was thinking, "Why doesn't the Berkshire Museum go by it's initials like all the other museums: MASS MoCA, WCMA, MOMA, etc."

Then it dawned on me. They can't do that. I'm sure I don't have to tell you why.


This is David Henderson's ABrief History of Flight during its run at the Berkshire Museum. Photo by Grier Horner

Wikipedia describes Mayor LaGuardia, a Republican, this way: "Irascible, energetic and charismatic, he craved publicity and is acclaimed as one of the three or four greatest mayors in American history.[3] Only five feet tall, he was called "the Little Flower". The site goes on to say, "La Guardia revitalized New York City and restored public faith in City Hall. He unified the transit system; directed the building of low-cost public housing, public playgrounds, and parks; constructed airports; reorganized the police force; defeated the powerful Tammany Hall political machine; and reestablished merit employment in place of patronage jobs."




May 24, 2012

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Every now and then I run this painting because I like it so much. I did it while I was still taking painting classes at Berkshire Community College. I think it was 1999. Then I redid it about 2005, painting over the existing work. I call it  Anita and the Polar Bears. The model was Anita McFarland, who lived at Kripalu in Stockbridge. Now a Yoga center it was then a spiritual retreat.

The shark is my take on Damien Hirst's famous shark in formaldehyde. The bear on top was from David Salle. The seed for the painting was planted when I saw a group of people looking at the fish swimming in the Boston Aquarium. One father had his youngster perched on his shoulders. For some reason it looked to me like a bear watching the fish and I thought about it awhile and this is how it turned out.

I'd like to hang it in the living room. It's almost 100 inches long. We have a wall that would take it. I haven't broached the idea to Babbie because I think I know how she would take it.

A blown-up version of the picture appeared on a billboard advertising the show in North Adams where the painting was on display.

Want to see something incredible?

Photo from Gary Connery Archive

Yesterday in England a stuntman, Gary Connery, the man in the wingsuit above, become the first skydiver to land without using a parachute. That link will give you a video of his amazing flight.



May 22, 2012

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

I'm doing a painting of Riley. It's about time. I haven't painted her in years. (I think the painting at the bottom of this post is the last one.) This is at a very early stage. I'm roughing in areas of dark and light on her clothes. Let me admit that I have not finished the one I was working on. I got hung up on it a month ago and have thrown in the towel temporarily.


This picture and the one at the top will give you a look at my process. I start by putting a grid on a photo I took of Riley on Easter and then drawing the grid proportionately larger on the canvas tacked to my studio wall. The grids make it easier to get the proportions right when you go from an 18-inch high photo to a 72-inch canvas.

Riley, I'm guessing, was 5 when I did the painting of her on the porch swing my father made in high school. She's 12 now.



May 19, 2012

Eric Callahan, "Sumidero Canyon," Chiapas, Mexico

This amazing shot by Eric Callahan will be among those at "Moments of Focus," a juried photography show. Staged by the New Marlboro Village Association, it  will be held a the Meeting House Gallery on Route 57 on the Village Green. The opening reception is Friday, May 25, from 5 to 7.

A note to photographers. You still have time to enter. The photos - up to five per artist - must be delivered to the gallery Monday May 21 from 5 to 7 p.m. or Tuesday May 22 from 10 a.m. to noon. David La Spina, a photography teacher at Bard College at Simon's Rock, is the juror. Creators of the accepted work will be notified by phone by 7 p.m. Tuesday. Unaccepted works must be picked up from 4 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

For a prospectus contact Elizabeth Lombardi at [email protected] or 229-8972. The show will be up through June 17. The gallery is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11 to 4




May 16, 2012

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

This is a montage I made from my own photo of a leaning woman and from an Internet picture of a Robert Indiana sculpture. I did some retouching and added the mask yesterday. I'm a big admirer of Indiana.

Indiana, born in 1928, did HOPE in 2008. Wikipedia informs me that the artist donated all proceeds from the sale of reproductions of this image to Barack Obama's presidential campaign that year, raising in excess of $1,000,000. A stainless steel version of HOPE was unveiled outside Denver's Pepsi Center during the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

I don't have the software that would allow me to pluck the model's body from my photo and drop it electronically on the HOPE photo.

Instead, I printed both pictures, cut the figure out with scissors and glued it to the HOPE print. Then I did a limited amount of retouching on the computer to partially disguise the cut-and-paste technique.

Below is my riff on Indiana's most famous work, LOVE. In it I converted the V to an A as part of my Scarlet Letter series - 140 paintings created about five years ago. 

HOPE is almost as important as LOVE in LIFE. That's my brilliant deduction for the day.


Painting by Grier Horner/In a private collection





May 14, 2012

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

I had forgotten that I put my camera on manual focus the day before. So when I took this shot of a girl running with her Easter basket, it was out of focus. But I like it and am thinking of using it as the basis for a painting. As you can see I used this photo extra long, emphasizing it's lack of definition. To do that I cut the photo in half horizontally, blew each half up to the maximum 900 pixels this blog allows and then joined them - imperfectly - to get a shot 1800 pixels long. Hope I haven't played havoc with your eyes.



May 12, 2012

NOTICE - After a few days on Blogspot, the blog is back at this location.

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

The Battle of Gettysburg was the costliest battle of the Civil War in terms of casualties. Fifty one thousand soldiers were killed, wounded, captured or missing after that three-day struggle. Although the war raged on another two years, Gettysburg that was the turning point in the war for the North. This is one of the few monuments portraying a fallen soldier.



May 6, 2012

Photos from the Internet

If I were writing headlines on my posts, this one would be Katz' Hats. I've admired the boldness and simplicity of his paintings for a long time. For years we had a large reproduction of his Red Coat, which I go gaga over, in our living room. On the internet yesterday I put together a bunch of his paintings in which the subjects are wearing hats. The Red Coat is next.


In fact, here's a picture of our late cat Evalene sitting in front of that reproduction. It appeared on my blog on March 22, 2007.



This one's a self portrait in his old age. Katz was born in 1927.





Photo by Pari Dukovic in New York Magazine

Here's Katz in his studio in New York City. At 84 he is still "alarmingly prolific," according to a short article you might enjoy in New York Magazine. For a Smithsonian video of Katz click here. When two of my favorite painters are Katz and Chuck Close, who are friends, I guess it is no accident that I spent a good part of my early painting career doing faces on a large scale.

P.S. It's 12:47 now and I'm finished with this post. Normally at this point I go to the kitchen an wash the dishes while listening to a novel. But tonight I made the supper - Manhattan clam chowder - so Babbie did the dishes. There was something missing in the soup, which I haven't seen in a restaurant for years. I think it needs a dark, sultry taste. Maybe I'll pour in some bourbon or Worchestershire sauce before heating up the rest tomorrow.




May 4, 2012

Image by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

I'm working on a new photo in my series Remembrance of Things Past. It is taken from my mother's black and white passport photo. I've been messing around with it on the computer.


P.S. A friend of Babbie's sent her this YouTube video that made me laugh out loud. Ashleigh, 16, and her dog Pudsey , 6, show off their dance  moves on Britain's Got Talent. I think they could win Dancing With the Stars on American TV. Simon Cowell is crazy about the duo and so am I. Here's their picture.





May 2, 2012

This is  Virgin and Child Enthroned with Four Angels by Piero della Francesca at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown. Painted in the late 15th century, it is a marvel of Early Rennaisance art. A friend has cited, among other things, its balance and masterful use of red - on the angel to the right, on the Madonna and in the slim belt of the angel on the left.

It came up when he was looking at my painting of the woman in the black gown (below) with its off centeredness, a condition that is understated in this photo because the background continues further to the right. In the photo I trimmed it to the way I think I will mount it on a stretch. But the question remains, does that screw the painting up or give it a certain tension.

I've been leaning toward unbalanced painting lately. Maybe that's a reflection on an unbalanced brain. But the conversation we had the other day, as well as comments by others, is making me think - which can be painful. What do you think? If you care to, let me know.




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