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Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man


May 29, 2013

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

In the last post I gave you Walt Whitman and lilacs in the dooryard blooming. Today it's a body and another blooming bush.

I had already tampered with the colors of this woman's body - I took her photo several years ago - on the computer, when the picture came up as a screensaver the other evening and I shot the computer screen with my Canon (seems like overkill doesn't it? ) distorting the color even more.

Below is our overflowing beauty bush - I think it's real name is spiraea - in the back of our house. There's one on the other side of this deck, too. The French doors open into the dining room. I've been meaning to cut off the branch that spills over on the deck. After looking at this shot, I realize it would be a crime against Spring.




May 25, 2013


Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved












When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom’d, 
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night, 
I mourn’d—and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.


I often think of the first line of Walt Whitman's tribute to the assassinated Lincoln when the lilacs bloom in our yard in the spring. This one in the photo above iis certainly in the dooryard and it is about 25 feet high and full of blooms that are already starting to fade. From the poem, which sounds like Whitman wrenched the words from his heart, it is obvious that Whitman worshipped the president. During the war, Whitman spent years comforting sick, wounded and dying soldiers in hospitals in the field and in Washington, D.C.

We have another lilac in the side yard and used to have a row of them along the Lilac Path at the back of our property. It was a path that ran from the end of  our street to North Street - a shortcut the neighborhood kids used. With its white and purple lilacs it was beautiful and fragrant in the spring. But other trees sprang up among the lilacs and eventually formed a towering hedgerow of maples that robbed the lilacs of sun, and over the long run, of life.

Here's a shot of the lilac in the side yard. The bush's roots are intertwined with a honeysuckle that is also blooming now. I think this one is a French lilac.


The lilac used to grow on the side of the original house but had to be transplanted when we built the addition (which you see in this photo ) about 1970. There is a large sliding glass door under the deck in the back of the addition. It leads to my studio. It's big but over the years the space I have to paint has been shrunken radically by all the paintings stored there.

To read Whitman's famous poem go to this link. It is a little overwrought by today's standards, but beautiful.



May 21 and 22, 2013


Here's the same painting I showed you Monday but with changes made on Tuesday.  I don't think it's finished yet, but it's getting close. One thing that is finished is the debate in my mind about how to use this piece. Originally I planned it as the background for a new painting of Nicole (see my May 14 post for the pose). But I've decided not to add a figure, letting it stand on its own as an abstract. I haven't worked abstractly since I finished the Jeanne d'Arc series of more than 30 paintings a couple years ago. The painting is acrylic and salvaged paint on canvas. It is 72" x 48".



This is the painting as it looked Sunday. The canvas is tacked to the wall of my studio, which is the way I often paint.

it's working title is Golden Gate.

The genesis of the name is an email or something else I read last week about Golden Gate International Orange. Sherwin Williams, the company that currently supplies the paint for the bridge, gave out the formula for the bridge's version of international Orange. So I went to the local Sherwin Williams store to buy a gallon. Ironically, they didn't have the ingredients to mix it. They said I'd have to go to one of their larger outlets.

That was disappointing because I had envisioned using that color in the background of a series of paintings. I thought it would be fun to say it was the exact color of the bridge. My orange is not the official color, which I think is a bit darker. Here's Andy Freeberg's stunning shot of a painter applying that color to the famous span. No job, by the way, for the faint of heart.





May 17, 2013

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Third Thursdays in Pittsfield began its seventh season last night with a huge turnout. Looking north (above) it was a sea of people as far as you could see. Looking south, ditto. The event began in 2007 with modest crowds but  grew fast and it wasn't long before North Street had to be closed to traffic to accommodate the thousands who flocked to the street festival.

Music, dancing, food are all attractions. But I think the biggest things are people watching and running into friends, to say nothing of being part of the ebb and flow of the biggest crowds I suspect Pittsfield has ever seen.

Face painting is popular with kids. This little cowgirl sports a lady bug. I wonder if Megan Whilden, the city's cultural director, ever dreamed that the event she instituted in 2007 would ever be so wildly popular. I think the populace of this city, whose spirit had been dragging, must have been starved for some form of communal gathering.






May 14, 2013

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Here's another picture of Nicole Rizzo, one of two women I have been photographing lately. On Saturday I saw the burlesque company she directs, Gypsy Layne, perform in Spice Dragon's large upstairs space. It was jammed with well- dressed women and not-so-well-dressed men. The majority, I would guess, were in their 30s. Nicole and crew  kept the audience laughing throughout the performance. .

It was the second time I had gone to Spice to see her. The first time, the prior Saturday, was strange. I told a hostess that I was there to see the burlesque show. "Wait a minute," she said. "I'll check."

When she came back she told me the news: They weren't performing until the next Saturday. Getting old is has its disadvantages.



May 10, 2013

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved (Not That Anyone Would Steal These)

Looking at these now - I just made them between 5 and 6 this morning (yeah, I couldn't sleep. If stuff like this was spinning around in your head could you?) - I like the one below best. What do you think? You can contact me by clicking here.


The one at the top of the post may be too dark, except for very down days. How about lightening it up a little? Sure, this one's really festive.




May 5, 2013


Photos by Grier Horner

The popular First Fridays Artswalk celebrated its first anniversary Friday night with a ton of art to look at and a lot of people strolling from venue to venue to look at the work. Babbie, my wife, and I spent three hours going from store, to studio, to eatery and we didn't see half of what was on display.

First Fridays was started a year ago by Mary McGinnis, owner of Mary's Carrot Cake and the mayor's new executive assistant, and Leo Mazzeo, who has since initiated an arts blog and business called "arts indie." They had help from the city's cultural director, Megan Whilden. McGinnis is now the leader of the organization. In terms of crowds, First Fridays is no Third Thursday - now there's a mouthful - but it wasn't expected to be. With the closing of the classy Ferrin Gallery, First Fridays is carrying much of the weight of keeping downtown going as a visual arts destination. And it is doing a good job at it.

One of the focuses of Friday's event was the 16 self portraits by some of the swarm of artists whose studios are on the second floor of 131 North Street, which they've dubbed NU Arts. And this group of pictures shows all but one of the portraits - the one I forgot to take a photo of.

At the top is Scott Taylor with his flip-lidded self portrait. One of the best selling artists in Pittsfield - last year he sold more than 40 paintings - you can believe the motto on his T-shirt.  Below is a powerful self portrait by Paula Shuster.



Above Joanie Ciolfi clasps her head with her eyes and mouth contributing to her look of - of what - despair? Below Lisa Merullo with a white cross painted on her face used pieces of scrap to give a good portrait extra character.




This is Marge Bride's skillfull take on American Gothic, the iconic painting by Grant Wood. She did it back in her oil painting days. Watercolors are now her choice in paints. Her husband Ed holds the pitch fork. Below Kathy Gideon poses with the smallest of the 16 self portraits in the show, a loving rendition of herself as a child.




Ellen Joffee-Halpern has painted herself in a few bold strokes at the edge of a stormy sea. (I hope that's right, Ellen.) Below is Susan Hammel's work, in which she quotes Georgia O'Keeffe: "I found I could say thing with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way, things I had no words for."


Sam Ponder, known for his uncanny ability to turn gourds into whales, hung two of them by a window as his self portrait. Below, Sally Tiska Rice's portrait transmits both her looks and intensity.





Sophia Lee stands by her self portrait. She's found pictoral strength where you wouldn't expect it looking down a line of toddlers swings. The polished fittings reflect the photographer.  While, below, Deborah Rufo Burato, lets horses in a peaceful meadow reflect something about her.




There is drama in Debbie Carter's depiction of herself, above, drama and artistry. Diane Firtell's work, below, is marred in my photo by the white shape over her head. Its a reflection on the glass covering the painting.




Dan Brody represents himself with this scarecrow, wearing his paint-stained hoodie and gloves left over from another project. Then there is Dee Randolph's self portrait, the top of which you can see indistinctly in the stairwell behind the scarecrow. I simply forgot to take a picture of it. So I'm substituting her fascinating "A Seat at the Table, done in watercolor and colored pencil.  It resulted from a friend's inquiry about who she could dine with if she could invite anyone, living or dead. See how many of the dozen guests you can name. The artist did say that Geronimo "sent his regrets."



Part Two

OK, so much for the portraits. Now I'll show you the work of another 14 artists showing on First Friday. Even though I'm presenting a lot of artists, the ones I'm showing probably don't represent even half who were exhibiting their work Friday. Who got into this post was sort of the luck of the draw and is no reflection on the quality of the work of those who didn't.



Brent Whitney, above, is with his piece "Handicap II" at the YBar at 391 North Street. Although it looks like the door of a real refrigerator it is not. He made it in his Lanesborough shop-studio out of high density urethane - shaping, sanding and painting to give it an industrial polish. He sees it as a "dry, ambiguous, sexual thing." I'll let you figure out the sexual component. His hot dog dispensing machine, below, was almost ready to work when he decided he didn't want it to.  He wants these pieces to imply function without providing it.

Showing with Brent at the YBar is Ariel Lavery, two of whose works are shown below. They are made from found material. The one in front is called As We Continue to Move Forward and the one behind it is Linear Progression. Brent and Ariel became friends at UMass Amherst where she completed her studies for an MFA and he for a BFA this year. Their work expresses an "absurdest critique of a consumptive post-industrial society," Brent said.




Over at Berkshire Community College's downtown gallery on Columbus Avenue, Walt Pasko has a one-man show of landscapes. Two of them are shown here. For the past 40 years he has painted directly from nature, working outdoors summer and winter, becoming one of the best known Berkshire painters in the process.




Above is Joanie Ciolfi's commanding painting of a water tower. Rust unites it with Susan Geller's photo of a rusting bridge, one of the pieces in her show Retrospective at the Kinderhook Real Estate office, 137 North Street. I love the way the bridge repeats itself in the water, it's straight lines made jagged by the ripples in the water.




Above and below are photographs by Allan Seppa mounted on canvas. They can be seen at the new  Maria's European Delights, a deli at 146-A North Street. One is Indian Beach on the rocky Oregon coast. it reminds me of a Winslow Homer painting. The other is Olaf's castle in Finland.



The abstract above is one of many intricate pieces Morris Bennett is showing upstairs in the Shops at Crawford Square, 137 North. His work is in light-filled rooms of Decades of Health Holistic Wellness. Before Crawford Square was restored, Morris said his studio was in the rooms were they are now being shown, space he rented for just $35 a month. I forgot to ask where his studio is now.


One North Street shop, Bagels, Too, has been featuring art shows since long before the birth of First Fridays. They were initiated by Judith Lerner, who continues to be the curator of this long-running look at art. The current show includes photos of horses by Pittsfield attorney Mitch Greenwald.





These black and white photos at Bagels, Too are among a classy group being shown by Doane Perry. This family of three looks like it is going through a bad moment. The man seems angry, the woman upset or resigned. In contrast is the tranquil scene below with a mother and daughter in a bucholic setting. Perry took the photos in Greece.




These paintings by Katherine Gundelfinger are in the windows of a vacant shop in the Onota Building on North Street. I found the one above compelling in its look and story. I'm trying to figure out whether the huddled in the black coat is just gathering her strength to continue barefoot through the snow or is in the throws of hyperthermia.

But the real story, from a news perspective, is in her painting below. It represents a subtle victory for the artist and the expression on the woman's face captures that. Katherine Gundelfinger has been a campaigner for topless equality among men and women in Pittsfield and at the state level but was defeated at both levels. Remember her petition for the right to go topless at a Pittsfield beach? I think it was at Burbank Park. She has argued that is absurd to let men go bare chested but stop women from doing the same.

Well, she has put toplessness right on North Street. As one of my readers said: "Victory for Katherine."

I also get a kick out of the thick black band of cencorship she has added to the painting.



Unlike anyone else in this post, I'm giving this artist three pictures because the third is of a good friend of ours, Jeff Kemp, a Pittsfield police officer.




Back to Bagels, Too. Above are sunflowers by Karen Carmean, who is married to Doane Perry. And below are the whimsical pieces by Judy Artioli that can be hung on the wall or used as carpets. They would do a lot  to cheer up a room.





Bill Wright has  some strong shots in his Morning Light show at the Marketplace Cafe next to the Beacon. The pictures are of kids just after they wake up. Despite all the reflections in this one - including my hands as I hold the camera - I wanted to show it to you because it is a lovely shot. I was unable to take shots of most of the photography I saw Friday because of glare on the protective  glass. Below is one by H. David Stein at Unusual Wedding Rings and More where special glass limited the reflections. This was from his series Deconstructed Flowers. The curvature in the matting is caused the the fact I had to get close to the photograph to take the picture.

So here's to First Fridays Artswalk. May this be the first of many anniversaries. It is a valuable addition to the ongoing rebirth of downtown Pittsfield.





May 3, 2013

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Here are two shots of one of my favorite subjects and one of my best friends, Linda Baker-Cimini. I've doctored the one on top slightly to give her face that glow. The one at the bottom is in its natural state. For another picture you can go into my archives and pull up the post for March 25. I should run more.


Above is a 60" x 50" painting, consisting of four paintings of Linda, that I did in 2002. Below is a 70" x 55" oil I did in 2005 in which Linda is in the middle berth of the Siberian Express. Below her is Betsey Dovydenas and in the top berth is Riley, my granddaughter. I built the bunk in the back yard so I can get them to pose together. Betsy was holding her dog Penny. The dachshund - perhaps that same summer - was killed by a bear she was trying to drive away to protect her owners while they were on a walk.


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