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

June 29, 2011

Photo by Catwalking

Working exclusively on photographs, as I've been doing recently, has left me feeling guilty for deserting my first love - painting. So I've decided to pick up the Runway series. I'm not ditching the photos. It's just that I'll be seeing my ex on the side.

I've picked an old painting that I'm not crazy about and will paint the new piece over it. This is in response to Babbie's concern that she's trying to pare down our stuff and I'm constantly adding to it.

Anyway, now I'm about to pick the painting's foreground subject. Here are a few that are in the running from the couple thousand pictures I've looked at this year.

On top is a design by Ruberto Cavalli. The dress is great and so is the model. I found the photo on the New York Times web edition. Then there are these:


Photo by Catwalking

This gown is by Charles Anastase and was also found on the Times site. A couple times a week I sort through the high fashion designs from the Fall 2011 runway shows looking to see what I had overlooked and the two dresses you've seen so far are all from that hunt. The one below I picked from outfits I had saved at the time of the so-called fall fashion week last February. Unfortunately, I neglected to note the designer and photographer at the time.

So there you have the finalists for the painting. They are very different from each other and I like them all for different reasons:

The first I like for its rich, free-flowing, complexity, its offbeat rich hippie look. I like the way the model has her hands shoved in the pockets and the "I-dare-you-" look on her face.

The second has folds in the skirt that remind me of the work of old master paintings. There is a sumptuousness to the material and a wonderful simplicity to the top. The model's face looks haunted, as if she has been through some crisis.

The last I like for its subtle - or maybe not so subtle - sexuality, the translucence of the material, the area of skin between the top of the boots and the hem. It is sexy seemingly without trying and rich in its simplicity, too.

If you have a favorite, let me know at [email protected].


We went to see Guys and Dolls at the Barrington Stage in Pittsfield last night and I found myself springing to my feet as the curtain calls began. My granddaughter says I was the first. Gradually almost the entire audience rose. As I discovered looking up reviews after the show, Terry Teachout, the Wall Street Journal's drama critic, lamented that this revival hadn't opened on Broadway instead of one staged by Des McAnuff in 2009.

"If only John Rando's new Barrington Stage version had opened on Broadway instead of in the Berkshires! Mr. Rando, a master of musical comedy who won a Tony for "Urinetown," gets everything right that Mr. McAnuff got wrong, and plenty more besides," is the way Teachout put it. It closes July 16.

I had two glasses of wine when we got home, fell asleep on the couch at midnight and woke up at 4. It's a little after 5 now. I've finished this post and I'm going to bed.







June 27, 2011

These paintings are by Marc Desgrandchamps, a prominent contemporary painter in France. I came across his work for the first time yesterday when Art Knowledge News ran a photo of one of his diptychs. I looked him up on the internet and was intrigued.

Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris is currently giving the contemporary French painter a retrospective consisting of 40 large paintings and a selection of works on paper. It runs through September 4.

This won't be his first big museum show: Desgrandchamps has had several in the last few years, including one at the Pompidou in Paris. The photo below is from that exhibit.

This is what the Musée d'Art Moderne says about his work: "Sometimes dreamlike, sometimes narrative, his works blend body and evanescent landscapes, past and suspended time. They question what the artist describes as 'probably the figure, the presence of doubt, doubt of painting', as they explore the effects of transparency, opacity, and overlay."

If I had the money I'd fly over and take a look.

That's Desgrandchamps in the photo above standing in front of one of his paintings in his studio.



June 25, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

When I saw the angel wing I pulled off the road and started shooting. There it is (above) in all its glory. Then I looked south and the clouds in that direction were flat bottomed and beautiful (below). I turned west again. The wing was no longer a wing  (photo three) but still striking. I was headed north from Wassaic on 22 when I witnessed all this.



June 23, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner

Lisa Griffith has a stunning show at the Berkshire Community College Art Gallery at the transit center on Columbus Avenue. You can see it by walking by, where it's especially attractive at night, as in the photo above, or even as a drive-by viewing if you're pressed for time.

Griffith, the former Lisa Yetz, will be in the gallery on Friday (June 24) from 3 to 5 to talk with anyone who would like to drop in.

The artist, who is chairman of Berkshire Community College's art department, has been making these abundantly proportioned gowns since she was a graduate student at The Art Institute of Chicago about 20 years ago. They are especially impressive when grouped as they were in a show at the Albany Airport some years ago and at a show in Holyoke last year.

Originally made of paper, more recently they are of burlap and Celluclay, which gives them a rigidity and permanence the paper gowns lacked. For a time she constructed these hollow sculptures out of a cement. But the weight made transporting them a major problem.

The other works here are graphite - she uses wide nibbed carpenter's pencils - on paper. The rolls of paper were given to her by the artist Mark Milloff, her teacher at BCC. She lets the bottoms of the large drawings curl on the floor - an effect I like.

She regulates the blacks and grays by the amount of pressure she applies to the pencil. The whites are simply unmarked sections of the paper. I shouldn't use the word simply because it implies that this is easy to do. If you think so, try it. They are a tour de force of technique.

She says her quest is to trap light inside a layer of dark, a fascinating quest in which she is succeeding.

Above Ms. Griffith, in the green dress, stands in front of three of her smaller works, which are tremendous.

Currently Ms. Griffith is back to painting, doing portraits of people who pose for her as well as portraits drawn from photos of  "those who have gone before."

Here's another view of the gown in the forest. Unlike the drawings these trees are painted with acrylics.

When I started painting about 15 years ago, I took studio art classes at BCC with three talented artists who were also wonderful teachers: Ms. Griffith, Mark Milloff, and Benigna Chilla.






June 19, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Red Riding Hood, bless her heart, is alive and well and lives in New York City. But Grandmother, what big eyes you have. The guy with her is eyeing me as I take her picture. What a beauty. The only flaw in her outfit was a slight hole in her tights on her right thigh. On second thought, it was probably a self inflicted fashion wound.

Here's a crew preparing to take a picture of a - what's the opposite of superhero? The idea, it's obvious, was to have a caped crusader in the Woodie Allen mold. The guy with the beard, seemed to be in charge. He stepped into the street to keep the cars from bowling over his people.

 This young woman riding into Manhattan from Wassaic was on her cell phone, apparently having decided not to toss it because of news that these devices might cause brain tumors.

After we changed trains at Northeast, this girl sat next to me and caught up on her sleep as the woman across the aisle read her newspaper. A friend told me yesterday that it won't be too many years until the average age of newspaper readers will be 70. She probably fits that demographic.

After she woke up the girl said she had a Nikon like mine and loved shooting with it. She is a student at City College with a double major in studio art and biochemistry. Wow. While she's trying to get everything she can out of college, I told her I had tried to duck courses I thought might be difficult.

This couple was riding the shuttle from Grand Central to Times Square. Getting to the shuttle is a long walk. The mural below graces the path, along with a number of other art works. Man, I love Manhattan.

For more photos from my day in New York last week, go to my June 15 post.



June 17, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

A sea of humanity flowed along North Street in Pittsfield last night as Third Thursday drew another monster crowd.

The little girl getting a piggy back ride is taking it all in. But the baby in the blue bonnet, bottom center, looks as if his eyes are trained on the white haired man on the far right.

Now in it's fourth year the event, held monthly from May to October, drew what looks to me like its biggest turnout yet. (I missed May's. Was that as big?) Look at all the people! I was approximately opposite Summer Street when I took this shot. North was like this all the way from Park Square to the vicinity of Maplewood.

The Silver Swimmers draw a smile from a young woman as they went through their slow-motion dance.

Third Thursday is drawing all ages downtown. Here a youngster appears to be hitching a ride on an occupied double pram.

As you would expect, teenagers are always part of the mix. The event focuses as much on people watching and greeting as it does on music, food, performers, art and sidewalk venders. Dogs come out in numbers, too, adding to the ambience.




June 15, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

It poured for a while in Manhattan late yesterday afternoon. This fashionable young woman is getting soaked. I shot her from the comfort of the bar at Trestle at Tenth in Chelsea during one of my periodic Gallery Quests.

A group of school boys crosses the street while a runner (on the right) passes them.

A woman with a pink umbrella passes a green Tesla, a fast electric sports car built in California. And below a man with a green umbrella passes a girl who hasn't got one. You can tell it's the art district - the guy is carrying a bag from Utrecht, an artists' supply store.

Below a sharp BMW cycle is wedged in between two cars. It looks like it's just waiting for a superhero to jump on and save a damsel in distress: perhaps the woman in the photo above.


This youngster isn't bothered by the rain but the woman below, making a dash for it, is. Like three of these photos, this one was shot from Trestle on Tenth.





June 13, 2011

Raising twin boys can be a barrel of laughs, as Eric and Michelle illustrate. Of course there are moments when it isn't all fun and games. But that doesn't seem to phase them as they bring up Chase, on the left in both shots, and Chad.


Babbie, Shannon, Riley and I all visited them this weekend. That's Babbie with Chase and Riley with Chad above. Shannon, below, snoozes with Chad.

I'm below with Chase. It was a long drive but we had a wonderful time. We hadn't seen them since April. These preemies, five months old now, are developing distinct personalities. It's easy for us to get them to smile now. For them, getting us to smile has always been a cinch. We're so lucky to have them in our lives.


All the photos are by Eric except the one that tops this post. I took that one. My apologies to Michelle. The one I used of her doesn't do her justice. But the boys looked so cute with their grins that I couldn't resist.



June 10, 2011

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

This is A Hole in the Sky.   It seemed appropriate for my current mood.  Which will change after a cup of coffee.


To show it this large under the rules of my computer program, a photo can be no larger than 700 x 700 pixels. But I wanted to show this at 1000 x 750. To do that I had to cut the original into four and paste them together. If it comes out scattered - or worse - on your screen, that's why.

Yesterday's storm left us without power from 4 in the afternoon until 12:30 this morning. Rather than sit in the dark, we went to see The Double Hour  at the Berkshire Museum.

Warmly received by critics but given lukewarm ratings by audiences, it is promoted as "a romance, a robbery, a mystery" where "nothing is what it seems." That is an accurate description.

It's a pretty wild ride. And there are some jolts that almost knocked me out of my seat. The romance is a triple jointed double cross, but bittersweet nevertheless. Ksenia Rappoport and Filippo Timi are the stars of this Italian thriller.



June 8, 2011

Edwin Honig at Brown.

In 1958 at Brown University I had just read the latest chapter in the novel I was writing to our class of about 10 kids, which was always an excruciating experience. It was so autobiographical I exposed myself and beyond that I didn't think my classmates, none of whom I knew outside of class, liked my stuff.

Within these pages our hero was talking with a group of friends. The group included a girl ( Babbie ) who turned him on. She got up to go and he wanted to go with her. But he couldn't stand up, I read to that class.

There was a small, intense girl in the class, a very pretty girl, and she asked me: "Why couldn't he stand up?"

I can't remember what I managed to stammer out. In those days I couldn't bring myself to say that he couldn't stand because it would expose the fact he had an erection.

She seemed very sophisticated and I've wondered whether she knew but wanted to see how I'd handle it if she asked.

That was in Edwin Honig's class my senior year, a class in which you had to write a novel.

While I hated reading in class, I looked forward to my frequent private meetings with Professor Honig. These were not special meetings. He met individually with all the kids, which was the best part of the course. He was very encouraging about my work, as disorganized and badly spelled as it was.

In this book I was basically recording my life with Babbie and my roommates Monk and Bob - my college life.

The problem with this approach, Professor Honig told me a number of times, is that the book will never end. He said it was the same problem Thomas Wolfe had - a reference that thrilled me because Wolfe was then - but no longer - one of my hero's. I'm talking about the "You Can't Go Home Again" Wolfe, not Tom Wolfe, who doesn't have plotting problems. There had to be at least a semblance of plot. I tried to superimpose one, without much success. But Professor Honig still seemed to enjoy talking about the book with me and gave me an A.

He was a sturdy man with a large head, prominent nose, penetrating eyes and a mop of dirty blond hair. There was a thoughtfulness about him, a kindness, an intelligence. I idolized him. That, I'm afraid, was mostly because he seemed so interested in what I was doing. And I was crazy about writing, passionate about it. It was what I wanted to do with my life.

Mr. Hong died the other day at 91.

I read the substantial obits about him in the Times - Babbie pointed it out to me - and the Boston Globe. I had no idea he was still alive. In fact, I realized I knew nothing about him other than that he was a wonderful teacher.

It turns out he was a poet and translator, had published 10 books of poetry, eight books of translation, five books of criticism and fiction and three books of plays. He started the graduate writing program at Brown sometime after I graduated.

Honig was known for his translations of the work of Fernando Pessoa, the great Portuguese poet of the early 20th century, and of Federico García Lorca, the Spanish playwrite and poet executed in the tumult of the Spanish Civil War.

In appreciation he was knighted by the kings of Portugal and Spain in the late 1900s.

The professor was not a passive translator. "He believed translation also was a creative endeavor, more than simply finding English equivalents for words penned in Portuguese or Spanish," Bryan Marquand wrote in a fine obit in the Boston Globe.

“A good translation could bring what was irreplaceable in the original together with what was missing from it,’’ he (Honig) wrote, adding that “there seemed no use in doing a translation unless I were going to create a new work.’’

“...The sinewy, quick-moving, bare quality of language was what had fascinated me in the Spanish,’’ Mr. Honig wrote, “and this was what I found missing in the general run of English translations.’’

Honig taught at Brown from 1957 - I had him in his first year there - until the early 1980s, when he retired.

When he started the new writing program, he  wanted to  shake up the status quo.

“There was some kind of literary tradition here,’’ Mr. Honig once said in an interview. “It was ‘the gentleman’s writing’ — they sort of looked at it as a club. But I decided we must have real writers teaching these courses.’’ And he did that.

Brown itself was something of a gentlemen's club, and for that reason I was really never comfortable there.

P. S. For years I was convinced I was destined be a novelist. After all hadn't the fortune teller told my pregnant mother that I would be a writer. It kept eating at me. By my mid to late 40s, I was pretty screwed up. My boss gave me a six-month sabbatical. I wrote a second novel. Slowly I came to realize it wasn't much good either. After that the affliction fell away, freeing me in the process. I was made a top editor at the paper and loved that job for the next 15 years.






June 6, 2011

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

On the subject of rust, here's another piece I like. Unlike the one in my June 4th post, this one has been manipulated for symmetry's sake. Originally what I had was the left half of the picture. So I copied it and flipped the copy vertically and placed them back to back.

This too is from the McKay street parking garage. The Pittsfield Gazette reported the other day that the mayor has allocated $2 million dollars to the second phase of repairs to the garage to keep it from becoming a safety hazard.

I hope the city council goes along with that spending. Otherwise, I suspect, this garage is doomed.

Here's some more rust. I think it's beautiful. But not in the structural steel of a parking garage. (See my May 7 post for more photos of the garage's condition.

And some more. I have three sheets of mild steel, 3' x 1', rusting out in back of the house for use in my art. To get to them to this stage would take years. I haven't got the time. I should go to the junk yard and take a look. I used to go there with Gae. But Gae isn't making any more trips to Pearlman's.



June 4, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

This, ladies and gentlemen, is my shot of a German shepard landing on his back after being thrown in a dog fight. His ears and legs pointing straight up, his tail straight out, he's twisted his noble blue head around to size up his attackers so he can spring into action. He's down but definitely not out. The scene was Pittsfield's McKay Street parking garage. I went there the other day to see if it had fallen down yet.



June 2, 2011

King Louis XIV is on his horse and Bernar Venet's arched sculptures tower over him at Versailles. AP Photo Bob Edme.

Sculptor Bernar Venet's sculptures now grace, or disgrace, Versailles depending on how you look at it. Seven  monumental Venets will be on the ornate grounds of the palace through November 1.  The exhibition opened yesterday.

For several years now the palace has mounted shows of contemporary art and this is the third met by intense criticism from elements of the public. One of those was of Jeff Coon's work, as over the top as the palace itself. An heir of the Sun King called Coon's work pornography. One French website compared the 70-year-old Venet's installation to putting a ring through the Mona Lisa's lip.

Now the Association of Residents of Paris Avenue has applied to the civil court of Versailles for a summary judgment to take down the arcs, and the court will rule on June 14.

Photo by Ammar Abd Rabbo

"This square is an empty urban space that is strictly regulated," the association's president, Guy Escudié, told Le Parisien. "It is forbidden to construct anything whatsoever."

As if channeling the past class conflict that made Versailles a symbol of royal excess, ARTINFO.com said, Escudié charged, "...the monarch Aillagon rules over his kingdom and does as he pleases. It's insane."

The Aillagon being targeted is Jean-Jacques Aillagon, who heads Versailles, a place that is almost a mandatory stop on any visit to France.

ARTINFO.com reported yesterday that Aillagon "has kept his sang-froid."

"We're used to it, it happens every time," he told Le Parisien. "We're placing our confidence in the legal system."

One of the seven sculptures, as seen from either side. Photos by Phillipe Chancel

A sculpture Venet made from metal from the World Trade Center will be unveiled in New York on September 11, the 10th anniversary of the destruction of the twin towers.

But many in France don't appreciate the rusty appearance of his work and its repetitive patterns, ARTINFO writes, adding: "It probably doesn't help that Venet has lived in New York since 1966, spending his summers in Provence.


Venet, meanwhile, is not afraid to play the role of the megalomaniacal artist, ARTINFO reports.

"I would be really open to having this work stay at Versailles," he told Le Parisien. "It would bring even more renown to the château."

London and Paris are two places I hope to visit someday. I won't get there for this show, which is very powerful, but I will see this amazing place called Versailles. Maybe for my 80th birthday. Until I saw the pictures of Venet's work, I had no idea Versailles was so beautiful.

Bernar Venet

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