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August 31, 2009

                                                                                                                                       Photos by Grier Horner

Specialty Minerals' limestone operation in Adams keeps gouging out more of the foothills below Mount Greylock, the tower-topped peak in the center.

This was taken from East Road. It runs along the hillside on the east of the valley. The mining is on the west side. I took these drive-by shootings yesterday from Babbie's Prius.

In the complex of buildings below the quarry, the limestone is processed. The products go into everything from building materials like joint compound to pharmaceuticals to chewing gum.

This one is taken from further north near the McCann Vocational School in North Adams. It shows the extent of the scar in the distance.

And here we've turned off East and are dropping into town on Lime Street.

I've never heard anyone raise a stink about the Specialty Mineral operation. That surprises me because it seems akin to the strip mining that scared the Pennsylvania landscape for so many years. This gash keeps growing. And there seems to be no reason it won't continue to spread along the hillside.

Still no outcry.

Maybe the difference here is that there's a certain beauty to the quarry. A certain pristine quality to the factory - its buildings always gleaming white from the lime powder that covers them.

And in Adams, which is not a rich town, it doesn't hurt that Specialty Minerals supplies jobs and  taxes.


August 29, 2009

Babbie, Babbie quite contrary,

How does your garden grow?

Babbie is reaching for a high-flying cosmos in her front garden in this shot I took yesterday. They're well over my head too.

I'm always amazed at the height and abundance of the flowers in that garden - the cosmos, flocks, cone flowers, Helen's flower.

Earlier in the season there are bee balm, coreopsis, Siberian Iris, nicotiana, lobelia, false sunflower, obedient plant, black eyed susans, lupines, malva and salvia. I can never remember the names. She ticked them off for me.

What's the objective? "Tall with variations in color, annuals and perennials."

She likes her gardens overflowing.

"I clump everything together so I don't have to weed."

I love the results.

On another subject, James Taylor, Sheryl Crow and Yo-Yo Ma were sharing the Tanglewood stage in Lenox last night.

Our son Eric and his wife Michelle drove down from New Hampshire to take the spectacle in, with about 25,000 other fans.

Eric, Michelle and thousands of others had lawn tickets and it rained during the whole concert. It didn't come down hard until the end.

"It was packed," Michelle said. It was a sea of umbrellas. They managed to stay dry under theirs.



August 27, 2009

This is Tramp Steamer. I'm taking a break from the Runway series to make it for an old friend who had seen a similar piece of mine and wanted one. It is made of copper, wire, pencils and acrylic paint. It is 18" x 14".

As you can see it's three dimensional. Its cargo, a giant heart, is being lowered into the hold.

This is the boat in pre-painting guise. To get to this point I designed paper patterns, traced them onto the copper and cut them out with tin shears. Copper rivets fasten everything together. Except for the heart. It is lashed together with strips of copper.

Next I painted the sky - which I later changed to violet - and the water. The mast is a China marker, the gaff a pastel pencil. Then I painted the hull to make it look like a beat-up freighter. More changes are in the works.



August 25, 2009

Photos by Grier Horner

Bill and I went to Saratoga yesterday to see the horses run. Of course from our vantage point in the infield, you mostly see the horses on the giant TV screen. But that's OK because you're there and you soak up the color.

Talking about soaking, this filly at the top has just been hosed down after her race. I can't remember her name.

The little girl below had one of the best seats in the house. I wonder if she picked any winners.

I know we didn't.

Some people get all dolled up to go to Saratoga.

Others don't.

After the fourth race we retired to the Man of Kent for sustenance. We didn't have to drown our sorrows. That's because we bet, as Bill puts it, modestly.

So there you have it - everything I know about horse racing.



August 24, 2009

This is a painting of my mother I did about 10 years ago. I was using the photo I showed you August 22 as a guide.

That black object at the lower right is not part of the painting. It's a corner of our TV table. I was too lazy to take the painting off the wall to photograph it. The painting, 74"x37.5", hangs in the living room.

It was part of a series I did called Family Album. Painting my parents, who died in the mid-1960s, was a way, I suppose, of reuniting temporarily.

Comparing my painting to the photo, I see that I failed to capture her grace as well as I would have liked to. And I made her legs too thick.

In another painting I tried to portray her mental anguish. I struggled with it for a long time but it never worked out.

Below is a formal portrait of her we have hanging in a cluster of family pictures going up the stairs. 




August 22, 2009

Hey. What's going on here? Who's that at the edge of the beach lifting his leg like a puppy?

Me. I was 5. That was just 69 years ago. We lived in one of those white cottages on my left. You had to feed coins into the stove to make it work. That was a drag on our livelihood because my mother made "Mrs. Horner's famous Key Lime Pies" to help with the finances.

This was Florida. My father, who I think took this picture, was still working in New York and my mother, my sister Britt and I were in Florida for the winter.

I don't know whether my parents were separating or whether my mother was there for her health. She had been in a sanatorium in the Adirondacks with TB for more than a year when I was just a year or two old.

Rosalie took care of me when mom had TB. According to my mother, Rosalie told her before she was sick, "Mrs. Horner, you got the widest hips in all of Scarsdale."

We were kids and that always made us howl with laughter. I think my mother took what Rosalie said as a compliment, just as I expect it was intended.

Here's a shot of my mother - hips and all - taken that Florida winter. She must have been the best looking woman in the lime pie business on the Gulf that year. I can't remember how they tasted. My mother confided that she had never made one before we got there.

So how do you explain the "famous" on the posters that we used to walk up the road nailing to utility poles? My father was in advertising, that's how come.

(For more on my mother, see my August 18 post.)




August 20, 2009

On July 30 I showed you my photo of Anita with the sinking ship. Over the years it has been one of  the pictures looked at most often on my blog. Running neck and neck in popularity is this  painting of Laura.

It was on of a dozen paintings I did of Laura and her friend Hannah in 2000 and 2001.

This painting, owned by a friend, was part of a triptych that hung at my solo show at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 2001.

I told her I was reluctant to break the three up.

"Do you really think someone's going to buy all three?" she asked me.

That was pretty persuasive. So I sold it to her and I love seeing it in her living room.

My friend George Malloy had paved the way for the WPI show by taking photos of the paintings to the institute's curator of special collections and archives, Rodney Obien. Rodney liked them. It was only my second one-man show.

This is the way the tryptych looked in the lobby of the college library. Another eight or nine were upstairs. These three were painted from photos I took of the girls in the swamp along Rattlesnake Mountain Road in Stockbridge. The one below, currently hanging in our living room, and the one on the left are for sale.


August 20, 2009

    Part 2

Jason Asprey gave a resounding performance as Hamlet.

If you're Shakespeare adverse like I was until last summer, you might try Hamlet  to see if it changes your mind.

There are three more chances to see it at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox:  August 20 (today), August 26 and August 28.

We saw it last night and I was blown away by a lot of the performances. Jason Asprey as the tormented Hamlet, Johnny Lee Davenport as the Ghost, and Elizabeth Raetz as Ophelia command the stage. So do Tina Packer as Hamlet's mother and Nigel Gore as his murdering uncle.

I didn't like Shakespeare until I saw Othello in Lenox last summer and this was my first Hamlet.

Before Othello I'd only gone to his comedies - which drive me nuts because I think they go on one act too long.

And full-time Berkshire residents get a 40 percent discount. Just show your driver's license at the box office.

Then there's the bonus of a stage littered with bodies as Hamlet ends. I was jarred by Othello's death. But I had to stifle a smile at the Hamlet body count because it was a little too much like a Carol Burnett spoof.

We went with Alan Harwood, an old friend from high school, who caused a stir in Miss Chloa's English class when he went to the Tarrytown Library to get the unexpurgated version when she assigned Hamlet.

Elizabeth Raetz as Ophelia and Stephen James Anderson as Laertes.



August 18, 2009

This photo was taken by a New York Daily News photographer when my mother, Beth Hall Horner, was ejected from the beach for immodest attire.

My father told me that the picture appeared on the front page of the Daily News. Because the photo isn't dated I can't go back to the old newspapers to look it up. I'd love to see the page and the caption.

For his part the officer doesn't look like he's about to handcuff my mother and throw her in the Paddy Wagon. And my mom doesn't look terribly indignant about her ejection.

She was a free spirit when she was young. And throughout her life she was funny, warm, loving and spirited. But she was plagued by manic depression, and it became devastating in her final years.

She underwent shock therapy a number of times.

"It's like being electrocuted," she told me when I visited her in the garden of the sanitarium. She urged me to have the shocks stopped. I didn't, foolishly thinking the doctors knew what they were doing.

It was not a humane treatment. By the time she died at 58, the electricity had largely burned away the spirit that made her a shooting star. That was 44 years ago. I still think of her a lot.


August 16, 2009

Abstract photography can be a hoot. I took these shots without knowing how they would come out. I was intrigued by the results.




August 14, 2009

OK, here is the final version of Runway No . 6.  Please stop me before I do more work on it and screw it up. But there is a section on the right side of her waist that needs some shading.

I repainted that area, among others, on Monday and Tuesday. At the same time I redefined the scarves on the left side and did minor work on the legs and the flowers in her dress.

This is a painting I started in late July. I posted early and mid-stage photos of the painting on August 1 and August 6.

Sometimes a painting I do amazes me. This is one. Like the others in the series, this is 6'x4' with a dark violet background.

The outfit is by Missoni and the burning vehicle is from a photo taken during the Vietnam War. I haven't been able to track down the photographer.

I had technical advice in toning down the burning truck from FX Tobin in Arizona. Take a look at his website. It's pretty wild.


August 12, 2009

I took this shot from Route 7 across Pontoosuc Lake last evening during a 2-mile walk. The railing was put up by the state when it rebuilt the road about 14 years ago.

Originally the state had planned a concrete wall that would block the view of the lake. It substituted this after stories by Dan Bellow in the Berkshire Eagle, stories I had assigned, created an uproar.

This photo has something of beauty and the beast about it. The mountain on the far right is Mount Greylock. At 3,491 feet it is the highest in Massachusetts. At the bottom is the cloudscape minus the truck, and minus Mount Greylock.

After the walk I had supper by myself and listened to John Irving's novel Widow for a Year and drank four glasses of Fontera Savignon Blanc, which we get because it's good and it's cheap - $8.50 for a half gallon. If Babbie had been home, I would have had two glasses.

Then I went down and worked a while on the painting I have been doing.

I had already worked on it for several hours earlier. It's a good painting. I've got to be careful and not get too fussy about the details or I may ruin it.



August 10, 2009

                                                                                                                                                                      New York Times

This studio and the house in the background were designed by architect Charles Gwathmey who died August 4. He was 71.

Built for his parents in Amagansett, Long Island, in 1965 for $35,000, this project signaled a new wave in American architecture. And it catapulted Gwathmey, still in his 20s, into the forefront of his trade.

This project along with houses by other up and coming architects of the period ended my love affaire with Colonial architecture. I was a convert to modern design.

Babbie and I scrapped the plans for a Colonial addition an architect had designed for our house and drew our own. The result is shown in the next two photos. In each case the addition is in the foreground.

It was built in 1971 for $13,000. I did the shingling, installed the wide-board flooring and did the painting.

When our addition was framed I remember walking up the street with Babbie to take a look at its profile.

"What have I done?" I asked her. I thought it looked like hell.

"It looks like a monster took a bite out of the roof," Babbie said.

But after the initial shock, it grew on me. It didn't take long until I was proud of it.

Currently it is being painted Palace Arms Red, a Williamsburg color by Stephen Capogna of Hinsdale. It's the first time in our 44 years in this house that I haven't painted it myself. But Babbie talked me into hiring Steve to do it because she knew that I'd slowed down to one side a year and would never get it done. We couldn't have made a better choice than Steve. HE's doing a super job. And for good measure we had gutters installed by John Cebula, another good choice. The architect in me didn't want gutters but the guy who was tired of the water in the basement did.

Getting back to Gwathmey's brilliant early work, here's his restoration of Whig Hall at Princeton. The building had been damaged by a major fire.

His blend of the classic and modern in this building was astonishing.

But Gwathmey was not always so successful. The large addition he and his partner Robert Siegel designed for Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum in 1992 was blah.

But at least it is so unassuming that it doesn't compete with the Wright landmark. Maybe that was his object all along.

The photo of his parents' house was taken by the New York Times. If you'd like to see the Times' obit, which includes a slide show of his work, click this link.


August 6, 2009

Runway No. 6 is almost done. I like it. It's been difficult for me because the outfit by the designer Missoni has subtle coloring. I don't usually do subtle.

Speaking of subtle, the photo makes me think I have to tone down the burning Army vehicle behind her. Maybe I also want to knock out the smoke rising above the windshield.

I'll have to consult my California art guru, F.X.

To see the painting in an earlier stage, see my August 1 post.


August 3, 2009

                                                                                                                                                                              Photos by Grier Horner

This could have been our living room. The building, now the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts, was for sale for $14,000 when I was a young reporter at The Berkshire Eagle.

From the outside it looks like this (left). I used to pass it every day going from the paper (right) to City Hall a block away.

I dreamed about owning it. Babbie could have her gardens up on the roof, which had a view of Mount Greylock. The price seemed reasonable - if you didn't think about restoration and heating.

A big difficuly was its location. It was in a business and institutional section off the main drag. There were no residential neighbors.

We had three

little kids. They wouldn't have anyone to play with. And who would you borrow a cup of sugar from?

Another problem - no parking.

Eventually Kitty Lichtenstein bought it, spent a bundle restoring it

as an artspace downstairs with studios on the upper floors. When she returned to California, she gave it to the city as an art center.

Now it is the domain of Megan Whilden, the city's cultural affairs director. She has been one of the major players in breathing new life into a moribund downtown.

At the Lichtenstein through August 25 is the second annual Pittsfield Contemporary Group Show. Among the works are these photos of the wild ones, taken by Jay Elling and Huckleberry DelSignore, founders of Pittsfield’s bike church, Copperworks.

They also have a booklet of photos of the bike crew that's a lot of fun to look at.

Also on display now is Colleen Quinn's compelling artwork at the Berkshire Community College Gallery at the Joseph Scelsi Intermodal Transit Center at 1 Columbus Avenue.



August 1, 2009

This is the painting I'm working on now. It is the sixth in the Runway series.

The dress is by Missoni, the Italian design house known for its knitwear, and was part of its 2009 Fall collection. The burning army vehicle in the background was taken from a Vietnam War photo. I haven't found the name of the photographer.

Missoni has a long history. It was started in 1953 by Ottavio Missoni, the son of an Italian sea captain and a Serbian countess, and his wife Rosita.

They met in London. He was a hurdler in the 1948 Olympics and had also designed the track uniforms for the Italian team. Rosita, who had worked in her family's embroidery company, was in London studying English.

"He was gorgeous and I dreamed of meeting him!" she would say years later.

Their company didn't become a real success until they were invited to show a collection at the Pitti Palace in Florence in 1967. There the Missonis gained attention more for what the models didn't wear than for what they did.

According to, Rosita told her models to remove their bras because they ruined the line of the black jersey dresses they were wearing.

"Under the bright catwalk lights, the material became transparent, and the shocking sight of the see-through dresses became headline news around the world," the website said.

They weren't invited back the next year.

Now their three children run the highly diversified operation, with their daughter Angela in charge of fashion.




Seth Harwood, writer

Leslie, poet

Joe Goodwin, painter

Juliane: bimbopolitics

Lisa Reinke, painter

John Mitchell, commentary

Charles Guiliano, MAVERIC, art critic

Saatchi Gallery

Steve Satullo, movies

Christine Heller, artist


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