Scarlet Letter
Tramp Steamer


Portrait of the Artist as an Old MaN


November 29, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

This is The Channel, a shot I took recently at Pontoosuc Lake in Pittsfield. It is at the lake's south end. The dam is out of view to the left. Once over the dam the water begins its journey to Long Island Sound via the Housatonic River.




November 27, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner

In a radical departure from the style of the paintings that have made him famous in the contemporary art world, Walton Ford has turned his sights to King Kong. According to Bloomberg News the Paul Kasmin Gallery is pricing the paintings at about $2 million each.

The show will be up at the gallery in Chelsea through December 23. It's called I Don’t Like to Look at Him, Jack. It Makes Me Think of that Awful Day on the Island. These, I believe, are the words actress Fay Wray spoke in the 1933 version of King Kong after having been saved from the giant. Words uttered in Kong's hearing. Wrenching words for a love-smitten beast.


The first gallery you enter engulfs you in the gaze of the giant ape tears spilling from his eyes in two and blood from his mouth and mucous from his nose in the third - which I hear is the outcome of planes attacking him after he scaled the Empire State Building. At 9 feet by 12 feet the paintings are said to be the biggest he's done, as well as the most expensive. Like much of his work, they are executed in watercolor, gouache, ink and pencil. They are mounted on aluminum panels.



In the next section of the gallery are six paintings extracted from the memoirs of the ornithologist John James Audubon who died in 1851. These are in the vernacular that has set him apart in the art world, a vernacular that's basically Audubon with an edge - a very sharp edge - and with history mixed in. Here's one of his major paintings from an earlier Ford show at Kasmin, depicting his imagined aftermath of the battle of Barodino.

(Contrasting this painting with King Kong makes the style leap crystal clear. But in the Kong paintings Ford is still interested in the history of things, only this time he's drawing from pop culture history. And I'm not one to fault a painter from changing direction.)


Ford says in the gallery notes, “The depression era Kong was misshapen, not modeled on any living ape. He has an odd, ugly, shifting charisma like Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, or Bogart. Naturally, his woman screamed in terror. She continued screaming throughout their time together. The grief of the original Kong is the grief of the unloved, and like Humbert Humbert or Frankenstein, the grief of the unlovable."

" In 1933, Fay Wray...shrinks from the chained Kong and tells her human lover, ‘I don't like to look at him...’ Since Kong is a Hollywood tough guy, he covers up his heartbreak with violence and anger. These paintings are about Kong's heartbreak. I wanted to reveal the monster's grief, his enormous sadness, the sorrow that the original Kong kept hidden from view.”

Before I read some reviews and Ford's comments I hadn't thought of the Kong with the bloody teeth as having been shot. I thought that he had somehow managed to ausuage his grief by devouring someone - perhaps Ms. Wray.



Bloomberg.comNews described the portraits this way:

"At once cartoonish and intimidating, they hang on three walls in the darkened first room, creating a sense of being captive, of the beast observing the caged human."

Paddy Johnson in art fag city, an art website, said:



"It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a show look this hilariously wrong in a gallery...The kind of 'wrongness' I’m describing above is unique to established galleries. Were this work made by any one other than Ford, Kasmin would have no interest in it."

Paddy's wrong. A lot of Chelsea galleries would love to have these paintings even if they were done by an unknown. They're too dramatic to ignore.


Photo from Kasmin Gallery website

The next room houses what the gallery calls "six meditations" on a painful childhood experience Audubon wrote about in his memoirs.

“…My mother had several beautiful parrots and some monkeys; one of the latter was a full-grown male of a very large species. One morning, while the servants were engaged in arranging the room I was in, ‘Pretty Polly’ was asking for her breakfast as usual, ‘Du pain au lait pour le perroquet Mignonne.’ "

But the monkey, a species called man in the woods, "walking deliberately and uprightly toward the poor bird, he at once killed it, with unnatural composure. The sensations of my infant heart at this cruel sight were agony to me... I uttered long and piercing cries, my mother rushed into the room, I was tranquillized, the monkey was forever afterward chained, and Mignonne buried with all the pomp of a cherished lost one. This made, as I have said, a very deep impression on my youthful mind.”

In all, six different monkeys are used to depict the end of Pretty Polly. In the most brutal the monkey has pulled off the bird's head, an image made more disturbing by the fact the monkey is ejaculating at the same time. Sex and violence.

Referring to my paintings my wife often asks me, "Who would hang that in their living room?"

I would chose the king-sized Kong before the relatively small depiction of sex and violence. Given a choice between the stark Barodino battleground and Kong, I'd have to think about it. Either would make a nice Christmas gift if any of you, gentler readers, have a lot of spare change.

Photo from Kasmin Gallery website




November 23, 2011


Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Things in line got my attention in New York City yesterday. As did two small meetings. As did a lot of art and a lot of other things. It's just that it's too much for one post. So today I'm focusing on the lineups and the people getting together at work.

Why are these 11 taxis lined up along West 28th Street near 10th Avenue in Chelsea? Waiting for some important conclave to break up so they can ferry the participants to lunch? Or practicing their parallel parking?

Lunch is the right answer. But not taking fares to lunch. They're there, Michael Foley of the Foley Art Gallery told me, because of the lunch wagon on the corner. The picture was taken from the High Line Park, a popular place to walk and people watch on what until recently was an abandoned elevated railway line.



These big jugs of spring water, two full and seven empty, were lined up in the hall of a building with a lot of galleries. I can't remember which one.



Here's another line up, one painted by Kaoruko, a self-taught Japanese artist living in New York. Called Aroma Moon it is monumental in size, 60" x 112", offbeat in style and provocative in subject. She has a solo show at the Mike Weiss Gallery on West 24th Street through January 7. I think I may do a separate post on her work later.



And here we have a lineup of well over a half million dollars worth of exotic machinery: from the left, a Bentley, an Aston Martin and a Porsch. It looks like the workers are putting the final touches on detailing jobs. While there are a lot of art galleries in Chelsea, on many of the blocks the space is shared with auto-related businesses, construction outfits and recently built luxury condos.



Switching the subject to meetings, these young women are holding theirs in an unmarked van. Are they counter espionage agents, I asked them. No, they said. And that's obvious because they let me take their picture. Maybe they're a TV crew. I should have asked.


When I was a newspaper editor I went to a my share of meetings that weren't any fun. But this one in the window of Pinch Food Design on West 27th Street looked like the participants were having a good time. Do you think that's wine in their glasses? Maybe that's what we needed at the paper.

What's Pinch Food Design? It's a high concept catering business that says it is "driven by an uncompromising commitment to incite surprise, anticipation and delight with every bite" while redefining the art of celebration.

I'll have to consult Pinch about my 77th birthday party next June. Or maybe I should save them for my 80th.

I love New York.





November 21, 2011


Photos by Grier Horner

Ferrin Gallery's fascinating The Birding Life opened on Saturday afternoon and focused on both pictures of birds and books that contained many of those pictures. Above is Mount Washington artist Morgan Bulkeley's painting Spring's Edge, which had the featured position in the gallery on North Street in Pittsfield.

The painting, in defiance of its bright colors, is ominous. The child in the man's arms may be dead, or at least unconscious. Has she drown in the spring? Or has he brought her there from the teepee in the background in hopes of reviving her with fresh water?

Is the bear eyeing them as a meal or is he compassionate? What about the teeming birds and the other objects crowding the sky? They seem to be overwhelming the man in the buffalo headdress. Then there's the droll look - or is it startled - on the face of what I take to be a rabbit peering over the crest of the hill. It's a pretty wild painting.

Below is a snapshot of Bulkeley at the opening talking about Berkshire Stories, a collection of "Our Berkshires" columns written by his father for the Berkshire Eagle. Morgan Jr. illustrated the book.



This is a new painting by Paul Graubard of Lenox, pictured below with his wife Karen Chase as she reads a passage about birds from her book-length poem Jamali-Kamali: A Tale of Passion in Mughal India.


Above are Pittsfield artist Michael Rousseau's paintings Night Birds (1,2,3 and 4). Below Ellen, whose last name I sadly can't remember jokingly holds up a photo of one of Rousseau's paintings to shield her profile while letting me photograph the bird feather earrings she wore in honor of the occasion.


Here are two works about war. On top is the late Leonard Baskin's ferocious Fiend of War and below is Michael Boroniec's elegiac Message. Baskin was the artist whose large sculpture of a mourning woman was once considered as a replacement for the War Memorial Tower that tops Mount Greylock, a tower that was badly deteriorated at the time. Boroniec, who teaches art at Taconic High School, lives in Pittsfield.

Rousseau and Boroniec are two of the best of a wave of talented young Pittsfield artists.


Flight 5 above was taken by Cassandra Sohn, owner of the Sohn Fire Art Gallery on Elm Street in Stockbridge. My photo of her lovely photo wasn't any good so I used this image of it from the internet. Unfortunately it wasn't in high enough definition to run as large as the other photos in this post. Below is Ms. Sohn at the opening.





November 19, 2011


Photo byTerry Wise

The opening of Terry Wise's show - that's her 66"x66" oil Invite above - was held at the new Good Purpose Gallery in Lee last night. Called “Reflections on Color/ Color upon Reflection”, the exhibit also features the glassblowing team of Nathan Hoogs and Elizabeth Crawford.

"My paintings hover somewhere between reality and fantasy," Wise says and Invite in its lovely depiction of the woman and her surroundings fits that billing.


Photo by Grier Horner

The work of the three artists goes well together, as illustrated in this shot of the Hoogs and Crawford glass and Wise's oil painting, June, 71" by 34".


Photo by Grier Horner


You may not be familiar with the Good Purpose Gallery. It is located in - and integral part of - the College Internship Program that has operated in Lee for years. Michael McManmon has purchased and renovated this 134-year-old structure on the main drag in Lee. The gallery and its Starving Artist Cafe are the two store fronts at the left of this photo. The project was completed last summer.

The Program, which McManmon founded in 1983, is for young adults with Asperger's syndrome - a high-functioning form of autism - and other learning difficulties. The Program owns a number of buildings in town to house students. McManmon has branches of the Program in five other cities.

Fifty percent of the proceeds from gallery sales go to help support the program, says Francine Britton, who is director of the gallery and coordinator of the Program fund.

Back to the show.

Photo by Grier Horner

The Terry Wise paintings above and below are more typical of her work than the figure of the woman at the top. I think the figure is a knock out and would love to see her do more.

"Still life remains my favorite, though not only, genre," she says on her website.

"There is so much in our contemporary world to make us feel terrible, and yet there is so much beauty, as well. I want my paintings to make me and all viewers feel some joy," says Wise, who is pictured at the left. She lives in Stockbridge.


I bought Babbie a small Wise painting for Christmas last year.


Photo by Terry Wise

Below is some more of Hoogs and Crawford's graceful and beautifully colored glass. They ply their craft at a studio on Route 295 in Canaan, New York, not far from Queechy Lake. You can see more of their work on their website.

Photo by Grier Horner


Photo from Hoogs and Crawford website

Photo by Grier Horner


Talking about the show is Ms. Britton, the gallery director. At the left you can catch a glimpse of the Starving Artist Cafe. Additional art is shown there, including work by Program students.






November 16, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

Babbie and I hiked up to the controversial "belvedere" erected this summer in Kennedy Park in Lenox to see what the fuss was all about.

The $140,000 project is a tribute of a father to his son, Dr. Jordan Fieldman, a 39-year-old Pittsfield physician who died of brain cancer six years ago.

Babbie had a personal reason for wanting to go. As a nurse in the Critical Care Unit at Berkshire Medical Center, she had come to know and like Dr. Fieldman during his residency there.

Opponents, and they are many, have been furious. A leader of the opposition, Joan Mears, has demanded that the “mausoleum” be removed. “Take it down and restore the meadow.”

There is a serenity to the spot and a wonderful view. If I had seen the overlook in its meadow state, I might be clamoring to have the stones and concrete carted away. It certainly would be more attractive if the structure on the right - the part that conjures up a mausoleum - was replaced with another of the long granite benches.

The doctor's father, Michael, an architect from New York City, has been taken aback by the hostility. His son apparently loved Kennedy Park and frequently visited this overlook. Many wonder what officials were thinking to allow a private memorial in a public place.

After seeing it Monday, however, I'm convinced that they envisioned it as an improvement to the park - not just a memorial.



Long ago this was the site of the 400-room Hotel Aspinwall, below. Built in 1902 it was destroyed by fire in 1931.

Babbie and I hiked in from the Arcadian Shop on a route that is supposed to take about half an hour. But we wandered off course several times and we spent 2 hours in the woods. We had just about given up finding it when we hailed a woman walking a dog and she went out of her way to walk us most of the way back to the memorial. Thanks Reba.

Here's Babbie walking while studying her map of the park and its many trails. What threw my intrepid navigator off was that the spot marked "overlook" on the map is well north of the Belvedere site, which we assumed was the "overlook." It wasn't. I had to look up belvedere. It is a summer house or open sided gallery commanding a fine view.

After we had looked the memorial over and admired the view we walked back to the Arcadian Shop and had a great bowl of chilli in its cafe. Boy, that was good.

This is the plaque to Dr. Fieldman.




November 14, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

I'm making progress on this portrait of the model Arizona Muse decked out in a Dsquared outfit. The last time I showed you this painting was in my October 26 post. It should be finished by now but I was in Louisiana for a week.

The rolls of canvas you see above this work in progress are stored paintings. Each roll between the joists contains about five paintings. And there are 17 rolls suspended in the studio.

Another 156 paintings - most of them large - are stacked against walls in the studio. One hundred small paintings are boxed.

And that's just the studio. Upstairs half of one bedroom is given over to stacked paintings and there are 16 in the addition and one in the dinning room. It drives Babbie nuts. Buy some paintings. Save our marriage.

In the latest paintings in the Runway series I have been using words in the background. I haven't decided on the words for this one yet. I've been rereading Moby Dick. Herman Melville wrote it while living in Pittsfield - the city where we live. That great novel is a gold mine of quotes. Maybe something like this will join Ms. Muse on the canvas:

"That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principle, I will wreak that hate upon him," Captain Ahab tells Starbuck, his first mate. "Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me."

This photo of Arizona Muse by Yannis Vlamos / GoRunway.com is the basis for this painting. It appeared on style.com.



November 12, 2011

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

This picture of a dog named Scout and his Invisible Fence was taken last week on a walk in Lake Charles, Louisiana.




November 10, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

My father isn't going to get equal time, for reasons I'll explain later. But at least here's the first of him after so many of my mother. I set it up as a partner for the one of my mother below. Both photos are six feet high.


I started this project wondering if blowing up small candid shots of them from the 1920s would create the Chuck Close effect. For years now he has been painting in a way that makes the portraits undecipherable close up. But as you back up you hit a distance where they suddenly snap into focus.


The one of my father probably comes closest to that of any that I've done so far. Below is a closeup of his nose. And below that is one of the cigarette between his fingers. As you can see, they're not as easy to identify if you're a couple feet away from the photo. But I think I'd have to blow them up much bigger to get the Close effect.

I'm not going to have as many photos of my father as my mother for the simple reason that I only have a couple good snapshots of him. I have many more of my mother, a number of which he took.


The photo below is one I took of the original snapshot. I believe my father was sitting on a bench along the Bronx River in Scarsdale, where we had an apartment. The picture, which I date from the late 1930s, might have been taken by my mother, although for part of the time we lived there she was confined to a tuburculosis sanitarium.

By the way my father's name was the same as mine, except for the number at the end. He was Winfield Grier Horner 3rd. His family called him Winfield and his friends called him Jack. I am the 4th, called Grier from the beginning.

I can only remember having two nicknames, Whitey and Gutsy. Whitey in middle school, Gutsy in high school. The latter was given to me by Mr. Stern, my freshman football coach. The former by the manager of the varsity football team when I was waterboy in eighth grade. He was the only one who called me Whitey. I liked it.

Those were the days where you ran out on the field with a bucket of water during time outs. To get a drink the players used dippers, which clattered when you ran with the bucket.

In one of the first games, I tripped and fell running the water out. I'm told the crowd got a big kick out of the waterboy, his pail, the water and the dippers spreading out on the field. I'm afraid vanity was the culprit. I wore a pair of loafers because I thought they would look cool.




November 8, 2011

Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

It's been a week since I've posted. And I apologize to viewers who have come to Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man during that time and found nothing new on a blog that normally posts every other day.

Technical problems with bringing my laptop into sync with the new Lion and Contribute programs on my desktop overwhelmed me. As did technical incompetence. But after a week out of town and on the laptop, I've been reunited with my iMac and it feels good to be back on the Web.

Last Wednesday Babbie and I flew, in three stages, to the Deep South to see one of our children, his wife, and their 4-year-old, the possessor of unflagging energy, a fierce vocabulary, insight beyond his years and a loving spirit. A grandfather, I believe, is given permission, perhaps even expected, to say those things.

Above is a shot from the window of the Louisiana bound Saab turbo prop we took out of Houston. The clouds were spectacular. (Babbie had two Saabs in the past and if the plane had inherited her cars' tendencies it would have fallen from the sky.

We left from Hartford, which was still largely without power from the heavy snowstorm four days earlier, and flew to Newark. There you could see the Manhattan skyline from the bar where I had an extravagant glass of Stags Leap chardonnay with my pizza for lunch.

From Newark we flew to Houston, where the dipping sun caught the window of our plane waiting to take off for Lake Charles, below.

On the return trip yesterday the clouds weren't as dramatic. But riding the small plane from Cleveland to Hartford in the dark was mesmerizing. I just shut my eyes for most of the flight and listened to the the subdued roar of the wind sweeping over the wings, giving the plane buoyancy in thin air, a testament to the ingenuity of the mind.

Eyes closed I could feel the plane's pulse and its relentless trajectory. Eyes closed I was a central character in the small drama that is our life, protectively enfolded in an internal cloak of darkness, an exterior armor of aluminum and beyond that shell, infinity.

I like the small planes, like that one, one seat on one side of the aisle, two on the other. In the big, longer-haul jets I feel so packaged that I loose the sense of flight.

Taxiing to our gate at Hartford last night Babbie pointed out the big "S" at the crown of a Sheraton hotel at the airport and I clicked the shutter. What I got is below. Surprises can be wonderful.

I'll end with another shot of the clouds under the plane above Louisiana as the setting sun was catching them. At the far right you can see another plane headed for Houston.





November 1, 2011

Anne Undeland in Paris Unlaced at Ventfort Hall

Anne Undeland will recreate her tour-de-force roles in Juliane Hiam's Paris Unlaced when it is staged at Theatre ROW at 410 West 42nd Street in Manhattan at 7:30 Thursday night.

Anne, who lives in Richmond, is an accomplished actor and one of the funniest women in theater. Juliane, a Pittsfield resident, keeps writing plays - some serious, some comedy, some a combination - that have been show at Shakespeare & Co. and Tanglewood, among other places, demonstrating a talent that should land her on Broadway one of these days.

This comedy was the first that Juliane wrote in her four years as Ventfort Hall's playwright in residence. Anne brought the house down in that one and in Open Marriage this summer. She performed each about 70 times in that gilded age mansion in Lenox.

"Paris Unlaced! is a romp through Paris in the Gay 90's - a world of courtesans, grande dames, and clueless but ambitious cancan dancers," says broadwayworld.com. "Costume, accent, and character changes keep the pace lively as Unlaced! delivers laughs, heart and, of course, a little risqué business."

For Juliane this is her third play in New York. Anne played Sophia Hawthorne in Hiam's drama "A Tanglewood Tale" at the Metropolitan Playhouse a few years ago.

When I had a solo art show - The Scarlet Letter - at the Lenox Library in 2007, Juliane coordinated a night called A is for Adultery, which included a reading from that play. Donating their talents that night were actors Elizabeth Aspenlieder, Karen Lee, Jeff Kent and Patrick J. Bonavitacola and singers Bernice Lewis and Tony Lee Thomas. The event raised $1000 for the library.

I took the photos in this post from a short video of Paris Unlaced shot by Kevin Sprague at Ventfort Hall. The video is also shown on Head Butler, which gave the play a boost yesterday.

"Head Butler is a cultural concierge and to get his nod is very exciting," says Juliane.


Sarah Taylor directed Paris Unlaced and the set was designed by Carl Sprague.

The play is part of the 2011 United Solo Theater Festival, which features 77 one-person productions in the 55-seat theater. Tickets are only $18. If you want to go call Telecharge at 212-239-6200. When placing your reservation, be prepared to give them the festival name (United Solo Theatre Festival) and the name of theater (Theatre ROW – The Studio Theatre).








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