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Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man

November25, 2013
Photos by Grier Honwe
I don't know about you, but I generally hate artists statements. I dread writing them myself. And reading them. They are usually so academic and just so many words. I don't blame artists for writing them. For exhibits, etc., they are required. Betsy Dovydenas of Lenox, an artist and friend, has come up with an artists statement I admire a great deal. In fact I think it's a brilliant self portrait of her current art and of herself.
She is currently one of three artists in an exhibit at Sanford Smith Fine Art on Railroad Street in Great Barrington. The other two artists are Larry Zingale and Pat Hogan. It will be open through January. It's very good.

In the post, however, I'm just showing Betsy's artists statement, which is something of a graphic novel, and in the process I'm leaving out her other paintings in the show as well as ignoring the other two artists - neither of whom should be ignored. In the portrait of Betsy, above, you can see how the paintings in the statement look in their frames. I have taken them out of their frames because in so many of my shots the frames are distorted by the camera angle.

So here is her statement, unabridged, in 14 monoprints in oil.
















November 22, 2013


Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved
Sometimes when I look around the house, I see things that I haven't noticed before - usually the sun hitting at an angle, or through a door, that lights something up beautifully. Here are several examples. I think I used the bottom two photos before, but they fit the theme.

The first shot, which I took this week, is the sink in my bathroom. The second is my wife's sewing cabinet in the second floor hallway.  I think the red was reflected from the sun light bouncing off a red radiator in the room across from it. And the last is a lamp in our bedroom, it's shade off because it is broken.










November 19, 2013

Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved
It had rained hard during the night but when I woke up yesterday the sun was shining and everything looked fresh and washed. The barberries in our untrimmed hedge were glowing and the water dripping from them glistened. I spent a long time trying to capture that: shooting and plugging the camera into the computer to see what I had. I did that over and over for about 45 minutes. I couldn't nail it. Then I decided to reverse course and see if I could show the beauty of the morning by zeroing in on a few berries instead of the hedge itself. That resulted in this picture, which I think did the job.
The great day made me think of a song that I liked in high school - Oh Happy Day. It turns out it has a colorful history, as Wikipedia says:
Oh Happy Day was one of the first pop hits whose momentum was driven by the high school teen set. Described as a "garage hit," before the song was recorded, Don Howard Kaplow sang it accompanied by his guitar before his classmates at Cleveland Heights High School, in Cleveland, Ohio. At a Saturday high school dance, the boys and girls called 13 times for Oh Happy Day. This convinced Koplow to put the song on wax. Once it was played on the air, teenage fans besieged the disc jockey, Phil McLean of radio station WERE with requests that kept him spinning the song all week. Calls began coming in from nearby cities, and it was decided the record should go to market. A contract was signed in early November 1952 and Oh Happy Day went on sale.[2] Upon release by a brand new record company (Triple A), 21,000 copies quickly sold around Cleveland. Then the record was leased to another label (Essex) for national distribution. By February 1953, it was pushing the half-million mark.

Time Magazine reported in 1953 that Oh Happy Day had a "folklike origin: Donnie heard it sung by an Ohio State girlfriend, who had picked it up on the campus. Donnie worked it out on his guitar, changed it a bit, wrote some lyrics, sang it at parties and prudently got it copyrighted.."[1] Six weeks later, while Oh Happy Day was still on the pop charts, the Washington Post reported that Nancy Binns Reed, a 28 year old housewife, had filed a lawsuit to prove that she wrote the song. Represented by Lee Eastman (father of Linda McCartney), a New York copyright and show business attorney, Mrs. Reed obtained affidavits from persons who had heard her singing the song when serving as a counselor at various camps and when she attended the University of California in the 1940s. She stated that many campers and high school and college friends had learned the song. The lawsuit resulted in an out of court cash settlement along with an agreement that Mrs. Reed and Mr. Kaplow share equal credit for the song's words and music.[3][4]Music Views magazine reported in its June 1953 edition that Kaplow's girlfriend had graduated from a girl's camp, where Ms. Reed had served as a counselor.[5]

November 14
Photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved
How far do these paintings and the construction on the right jut out into the gallery?

That was my first question when I looked at the large paintings by Warner Friedman and works in wood by Michael Zelehoski on Saturday night at the Berkshire Museum.

The answer is that they are all absolutely flat against the wall. I found that hard to believe. Friedman's paintings on this wall jerked me around, interfered with my balance. Welcome to the  Berkshire Museum's new show Exquisite Illusion.


Friedman's shaped canvases with their architectural elements forward and perspective working overtime made me think at first that each was mounted with one edge against the wall and the other one or two feet away from it. In this painting, White Pine, I believed the right edge was off the wall. 



By the time I got over to Zelehoski's monumental Untitled, above, I was prepared to believe the work - assembled from wood from an old ice house - was flat. I paced it off and it's about 30 feet long. And I realized that the museum's executive director, Van Shields, who was the curator, had picked two amazing illusionists and in the process mounted one of the Berkshire Museum's finest shows. Shows that pull you in, make your heart beat faster and your mind swirl have occurred with a frequency that would make much larger art institutions jealous. Among these were David Henderson's soaring A Brief History of Aviation in 2012 and Henry Klimowicz' Constructs in 2011, with its heroic cardboard disc called Bright Star. The curator for both was Maria Mingalone, the museum's director of interpretation.


Here is another Zelehoski work, Optimus Prime. It almost looks like he just nailed a pallet to the painted plywood. But what he's done, brilliantly, is take a pallet apart , cut its pieces and inlay them in their plywood support so they're flush with its surface. That may sound easy but it's not. When you see a board's edge, that's not really its edge, it's another piece of inserted wood. The boards in front only look  like they're in front. I'm sure you see how clever the pallet's reconstruction is.
Michael Zelehowski

A Berkshire native, Zelehoski went to Bard College at Simons Rock and got his BA from Universidad Finis Terrae in Santiago, Chicago. His studio is in Beacon, New York. He's getting some attention. Steven Mesler in a piece in the Huffington Post predicted he would be the "next great artist." He has had two solo shows in New York City galleries and one at the Volta NY art fair in SoHo.



Warner Friedman

Friedman, born in 1935 (my year, too). His work has been show in San Francisco, New York and Boca Raton, among other places. His studio, a former church, is in Sheffield. Trained as an engineer, he turned to art, enrolling at the Cooper Union in New York.

On the left is Friedman's homage to  Ellsworth Kelly and on the right Zelehoski's Ladder.

A second show at the museum, Radical Traditionalism. teams two area-based painters, Janet Rickus and Colin Brant. It is curated by artist and critic, Carol Diehl. I plan to show you work from that one, too.

Exquisite Illusion, which fills two galleries, runs through January 2. But to see it best get there before they put up the Festival of Trees, which will fill the centers of both galleries, and opens November 23.Below are photos of four more of the works you will see. The first and third are by Zelehoski, the second and last by Friedman.









November 8, 2013

Photos of Williams College Art show from internet. All other photos by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

At the Williams College Museum of Art even the ivy on the institutions brick wall is artistic. This is contemporary sculpture in its extraordinary sweep and power. I wonder if they trained it that way or if it simply followed its own course. I didn't think to ask.


The paintings above and below are from the facility's impressive show Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960-1980. The fascinating piece above, Apparitional Visitations, is by Suzanne Jackson. It is 54" x 72", was painted in 1973 with acrylic wash on canvas. Mississippi by Charles White, below, is an early civil rights piece. Its compass points are all askew, as was the nation's racial compass. 




Tying in nicely with Now Dig This, is the adjoining show 72 Degrees: LA Art from  the Collection. Edward Kienholz amuzingly titled piece Bunny, Bunny, You're So Funny (above) from 1962 is one of the works in that exhibit.


This painting of a soldier giving the Heil Hitler salute is by Anselm Kiefer and is part of the museum's Early Anselm Kiefer exhibit which closes December 22. It was timed to compliment the opening of the new Anselm Kiefer building at MASS MoCA in North Adams. Born in the final days of World War II, Kiefer was trying to get the nation to face up to what havoc it had wreaked. Both MoCA and the Williams Museum of Art draw their pieces from the Hall Foundation. If found the art books Kiefer had made the most interesting part of the exhibit. The books themselves are protected by glass so you can't turn the pages. But look for the small reproductions of the books under the table and you can go through what's in each book.


Getting to the museum from Spring Street go through a passageway that has windows that open onto the Williams pool. At about 4 in the afternoon there was a lone swimmer in the facility.


Friday was one of those overcast November days where the sun breaks through frequently for a few minutes. It was a day where there was some hail and some snow - I think it was the first we've had this season - and a cold wind. Below is a shot I took from outside the museum looking south. We got a coffee and some pastries at Tunnel City and then headed over to the Clark, which is free this time of year, but because of the construction of its new wing has a very limited amount of art to see. The pieces are housed in three galleries at the Clark's Stone Hill art restoration site just uphill of the museum. There you can see works by Homer, Sargent, Gainsboro, Renoir and others.

We took the excursion with Babbie's sister Carol and Joerg. They are the parents of the entrepreneur Eric Haeberli whose amazing jams can be purchased through welovejam.com. His "jam" label is going great guns on the West Coast. And they are also the parents of Peter, a patent attorney whose three kids love playing Three Little Pigs with him. He, of course, is the big bad wolf.







November 5, 2013

They Dance for Rain

Photos by Monika Pizzichemi/All Rights Reserved

This is one of the teeming slums of Nairobi, Kenya, a city where over half the population lives in neighborhoods like this one, plagued by violence, disease, joblessness and many children who live on the street.

It is here that two local women, Stefanie Weber and Monika Pizzichemi, one passionate about tap dancing and the other about photography, have brought tap dancing to kids and professional dancers alike with their project They Dance for Rain. Stefanie last winter gave lessons to both the kids and pros and Monika photographed it all. And they will do it again this winter. Their goal: To bring " joy. visibility and a new generation of artists in Nairobi."


They don't come to Kenya empty handed but with tap shoes that they give to enthusiastic dancers like Monicah Mbithe, above, and Josephina, an orphan, below. This can mean a lot to kids whose toys are often improvised from junk.


Stefanie, a tap phenomenon and philosopher, is seen below as she instructed a class last winter. These and many more wonderful photos by Monica are on display during the month of November at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts at 28 Renne Avenue in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The Lichtenstein is open from 12 to 5 Wednesdays through Saturdays. The pictures will warm your heart and if you buy one that will warm the women's hearts. They will use the money to help finance the duo's return trip this winter. They also welcome donations that can be made here. In addition Lynda Strauch of the Wit Gallery at 27 Church St. in Lenox has announced she is donating 10% of the price of art purchased there during November and December to the duo and said customers, in whose name the money will be given, will get a 10% discount on the art as well. Monika is the Wit's manager.


Here's Monika taking a quick note during last Friday's opening of They Dance for Rain at the Lichtenstein.

Photo by Grier Horner


It all started two years ago when Stefanie visited her friend Holly in Nairobi. She was feeling that what she does is undervalued in our society and was thinking about doing something that would have more of an impact on mankind, like following Holly's career path with  an NGO that is funneling food into Somalia. Stefanie makes her living giving dance lessons, performance and choreography and teaching at CATA, a South Berkshire organization that uses the arts to help its clients.

Holly was the right person to talk to about her discontent.

"Stefanie, here they dance for rain," Holly told her.

"That stopped me," Stefanei said. The idea that dance and song were a strong part of culture's like Kenya's made her see, Stefanie said, "that I am a part of something bigger, something that matters." 

When she got to Nairobi, a neighbor of Holly's, Eric Wainaina, who is a well-known Kenyan musician, introduced her to four arts-for-social-change organizations. She ended up giving lessons at three of them. "It was kind of overwhelming," she said. "The kids were very enthusiastic" - which often is not the case with students here. "They wanted me to stay in Kenya."

She didn't stay but has gone back twice with Monika joining her and with Monika's photos helping spread the word and give a face to people who live in anonymity . This winter, Stefanie and Monika, longtime friends, will have their longest Kenyan adventure. Stefanie plans on arriving December 18 and Monika arriving just after the first of the year. They will be there until January 24.


Here Stefanie gives a private lesson to a young pro, Adam Lucas, and below Antony Kimani shows off what he has learned.

"Jazz and tap are really American," Stefanie said. "They didn't exist any place else. They came from slavery, from oppression."

While the Kenyans haven't had exposure to tap, she said, they are open to it because of their percussive traditions and love of dancing.. She was showing one man a series of steps when he said, "Oh, I know that rhythm."

"So it's come full circle. Here's an American vernacular art form that's being taken to people who say, 'Oh, I know that rhythm.' "

You can see Monika's video of the project by clicking this link.



When Elizabeth put her new shoes on her head, Stefanie was thrilled to think the woman was incorporating them into her culture, where women carry loads in this fashion.



Let's get back to the smiles of delight over their new tap shoes. Above we've got Benjamin Mutunga and below Josephat Gushu.


And here to end this piece is the beaming Nelius Muthone with Monika reflected in part in the mirror at the left.





November 1, 2013, Part 1


Photo by Grier Horner/All Rights Reserved

I finished this painting yesterday and named it October 31, 2013 (Is the Earth Flat). It's big: 82" x 57". It was done with acrylic and pastel on canvas. The three heavenly bodies are Mars, the sun and the moon. It's a continuation of my circle series.

Here is a detail shot of the red circle in the center of the sun. I made it by wrapping dark blue cord from the Rice Silk Mill around in a circle (of sorts). I thought it would be easy but it took forever and as you can see it didn't come out perfectly. But maybe that fits the character of the painting, which is not striving for perfection. Not by a long shot. Babbie says it looks amateurisj. I would prefer loose.

Above is a shot that takes in the edge of Mars, one of the yellow circles and the cord attached to the surface. Below is the surface of the moon.


November 1, 2013, Part 2


Photos by Babbie Horner/All Rights Reserved

Babbie and I bought two pumpkins yesterday morning and later Babbie picked up these two masks for $1 each. We only got four kids this year. The first girl, dressed as a beautiful queen, was coming down the walk when she saw me in the window and turned around abruptly to leave. Her father had to persuade her it was OK to come to our house.

I'm glad he did because this kid makes me happy in the summer when she rides her bike past our house singing.

Babbie and I make a lovely couple, don't you think? It's obvious that she has taken very good care of her tooth. On the other hand it looks as if I didn't brush and floss. As for the pumpkins, they both are illuminated by candles. Babbie's, the white one, is called a peanut pumpkin because  it is encrusted with growths that look like peanuts.


Then there are the on-line galleries that represent hundreds or even thousands of artists. On these sites, Yoram says, art is treated as a commodity





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