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


December 30, 2009


Photos by Grier Horner/All rights reserved

In her poem Christina Rossetti asked: "Who has seen the wind? "

You could see it yesterday as it blow snow from Pontoosuc Lake across North Street up near Matt Reilly's, causing this white-out.

We've passed through that first blow and now, just opposite Mr. Donut, we're approaching the second.

Now we're inside the snow cloud and at this point you're driving pretty much on automatic pilot.

In seconds we're out of it. It's nice to see the road again. Our house is less than a mile away.

When I got there we had to deal with Shannon's car. The battery had died while she and Riley (my 10-year-old granddaughter, not Matt) figured out how to download songs into the Ipod Riley got for Christmas.

We jump started the car. But only after I pulled a pair of sweat pants over my corduroys. The girls got a kick out of that procedure because I was a little wobbly standing on one leg while trying to stick the other into the leg hole.

Tonight while I'm writing this the wind's still howling around the house. Before I head up to bed, I'm going to sit by the fire in the living room and read awhile. I've just started The Time Traveler's Wife.

PS - Reading by the fire while the wind swirls around the house sounded idyllic, didn't it. As things went I couldn't find the CD player. (I listen to novels.) So I did the dishes - in silence - and went to bed at 2:30.

By the way, HAPPY NEW YEAR.




December 28, 2009

One of the most powerful shows I've seen in New York recently is the photography of Touhami Ennadre at Priska C. Juschka Fine Art.

The show, Under New York, is brilliantly installed against black walls. Instead of diluting the drama of his work, as you might expect, it enhances it. And it fits right in with Ennadre's technique: he uses a masking process to float his subjects in a sea of black.

Ennadre was born in Casablanca in 1953 and lives in France. In an interview with James Horner on, he says his aesthetic is deeply rooted in Casablanca.

"As a child I would hold a candle inches away from carpets my mother mended late at night; there was no electricity."

The same gallery has another fine show going concurrently,Little Deaths, paintings and sculpture by Emily Noelle Lambert.

I would be happy to have this large Lambert painting of a woman reclining on a bed of skulls hanging in my house.

"Little Deaths alludes to the artifacts as symbols of our collective unconscious, while also implying, as the original French phrase “la petite mort” suggests, a metaphor for sexual climax," the gallery says on its website.

The Ennadre and Lambert shows will be up through January 2 at Juschka through January 2. The gallery is located at 547 West 27th Street in Manhattan.

Lambert's painting Bed reminds me obliquely of my painting Dresden Mon Amour, below. It will be seen in my upcoming solo show, Firebombing, at Bard College at Simon's Rock.

About the photos in this post. The ones of Ennadre's works were taken from the gallery's website. I shot the one of Lambert's painting and of my own.



December 26, 2000

Just like last year. I didn't get around to emailing my Christmas cards on time. That was mostly because I have trouble making them on my iMac's Pages softwear. At the top is a sample, flawed as it is, of what I planned to send out.

Here's another picture. Looking at it you learn that 10th Avenue in Manhattan is one way northbound.

You also learn, if you hadn't by this time, that I have a weakness for taking photos of attractive women. Maybe that's something I'll overcome in 2010.

Talking about 2010, how are we going to say it. A bunch of us were talking about that Christmas Eve.

Is it going to be Two Thousand Ten? Twenty Ten? I don't know what you were calling it this year, but to me it was Two Thousand Nine.

Back in the Nineteen Hundreds we called 1999 Nineteen Ninety Nine, didn't we. And 1935 - the year I was born - Nineteen Thirty Five.

So the guessing around the dinner table was that 2010 will be Twenty Ten rather than Two Thousand Ten. All I know is I'd like to make it to 2020 (Twenty Twenty) even without perfect vision.




December 24, 2009

We had to ungirdle our Christmas tree last night.

I had wound the red ribbons around the tree horizontally in the afternoon but this year they looked a little weird.

"It looks like the tree is wearing a girdle," Babbie said.

I had to laugh. It did. So after we got back from a great Christmas party in Lenox we looked at it some more.

"What if we drape the ribbons straight down instead of winding them around?" Babbie asked.

So we did. What you see above is the result.

"Do you think it looks too much like a Maypole?" Babbie asked.

"I like Maypoles," I said.

When the tree was done Babbie went upstairs to do some wrapping. You can see her in the lower left corner of the upstairs window in the room where I store paintings.

Below is a photo of the side of the house you see when you drive up our street. I love that birch tree.

We're ready Santa. I hope you don't use a laptop while you're flying. I can see where it would come in handy, but I'd hate you to miss us like those guys who overshot Minneapolis by 150 miles.




December 22, 2009

Here is the finished version of my divebombing Angel of Incineration about to unleash her firey wrath on Dresden, Germany. It is 4' x 5', oil on collaged cavas.

The attack took place near the end of World War II, and the incendiary bombs dropped by American and British planes turned the center of that city into an inferno.

The lose of civilian life - mostly women, children and old men - was horrendous.

This painting - still wet at this point - is for the solo show I am having at the Atrium Gallery at Bard College at Simon's Rock. It will run from January 18 until February 12. The reception will be January 27 from 5 to 7.

I'll do more about the show closer to it's opening.

Currently I'm thinking of doing a second new painting for the series undertaken several years ago. But the holidays may get in the way.




December 20, 2009

Photos by Grier Horner/All rights reserved

On the way to Wassaic where I take the train to New York in search of fame and fortune I got these shots of clouds, hills and open land along Route 22.

On the train thinking about the pleasure I'm going to have seeing all the art, and the odds for or against me ever becoming part of that scene.

From the train I took this shot of vine tangled trees.

Later it occurred to me that symbolically this tangle is what I have to penetrate.

Now here we are on West 27th Street in Chelsea, a street that has galleries where I dream of someday having my work hang.

"Good luck," says a friend who knows a lot about the art world. And he says it with an inflection that leaves no doubt he thinks it's tilting at windmills.

I know that. But at the same time, I'm quietly confident I'm going to crack the gallery nut.

And if I don't? I'm having a great time trying. I'm seeing art that grabs me. I'm meeting some cool people. I'm eating good lunches and drinking good wine and an occasional martini.

Another bonus. I love absorbing the street life, the buildings, the subways. I love photographing all of it. In six trips I've taken well over 1,000 photos.




December 18, 2009

Photos by Grier Horner/All rights reserved

This woman is about to launch a cab-hailing foray on 10th Avenue near 25th Street yesterday afternoon. When she stepped confidently out into the road, she looked like a pro. She flagged with two hands.

She flagged with one. She gestured vigorously for cabs coming into 10th to slice over into her lane. She moved around, inserted herself into the road, seemed to reprimand cabbies who didn't stop. And she kept signaling. Meanwhile her entourage of a top-hatted doorman and a woman with a cart full of art and packages stood on safer ground.

Nothing seemed to work. It was like watching a great hitter go 0 for 30.

She had a bemused expression when she came back to consult with the top-hatted guy. He looks like the coach giving her instructions.

After watching for a few minutes, and seeing this look of defeat come over her face, I left. I assume a cabbie finally stopped. I couldn't believe they weren't. Maybe they didn't want to load all the paraphernalia.



December 16, 2009


Photos by Grier Horner/All rights reserved

I was looking through some photo files last night and found two shots that were similar although the subjects were far removed.

The shot at the top is of black knee socks I was washing in my bathroom sink.

The one under it is of black clouds in a dramatic autumn sky as seen from a hilltop ball park named after a late friend of mine, Gerald Doyle, the public works commissioner.

And for good measure I'm throwing in this one below because it reminds me of the other two. This is a dancer sprawled out on the stage using her laptop to interact with the audience. People in the Hunter Theatre were sending text messages which were shown on the large screen and she was commenting.

I bet you never saw dancers and audience do that before.

She was part of the ZviDance's dynamic performance of a work-in-progress called Zoom at MASS MoCA on Saturday.

I loved the show.

Speaking of MoCA here's a shot of the plumbing over the urinals.




December 14, 2009

Photos by Grier Horner/ All rights reserved

Sometimes MASS MoCA hits home runs. Somtimes it strikes out. The new show in the big gallery is neither. I'd call it a double. My companion on the trip was harsher. She called it boring.

This is Inigo Manglano-Ovalle's Gravity Is a Force to be Reckoned With - a glass house designed by Mies van der Rohe in 1951, but never built until now.

So what's up? Down, that's what's up. The house is upside down. The furniture in this minimalist dwelling is attached to the floor, which is the ceiling. There is a note on the table. A shattered coffee cup on the ceiling, which is the floor, is the only thing obeying the laws of gravity here.

In a preview story in the Berkshire Eagle, Charles Bonenti wrote: "Inside, we hear voices, video phone messages, increasingly urgent. But they offer no clue as to what's happened. We have arrived too late, or maybe too early, but not in time to know."

Maybe these messages would have intrigued me. But they weren't playing loudly enough to hear at the opening reception.

This project is based on a concept so puzzling to me that I won't attempt to explain it. I think you need to be a MacArthur award genius to make sense of it. And Manglano-Ovalle, a Williams College graduate, is a MacArthur genius.

It's the second show in a row where the art doesn't command the huge space.

Shows that did were Robert Rauschenberg's 2 Furlong paintings, Ann Hamilton's Corpus that showered the gallery in falling paper, Jenny Holzer's Projections that swept the gallery's surfaces with a poets words, Robert Wilson's 14 Stations and Cai Guo Qiang's Inopportune with its dazzling, tumbling cars.

One thing that puzzled me about the show was a yellow tool _ I think it was a fancy wrench - left on the floor, or rather ceiling, of the house. I asked an art expert among the guests if the tool was supposed to be there and she assured me that everything you saw was there for a reason.

Minutes later, the museum's installation guru opened the glass house's glass door and, using a piece of cardboard so no traces of his presence would be left on the ceiling, retreived the tool.

That lead me to wonder if a cardboard box on top of the building, as well as another yellow object (see the last photo), were or were not part of the gig.

So now that I've said all this, I'll keep going back to the house on my frequent trips to MASS MoCA. Maybe it will grow on me. It's already got me thinking - and getting the Old Man to do that is an accomplishment.

Besides, I love the house. I wish I could put it in my backyard, right side up, to use as a studio



December 12, 2009

(Angel Update)

Here's an updated version of the Angel of Incineration diving to deliver her fireball to the prone city of Dresden.

Although it is still a work in progress, it is much closer to finished than the one I originally posted December 12. I've moved the earlier version to the bottom.

I'm painting it for a show on the Dresden firebombing I'm having at the Atrium Gallery at Bard College at Simon's Rock January 18 to February 12.

After 1 1/2 years working with acrylics, I've switched back to oils for this one to keep it in sync with the other paintings in the series I did several years ago.

My painting is derived from William Blake's Pity show below.

Ornithologically speaking, my wings are in the wrong position, unless she's putting down her flaps to slow down for a landing.

The painting is 4' x 5' and the bodies are cut-outs of canvas that I gessoed to the painting. The face of the prone woman, in my painting, is a blowup taken from Blake's. I also collaged a print of the horsewoman's face on the angel.

But it lost too much of the detail in the enlargement. And what you see instead is yesterday's effort to paint a reasonable facsimile of the Blake face. It isn't there yet.




December 10, 2009

Photos by Grier Horner/All rights reserved under copyright.

One thing I love photographing in Manhattan is the people. These women are having a wonderful time.

This crew was having a great time too.

The traffic on the streets - and sidewalks - is a favorite subject.

After a day of gallery questing, it's nice to know this awaits at Grand Central Station.


 December 8, 2009

 (To see these photos in full-screen size, go to and click on the pictures.)

Photos by Grier Horner

If you want to take a walk on the wild side, hit the Paul Kasmin Gallery in Manhattan and feast your eyes on Walton Ford's allegorical nature paintings.

It doesn't take you long to realize that the subjects in the Great Barrington artist's monumental watercolors would just as soon feast on you.

As these wolves are doing on the body of a dead soldier killed at the Battle of Borodino in 1812. This is where Napoleon won the battle but lost his quest to conquer Russia because he failed to pursue the retreating Russian Army.

In this detail from that painting, you can see how brilliantly Ford depicts the wolves' ferocity and aspects of his painting style. The works are watercolor, gouache, pencil and ink on paper. These are not timid paintings either in subject or scope. This one is 60" x 119".

Below is a detail from another painting, The Royal Menagerie at the Tower of London - 3 December 1830.

These are photos of the paintings as you see them in the gallery, glare and reflections included. They were taken December - 179 years and one day after the incident in which two tigers mauled a lion.

My shot of Ford's painting, An Encounter with Du Chaillu, includes not only the marauding gorilla, but refections of me taking the picture and a truck passing by on the street.

Paul du Chaillu was an anthropologist, explorer, hunter and author who confirmed the existence of gorillas on a trip to West Africa during the 1860s.

In a nice twist, the gorilla, not du Chaillu, comes away with the trophy in this painting. And it leaves you wondering if the animal is going to manage to kill itself with the gun despite its twisted barrel.

Ford, who was born in Larchmont, New York, in 1960 is in the art world's bigtime. Museums give him shows. Critics give him raves. Collectors buy his work. The New York Times writes feature articles about him, as do other publications.

In a January 2009 New Yorker profile, he told writer Calvin Tomkins, "Before Fay Wray comes to Skull Island, King Kong isn't doing anything. There's no story until she shows up...What I'm doing, I think, is a sort of cultural history of the way animals live in the human imagination."

He may be giving the human imagination too much credit.

What he's doing is the way animals and events live in his imagination. And he does it powerfully.

Ford's show will be up through December 23. The Paul Kasmin Gallery is located at 293 Tenth Avenue at the corner of 27th Street.


December 6, 2009

(To see these photos in full-screen size, go to and click on the pictures.)

Photos by Grier Horner

In my ongoing Gallery Quest, I hit 27th Street on Friday. I was lucky. If I'd put the trip to Manhattan off or gone back to 23rd Street as I'd planned, I would have missed Andrea Mastrovito's wild and wonderful show at the Foley Gallery. It closed yesterday.

His large paintings were butted together forming a single work of art that must have been 75 feet long as it circled three walls of the gallery at 547 West 27th Street.

I couldn't find any reviews, but New York Magazine gave it this squib:

"An exquisite show composed almost entirely of paper and exploring the edgiest theme of all: love. Imagine if Van Gogh had had a child who became a genius in the art of origami."

I think I'd slice a little Kara Walker and James Bond to that mix as well. And a pinch of Edward Scissorhands.

Here are a two details of the diptych show at the top to give you a better idea what this young Italian artist is doing.

Lights. Cameras. Action. Color. Drama. Humor. Figures formed of cutout letters. Animals copulating. Adam and Eve. Origami. Well, not exactly origami, because that's the art of folding paper. I think Mastrovito's is the art of cutting and layering paper as he builds his collages.

And here's a closeup from another painting. It gives added insight into Mastrovito's technique.

Here's an attempt to give you a feel for the wraparound nature of the display. You can see how Mastrovito splices the works together. But they sold as single paintings and diptychs. They are all on paper mounted to canvas.

This was Gallery Quest 5, my search for a gallery. So how's it going? At this point I'm just looking. But I'm seeing a lot of interesting art.



December 4, 2009

Photos by Grier Horner/ All rights reserved.

This is the moon taken through the trees last night with a handheld camera. And below, camera hand held again, is a shot of the windows of my house emitting light like flames.

And here is the hand that held the camera and the camera that was held. Also there is paint under the fingernails and on the cheek.

I painted in the afternoon. In the morning Gae came over and we figured out what paintings she was going to put in her house.

At noon I went to hear Ellen Lahr, a former Eagle reporter, talk at Berkshire Community College. She spoke engagingly about sources who had acted bravely as sources for several stories she wrote. Then Ellen and I went to lunch in Lenox.

"Which wine, white or red, goes best with the tomato soup?" I asked Ellen.

"Red. I believe in color coordination."

So I got the red.



December 2, 2009

Photo by Grier Horner/ All rights reserved

Rudolph and the gang must have had the day off when we saw Santa cruising on his Harley on I-495 the other day.

Or maybe St. Nick has put them out to pasture.

If he has my son Eric, a Hog owner, will be delighted to discover the jolly old elf's new mode of transportation.

I'm not sure whether a Harley contributes more to global warming than eight reindeer. Nine if it's a foggy night.

But I do know that this bellowing cycle is going to give new meaning to the lines:

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
  I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

To any kid wondering if these saddle bags can hold all the toys, don't forget he crammed everything into that chimney-capable bag he flung on his back. After all, Santa's magic.

For those of you who connected to my December blog yesterday only to find a blank page, I apologize.



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Seth Harwood, writer

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