Scarlet Letter
Tramp Steamer

Archives | Links


Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man


August 30, 2008


Now that's a great close up of the Mona Lisa. But why's she hanging upside down, the blood rushing to her head?

You'll find this at MASS MoCA in North Adams, in Kidspace of all places. It is the work of Devorah Sperber. She made all the works being shown there - including a 29-foot version of Da Vinci's Last Supper - out of suspended spools of thread.  Above is the view from 50 feet away. Now we're going to step up to 10 feet and you'll see the spools and the small sphere astride that pole in front of the piece. Sperber calls them sculptures. See what I mean?

Sperber's "After Mona Lisa 2," as this is called, contains 5,184 spools of thread and is about seven feet square. Like the paintings Chuck Close has been doing since his photo realist stage, you can't see the picture until you back away from it.

Unless you walk up to the small acrylic sphere topping the post, a sphere which serves as a human eye. When you look into it, the image comes into focus right side up. And as Sperber has pointed out in talks, as you move your head from side to side, the famous smile changes in intensity.

The eye views images upside-down in the manner of a camera lens, but our brains reinterpret this input so we see things correctly. So Sperber is toying with representations of how we see.

Her technique echoes what the computer does to an image when it breaks it down into pixels. In this case each pixel is a spool of thread. And Sperber uses the computer in this way in the process of creating her thread works.

"I am interested in how the human brain makes sense of the visual world and 'reality' as a subjective experience," Sperber says.

P.S. These are not my pictures. They were taken from a website of the New York Academy of Science, which is a good place to look at her work. Another excellent site is her own.


August 28, 2008

Three photos by Nicole Trevillian of London. Above, 'Marissa', center, 'Alex in Wonderland', bottom, 'Cri'.


GUEST BLOG: Nicole Trevillian* of London, whose work I admire a great deal, is today's blogger and these are her photographs.

I would like to thank Grier for inviting me to be his Guest Blog. The photo of Marissa on the horse was taken on the second day I had met her. Marissa is a friend of my brother's and was visiting from the States for a few days. I quickly learnt that Marissa, being a creative person, was happy to spend a day mucking around taking photos.

I wanted to create a photo that was both urban and had a beautiful animal in it. A few phone calls later we were on our way to stables at Hyde Park. Having a background in fashion, I wanted to get away from clothes/colours/labels and shoot something free — hence the choice of white underwear. The shoots I like best are when everything happens spontaneously, all elements just come together as they should and this is exactly what happened on this day. Marissa jumped on the horse and threw her arms around the horse’s neck. She wanted to do it – I didn’t direct her. Everything was just working together. I guess the shoot was an amalgamation of who Marissa is and of me attempting to escape from the urban jungle of London for a few minutes. Looking on the photo now I see it is a symbol of humanity embracing the strength of raw nature within an urban cage. Ironically, the photo ended up in the fashion magazine i-D.
‘Alex in Wonderland’ metaphorically portrays the acknowledgement of identity in formative years. I was influenced by the French film ‘Ma Vie en Rose’ (My Life in Pink) which is about a boy who likes dressing as a girl.  This shocks the small French town where he grows up and causes the boy to dream up fantasies to escape.

‘Alice in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll reflects a similar idea of escapism. I guess with the photo I wanted to show that there is no need to escape reality if acceptance is granted in the first place — thus the stark, documentary style of photography.  ‘Alex in Wonderland’ was another shoot that just came together quite naturally. I advertised for ‘Alex’ in a London theatre newspaper and ‘Alex’s’ mother, a successful actress, contacted me and said that her son was interested in acting himself and was happy to do it. ‘Alex in Wonderland’ was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, London and Royal Photographic Society, Bath, as part of the John Kobal Portrait Awards.              
The last image is of a close friend of mine Cristina. I persuaded Cristina to model a range of clothes that I was given from a London Chelsea shop. Cristina is not interested in modeling but being the person she is she naturally obliged to help. In the middle of the shoot and between changes I started shooting when she least suspected it. This is the only frame that I liked as it was the only photo where you caught a glimpse of the real her. This by far was the most beautiful and proves that the beauty of the natural supersedes the expected façade of modeling. This photo was exhibited at ‘Artspace’ in Sydney.
I just want to quickly mention one of Grier’s works. I told him that I liked his painting of ‘Anita and the Polar Bears’. It caught my attention as I could relate to the composition, I liked the theme, strength of style but mostly because I was asking myself questions about the subject. Sometimes I like the anonymity of work  - I don’t need to know more about the subject than what the work projects and a lot of the time I have this in mind when I take photos...

Thanks for your attention.

*Nicole is 33 and lives in London. For the past 12 years she has worked as a freelance photo-journalist, portrait and fashion photographer for international newspapers and music and fashion magazines. At the same time she created a body of  work which was both documentary and conceptual. Currently she is concentrating on her own photography and is finishing a book on the youth culture of East London called 'London Club'. She works on the photo desk of a national newspaper.



August 26, 2008


This is my first horizontal painting in the Jeanne d'Arc series and it surprised me. I was afraid horizontal wouldn't work. But I think it is one of the best in the series.

This is Number 18 in the series. In going horizontal, I was thinking of a way to show the many clerics and aristocrats who tried Jeanne. One summed up her offenses this way: "This woman is scandalous, seditious, and wanton, towards God, the Church, and the faithful.” That summed things up pretty well. I'm considering that as the title. But maybe that one should go on a fiercer painting.

The painting is 74"x30". Again I stretched silver mylar over much of the canvas. The paint is high gloss acrylic enamel and fluid acrylics. I probably shouldn't say this. But I will. I think it's very good.



August 24, 2008



Expanding on my August 20 post, here are two more portraits of Linda, circa 2003. It's interesting to look at photos of paintings you haven't seen in a while. Things you didn't notice at the time, like the bad job on Linda's throat in the photo above, jump out at you. Wonder if I'll get around to fixing them?




August 22, 2008

Adam Myerson after last night's race.  Photo by Grier Horner


This is Adam Myerson of Boston, pierced, tattooed and fast. At 36 he can still beat the kids. He came in second in the 50-lap bicycle race in downtown Pittsfield last evening, behind the only kid he couldn't beat, Pittsfield native Will Dugan, 22. It was great seeing Adam and it brought back a lot of memories.

Adam and my son Mike, now 38, used to knock around the United States together in their beat up car to get to the bike races. Mike was good. He'd represented the US in the Junior Olympics in Italy and also raced in France, Morocco, Ireland, the Netherlands, etc. They were at UMass together. Mike would go to college in the fall semesters, leaving the spring and summers free for being a bike gypsy. He would pay his tuition with the prize money.

Adam knew the best places to eat cheap. "We lived at Taco Bell when burritos were something like 49 cents and he was a vegetarian and introduce me to Nirvana and Fugazi and the Red Hot Chili Peppers...And he always made an impression (as you can imagine) with the people who took us into their houses."

Mike recalls the day he knew he was through racing after trying to come back from mono and arthritis. It was at Killington, Vt., a mountainous 100-mile road race.

On an long climb he pulled over to the side of the road where two women were watching the race. Mike said they seemed shocked when he asked them for a ride home. He was close to the front, at the time. "As I was negotiating the logistics of the ride I saw Adam coming (climbing isn't his forte) and hid behind their car. But he saw me and begged me to keep going. But I was done."

Earlier in the season they had driven to a race in Little Rock, Arkansas. "We had to stop in Memphis for Adam to visit the home of the King. (I have forgotten how much our wanderings that year informed the very crazy book I wrote about cycling--now lost).

Mike told me Arkansas was his peak. "I was overtraining and absolutely flying...I saw how fast I could be, which to me is a blessing because I know how strong I could have my bittersweetness is not as bad as some of my friends who stopped...who haven't ever really recovered. [Some of us close to Michael might suggest he's never fully recovered either.]

Mike went on to get his master's in creative writing and is teaching at McNeece State in Lake Charles, Louisiana. (That's Michael and his son Roan in the picture.)

Adam stuck to his bike and has had a long and good national career. Currently he is second in the USA criterion series, after having held first, a position we hope he regains. He races for the Time Factory Pro Team based in Winston-Salem, NC.

Adam, Mike says, "has a big heart."

August 22, 2008 (Part Two)



The race Adams was in took place on Third Thursday, an event that brought so many people downtown I think they're going to have to close North Street to traffic because the sidewalks are overflowing.  I shot these photos during the event.

On the left a little girl, arms akimbo, takes a long look at a straw woman with an ice cream cone. The straw woman appears to be staring back. The artist is Michael Mell. Click this link Hayman 2 to make your own straw sculpture for downtown display. The photo on the right is my nomination for the evening's best outfit.


August 20, 2008


Carol, this one's for you. A birthday present. Carol, a faithful reader of this blog, and I were on the phone yesterday, which was her birthday.

"I wish you'd start painting women again," she said.

Carol told me she was a little burned out on the abstract Jeanne d'Arcs.

"Maybe that's why my hits have been going down," I said.

"I'm going to paint women again. I just don't know when."

"I guess you have to get the Joan of Arcs out of your system first."

So for Carol here's a painting of Linda. It isn't new. I did it in 2003, along with about a dozen more Lindas. This one, 36"x30", is  oil on canvas, one of several in which she wore her motorcycle jacket. Linda is a fine artist and was one of my favorite subjects - and favorite people. I took about 600 photos of her that year in a number of sessions. She was somewhat bemuzed by the project. The next summer there was a show of the Linda paintings at Papyri Books in North Adams.


P.S. Linda doesn't ride a Harley and she doesn't hang out in bars. Despite that she is brilliant, funny, wistful and has a quirky imagination. In the last year has had to live with pain and responsibilities that have kept her from attending most of the monthly meetings of our art group. We miss her.


August 18, 2008


Painted outdoors again Saturday. The mosquitoes were so bad I had to put on bug spray. Nevertheless I love working in my 'summer atelier' behind my studio.

The painting is the 17th in the Jeanne d'Arc series. Again I used a reflective mylar-on-canvas surface. I had just finished it when I took this shot. You can see it below in its finished state.

The title: Jeanne d'Arc ('If you were to tear me limb to limb and separate my soul from my body, I would not tell you anything more.') This response from Joan came during a portion of the trial in which torture was proposed but voted down by her accusers.

The opening of the Over 65 show at Zeitgeist attracted a crowd and I had a great time talking with people, including the other artists. That was good medicine. I've been down in the dumps lately. Maybe Saturday night demonstrates that I need to let the good times roll. Or as Jeanne would say it, laisser les bons temps rouler.




August 16, 2008


Tonight's the night. The "Over 65" show opens at Zeitgeist, the with it new gallery on North Street in Pittsfield. If you get a chance drop in, have some refreshments and conversation and look at some good stuff. It's across from the Family Dollar store.

I have three paintings in it, thanks to Nicole Peskin, a sculptor, who dreamed up the theme and picked the artists for this show. It's Nicole's response to the "Artists Under 40" show at the Lichtenstein Center earlier this summer.

At the show I'm represented by two Jeanne d'Arc paintings, including the 6-foot high Number 11 below, and one Cathedral.

Zeitgeist opened this summer. Alan Nidle and Karen Boutet are the owners. Alan talked to me about the possibility of running a silent Joan of Arc movie as a feature of a possible Jeanne d'Arc show in the future. My friend Bob Gersky had thought of a similar idea: showing Scarlet Letter movies at the Lenox Library in conjunction with my show there last summer. I never managed to pull it off but it would have been a great addition. I have two of my gun paintings coming up in a show in Hudson, New York, in September. More about that soon.




August 14, 2008


Tuesday I ran a photo of a statue of Jeanne d'Arc inside the Cathedral of Reims. Here is Joan, mounted, outside the cathedral.  The picture appears to have been taken during World War I, when the building was badly damaged by the Germans. The photo below shows a shell hitting the church.

The French heroine and the cathedral are closely linked in history. In 1429 her voices told Joan she must clear the way for Charles VII to be crowned king at Reims. This wasn't exactly easy. To get there she would have to end the English siege of Orleans. This was during the 100 Years War and the English had captured much of France. First she had to convince Charles and his court and the clergy that a 17-year-old peasant girl should be given an army and was capable of defeating the English.

When she was to arrive, Charles tried to fool her by mingling among his courtiers but she spotted him immediately. Over a period of three weeks the clergy interrogated her and she won them over. Charles gave her a force and she sent the English

into ignoble retreat. Next she overwhelmed a reinforced English army sent to fight her.

To get Charles to Reims the coronation party had to march deep into English-held territory. Her reputation proceeded her and all but one of the towns along the route opened their gates to Joan and Charles.

So she got Charles to the Cathedral where French kings were thought to assume a divine quality.

"As Charles is anointed with the holy oil, Joan stands nearby with her banner. Then she kneels before him, and for the first time calls him her king," says



August 12, 2008


This is my latest painting: Jeanne d'Arc ('And if I saw the fire, I should say all that I do now to you, and nothing more.') It is the 16th in the series I started in early Spring.

For the third time this month I used a reflective silver background but the second was not a Joan of Arc. The mirrored background is wild. It makes the painting a chameleon, always changing to fit the environment it's hung in. And if you go up to it, you will see your own face in its mirrored surface. I also love the wrinkles that develop in the surface as I lay it out on the wet gesso surface of the canvas. They add another element to the face of the painting.

In my first two silver paintings I used silver foil a friend gave me. But for this one I used mylar. With its non-rip strength I thought it would have long-term durability. You can see the first silver painting in my August 4 post.

This painting is 57"x42". The paint is gloss acrylic enamel. The photo at the right is of a statue of Joan of Arc at the Reims Cathedral.

P. S. At the end of a forward from a good friend, this note appeared: "PLEASE DO YOUR PART..... Today is National Mental Health Day. You can do your part by remembering to
send an e-mail to at least one unstable person."  Even though - or perhaps because - I'm an unstable person the note cracked me up.



August 10, 2008


A cloud bank rose dramatically above the mountain ridge beyond Pontoosuc Lake Friday evening.  I saw it coming down Crane Avenue on the way back from dinner at Kneebones with Claire and Rory.

I dropped Babbie off at the house, grabbed my camera and tripod and drove down to the lake. I got a couple good shots and came home to watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. They were pretty amazing. On Friday morning I talked about sanity with my shrink. On Friday I shoveled clean stones into the pit behind my studio while listening to "Brideshead Revisited" on my pocket CD player. On

Saturday afternoon Riley and I played basketball. I won at Horse and Pig. She won at consecutive shots, getting five in a row to my three. Friday and Saturday I prepared a canvas that I was going to paint last night, but instead we watched a good movie, The Apartment, with Jack Lemon and Shirley MacLaine. It won the Oscar for best picture in 1960.




August 8, 2008


Bill and I went to Saratoga Raceway yesterday to see the horses run and do some minor league betting. It was a bi-polar day. First the sun would be out. Then we'd get a downpour.  And then you'd get the in between, as in this shot I took after the first race.

Bill introduced me to the track a half dozen years ago and I've been going with him once a season ever since. He loves the atmosphere of the place and gets over there as often as he can. It opened on August 3, 1863, and is the oldest organized sporting venue of any kind in the United States, according to Wikipedia.

Saratoga Race Course has two well-known nicknames, the same source says: dThe Spa (for the nearby mineral springs), and the Graveyard of Favorites (for the upsets that have occurred there). Man o' War suffered his only defeat in 21 starts while racing at Saratoga; Secretariat was defeated at Saratoga by Onion after winning the Triple Crown; and Gallant Fox was beaten by 100-1 long shot Jim Dandy in the 1930 Travers Stakes.

My system of betting is basically looking for the next Jim Dandy. I didn't find one yesterday. For that matter I haven't found one yet. But I will someday. One of my horses, Dancing Daisy, made a dramatic charge down the homestretch but failed by inches to overtake the leader. It was a photo finish.

When it looked like the clouds were about to open up before the fifth race we took solace at The Man of Kent, a great pub whose former owner we both like and who has a lot of English beers on tap. I'm a big fan of the whiskey porter.

A young woman named Grace shoved over one stool to make room for us. She said she'd never been to Saratoga because it was out of her class with "all those women in fancy hats." We assured her she would feel at home. From the top photo you can see you don't have to be dressed to kill. The most striking woman I saw in a hat yesterday was the one in the yellow slicker and matching boots. She's watching a replay of a race on a TV screen over the pari-mutuel windows. The horse in the paddock shot is El Bandido Rojo. I bet on him, dooming him to defeat.


August 6, 2008


I guess what I'm doing in this blog these days is piling on. I keep hitting you with Jeanne d'Arc paintings. In football the officials would be blowing the whistle. In blogdom, my readership has been fading.

This one is the 14th in the series. Two days ago I showed you the 15th. I hope I'm not boring you to tears.

"When are you going to start doing something else?" Babbie asked me the other day.

"I don't know," I told her. And I don't.

Guys like Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still hit their signature styles well into their careers, styles they kept exploring until their death. They were something no one has accused me of - brilliant.

Maybe I'll be making these poured paint canvases the rest of my life. But I doubt it. The history of my so-called career has been moving from one thing to another. I guess I don't have a long attention span.

Still thought he was a great painter, and he was. Like Rothko, he was an intellectual. H

Still became so annoyed with the commercial art world, that he broke with it and sold his work himself. Most of his output was unsold, enough to fill a whole museum in Denver that will pay homage to Still when it opens in 2010. I hope I get to see it. Still was my first hero in abstract art. His huge retrospective at the Metropolitan in the late 1970s was very moving, very beautiful.

Rothko literally cut his career short at age 66 when he killed himself in his studio in 1970. Rothko and Still had become friends during the early 1940s and Still, who was already working abstractly, influenced Rothko to turn in the same direction. I have never seen a Rothko retrospective. But I did see his black paintings that blanket the walls of the Menil Chapel in Houston. I was not moved by them.

The painting on the left is a Rothko and the one below a Still.




August 4, 2008


This is Jeanne d'Arc ("It is for God to make revelations to whom He pleases.")  It is, I think, Number 15 in the series,  the third large canvas of the week.

I painted it Friday night. The day before I attached a long strip of heavy silver foil to the central section of the canvas. I painted dark gray borders on all sides of the foil. The painting itself is 80" x 45". Susan gave me a roll of the silver foil two months ago and this is the first time I've put it to use.

I love the way it reflects the light. This photo was taken outdoors. The aluminum color you see near the bottom is the reflection of the wooden deck. The light green band just above it is from the lawn, the dark green is from the hedgerow of trees along the back property line. Like a mirror it picks up the colors of the environment it is placed in.

It reminds me of the stainless steel junkyard doors I painted on a few years ago - a large portrait of acrylic, colored glass and wax - of Mohammed Atta. I set up another canvas with the foil yesterday so I'll be ready to paint today.

In the detail from Number 15 below you can see me with my camera. How many paintings can you see yourself in.


P.S. This week I bought a $20 CD player you can stick in your pocket and listen to on headphones. What I'm listening to is Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. So far it's quite wonderful and I'm two-thirds of the way through, listening as I painted and set flagstones in "The Pit" behind my studio. Monday I took two of my gun paintings to Hudson, N.Y., for a group show there in September and three of my 2008 paintings to a new Pittsfield gallery, Zeitgeist, for a show for artists over 65 that begins this month. More on those shows later.


August 2, 2008

                                                                                                                                             Photos by Grier Horner


Exit the Sea Monster. It's such a big part it takes two people to fill the role. my granddaughter, is in the green gloves and her other half is Will, who also played the baker. The poor beast is in its death throes.

Yesterday afternoon's play was The White Snake by fourth, fifth and sixth graders taking the one-week acting camp sponsored by the Berkshire Theatre Festival at the Berkshire Museum.

The servant boy is

on a quest to capture the monster's giant ruby to win the hand of the princess. The fish teach him how to breathe underwater and he plunges into the ocean.

"So, little man," says the sea serpent. "I see you've made it all the way to the bottom of the ocean just to bedome my lunch. How kind of you."

The monster gobbles up the servant boy, played by Mercedes. But in the belly of the beast, the servant boy  steals the ruby, and is disgorged by the monster.         

"That ruby you have taken from me was also my heart,"

said the Sea Monster. "You have killed me. Aaaaaaaah!"


"It was a fun one, but being the Duchess last summer was more funs she aid. "That was a crazy one."


"The White Snake was adapted from Grimm's Fairy Tales by Larry," she told me. Larry and Meg ran the camp. Riley said that sadly this was her last year with Meg who's moving to Boston.

This is our self described "wild child" and she was speaking so maturely for her age, 8, and I realized she won't be a little girl much longer.

She  is talking  to her mother Shannon after the play and moving scenery.  In the small photos on the

right above are the serpent mask and her knees. The road rash is from a two-bicycle crash.





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





© grier horner - all rights reserved •