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Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man

July 31, 2007

This is the Lenox Library, the place where the extravaganza is going to take place this Sunday at 7 p.m.

It's something isn't it? Melville and Hawthorne are supposed to have walked its halls. But if they did they weren't borrowing books. Built in 1815 as a courthouse, it didn't become a library until 1871. Both writers had left the Berkshires years before.

In any case its nice to believe they were in this building because one of the readings Sunday evening involves Hawthorne and Melville's relationship. The scene is from "A Tanglewood Tale" written by Julian Hiam Scribner and produced by Shakespeare & Co. in 2001 and read at Tanglewood by Jane Fonda and Marisa Tomei the following year.

Elizabeth Aspenlieder will play Hawthorne's wife - who is worried about where the relationship may be leading - and Jeffrey Kent will be Hawthorne. Sophia Hawthorne is worried about where the relationship may be leading - or perhaps has already gone - and is jealous of their closeness.

Another tie-in between the extravaganza - called A is for Adultery - and history is that it is being held on August 5. That was the date Hawthorne and Melville met in 1850, forming one of the most significant literary friendships in American letters. Hawthorne was living in Stockbridge and Melville in Pittsfield at the time.

So if you're in the audience Sunday evening and feel the hair rise on the back of your neck, it may be the acting and singing. Or it could be the shadow of one of those literary giants passing through. Or something like that. The $25 you pay for a seat will help the library, which had experienced financial difficulties earlier this year.

To reserve a ticket call Lisa Berkel at the library, 413-637-2630 Ext. 121. Have your credit card ready.

(I took this shot of the library about 12:30 yesterday after Denis Lesieur, the library's executive director, and I hung the banner pictured below. We suspended it from the balcony railing in the gracious Reading Room, with its high ceiling, large windows and walls lined with books.)


July 29, 2007

Here's the banner that's going to hang inside the library to promote the show. It's more than 6 feet high on reinforced paper.

At the bottom right there's a paper receptacle to hold the show's flyer (See the July 27 post.) The receptacle didn't show up on the photo so I've sketched it in crudely.

The pictures are of five of the six performers who are donating their time for the August 5 extravaganza. Looking at this photo I realize I'm going to make the "5" a little more emphatic. The middle section of Adultery can use some work, too.

From the top the doctored photos of the performers are singer Bernice Lewis, actor Elizabeth Aspinlieder, actor Jeff Kent, singer Tony Lee Thomas and performer Karen Lee. I didn't have a photo of the sixth person, actor Patrick J. Bonavitacola.

Yesterday Denis Lesieur, the director of the library, sent out emails of its cleverly done notice of the event to 750 people. I sent our press release to 180 people on my art email list.

I wanted to hang the banner yesterday but I hadn't finished making it. It will go up Monday. It's hard to believe that August 5 is only a week away. Some people have already reserved seats by calling Lisa Berkel at the library, 413-637-2630. It's a good idea to buy them now over the phone because the performance space only holds about 100 people.

The money goes to benefit the library, which ran into serious financial difficulties during its interior restoration. The town stepped in to help out. But it call still use money. A friend of mine in Kenya emailed me today to say she wanted to help the library even though she obviously couldn't make the show.


July 27, 2007

"A is for Adultery"

That's the title of our extravaganza at the Lenox Library August 5 in conjunction with my show The Scarlet Letter Wall. I'm going to start pushing it on the blog for the next few days because the more people who come the better it will be for the Lenox Library. Not that I haven't been pushing it already. So here's the poster.



July 25, 2007

Here's the one Juliane wants . At least that's the word. She hasn't seen the shirt yet. And Bernice wants one that says Anomaly and Karen one that says Addicted to You.

While the women are getting to chose their word, the men aren't because I didn't think of asking until all the men's shirts were done. They'll just have to pick from the one's I've already done.

In any case I'm painting T-shirts these days, which gives me a good excuse not to paint paintings. I've only done one painting in the last couple months. That's never happened to me before. I've always had stuff -usually a series - set to go once I finished what I was working on. And I usually turn out a lot of stuff.

Not this time. So the shirts come in handy. So far I've done 17. I will probably do 35 before our August 5 extravaganza. That's the night we stage "A is for Adultery."

Who can resist going to a show with a title like that. The tickets are $25 each. The money - after our expenses for wine and other refreshments - will benefit the Lenox Library.

This thing, put together by Juliane Hiam Scribner, is going to be performed in the library's stately, balconied Reading Room. There will be about 76 seats downstairs and 21 on the balcony.

Elizabeth Aspenlieder, Karen Lee, Jeff Kent and Patrick Bonavitacola are in the cast. And Bernice Lewis and Tony Lee Thomas will be singing between the monologue and the two readings that will be performed. All of them are donating their talents for the cause.

Then we're going to have a reception in the adjoining gallery, where my Scarlet Letter Wall, along with the Dresden paintings, are hanging. There you can buy a T-shirt if you find one you like for $30. Each is hand painted and almost all of them have a different A word. Elizabeth, a mainstay of Shakespeare & Co., asked that her's bear the playwright's lovely line "And I will speak, that so my heart may burst."

All this takes place August 5 at 7 p.m. Since there aren't many seats, it would be a good idea to reserve one in advance by calling Lisa Berkel, the library's Jill of all trades, at 413-637-2630, ext. 121. She'll ask you for your credit card number.


July 23, 2007

Sixty artists and artisans were showing their work in downtown Pittsfield this weekend and among them were two from Brooklyn.

Above is Judith Parker who was showing her nudes. Then there was Espartaco Albornoz at the right whose work was also arresting. The presence of the two from NYC helped lend the tent show a more cosmopolitan air. Most of the artists were from the Berkshires. But they also came from eastern Massachusetts, from Vermont, New Hampshire and New Jersey.

More interesting than the art was the fact that for the second time in a matter of days Pittsfield had people downtown.

Third Thursday had drawn a lot of people with its wide array of arts and entertainment. Add in the restored Colonial Theater and the Barrington Stage, both downtown, and things are looking up for a street whose death knell had often been proclaimed.


July 21, 2007

Clint, last night you made me cry. No movie has done that in years. Dirty Harry and the Outlaw Josey Wales wouldn't have thought much of a guy who bawled.

But I'm not sure Clint the director of "Letters from Iwo Jima" would have objected. It was that movie that choked me up last night.

Boxing announcers used to call Joe Lewis "a credit to his race." That wouldn't sit well today. But Clint you're a credit to old men. Here's a guy, an iconic tough guy actor, who has risen to greatness in his 70s as a director. In the shot above he's embracing Hilary Swank at the Academy Awards. His "Million Dollar Baby" won best picture for 2004, he won best director, Hilary won best actress and Morgan Freeman won best supporting actor. Eastwood's best picture-best director sweep was a repeat of what he did in the "Unforgiven" 12 years earlier.

With "Letters from Iwo Jima" the 77-year-old director could do it again.


July 19, 2007

This painting, which is A-11 on the Scarlet Letter Wall, sold today. It's an upside-down version of Robert Indian's famous LOVE sculpture.

Beside's turning LOVE on its head, I converted the V to an A - the Scarlet Letter. This brings the number of paintings sold at this show at the Lenox Library to 14. Another four were sold prior to the show. In terms of numbers, I bet that makes this the hottest art show of the summer in the Berkshires. And we've still got the extravaganza of drama, music and art coming up August 5. Stay tuned to Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man for more on that.

Sales from the Scarlet Letter Wall are contingent on one thing - that someone doesn't offer to buy all 104 paintings. I hate to break them up. But so far no one has come to the rescue. If you've got a 31-foot wall, the Scarlet Letter series would cut your heating bills. Not only are there hot colors, they'd provide an extra layer of insulation.

The guy who bought this one had looked at the paintings once before. This time we spent a lot of time talking about the book, on which he had some great insights, and the paintings.

Later, Ron dropped into the gallery because he knows I'm there Wednesday afternoons. He wants one of the t-shirts after seeing the pictures on my July 15 post. He'd seen the July 17 post too. So we discussed the art of shaving. He does it from the base of the neck up. I do it from the sideburns down. Since he also shaves his his head, what he says carries a lot of weight. I wonder if his way is the standard practice. It makes a lot of sense until you lop off an ear.

(To Deb and Judy, I didn't find one error when I spell checked this post. That's the first time that's happened in the year I've been writing the blog. Whoops, I spoke too soon. Just spell checked this graph and had to fix two words - spellchecked and writting. Then I added the bit about insulation in the third graph and I spelled it insullation. Pride cometh before the fall.)


July 17, 2007

That's me shaving. I've been doing it about 56 years. But I've been doing it wrong.

I discovered that watching a guy shave the other day. I can't remember whether it was in a movie or on TV. You'd think I'd remember something that momentous. I always started at the top and ran the razor down to the base of my neck in long, slick strokes until I got to my mouth, where you have to be cautious.

But this guy was starting at the base of the neck and working up. I've been trying it. I get a better shave. Strange thing to learn at 72. Don't know if I can change techniques at this point.

I remember my father introducing me to Chandler Bowski, a friend of his whose wife had recently died. My father called him Chan, a nickname I liked the sound of. It was winter and we were standing on the Tarrytown train platform waiting to ride into New York.

While I was saying hello, I noticed that several longish whiskers bristled out where the top of his upper lip joined his nose. I was about 20 at the time. I associated this shaving failure with his wife's death, a sign that in his grief he didn't notice or didn't care.

Lately I've been finding unshaved whiskers in the same place. With me it isn't grief and maybe it wasn't with Chan either. After all that's the hardest part of the face to shave. Of course guys my age also get hairs bristling out of their ears and nostrils. Bridget, bless her, takes care of that when she cuts my hair.

But Saturday Babbie noticed some hairs poking out from my left nostril and gave them a tug. That got my attention. I scissored them off Sunday morning.

P.S. This morning I was in a hurry when I shaved. Even though I was thinking about the new approach as I looked in the mirror, I shaved the old way. It feels so natural. Conclusion: You can't teach an old dog new tricks. Who said this blog wasn't profound?


July 15, 2007

Hey, I'm back. Hope you noticed I was gone. We were in Wellfleet on the Cape for a week.

Today's lead picture? A Scarlet Letter T-shirt. In case I haven't told you, that's what I'm painting these days. Knocked off a bunch on the Cape. I've done 15 men's shirts now - all different - and will start on the first of my women's shirts today. You're in luck. You're going to be able to buy them.

They're going to be part of the August 5 extravaganza we're putting on in conjunction with my Scarlet Letter show at the Lenox Library. The proceeds from the show will benefit the library.

Juliane Hiam Scribner, the playwright, columnist (Jacuzzi)( and mother of four, has been putting together the dramatic and vocal entertainment. I'll give you the dope on the whole works soon.

We're packaging the evening's entertainment as "A is for Adultery." That's a subject that's been with us a while, one that Nathaniel Hawthorne explored in The Scarlet Letter, the inspiration for my 31-foot-long Scarlet Letter Wall at the library.

If you haven't seen it yet, the library is open from 10 to 5 Tuesdays through Saturdays and it will be there through August 15. I'll be at the library every Wednesday afternoon from 1 to 4 until it ends, in case you'd like to talk to me about the paintings or just shoot the breeze.


July 7, 2007


This is a detail of Jackson Pollock's brilliant "No. 5, 1948." It sold last year privately for $140 million. No one had ever paid that much for a painting before, even when prices are adjusted for inflation.

DeKooning's Woman III brought almost as much last year, and Gustav Klimt's Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer 1 sold for $135 million, also in 2006.

These are the top three paintings in history in terms of prices paid, according to Wikipedia. What I find fascinating is that no Old Master makes the top 10. It's not until No. 11 that you hit one, Peter Paul Rubins, from the early 1600s. He trails van Gogh, Renoir and Picasso.

This week you could have snatched up a Velasquez for $17 million and a Raphael for $37 million at auction, record auction prices for both.

Compare that to the $19.2 million Damien Hirst's pill cabinet, Lullaby Spring, just commanded. That's the highest price paid at auction for a work by a living artist. Below are details of both the Valezquez and the Hirst.

So it turns out that the works we considered masterpieces on view at places like the Met are not revered as much as I thought, at least not in terms of what people will shell out for them. Of course, many of them are tucked safely away in museums and don't come up for sale. What would the Mona Lisa sell for in today's wild market?

This is my last post for a week. I'm giving myself some time off. I'll be working on Scarlet Letter T-shirts. Undoubtedly one of these days people will be paying millions for them.


July 5, 2007

Still at the ICA. I caught this photographer, with pedestrians on the move, as she targeted someone else outside the new museum on Boston's waterfront.

The glass wall here is fascinating because it serves both as a window and a mirror. Reflections of skyscrapers mingle with those of people outside the building. At the same time you can see inside to one of the ICA guards in silhouette on the left, the woman seated at a table, the father in the red cap, and the giant mural, The Divine Gas. I just noticed that my reflection is also visible. You earn bonus points if you find it.

Here's the ICA's photo of the The Divine Gas by Chiho Aohsima. This is a picture of a lovely, gigantic child, butt up, releasing clouds of gas into the atmosphere - something a lot of little kids would get a kick out of. There's a lot of child-friendly stuff about the ICA. A kids art workshop was going on in that room when I took this shot. Later a mime put on a free show for kids at the outdoor amphitheater.

At the left is a picture I took of the ICA's giant glass elevator. You can see through this conveyance that in most buildings blocks your vision. Here the operator stands with her back to the elevator wall while a museum patron in a green t-shirt stands on the far side of the elevator watching it rise. Riding this elevator gives you fascinating insights into the building's interior architecture while allowing you to look beyond the building to the harbor. Pretty good stuff.

The architects are Diller Scofidio + Renfro of New York. Until recently the firm, formed by a husband-wife team, has been know more for its architectural theory than for actual buildings. This is its first building in the United States. What a first it is.



July 3, 2007

This is the view from the fourth, and top, floor of the new ICA museum in Boston.
Pretty spectacular looking out. And it's pretty spectacular looking at the museum, too.

Babbie and I drove over to Boston Saturday, my 72nd birthday, to take a look at the new Institute of Contemporary Art. It replaces the old one on Boylston Street near the fire station. This shows the ICA from the Fan Pier, with its dramatic cantilevered upper floor, which houses the art. Suspended below the overhang is the media room, with a full width window trained on the water - rather than the skyline. In this shot you can see people in that long, narrow glassed-in room in the big photo. (The museum allows cameras inside as long as you don't shoot the artwork. That's how I got the big picture.)

On a good day the section shaded by the overhang is a good place to hang out. You can eat outdoors. You can sit on the wide steps and gaze out at the view and the boats or watch a performance or watch people - a la the steps to the Metropolitan in New York. But unlike the Metropolitan's these steps don't go anywhere. They're for sitting.

In the galleries, Philip-Lorca diCorcia's photographs were arresting. I'm including one here from his "Head" series shot in Times Square. This is "Head #4. diCorcia was born in Hartford. I was also drawn to a sculpture by Cornelia Parker, a British artist, called Hanging Fire (Suspected Arson). She took charred pieces from a wood shop that burned and hung hundreds of them from the ceiling to create a dramatic piece.    
We drove to Boston and back, about 300 miles, averaging 53 miles a gallon in the Prius. Until we got it a month ago, we would have used more than twice as much gas in the Odyssey mini-van.



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


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