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Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man

October 31, 2008

Today some shots of Stefanie Weber in my MASS MoCA shoot. I'll bring you some more of Lita, the other Silver Swimmer involved, on another day.




October 29, 2008

Here are some more photos I took of the Silver Swimmers at MASS MoCA. In this one they are in the darkened Jenny Holzer show, Projections. Stefanie rests her head on Lita's shoulder.

Moving from darkness to light. In the shot below they are in one of Vaughn Bell’s "Personal Biospheres." You can pop your head into these working ecosystems through holes in the bottom. Misters are available so you can spray in a little water. It is part of Badlands, a major exhibit.

Continuing with Badlands - I love that title - here they are moving alongside Alexis Rockman's monumental painting of endangered icebergs in the Antarctic.



October 27, 2008

I shot this at MASS MoCA Friday. It is of Lita and Stefanie who at this point have nearly completed painting themselves silver - this is a color picture, not black and white - for a photo session with me.

Part of the Silver Swimmers dance group, they performed their slow-motion magic as we worked our way through the North Adams museum. The Silver Swimmers perform in the Boston area, the Berkshires and elsewhere. I first learned about them when they showed up at one of Pittsfield's Third Thursdays. Ever since then the idea of photographing them has been bouncing around in my head.

In a period of about two hours at MoCA, I took almost 600 shots of them painting up, riding the elevator, climbing the stairs, dancing in the galleries. Stay tuned.

That was Friday. On Saturday I went to hear Forever Autumn - acoustic doom - at the Zeitgeist Gallery on North Street in Pittsfield. It was a young crowd, part punk, part Goth, and I was probably 35 years older than anyone else in the room.

I went to see a friend, Joe, the singer songwriter in Forever Autumn. I met Joe when we were taking art classes at Berkshire Community College. Before he and his bandmate Brian went on, Joe came over to say hello.

"I've got my Halloween costume on," I told him. "I'm going as an old man."

"You've done a good job of it," Joe said.

Forever Autumn has a following. About 40 people were at Zeitgeist on a night when it was raining seriously. Joe's not your mainstream singer. Often he sings in a voice as eerie as his lyrics. And the guitars  are purposefully discordant at times. At times he and Brian bow the guitars like cellos. For some pieces Joe plays drums with his vocals. He is one wild and wonderful drummer. The best I've heard. I swiped this photo of Saturday night's performance from the band's website. Forever Autumn has just put out a CD, "Waiting for Oktober." I have one numbered 46 of 50. When they go big time, it'll be a collector's item.




October 25, 2008

Nicole Peskin is doing something that makes me jealous - building a studio, a big studio.

"It's my biggest sculpture," Nicole says. And she has built some big sculptures, like the angel shown here. Nicole has slid behind the angel's hand in an attempt, I think, to conceal her left  eye. It's black because a hammer fell on her when she and Louis Christie were working on the roof.

They hope to get it closed in by winter. But the guy who put the concrete pad in for them was delayed by rain so she and Louis - they're doing the work themselves - got off to a late start.

The studio is off a back road in Steventown where she and Louis live in an old colonial that they've fixed up. Meanwhile, he is building his own house a mile away.

"His project is also awesome, and
he's built a cupola for himself at the top!" Nicole says.

Currently she has a fine studio right on the river below Pontoosuc Lake. But it's a haul from her house. And she wants to be out in the country and when you look around her place you can't blame her.

Below, Louis is working on the roof. Like construction workers everywhere they're doing a high wire act without a net. It's going to be great and she's going to do great work there. And it will have glass paneled roll-up garage doors to take advantage of the view of the woods.

If you've been a longtime reader of this blog, you'll remember the guest blog Nicole posted here on February 15, 2007. Take a look if you get a chance. The main illustration is of a large angel wing she made. It is one of my favorite pieces of art.



October 23, 2008

I keep returning to Jenny Holzer's monumental exhibit at MASS MoCA in North Adams.  I  was there Saturday and again Wednesday, when I took this shot.

In the Boston Globe late last year a clever headline writer called this show "Poetry in motion." Globe reviewer Cate McQuaid wrote:

"Jenny Holzer's "Projections," a brilliant, hypnotic installation of projected texts rushing like waves through Mass MoCA's giant Building 5, makes canny use of the nearly empty gallery. The work's fluidity and spaciousness envelop you."

She put it well. The words not only fill the space but play across the interior of your skull. I stretched out on one of the giant beanbags on the gallery floor for 45 minutes on Saturday, watching the lines of light run across the far wall and across the beams.

Holzer projects poems from Wislawa Szymborska, the Nobel-winning Polish writer. (See my October 2 post.)





Those are words that don't shrink in the glare of giant letters.



October 21, 2008

Sometimes things get a little chaotic in my studio. That became glaringly apparent Saturday when we visited a number of the artists' lofts at the Eclipse Mill in North Adams.

They work and sleep and eat in their studios, which, from the ones I saw, are clean, well-lighted places.

Babbie says mine is a fire trap. Since it is in the basement of our house, that would be upsetting if true, which I don't think it is. I can't argue that I don't have a lot of paint and paintings down there. Don't most painters have a lot of paint and paintings?

A portrait of Marion Cotillard, the French actress, is pinned to the wall where I've been working on it off and on this year. And you can see some of my unstretched Jeanne d'Arc paintings hanging three deep from a wire strung along one side of the room. Stretcged Jeanne d'Arcs are propped against the green ladder I use as an easel, against a storage bin at the far end. If you look up, you can see rolled paintings stored between the joists.

Paintings are also stacked against the other two walls. They're also stacked against the long wall in one bedroom, against two walls in the dinning room and against two walls in the living room.

Sometimes Babbie says she feels hemmed in. Me, I'd love a clean, well-lighted studio. But it probably wouldn't take long until it looked like this.

I'm thinking of starting another large portrait, this one of Aissa Maiga, another French movie star whose career is taking off. The source of both photos is T - the periodic style magazine in the Sunday Times. Ms. Maiga's photo was taken by Paolo Roversi. It is smashing and so is she.

P.S. If you're a glutton for punishment, more photos of my studio are available on my facebook prfile .


October 19, 2008

Jean-Noel Chazelle of France is shown in this Kelly Lee photo with some of his wild acrylic paintings on plexiglas's at the NoAma Mill on Union Street in North Adams.

During this weekend's Open Studios, Babbie and I talked with Chazelle. I couldn't understand his process well because of his accent. But it looks like he has access to alchemy.

Like stained glass his paintings need to be hung so light can shine through them or be mounted to a light box to get the full effect. Chazelle's at work in this Lee shot on the left.

I first saw his work at the Kolok Gallery in North Adams in 2006, I think. See more of Chazelle's paintings at his website.

We also looked at art in the live-in studios at the Eclipse Mill across from NoAma. There I particularly liked the portraits of artist Susan Graber - she has a wonderful full length self-portrait hung by the elevator on the second floor - and the bold "Body Parts" abstracts by Ed Carson. And there is a good photography show, "Nude and Naked," at the Brill Gallery on the first floor.

We ate supper at Lickety Split in MASS MoCA and then went to the movie Phoebe in Wonderland shown there as part of the Williamstown Film Festival. The movie, which is due in general release in April, stars Elle Fanning, Dakota Fanning's little sister. She plays a troubled 9-year-old given to flights of fantasy and compulsive behavior as she tries out for - and then plays Alice - in her school's production of Alice in Wonderland.

Elle is great. That's her picture on the right. And Felicity Huffman of Desperate Housewives fame and Patricia Clarkson, as Phoebe's mother and off-beat drama coach, are splendid too. I was moved by the movie and am delighted to know it is something we can take our 9-year-old granddaughter Riley to when it comes out. I love the idea of having one magical 9-year-old see a movie about another magical 9-year-old.

As a bonus, director-screenwriter Daniel Barnz and Clarkson were on stage to talk about the movie after the screening.

P.S. Open Studios in North Adams continues today. Get the details and a map at this link.




October 17, 2008

You look at a few of Tina Barney's 4' x 5' photographs at the Williams College Museum of Art and you know she loves color.

Speaking at Williams last night, Ms. Barney said color is central to her work, downplaying the role of intellect. This obviously wouldn't be as appealing a picture if the wall was white.

Her photos of upper-class Europeans at Williams are part of a photography exhibit curated by Deputy Director John Stomberg. It brilliantly contrasts her shots of aristocrats with Zwelethu Mthethwa's portraits of poor South Africans in their shacks. You see that, within their means, each group feels a need to decorate the interiors of their homes.

My favorite part of the current show is Fiona Tan's "Countenance. " When I first walked into her gallery and saw her videos of Germans on three screens, I thought they were stills. Then I saw an eye blink or a mouth self consciously readjust or a child try to stifle a smile. At the right is a still from one of her videos at the show.

When I was there with Joe recently he just plopped down on a bench and watched and I joined him. We stayed a long time and would liked to have stayed longer. Hers are snapshots of a culture, capturing people of all ages, various walks of life and a wide variety of occupations.

Sounds dull doesn't it. But it isn't. I found myself watching the people on the screens intently, looking for hints of character, quirks and movement. Try it, I think you'll like it.

P.S. I had a belly ache so I didn't drink any  wine or gobble down any hors d'oeuvre at the reception. It was sort of refreshing to be able to listen to Ms. Barney with a clear head.



October 15, 2008

I've collaged canvas and silver mylar onto some of my prior Joan of Arc paintings. But this one, Number 22 in the series, is the first to which I've attached strips of wood. They act as dams the paint has to flow over.

I'm calling this one Jeanne d'Arc (Truly I See They Have Indeed Deceived Me). It was painted last week. Monday I built a 2 1/2"-deep, heavy-duty stretcher for it out of Swedish poplar and stretched it yesterday. (While I was painting it, the canvas was temporarily tacked over another painting, which would save time and storage space.) But I decided to stretch it. The piece is 59"x41 3/4."

Yesterday was trip-to-the dump day. Babbie and I hauled an assortment of junk out of the cellar and stuffed it in the van. Included was:

~ One old mattress.

~ One set of aluminum handlebars.

~ One old rug and mat.

~ One set of indoor shutters.

~ One piece of a snowplow that broke off while our road was being plowed.

~ One metal hoop from a whiskey barrel that Babbie used as a planter until it   fell victim to rot.

~ Some rigging from a long-gone sailboat.

~ One red knapsack that had seen better days.

~ And a lot of other stuff.

Driving to the dump - which is  really an incinerator plant - Babbie said we had to get a new permit. "The guys there are always surly, aren't they?" she said.

But the guy who gave us the sticker for $5 and charged us $15 to deposit our junk was very pleasant. And he looked like George C. Scott, the movie star. Putting the new sticker on over our dated

one, he observed, "You always come in October." It was true. It wasn't that he was clairvoyant - which of course he

could be - but the old one said Oct. 2007.

We had a good time heaving some of the debris of our lives into the big bins. There's a lot more we have to get rid of. Maybe next October.

On the way home we bought three bottles of wine. Rather Babbie did. She said, "You can't go into Price Chopper looking like that."

Then she relented and said I could come too. "I'll stay in the car. My feelings are hurt," I said, which wasn't true. Dump days can be grand, to use a word my father liked.

The small image on the left shows how paint flows across the edge. The one on the right is a detail.



October 13, 2008

Lurking within the recesses of the downstairs medicine cabinet, are my toothbrush and tooth paste.  I took the shot Sunday morning, attracted by the reflections in the silver-foil lining.

In other developments in my life last weekend:

In a one-on-one basketball Saturday morning, Riley beat me 24-22, rallying late in the game. I might have won if she hadn't worn me out. After she went home to play with her friends, I went upstairs to take a nap. On the court I have the height advantage. But she had the age advantage. She'll be nine this week. I'm 64 years older.

Saturday night we went to a party at Debbie and Dusty's and had a great time. They have a five of my paintings, including a very nice nude. I tried to talk them into taking some more paintings - as loans. I'm trying to ease our storage problems. There are so many paintings in the house, I'm starting to have to stack them against walls in the addition and the dinning room.

I have nine paintings out on loan now, including six in the offices of the local mental health and addiction agency. I'm looking for some more takers.



October 10, 2008

This is a reworking of  Jeanne d'Arc  15 ("It is for God to make revelations to whom He pleases.").

Eighty inches by 45 inches, it's big. And I like it much better now. The work all went into the central section of the painting. There is one problem with the reproduction here. The red you see to the right of the center is much darker and richer.

Anyone know what I'm doing wrong with the camera setting?

The shiny surface was created by gessoing silver foil to the stretched canvas.


October 8, 2008

Monday night I watched the original 1948 version of Joan of Arc starring Ingrid Bergman which never had much success in this country, at least in part because of her affair with Roberto Rossellini.

that would hardly bring down censure on an actress today but it caused a scandal because both the Italian movie maker and Ms. Bergman were married. So here was a fallen woman playing a saint.

The original version, all 145 minutes of it, only played to limited audiences in 1948 before it was withdrawn, shortened by 45 minutes and put into general release in 1950.  UCLA found a copy of the original, complete with soundtrack, and restored it. It was released on DVD four years ago.

It was faithful historically, from what I have read of Joan, but it dragged. And a 33-year-old beauty with a slight Swedish accent is a hard sell in this role.

Bosley Crowther, the famous New York Times reviewer, wrote in 1948: "Possibly Ingrid Bergman may be partly held to blame for this lack of the deeper human feelings and comprehensions in this film, for Miss Bergman, while handsome to look on, has no great spiritual quality."

In 1948, Rossellini received a letter from a famous foreign actress proposing a collaboration:

"Dear Mr. Rossellini,
I saw your films Open City and Paisan, and enjoyed them very much. If you need a Swedish actress who speaks English very well, who has not forgotten her German, who is not very understandable in French, and who in Italian knows only "ti amo", I am ready to come and make a film with you.
Ingrid Bergman"

Here's what Wikopedia has to say about it: By this famous letter begins one of the most popular love stories in cinema lore, with Bergman and Rossellini both at the peak of their popularity and influence. They started working together the following year in Stromboli terra di Dio (1950) (in the island of Stromboli, whose volcano quite conveniently erupted during filming), and, in 1952, Europa '51. In 1954 Viaggio in Italia completed the so-called "Ingrid's Trilogy"...This affair caused a great scandal in some countries (Bergman and Rossellini were both married to other people); the scandal intensified when the two started having children (one of whom was-to-be actress and model Isabella Rossellini).

I guess I have to put Stromboli in our Netflix queue. Just looked. Can't find it. Maybe it never came out on DVD.



October 6, 2008

This is Leslie Harrison. It's a picture of her at the lake near her house in a sparsely populated - to put it mildly - section of Sandisfield. Sandisfield is about as far away from my house as you can get and still be in Berkshire County. It takes an hour to drive there.

I was shooting shots of her recently because she needs something to go on the back cover of her book of poems, Displacement, to be published next March by Houghton Mifflin. She used to be a photographer at The Berkshire Eagle but she hates having her picture taken.

This isn't one they will use but it is one of my favorites. We shot first in her house and then out by the lake - the name of which escapes me, if I ever knew it. I thought it would be a good backdrop because water is in her poems.

When we took this it was late afternoon and it was raining. She was holding an umbrella. That's why her right arm is up. I was saying things that were making her laugh. The trees were just starting to turn. That was a week ago. (In case you're thinking of driving up to Western Massachusetts to look at the foliage, it isn't worth the trip yet.)

Here's the cover of Leslie's book. I think it's great. I wish I had taken the photo. It seems perfect. By the way her blog, Always Winter, is fascinating.



October 2, 2008

This is a view of Jenny Holzer's brilliant exhibition, Projections, at MASS MoCA in North Adams through Nov. 16.

Words, wave after endless wave of words, sweep across the floor, up the walls, across the beams of the ceiling. At the same time they're moving away from you, they're coming at you, playing over your body. A letter engulfs you momentarily in its moving glare, and then another and another. It's mesmerizing.

It isn't always easy to follow the lines of the poetry as they splay out across and over the space. But Babbie and I sat on the steps watching and I was caught by these powerful lines:

The buzzard never says it is to blame.
The panther wouldn't know what scruples mean.
When the piranha strikes, it feels no shame.
If snakes had hands, they'd claim their hands were clean.

A jackal doesn't understand remorse.
Lions and lice don't waver in their course.
Why should they, when they know they're right?

Though hearts of killer whales may weigh a ton,
in every other way they're light.

On this third planet of the sun
among the signs of bestiality
a clear conscience is Number One.

The next day I asked my friend Leslie, a poet, whose words these were - of course I only remembered snatches. Wislawa Szymborska, she told me, and lent me a book of the Polish poet's work. Her poem above is called In Praise of Feeling Bad About Yourself.

The show is on through November 16. And MASS MoCA provides a live feed during gallery hours. Take a look. The photo of the exhibit I used here came from gillianleigh's flickr site. She posted the photo July 5. Use this link to see her other MoCA shots.




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


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