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September 29, 2006

Margaret Fitzgerald, Oaxaca (diptych), Oil on Canvas, 5 feet x 10 feet

This is a painting I would like to buy. It's by Margaret Fitzgerald and was for sale at LewAllenContemporary, a gallery in Santa Fe. It was part of a hypothetical art buying spree that Babbie and I went on in New Mexico.

By 1 p.m., when we sat down for lunch, we had already spent $75,000 for four paintings and one sculpture. So at lunch we tried to figure out where we would hang everything.

We realized we'd have to build an addition. We decided to start buying lottery tickets. Mark DiPrima, associate director of the gallery, said this painting was the most commented on in the gallery.

Ms. Fitzgerald calls it Oaxaca, which is the name of both a city and a state in southern Mexico. If that's a bathtub in the painting, it's big enough to do laps in. The painting's 10 feet long.

In an artist's statement a couple years ago, she said: "Painting is a process of discovery and invention. These days I spend a lot of time scraping off and layering on paint, gluing and drawing on to a canvas. I am striving to find a balance and richness using these materials as well as to express visually what I have seen and felt about the world."

I don't know anything else about her except that she can paint.


September 27, 2006

Is it cruel and unusual treatment to bring back the empty paintings after yesterday's action-packed piece by Ellen?

Probably, but I don't think its covered by the Geneva accords. Don't tell Bush. He might add it to water boarding in secret jails in faraway places.

I could tell you its by popular demand. But that would be stretching the truth.

The truth is I processed the photo a couple weeks ago. That makes it easy. (For more empty paintings see the Sept. 9, 7 and 6 posts.)

I'm working on a large new painting. It's unlike anything I've tried. It's a look at terrorism from a different angle. I'll show it to you if it turns out. Maybe even if it doesn't.



September 26, 2006

Guest Blogger

Multi tasking as usual, Ellen Lahr swings around a corner in the Josh Billings RunAground while waving to her son, Matt. In front is Barbara and just behind Scarlett. Photo by Tynan Whalan.

Ellen Lahr was born to write and race. Ellen, 46, a Berkshire Eagle reporter who started riding three years ago, is my first guest blogger. Her subject: the 30th annual Josh Billings RunAground on Sept. 17.

In the race photo, I am leaning left on the red bike, red-helmet, yellow shirt, right hand raised, head turned, waving at Matthew, as we raced through the West Stockbridge Village, the detour of the year, a hard right, hard left, hard right. Matt is smiling,  one of his real smiles. A few seconds earlier he might have said, “Here comes Mom!” 

I am now behind Barbara, who has thunder thighs, and who had left me behind two miles earlier. Behind me is Scarlett, who helped me catch Barbara before we hit the village, where I knew the boys would be. Matt, Ty, John _ the ex-husband _ and Kate _ the fiance.

There they are, all lined up outside the bakery, at precisely my predicted arrival, 10:30, 15, 16 miles into the 27 mile race, I am heading straight at them before I turn. John must have the camera. Hundreds of bikers passed me on that first defining hill, but here I feel like I have arrived, though 11 miles remain, and a long, languid hill, the first of three between here and the finish, looms around the corner.

But the horrid climb up Alford’s West Road is behind me. I was rewarded with that glorious curving decline on West Center, around the edge of a farm field, a curve where some riders hit their brakes in caution. The trick is to take it not wide, not tight, but tight enough to gather acceleration for the flat that follows. I shout at myself as the road levels and I am flying. My chain slipped here two years ago and I lost my group, but caught them.

This time there were six of us women for several miles through Alford  _ strangers _ though I’ve picked up the names of Barbara and Scarlett and learned enough about their speed to know I should stick with them even if my legs burned like fire, if I want to finish close to last year’s time. There’s a glorious moment when we are all breathing hard, and I realize I have been chasing fast male riders for three years, and that I have never had the joy of riding with women who crack jokes, yell cowgirl cheers, and swear and yell encouragement and caution. I am on a temporary team, and I was never a team sport kid. We have shouted each other up the hills, organized ourselves as packs _ leaders and followers _ for miles.

“Good job, good job,” I hear, I say.

Scarlett is from Boston and wears a scarlet floral vest. Barbara is from Hancock, and watched her friend Monique go down on the first big downhill of the race. When we passed Monique she was splayed out on the road face down, crying fiercely, which I took as a good sign.

“That was my friend!” Barbara said to me as we continued downhill. Her voice was shaking, like she thought she should perhaps stop and go back.

“And she’s good, she’s so good, she’s an hour and 20, and she keeps saying, “I’m not so good,” Monique said.

“I’ll ride with you to Alford,” I said to her, for her and for me. She was strong. I could stay in her draft. I could distract her, keep her going.

At Alford Town Hall, we picked up a group and kept hauling north on the sharp short climbs, brief downs and rolling flats, which never fully give way to high speed, even in a group. A man ended up with us, and I teased him when I had a breath.

“You know you could probably get a date about now,” I told him.

  “I hate this part,” Barbara was saying. We are approaching two nasty final hills on West Road. Barbara surged ahead, and Scarlett and I held out together. Atop the last one, where if I am going to quit, this it the spot, we turned left onto another rise, and I lagged back, trying to regroup, regain strength. Somewhere on that stretch our group spread out, stretched out, like a band, and I fought to catch Scarlett. She’d let on that it was her first ride of the year at one point, and I thought, hell, I must be sucking right about now, but she kept going. Once I lose a leader too badly, I give up, throw in the towel. Or I hit the gas, to close the gap.

When I hit  Route 102, cops had stopped traffic for us.

“Thanks,” Scarlett said, as she said to nearly ever traffic stopper we passed It was the first time I would check my clock: 15 miles, 50 minutes. I reported this to Scarlett. We agreed this was good, though I knew my pal Steve would be closing in on the final climbs right about now . . . hitting the finish, a full 30 minutes ahead of me.

I knew my boys were up ahead, watching, and I hit the cell phone redial to Ty, to let him know I was coming to the village.

“Let’s catch Barbara,” I said to Scarlett as we flew down a hill,” and we caught her.

On the other side of the village comes a sharp, slowing rise, then the long Route 102 Hill, the joy of which is its downhill side. Local bikers agree that this hill is a steady, straight, slow climb where you drop your head, breathe, don’t look up. And when you do, you’ll see the top, and it really is the top. No tricks over the rise. I tell this to Scarlett, and she’s thrilled; the route’s not familiar to her. There’s a delight in knowing every rise, every curve, every glide and wall on this course. There are no surprises. The hills that intimidated me three years ago are merely hassles, stretches I have diminished by the time it actually takes out of my life to push upward. Seven minutes? Two minutes? I know the street markers that indicate I'm near completion.

At the top of the Route 102 hill, nearly devoid of cheerleaders, I see another friend, a public defender I know, who is a powerhouse biker when he feels like it. He hollers at me. I yell at him. Then we are down, 30, 35, 38 miles per hour on a straight wide ride of delight.

We hit downtown Stockbridge, where I know my favorite police chief will be standing, in the center of town, at the monument. I yell at him, then Scarlett, to warn her of the hill ahead.

When we are in it, it feels like purgatory, burning thighs and lungs, and then, like an angel has relieved us, we’re at the top. Gaining speed back is tough: Scarlett is flagging, Barbara is long gone, and Prospect Hill is a series of lazy rises that never flatten.

When I realize she is gone, I almost want to stop, slow down, wait. But another trio is ahead, and I go for them. I find myself beside a local psychologist I’ve taken advantage of, and we are soon joking on the downhill. I pass him happily, but on that last and final hill at the Wheatleigh resort _ the single biggest complaint rise of the race _ he pulls ahead. What has happened to Scarlett? When I see that camera truck ahead _ the people who take your picture, post it on a web site and sell it for $10 _ I know I’m home. But gaining speed after the Wheatleigh hill is a tough job, even though there are people everywhere now, cheering, yelling.

I have not checked my clock since 15 miles. I have been caught up in the ride. I have not wanted to care if I just didn’t cut it this year, since I hadn’t trained as aggressively. I had almost sat out the race for want of a team. When the kayaker and runner surfaced, I revved up, but it was late _ early September. I never rode the entire course, and took only one 30 mile ride . . .

Approaching the final cop, at the final T intersection, buzzing with walkers, bikers, runners and others, I turn left and instantly am flying on that last downhill toward Stockbridge Bowl and Bianca, my high energy kayaker, who had told me I would match last year’s time. I was sure I would be the weak link in the team.

I hit it: the timer: 1:34:00. I heard myself shout. I saw my buddy Steve, walking his bike up the hill, clearly after wasting the ride, and shouted at him. He hollered back.

I pushed hard, hard, hard, to beat 1:35:00, last year’s time. A clutch of kayakers was at the line, alerted ahead of my arrival by the shouting of the team number, 274, also the first three digits of my phone number. At the last second, I remembered to unclip my feet, and Bianca had my wrist, the terry wristband, and she was gone. There was Deb, a new acquaintance, who had just preceded me. Where was Scarlett? I waited like a loyal soldier. And here came Scarlett, and she was yelling! Sam! Sam! Her husband, who appeared, and grabbed her band. She had told me this was a family thing, every year.

I told her I hated losing her on Prospect, she told me I had pulled ahead. Barbara was gone  in the crowd probably, to find out about Monique. This was the ride of my life. Let’s do that again. It’s the action in my life that makes me feel most completely alive. No matter how bad the hill, since I know I will top it.

© Ellen Lahr - all rights reserved


[Our 3-woman team (most teams have four) finished 233/390, and our overall time was 3:24:00.   Ellen biked 27M in 1:36:14, just a minute behind last year with less training; Bianca's 5-mile kayak time was 1:03:47, and Jennifer kicked arse with a 10K time of 44:40.   Bianca has figured out how we fared against other women competitors: Ellen finished 29th of 49 female cyclists, Bianca 6th among 35 female kayakers, and Jennifer was 19th among 82 women runners! Good luck Jen in the NYC marathon!   We are the champions of the world, as the photo below will show (that was the BEFORE) pic!]


September 23, 2006

I'm back. I was being held incognito in Colorado and New Mexico for the last nine or ten days. But I managed to break free. It wasn't easy. The hold of the mountains, the friends and the art was strong.

The plane didn't crash and so we live to blog another day. Undoubtedly that will come as a relief to this troubled nation. In Colorado we saw good friends: Craig and MaryBeth Walker in Denver, the Clique in Denver and Breckenridge. Craig, a photographer for the Denver Post, took this shot under the prow of the new Denver Art Museum by Daniel Libeskind. Libeskind is the guy who was supposed to design the new tower for the World Trade Center. But he got the shaft instead of the skyscraper. The timing of our trip wasn't good. The new building doesn't open until Oct. 7.

In Breckenridge Babbie's high school Clique took over the Barn on the River. Ellen, Lee and Dale, Peggy and Don, Irene and Roger and us. Mary Lou, Jean and Artie couldn't make it. The Clique used to be all female, but the guys are tolerated. The women graduated from Washington Irving High School in Tarrytown, N.Y., in 1953 and 1954. So did I. The reunion is hosted by one of the women each year. Ellen, who lives in Denver, made the 2006 arrangements. Last year it was Baltimore. Next year, no doubt, the Riviera.

For a couple days we talked a lot, laughed a lot, ate a lot, drank a little - alcohol consumption was tempered by altitude - and occasionally gasped for air. The elevation is 9600 feet.

In Toas and Santa Fe - having split from the Clique - we saw a great deal of art. Laura Heon, who I used to try to con into showing my stuff at MASS MoCA, is now the director of Site Santa Fe. She showed us through the that great art space's sixth Biennial. From what I could see, Laura is thriving and so is her museum.

I hadn't had a lawnmower or a pallet knife in my hands for almost two weeks. So yesterday I mowed the lawn (most of it) and painted for a couple hours. It felt good to put paint down again, and to tame the green green grass of home.

These are the mountains around Breckenridge, which is shown in the lower left. It snowed when we were there, but not a lot and the mountains didn't look like this. They were breathtaking nevertheless.



September 11, 2006

The terrorist assault on America hit me hard, as it did almost everyone else in the country. Since then I've gone through two major periods of art work related to 9/11. I find it hard to know how to respond to this cataclysm. At the same time I don't know how not to respond to it.

The Ghost Ship, above and bottom, was to be a memorial. It is made of hundreds of Xerox blowups of my original picture of a model plane. It is one-quarter scale of a real Boeing 767 (except the wings are drastically clipped) and represents American Flight 11 out of Boston. Mohamed Atta and his crew crashed Flight 11 into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

I proposed blowing it up to half to full scale - wings and all - for a number of New England museums. Susan Stoops of the Worcester Art Museum suggested a number of curators who might be interested, including Judith Tannenbaum of the RISD museum. She came to my house to take a look at it last summer. She wanted to see everything I could show her and asked a lot of questions. I had a great time. I hope she did, too. But nothing came of it.

I got the idea of doing the full-sized plane when I was lying awake one night. I thought I could make it life size and it could hang in the main gallery at MASS MoCA. (Delusions of grandeur.) As it blew up to the larger scale it would become more and more ghostly and abstract. It hasn't hung in MoCA, or anywhere else, except in my house for Judith's visit.

As it was I spent a lot of time at Staples that fall and winter making copies. According to my Staples receipts, it took me 2974 copies to get my photo up to one quarter scale. This is thick, a dozen copies deep in places. Wearing kneepads, I glued it together on the floor. To me the hundreds of 8.5 inch by 11 inch pieces of paper symbolized the countless sheets of paper that drifted down from those towers on that fateful day.




September 9, 2006

Another "empty painting." (See the last two posts.)

I showed you this one way back in the summer. But the top layer came out silver instead of a coppery brown.

I'm having trouble capturing the true colors on some of these photos because I mixed in metallic colors. When I do that the color keeps changing as you look at it from different angles. The copper can go very dark.

I had similar problems with the Sept. 7 painting and didn't nail it as closely as today's.



September 7, 2006

Here's another "empty painting." (See yesterday's post.)

I like the way you can look way into this one.

Each color is applied as a separate layer. I spread the paint with blocks of wood and with pallet knives.

In places I make the new layer so thin you can see the colors below.

And the paint has a lot of Mod Podge added to it for transparency and a glossy surface.

It might be interesting to write something on the first layer and let some of the letters shine through.


September 6, 2006


These are what I've been calling the Empty Paintings. I have about a dozen of them. They were done as part of the Scarlet Letter series, but I may separate them.

When Riley, my 6-year-old granddaughter, first saw them she asked, "Grier, don't you think it would be better if there was something in them?"

I keep wondering about that.

There are something like a dozen of them, all done this summer, all acrylic and Mod Podge. Each is 18" x 14". They are layered and very shiny. (See July 6 entry.)

One of my kids wants to take nine of them to form one large painting. That's the way I'd like to see them hung.



September 5, 2006

I went to see Rent at Pittsfield's lavishly restored Colonial Theatre Sunday night.

I left feeling great. It wasn't that the pop opera was that wonderful. It was because the community had this amazing space, a space that is the poster child for the city's resurgence.

GE once employed more than 10,000 here. But the company closed its main plant 20 years ago and Pittsfield crashed. Gone were the good-paying jobs - both blue and white collar. Within a few years the population had dropped by about 10,000, a decrease of 20 percent.

The city had been down so long that down was starting to look like up to me. But the city started fighting back. Old buildings on the edge of the drug zone are being converted to condos. Now it's got the Colonial, the Barrington Stage, a classy new restaurant - and hope.

There's an element of gamble in all this. But without officials, entrepreneurs and others willing to take a chance, the city didn't stand a chance.

I sat in the second balcony Sunday, a $29 seat in nosebleed territory. (That's the second balcony - called the gallery - in The Eagle photo above.) I loved it. When the theatre emptied, the streets filled. You don't see many people on downtown streets at night - or during the day for that matter. It was a welcome novelty.




Seth Harwood, writer

Leslie, poet

Joe Goodwin, painter

Lisa Reinke, painter

John Mitchell, commentary

Charles Guiliano, MAVERIC, art critic

Saatchi Gallery


© grier horner - all rights reserved •