Archives for the month of: June, 2008

Regardless of my opinion about what I see, it’s not hard for me to connect with visual art. It’s a language I’ve always understood. Yet theatre is more of a challenge, and theatricality, the over-exaggerated gestures and dialogue, often leave me unimpressed. Call me a Philistine if you wish, but often I just don’t get it. It’s Entertainment versus Art, and Art seldom has a chance because of the sheer cost of getting a production to the stage.

However, with a two-person cast, sublime acting and direction, and marvelous, spare sets by Christine Jones, I was treated to one of those rarest of rare experiences — the Off-Broadway Show as a work of art.

“The Occupant,” a post-mortem interview-style play by Edward Albee on the life of Louise Nevelson (a friend of the artist for over two decades), hands the two actors, Mercedes Ruehl and Larry Bryggman, tremendous material with which to work. And no doubt they worked their tails off, in concert with director Pam MacKinnon. The result is a show that soars. With an intensity of character portrayal that simply must be experienced, Ruehl delivers all the complexities of an artist’s journey: the sacrifices, the endurance, the selfishness, the self-possession, the outrageousness, the determination, the risks, the alienation, the calculation, the impulsiveness, and all the contradictions and magnificence of a very individual and creative path.

I’ve always respected Louise Nevelson the artist as a trailblazer of sorts, and her work for its integrity and powerful presence. Although I’ve been aware of both since I was young, truthfully, neither has figured at the forefront of my thoughts about my art-world predecessors. This outstanding play at the Signature Theatre may change that for good.

[On the eyes being windows to the soul: “They call a lot of attention to themselves, the eyes, if you have two sets of sable eyelashes.”] Uh oh. I have a long neck and have been seen from time to time in a feather boa. What does that mean?

The show is extended until July 13th. Don’t miss the opportunity to see it if you can.

But don’t take my word for it. More descriptive reviews:

East Hampton Star

The New York Times

NY Sun

NY Daily News


I found this with some notes for an artist’s statement I was working on last century. Vintage blogging:

In the words of poet Czeslaw Milosz, “Each of us is so ashamed of his own helplessness and ignorance that he considers it appropriate to communicate only what he thinks others will understand. There are, however, times when somehow we slowly divest ourselves of that shame and begin to speak openly about all the things we do not understand.”

Art is an open door that beckons us to overcome the human susceptibility to confusion and denial in order to understand and react to our world with greater depth and insight.

As part of the Uptown Arts Stroll, I’ll be having an open studio, as will a bunch of other artists in Inwood and Washington Heights tomorrow afternoon (Sunday, 6/22). Think of it as the visual arts equivalent of a backstage tour. Come and check out beautiful “Upstate Manhattan” and see for yourself why artists, writers, musicians, performers, and creative types of all sorts love to call this area home. [Locations posted at the Uptown Arts Stroll website.]

You can visit The Cloisters, and grab a gourmet bite of primarily local, seasonal, and organic food at the New Leaf Cafe, which turns profits towards restoring run-down parks like Swindlers Cove, thanks to the vision of super-diva Bette Midler, who founded NY Restoration Project. Walk by Houdini’s house (67 Payson), and that famous intersection (I kid you not) of Seaman and Cumming! Visit Inwood Hill Park, the site where we essentially stole Manhattan from the Native Americans. Food! History! Entertainment! Oh, and don’t forget …ART!

FREE Shuttle Buses! ¡Transportación GRATIS!

Look out for the robin egg blue ARC Ft. Washington Senior Center Shuttle bus at the following shuttle stops (North/South):

Busca el autobus azul de ARC Ft. Washington Senior Center en las siguientes paradas (norte/sur):

Isham St and Broadway
Isham St and Sherman Ave.
Broadway & 204th St
Broadway & Academy St.
Academy St & Sharman Ave.
10th Ave & 202 St
Nagle Ave and Ellwood St
Broadway & 187 St.
Ft. Washington Ave & 190 St.
Ft. Washington Ave & 187 St.
Ft. Washington Ave & 185 St.
Ft. Washington Ave & 181 St.
Ft. Washington Ave & 177 St.
Ft. Washington Ave & 170 St.
Ft. Washington Ave & 162 St.
Broadway & 165th St.

the critics circle

shall we dance?

On a daily basis, the practice of art is continuous because all experiences, including dreams, potentially fuel the work. Each action has its effect. This began for me without fanfare: I was in diapers and someone put a drawing implement in my chubby fist. If it had been a spatula, things might have turned out differently. ("If only I had known!" my mother will lament.)

Naturally, it will end when I become disabled or die, but I’m counting on seeing and doing and discovering a few more things between now and then. For instance, I still haven’t learned how to dance. [You can’t see my feet, but I was faking it in the post below.]

[excerpt from my responses to Douglas Witmer‘s questions, as part of JT Kirkland’s project Artists Interview Artists.]

marcia tucker

I used this at the start of a talk I gave yesterday about my work. As a general philosophy, a little forethought can go a long way in many circumstances (like before opening my mouth to insert my foot!), but when it comes to the practice of art, the late Marcia Tucker, curator, critic, writer, founder of the New Museum, and stand-up comic, was right on.

Art teaches me, not the other way around. Attempts to force the work into a preconceived form aren’t just dead-end journeys, they’re bus trips to hell, seated in the rear next to an overflowing bathroom. In the studio, theory invites preconceptions to masquerade as ideas and impedes the openness, vulnerability, and uncertainty necessary to engage wholly and honestly with the work as it develops.

There are always opportunities to over-intellectualize. What I’ve mastered is the temptation to pre-intellectualize. If I let the art and the process of making it take the lead, even the unsuccessful pieces show me something I haven’t realized before. Then there’s something to think about.

father daughter dance

Fathers and daughters. My father was a good guy, but sadly, for too much of the too-short time we shared on this planet, he and I were unable to see eye to eye. Born a day apart on the calendar, when our birthdays would roll around, he’d joke that I was his birthday gift. He likely spent most of the year’s remaining days wishing I’d come with a refund policy!

Words of praise were not in the lexicon of my formative years. Before he passed away (and not because he foresaw he was dying), he said some things to me that made everything all right, fortunately. When times are especially challenging, the words of our late conversations come back to help and heal and encourage me. With the tangibility that belongs to memories of love, I can feel the warmth of the heel of his hand as he brushes away the tears of his child’s hurt, the same way his father, my wonderful Grandpa, did for him.

Peace, Dad.



[Croutons from my Father, by Meredith Hoffa in today’s NY Times is a Father’s Day gift all can appreciate.]

pencap for sale

It’s an honor to have pieces from my Silver Lining series on two new CDs by immensely talented musician/composer Marc Farre.

Marc Farre’s new CD Secret Symphony caresses listeners with reflective, resonant romanticism. Like melody-driven dreams, these cinematic, soul-searching songs take you somewhere else, while showing that “somewhere else” needn’t be far removed from real life. Indie rock gets a French kiss.

The CD release for Secret Symphony will be at the Living Room in NYC on June 19th, 8pm, and the show is FREE. One Hand On The Night to be released soon.

“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance, and this, and not the external manner and detail, is true reality.”