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Monday, May 11, 2015

TRIBUTE TO MY MOTHER PUBLISHED IN WOMEN'S VOICES FOR CHANGE 5/10/15



I am proud that the piece I wrote about my mother is now published in Women's Voices For Change.
 Please feel free to comment on the site. Here is the first paragraph; please go to Women's Voices for Change website to read the entire piece and would love to read your comments.

http://womensvoicesforchange.org/else-graupe-1912-2007-a-mothers-day-tribute.htm
OR

"...As my mother, Else Graupe, lay dying in hospice, I sat by her side creating a visual diary of the last moments of her life—drawing the wasted, thin, inert body on papers that I had selfishly garnered from the nurses’ station to distract me from the pain of losing the one person who always “had my back” despite our seemingly irreconcilable lifestyles. Pencil in hand, I scrutinized her as I had never done before; the face that I thought was so familiar to me since childhood became an abstraction of lines and forms seen afresh with the wonder of a daughter who sees her mother for the first time through the art of constructing the parts into a whole picture.
I began with the strong jaw—that very jaw that I had argued with since childhood. The jaw that, in a moment of desperate frustration, called her taunting offspring “a bad seed.” I was a disrespectful, iron-willed girl, constantly challenging my mother’s strict rules, not wanting to follow the tightrope of tradition..."



Wednesday, May 6, 2015

THE SALT OF THE EARTH 5/6/15

A documentary on the photographer, Sebastiao Salgado’s passion for exposing worlds that are hidden from our view as well as the undercurrents of man’s  greed, violence and inhumanity - all through what co-director Wim Wenders explains is the process of  “ drawing with light.” The other director is Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, the photographer’s son. For many years, I have been beguiled by Salgado’s black and white imagery, particularly as source material and inspiration for many of my own late 1980s pastels. His representations are stark and at the same time filled with an expanse of tones - from  the deep darkness of coal to the blinding whites which shine with the force of incorporeality; a range of imperceptibly varied grays sandwiched in-between -  all breathtakingly beautiful and often reduced to abstract patternings which are in danger of overtaking his subjects, but Salgado is a master at balancing form and content.

I was particularly moved by his photographs of the fierce deprivation that  droughts and famine had wreaked on Sub- Saharan Africa - particularly Ethiopia. Because Salgado exposed  situations that many people were not aware of, his photos drilled a space for perception into our consciousness. Salgado has traveled to over 100 countries - projects often lasted years and the resulting books include OTHER AMERICAS, WORKERS, SAHEL - THE END OF THE ROAD, MIGRATIONS, AFRICA, and most recently GENESIS  - the book that became his respite after years away from his native environs, witnessing the globe’s devastation, including chronicling the genocide in Rawanda and the Congo. By the late 1990’s he was heartbroken: “We humans are a terrible animal; we are extremely violent…Our history is a history of war; it's an endless story…My soul was sick…I no longer believed in anything, in any salvation for the human species.” (Quotes from Kenneth Turan's review in LA Times.) 

THE SALT OF THE EARTH  invites us to enter Salgado’s personal sphere; we meet his beloved wife Leila, the enduring relationship of his life, the editor of his photographs; the mother of Juliano and Rodrigo - the youngest born with Down syndrome; the compassion and love that unites the entire family in their own personal struggles with domesticity, and the enormous achievement of reclaiming the cattle ranch that was once Salgado’s home near the town of Aimores in Brazil’s state of Minas Gerais. Memories of the fecund greenery and waterfalls were incised into Sebastiao’s childhood recollections and when he returned in the 1990’s his homeland was an environmental disaster - dry and parched. 

Salgado, his spirit quenched by regarding the pillage, and spoliation around the universe was re-invigorated by Leila’s dream of planting a forest in Brazil starting with a few trees and “return[ing] the property to its natural state of subtropical rainforest…and in April 1998 they founded the Instituto Terra, an environmental organization…which has now been declared a Private Natural Heritage Reserve, some 17,000 acres of deforested and badly eroded land… have undergone a remarkable metamorphosis…More than four million seedlings native to Brazil’s Atlantic Forest have been raised in the institute’s own nursery…” * This resuscitation propelled Salgado to travel again focusing on the beauties of the planet, resulting in his latest book GENESIS.
( *About us -The Instituto Terra.) http://bit.ly/1JQQzvd 

The documentary uses Salgado’s majestic photographs interspersing them with site visits to previously unrecorded locations, including old color footage; using his voice and conversations to great effect. We get a sense of the quiet strength of this man, his commitment to justice and the deep suffering that his vision extracts with the lens of a camera. The plethora of interchangeable living beings moving about silhouetted against the background of clouds billowing in the infinite skies, underscore the brevity of time and existence. We are only here for a short interval and Salgado’s output is a plea for respect, justice and accommodation among the men/women/animals and the frangible cosmos we all inhabit.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA 4/28/15


 I saw Olivier Assayas’ CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA twice in order to fully absorb the breadth of this complicated, though seemingly simple, story of a forty something actress Maria Enders  (a radiant Juliette Binoche) who is asked to be in a  revival of a theatrical production titled Majola Snake that made her famous twenty years earlier when she played the ingenue Sigrid, filled with the confidence and callousness of youth who seduces her boss Helena, an older woman; their subsequent love “affair” incinerates the very ground that Helena stands on propelling her to suicide. The twist here is that a new director is asking Enders, a now celebrated actress to perform the part of the  mature woman devastated by desire.  Generational differences extrude into every aspect of  Maria’s world  -  physical and psychological boundaries become blurred and the fictional script blends into reality, past memories and present relationships. This is a film about film as well as life.  Does a great actor lose oneself utterly in a part? What happens when you take on another persona and  grope to come up for air to retrieve the you that you once were?

We sense the power of Sils Maria a hauntingly exquisite municipality in the Swiss Alps, where the actress and her young assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart who masterfully holds her own in every scene with Binoche) go to rehearse to prepare for the upcoming play in a house cradled in the snowy valleys of the majestic mountains which belonged to Maria’s beloved mentor, the playwright William Melchoir, who dies unexpectedly at the beginning of the film, literally setting the stage for the ensuing drama. Against this breathtaking backdrop the individual is subsumed by the beauty of  the surroundings; the upcoming stage production, Majola Snake, refers to the clouds which slowly wind through the valleys  blanketing the view with a blindingly beautiful soft white mist - foreshadowing the fog and confusion of the two women who are wrestling with a dialogue which gets unhinged from the pages of the script and infiltrates their precarious realities.

Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart’s interactions both fuse and clash as their role-playing illuminates each one’s frailties and strengths. From the onset of the movie we see what an efficient and capable personal assistant  the lanky, beautiful, two-cellphones-in hand Valentine is, always making sure that Maria Ender’s busy professional activity runs smoothly.  Once they start reading scenes together, the delicate hierarchy begins to transform, and the gap between their years becomes a source of differing tastes and outlooks. There is an undercurrent of sexual tension which is verbally unacknowledged, but at the same time obviously acknowledged visually; Juliette Binoche, her hair now closely cropped, dresses more severely - the wardrobe revealing her amalgamation into Helena and the disorientation and turbulence of her own yearnings. 

On the Internet, we catch our first glimpse of the “scandalous” 18 year old, Jo Ann (a blooming Chloe Grace Moretz,) -  the stereotypical Lindsay Lohan-type actress who will play Sigrid, her videoed exploits being Googled by Maria Enders. The Bette Davis  classic All About Eve comes to mind, but this upstart is a contemporary version, self assured and fearless - with a belief  in youth’s immortality trumping those whose futures are shortened by the labyrinth of passing time.


The men in this movie are ancillary - a writer, a director, a former lover  - all functioning as vehicles in divulging snippets of the plot’s history, but all subordinate to the women who are portrayed with an intimacy unveiled through the emotional archaeology of attachment,  passion, and the apprehensive challenge of ambiguous entanglements.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

JUDITH HENRY - HIDDEN: TWO ITERATIONS at BRAVINLEE PROGRAMS 4/18/15

/18/15
I too deal with alter egos in my work, and find it liberating. Behind a mask we can delve into the myriad “personas” that we are capable of imagining and slide down that slippery slope of dream and fantasy. The need to relate to the past - to jump on the back of historical figures and bring them transformed into the present with all the wonder and mystery that a leap in time conjures is captivating. Judith Henry in the Hidden: Two Iterations series probes both the desire to BE hidden as the “other” and the wrenching psychology of being oneself viscerally revealed through the act of painting.

The ME AS HER series consists of a group of black and white photos of women who have blazed their territory through accomplishment - the absence of color is indicative of the tabula rasa of the forgotten. Judith melds herself into these individuals creating an amalgam of yesterday and today. The artist is not so much hidden as absorbed into their beings, but at the same time relocating them into her own space - Williamsburg Brooklyn where she lives and works. A mutual transference is thereby consummated.
Some of the women that Judith Henry embodies are Betty Friedan, Dorothy Lamour, Judy Garland, Emma Goldman, Lucille Ball, Miriam Makeba among others.

THE ARTIST IS HIDING series is both heartrending and exquisitely heartbreaking in its uncovering of the artist’s psyche with its range of ecstatic and fervid exposures made visible through colorful, dramatic sweeps of slicing, brash brush strokes, as well as silent, muted tones of color and collage, replete with the aching, delicate caress of a painting’s touch on the ever-present mask and changing background painting that she interacts with. An interrelationship is formed that yields either a fighting duel or a calm truce and a literal “figure/ground” is established charged with impassioned expressionism. 


Judith Henry obviously loves painting and the capacity of art to penetrate and transport the artist into unchartered terrains through camouflage; in so doing she reveals her most intimate vitality. Judith Henry’s face is always concealed behind a mask sheltering her face; yet what we do “see” is undeniably unmasked and clearly both seductive and stunning.

http://bravinlee.www.creative-platform.net/pages/judith-henry-press-release/

Friday, March 27, 2015

ALICE NEEL - DRAWINGS AND WATERCOLORS 1927-1978 3/27/15



I  LOVE to look at drawings - love  being a word that I rarely ever use, as it is so over-used, but in the case of ALICE NEEL DRAWINGS AND WATERCOLORS 1927-1978  at David Zwirner Gallery (537 W. 20th St. closing April 18th) - it is totally applicable. Seeing  Alice Neel’s drawings in all their diversity of medium, style and subject - beginning with small sketches that are moodily saturated with deep colors leading us into the intimacy of her personal world - be it one of angst or heady joy is a revelation.  Faces are carefully characterized, but often the hands are left fluttering on the page - an afterthought to the penetration of character that is conveyed in the “map” of the face.

Until this exhibition, I was unaware of the extent to which Alice Neel was a masterful draughts(wo)man and the range of her delineations. In this comprehensive and museum-quality exhibition we come upon large ink and gouache drawings that rival Renaissance masters. The detail and power of observation - executed with a confidence and skill that never turns away from the emotional amplitude of the human physiognomy - seen through the eyes of a woman who searches deeply to gain a foothold into their reality.

Alice Neel felt driven to capture in various media - ink/pencil/watercolor/gouache - with empathy and an affinity of circumstance, her family, friends, and neighborhood locals, but she also had an unflinching steely ability to rip into what she perceived as social and political hypocrisy. From the whimsical cartoony sketches of moments of post-coital release to the easy flow of the line when she depicts her daughter-in-law Ginny floating in a sea of white - the line as effortless as the buoyancy of the light emanating from the paper’s surface, we are etched by the scope of her insights.



After seeing ALICE NEEL DRAWINGS AND WATERCOLORS, I wanted to rush home and draw;  co-mingling the people in my life - preserving them through the gestures of line, and form - my hand and their beings chiseled into my art cosmos. For an artist that is the ultimate reward.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

BJORK RETROSPECTIVE AT MOMA 3/14/15

Saw the Bjork retrospective at MOMA and  loved the SONGLINES part of the exhibition (on the third floor,) which is essentially a biography of Bjork as vocalized through her albums beginning with DEBUT (1993) up to BIOPHILIA (2011.)  It contains wildly crazy, beautiful outfits, personal notes, photos, and the poetry of her handwritten, scribbled down words, written in pencil as if ephemeral to be erased with time. One walks through the exhibition with earphones hearing B talk, viewing the costumes she wore, and  songs from the albums that accompany that particular time period. She is a great singer and her emotions are an open wound pouring out of her throat like the blue lava that is sliding down the rocks in an accompanying video.  Mannequin sculptures looking like Bjork - dressed in her singular attire seem to have walked out of a futuristic world with roots going back to Ancient times; wearing those earphones we find ourselves isolated and enveloped into a playful, wondrously magical environment - driven along by a commanding anguished voice.

Downstairs, despite having to wait on line and there being no seating In the black, darkened room which made me personally very uncomfortable - is a video commissioned by MOMA titled BLACK LAKE ( from the song with the same title from the 2015 Vulnicura album,) depicting Bjork beating her chest in exaggerated pain - but the intonation suggests this is no exaggeration.To pummel oneself over LOVE lost is something I have never seen or heard so penetratingly conveyed - flesh being torn up to reveal the betrayal of one's life-sustaining organ - lacerated and defeated. The thrashing gestures pounding against her frail body have a certain theatricality, but her resonance and tonal cries convince us of their authenticity.

The image of a heart floats throughout the exhibit. In the video performance projected unto two screens - the specifics of the last 9 months together, and the 11 months apart - after her decade long relationship with Matthew Barney ended - are engraved into Bjork's body. The tongue screams, whispers and enunciates the bitter shards of loss.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

STILL ALICE 3/10/15


What must it be like to realize that you no longer connect to the world around you; that one’s footing is untethered? That everything is unknowable, but yet has a tinge of familiarity. The present is a labyrinth of  disassociation;  we are floating in an ether where we futilely shadow box to gain mastery of the seemingly simple task of being oneself. STILL ALICE attempts very straightforwardly to depict the mesmerizingly desolate story of Dr. Alice Howland - a renowned Professor of Linguistics at Columbia University - whose field of study deals with words and communication - and the ironic turn her life takes, as she realizes that she is slowly losing the ability to access the power of language and memory - the underpinnings of books, years of study and exploration are now desperately failing her. Alice at  the age of 50 has been diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s disease. 

A beautiful performance by Julianne Moore as Alice - a woman, heroic in her efforts to create strategies to navigate the abyss. Alice is a warrior in a fight she knows is un-winnable; filaments of who she was, and who she is slowly becoming to her family and professional colleagues, exist at the core of this daunting drama. What makes this film so personally harrowing is the fact that we all can empathize with the possibility of being in a similar situation sometime in the future and even in the present. Those moments when a name slips away from our tongue and gets knotted up in our brain refusing to reveal itself; when we blindly stare at the computer and wonder what is this blank slate we are so intently gazing at; or finding oneself in the middle of a street momentarily wondering how we got there and in which direction should we transverse.


Alice never becomes an “empty vessel.” There are remnants of what is “still Alice.”  Expressions of a parent’s love, compassion, as well as past familial conflicts are never entirely erased; glimpses of the poetry of longing and physical touch come to light to surprise those who thought Alice had all but disappeared into the void. A searing honesty that refuses to cover up the truth of her situation prevents this movie from being insipidly maudlin, and reinforces the admiration we feel for this courageous woman who is valiantly fighting to preserve her mind from oblivion.