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Sunday, June 11, 2017

WONDER WOMAN 6/11/17



25 years ago I created a ‘Wonder Women Wall” for The Port Authority Bus Terminal in NYC made up of an installation of pastels/cutouts on canvas drawings of powerful women - women whose courage and toughness is discernible in the pursuit of their dreams; women who negotiate the daily struggles of life’s conflagrations; women who are mothers, sisters and daughters who endure the everyday grind of work, and fight for what they believe in with tenderness and tenacity. They are all flesh and blood, vulnerable Wonder Women who prevail; not immortal, but dealing with their mortality without the aid of super-human powers, lacking a sword and shield, steel wristband bracelets, and breastplates. They are the breathing, conscious descendants of the mythic phenomenal Wonder Woman - the D.C. comics Amazon warrior who has the physical prowess of the greatest male warriors - a woman who captured my imagination as a young girl when I was fighting to be seen and treated as the equal of the boys around me.

From the DC Comic Database - some history on the origins of Diana Prince/Wonder Woman:

Diana is the daughter of Queen Hippolyta, the first child born on Paradise Island in the three thousand year history that the immortal Amazons lived there. The Amazons had been created around 1200 B.C. when the Greek goddesses drew forth the souls of all women who had been murdered by men and placed them on the island. One soul was held back from creation, the one that would be born as Diana. That soul originally belonged to the unborn daughter of the first woman murdered by a man (whom Hippolyta was the reincarnation of). In the late 20th Century, Hippolyta was instructed to mold some clay from the shores of Paradise Island into the form of a baby girl. Six members of the Greek Pantheon then bonded the soul to the clay, giving it life. Each of the six also granted Diana a gift: Demeter, great strength; Athena, wisdom and courage; Artemis, a hunter's heart and a communion with animals; Aphrodite, beauty and a loving heart; Hestia, sisterhood with fire; Hermes, speed and the power of flight. Diana grew up surrounded by a legion of sisters and mothers. When she was a young woman, the gods decreed that the Amazons must send an emissary into Man's World…Before embarking on her mission, Diana was given the Lasso of Truth, forged by Hephaestus himself. She was also given the Sandals of Hermes, which allowed her to instantly traverse great distances in seconds. Diana's mission was one of peace, but part of it initially involved defeating a mad plot by Ares to destroy the world. 

Patty Jenkins the director of WONDER WOMAN charmingly recreates the idyllic Paradise Island - a peaceful enclave, where for many years the Amazons have been preparing and honing their battle skills for the return of Ares, the God of War -  and the inevitable final clash between Good and Evil. We first view Diana - the future Wonder Woman - as a young mischievously headstrong child practicing in pantomime, echoing the slashing movements of swordplay, already fully confident of her own destiny.

Once Diana has grown into the beautiful, shapely Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot, a former model whose acting skills regrettably do not provide the  “gravitas”  or range of emotions that would have elevated her role from being a 2-D cartoon character,) the commercial Hollywood blockbuster entertainment industry takes over the movie. They do so (faithful to the original creation of Wonder Woman conceived in 1941) by placing Diana in the midst of The Great War (W.W. I) complete with flaming infernos, British spies and German villains experimenting with chemical substances to be unleashed upon the civilian populations. And just to brighten the mood, lame sex jokes playing on Diana’s naiveté are regularly interspersed throughout the dialogue, revealing an innocence derived from being sheltered on a remote Island safeguarded from life’s realities.

Meeting her first man, Steve Trevor, an American pilot (a baby-faced blue-eyed Chris Pine played cute) - tumbling out of the sky with his plane diving through the barrier mist that enshrouds this secret enclave from interlopers  (a Freudian interpretation might be relevant,) he crashes into the surrounding waters, and is saved by Diana from drowning. This archetype of a “strange species” called “man,” both fascinates and confuses our heroine; nonetheless, she is quickly captivated by this handsome soldier and accompanies him outside of her insulated universe in order to fulfill her destiny and bring “good” back into the Ares-corrupted world.  Having bitten from the apple in the Garden of Eden, she becomes acutely aware of the destructive malevolence of a landscape outside her own. 

The final scene in the movie is a spectacular light show of hell erupting with super-woman vaulting from one combat zone to another silhouetted against the glaring heat of combustion, as she saves humankind from the evils of darkness. We women can relate to that and applaud along with the audience in support of Wonder Woman’s fight - though the special effects which attend the cataclysm resemble an amalgam of horror creatures and a wet, melting super monster. Diana’s last words made me audibly groan and giggle: “Only love can save the world.” What??? WONDER WOMAN’s  final message trivialized a film which had a lot of potential. Please, Diana Prince, return to your Paradise and live among those other terrific Amazonian women - perhaps then you will regain my respect in your fight against injustice and not glorify the catastrophic means that is the traditional super-hero solution.





Sunday, May 28, 2017

THE KEEPERS - NETFLIX SERIES 5//28/17





The seven-part Netflix documentary series THE KEEPERS is a scathing indictment of the Baltimore Maryland Archdiocese and its coverup of abuse by priests in collusion with other locals, leading to the murder of a 27-year-old nun, Cathy Cesnik, a popular English, and Drama teacher at Archbishop Keough High School in 1969. Forty-seven years later, the murder still haunts some of her students, particularly Abbie Schaub and Gemma Hoskins - two women whose fierce devotion to their former teacher transforms them into "senior Nancy Drews" who have spent the intervening time trying to make sense of what happened, long after the brutal  extermination of Cesnik became an  official “cold case”. Their loyalty and unflinching determination to discover the “truth” was and is an on-the-job learning curve; their use of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and other investigative methods, including old-fashioned footwork and interviews, begins to unearth an impenetrable darkness that enshrouds the case with widening implications. Buried execrable secrets eventually thrust themselves into the light making us gasp at the physical and mental sufferings of these young people - an agony that time never can expunge along with confusion and guilt - accessory weights that profoundly settle over our spirit.


We discover early on that the police and assisting governmental officials ignored salient facts during their investigation - reports are missing, records are transferred and now gone  - all indications of the dominant influence of the Catholic Church in Baltimore on many of the institutions of power. Our “detectives” uncover a pattern of horrific child abuse by Cesnik’s colleague, Priest Joseph Maskell who would target the most vulnerable students; young girls who had a history of family trauma, and call them into his office  for “counseling.”  The beauty of innocence is also its bane; to navigate through corruption requires an armor that the tender skin of youth has not yet developed - those who scald that fragile shield are craven reprobates. 



Director Ryan White intersperses the past and present - through newspaper headlines, interviews with people whose lives touched on Sister Cathy and those who were victimized in Archbishop Keough High School, and eventually feel compelled to speak up - still believing that their oppressor, the Catholic Church would be their savior - not their foe in the daunting fight for truth and justice. We witness the long-arm of the Archdiocese which utilizes its power to quash dissent, quietly protecting the offending clergy by transferring them from school to school compounding the abuse.  A hushed pall of silence - a cloud large enough to hover over medical personal, the police, and governmental agencies sanctioned a fog of evil to multiply and continue to destroy lives. 


THE KEEPERS speaks with great sensitivity and directness to the wounds of molestation that never heal, and to the courage of those who are the true heroes - exposing their personal agonizing history to the vicious cross-examination of those in authority -  in order to protect future generations from the  enduring effect that the despoilment and loss of childhood naiveté has on an individual. We also observe a crime story and the pursuit of “truth” - over decades -  an inquiry that becomes an avocation - a razor sharp spotlight on what might seem like a minutia of evidence that with time and patience piles up into a penetrating narrative, with the potential to bring down an Empire. These are “the keepers.” 


Monday, May 8, 2017

NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER 5/8/17

Watching the esteemed Israeli director Joseph Cedar’s new film NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER, I kept thinking that the wardrobe expenses for the main character was quite a bargain, as Richard Gere wears the same camel-hair coat and grey cap throughout the movie with a very occasional change into a suit. The character Norman is the Bernie Madoff of the political and social set - building exotic schemes and dreams upon the sludge of greed and desire, but as his clothing indicates in a spare and pared down manner.

Norman is a cipher - we have no idea where he lives; his personal life is a mystery; whether he gets any financial remuneration out of his zany deals;  or whether he gets satisfaction in just being accepted by men-in-power that are as secretive and cagey as he is. This is the tragic tale of a man who has come to believe in his own lies, a man passionate about making connections - hooking up people with one another - a “shadchan”, the Yiddish word for matchmaker, but for the marriage of political and business elites. This sycophantic “nebbish” is both sympathetic and pathetic. Norman need not fear “invisibility,” since he is vociferously insensitive to his own behavior, annoyingly pestering and nudging his “marks,” like a mosquito that keeps on biting and never feels being squatted away - a gambler, rolling the dice for a jackpot without any money to cover his bets.

Richard Gere, in a defining career move, sheds the glamor of previous roles, to play Norman, a person intensely driven to pushing and cajoling his way into the lives of the power brokers; surprisingly when he does gain some notoriety, his approach to life remains unchanged. Norman continues to wear the identical outfit; his office still consists of wandering the streets of Manhattan making promises on the phone; a loner who remains an enigma who cannot control his need to “help” despite being helpless.

This film is a character study of an older man who unintentionally has an enormous impact on people in his immediate circle, and internationally - particularly Israel’s peace talks in the Middle East. The bare bones of the plot focuses on an early decisive encounter between Norman and an Israeli Deputy Minister, who 3 years later becomes the Prime Minister of Israel. The impact of their initial meeting reverberates throughout the film.

There is an innocence and an affability to the soft-spoken Norman; oftentimes he looks confused and fails to understand that his schemes can lead to dire consequences. Small moments in the film are incredibly moving; Norman sneaking into a synagogue’s back room to dip into a jar of Vita herring which he deftly balances on crackers, underscoring the bleakness and isolation of his life in the very space where he goes to for sanctuary and comfort.  Steve Buscemi is excellent portraying the Rabbi of this large Congregation, surprising even himself by reaching out in desperation to Norman, the “fixer” to help save the Synagogue’s building from being wrested away due to lack of funds.


NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER, is a fascinating study of someone with a bad case of logorrhea, who clearly has no influence or prestige, with a reputation built on quicksand  - who shockingly does affect events and temporarily succeeds. 



Thursday, April 20, 2017

GRACE VISITS: MIRIAM BRUMER 4/21/17




I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit with artist Miriam Brumer and write about her artwork for Women's Voices For Change.


HERE IS A LINK TO THE ARTICLE: 

Women's Voices For Change Article


Images in the order that they are mentioned in the article: CLICK ON IMAGES and THEY ENLARGE. PLEASE COMMENT ON WOMEN'S VOICES FOR CHANGE SITE IF YOU WISH.
Miriam Brumer in Studio

 
Miriam Brumer holding drawings

Gymnast, 9"x12", ink on paper, 2010

Untitled, 22"x30", mixed media on paper, circa 200

     
Detail: Untitled, 22"x30", mixed media on paper, circa 2003

                                     
Letting In The Light, 12"x9", ink on paper, 2017


The View From Here, 9"x12", ink on paper, 2017
Sanctuary, 9"x12", ink on paper, 2016


The Bristlies Go For A Walk, 9"x12", ink on paper, 2016


Detail: Lacewing, 30.5"x28", mixed media on paper, 2000

Miriam Brumer's Website







Tuesday, February 28, 2017

GRACE VISITS: NATALIE BARKLEY BROWN JONES 2/28/17

I am privileged to have had the opportunity to visit with artist and Arts Administrator Natalie Barkley Brown Jones and write about her artwork for Women's Voices For Change.

HERE IS A LINK TO THE ARTICLE:
WOMEN'S VOICES FOR CHANGE ARTICLE

Images in the order that they are mentioned in the article: CLICK ON IMAGES and THEY ENLARGE. PLEASE COMMENT ON WOMEN'S VOICES FOR CHANGE SITE IF YOU WISH.

Natalie Barkley Jones looking at her drawing



Natalie in front of Bruce Robbins' Sculpture at AT&T in 1985


Flag as Loin Rag  - Watergate, charcoal on canvas  1972. charcoal on canvas, 72 x 50 inches

Natalie's Library of over 2,000 books


Strange Fruit, 40"x30", acrylic, sand and dental floss/canvas, 1964-1968


She Who Was The Preacher's Once-Young Bride, 20"x14", graphite on paper, 1975

To Allow Her No Voice Is to Bury Her,14"x17", pen and ink/paper, 1976


Dare I believe in Myself, 26"x20", oil/canvas, 1975-1978

Detail: Dare I believe in Myself, 26"x20", oil/canvas, 1975-1978


Selection From AT&T Collection: (clockwise) Jaune Quick-to-see-Smith, Beverly Buchanan, Al Loving, Roy De Forest



Selection from AT&T Collection: (clockwise) Jim Toia, Jene Highstein, Betty Woodman, Sam Gilliam


Selection from AT&T Collection: Bryan Hunt


Brooklyn Art's Council Literacy Visual Arts Program: Two Bound Books


Brooklyn Art's Council Literacy Visual Arts Program: Tree and Alvin Ailey story

Monday, February 27, 2017

PATERSON 2/27/17








 Saw PATERSON - a Jim Jarmusch film that is unbelievably tender with a light delicate touch - the dialogue is minimal as we observe a week in the life of a New Jersey  Transit bus-driver who happens to be a poet named Paterson (Adam Driver,) living in Paterson, NJ - the home of his idol the great poet, William Carlos Williams, He resides with his beautiful, dreamily eccentric wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), who spends her days painting curvy black and white lines on everything in their home - her clothes, the shower curtains, the walls, etc. fantasizing about being a great country singer OR owning a cupcake shop OR learning to play the guitar…envisioning is indistinguishable from attainment.  Marvin the bulldog is another character in this quiet film, protective and possessive of Laura, and jealous of Paterson - a presence hard to ignore, but an indispensable addition to the coziness of their contented existence.




 Only a special audience could appreciate the subtle and leisurely pace of PATERSON. The day begins at approximately 6:15 AM waking up, nestled against his wife, still in a hypnogogic state as Adam Driver’s large frame gets up from the warmth of the rumpled bed, sliding his watch on his arm, and silently leaves their bedroom going into the kitchen for breakfast - the same daily cup of Cheerios and begins to write while eating - inspired  by the beauty of occasionally glimpsed objects; memory intrudes and what is usually unseen becomes visible through words strung together with stunning  simplicity and filled with magic and color.

Days are routinized and drama is in the ordinariness of life occasionally disrupted by the drifting of conversations heard as he drives the bus, the history of Paterson revealed by young 21st century “anarchists,”,  two men giving advice on how to connect  with the opposite sex; eating lunch on a bench at the foot of the majestic Great Falls, and every night after work Paterson, while walking Marvin stops at a neighborhood bar for a glass of beer, the dog waiting patiently outside. Phrases are eternally floating about in Paterson’s head and written into his “secret notebook” whenever he gets a moment to write. The simple pleasures of life, a box of wooden matches, looking down into a glass where the translucent color of a drink, all have the potential to be transformative.


A disciplined life without excess melodrama can be very conducive to the unfolding of an artist’s interior perceptions. But interruptions in one’s ordered life are inevitable; small shards of chance - such as Paterson’s touching encounter with a Japanese poet - alter the compass of this poet’s orientation and therein lies the lyricism of this lovely film. 


Saturday, February 11, 2017

BONNIE LUCAS RETROSPECTIVE 3/28/2014 REPOSTING - for her exhibition at JTT GALLERY, NYC

REPOSTING my 2014 reflections on Bonnie Lucas' work.


CLICK ON LINK TO SEE IMAGES FROM HER 2017 EXHIBITION:





Bonnie Lucas’ 2014 retrospective at the Sylvia Wald and Po Kim Gallery, 417 Lafayette St. 4th floor, NYC is an exhibition that is fiercely personal, bitterly moving, and joyfully idiosyncratic dealing with seduction, defiance, and rejection. A comprehensive show comprised of mixed media pieces, watercolors, and paintings – all dealing with Lucas’ psyche, but one that cracks through and enters into every female’s core being.

The color pink often dominates along with ribbons, satin fabrics, notions, toys, and dolls - illuminating childhood dreams which often become adult nightmares. As young girls, we are wrapped in sunny halos of future illusions  - wedding gowns, happily-married-after scenarios, efficient and joyful housewifely duties, loving caregiver and caretaker – floating bubbles in a rainbow atmosphere of fairyland hope and desire.

Bonnie Lucas is able to convey that vision but also the perverse, impure and heinous reality which is imperceptibly swimming in these assemblages –camouflaged inside this universe of white gloves, hankies, and satin. High heels that are both destructive and coquettish lures;  handcuffs painted a seductive bluish-purple; knitting needles and coat hangers all disguised under the mantle of pastel colors - sharp pointy objects that look like vaginal speculums referencing abortion and punctured longings.

The artist skillfully incorporates a myriad of iconography – oh so easy to look at – but like Cassandra an impending cautionary warning.  Diaphragm-like coils, broken heads, baby blankets – are woven into the soft, luxurious mix – one can weep from the depth of grief that awaits growing up into the unknowable future, but that is the journey that unfolds with time.

Over the years there has been a real consistency to Bonnie Lucas' work. I first remember her shows in the East Village and those “classic works” such as LUCKY LADY (1985), PRINCESS OF POWER ( 1988), PINK DRESS  (1981) are in the show, along with wonderfully delicate watercolors that contain images that are often an ironic view of childhood incorporating children’s drawings, crayons and collage - feminist surrealism joined with anger and foreboding. Yet there is a delight in the beauty of the rendering – sensitive to the exquisitely fragile nature of innocence.