Wednesday, December 21, 2016


Flashbacks of people and events that have touched my childhood hover before my eyes, particularly during the holiday season; commonplace and ordinary incidents, but as extraordinary as an unexpected kiss. I feel the onset of tears for the loss of those moments in time, moments that will never be relived except in the part of the brain reserved for activating nostalgia. The smell of that special hot apple pie with its burnt around the edges brown crust, preserving the taste of butter and cream cheese  - that special dessert my mother baked  as she watched me greedily gobbling up my first slice fast enough in order to eat 3 more slices before it was all gone - a behavior I have still not outgrown.

Getting my head stuck in the apartment’s protective window gates -  valiantly trying to catch a glimpse of the lone tree on the block’s newly budding leaves; my head squeezed between thin rusty iron bars until my beloved Omi (grandmother) came to the rescue, her strong rustic hands pulling the rods apart. And the time the same temperamental Omi, while  babysitting for my sister and me, when my parents were at work, having experienced some unknown slight to her sensitive psyche, decided to turn on the oven and stick her head inside - a dramatically perverse gesture, one that was nullified by the fact that she first opened all the kitchen windows.

Walking hand in hand with my twin sister at 3 years of age - barely getting one skinny foot in front of another - tripping and stumbling off to Mrs. Lang’s kindergarten where we would draw and hear stories of the blonde-haired Roxanne - a name I still treasure - a vision of a princess in braids giving me an exhilarating reason to dream. My first crush, I am sure. 

This was an antidote to Max and Moritz and Heinrich Hoffman’s 1845 classic Struwwelpeter - the darkly humorously illustrated tales that were read to us at home - wild and rebellious children who incurred brutal punishments for their misdeeds. I remember mutilation with scissors figured prominently as did other grotesque humiliations. Strange that my parents, refugees from Nazi Germany would impart these Teutonic morality tales on their children.Being a very easily frightened child, at night after the requisite milk and cookies,  I would pull my cover sheet and blanket so tightly around me that I was barely able to turn around, in order to prevent any other presence from entering into my bed. On the other hand, my more robust sister would tricycle around with abandon - much braver and happier shrugging off the effects of visions of children being baked into pies, etc. 

On a lighter note, Sundays were spent at Fort Tyron Park - where there existed the largest hill I had ever seen - we would begin at the very top rolling down the grass, over and over, a never-ending flight over greenery - a trip into the carelessness of oblivion. And then off to The Cloisters - a frightening Palace of sorts - dark and dank - the beauty of unicorn tapestries and wooden sculptures took me decades to appreciate, finally getting over my fear and fascination with this medieval treasure.

And the end-of-the-day ice cream treat -  black and white popsicles bought from the man with a cart filled with goodies,  watching the melting  chocolate-covering slide off the white creamy interior, quickly licking away before it dripped all over what I was wearing - a sensual  and satisfying respite to the day’s activities. A memory I cherish.

Thursday, December 8, 2016


RUN to see Kerry James Marshall's terrific retrospective titled MASTRY at the Met Breuer before it ends January 29th, 2017. (Photos forthcoming.) This show is so much better than any reproductions can visually communicate - the paint quality, the collaged elements, the excitement of both form and content sleeping together - sometimes at odds and at other times in harmony; thin and thick paint applied to the canvas -- realistic rendering intertwined with powerfully structured abstraction. Bravado brushwork - his hand allowing for drips and globs to accumulate singing along with exquisitely delicate painted areas - observed with a piercing sensitivity. His subjects convey pathos and pain intermixed with the strength and dignity of the African -American community that he knows and loves.

The richness of historical and contemporary references pull us back in time to Nat Turner, the deaths of civil rights activists and the everyday gathering spaces where black people come together for joy and comfort. Marshall's penetrating eye focuses on issues that African Americans have struggled through over the years - public housing, self-identity, and the ever present racism. The paintings themselves are quite graphic - black and white tones dominate - words are incorporated which convey irony as well as poetry in the form of flying banners of musical notes streaming out of high-rise buildings. These artworks are symphonies with codas and resonating undertones creating a deeply felt experience.

Monday, December 5, 2016


Saw MANCHESTER BY THE SEA - an excellent performance by Casey Affleck - a "hollow" man who can barely breathe through a tragic upending of his life; working as a janitor in order to mechanically function and get through each painful memory-filled day.

Concentrating on fixing and healing inanimate objects such as leaking pipes, clearing a path in the snow, restoring energy to electrical malfunctions - adjusting and mending the "outside" world, helps him survive.

This movie is the opposite of a Hollywood-easy answers-magic formulaic solution to the blows that life can slam you with. Worth seeing if you can tolerate the sadness.

Sunday, December 4, 2016


If anyone had told me that I would be interested in the American-British Netflix series THE CROWN  based on a play by Peter Morgan, I would have shrugged them off with a quip about how I had always found Queen Elizabeth II to be  dull and the monarchy just trappings - pomp and splendor. Well, I was wrong on both counts. Lilibet, the nickname Elizabeth was called when she was a child, is shown as a quiet and thoughtful young girl who had a lovely relationship with her father, sharing special father and daughter times that would fortify her when she becomes Queen Elizabeth II (an appealing Claire Foy,) at the age of 25 years old. King George VI ( or Bertie as family members called him,) in a wonderful performance by Jared Harris depicts the King as a gentle, frail man who acceded to the throne with great reluctance at the expense of his own health, after his brother, the cynical Edward VIII’s (Duke of Windsor)  abdication in1936.

This series demonstrates the interrelationship between the Crown and  Parliament - particularly the reigning Prime Minister, who happened to be Winston Churchill (a future Emmy contender performance by John Lithgow - stooped and imperious) who we meet a few years after his decisive role  defeating Nazi Germany in World War II. We witness how everyday acts of government are intertwined with the need for rubber-stamp approval from the Royal House -  the “appearance” of endorsement by the Queen who is an integral link to her adoring  British subjects.

Court Intrigue penetrates into the everyday activities of Queen Elizabeth and her more outgoing and unconventional sister Margaret (Vanessa Kirby)- who was having an “illicit” affair with a divorced man, Peter Townsend - a no-no at the time. If you are part of the Royal Family, one’s private life can no longer be private - choices are circumscribed by precedence and protocol, often with heartbreaking consequences. The marriage of Prince Philip ( a tall, strikingly handsome,  lanky Matt Smith) and Elizabeth is quite fascinating, and had me googling “ Philip-Duke of Edinburgh’s affairs?” There is an unexpected playful eroticism to their genuine affection for one another which becomes inhibited and subdued after the coronation; once she became the Queen her obligations and responsibilities often conflicted with her personal desires and the family dynamic.

I loved John Lithgow as Churchill - gruff, hrummphing away, smoking his cigar,  shrewd and always aware of every action's political consequences. Some of the patina of the “great man - the savior of Britain” gets tarnished, but his wisdom and loyalty are never in question. An episode of particular fascination, highlights Winston’s own love of painting and a resultant clash of egos when his “official portrait” is assigned to the contemporary artist Graham Sutherland; discussions between them about paint quality, brushes, colors, etc. shows how Churchill tries to control the way he is portrayed…in this case to no avail.

The production of this series is plush - and has an expansive feel - but at the same time there is a feeling of intimacy about THE CROWN which kept me involved and interested.