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Saturday, May 8, 2021

ALICE NEEL RETROSPECTIVE AT MET MUSEUM, NYC 5/8/21




 I met Alice Neel in 1979 when I showed large nudes in Soho and she walked into the Gallery and shrieked "look at that c-nt upon viewing a foreshortened naked woman! At the time Neel was doing a print with a friend who was exhibiting in the next room so she loyally came to see her work. 


Alice was a real character -  who could be both generous and difficult,  passionately connected to the people who inhabited her world(s) be they political, familial or, the neighborhood denizens. I have always felt a real affinity to her choice of subjects since I too paint the "world in which I walk".


The exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum is a MAJOR retrospective... exhausting in the number of pieces that are hung to the point where I felt some more editing could have been done. BUT "old friends - familiar paintings" were there and looked as fresh as ever. I LOVE seeing her still lives and cityscapes. The color is radiant and Alice's sense of structure is evident - white becomes a color that allows air to enter and surround the painting space so we can breathe more easily. Some paintings are satirical, others are so true to the character of the person that they are often deemed as cruel; others hone in so sensitively to the fragility of being human, that I weep for the model's future navigating life's often harsh demands. 


Her heart is visually open to view; sex is not taboo - many of the men she cohabited with are depicted before and after fucking, revolutionary at any time. Motherhood including the tragedies that she endured are presented, as well as hospitalization brought on by the burdens of grief and anguish after the loss of her baby daughter to Diptheria at 1 year old.


Alice Neel looked like a country lass - rotund and apple-cheeked hanging out with the Bohemians and revolutionaries/anarchists of her time. Her journey included living in Cuba, Greenwich Village,  among other places, and since the mid-1960s on the Upper West Side in a large apartment where her paintings were stored and she set up a studio section to paint. 


This exhibition is worth seeing. I believe that Alice's painting style was uniquely her own often portraying hands and feet as if they were afterthoughts  - appendages that exist -  but are not crucial to a painting - yet when they were NEEDED she knew how to emphasize them. I am in awe of  Alice Neel's spirit - a word I rarely use. She was brave, original, taking risks, and indulged her curious nature -  the highest compliment I bestow on another artist.
























Tuesday, March 9, 2021

THE INVESTIGATION - HBO MAX 3/9/21

 



Anyone who subscribes to HBO Max should try to see THE INVESTIGATION - a Danish six-episode series based on a true story about the investigation into the brutal death of Swedish journalist Kim Wall in 2017 who finally gets a long-sought interview with a Danish inventor (whose name is never mentioned} on his self-built submarine - scheduled for a 2-hour ride which turns out to be eternal.  The story is beautifully conceived - we never meet the perpetrator or the victim. Rather, we get immersed in the tediously fascinating efforts of gathering clues, documentation, and relevant data crucial in order to convict the offender in a court-of-law. The heroes and heroines are those who give up their time and personal lives examining facts. searching for the "what happened?" to find the moment of “truth" to build their case. Often that inquiry involves emotional and painful discoveries that most people would be unable to bear witnessing.






What makes THE INVESTIGATION  so powerful is its silence. The long pauses, the flashes of understanding between the team of detectives, prosecutor, forensic pathologist, and most importantly the deep sea divers whose work is critical in unearthing necessary evidence. During the restrained waiting, the loudest sounds we hear are from the sea - the water and waves rippling along the currents as the divers jump into the black unknown in order to find objects that one would think could never be found in this vast expanse of nature whose horizon is limitless. I was most intrigued by the precise minutia - the people who study the science and plot the mathematics, of finding a “needle in a haystack” alongside the mundane - the extra-ordinary - “cadaver dogs” who can smell the release of body gasses that rise from the bottom of the sea and can pinpoint exactly where the divers should splash into the water and explore.






       


Director Tobias Lindholm’s approach is non-sensational. The actors are perfectly cast - Soren Mailing as Chief of Detectives does not say much but his seemingly impassive face reveals more than reams of dialogue. His concern, kindness, and appreciation are revealed by a modest touch on the shoulder - a gesture of thanks. The murdered journalist’s parents were beautifully cast - Rolf Lassgard and Pernilla August appeared so natural that I never felt they were acting - they existed in a world of grief and unyielding strength which was both agonizing and noble in their endurance.



The quiet of secrecy, the anticipation of discovery, the beauty of courage and resilience is sorrowfully disclosed in THE INVESTIGATION.




Tuesday, November 17, 2020

MY MISTER on Netflix 11/17/20

 



MY MISTER is a Korean 16 part series on Netflix that is deeply human, filled with diverse characters that I cannot get out of my heart or mind’s eye. I truly miss them now that I have finished the series which has lightened me with delight amidst piercing sadness. Despite confusing corporate-culture rankings, despite some overbearing shouting, despite constant drinking, while philosophizing about where lives have gone or are going, there is a kindness and a genuine caring about friends and family that is simply expressed - a sensitivity to others that is rarely seen because it is so silent - facial expressions reveal more than words can.  Throughout the series - there is a lingering feeling of sadness and loss conveyed between the two main characters speechlessly, which I found mournfully eloquent with its unpredictability adding to the mystery of communication and the conflicts that we must endure to just move along.


Class hierarchies and societal norms are fascinating to witness - “saving face” is evident at the highest levels of business to the delicate interactions during mealtimes; eating and socializing express one’s fragile connections. From the highest CEO to the lowest paid worker, each individual’s compassion is revealed even if fleetingly.


A man in his 40’s working as a Structural Engineer, aware of slowly dying from desultory despair. despite being considered a success in the eyes of his family and peers, is caught in a maelstrom of intrigue with a poverty stricken, street smart 21-year old waif who finds herself in the midst of a conspiracy that over 16 episodes alters both their lives and those around them.


There is the “romantic” but not “romance.” There is loyalty born out of love  and need and nurtured by inner strength, and there are beautiful, poetic views of a neighborhood in Seoul which is close knit and protective of their inhabitants. There is also meanness and violence in the shady underbelly of every community but sometimes there is honor among the most ignominious thieves.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

SCHITT'S CREEK 10/21/20





I resisted seeing the Canadian show SCHITT’S CREEK (6 seasons) believing that the title evoked BEVERLY HILLBILLIES redux, unaware that Eugene Levy who with Christopher Guest co-authored the screenplay of BEST IN SHOW  twenty years ago was involved and that this Netflix series was a “family affair.” I needed a break from my usual murder/serial killer viewing; the election and de-election of Trump had enough horrific drama to satisfy my inner “blood-thirsty” nature, so I finally listened to a friend and tuned in.  And I began to laugh out loud! 


Campy, funny, a fashion delight wrapped up with idiosyncratic characters whose veneer is penetrated bursting open a genuine pathos, heartache, and delightful eccentricities. The characters also become more self-aware without losing the very qualities of arrogance and whimsy that make them so unique. 


The series revolves around the Rose family - once extraordinarily wealthy living the jet-set lives of monied millionaires. The family in their former lives valued prosperity above all else and when they are brought down - hints at tax problems, fraud, etc. into poverty with former friends snubbing them, their last resort is to move into a motel in a little town - Schitt’s Creek that they had bought as a “joke” years before, where they now can go and regroup. 


                                               




The husband Johnny is played by a staid Eugene Levy (a former video magnate) who is the cheerleader of his wildly fanciful ex- soap opera star wife Moira (the great Catherine O’Hara) who dispenses volumes of words - her own distinctive language - recklessly poetic, delivered with an unrestrained directness and with an equally strange accent. Her wardrobe and jewelry have been meticulously invented from literally crowning head to extravagant footwear. Her precious wigs (“girls”) which are changed myriad times per  30-minute episode - as are her gorgeous over the top outfits, all contribute to the deliriously visual bravura of SCHITT’S CREEK.  

                                          



The attention to detail of costume and habiliment carries over to the two adult Rose children, Alexis (Annie Murphy)  and David (Daniel Levy) - who became my very favorite characters on the show.  I love when an actor uses his/her body as an integral part of their role. Jennifer Jason Leigh has done that in the past in films and I have loved her work ever since. I now have a new actor to follow - the lovely Annie Murphy who plays Alexis Rose - pulling off overly cute with her sharp shoulders and wrists shrugging and writhing in myriad directions - her beautiful body contorted into a singular personality - one who can charm with a flick of her finger or utter “ew” with disdainful contempt. Yes, she is terribly spoiled - until she no longer is and that is what gives SCHITT’S CREEK such pathos and depth - the characters evolve and become more generous albeit not relinquishing their narcissism.

                                      






Daniel Levy who is the real-life son of Eugene Levy, and the person who originally conceived the idea for the show, wrote all the episodes with his father, Eugene. He portrays David Rose - the gay son whose brilliantly splashy persona is evident in the amazing outfits he wears; his biting critiques of the lifestyles of those around him, and whose handsome face is an open book of a person who has learned to overdramatize himself to camouflage desolation. I adore this character and the voyeur in me could watch him for hours as he switches moods and becomes both dismissive and attentive to those around him. He too never apologizes for who he is. The show openly speaks to class differences, and sexual preferences but never preaches. There is a natural acceptance of every character - even the most self-conscious and obnoxious ones.


                                         



There are many other actors that round out this ensemble, but I wanted to single out David’s love interest Patrick  (Noah Reid) the pictorial opposite of David - their attraction is intensely delicate and their interactions as partners in business as well as in life are enchanting. I also responded to a woman who is the most seemingly “traditional” of the entourage - Stevie (Emily Hampshire)  - the owner of the Motel - who is full of surprises but reveals them without affectation. 

                                        



                                           

This is a Canadian production. Enough said. Laugh and enjoy.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

EVENING 9/24/20


Evening, pastels/cutout canvas, 77"x70", 1989


I am feeling hopelessly disheartened watching our nation slip into autocracy with the Executive Branch making Congress impotent. Hurriedly packing the Supreme Court, in the event that nine Justices become the “decider” in anticipation of the November election -another example of Trump's march to despotism. Cases of blatant murder against black lives are being ignored by a Grand Jury of fellow Americans. Has injustice infiltrated the moral imperative of many of our citizens? It grievously looks that way.


Autocracy/Fascism/Dictatorship/Despotism are words I never thought I would say about a nation whose Constitution includes checks and balances to rein in “abuses of power” - a document admired and imitated around the world.  I never thought I would use those insidious words about a  President of this country - the country that my parents fled to in order to save their lives from a maniacal tyrant in 1938. FDR closed the doors and gave in to the Isolationists and Anti-Semites after 1940, but my father and mother were able to enter just in time, while my paternal grandparents never had that opportunity being sent off from their home in Berlin to the “model ”concentration camp - Theresienstadt where they eventually died/shipped off to die. This haunted my parents and continues to haunt me as I view the “war” against immigration today. The detention cages filled with separated children, disease rampant, and an uncaring administration who precipitated this disaster.


https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/1/27/14412082/refugees-history-holocaust


This upcoming election will change our lives. It might precipitate a “constitutional crisis” and the only defense we have is the vote and our voices raised in protest. Covid-19 has made this all the more difficult, but participation will be critical. Time is racing on.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

CODED AGEISM 9/20/10





I am now an “upper senior” - a term that the woman who hired me to teach painting used for mature students in my class who were over 70 years of age. As I reach the top of the age pyramid I recently decided to publicly reveal how old I was on social media, which I am beginning to believe might have been an ill-considered move. Because I am very active, having often been called “hyper” because of my “bouncing around eccentric personality”- a product of thinking and expressing everything that comes into my provocatively spinning brain, some people took me to be younger than I was chronologically. NOW that they know how old I am they look at me and act differently. Many of my friends and those closest to me advise that I no longer should be spending grueling hours teaching; I momentarily agree when I get home from working and can barely walk.  Recovery time might take longer but the process is worth it:  I love to look at art; art from amateurs, art from “real” artists, art from those whose work has wonderful potential, and seeing that potential realized. I love that my eye is as sharp as ever and my critical faculties still clear and incisive.


I just started teaching again (outdoors under a tent) during the CoVid-19  pandemic and several concerned students were telling me to take a break, to rest, to sit down - being lovingly protective - wondering if I would trip or fall while teaching.  One student whispered to me that her mother-in-law had died and would I like surplus boxes of DEPENDS that she left behind. I confusedly looked at her wondering if I am obviously leaking somewhere. I responded graciously that I was fine and had all the paraphernalia that I needed to stay dry at this time.


I noticed that some students during pre- Co-Vid times attempted to take my elbow steering me about like a sheep being herded by a snapping dog not realizing that I am fine in the upper echelons of time - despite two knee replacements, some unsteadiness due to dizzy spells,  worry about the world going to shit, and admittedly moderate complaining….but working all the time on my painting, photography, and writing and basically joyful about who I am and who I have become. Time bequeaths wisdom and breathes life upon a slowly dying body.


Saturday, January 25, 2020

THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO 1/25/20


I just saw a strange, beautiful, surreal film on Amazon Prime titled THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO. I am still reeling from the originality of language, and photography - images shot in fits and starts akin to the way we breathe. The depth of respect that a young man has for his lineage is conveyed through the particulars of architectural detail to the house he believes his grandfather built by hand- a gorgeous building on a hill - emblematic of a San Francisco home that once was more accessible than it is today. There are classic views of the city with its steep high-reaching hills reminding me of the artists Diebenkorn and Thiebaud - who have made the city their own through painting.


The movie stars Jimmie Fails (who wrote the screenplay) and plays a character of the same name - Jimmie Fails in the film -and his best friend Monty (Jonathan Majors) both having distinctive dreams, taking separate paths but walking together. One is a poet/artist/playwright and the other an admirer of the delicate beauty of reconditioning - working with his hands as a builder and restorer of what is now discarded and forgotten. Yes, there are psychological links to Jimmy Fails' own childhood, living in group homes, broken both mentally and physically, a key to his obsessive need to reconstruct as a form of regeneration.


A profound sadness permeates the film mixed with illuminating goodness. The tone and rhythm of THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO will not be easily forgotten. The lives of homeless people who live in cars, on the street, and in SRO's are also not buried from our sight but are seen in this film, as is gentrification and the neglect of our environment - issues conveyed with screams into the winds of change.