Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Post Sandy: Art, snow, trash, poetry and future lives.

A post-Sandy snow storm hits the beleaguered city, sending down huge clots of snow that 
my sister Sherry says are actually crazy spirit ghosts.
Perhaps they are trying to send us a message from the other side.
Like, look out!

Like Suzanne, I'm showing you where to look among the garbage and the flowers.

The roses courtesy of Pratt Institute.

A couple of days later the snow is totally gone and 
I walk the beach out at Brighton Beach/Coney Island,
where Sandy is still in evidence.

Brighton Beach sees long lines of people waiting for supplies, food...

...and places to plug in.

This marble-topped unit must have been uprooted from someone's dining room during the storm, 
 and the shrub below has traveled far from its home to a doubtful future on the beach.

This used to say "SEND HELP" - I wonder if it came.

Scavengers with metal detectors roam the beach, looking for buried treasure
left by Sandy.
This fellow has found something and is digging out a pile of sand to find it, 
 kneeling in the stance of a supplicant to the goddess of storms.

Later that day we went to SoHo which had all the lights back on...
and we see this Saturday night sight,
harkening back to olden times when a storm was just a storm,
instead of a harbinger of worse things to come. 
and gorgeous gas guzzlers like this Caddie ruled the day.

That same night we see Ruth Hardinger's work at Sideshow Gallery in Williamsburg,
looking like artifacts from a world half-built, or half destroyed.
Or markers of things once dreamed that never quite came to pass.

A couple of days later, I go to Dorian Gray Gallery in the Lower East Side of NYC 
to see Mark Wiener's show of work that he was doing shortly
before his recent tragic death.

Above is a detail of "Untitled (April 29 1:45)" 2012
Below is a still life formed of some of his studio objects, things used in the making
of his paintings, themselves made precious by artist's everyday magic.

Above, Linda Di Gusta, Mark's long time partner, is talking with gallery director Christopher Pusey,
and below, she stands in front of "Untitled (Saturday, July 21 8:50:22 PM)" from 2012.
This work is so full of life and energy, directed by a sure hand and a mind confident enough
to let a painting find its own way among all the possible paintings it could be.
We will miss this hand and mind.

Later, Linda and I go to see Robert Morgan read his poetry
at CREON Gallery, courtesy of Norm Hinsey.
Morgan is also an artist, and his elegant, wry, touching poems often have a visual aspect, 
like the one below.






his opinion
the weather

The poems are brief, each word resonates and 
echoes in your mind, rippling through it like stones thrown in water.

The paintings on the walls are by Suzanna Tanger,
and they go well with the understated yet eloquent poetry.
"Yellow and Vermillion Diptych" 2011, oil on canvas, 10 x 8 inches (photo from website)

"Grey Arch" 2012, Oil on linen, 7 x 12 inches (photo from website)

I am drawn to the simplicity and purity of the arch form, and
the rich, muddy sensuality of its textured color.

In Chelsea, at the Subud Chelsea Center, my friend Robin Gaynes Bachman is showing her vibrant work of shimmery paint on vinyl.

This center is the meeting place of groups who meditate, do Yoga, etc.
"Subud" appears to be about a search for the divine within, allowing, indeed, encouraging
  people, as unique individuals, to find their own expression of the Divine within,
but still come together to join in communal rituals and spiritual exercises.

So many other religions seem to be about toeing a very specific line, without deviation, where personal interpretation could be seen as heresy, not a journey to find your own soul.

On 24th Street in Chelsea, some of the galleries are still closed because of Sandy damage.
One that has just re-opened is the Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, showing the work
of Peter Campus.   
I spoke with the gallery director, Heather Dell, who reported that they had just
finished cleaning up the huge mess left by the storm.  She commented on what a treacherous
situation it has created for many galleries, which are really more like
"Mom and Pop"enterprises than financial giants of the art industry - 
some of which will not survive the wrath of Sandy
with its legacy of damaged galleries and destroyed artworks.

"Channel" 2012, videograph framed on video screen

At first glance, these appear to be still photographs, but a closer look reveals
continual motion:  water moving, waves lapping, clouds scudding.
At the same time, the imagery looks somehow soft, painterly and luminous, 
without the brittleness of a photo.
The artist calls them "videographs" and they are quite magical and meditative,
much like the sea and shore itself.

"Easement" 2012, videograph (photo from website)

Ironically, these are scenes of the Long Island shore, 
the very same areas recently hit by Sandy.  
The particular views Peter Campus has chosen may well not exist anymore.
Of course that is the nature of the shoreline, the littoral:  continual change and adaptation to 
new circumstances.
Let us hope that we humans can adapt in a similar fashion, 
as the sea is calling upon us to do just that.

Campus also makes art that reflects the viewer, quite literally.
Walking in front of these screens, you chase yourself back and forth, 
eerily conjuring up a shadow-self glowing with substance.

The name of the piece, which was originally done in 1974, is "Anamnesis" 
which refers to "recalling" or "reminiscence," and is a word with multiple contexts, 
used in psychiatry, Christianity and Platonic theory.

Plato's use of this concept refers to the knowledge inside us, knowledge that is in our soul before birth,
 perhaps from past incarnations, although views differ about whether Plato meant actual reincarnation or if his discussions of the idea should be seen as allegorical.

Plato also discusses the difference between knowledge and belief:
knowledge being the recognitions of truths that have been within the soul for all eternity,
whereas beliefs are more transitory and situational.
Which is also interesting in thinking about the concept of Subud, as mentioned above, which would seem to encourage people to go beyond belief to search inside for inner knowledge.

 I, personally, have long believed (known?) that this life is not my first, 
but only one of a long chain of lives, ever since reading about the life of Edgar Cayce.
Which is one of the reasons why I'm so concerned about the effects of global warming:
what kind of place will be the setting for my next life?
What kind of horrors await when the sea 
is so acidified by carbon dioxide that it can no longer sustain life,
when storms rule the day,
and high seas and dry winds make life unbearable, if not impossible?

We are reaping the whirlwind as we speak...

JW "Whirlwind" 2008, digital collage


  1. Love "Whirlwind!" Haven't seen that one before...

    1. Thanks, Courtney. That was done after a tornado hit
      Wisconsin a couple of years ago.