Sunday, April 19, 2015

High Times and Not so High Times, with Lots of Art

This blog post was going to be all about art, about my weekend
adventure exploring the spring-busting-out-all-over city,
a high point being this charming bird who entertained the masses milling about in the High Line Park
with an exuberant spring song.

Then I got a call from my brother saying
our mom was in the hospital and the doctors were saying it wasn't looking good 
and I should get on a plane ASAP.

So now this post is doing double duty, as many of my posts do, 
re. Art and Family, 
which have always been intertwined, or perhaps juxtaposed, in my life.
Or intertwined and juxtaposed.
So, in chronological order, we soldier on.

We've gone from the snowy March streets of Park Slope...

…and soggy fields of Prospect Park...

…to the crisp clear shadows and sunny skies of April, 
here in Chelsea on 10th Avenue at about 21st St.

We've gone from dismal gray skylines from the F-train...

…to cloudless spring skies where brand new solar panels on the tracks
are catching a few rays.
Wow, solar power! What a concept!
Only four decades too late!

Well, let us not sully the spring day with sour thoughts of missed opportunities
that would have offered us a bright future instead of one fraught with environmental devastation.
Instead let us be entertained with meaningless but fun activities
like this one, where for years I've been taking the F train and watching the Statue of Liberty
disappear behind a Brooklyn Gothic-style church,
always wondering if the church hid the entire statue, or if her arm peeked out
from behind the spire.
Finally I get it together to take a video.

Above, Lady Liberty approaches the church, closer and closer, until finally, lo and behold,
she disappears completely behind the spire!

Mystery solved!
Are there metaphorical implications here? Hmm, Liberty blocked momentarily by a church…
Well, this is something to ponder later.
In the meantime, the spring wind is blowing,
the sun is out, the skies are bluer than blue.

In Manhattan, the High Line Park is coloring up.

Below is an example of perfectly green post-lawn drought-era grass, made of plastic.
This is what California home owners will have to resort to now
that water-gulping lawns are on the outs.

Or else they can paint their dead grass, like this enterprising American.
Way to beat the drought, guy!
But really, why green? Why not red or blue or purple or some attractive combination?

Why not an awesome Jackson Pollock lawn?
Why limit ourselves to boring monotonal field paintings when we can get wild?

Ah, Wilderness.
Meanwhile, back East, we have dramatic Pollock-like shadows and unpainted earth tones
on the High Line tracks.

The view from the High Line shows the Hudson in full flow, and a sure sign of spring, forsythia.

I exit the High Line at the southern end, which puts me on Gansevoort Street...

...near the Gansevoort Market which used to be an Indian trading station called Sapohanikan.
 Before the white man's miracle of landfill, this area fronted the riverbank,
as it may again sooner or later, depending on how long it takes for the 
Arctic to melt and/or or the next major hurricane to strike.

 Interesting to compare the pre-landfill shoreline (green area above)
with the flooding done by Sandy (blue area below).

Maybe this is the answer to the massive coastline flooding that is coming our way,
ie. build up all the shoreline with landfill so when it floods it will simply give us our
original shoreline back. Makes sense, right?
All the garbage created by the flooding of the coasts can be
collected and used to build new shoreline!
This may be as good an idea as painting lawns.

But back to our history lesson about the Ganesvoort market:
 in the early 19th century, the US Army moved into the area and
 it was buh-bye Sapohanikan trading post and hello Fort Gansevoort.
At the time, much of the surrounding area of Greenwich Village was a 
vacation hub until the city ate it up. 
In the eating, Greenwich Village kept its village irregularities instead of bowing to the grid, 
as did the Wall Street District, places where you can get lost for hours circling (in a squarish way) the same streets that seem to disappear and reappear when least expected.
Hmm, are there metaphorical implications here?
Must ponder later.

Anyway, look how nicely organized the island is until you get to these two stubborn outposts!
(And we won't even mention all those swirly cow-path shapes in Central Park.)

Post fort, the Gansevoort area became home to tenements and a freight yard, 
then in 1869 the High Line was built by the Hudson River Railroad, 
then an open air produce market took over the space, 
 then 250 slaughterhouses and packing plants sprang up,
 then clubs like the Manhole and the Mineshaft joined the meatpacking arena
 until AIDS shut them down,
and now Apple and Stella McCartney and the like grace the mean streets, 
and a bit northwards stands the hot hot hot art arena of Chelsea.

Here endeth your history/geography lesson for the day.

I've improved this Chelsea building on 10th and 24th with a Hillary-for-President logo
which brings it a little much-needed pizzazz.

While I'm not 100 percent for Hillary, I'm less than 0% for any of those listed on the 
depressing, distressing Republican roster - I mean, Scott Walker? Really???
all of whom treat the earth as if it's some kind of playground for big oil, gas and coal.
I don't look forward to this campaign.
All the racist craziness that has surrounded Obama will now morph
into ugly sexist slurs that should make every reasonable American feel ashamed. 

Well, let's not be down on this happy spring day.
Now that we're here in Chelsea, let's see some art!

(Peter Wayne Lewis, Brain in Cosmic Space, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 90 x 66")

This beautiful piece is from the show "The Beautiful Brain"
Peter's linear shapes coil and climb up and down his canvases
in a kind of exuberant, complex and somehow organized tangle, like nerves and synapses
emanating energy in a pulsing 
calligraphy that also reminds me a lot of music, jazz riffs and improvisations. 

(Photo by Catherine Schneider-Lewis)

Julian Hatton at Elizabeth Harris Gallery is showing an interesting evolution in his work. 

Hatton's abstract paintings have always evoked landscape, with shapes 
and colors woven together within a foreground/background format (like Trio and Slide, below). 
But in the more recent work, the space has become flatter (as in Trouble, above) with the imagery moving forward and converging on the picture plane, 
a kind of frontal movement that makes the third dimension disappear, an artist's act of magic.

Speaking of Julian Hatton, a portrait of him is included in a show at the Painting Center
of works by Peter Malone.

Peter Malone, Julian (portrait of Julian Hatton), 2015, oil on linen, 18 x 16"

I recently sat down with Peter and we had a chat about his painting and place in the art world.
The interview was published in ArtCritical  online, and this was said about it:

"An insightful, sharp interview by Jeanne Wilkinson with artcritical contributor and painter Peter Malone was published earlier this week. Malone identifies as a conservative painter for his work’s fidelity to naturalism, but in doing so also affirms his edginess and novelty in an art world that can seem sometimes to be brimming with empty gestures at radically."

Peter Malone, Early Morning Self Portrait, 2014, oil on linen, 38 x 40"

Peter Malone, Portrait of Brian Hack, oil on linen

Peter spoke about the development of his art from earlier conceptual work to his current straightforward realist portraits. I like what he said in the interview regarding the rectangle:

Peter shared the Painting Center space with another artist, Marianne van Lent,
whose lyrical paintings are done on a fresco surface.

Marianne van Lent, Venetian,  2014, fresco secco and dispersed pigment in polymer, 24 x 36"

Marianne van Lent, Forest, 2014, fresco secco and dispersed pigment in polymer, 30 x 40"

Marianne van Lent, Detail of Forest

 She speaks of the

         which is something I understand well from my own art practice.
In fact, I feel a great affinity with her work - it reminds me of the paintings that I used to do
when I painted in oil, as in the one below, done in 2000, which often did feel like magic
to me, as if I were in communication with creative forces rising from the roots of life.

Jeanne Wilkinson, Spring, 1999, oil on masonite, 36 x 36"

"Small Works" at the Sidney Mishkin Gallery at Baruch College in Manhattan,
  curated by Richard Timperio, the director of Sideshow Gallery in Williamsburg.

Jeanne Wilkinson, Night in the City 3: Still 11, mounted digital collage, 10 x 15"

Clayton Mitropoulos, It was a Blue Eyed Masked Man, 2014, oil on masonite.

We're in good company, with Clayton Mitropoulos's Blue-Eyed character giving us the eye - he may not be handsome but the creamy painterly surface makes you want to keep looking at this face.

Anthony Cerretani, Bjork-Biophilia, 2014, ink on canvas

Anthony Cerretani's pieces are done in response to music, often on site at concerts,
unplanned and spontaneous.

Dana Gordon, Gone, Man, 2014, oil on panel

Dana Gordon's totemic work stands strong no matter the scale,
and Mary Hrbacek's sensual trees seem to defy gravity while exuding stability.

Mary Hrbacek, Close Call, 2012, acrylic on linen

Rachel Youens, Passage, 2013, oil on linen

Rachel Youens's painting resides in that tasty in-between world of abstract, painterly realism.
And Barry Friedfertig is in a category all his own with this piece...

Barry Friedfertig, Foreski, N (Circumcision) 1-31-2014,  2014, acrylic on canvas.

A lot of wonderful small works made for a standing room only crowd!
Congrats to Richard Timperio for jurying such a strong show,
and to Sandra Kraskin, director of the Sydney Mishkin Gallery for putting
on another strong, engaging show.

At yet another opening, I saw the sculptures of Ruth Hardinger
at the Long Island University Humanities Gallery, Brooklyn Campus.

Ruth Hardinger takes lowly concrete and cardboard - materials that are ubiquitous, 
underfoot, cast aside yet critical to the modern world, so common as to be invisible - 
and turns them into objects of contemplation.
There is a feel of a Japanese Zen garden in this installation, but instead of getting lost in the
infinities within an ancient earth-formed rock, 
we are brought up short by the fleeting temporalities of these less-than-sublime objects.
Despite the openness of the setting, we grapple with the significance of being 
 enclosed within an ever more claustrophobic world of concrete and cardboard.

The LIU Galleries are beautiful spaces; above the Humanities Gallery
is enclosed in glass walls, creating a arena both open and protected.

Below, in the Salena Gallery, is the show of 100 Portraits: Women Artists
photographed over about the last twenty-five years by Barbara Yoshida.
There has been a lot of press about this show, the latest being
a feature on NY ARTS on Channel 13, the New York PBS station,
seen HERE at about 17 minutes in.

There has been a lot of press about this show, the latest being
a feature on NY ARTS on Channel 13, the New York PBS station,
seen HERE at about 17 minutes in.

(From the NY ARTS TV spot, Barbara Roshida on left)

These photos honor the dedication of these women towards their life's work, 
however it may manifest itself...

Jacqueline Livingston, Vinceanna in Bathtub with Vajra and Bell, inkjet print.

...from the edgy photography of Jacqueline Livingston

 Emily Cheng, House of Good Will, flashe on canvas the whimsical abstraction of Emily Cheng...

Suzanne Joelson, Summer Beau, fabric and paint on wood panel

...and the fabric collages of Suzanne Joelson.

After LIU comes the LES (Lower East Side) exhibition at the Mark Miller Gallery,
"Dogs and Cats: 21 Artists Unleashed and On the Prowl" and curated by Nancy Grimes. 

Jeanne Wilkinson, Voyage of the Panther: With Wolf, 2015, mounted C-print/digital collage, 24 x 16"

Two of my pieces are included, portraying the wild variety of these species,
imagery from my video of "The Voyage of the Panther" about
the big cat's trip from city to wilderness, which was inspired by the two bronze panthers
waiting at the gate of Prospect Park at Third Street, forever gazing longingly into the western sky,
and also the story of a real panther who traveled east for some obscure reason,
away from the wilderness into "civilization" until she got killed by a minvan.

Jeanne Wilkinson, Voyage of the Panther: City 1, 2015, mounted C-print/digital collage, 24 x 16"

(Photo by Mark Miller)

Actually, truth be told, I'm not much of a dog person.
Cats are more to my taste.

(Photo by Mark Miller)

Nancy Grimes, Night Cats

Although after I gave up dairy farming, I kind of lost my taste for domesticated animals in general.
I feel about them the way I feel about the human race:
appreciate, even love them individually, but feel like as a group they're, well,
problematical to the planet. 
No offense to the individual dogs and humans involved who are all adorable.

(Photo by Mark Miller)

Here are some stellar humans:
Artist Doug Wirls speaking with Elizabeth Harris, one of the great gallerists in the art world today.

(Photo by Mark Miller)

And here is the most excellent curator and artist,
Nancy Grimes, with Ron Edelman, above,
and Nancy and Patrick Webb, below.
See the Mark Miller Gallery Facebook page for more great pics.

During the Dogs and Cats opening I get a call from my brother Dan
to hotfoot it out to the Midwest where my mother is apparently in the process
of shutting down. She was returning from the Easter weekend at Sherry and Brett's
and had some sort of breakdown on the way back to her home.
Sounds not unlike the one she had when I was there after Christmas - not a positive trajectory.

So here I am, up in the sky and
then down on the ground, or a few stories above the ground at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, MN.

I arrive to find my mom hooked up
to about a dozen machines, yet she manages to squeeze out a little smile…

…but later the exhaustion and depression hit home.

The doctors tell us on Monday night that most people in her condition,
with intestinal ischemia, don't survive very long.
It could be hours, days, no one knows.
Angie, Dan, Sherry, Brett and I get very sad, and
an email missive is sent out to the troops, saying call and/or come to see Shirley
now or it may be too late.
We worry that a lot of visitors will exhaust her, or worse, that she won't make it through the night 
to see them the next day.
Angie stays at the hospital to watch over her, 
and the next morning Shirley's numbers are better, her white blood cell count is 
down meaning that her inner infection is getting better, 
(owing to the massive amounts of antibiotics being mainlined into her system)
and various other markers are showing improvement also.

She manages to soldier on through the day, yakking it up with the
flow of family traffic throughout the day, and her stay is brightened
considerably by the beautiful quilt brought to her by her niece Bev!

We alter the message board in her room to reflect the reality of her day:

It's a party!!!

We make so much noise, we probably can be heard on the highway that lies outside her window!

Against all odds, Shirley wins this battle, and to the shock of all the doctors and nurses
(who call it a miracle)
she goes back to New Richmond for a stay in the Care Center section of her living complex
to get some strength so she can go back to her independent living apartment.
This is the hope.

Dan and CoCo make themselves at home...

…while Sherry, Shannon and I take on the town of New Richmond for some thrift-saling.

The town seems to be in the throes of a Harley invasion!

Unlike PeeWee Herman…

(internet photo)

...we are careful not to get too near the bikes, especially with such an audience. 

We're actually in a thrift store, not a bar, in spite of the wine bottle and glasses
seen in the foreground which are simply window dressing.
Here is another display in the store, this one of those crazy Bratz dolls that
will never become Painted People because their big weird heads creep me 
(and, by extension, the People) out.

Back in Shirley's room, we bid her a fond and temporary farewell.

 So far, so good! (Knock on wood.)

On the way  home from the airport I pass some amazing headstones and sculptures
and am glad I'm only passing a cemetery instead of standing in one.

And as the sun sets over a fiery New York sky, I head home.

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