Sunday, November 04, 2012

Hangin' with Bernini at The Met

Life is twisted, or at least one might think when viewing Lorenzo Bernini's (1598-1680) sculpture sketches at The Met.  Twists in fabric, posture twists, psychological twists, you name it.  Come on everybody, let's do the twist!  It's impossible to NOT see movement in these sculptures.  They are literally writhing with life.  I got a bit too close to one and guard suggested I might accidentally touch it but she needn't have feared, the risk was more that I would be the one who was touched.  Bernini's sculptures are like an arrow of energy, shooting out into space.

When one speaks of touch, what I find particularly appealing in these models is that you can literally see the finger prints and gouges of the actual artist.  There we are suddenly with him, watching him mold the clay like one would run their fingers through sand or water.  It is liquid life and he touches it  in such a way that we experience it's malleable texture and form.  Who knew that a simple piece of fabric could behave like a snake on wind and in space while existing as a solid piece of clay?

It's also fascinating to understand that Bernini did not hollow out his studies, but let them dry solid over time while being covered and kept damp to keep from cracking.  There is an immediacy in that decision that is felt in his work.  Who has time to hollow out  and perfect a study when an image must be torn from the ether and placed in concrete reality?  I think this rush to create is what keeps his models fresh and dynamic, which is later translated into his finished work.

His figures keep the same tension with impossible twists and turns showing bulging muscle forms at every turn.  (Actually, they're not as impossible as they look.  I did try a few just to see if they were physically honest, not that I'm any gymnast.  It could have been seeing these attempts on the stairs of the museum that led the docent to think I might be an irresponsible viewer.  So be it.)

His lion could easily be a morph of human into beast.  At any rate I wouldn't want to be there when it comes to life once the museum doors close.  Here Kitty, Kitty... snarl, snap, dinner, done.  (Um, you do know that all sculptures come to life when there is no one around to see, right?   Ok, well, count yourself informed now, and bring a lot of cat treats, not that they will save you.)  

Right, so where was I?  Yes, the muscles!  Omigosh, the muscles! Pulsing, flexing, twisting, stretching, you name it, they are like live eels!  (Starting to sweat.)  Only someone who has full knowledge of the science of kinetics could make these muscles do what they do, not to mention anatomical know-how that boggles the mind.

I should probably say something about the faces, but all memory of them fades when I think of "Ludovica".  Would it be inappropriate to say, any man who could make a statue look like that...  yeah, it probably would.  Oh well, I'll let you finish the thought.  The actual sculpture was not present but the museum thoughtfully supplied a photo replica nearby the clay model.  It was wonderful to see the decisions he made between the study and the finished work.  A slight repositioning of the hand on her breast, a lowering of a fold of drapery, small nuances that create a rhythm and harmony that sings out in the final version.  (Literally singing, cue to Madeline Kahn after an intimate moment with Frankenstein in "Young Frankenstein"...)  No, but seriously, it does sing, I know because I heard it in my heart.  I could dance to that rhythm, if I was Salome.

Ok, really serious now.  That sculpture rocks!  Why?  Because you can hear her intake of breath.  You can actually see how her diaphragm is depressed.  You can witness her trachea opening for that extra pull for oxygen.  Actually though, it is all about the hand on the breast, that perfect bend of foreshortening, the contrast of light and shadow (How'd he do that?  Magic!) and the way it pulls you in, telling you that there is a real live, breathing human being under all that drapery.  There is a woman buried in the marble, of that I am sure.

But you don't have to believe me, just go to The Met.  Check it out.  The models are on exhibit till the sixth of January.  Move.  Now.  Go.

Fade out to, "Let's twist again, like we did last summer..."

Friday, November 02, 2012

Sand(y)storm from Sandman

Sleepily, lacking sleep, what is that Japanese word for trying to wake and not being able to?  That was my state on Sunday last.  Sandman had not yet let go of my hand when I entered the sandstorm, or the insan(e)dstorm which was called Sandy and defined as a hurricane.  She blew in from the coast for a quick visit, liked the city and stayed, finally leaving with not so much as an adieu, with much to be done in her wake.  Her vision still hangs like a pall over many lives, lost lives, lost homes.  And still I am dreaming.  Am I not?  Otherwise, how can it be that when I look out the door trees still bear their leaves yet nearby lies the lost city of Atlantis, underwater, out of breath and out of time.  Sparks exploded in the air taking away what we take for granted.   Light, by any other name would smell as sweet.  She came, she wept copious tears in gusts of fury and left, taking with her a part of us, leaving behind her refuse without pity.  Ah Sandy, such a woman as you must be protected against and yet, though our defenses were up, you breached the barriers and emptied our pockets.  Wicked were you in the taking.  Not to be forgotten, even in the forgetting.  I close one blind eye and reach for my spyglass to see where you have gone and where you have left us.  In the space between.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

On the Couch with Composition

How do I love thee...  let me analyze.  I'm taking a composition class at NYAA and that is the requirement, finding our true love painting and understanding it's compositional elements thoroughly, or as I like to call it, "tearing it from limb to limb".  While this sounds like a painful process, it is actually one of the most enriching exercises I've done in a long time.  Wade Schuman offers such a wealth of insightful information as to set ones neurons on fire.  I can honestly say I think he has directly influenced the way I look at paintings today.

Here is what I'm realizing, love can be superficial, love is fickle, love is a many splendored thing...  I first chose Waterhouse's "Lady of Shallot".  This is the painting where she looks pained as she sets off to her death after having had a glance of her true love.  Wait...  should I be worried?  In truth, I picked it because I once loved it.  I saw it in an exhibit of J.W.'s work and though I still liked elements of it, the magic somehow left it in confrontation.  So it was kind of like bringing up an old boyfriend and saying you still had feeling for him even though they are a shadow of what they once were.  After going through a brief analysis in class, this became painfully obvious to me and I thought, do I really want to spend a whole semester with this boyfriend, oops sorry, painting?

My second and actually first choice was Caillebotte's "The Scrapers".  Ok, valid choice.  I spent some time returning to and staring at this painting in the Musee D'Orsay, though admittedly in a frenzy of passion because I was surrounded by so many inspiring works.  Kind of like being surrounded by all the attractive people I've ever met, or not, no not that superficial...  ok, more like the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa (although I think I did a better job of concealing it).  I really did love it, for it's feeling of space, it's inner illumination, it's muscular men (not really, just checking to see if you're paying attention), it's feeling of movement and rhythm, and it's wonderful mnemonic of Parisian life.  Really, it's true, believe me.  Then I started analyzing it...  Yes, you guessed it, the love began to wane.  It faded from a fresh flower to an artificial bouquet.  Lots of elements that I love, but somehow they seemed less real, less vibrant.  (Cue to "How Deep is your love...")  Apparently not so deep.

This was worrying.  Am I really so shallow?  Does true love exist and stand the test of deep analysis?  Am I like a bee flitting from flower to flower?  Well, no probably not, but love is scary.  Looking deeply into what you love can be revealing and maybe, just maybe I didn't want to go there, into the cave.  (An analogy I know a lot about now that my studio is in the cave of the school, better known as the "Garden Level". ) So where does that leave me, am I a lost soul, destined to sit in my parlour with an old wedding cake?  No, I think not.  These revelations are driving me to think deeper about what I love, without shame, remorse, or fear of estrangement.  To that end, I hereby reveal my true love, or at least one of them...  Hammershoi's "Interior with Young Woman from Behind".  Have a gander (possible analysis to come, give or take a few hours of sleep):

So there you have it, true love.
(Perhaps I'm not so shallow after all.)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

It is Written

Hello Dear Readers,

It's been a while...

So here's the deal, in a nutshell, after nine wonderful years living in The Hague in The Netherlands, I left the land of water, bicycles, and sky to make a giant leap back across the pond to none other than The Big Apple, not without getting my feet wet.  I'll spare you the grueling moving details, we've all been there and I don't want to dredge up past moving trauma for you (purging personal belongings, packing, living in boxes...  ok, I'll stop there.).

Coming back home there was the sense of the familiar, yet I felt a stranger.  Seventeen years in Europe can change a girl.  My first impression was one of immensity, of feeling, of sky, of opportunity.  It's NYC after all!  Going to the grocery store I was in a state of shock, so many choices!  After searching for apartments, saying no to the plethora of towers with doormen and parking available, I managed to find a cozy basement apartment with, wait for it... a garden.  Yes a garden in Manhattan.

And yes I feel priviledged.  In fact I feel privileged every day.  I walk out the door and I think, "Wow, I am in New York City," and my spirit lifts a few feet off the ground.  I'm not even going to list all the benefits of being here, it's just a plethora of all that I would wish for in a city, but mainly it is the people that make the city for me.  They seem to have this deeply ingrained optimism, and lacking that a great sense of humor.  Sigh...  

It is vast though, and I knew that without an "in" it could be overwhelming, so I grabbed the first straw (which actually I had been secretly dreaming about for a while) and jumped into classes at the Art Student's League, figure drawing no less.  I started with one class and quickly added two and began drawing all day.  Organizing our new home and daily chores immediately took a second seat to my new love, because that is what it is, love.  How can one help it?  To be allowed to create in a such a timeless place, to contemplate the conundrum and beauty of humanity with like-minded (ok I'll say it, obsessed) artists was like putting a warm blanket around my heart.  

So was that enough?  Of course not!  Because there was higher ground, The New York Academy of Art.  How many times had I looked up the Academy and drooled over all the possibilities it offered?  Well, I won't say, because that would be embarrassing...  Suffice it to say, it was the golden fleece.  I made a mad dash to get all my ducks in a row and crashed the gates (me and my ducks) so that now I find myself "in" the illustrious institution.  After the first week of "orientation" and beginning classes (using quotes here because it's actual title should be "trial by fire"), I am full of that fire which has ignited a hundred new ideas and an eagerness to expand some of the tried and true.  

The end of the first week was finalized by an introduction of our work to the student body.  Not daunting, not at all...  (insert rolling of eyes here).  The level of talent of my peers left me gobsmacked.  What does one do in such a situation, with one minute to sum up your life's work?  Grab a pen and paper, um no paper, ok, a hand will do...

And so here I submit the first piece of my "body" of work.  

NYC, you have written your name in indelible ink on my soul.

Friday, October 28, 2011


Walking into the kitchen, the neighbor across the yard sits in red with the light on.
Yesterday she turned the light off when I looked her way.
It's inevitable.
She's across the way.
In the window.
With the light on.
In red.
Who wouldn't look?

Today I look away.
I look at the pigeon on her roof.
I look at the sky, trying to determine which will win today, the gray or the blue.
I look at the bamboo growing up from the other neighbor's garden and
the two stumps of pine tree that they have left to hang their hammock on.

The water boils and I stir it into my chicory.
Three drops of stevia.
As usual I think it will be too sweet, but I do it anyway.

I open the fridge.
I close the fridge.
I turn.
She is still there.
In red.
With the light on.

And she is looking at me.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Texel Time

Texel is a municipality and an island in the Netherlands, in the province of North Holland. It is the biggest and most populated of theFrisian Islands in the Wadden Sea, and also the westernmost of this archipelago, which extends to Denmark. (Wikipedia)

And for four days it was heavenly. Here's how I saw it:

One word - space. Ok, another, peaceful. Just one more... sunshine. The triumvirate and holy trinity all rolled into one and just what the doctor ordered. As Spring began tickling the ivories of nature and before the tourist take-over I left my sketchbook at home and just pushed a button. Who knew life could be so easy?