Maybe you’re planning to hit the road…

Spectators at an Aviation Meet, c1910

Or maybe you’re daring enough to fly…

A Curtiss Byplane Taking Off, August 1911

Maybe you’re going to help out someone in need…

German Immigrants, Quebec, W.J. Topley, c1911

Or make a child happy…

Christmas Stocking, Frances S. and Mary E. Allen, 1900

Maybe you need some quiet time alone in nature.

Piping Plover, 2016

However you celebrate, there’s no maybes. Fill your holidays with happiness!

Artist Books

The Book as Stage, the latest exhibition at the Yale Haas Arts Library, features artist books. Artist books use books as the form and can vary wildly depending on the artist’s vision. This show focuses on theater and theatrical presentations using the book arts.

So much fun are the books that look like stage sets in miniature or mock ups for the real thing. Here’s the tunnel book format, with pages layered so we’re tricked into seeing depth.

Laura Davidson. Tunnel Vision. 2001.

Look at how this accordion-pleated book creates a construction site stage set, fronted with a nude in contrapposto. Weird and fun juxtaposition.

What you see in the back of the below image is the mirror reflection of the book. Notice the complicated intersections and weavings of strings. Aren’t the doorways of this sculptural book appealing? We can walk right into a Medieval world and join in with the characters.

Susan Collard. Geschichtliches. 2011.

The book is meant to be architectural, just as during the Medieval period, interest in Gothic architecture peaked (all puns intended). Susan Collard, the artist, purposefully included women in contemplation and learning, arenas occupied by men at the time.

This book focuses on the theater of war. It opens up to create the stage set, as you see. The pages are cut out to create theater scrims, layering the space. Newspaper clips and maps are collaged in, focusing on Middle East conflicts.

Maria G. Pisano. Theater of Operations. 2006.

Of course, what I see is the tie-in to the flag and American imagery. And I think of the Southern Connecticut State University students in my class “Shaping the American Identity.” Each made a page, mostly collaged, about their understanding of American identity at the end of the semester. The pages were then assembled into a class artist book. It was a powerful experience for us all, coming after their first election.

Hon 298 Fall 2016 and their Artist Book

Their energy, passion, and political intelligence is an inspiration, as powerful as any of these professional artists.

Perfectly Weird and Weirdly Perfect

If you haven’t seen Ride the Cyclone, get yourself to the carnival and buy a ticket! I now have a roller coaster story to add to my own.

Good theater may take us to a world we know. Great theater creates its own world and pulls us in. And this is great theater. Incredibly clever staging. Incisive and witty book. Recognizable characters who each stop the show with their song, tailor made in style to suit their persona.

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I’m reminded of Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Staging you can’t anticipate. Theater like you’ve never seen before. Canadians Brooke Maxwell and Jacob Richmond do it for us here.

Favorite visual moment: when the girls’ white skirts are spread wide, then used as a projector screen, followed by the boy’s white shirt. Perfection.

Wait! Then there was Jane Doe’s eerie aria while she floats then twirls on high. This was no Peter Pan. More like Olympia from Tales of Hoffman infused with magic. Weird. Wonderful.

Favorite lyric: too many to isolate one. Here’s one I can remember to share. The jawbreaker lyric from “Sugarcloud.” “My life is a jawbreaker. I suck and suck and suck and suck. My heart is like a jawbreaker. It breaks and breaks.” Not to worry though. Constance comes out really well, considering she’s dead.

Oh! I didn’t tell you? Six teenagers die when a roller coaster malfunctions. In the carnival warehouse, their purgatory, a world weary fortune teller machine The Amazing Karmak tells them they can compete for the chance to go back to the living. And one will.

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So never fear. This is a comedy thoroughly and completely. It’s not morbid or a downer.

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How could it be with a gay character who channels a cross between Liza Minnelli in Cabaret and Marlene Dietrich in his hilarious lament? Or with Ocean O’Connell Rosenberg wittily skewering her companions in a Broadway style song before learning that the group will have to unanimously vote the winner back to life.

Trust me, knowing this much plot will not inhibit your own wowness with this show. I can’t begin to give you enough spoilers to do that. I will say that the lesson the show imparts is that life, “It’s Just a Ride.” Perfect.

Ah, Love, Beauty,…and Deception

After a pleasant visit with family at The Met, including a decadent stop in the member’s dining room, I stopped in for a lecture on the French Baroque artist Valentin. Imagine my pleasure in discovering one of the speakers was a favorite professor from the University of Delaware, David Stone. A Caravaggio scholar, he was examining the career of this French follower of the big C and looking for references and quotations.

They are all over the place, and I enjoyed having David open my eyes once again. He pointed out the freshness of vision of Valentin, which had been easy for me to miss.

Visiting the exhibit afterward, where did I linger? Over the witty paintings of deception borrowed from Caravaggio’s The Card Sharps.

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Caravaggio. The Card Sharps. c1595.

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Valentin. Cardsharps. c1615.

Note that being lost in the love and beauty of your own music could get your pocket picked. To me, this reads as a metaphorical lesson to look outside oneself.

Valentin. Musicians and Drinkers. c1625.

Music seems to play a role in the deceptions throughout the gallery. It was also dotted with the instruments depicted in the paintings, some unusual to my eye.

Lute and Spinet









Perhaps my favorite work is the fortune teller who doesn’t see the present well enough to know she was being robbed. What Valentin did was riff on the same subject Caravaggio introduced in clever ways.

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Valentin. Fortune-Teller. c1626-8.

The exhibit is dark, lush, and romantic like the paintings. So the bright lightness of the Jean Honore Fragonard drawings and prints exhibit was just right for the cotton-candy Rococo that followed the Baroque. I was still in France but now celebrating the frivolity of love and romps in the park.

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Jean Honoré Fragonard. The Island of Love. c1770-80.

The drawings and prints are delicate and frothy like his paintings. A joy to behold.

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Jean Honoré Fragonard. Draftsman in a Trellised Garden. c1770-2.

Over in the Breuer Building, which The Met inherited from the Whitney, is the joyous look at lobe by Kerry James Marshall. The exhibit is filled with his giant genre paintings of everyday black life, and in the 2000s, he began focusing on love, directly inspired by Fragonard. Edging away from identity politics, he painted masterpiece-inspired scenes of ordinary romance. Normalizing black love was his goal and challenge to a white audience.

I loved so much of this exhibit by the Chicago artist. I felt uplifted by it in this time of racial anger.

Enjoy the sensual love of Slow Dance.

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Kerry James Marshall. Slow Dance. 1992-3.

The delights of two versions of the Fragonard-quoting Wishing Well.

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Kerry James Marshall. Wishing Well. 2012.

Can you tell he uses glitter? Love that!

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Kerry James Marshall. Wishing Well. 2012.

And the complexities of School of Beauty, School of Culture. Like Velazquez’s Las Meninas, Marshall puts himself in the scene, obscured by a camera flash rather than a giant canvas.

Kerry James Marshall. School of Beauty, School of Culture. 2012.

Directly referencing the English Renaissance artist Hans Holbein, he uses the same visual anamorphic trick. When walking from side to side, the image will come into focus and clarity. But instead of a skull reminding us of our mortality, he uses a white beauty icon as a reminder of how dominant white culture ideals distort the black experience of beauty.

The anamorphic trick doesn’t quite work; the blonde would appeal undistorted if it did.


But no matter. There’s so much to love and investigate. Note the toddler peeking around at the cartoonish white face, trying to make sense of its strangeness here.

The enormous painting creates an entire world to step into, and its wonderfully inviting!

As a delicious coda, Fragonard’s 17-year-old sister-in-law Marguerite Gérard (who goes on to a notable art career) copied Fragonard’s drawings as he instructed her in printmaking. She made this rather hilarious (to our contemporary eyes) print featuring Ben Franklin.

Yes, that’s Franklin at center. His face is so unmistakable that the print literally stopped my slow stroll through this French art gallery. What is this? I wondered. Please let me decipher it for you.

Ben is being protected by Minerva and her shield overhead, as he instructs Mars, god of war, to slay the enemies of America! You can’t leave her out of any allegorical scene of the brand new nation. There’s America in her truncated feather headdress, leaning on Franklin’s knee.

If you ever doubted Franklin’s celebrity in Paris, here’s your most exquisite proof!

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Marguerite Gérard. The Genius of Franklin. 1778.


In my first Kaballah study session since the election, I realize how quickly I lost the grounding of this thinking. Fear will do that.

So today, I listened with an ear toward Tikkun ha Nefesh, repairing the soul. The old airplane adage ‘in case of emergency, put your oxygen mask on before your child’s’ applies. We cannot Tikkun Olam, repair the world, until we are actively working on Tikkun ha Nefesh, fixing ourselves.

Today, we talked about three elements for Unification, the soul’s mission of reunifying with spirit. Action, devotion, and contemplation form the Kabbalist’s path.

I’m committing to this path to re-ground in Tiferet, or the Essence, the Heart that balances giving and receiving on the Tree of Life and energizes all action.

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From this place of a grounded Heart, I hope to reengage with the world in a more productive way. Perhaps these strategies will work for you, too.

Take care of your body. Illness, pain, and stress are huge energy depleters. To be able to repair the world, your body has to be strong and healthy.
Exercise not for appearance, but with the intention to energize the body and relieve stress. See the above point.
Appreciate your food for its emotional pleasures and express spiritual gratitude that a vegetable or animal was sacrificed for your nourishment so that you can be strong and heal the world.

You may already be doing all these. You might consider adding a ritual.
Starting your morning with gratitude that your soul has reconnected with your body.
Look at your eyes in the mirror for 30 seconds to reconnect with your soul after its nighttime visit to heaven (love the Kabbalists!).
Take 10-breath meditation breaks twice during the day to be aware that you are aware.
Look at nature for five minutes, even if the weather prevents you from going outside.
At the end of the day, review your day; how can you improve your reactions for Tikkun ha Nefesh and Tikkun Olam?
Read a short spiritual or meditative piece before sleep to connect with your soul before its nighttime journey while your body rests.

Yes, you can pray, but for me, I am going to increase Chesed, loving kindness. I am conscious of doing lovingly kind acts for others and of course, can add more. I want to also add kind thoughts, since mine have been elsewhere since the election.
Rebellion with awareness is also an act of devotion. I am working with this reframe.

Apply spiritual nourishment to your actions. You probably have your own ways to do this. I am thinking through mine.
Meantime, light a candle during this dark season and allow its flame to nourish all levels of your body and being.
I’m going to set my Kavanah, the intentions of my heart. Both inner and outer intentions are sacred. I want to live in a more sacred way through these difficult times.

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What will you do?

Above the Line

I did my day backwards. Starting from a reflective, quiet experience, I ended with a quarreling barrel of noise and anger that fueled the Trump victory.

Story of my life at the moment. Escaping into art before being forced into reality.

Agnes Martin made over 600 paintings exploring emptiness, energy, seeing, and surprisingly, joy.


The show at the Guggenheim opens with this oddly shaped room hung with the entire ethereal series Islands I – XII from 1979. Here in Martin’s signature style, the paintings explore light and form and formlessness. She challenges us to slow down and look in order to really see. This is the work of art. To make us slow down and think, feel, remember, dream, and aspire.Martin wants you to experience innocence, freedom, perfection attained and resisted.

Here shapes emerge. Stripes of pale blue and gray. Pencil lines. All revealed up close and melt away at a distance. The pieces unite and converse, push against each other for space. They look stunning with the architecture.


Martin explained that she works in a meditative way, emptying her mind and waiting for inspiration. For her, inspiration is emotional, and the intellect does not produce artwork. So despite what you see, her works are not minimalist, mathematical explorations of line, color, shape. You can see the artist’s hand.

Loving Love, 1999

Untitled, 2004

painterly detail

painterly detail

Instead emotion fills her intention, and she argues the work, like the Abstract Expressionists. And not just any emotion.

Loving Love, 1999

Loving Love, 1999

Martin says she draws a line and chooses to live above the line, with happiness, beauty, and love. By this approach, I’ve been living below the line since the election. After 9/11, art pulled me above the line. I don’t know what will this time.

Going to the Jewish Museum certainly wasn’t the answer. Although ostensibly I went for the John Singer Sargent portrait on loan, aching for his bravura splashes of color after the austere monochromes of Martin.

But I was literally swept into the bright noise of Take Me (I’m Yours). This democratic space lets artists express in the moment, and the below-the-line anger oozed through the rooms.


With objects to take ranging from pills to lemon water and t-shirts and ribbons to words on paper and words on the wall, I filled the bag provided. My bright yellow ribbon states “It is not enough to be compassionate” in hot pink serif letters. This was the cleanest saying hung for the taking.


The t-shirt: “freedom cannot be simulated.”


What tore my heart open was the poster created by Jonathan Horowitz before Election Day. I couldn’t bear to take one, although it was probably the most popular object in the exhibit. Now who’s face will join the portraits?


Martin’s Taoism that had so calmed and uplifted me vanished immediately.

I don’t know why I decided to follow through on my ticket purchase for Lynn Nottage’s “Sweat.” But I went and found the violent yelling and seething racism of working class plant workers  just more than I could take.

Yes, the play was written and even opened before the election. I bought my ticket when I could assume my pedestal height to empathize with their struggles for work, which in my privileged way I share, so a connection. I couldn’t make it past intermission.

I get it: working class white America is angry. Now liberal America is angry. What do we do with all this anger? How can we get back above the line?

Untitled, 1960, looks like a textile

Untitled, 1960, looks like a textile

Or do we need to blur the lines or weave the lines? Try something new?

detail; see each one of us showing up

detail; see each one of us showing up



Sweet Charity


In the aftermath of the election, much that I have treasured now has a bitter taste. Even escapist entertainment seems to contain commentary on lost ideals. I’m working on the lessons learned. We’re all different, and we’re all the same. What is it we all want? To be heard and treated with dignity and respect.

Well, not Charity. Sweet Charity will sacrifice anything for love–most definitely her dignity and self respect.
But I’m sure your heart will break as mine did when you hear Sutton Foster sing about it. And you’ll get to see her triple threat in a small off Broadway house. Hard to believe but true.
I kept hearing metaphors in everything she sang. The endless optimism and “she’s a brass band” — so all American.
So when she’s kicked in the chin one more time at the end, what does Charity Hope Valentine sing?
Looking inside me, what do I see?
Anger and hope and doubt
What am I all about?
And where am I going?
You tell me!
For the first time, she sounds bitter.
I resonated with her despair, which I’ve been feeling since the election. I remember Charity as indomitable, but in this production, even she is left alone to make sense of a cruel world. 
And America is stumbling badly, too. Just like Charity. Where are we going?

Is this what protest will look like, as it did in the ’60s?


Shining Future

Today has been my first day to not be brave and reasoned since the election. I spent some time wallowing in videos of post-election sense-making and then decided to take in this glorious fall day in downtown New Haven.

Walking through the Yale campus, I paused at the chalk writings covering the plaza and sidewalk outside Sterling Library. Students declaring they’re still here. They’re not leaving. Everyone wants to be seen and heard. Everyone. This need is not limited to the victors.

Over on Church St, a march was noisily passing by.

I stepped into the Yale University Art Gallery for my now daily dose of art as medicine. I hadn’t yet seen the Yosemite exhibit and having taught the promise of the West with my students, I really needed to see what YUAG had uncovered from its own collection.


Since the plethora of eye surgeries have created some new abilities, I was happy to discover another one. For the first time in my life, I can actually see the 3-D image form using a stereoscope. And it is marvelous! I sat with this one for several long minutes studying every detail.

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Underwood and Underwood. Yosemite Falls from Glacier Point Trail. 1902.

The flanks of the horses, the overlap to the lone shrub, the droplets of water seemingly visible from the falls, I marveled at every detail and “you are there quality.” I get it. I understand why these things were such a major form of entertainment in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

This image was one of 3 with stereoscopes in the exhibit. I was arrested by it in particular, I think, because of the journey it promises.

Albert Bierstadt. Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Trail. c1873.

Standing in front of this large painting by Albert Beirstadt, I realized something. As one tear slid down my check, I understood why this moment is even worse for me than 9-11.

Then, I felt shocked and stunned because we were victimized into an awareness finally that Americans are not universally beloved. Art was my savior then, too. I stood many mindless moments absorbing an Impressionist painting of a winter scene, part of a special exhibit at the Phillips Collection at the time, before I realized beauty was what I needed an an antidote. I turned my life toward art.

No, this moment is different. Americans are not victims this time. We have stabbed ourselves in the heart. I feel broken in a new way that became evident when meditating on this glorious evocation of the belief in the American promise.

That saturated golden light represents the future infused with American values, rights, and systems. The journey toward the spiritually evanescent light calls to all of us in the foreground to journey toward it, to be clear-sighted, and stay the course to the future.

That light for me now has been snapped off.

It’s been a long run and a mostly good one since this promise was made after the Civil War. Perhaps, in the grander scheme of things, it’s time for another country’s light to shine bright.


Subway Therapy and Therapy Beyond the Subway


After reading about Subway Therapy, past election, I was really glad to participate. I thought the 6th Ave L train station was the site, but when I got to Union Square Station, the big crowd was the clue. Maybe there’s more wall space here, or the project has expanded.


Communications have grown, yet the messages have stayed simple, as is the process.


Take a post it note from the floor. Write on it, and stick it on the wall. I was glad to make a contribution: “resilience over fear.”

Read. Contemplate. Contribute. Connect. Whatever your transit schedule will allow.


It is good. We are not alone.


I reflected on a statement in a novel I just finished, which has nothing and everything to do with the election outcome: We’re all different, and we’re all the same.


I thought about what makes us the same. What is it we all want? To be heard with dignity and respect. I certainly have been dismissive this election season. Many, many people feel neglected and threatened now. That’s my takeaway, rededicating myself to people who are now more vulnerable than ever, including myself.

So what’s the answer?


Well clearly, one is to turn from the serious to the silly. Look at these ice cream cones.

Big Gay Ice Cream. What would our president-elect make of this?

How do I decide?! Ruben was my guide.

How do I decide?! Ruben was my guide.


My cone was lined with peanut butter, along with the Salty Pimp. Oh my!

Silvermine mines beauty

After the disruptions of this week, I found myself under the spell of the exhibit at Silvermine Arts Center today. Just what I needed. I was bringing the Gallery Manager Jennifer some Artventures! Games for their newly opened holiday show when my feet compelled me right into the galleries and the “New Work/New Directions” exhibit.

The Silvermine Guild is comprised of 300 professional artists from around New England, and this show features the work of several. What immediately appealed to me is this work by Arlé Sklar-Weinstein.


With “Rainbow Vines (Measuring Days)”, she works with cotton cord and tightly twisted yarn, playing with our conceptions of time. You know the idea of counting time on a stick. She riffs on that with these curly vines.

While they are sold separately, I love the curtain of vines as an installation. There’s something primal and snakey about them, while also patterned in the most pleasing way when seen as a whole.

This work by Camille Eskell is intriguingly titled “F-ezra: Made a Woman” from The Fez as Storyteller series.


You can make out the fez as what the artist calls “the sculptural foundation.” A fez is traditional headgear worn throughout the Middle East.

The digital images, Hebrew letters, coins beaded together, and the braid all represent the melding of the cultures of Iran, India and Sephardic Jewish traditions in her family, as well as gender representations. Notice the elegant Islamic style patterning as well. This piece is large, 55″ tall. Imagine actually wearing it!


These toy-like sculptures called “Once Upon a Time” by Marilyn Richeda look soft and cuddly, until you get up close.


Surprise. Now you can see the textured clay that makes up the piece. It almost looks like concrete. Just a little cold. Not so fuzzy-wuzzy after all.

Plays of light and texture make this artist’s work amazing, too. Joycelyn Braxton Armstrong has created these winged creatures out of clay. Yes, that’s not fabric, but clay. 2016-11-11-11-54-00

This work called “Tempest” references the white dove, a symbol of peace. Take a moment to fully take this in, in its spare, elegant beauty. Just the salve you may need as much as I do right now.

The work sold as part of the Silvermine Holiday Show is equally arresting. I’m so pleased to have Artventures! as part of this beautiful place. So go visit now for the holidays and absorb these celebrations of human creativity and possibility.



Fall-time cider

The New York Times reported this week that the one upside to global warming is that the foliage in autumn is more vivid. The drought we’ve been suffering means leaves make a vivid shout out to fall and cling to the trees longer.

Today, as I wandered toward B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill, I jumped off the highway to avoid an accident and took some winding roads through scorching hot foliage territory. Spicy reds, sunshine-ing yellows, and sparkler oranges. Thank you, global warming, I guess…?

By the time I got to the Cider Mill though, the trees were already bare. I guess it’s just a tidge cooler there.


Operating since 1881, Clyde’s is the only steam-powered mill still in operation. Six generations of the family have worked the press, and I was there to see the apple cider get made. They can make 500 gallons an hour of cider. That might seem like a lot to you, but when you figure how many people had the same idea as I did today, well, maybe not so much.


The apples are loaded into the chute as you see above. Today’s were Honey Crisp. The cider and baked goods all shift in flavor through the long season depending on the apples that are harvested and used.

Once the apples are washed, they are funneled into a grinder, making a really thick apple sauce. The sauce is raked, yes raked, four times and put on a rack, swung around and pressed until the liquid flows. The smell is just wonderful.


The engine room powers the machinery. This cider mill is a, wait for it, National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark, for all this original equipment. They have a little historical display, and I was most taken with the pamphlets and articles on prohibition, one extolling the virtues of drunkenness. What?



Well, Clyde’s makes 8 kinds of hard cider. I visited the tasting area, where a long line formed so that each of us could taste four of the 8.

While waiting, Mary became my guide for all things cider. She had tasted all these various styles of hard cider and knew all about the subtle flavor shifts as the apple harvests come in. What a palette!


Mary also clued me in to the apple cider donuts, which I admit are pretty outstanding. Who knew that a Honey Crisp donut would taste different from a Micun!


I’m most grateful to Mary for turning me on to Shagbark Syrup. Turkeywoods Farm was there selling various syrups they create from hickory trees. Without Mary’s deft guidance, I might have fallen for hickory nut syrup or the hickory ginger syrup. They are wonderful.

Shagbark. That’s the find!

Mystic Hickory Shagbark Hickory Syrup

Now with wine tastings, you have all these descriptors that distinguish the various nose, mouth feel, etc. You know how it goes.

Same thing for syrup. Shagbark Syrup has a complex flavor profile, blending woodsy, earthy, nutty, smoky, even honey overtones. This from the bark of the hickory tree. Not the nut, not the sap like a maple tree.

So yes, I’ll be eating bark with my French toast for some period of years to come. That’s how long it will take me to finish a bottle this size.

Okay, bark with some processing. It is boiled and then aged. Yes, age your cheese and your bark. Then the aged bark is blended with natural sugars. It’s divinely delicious.

And no trees are hurt in the process. The shagbark hickory tree naturally sheds its bark starting at age 7. The bark is harvested when it falls from the tree or carefully removed when loose.

We can thank the Connecticut Native American population, likely the Pequot, for this wonder. They drank tea prepared by steeping hickory bark in hot water, sweetened with honey. It’s supposed to help with arthritis. But who cares? It helps with my spirit.

So did my visit to nearby Enders Island, home to the St. Edwards retreat/monastery.

Enders House at St. Edmund's Retreat

I watched rocks and water for a peaceful retreat of my own.



Framing Space

Talk about getting into the head of an artist.  Go to their home.  Go to their studio.  Three years ago, Donald Judd Foundation completed a $23 million restoration of the cast iron building he bought in 1968.  I got to visit and really get into his head.

At the time, Judd spent a year rehabbing the industrial building in Soho, that he picked up for $68,000–not much for a building, but a clear indicator that the 40-year-old, Minimalist artist was doing well financially.  By the time of his death in 1994, he had created a space here with intentional installations, the way he wanted the space kept and seen. 

Little has changed since that time, other than the rust was removed from the exterior and the interior gleams.  What we can now enter is the artist’s vision for space installed according to Judd’s philosophy and aesthetics.


The two black boxes above are Judd’s work.  He was interested in making us aware of space–framing, capturing, measuring space, using clean lines and simple colors.  He was a theoretician who studied philosophy and carried both over into his work.

Shunning the language of sculpture and architecture, he called his works “objects.”  He wants to make us aware of the space itself as an object.  To make space material.  Are you lost yet?  Being in his living space grounds these ideas out of the theoretical realm.

You can see here the four-ton Judd cube placed in the large open space of his “studio.”  The cube frames a chair facing out toward the windows.  The entire floor is full of contained spaces. 

Judd’s studio was not for making, but rather for thinking, reading, and writing.  I can imagine an idea forming from where we are standing, traveling through the cube, past the reflecting chair, and out into the world.

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The studio wasn’t off limits to his family.  You can make out the children’s desk and chair in the left corner where the children would come do their homework.

In that sense, the house isn’t precious.  It was meant as a family home.  I was delighted to learn that Judd designed furniture, created out of pine and Douglas fir.  His trademark straight lines and straightforward designs transfer to the home.

Here you see the table and chairs of the dining room.  Note that the top of the chairs is flush with the top of the table, creating a pleasing line and another cube-like shape.  Judd himself was very tall, well over 6′, and I wondered how he could tuck himself into the straight-backed, low-to-the-ground chairs.  But they look smashing.

In case you’re curious, you can buy a replica for about $2000 per chair or $10,000 for the table, all still handmade to Judd’s specifications.

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For the same space, Judd designed a banquette on wheels shaped like a cube and a table doubling as a clever storage piece, with hinged doors on top opened to reveal glassware and tableware.

The second floor (of the five we visited) is the most overtly public space with Judd-designed built-ins.  There are two doors flush to the wall, sized according to each child’s height.  They open to closets.  Nearby is another door, again flush, that opens to reveal a puppet theater. 

Judd loved industrial materials and collected gadgets and restaurant equipment for the kitchen.  When they lived in Soho, the area wouldn’t have been full of restaurants.  They would have cooked and entertained in this space, with its huge windows connecting to street life.

He subdivided the spaces with their tall ceilings by designing lofts with ladders for access.  In the bedroom here, he built a loft space for his son, Flavin.  His son was named for Dan Flavin, a good friend and also the artist for the room-long, neon light piece on the right.

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By 1974, Soho had become an artsy area, which for Judd meant the end of its appeal.  He shunned the commercialization of art.  After searching for larger spaces outside of New York, he moved his family to Marfa, Texas.  There he built a compound of buildings that supported his experiments in framing space,  including the vast plains and mountains around the small town.

While his marriage didn’t survive this move, his work and influence grew outside of New York.  Experiencing the space he so carefully crafted, both in Marfa and now in New York, brings his sensibility profoundly alive.

Advanced Style

Feeling 18 without all the burdens.  That’s the assessment of her life by one of the older women featured in “Advanced Style.

No matter your sense of style, no doubt you will love these New York women who dream and live out those dreams. 

Whether you are feeling creaky or don’t recognize yourself when you look in the mirror because you feel so young, give yourself a treat with this documentary.  Maybe you’ll want to sign up for the blog for that ocassional pick-me-up!


Loving Kindness

As we wrestle with massive incivility in the American public sphere and greater racial tension than in several decades, today I experienced a microcosm of the issues enmeshed in this current.  And it was helpful.

In my Kabbalah class, we talked about the Tree of Life.  The Tree has always been my deepest connection to Judaism, and each revisit, I learn something new or hear just what I need in that moment.  Today, I felt the cord between Chesed, loving kindness, and Givurah, the judgement and balance needed to most effectively apply our hearts.

Tree of Life

Tree of Life

We talked about our speech, the importance of what we say, and avoiding ‘bad speech’.  Words are the expressions of spirit ( as in, from God came the word), so our speech is holy.  You know that experience of speaking joyfully and how you then become filled with joy.  How different that feels from whining (all words used with intention).  Do what you say you’re going to do, and you will be filled with the deep satisfaction of integrity.

I left class feeling calm, recommitted to kindness, and ready for my encounter with Anna Deveare Smith and her new one-woman show “Notes from the Field.”  Long an admirer of how she makes political and sociological points by giving voice to everyday people, I was interested in how she would bring her reenactments of interviews to the raw topic of racism by the police, our schools, and the justice system.

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When the show started, I grew impatient with the retreads of recent events, the inevitable pain and outrage focused mostly on Freddy Gray.  Take me somewhere new.  I expect this is Smith.

But, I realized, this inhumanity to humans is not new.  Smith’s responsibility is not to say something new, but to be a voice for those not usually heard.  I heard the school principal’s shock when a young man said prison wasn’t so bad because he had enough to eat and could play basketball.  She vowed to stop the school police from arresting students.  Make them stay in school.  Break the pattern.

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I started to hear hope in the possibility of words and actions.  Not be victimized into inaction by incivility of wannabe leaders or cruelty from other forms of institutionalized power.  By Act 2, I resonated with the small uplifts–the prisoner who trains service dogs for the disabled, the teacher who focuses on changing one life, John Lewis who forgave the man who beat him in 1961, now calling him brother.  I spent much of the second act in tears.

We live in a very tough world, and I don’t want to be victimized by it with a continual onslaught of pain.  I don’t want to turn into teflon either.  The Kabbalah suggests a balance—to use good judgement and hold each encounter with loving kindness.  It sounds so simple, but for me, it is the work of a lifetime.

The Sole of Connecticut

Loving the quirky little exhibit here and there and relishing shoes as art, the shoe show at the Connecticut Historical Society is just the thing.


These well-heeled shoes for the well-heeled woman were not only owned, but also made by Hannah Edwards in about 1746.  Looking pretty sharp for 260 years old.  I would let Hannah make me a pair of shoes any day.

Like many Colonials, she made and repaired shoes at home, buying leather tanned by Native Americans.  Vegetarian spoiler alert:  the Indians used animal brains to tan the hides.

Even from early on, when shoes were made in small workshops called tanneries, chemicals from the process were dumped in our rivers.  Sigh.


These shoes were made from a military flag carried in the American Revolution.  Really!  Red silk damask and painted with gold.  Made in about 1780, they are a remarkable blend of patriotism and “waste not, want not.”

These shoes come from an era when many people went barefoot.  See this 1776 ad that offered a $5 reward for the return of an African-American man named London, who had run away with a coat, vest, leather breeches, two pair of trousers, and notably two pairs of shoes.


I’m very committed to flats, so marveled at this wisp of a shoe.

Colonial Ballet Flats

Colonial Ballet Flats

2016-10-13-17-31-49Owned by Ann Francis Darling in about 1865, I don’t see how this shoe could get a lady through a war.  These wedding shoes on the right from 1876 look like they would only last for that special day.


Mid-1800s N. Hayward & Co. shoe advertisement

1888-1893 Colchester Rubber Co. advertisement



Rubber has been big business in Connecticut since Charles Goodyear figured out how to vulcanize it for durability in 1844.






Rubber shoes and boots showed up not long after.  In 1893, displayed at the Chicago World’s Fair, U.S. Rubber displayed these miniatures as advertisements for their full-sized counterparts.  They were sold as tchotchkes, too.  Instant nationwide marketing.

Attach canvas to a rubber bottom, and you get that feeling of walking barefoot.  Yes, back to our roots, when shoes were a luxury good.

Comfort and canvas and rubber and voila!, you get sneakers, a Connecticut invention.  These shoes were dubbed sneakers because the rubber soles allow you to sneak around very quietly.  Shhhh.


In 1916, U.S. Rubber consolidated 30 companies to form the Keds brand.  Soon athletes adopted Keds, as did just about everyone else, me included.  I’ve had some pretty sharp Keds in my day–colors, patterns.  Pretty groovy!

As was the pop culture section of the “Growing Up in Connecticut” exhibit also at CHS (it could have been Growing Up in Anywhere, U.S.A. after WWII).

This tv is so cute, it makes me reconsider having one of my own.


I was a Beatles fan, but don’t recall the baseball cards, like the one here on the left of John Lennon.  My brother and I would have loved those.


We did definitely play with lots of plastic dinosaurs and creepy figures.


Oh what memories!


Docomomo in New Haven

Docomomo had its day today.  All over the U.S., preservation groups were leading Docomomo tours.  So what is Docomomo?  “Documentation and conservation of bulidings, sites, and nieghborhoods of the modern movement.”  Read that as modernist architecture from the mid-20th century.

Walter Malley house, 1909, designed by Grosvenor Atterbury

Walter Malley house, 1909, designed by Grosvenor Atterbury

In New Haven, land of great architecture, New Haven Preservation Trust took on the awesome duty of touring us to see modernist residential architecture.  And where better to visit that elegant St. Ronan Street?  Wait?  What?  Yes, among those classic beauties, crafting the first “streetcar suburb” in the area, are emblems of modernity.

2016-10-08-14-21-23After the Civil War, when New Haven became an industrial powerhouse, estates were built in the country outside New Haven on St. Ronan Street.  Yes, St. Ronan is walking distance from much of Yale, but that just shows how small New Haven was at the time.  Eli Whitney was among the notables to build leafy green estates here.

By the 1920s, with a wave of modernism, the estates were broken up into small lots.  Streetcars carried people the easy distance to downtown jobs.





Adolph Mendel house, 1913, designed by R.W. Foote

Adolph Mendel house, 1913, designed by R.W. Foote





By the 1950s and ’60s though, like so much of the country, car culture created real suburbs, and neighborhoods like this one were in radical decline.  Large houses were converted to rooming houses.  Lots were subdivided again with urban renewal and back filled with smaller homes.

Architecture students graduating from Yale were building experimental houses on these small lots.  Established architects, like H.W. Foote, who designed stately homes like the Adolph Mendel house above, shifted to constructing modernist designs.

Jose Delgado house, 1959, designed by Gualtier & Johnson

Jose Delgado house, 1959, designed by Gualtier & Johnson

Houses like the Jose Delgado house applied a California philosophy to the modernism.  Low pitched roof lines overhang garages placed near the street.  Behind the garage, the private part of the house opens onto garden spaces behind, melding the indoor and outdoor spaces.

But having the garage up front “deadens the streetscape,” we were told.  That’s why traditional houses with front porches will hold a place in people’s hearts.

It’s all a tradeoff.



Mrs. E.H. Tuttle house, 1956, designed by E. Carleton Granbery

Mrs. E.H. Tuttle house, 1956, designed by E. Carleton Granbery


You can see an earlier California design again in the Tuttle House from 1956.






Stanley and Margaret Leavy Residence

Stanley/Margaret Leavy house, 1967, designed by Granbery, Cash & Assoc.

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Piet Mondrian, Lozenge Composition, 1921

My favorite was the Leavy house.  I just love the geometric lines and blocks of color, reminiscent of a Mondrian painting, and what must be bright, open interior spaces.

Dr. Leavy saw patients in the home originally.  Now, the patient area is rented out as an Air BnB.  Let me know if you stay here!


Robert/Judith Evenson house, 1979, designed by Kosinski Architecture

Robert/Judith Evenson house, 1979, designed by Kosinski Architecture

By the 1970s, architects were concerned with energy conservation, as we can see in the solar-designed Evenson house.  Skylights allow heat to radiate through the space, heat water, that then circulates through radiator piping to heat the house.  Heavy walls and small windows provide solar gain, too.

The eclectic architecture of the St. Ronan area shows a pattern of architectural history in towns and cities replicated across the country.  The desire to build large homes in traditional, European styles gets intermixed with a robust American modernism.  Eye candy all!

Corn Maze

Everyone is trying very hard this weekend to make it seem like autumn, despite the warm temperatures.  Apple festivals, hayrides, pumpkin ice cream, and corn mazes are everywhere.


I went to the Nathan Hale Homestead for their corn maze.  Since a wedding had just ended, I had the whole maze to myself.


Except for Butterscotch, of course.


There’s still some corn left to be plucked.


The corn definitely grows as high as an elephant’s eye, way over my head.


And it makes its own music, like a rainforest, as you can hear in this video.

All is quiet enough to be surprised by a spook around the corner…


…and mourn the loss of some silly spirits.









No doubt, this place would be scary at night, but would it be scarier than this ear of corn?


What any of this has to do with our young patriot who wished he more than one life to give to his country, I’m not sure.  But today was not about questions and finding answers.  It was about getting lost in the corn.


The Joy of Wax!

I’m not often on the art-making side of things, but today I ventured to an encaustic workshop.  I do love the encaustic technique of building up the surface with pigment and wax.

After a day with it, I know the process to be very forgiving of someone who is not particularly gifted artistically (a nice way of assessing my talents).  There’s also that serendipity thing that happens, which I really like.

Our workshop leader Leslie Giuliani is very talented and a marvelous instructor.  She made painting with wax the easiest thing in the world.  She even managed to take all my self-consciousness and self-judgment out of my work.  What I so appreciated is that Leslie seemed to take genuine pleasure in each person’s work.

She and I shared a chuckle over this homage to Jasper Johns, who layered wax and newspapers onto his paintings of the American flag.


I built up the layers by using pigmented wax, collaing ordinary fabrics and patterned tissue paper, then adding a layer of silver metallic wax, topping it all with ‘medium’ or clear wax.  Over the next few days, the piece may clear up, lighten, take on a new look.  I like what’s here and am interested in what may emerge.

Leslie passed on the tip of using wax pieces, shards really, on the painted surface.  I loved tossing the pieces onto the surface like confetti.


Working with the heat gun, some of the confetti melted, blurred, swirled in a very painterly way.  Other bits stayed intact.  Just fun.

I’m surprised that I like the results from this playful day as much as I do.  I actually may keep these little pieces, unusual for me after any kind of hand-craft, art-making adventure.  A really delightful discovery!