Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"What happiness feels like"

Last week, wonderful art: at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, there was a Wayne Thiebaud retrospective. He turned 90 on November 15, and he still paints AND plays tennis every day! Maybe the most satisfying museum show ever: most delicious paint. In 2001 in the NY Times, Michael Kimmelman wrote: 
"If the world were a perfect place, the Wayne Thiebaud retrospective ... would be nailed to the walls for good and we would be free to stop by whenever we needed to remind ourselves what happiness feels like.” 

The next day, I went to the de Young Museum in SF with John Dabney (who, it turns out, is related to the painter Daubigny!). Many post-impressionist treasures were visiting from the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, including some I didn't think would ever leave Paris: Vincent's Bedroom at Arles, Starry Night, a roomful of Cezannes, and more. I turned the corner and there was "my" Toulouse-Lautrec, "La Rousse," that I copied in pastel a few years ago, studying it inch by inch over 5 weeks. It was such a thrill; I ran back around the corner to share the news with John, who was basking in the glow of the Renoirs.

On Saturday, before heading for the airport, I went to the Museum of the Palace of the Legion of Honor in SF for a show of Japanese prints and western prints they inspired in the 19th century. I arrived just in time for a woodblock printing demo, HANDS ON, yes! A beautiful tiny martial-artist woman with shaved head and dangly earrings and work boots showed how the traditional woodblock prints are made. Then, along with a couple of dozen others, I got to carve my own little woodblock. I carved a turtle: had just seen a dignified turtle in an old print, reminded that it signifies longevity. 

I have just seen the portrait of me that Beth had told me about! How she sees me is interesting to me: I don't quite feel like that's the face I inhabit, but I like the look of that person, and I think she should go mix up some colors. 

Friday, April 30, 2010


Kenneth Branagh as Ivanov, originally uploaded by Skeinfest.
Kenneth Branagh as Chekhov's "Ivanov," November 2008, Donmar Warehouse, London. Pencil sketch (Inktense pencils) from the program cover photo, April 28, 2010, in Beth's studio. (I'm going to put up some March entries, a bit belated: New York, MOMA, Marina Abramovich "The Artist is Present," and more....).

Saturday, March 20, 2010

"The Artist is Present": a New York week

Susan came down from Boston and we met at the Manhattan Club (timeshare graciously ceded by my brother and sister-in-law) for a week in New York. I had arrived on a bumpy flight, but at least my airplane, unlike others that night, landed where it was supposed to. After a quick bus into the city, I couldn't resist walking from the Port Authority Bus Terminal up to West 56th. Saturday night in Times Square with a howling rainstorm!

From our cozy suite, we could see Carnegie Hall and Central Park.

On Sunday we had brunch with Jack Snyder at Caffe Cielo, then went to the Museum of Modern Art, packed with refugees from the rain. During the week we also walked through Central Park, still mostly leafless, to see:
  • the Whitney Biennial and the greatest-hits show "Collecting";
  • the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum -- where, like most of the visitors, I spent too much time trying to figure out how to make the iPod Touch tour-guides work instead of looking at the exhibits;
  • the Guggenheim -- the main (corkscrew) building closed for installation of a new show but in the new wing I discovered a gorgeous painting by an artist I'd not been aware of: FrantiĊĦek Kupka, Planes by Colors, Large Nude, 1909–10;
  • the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and more.
Plus a bit of St. Patrick's Day parade, the Apple store, art galleries in Chelsea, and some great food.
One night Susan and I saw "Fela!" with amazing dancing (thank you Bill T. Jones and dancers) and music by Fela Kuti, originator of Afro-Beat music; the musical is set it his club in Nigeria, "The Shrine." On another night (2 blocks walk to front-row seats in a small theater!) we saw "Equivocation" by Bill Cain, riffing on the Gunpowder Plot, Shakespeare and his acting troupe, and the efforts of the powerful to torture truth into the shape of a story that will keep them in power. My idiotic choice from the TKTS  booth for my last night was a farce; I missed my chance to see Alfred Molina as Mark Rothko in previews of "Red." I'll be wincing for years that I didn't go. But I did see this (Rothko "No. 10") ---

and this (Clyfford Still). 
My last day in New York (weather had turned to spring by then), I stumbled onto the 6th floor of MOMA looking for something else. Passing by warnings of nudity and disturbing images, I entered the retrospective, with recreations, of works by performance artist Marina Abramovic. The show is called "The Artist is Present," and Marina is indeed present for the whole run of the exhibition, almost 700 hours from March 12 to May 31. Trust, stamina, being "100 percent present."
I found the show unexpectedly moving. Early originals from her work starting in the 1960s were projected in B&W, later ones shown by color film. Some pieces were recreated by performers in the galleries. The show made me think (and feel) about trust, and the artist's bravery in trusting her audiences. In "Luminosity," a young woman stood on a perch halfway up a wall, spotlit; while I stood in this gallery, a young man nearby was gazing at her, and she was gazing down at him with a beautiful expression of stillness. Slowly, slowly, her arms raised: so slowly the motion almost imperceptible. It seemed to me that she was spreading her wings; it felt like a blessing.

Live streaming video is here.  Photos of people who come to sit across the table from Marina are here. I am not alone in wishing I could hear the thoughts of the performers who recreated her works: the June 2 symposium with the performers is already sold out.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Worldwide Sketchcrawl Day, 2/27/2010


I love finding the preserved fragments of art-deco and art nouveau elements that were integral to older downtown Seattle buildings.

I wish I could capture the peculiarity of a forest built in a boxtop set atop a freeway surrounded by giant glassy buildings!
Seattle has changed so much since my younger days when the Smith Tower (yes!) was the tallest building in town. Then came the Space Needle, then the Sea-First building, where I worked for a few years several decades ago. The views from its top floors were spectacular, but not much else there was fun, so sometimes I took refuge at lunchtime in Seattle's Freeway Park, then new. I would sit close to the fountains where the white-noise of the rushing water drowned out the rush of cars on Interstate 5 below. Seattle has grown; fortunately Freeway Park has grown too. Yesterday was a typical grayish February Seattle day, but urban sketch-crawlers found color everywhere! Thanks again to Beth and everyone who came along for the fun!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Port Townsend Bay

Seattle Plein Air group met in Port Townsend on a windy day; five of us painted and drew from inside the new Maritime Center and were rewarded with waves and a peek at sun on the Olympics. 2/11/2010 (painted in Kroma acrylics, 6x20 inches or so). Others' work is here; I was glad to welcome Beth to Port Townsend for the first time!

Thursday, January 21, 2010