09 December 2013

from the design collection

In the Italian market, Campari mixed with soda water is sold in individual bottles as Campari Soda (10% alcohol by volume). Campari Soda is packaged in a distinctive bottle that was designed by Fortunato Depero in 1932. (From Wikipedia, article on Campari, viewed December 9, 2013)

07 December 2013

cultural missteps

Light snowfall in the air, off to the BFA senior shows and then the AU Symphony Orchestra concert. I ran into Lydia at the BFA shows. She had posted a note in Facebook on the listing for a show by Adam Katseff so I had assumed she was in New York City. But there she was, having returned in the last 24 hours. We compared notes on recent trips to NYC: where we stayed (Ridgewood and Bushwick), what we saw (Chris Burden, Mike Kelley), neighborhoods, where we ate. John and Ellen joined us and we sadly got into a bit of Brooklyn name-dropping as John and Ellen groaned. Both Lydia and I would love to live in the City, the art is so exciting and invigorating, so "sparkly" as Daniel said.

And then off to Miller for the concert. The house wasn't open so I took out Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie, my current reading. The next story was "Gentrification" wherein a white guy is living in a black neighborhood, the only white, but they're all just folks. Then the white guy does something that he perceives as neighborly, contrary to the customs of the majority black population. He becomes the unwanted. Culture is so inborn and it is easy to go astray.

Getting an apartment in an affordable neighborhood might very well mean living in a minority-majority area. It would be so easy to be "wrong." As I was walking home, thinking about the carol sing-along during the concert, I contemplated how, for some, singing Christian carols could be wrong. I certainly bristle when the Pledge of Allegiance is recited before Alfred Town meetings or the national anthem is played before village band concerts in the summer. No one from New York City would tolerate that. And I'm a child of the 1960s when those emblems of American allegiance got tangled up in the Vietnam War.

10 November 2013

Rieu : violin = Rastrelli : cello

When we were in Capo d'Orlando, our B&B host, Calogero Nici, talked about his love of the violinist André Rieu who plays classical music with glitz and circumstance. Not actually to my taste. I prefer "real" (unadulterated) classical music, don't need it all popped up.

I had read a notice about the Rastrelli Cello Quartet coming to Houghton College as part of their U.S. tour. I read the notice to mean that they were something like a traveling Kronos Quartet. Their "non-traditional programming" is more in the lines of Rieu, classical music for the masses, than Kronos. More Vegas than downtown NYC. Or the Miller Theater at Columbia where I heard some great contemporary classical music when I lived in the City. They're good, don't get me wrong about that, and they played the glissandos and glitz with skill and musicality.

If you're interested, here's a link to the video page on the Rastrelli website. One of the things we really enjoyed was how four Russian guys, all playing the cello, could be so different in physical appearance and playing style.

07 November 2013


I have been thinking about joining Nadine Hoover on one of her trips to Indonesia where she works with the Friends Peace Teams in Asia West Pacific. And today's Bergren Forum was Brian Arnold, photography teacher at School of Art and Design here; he talked on "Modernism and photography in Bali and Java." Intriguing. And now I know how to say Yogyakarta, one of the centers of contemporary art in Java. Or as Brian called it: the Chelsea of Indonesia.
Drawing by I Gusti Made Deblog,
from the Sutasome Story
"Gajahwaktra Fighting the Naga, before Sutasoma Comes to Bring Peace"
(ink on paper, circa 1950)

Knowing how Brian said Yogyakarta is a bit of a librarian story. Some places in Indonesia used to be spelled with "dj" where the "y" is now. I learned about this from my cataloging, probably items at Cornell which has a magnificent Southeast Asian collection. Anyway, Yogyakarta is pronounced "djogdjakarta" or something of the sort. The authority record for Yogyakarta has several references with DJ, K, or J where other letters appear in the authorized form.

05 November 2013

you can call me keith

So I was on my way home from the VRA/Upstate meeting in Salem, New York, at the McNish House, a project of Sheafe Satterthwaite. Sheafe is a part-time teacher and raconteur at Williams College, teaching American landscape history and other courses. The house is lovely, the 17th-century kitchen is remarkable, the book collection is stupendous. On the way home, after walking about some more in downtown Troy, I went over the Menands Bridge to Albany, walked about some more and went to the Albany Institute of History and Art. The mystery of the Albany mummies show had some wonderful Egyptian Revival tchotchkes.

Then it was on my way. As I neared Oneonta, I figured it was about lunch time and I could go to the Neptune Diner ... oh, no, I can go to downtown Oneonta and visit Green Toad Bookstore and eat someplace downtown. Green Toad is paired with a coffee house. I had on my Annie Leibovitz t-shirt with the picture of Keith Haring, from the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.
After I ordered my sandwich and coffee, the cashier asked if the guy on the t-shirt was me. No, but that's OK, you can call me Keith if you want to.

(Photo from http://www.artnet.com/auctions/)

30 October 2013

Makoko Floating School

Makoko Floating School, Lagos, Nigeria. Designed by NLÉ, an architectural firm with offices in Nigeria and the Netherlands, founded 2010 by Kunlé Adeyemi. Picture from the NLÉ website which includes a slide show of this and other projects.

The building is a combination community center and school: community center on first level, school on second level, other educational facilities on top level. Learning about this was a gift from today's indexing for Avery. There's an article in the May 2013 issue of Abitare wherein the author compared the structure with Aldo Rossi's Teatro del Mondo but admitted it might be the particular view. Or maybe it's just a glorious wooden building rising above the still waters of a canal or lagoon. I love my indexing!

28 October 2013

utopian benches

Utopian Benches, 2011, by Francis Cape, illustration from the Murray Guy website.

"A bench is a social sculpture, and this is why it interests Francis Cape." -- Frances Richard, in a review of Cape's show at Murray Guy, New York, in Artforum, October 2013, p. 293

23 October 2013


As I listened in rapt attention at the UB Gender Symposium described in the next older post, I couldn't help but be distracted by the reflection of the Darwin Martin House behind the speakers. Here, Jack Quinan (retired architectural historian from UB) and Wanda Bubriski (Executive Director Emeritus, Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation). Bubriski moderated a panel with Quinan and Beverly Willis after the film A Girl is a Fellow Here, with "here" being the Taliesin Foundation.

22 October 2013

case in point: Read Weber

As we artnacoisti get accustomed to the new fields in NACO records for attributes of the entity being established, the question of coding gender of persons has come up several times. I have told folks that they need to justify gender either by an explicit statement of gender or by use of a gendered pronoun. We should not assume that a Robert is male or a Susan is female. In most cases you'll be right but ...

I spent this afternoon, into the evening, at the "Building Talent: Women, Patronage, and Mentoring" symposium, coordinated by the University at Buffalo Gender Institute and held at the Greatbatch Pavilion at the Darwin Martin House. One of the features of the symposium, which was fantastic and inspirational, was a showing of the short documentary from the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation entitled A Girl is a Fellow Here--100 Women Architects in the Studio of Frank Lloyd Wright.

One of the six architects featured in the film was Read Weber (1908-1990). She was listed as male in the registry of American architects of the American Institute of Architecture until 2008. The profile of Weber on the Willis Foundation page mentions this and below is an illustration of the Coney Island Hospital, designed in 1957 by Weber. (Photo credit: Stoller/Esto Photography)

In the film, several of the women are interviewed and express their appreciation of Wright's attitude toward women. That is, he was unwilling to give them any more credit than he gave his male associates.

The speaker that had me in the palm of her hand was Marika Schioiri-Clark, now principal of SOSHL Studio. I had seen some of her work with MASS Design Group as part of my Avery indexing. MASS did a hospital project in Butaro, Rwanda. Schioiri is now living in Cleveland and working on an artist housing and residency project among other things. Her key words are "empathic design" and her mission is founded in her studies at Harvard where aesthetics trumped social engagement.

They said they were filming the symposium. Perhaps it will be available one of these days.

06 October 2013

connect the dots

At the ARLIS/Western New York (aka the "upstate" chapter) meeting last week at the Watson Homestead, we had two artist talks. One was by Chris McEvoy who described the methodology he uses to make his paintings. It was intriguing. Here's "Some Kind of Nature" (2011) from his website:
I was doing some maintenance in the Scholes catalog and came across several forms of name for Mary McInnes, one of the art history professors here. One of the books attached to her name is Telling Histories: Installations by Ellen Rothenberg and Carrie Mae Weems, the catalog for an exhibition at the Boston University Art Gallery, 1999. It turns out that Chris McEvoy was a preparator for the exhibition, according the credits in the catalog.

I was sorely tempted going to see the Carrie Mae Weems show at the Cleveland Museum of Art which closed just a few days ago. I didn't make it and it is some consolation that it will be at the Guggenheim early next year. Weems has done a wide variety of work and is one of the new MacArthur fellows this year. If you don't know her work, I recommend a trip to her website and here's one of the "African Jewels" from 2009:
I saw some of Weems's photographs of Timbuktu at the Brooklyn Museum some years ago so it was especially troubling when the rebels were battling there. And that reminds me of Chris Huemer who went to Timbuktu one year for Christmas. Chris was then the librarian at the American Academy in Rome though I met her in 1969 or 1970 when we were both at Cornell libraries.

The other artist who spoke to us at ARLIS/WNY was Paul Bartow. Mostly he is involved with social practice and collaboration, with several projects having a nature and science bend. The last book I finished reading was What We Made: Conversations on Art and Social Cooperation by Tom Finkelpearl (Duke, 2013). The social practitioners are strong around Alfred and I was surprised by a colleague's dismissal of Bartow as not an artist. Oh, well. I enjoyed Bartow's talk and Finkelpearl's book.

And if you read about my enjoyment of the Kyle Abraham concert at the beginning of the school year, it was good to read that he too was selected as a MacArthur Fellow this year.

07 September 2013

missing NYC

Missing NYC. Yesterday the New York Times had reviews of a show of work by Elaine Reichek at the Jewish Museum and work by Eleanor Antin at Columbia University. Reichel's needlepoint work about being Jewish looks compelling. "If you think you can be a little bit Jewish, you think you can be a little bit pregnant." Antin's work on identity has been around since the 1970s and has lost none of its power. Social practice from way back.

I was reading the paper as I waited for the Kyle Abraham and Abraham.in.Motion performance of Pavement to begin. It was incredible, reminded me of many visits to the Joyce, Danspace, BAM, Dance Theater Workshop, Duke, etc. etc. etc., in the quality of production and presentation.
This picture is from the company website and gives some idea of the energy. But it wasn't only the hard energy seen here; the dancers were also capable of loveliness and softness. A fine mix of modern, balletic, jazz, and street, and, gosh, just movement. Some text, mostly recorded. Oh, it was inside at Alfred with projections on the basketball backboard, and a single orange line marking the box of the in-or-out floor space.

One of the most powerful scenes was with Abraham as a street guy saying "help me" and the rest pretty much ignoring him, or worse. The lights went way down and the red revolving lights of a cop car came from off stage right. The street guy kept saying "help me" as a duet was happening in the near darkness. It was very compelling. I saw the darkness as protection from the overwhelming sadness of the social interaction (or non-interaction). In the talk back after the performance, Abraham said he thought it was "abstract" but I found it perhaps the most literal part of the narrative on fallen down neighborhoods.

You will note that the company includes both black and white dancers. Abraham himself is black. Some parts of the dance played very much off race and the race of the dancer mattered. Other parts were very mixed or silent on race. The term "post black" came to mind but I decided it was more like "race optional" (parallel to the clothing optionality of naturists). Besides, "post" anything is too easy, too ubiquitous.

I was sitting next to Laurel Jay Carpenter so of course we had to talk about performance and New York City. She just got back from sabbatical, some of which was spent in the City. She lived in the City for a decade or so, mostly before I lived there from 1995-2009. I first saw her when she did the Red Woman work in Tompkins Square in the early-mid aughts. I told her I wished I could find someone who had an extra room in their house/apartment or a small live/work space so that I could impulsively take off for a few days in NYC and not worry about imposing on someone or selling off my stock to stay in a hotel. She said "everybody wants that." Sigh. We know it's really not EVERYbody but there are a lot of us in Alfred that are very fond of the opportunities and street life of New York City.

All of this flowed through after Thursday night's Village Planning Board meeting with the ritual discussion of the drunkenness and litter and noise of Alfred nights. NYC is undoubtedly cacophonous but it's a constant, exuberant, gritty noise, not to everyone's taste or anyone's constant desire. The number of Styrofoam boxes along with cans and other litter on the streets of Alfred on Saturday or Sunday morning is devastatingly depressing for me. I can't believe that so much crappy post-drinking food can be consumed and that so many consumers of said stuff can be so sloppy in disposing of the containers.

Added to this cacophony of thoughts was the review on Thursday entitled "A small-town girl who wants out": the Hill Town Plays, a cycle of five plays by Lucy Thurber, produced concurrently by Rattlestick Plyawrights Theater in Greenwich Village theaters, set in western Massachusetts. Charles Isherwood, reviewer, has some pithy things to say about the "soul-deadening anomie" and "grim determinism" that infects the characters and setting.

So I've been missing the City after several months of seeing art in various upstate and other locations as I traveled around. The Georgia O'Keeffe and Lake George show at the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, for example, was really fine. So I thought I wasn't minding too much that I haven't been to the City since February but perhaps that's been part of the soul-deadening anomie that's been hanging over me.

30 August 2013

Sherman Maxon

I just finished reading Grand Wood: A Life by R. Tripp Evans (Knopf, 2010). It is well-written and I really enjoyed the telling of Wood's story by a gay art historian. It is written in a popular style, that is, footnotes are relegated to the back and mostly give citations for quotations and other facts.

Wood was certainly interested in young men, both in social action and as art subjects. As is probably typical for his day (1891-1942), it is not clear how much he acted on his homosexuality. After his mother's death and not so long before his own, he married Sara Sherman Maxon. She was a powerful woman and the marriage lasted only a few years and was not happy. Her son, Sherman Maxon, and his wife, Dorothy, came to live with the Woods in Iowa City where they had moved from Cedar Rapids and renovated a fine brick house on East Court Street.

Sherman and Dorothy modeled in 1936 for illustrations from Main Street by Upton Sinclair. "In The Radical, Wood's illustration for the character Miles Bjornstrom, Sherman appears not as Lewis's ragged, disaffected intellectual, but as a caricature of rugged masculinity. Wearing a heavy sheepskin-lined coat and hunting cap, he stands in a toolshed and brandishes a rather phallic-looking wooden baton. With his broad shoulders, muscular neck, and exaggerated mustache -- a feature neither Lewis's character nor Sherman shared -- this über-masculine figure is more Tom of Finland than the bookish Scandinavian of Lewis's novel." (Tripp, p. 223; illustration from ebay)

Sherman and Dorothy continued to live with Grant Wood after Sara left him and moved to New York City. I am not especially pleased that Sherman was a scrounger.

25 July 2013

brutalism renovated, replaced by bland

When I was going to college at New Paltz State in the mid-late 1960s, brutalism was in high swing and Le Corbusier's La Tourette monastery was one of my favorite buildings. And then they started building the new science building on campus. It was designed by Davis Brody and stretched along one side of the main quadrangle with the old main building and the then library and student union on the other sides of the quad. It wasn't finished by the time I graduated but the concrete was beautiful and the stair cases were sculptural.
This picture is from a visit in 2009, along the side away from the quadrangle and toward the fine arts building and the dorms. The quadrangle side of the building was lined by a parking lot so it didn't form a fourth elevation for the quadrangle. Sad.
Like all buildings, a brutalist one needs loving care and attention to siting if it is to work in a friendly way. Not only was it a gray rainy day and there was a parking lot, the covered walkway to a neighboring building isn't particularly compatible. It blocked the view of the stair sculpture. Still, I really enjoyed seeing this building that had been so influential in my appreciation of 20th-century architecture, particularly brutalism.

Imagine my grave disappointment when I stopped by yesterday on my way home from a week of cataloging at Bard. I figured a visit to campus and the Dorsky Museum of Art would be amusing even though I didn't know what shows were on. I parked near campus, on the quad side. I rounded the corner of the wing of the old student union and saw:
There, where I would have liked to see the Wooster Science Building with a lawn up to the building, forming the fourth side of the old main quadrangle, were a construction fence, crane, removed stair sculptures, and new framing for replacement walls. They're "renovating" the building and giving it a new bland façade:
How could they??

The shows at the Dorsky? "Anonymous: contemporary Tibetan art" had some interesting works, way better than the rather hokey animation of the special on Buddhism we'd been watching the evening before. "Screen shot" also had some amusing pieces, including a video of women bodybuilders preening to a soundtrack of Falling in love again (as made famous by Marlene Dietrich), the title of the work by Rachel Rampleman.

no mail delivery, no land line: will I be ready for the new communicating?

As I drove home from Bard on Wednesday, two successive stories on All Things Considered had me practically weeping.

USPS has started using curb boxes or neighborhood clusters of boxes for new houses. Congressman Darrell Issa of California would like to make that universal. Click here for an article from matzav.com on this matter. The next story on All Things Considered said that Verizon is going to switch over from land lines to wifi-connected phones. That is (this is what I heard them say, not necessarily what they meant), the phone on your desk would connect to a wifi box that would connect to Verizon's service. It will save Verizon from maintaining all those deteriorating copper wires. Folks without consistent wifi service or those with health or other emergency needs would continue to be eligible for traditional land lines.

It's true that I use email for personal messages more than I send things via USPS. It's also true that paying my bills via USPS won't keep them afloat, nor will my continuing to use discs for my Netflix viewing. And I even have no problem with walking to the post office or some neighborhood box for my mail. I do finally have a cellphone but I prefer my land line phones, most of the time.

It's more the abrogration of the responsibility for our shared infrastructure and its maintenance that makes me weep. And pine for the good old days.

03 June 2013

ants and collaboration

So I was warned by the bookshop owner at Calamus Books in Boston that reading Eminent outlaws by Christopher Bram would lead to a list of books to read. No problem. I went up to Herrick Library this afternoon to get Just above my head, the last novel of James Baldwin. I left with three other books as well: Prater Violet by Christopher Isherwood; The dream of Arcadia: American writers and artists in Italy, 1760-1915 by Van Wyck Books; and Fictions of masculinity: crossing cultures, crossing sexualities, edited by Peter F. Murphy. On leaving the library, I was meandering home in the lovely but cool sunshine when I spotted three ants pushing along a one-inch long piece of something. I couldn't tell if the object was a twig or perhaps a caterpillar carcass. The two guys at the ends were walking sideways and the guy in the middle was walking backwards, and they were moving at a good clip. When they got to the edge of the sidewalk, they shifted to moving the object lengthwise instead of broadside. Under this blade, over those blades of grass. Quite amazing how fast they were progressing even in the grass. The grass appeared rather alive with ants so perhaps more were assisting in the more difficult territory.

Walking on, I ran into Lily and told her about the amazing ant show and she said she'd just been watching a video about ants and emergence, about collaboration. A search on Google for "ants emergence" will get you a bunch of responses so I'm not sure what exactly she was watching or reading. Still, it was amazing that we were both enthralled at the moment about the great collaboratory of the ants.

daughter, thought her, water and Sherman Alexie

Doug sent me a link to Sherman Alexie being interviewed by Bill Moyers and I am enjoying his reading of a couple poems: one about Yo Yo Ma's cello and another about Facebook. Now you can guess part of why Doug sent me the link to the interview but it's also interesting to listen to his words about being bi-cultural and bipolar and bi-political. Poetry is sometimes more about words than prose and rhyme is clearly word-y. And that brings back the wonderful rhymes of yesterday's concert of the Penn Yan Community Chorus. These words from the Neighbors' Chorus from La jolie parfumeuse by Offenbach especially thrilled. I loved the rhyme of daughter, thought her, and water.

Was she a very rich man’s daughter
Who showed that she was not all you thought her?
When with your songs of love you sought her,
Were you dowsed with water poured down from above?

Corita Kent and sig files

Our VRA Upstate Chapter meeting included a curator-led visit to the "Someday is now: the art of Corita Kent" show at the Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College. I vividly remember seeing some of the works as they appeared in the later 1960s and 1970s and was a bit distressed to find that they read like sig files now. How is it that wonderful statements can be trivialized by being repeated at the bottom of people's emails? The work above is, however, from the Market Basket works which resulted from her art classes, still related to her good works on social progress.

09 May 2013

a day in the life

The note in my calendar said that the Agnes Martin show at the Albright-Knox was closing on Sunday so I checked the mailing I'd gotten not too long ago and saw that there were a couple other shows as well that were closing soon. So off I went to Buffalo today. As I drove in the intermittent rain, I wondered why I'd go on a two-hour drive on such a day.

I got to the Albright-Knox at about 11 am and headed toward the tunnel galleries between the main building and the office building. There in the corridor gallery was a collection of contemporary photographs from the museum's collection. There were some very moving photos by Sophie Ristelhueber from her "Fait" series of images taken in Kuwait soon after the first Gulf War. Next to them were two portraits of veterans of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars by Jennifer Karady. I've been thinking a lot about war, terrorism, and Muslims recently, in light particularly of the Boston Marathon bombing and the reaction to the Tsarnaev brothers. My brother posted a link on Facebook to the New York times article on the dark side of the younger brother Dzhokhar. I posted a response wondering why an angry teenager turns to violence and a firestorm ensued.

As I was standing next to the Ristelhueber photographs, a docent was talking to some high school students about the photographs and said there was no political comment. Not overt maybe?!??! but it sure spoke loud to me. Rusted tanks and other military equipment littering the desert. No politics here?

The Agnes Martin works were as aesthetically moving as the photos had been emotionally disruptive. The show originated at the Harwood Museum of Art of UNM in Taos. There the show was called "Before the grid" but the Buffalo version was called "Agnes Martin: the New York-Taos-connection (1947-1957). What a wonderful gathering of works and mostly new to me. This image is "Mid-winter" from the Harwood Museum exhibition page. The painting is in the Taos Municipal Schools Historic Art Collection. This and others reminded me of Arthur Dove, a favorite artist.

The other shows were "Kelly Richardson: Legion" and "Dennis Maher: House of collective repair" with more thoughts of man and nature, man as a social creature.

Full on art, I went off to Talking Leaves Bookstore which has a branch a few blocks South on Elmwood Avenue from the Albright-Knox, stopping on the way at Saigon Cafe for some gingered vegetables. I bought a couple books at Talking Leaves and had a latte at Aroma which is adjacent and linked inside to the bookstore. I'm reading On Persephone's island, the second book on Sicily since I got back five weeks ago.

Not quite sated on books, I headed out to the main Talking Leaves on Main Street out by the UB campus. Ooops, six more, several were on the list. A couple were discoveries including Whistling Vivaldi: how stereotypes affect us and what we can do by Claude Steele. More thinking about how we characterize others and how it affects relations between the people of the world.

Getting sated now but since I was up in northeastern Buffalo, I figured I'd continue out Route 5 to Transit Road and stop at the Barnes and Noble. I have some gift cards, bought from my sister's partner's son's longtime girlfriend who never goes shopping though she likes to read. They even let you use the gift card in the coffee shop!

Off toward home. The town of Holland intrigues me for a variety of reasons: my good friend Geurt is Dutch, one of my favorite artists (Hieronymus Bosch) is Dutch, the Zider Zee restaurant has a mini windmill, there's this wonderful almost-semicircular car repair shop with stepped gables:
As I was driving through Holland, I noticed there was a little carnival happening. Drove by but then turned around. I was just a bit hungry and thought there might be some carnival treat. Nothing quite like getting some fried dough and taking a ride on a small ferris wheel.

06 May 2013

To the Sicilians: Trattoria Bar Da Nino Titos, Ragusa

We walked down the Scala di Ragusa and then back up into Ragusa Ibla (the older part of town, the newer part being built after the great earthquake of 1693) and out toward the Giardino Ibleo. It was about time to eat lunch and we'd scribbled down the name of some restaurants out that direction. We passed the lovely Vecchio Portale di San Giorgio, all that's left of the Arabo-Catalan Romanesque/Gothic church. Whatever style, the great mix of Sicily.

The highly recommended Quattro Gatti, just beyond the old portal, was closed so I walked on ahead of Christie to see if Trattoria Bar Da Nino Titos was open. The door was open but there wasn't much evidence of business yet. I asked the fellow that came to greet me and he said that they were indeed open. I let him know that I had to go back to get "mi amica" and then we'd come for the big meal of the day. When we got back to the restaurant, they'd set up a table for us. Tablecloth, silverware, in a little alcove, etc. Most of the tables were uncovered.

As we were getting settled in, a group of young women came in, all bubbling. They had discovered the Harlem Shake meme and were getting ready to do one of their own. I hadn't heard of it but Christie recognized it. There was some international chitter-chatter understanding. All was well: international understanding beyond a shared verbal language, gracious hosting, good cheese antipasto and meal.

03 May 2013

aging hippie, aging hipster, not hipster, whatever

So I've long referred to myself as an aging hippie. When I met Sharon for lunch in L.A., I started to show her my tattoo and she said she was mighty tired of hipster tattoos. Well, that put me in my place, or maybe not. You probably cannot be an aging hipster if you were never a young hipster. On the other hand, getting the tattoo was certainly inspired by looking at lots of hipster tattoos. What's a person to do to stay fashionable. Sharon did say she liked my tattoo OK but only looked with one sidelong glance.

24 April 2013


We really loved the art nouveau houses in Vittoria. The smallish one above seemed just about the right size for a pied-à-terre. But I also really liked the infill shop below, very attentive to detail, proportion, and context, yet thoroughly modern classical. It fit right in on the main shopping street of Vittoria.

After I got home, I was talking to another village planning board member about houses in the village and the sprawl that inhabits the hills around the village. Just think if we could fill in some of the vacant spots as intelligently as this building. No, I don't know what was in this spot before so leave me with my fantasy that no historic building was taken down.

More pictures of Vittoria:

18 April 2013


Susan Morehouse, English professor at Alfred University, talked to us about "Why I liked Brave: a memoir of motherhood and the movies" at today's Bergren Forum. I'm never seen any of the Disney princess movies but her talk was intriguing in many ways. Morehouse, a self-described "second wave feminist," talked about dead mothers, absent (absent-minded) fathers, overbearing and bearishness, Disney princess hair (wild hair and wild women), and vulnerability. The thing that may stick with me is her description of the mother in Brave who doesn't eat. We're not talking eating disorder but that the role of mother/woman is starving her. The relationship of physical and mental wellbeing is so close.

And then as I was eating lunch after the talk, I was reading Holland Cotter's review of the Claes Oldenburg show just opening at MoMA in New York City. The second-floor atrium has the Mouse Museum and the Ray Gun Wing. The sixth floor has "The street and the store," showing his works from the late 1950s and into the 1960s, back when I fell in love with his work. I was in the same space during grad school when we Case Westerners went to Oberlin to see the dedication of a large plug in the yard of the Allen Memorial Art Museum. Cotter's review ends:

"Certainly little of the city's constituent material escaped [Oldenburg's] devouring but inventively discriminating hunger. The evidence is there in the mini-museums, but also in the work upstairs. Most of the 1950s and '60s sculpture is relic fragile now; maybe it always was. But it still does at least a couple things Pop Art was meant to do. Like advertising it makes the everyday world look larger -- grander, grosser -- than life. And it confirms that art, with all of its deceptions, contradictions and empty ethical calories, is a form of nourishment we can't seem to get our fill of."

Food's great. The mixed fresh catch of the day pictured above was easily consumed in Palermo in early March. But as wonderful as food can be, it's still the mix of physical, mental, and visual food that sustains me.

12 April 2013

Bosch in a shop window

When we saw this shop window in Palermo with little Bosch figurines, I scoffed. Now, I wish I'd gone back when the shop was open to buy a tchotchke to put on the dashboard of my car Hieronymus.

I also wish that I'd bought another O Chive pocket watch or maybe two more.

06 April 2013

To the Sicilians: stone fences

We were intrigued as we drove around by the stone fences. The fences were sometimes hard to distinguish from outcroppings. They were mostly dry wall, that is, no mortar. The enclosures varied in size and we didn't often see occupied enclosures but did see cows in an enclosure near this scene along the road between Vittoria and Modica, down in southeastern Sicily.

I just got out of the closing VRA plenary lecture by Alex MacLean whose aerial photographs document land use and settlement, city edges, topography, and, intriguingly, the fourth dimension of time. His words on how motion and time are manifest in a photograph were compelling: light (time of day), climate (mistiness rising off a river), human intervention (dust trail behind a car), abandoned buildings. He also talked a bit about how field size may be determined by how many stones are available and how far you'd be willing or able to move them.

As an aside: MacLean mentioned studying at Harvard with John Brinckerhoff Jackson, the great landscape historian and writer. Thinking about Jackson always reminds me of Nancy Wynne, long-time librarian at the Amon Carter Museum, who had a lovely watercolor by J.B. Jackson hanging in her home. Nancy was Milan Hughston's predecessor as head librarian at the Carter and, at the same time, my predecessor as cataloger.

02 April 2013

To the Sicilians and Cambridge: Brute, brutta, Calogero

One of the reasons, the main reason, that I came out to Boston a day early on my way to VRA in Providence was to see the "Brute" show at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard. The Carpenter is the only building by Le Corbusier in the U.S. and it's a marvel of Brutalist architecture, a style I fell in love with in college as Davis Brody's Wooster Science Building was being built at New Paltz State. I hadn't read more than announcements about the show and was expecting a retrospective of the building. No. There WAS a large model of the building on the first floor and photos on other floors. The  gallery space on the third floor, however, was devoted to an installation of chairs with a dozen archival photographs. On the podium were six or eight Le Corbusier chairs and facing the podium were about 40 chairs of a wide variety, from little plastic chair to vintage rocking chair. Lots of thoughts: people come in all shapes and sizes; Le Corbusier was an inspiration to many and preached theory; singularity and diversity; furniture can be lonely without people, or not.

In Italian, at least in Sicily, "brutta" can be used for ugly. When we checked into the B&B Giucalem in Piazza Armerina, it was a nice country retreat, a bit of a respite after the rainy check-in into the B&B Proserpina in Enna. That was brutal: scary circular stairs, rain, reception area under construction, water shutoff for construction (they DID fix it in 10 minutes, after we called when we got back from supper). From the B&B Giucalem, the red house on the hilltop was afire in the late afternoon sun. I was amused. Giuseppe and his son Calogero, hosts at the Giucalem, thought the house was brutta.

Breakfast brought some very yummy plum jam made by Nonna (grandmother) from the trees on the property. The slogan for the B&B is "La casa negli orti" or the house in the orchards. We'd have bought some of the jam to bring you if they'd been selling it.

It wasn't the only time we ran into a Calogero. Our host in Capo d'Orlando at B&B Le Terrazze was Calogero Nici. He grew up in the Nebrodi mountains in the town of Ucria. His brother is an officer of the Nebrodi park. Signore Nici enthused in the evening (another after-dark arrival) about his love of the musician André Rieu. I said I loved classical music and Rieu sounded vaguely familiar. In the morning, he took us on a tour of a video of a recent Rieu concert at Radio City Music Hall. It isn't really my style of classical music; Christie described it as "schlocky" but appreciated Signore Nici's total lack of sarcasm or irony in looking at the musical presentation. I really appreciated his sharing his enthusiasm too.

The last morning we were in Sciacca, I went out for a walk up to the high part of town above the Via G. Licata near our B&B, the Conte Luna. And, there, I found the Porta San Calogero and, through the gate, the general market. Love the morning activity: people setting up their market booths; deliveries being made; streets being swept; coffee. And it doesn't hurt that morning sunlight is glorious, just like the evening sunlight on the brutta house on the hill above the Giucalem.

To the Sicilians: Valerio at Morgantina

When we arrived at the Morgantina site, there was this old codger directing you into the parking lot, looking a little suspicious. He came over with a stack of books and stuff. He had the “best” guide and his own hand-drawn map of the site. It was clear as he talked that he loved Morgantina and one just must have his hand-drawn guide. Christie used to work at the University of Virginia and UVa has been one of the sponsors of the excavations. Christie asked the old guy if he knew Malcolm Bell, her art history professor and erstwhile director of the digs. Well, they settled into a lot of Mack Bell stories. The old guy brought us a bottle of his home-made wine, partly made from Nero d’Avola grapes. When we got back to the parking lot, I asked him his name: Valerio. He wouldn’t give me his surname, not secretive really because he’d been in the American papers and they all knew him. Christie did find him with a “valerio morgantina” search. And, now, as I write, I’m drinking some of the Vino Rustico di Valerio (which is quite green, i.e., not aged). Christie is calling it “grape juice.” I will sleep well tonight. Wine with lunch in Caltagirone. Two Campari/sodas after we got settled in the hotel. Now, a couple glasses of Vino Rustico di Valerio.
Oh. The picture. It’s the great kiln at Morgantina. Clicking here will get you to more pictures of Morgantina in my Flickr photostream.

30 March 2013

To the Sicilians: Davide at the Wash & Dry, Siracusa

Before we left the States, we agreed that we'd take eight or nine days worth of underwear and do the laundry two or three times during our three and a half weeks in Sicily. What we didn't know was that Sicily doesn't have (m)any laundromats. We were ready to do laundry by the time we got to Sciacca. The folks at the B&B Conte Luna referred us to the dry cleaner not too far away. They didn't really do water laundry but we settled on them doing the stuff in water and they had to hang it to dry. Come back tomorrow. They didn't know how to charge us except by the piece so it was kind of expensive but indispensable.

We learned, after further discussion with Cristina at the B&B, that what we wanted was a "lavanderia a gettone" (laundry by token). Googling led us to hits for "Sicily's first self-service laundromat" in Siracusa. We read the webpage for Wash and Dry which offered either self-service or they'd do it for you.

On our main day in Siracusa, we parked the car in the big public lot near Ortigia and took our laundry over to Davide at Wash and Dry. Davide runs the place with his American wife. He calculated the weight and said to come back in a couple hours. We went and looked at the cathedral and meandered about the centro. I noticed that Wash and Dry already has competition; there was another self-service laundromat a couple blocks away.

When we returned before 12:30 when the laundromat closed for lunch, it was ready to be picked up, folded and bagged, and we were ready for lunch. Davide recommended Trattoria La Spigola, just around the corner, where I had the mixed fresh catch of the day and Christie had mussels:

One of the great meals of fresh sea beasties that we had on our trip. Up in the mountains, we had more meat. My sausage and greens at Ristorante pizzeria La Bifora in Randazzo was splendid. The vegetables, sea or mountain, always tasted fresh and the lettuce in an insalata verde was decidedly more tasty than mundane American salad greens.

Thank you, Davide, for your service, both the laundromat and the restaurant recommendation.

29 March 2013

To the Sicilians: the family diary at La Brace

We went out for a walk in Cefalù after we'd gotten a bit settled at B&B Villa Cerniglia. The B&B is out in the newer part of town but not far from the centro storico. The picture above was taken from the balcony of our room at the "Jersey Shore" hotel, looking toward the centro.

As we headed toward the cathedral, we passed Ristorante La Brace. Christie said she'd seen it in the listings when she was researching before we left the States. It was highly rated and the reviews had indicated a reservation might be necessary. It was way too early to have supper in Sicily so we kept walking up to the cathedral and had our Campari and sodas in a bar on the cathedral plaza. While we were sitting there, the Saint Joseph's Day parade started and we watched it and then stood at the back of the cathedral for a while during the special mass.

Afterwards, we meandered a bit and then headed for the restaurant. It was still a little early but they were ready to seat people so we entered and the young man seated us near a blind arched opening with some memorabilia.

We ordered our acqua gassata and mezzo of house red wine. I noticed that one of the items in the display of memorabilia was a journal and that it was in Dutch. The next time the waiter came over, I asked about it. He told us he had noticed that I was reading things in Dutch and that the journal was his father's. The family had moved from Maastricht to Cefalù after the Second World War. He opened the journal on the table in front of us and told us a little of the family history. We enjoyed looking through it some more. (P.S. I don't KNOW Dutch but I know it when I see it.)

We had chicken liver as antipasto (yummy), with rabbit and veal rolls as secondi piatti. As we ate, it was fun to hear the waiter talking to his mother in a mix of Dutch and Italian. "Nee, nee, mama." Good food, great stories, and Christie had a Florio Amaro after-dinner drink, recommended by the waiter. I had my caffè normale.

When we got back to Palermo, I walked over to the Villa Florio, designed by Ernesto Basile. Wonderful Italian art nouveau (Liberty).

To the Sicilians: houses and yards

On our last morning in Noto, we were having a wide-ranging conversation with Sebastiano and Anna at the B&B Federica. We showed them pictures of our houses and Sebastiano was surprised that we didn't have walls around our houses, that they were just on the street. That's the American way: lawn and grass, spread out (unsustainable), requires driving which requires highways which leads to more highways and sprawl. Sebastiano and Anna live in the historic center of Noto: streets are narrow, plazas are public yards, houses may have courts or decks but not yards, narrow streets become personal AND public.

Yesterday, back home in Alfred, the weekly Bergren Forum was about the village planning process AND there was a hearing about a proposed change to the zoning code regarding congregate housing (rooming houses, boarding houses, fraternities, sororities, sports team houses, that is, big houses with one kitchen and common area rather than apartments, what we used to call communes). Tangential to both of those conversations were questions and thoughts about vacant lots, sprawl in our hills rather than density in the village, living together in a socially responsible way. I could go on and on about the loss of our colleges playing enough of an "in loco parentis" role. I don't want them to babysit the students but they should be taking significant responsibility for keeping village life sustainable and pleasant. Just like fraternity housemothers used to do.

To the Sicilians: Sebastiano and Anna at the B&B Federica, Noto

I was pretty happy with all of the B&Bs and hotels we stayed in in Sicily but the B&B Federica in Noto was extraordinary, in no small part because of Sebastiano and Anna who run the place. We had arrived in Noto after dark, with a harrowing drive down a narrow street, around a hairpin turn that required a three-point turn, up to bollards above a staircase, and down another narrow street. That's iPad mapping for you. They may give the streets and intersections and sometimes the direction of traffic but they don't give you more than a hint about the width of the street. Christie stayed with the parked car while I went out on foot to find the B&B Federica. No answer at the door so I went to find a phone booth and actually found one about halfway between the B&B and the car. I got an answer at the number and got started on the conversation when the time ran out. Fortunately the connection stayed while I fed the phone another coin. I told Sebastiano that I had found the B&B and would meet him there in five minutes. OK. I looked at the room and said we wanted it for one night. All of that took about an hour. Meanwhile, Christie was on the iPad, learning that white smoke had risen from the Vatican chimney and that the papal announcement would be made at 8 pm. We moved the car closer to the B&B and got our luggage into the room. Sebastiano recommended the Trattoria Ducezio, just up the main street from the B&B. The TV was on and the captioning told us that Francesco would be a pope "dei poveri e dei più vulnerabili" (the poor and more vulnerable). The pizza was satisfying. Early signs are that Francesco will be pretty good too.

This was the view from the stoop of our room that greeted us the next morning. Our room had its own door on the Ronco Re Giovanni (the Ronco is off the Vico which is off the Via Ducezio). Ducezio, by the way, was an early king of the Sicilians, 5th century B.C.E. That's Sebastiano's motorcycle; they keep the car in a garage somewhere, probably out in the wider-street part of town.
That gray building in the background was described by Sebastiano as "abandonata" so I'm going to buy it and turn it into my studio apartment and let Sebastiano and Anna do the extra space as more rooms for the B&B .... just as soon as I win the lottery. I'll keep a dovecote so the birds don't feel abandoned.

Sebastiano was studying English and really loved learning new words and phrases and ways of saying things, perhaps even more than we wanted to learn Italian. Anna had less English but was more intuitive about gestures and expression. So we got on fine. After our first day in the Noto area, we decided we'd like to stay another night which was possible. Traveling before Holy Week meant the B&Bs were in low season and we were often the only guests. Sebastiano helped us with general directions and ideas about places to visit. We decided that we'd stay another night in Noto and used it as a hub for Siracusa rather than moving to a B&B in Siracusa. We both liked Noto much more than Siracusa which is more touristic and neater. Noto has a bit of grit. Maybe we didn't give Siracusa a full chance but we loved Noto. We are regulars even: we went back to the Trattoria Ducezio and ordered a pizza "uno per due" (one for two); the waitress said "like last night?" The second one had rocket salad on top. That's arugula and it really hit the spot.

Here's to Sebastiano and Anna and the B&B Federica in Noto:
More pictures of Noto can be seen here.

28 March 2013

To the Sicilians: driving directions

We had a good atlas and an iPad but, occasionally, that's just not enough, especially after dark. We were headed from Noto to the Acis (Aci Castello, Acitrezza, Acireale), hoping to skirt Catania, Sicily's second-largest city. It was just dark and we were aiming for what we thought was a sort of inner belt around the North side of Catania. What we were on was a crowded, busy city street. We stopped at a darkened auto repair shop because there was an older guy and a couple younger guys out front. Our skimpy Italian meet their skimpier English. We said "Aci Castello" and the older guy said "diritto" (direct, as in not right or left) and "no Lungomare." So, here's to the guy that got us out to the coast so we could go a bit North to Aci Castello.
This picture is what greeted us in the morning's light. More pictures here.

From Aci Castello, we went to Acireale and then up to Etna, trying vainly to get stuck in the snow and slush. We made it out and went on to Randazzo for the night. Randazzo is described in one of our guidebooks as "dangerously close" to Mount Etna.

The next day, we drove from Randazzo across the northern edge of the Etna park and down to Taormina, then back into the mountains to Mojo Alcantara to head North to the northern coast of Sicily. Just after Mojo Alcantara, the route suggested on the iPad turned weird and we couldn't find the connection between this and that road. We went back a few kilometers to Mojo Alcantara, finding the Municipio (town offices). The door was open and I found a grizzled fellow with an unlit cigar stub in his mouth. Again, map in hand, we had a conversation of pidgin Italian and English, with gestures, and we got on our way again. Later, looking at the map, I figured out what the iPad had probably been trying to communicate but we got up through the mountains with his help and that of a barkeeper in the high Nebrodis. Here's to the town official in Mojo Alcantara.

When we got down to the northern coast at Patti, we figured we'd take the autostrada to Capo d'Orlando for the night. Again, it was now after dark. I was trying to follow the signs to the autostrada in the direction of Palermo but turned into the first road after the sign and it was a dead end street down to a small garbage processing plant. A man and a woman were standing next to a car. We talked/gestured and they indicated follow us. We weren't far off and he got out of their car to bid us good travels after they led us to the on-ramp to the autostrada. Here's to them.

If you click on the "here" under the picture, you'll get to the Aci Castello pictures. From my Flickr photostream, you can search on other places. I know Etna, Acireale, and Randazzo will get results in my photostream.

To the Sicilians: pocket watch

I have been looking for a pocket watch for a few years. One night, we were out strolling and window shopping. We saw a window display of colorful pocket and wrist watches, with analog faces. The shop was closed but we looked up where O Chive pocket watches were sold in Palermo.
When we got back to Palermo, we looked up the Crisafi jewelry shop on Via Maqueda. It's the kind of shop that you have to be let into, locked door, buzzer. We leapt into the shop and ran over to the display, shrieking like school girls. The 40-ish proprietor and her young male assistant looked aghast at the wild and crazy Americans ... at first and then pulled out the bag of watches for me to select from. I picked the red one. Then they got out the container, like a can of shoe polish with the twister opening and a styrofoam shaped opening. And guarantee on circular paper.

Why, oh why, didn't I get more than one?

To Sicily and the Sicilians

Sicily is an incredible place, both the physical and the sociocultural landscape. We had been talking about going for about a decade and we finally made it this past month. Our initial itinerary included a final week in Rome. After a day or two in Palermo and thinking about the papal conclave, we called the rental car company (Auto Europe) and extended the rental for the bulk of our three and a half weeks in Italy and stayed in Sicily from arrival on February 28th until leaving for an airport B&B the night before our transatlantic flight back to the States on March 23rd.

The pictures here are randomly selected. The mountaintop town is Caltabellotta, view from the castle back toward the town and beyond. The skies were often dramatic and we did see rain but only a few times did we get soaked (most memorably at the Cave de Cusa, near Selinunte, and as we tried to unload the car to get to the B&B in Enna).

You are never far from the sea or mountains or both. AND both.

This seaside view is from the Molo in Cefalù toward the newer part of town. Sometimes the sea was calm like this but we also saw crashing waves make sand piles on the road in Marsala on our second day with the Lancia Ypsilon which was sized right for the job (small for the narrow streets, powerful enough, manual transmission for the hills and curves, big enough trunk for two four-week suitcases). The Wikipedia page calls it a "luxury supermini." Hmm.

Our path counterclockwise around Sicily took us from Palermo to Trápani, Mazara del Vallo, Sciacca, Enna, Piazza Armerina, Ragusa, Noto, Aci Castello, Randazzo, Capo d'Orlando, Cefalù, and back to Palermo. Those are overnight places. The first picture in my Sicily 2013 set of pictures on Flickr is a map of the island with our route highlighted.

As much as the landscape and seascape thrilled and moved us, it is a populated landscape. It is my intention to write some tales of our adventures as thanks to the Sicilians who so enriched our circumnavigation of the island. Yes, circumnavigation implies boating and we did not do that. The Wikipedia page on "circumnavigation" talks of land travels and the person in the other front seat of the car is usually the navigator.

31 January 2013

framing the site: post scriptum

P.S. The previous post was written as I waited for Ben Woodeson to deliver a lecture on his work. He's the current Ted Randall Chair visiting artist at the School of Art and Design, here at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. He was at Chase's noontime lecture and reflected off it in talking about what is the work? What is not the work? What role does documentation play? Does the documentation become the work? More important perhaps, he talked about teasing, flirting with the audience, providing a random experience and letting the post-catastrophic art be more of the work. When asked about the risks in his work, he said he's risky but not stupid. You can just as easily slip on the ice while going for coffee as be bonked on the head by a twirling plumb line bob.

P.P.S. After Woodeson's lecture, I went to the Collegiate for lasagna, partly so I could finish off yesterday's Times. And there was article by Gia Kourlas on Claude Wampler and her work that mixes visual art and performance, plays with the audience, and how Wampler is trying to give up control.

P.P.P.S. And there was something that I read recently about taking risks and how the simple everyday things are more risky because they could happen any time and the threat of being attacked by terrorists is relatively miniscule.

framing the site

As an library cataloger, I try to put things in pigeon-holes or categories to enable the library user to find our resources. Today's Bergren Forum was presented by Chase Angier who teaches dance at Alfred University. Her talk centered around "Shifting Landscapes: Framing Site Specific Performance." She spoke about guided performance, walking site performance, and immersive frame performance, and would have talked about other things she's working on if they'd given her another hour to talk.

The first work Chase talked about -- "Under the Benign Sky" (Texas Woman's University) -- was done in the atrium of a building. Chase said the empty rectangular space with balconies said Spanish soap operas and romance to her. I thought it looked like a prison. Hmm.

So, pigeon-holing: cataloging and vocabulary control help you find things in a catalog or on the web (more with the former) because we try to avoid unnecessary synonyms and try to use the same form for names of persons and organizations. I wrote the Library of Congress some years ago when they started using "Site-specific installations (Art)" in addition to "Installations (Art)." It seemed to me that the former was not significantly enough different from the latter to make it valuable. That is, all installations are inherently site-specific though some have been reinstalled and look very different. My example at that moment was "Deep Purple" by Tom Burr which was shown in the below-street-level well in front of the Whitney in 2002-2003 but had earlier been shown on the lawn of a German museum. It looked very different against concrete than it did on a lawn. But it was still the same work and it was still installed.

LC's response to my query was to add scope notes:
Installations (Art): Here are entered works on a type of art form in which an entire exhibition space is transformed into a three-dimensional work of art by the arrangement of objects and materials within the space.
Site-specific installations (Art): Here are entered works on art installations created for a specific site that use elements of the site as an integral part of the work of art and are intended to be displayed and viewed only at that site.
LCSH also includes Film ..., Multimedia ..., Sound ..., and Video installations (Art).

Of course, installation is also what happens all the time in museums, that is, a painting or sculpture is placed in a certain way in a gallery. Even an old-master painting will look different, depending on its neighboring works, lighting, gallery style, etc. LCSH has "Museum techniques" and "Museum exhibits" to cover that kind of thing.

At the end of Chase's talk, she talked about how framing was critical. It's true and I'm still thinking about the role of framing in visual art installations. The line between visual and performance art is, of course, blurry. Chase also talked about the ways you can control or cede control of the audience. As she talked about the sound and speed, I was thinking about some of the Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller pieces I've seen that have a timed soundtrack. I don't think there was a chance to pause them but I may be misremembering. Very much controlled experiences in space and time ... though the "Pandemonium" exhibition at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia was not temporally controlled except by the open hours of the museum.

The picture is from Chase's website (linked under her name) and is from the work "Framing Edgewood Farm."

20 January 2013

world of joy and suffering

Last night, I watched the film City of Joy. It's not hard to watch Pauline Collins, Patrick Swayze, and Art Malik in a film but the story is tough. The City of Joy is a clinic run by Sister Joan (Collins) in the slums of Calcutta. Patrick Swayze plays Doctor Max who is troubled by his doctoring career and childhood memories. The clinic is targeted by the gang led by the godfather and his son (Malik). The film circles around the fate of a rickshaw runner and his family. The film has a bit of a Hollywood feel but is a heartbreaker and tearjerker with an optimistic ending. Sometimes I wish that I had chosen a life path which was more directly related to helping the needy. At the same time, I recognize that my talent for cataloging and indexing is perhaps more helpful as an income source so that I can donate to American Friends Service Committee or Doctors Without Borders.

City of Joy includes an episode in which a young woman who lives and helps at the clinic is attacked by the gang and her mouth and cheeks are razored. She is patched up by Doctor Max. In today's New York Times, there is an article about a real life case of a young Afghan woman who was axed by her brother because he believed she had run away with a man to whom she was not married. As the title of the article says, the "scars are [the] sole testimony to 'honor' victim's ordeal." What a testimony.

All of these thoughts swirl through my brain and heart and soul as I live in the relative luxury of middle-class America. Sometimes I wonder how we can get from one day to the next.

The picture is from the IMDb page for City of Joy.

P.S. It could be that I was set up by a fine rendition of "We shall overcome" at church on Sabbath morning. Thoughts of Martin Luther King and his legacy.

11 January 2013

conceptual art and subject headings

SACO can be fun and also frustrating. I submitted a proposal for a new subject heading "Grandparents in art" based on Gia Michael's My bitter immortal, her BFA final project in the School of Art and Design at Alfred. The colophon states that "All images for this publication were collected by the artist while traveling in Lebanon and Syria, December 2009 through February 2010." The Editorial Meeting rejected the proposal because "The work cataloged does not depict grandparents in art, but consists of pictures of the places through which the photographer's maternal grandparents passed." But it's the CONCEPT of grandparents and it's art.

But as I was having those thoughts, I remembered a discussion with Lynn El-Hoshy, LC subject specialist now retired, about "Cellphones in art." She was right in that case: it was "Cellphone calls in art," not "Cellphones in art." I was very glad we had the discussion because it clarified for me that, in LCSH, "in art" is literal. That is, the topic is shown in the art, it's pictures of or text about that topic as it appears in art.

But but conceptual art, naturally, doesn't come in literal packages. I still think it's grandparents in art but the LCSH editors indicated that it was just wrong. Sometimes they suggest that something is misdirected and can be revised and resubmitted. I guess I'll just have to publish a picture book of my grandparents. Then, I can resubmit the proposal and, meanwhile, I haven't changed it on the bibliographic record yet.

10 January 2013

Mrs Stevenson and Ada Louise Huxtable

Two great ladies in the arts died in the past few days: Ruth Carter Stevenson and Ada Louise Huxtable.

Mrs Stevenson was the president of the Amon Carter Museum when I worked there in the early 1990s as well as many years before and after. Though I didn't interact with her often, she was aware who I was and would greet me warmly when our paths crossed at the museum. She usually met with staff members every few years. One year, several of us from the library and others were in the conference room for one of these catch-up conversations with Mrs Stevenson. Milan Hughston, my boss, mentioned that he and I would be going to some conference in a colder clime. Mrs Stevenson looked at me and asked if I knew it might be too cold to wear Birkenstocks. I guess she knew who I was and something tell-tale about me. She said it with humor and generosity, which is not to say that she'd be caught wearing Birkenstocks to work.

I don't know what I would have done if I'd worked there the next couple of years after I left. The museum was going into a major construction phase and folks were told they had to wear closed-toe shoes until they moved offsite for a couple years.

The picture of Mrs Stevenson in the Amon Carter Museum galleries is from artdaily. The fellow standing behind her is not identified. There are also wonderful obituaries of Mrs Stevenson on the TCU website and in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. [The fellow behind Mrs Stevenson is Andrew J. Walker, director of the Carter since April 2011.]

Ada Louise Huxtable was the architectural critic at the New York Times when I first started reading architectural criticism. She was thoughtful and spot on, an urbanist and contextualist, opinionated. She taught me how to look at cities and architecture, along with Jane Jacobs and others. I cannot hear "Bruckner Boulevard" without thinking of her book Will they ever finish Bruckner Boulevard?

A recent exchange on Facebook moved The invisible dragon by Dave Hickey up the to-read list. Reading anew about Huxtable has moved her On architecture up the list too.

You can read more about Huxtable in her obituary in the Times by David Dunlap and in an appraisal by Michael Kimmelman, also in the New York Times. The accompanying pictures in each are also wonderful and evocative.