12 December 2016

3-cent stamps

"Not that [Emily Dickinson] intended her poems to go unread -- she often sent them in letters to friends, sometimes with other enclosures: dried flowers, a three-cent stamp, a dead cricket. She also tried a form of self-publishing: from around 1858 until roughly 1864, she gathered her poems into forty handmade books, known as 'fascicles,' by folding single sheets of blank paper in half to form four consecutive pages, which she then wrote on and later, bound, one folded sheet on another, with red-and-white thread strung through crudely punched holes." (from "Out of print: the scrap poetry of Emily Dickinson," by Dan Chiasson, in The New Yorker, December 5, 2016, page 77)

What would Emily Dickinson have done if Blurb had been available? How long has it been since I thought of fascicles? The incidental drawings in this issue of The New Yorker include a tangle of red lines, rather like thread. And three-cent stamps? The second time they've come up today.

"I won't forget what happened when your Aunt Ida tried to help. It took me days to undo what she'd done! And some things I could never undo. For instance, she threw away an entire sheet of postage stamps; three-cent postage stamps. I wasn't aware of it at the time because I was out of the room, fixing her a snack. That's how it is when people try to help; they need snacks and cups of tea, and before you know it you've gone to more trouble than if they'd stayed at home." (from Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler, Ballantine Books, 2002, page 56)

Should Rebecca's mother have relaxed and let Aunt Ida help with sorting things so she could get on with her life? The theme of Back When We Were Grownups is wondering how you got into the life you're in and what would have happened if you'd made different decisions at critical points. So I'm up at the library reading The New Yorker and blogging rather than sorting things at the house so I can get on with my life, or writing Christmas letters/cards or whatever.

16 November 2016

big hair buildings

Herzog & de Meuron

Port House
Zaha Hadid Architects

These aren't quite toupées but there's a certain awkwardness. Still, I'd rather look at them than most other toupées or awkward hairdos. When I was in Madrid a few years ago, I enjoyed visiting the CaixaForum, also by Herzog & de Meuron. The interior was delightful and you could see the Museo Reina Sofía from some of the windows. The renovation and expansion of the Museo Reina Sofía building are by Jean Nouvel and also pretty darn fine. 

09 November 2016

Klimt Schiele Timberlake Wertenbaker

The Ash Girl
Timberlake Wertenbaker
(a retelling of the Cinderella story)
production at Alfred University

"Klimt • Schiele: Judith en Edith"
Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
12-MRT-2016 t/m 19-JUN-2016

05 November 2016

materials science?

One of the oft-used subject headings in the Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals is "Building materials." Very handy in an architectural index but we also index lots of articles on design, including those on the materials used. Fabrics, plastics, paper, glass, substances of various sorts. The collective term in the literature is often just "Materials" so I suggested to editor Ted that we might want to add the subject heading "Materials."

First stop: AAT. There, I found "materials (matter)" which is in the Materials hierarchy of the Materials facet. My first reaction was that the qualifier "(matter)" was unnecessary but it does make it clear that we're not talking about cloth. AAT often uses qualifiers that you don't necessarily need in context.

A couple days later. I'm up at the library for Team Trivia where we three older librarians (60, 70, and 80) actually finished with the highest score. We always decline the prize (tonight, a coupon for a pizza from a local pizza parlor). I checked the McNaughton leisure reading shelves before I left the library and noticed Stuff matters: exploring the marvelous materials that shape our man-made world by Mark Miodownik (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014).
Obviously, I had to check to see what subject heading(s) the book had been given. The only subject heading in the CIP on the title page verso is "Materials science--Popular works." Nope. Won't do. I wonder why they didn't just use "Materials" which is in LCSH. The scope note there is somewhat restrictive: "Here are entered comprehensive works on the basic engineering and industrial materials used in the construction of devices, apparatus, structures, equipment, etc."

For your information, "Materials science" in LCSH is related to the broader term "Physical sciences." In AAT, "materials science" is in the Disciplines hierarchy of the Activities facet. That is, you can get a college degree in materials science. Materials are what you make something out of. cf http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2011/11/grammar-myths-prepositions/

25 October 2016

Morse and Tiffany

A few days ago, the mail included a card for the November 16th lecture at the Cooper-Hewitt by Ben Macklowe entitled "Louis Comfort Tiffany: Artist & Innovator." It's the Enid and Lester Morse Historic Design Lecture. The Morses support a variety of arts organizations in the greater New York City area, including up to Yale. They don't seem to be related to Charles Hosmer Morse.

The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park, Florida, has one of the most extensive collections of Tiffany works as well as the Tiffany Chapel from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition and remnants of Tiffany's house on Long Island, Laurelton Hall. The Morse Museum was founded in 1942 by his granddaughter, Jeannette Genius McKean, and her husband, Hugh F. McKean.
Tiffany Chapel

10 October 2016


So I was in the stacks and noticed that a book on mannerist architecture was classified in NA350 and its neighbors were medieval.
I decided to peruse the book which was published in 1966. When I got to the pictures of the gardens at Bomarzo, I was struck by how the monsters were out in the open. We visited in 1999 and the monsters were hiding in the bushes.
And then I returned the book to the shelf, debating on whether anyone would notice or care if Tafuri's book on mannerist architecture -- L'architettura del manierismo nel Cinquecento europeo -- was misclassified. What a jungle we live in.

27 September 2016

corrugated metal

After seeing Rachel Whiteread's cabin on Governors Island on Saturday, with its corrugated metal bits of wall covering, it was fun to see Cornelia Parker's "Transitional Object (PsychoBarn)" with its corrugated metal roofing shingles on Sunday in the Met Roof Garden:

Buffalo for the day

It had been too long since I'd been to Buffalo and one of the shows at the Albright-Knox was closing this coming weekend: "Shade: Clyfford Still and Mark Bradford." Bradford (born 1961) selected a couple dozen paintings by Still (1904-1980) from the Albright-Knox collection. He then did several paintings in response. The works played off each other in interesting ways. Well, Bradford played off the abstract expressionism of Still. I perused the catalog and, in the interview with Michael Auping, Bradford said he saw his first Still in Europe. The show will go to Denver after closing in Buffalo. There, the Stills will be at the Clyfford Still Museum and the Bradfords at the Denver Art Museum. Too bad they won't be in the same building. The two museums are close to each other. I was delighted to visit the Still Museum in the spring of 2015 when VRA met in Denver. It's a great neo-brutalist building designed by Brad Cloepfil and Allied Works Architecture.
The reading room in the "Shade" show included iPads with the Art21 video of "Mark Bradford in Paradox" where I learned that he considers his beginnings not as an artist but as a maker in his mother's beauty shop where he did the signage. Also, "endpapers" aren't just in books; that term is also used to refer to the papers used when doing a perm.

Another show at the Albright-Knox was entitled "Defining Sculpture" and included works from the collection, from Pop Art by Marisol to a floor piece by Polly Apfelbaum, and a piece by Janet Cargill and George Bures Miller with a recording on a phone at a desk. A couple of the guards were doing a re-creation of "Imponderabilia" by Marina Abramovic and Ulay ...
... but I'm not sure it is very convincing.

In the funky underground gallery that also serves as a passageway from the main building to Clifton Hall was "Joan Linder: Operation Sunshine" which addressed waste sites in the Buffalo area, including Love Canal. Wonderful sketchbooks with long accordion-fold drawings, and hand-lettered recreations of brochures, reports, posters, and ephemera about the sites.
 (image from the Albright-Knox website, courtesy of the artist)

21 September 2016

exquisite corps(e)

Ten years ago, Sharon, Carol, Eric, and I did an exquisite corpse drawing during an ARLIS/NY meeting. Ten minutes ago, I watched an exquisite dance-film by Mitchell Rose: Exquisite Corps (42 choreographers, 1 dance). I've seen performances by a number of the dancing choreographers and the video is fine. Here's Meredith Monk:

17 September 2016

Walden on the harbor

How would Thoreau have dealt with a grand view of New York harbor from his cottage?
A group of us art librarians (and a few hangers on) went on a tour of Governors Island today. The Hills opened this year and the southern end of the island is taking shape as a park looking out into the harbor and back at the skylines of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Jersey City. The Hills are part of the landscape plan by West 8, a Dutch urban design and landscape architecture firm, who have also done proposals for helping NYC handle the rise of sea level.

Hiding in the Hills, well, not really hiding, is the Cabin by Rachel Whiteread. It's similar to some of her other ghost, inside-out, memorial projects. A conglomeration of bits and pieces from several buildings, including some corrugated metal bits.
So I'm thinking how different Thoreau's writings might have been if he had walked out of the front door of his cottage and looked out over the expansive view of New York harbor. Or maybe it's just that I went over to the NY Art Book Fair after our tour of Governors Island. There, I ran into a couple books by Elisabeth Tonnard which played with biographical re-creation. One was a collection of events from the lives of American Renaissance writers called Song of Myself and another was a collection of sentences on death and dying from different books printed on successive pages of a book, turning into a new narrative. The dealing with death reminded me of my current book -- Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope. It took the dean about 200 pages after his apoplexy to finally die. And when I was looking for a link to Elisabeth Tonnard's work, I mistakenly typed "elizabeth tunnard" into Google and got obituary notices for a person of that similar name.

After the tour and lunch, and before we returned to Manhattan on the ferry, we visited the "Michael Richards: Winged" show, sponsored by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Richards had a studio in vacant space in the World Trade Center in September 2001 and was working all night on his upcoming show. He died in the morning's attack. A good friend of mine at NYU was a dear friend of his and that made his death especially poignant. His work dealt with the Tuskegee airmen, and airplanes and flight were recurring themes. Eerie and moving.

31 August 2016

Madame X

There was plenty of interesting art during my driving trip to Maine to see CDS and Boston to see Bill: "This Is A Portrait If I Say So" at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art; open studios at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts out on Deer Isle (and saying hello to Jason Green and Stephanie McMahon of Alfred who were there because Jason was teaching ceramics); Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockland; "Off the Wall" at the Gardner (masterpieces up close as they renovate the villa); all kinds of stuff at the MFA. This painting -- "Black Duck" by Marsden Hartley -- stopped me in my tracks. I could only see Sargent's "Madame X" ... in the nicest way.

Dessert was a few hours at MASS MoCA on the drive back to Alfred. Plenty of good stuff in "Explore Every Day: An Inquiry into the Phenomena of Wonder" including a video recreation of the "Recarcassing Ceremony" by Nina Katchadourian, "Silk Poems" by Jen Bervin, and works by Laurent Grasso and Jonathan Allen.

21 August 2016


As I was driving from Alfred toward Maine to see CDS, I was listening to WMHT out of Schenectady. They were playing a Radiolab story entitled "Why Isn't the Sky Blue?" about William Gladstone (19th-century British Prime Minister) and his study of Homer's mentions of colors. Homer mentions black and white dozens of times, red and yellow not so much, and never blue. He also speaks of the "wine-dark sea" and green faces and other odd mixes of color and object. This led Gladstone to think that Homer was color blind. The Radiolab producer Tim Howard then studied a German philological text about mentions of color in a variety of ancient cultures. He found that Homer was not particularly unusual. Blue doesn't appear in ancient Chinese texts and other Mediterranean cultures with the exception of Egypt. Is that because you don't name a color until you can make it? The Egyptians had lapis lazuli. Sky does get mentioned but not blue.

I didn't get to listen to the whole story because WHMT went out-of-range as I went over Grafton Mountain. As I came down into Williamstown, it seemed about time to stop driving for a while. I got to the Williams College Museum of Art and noticed a banner for the current show on Abbott Handerson Thayer. I associate him with angels and golden paint but he also did a lot of research and drawings and paintings of birds and how they use color to conceal themselves. His interest in color concealment among animals also played out in his work on military camouflage. He and Teddy Roosevelt argued about animal coloration but were both very important in conservation efforts in the late 19th century and into the 20th.

In the new acquisitions gallery, there was a Jonathan Monk work called "16 photographs with all combinations of green" in which red (!!) circles are stuck on found photos. What's with the red/green? More color, haunting me. No problem, I really enjoyed the art break and then got on my way across Massachusetts.

12 August 2016

reverse provincialism

As I meandered about at the Strand Bookstore, the voiceover announced that Tama Janowitz would soon be talking upstairs in the Rare Book Room about her new book Scream: a memoir of glamour and dysfunction, just out from HarperCollins. I don't know as I've ever read any of Janowitz's books, from Slaves of New York to more recent works. Still, I certainly knew her name and could recognize her from celebrity photos. The iconic East Village kind of woman from the era she shared with the likes of Bret Easton Ellis and Jay McInerney. As it turns out, about five years ago, she headed to Ithaca to move her ailing mother from the house to assisted living. She didn't intend to stay for long but found Ithaca oppressive. So she moved to Schuyler County (one county closer to my house in Alfred). She still looks pretty downtown but talks about rural upstate New York without irony. The titters among the downtown crowd were pretty constant but I was listening real carefully when she talked about being tired of the New York City scene and enjoying her horse and doing pretty well overall in Schuyler County. I might just have to read the book. It's been pretty tough recently but maybe it's just the summer doldrums of a small college town.

Here's a rather good essay from the New York Post"Why Tama Janowitz traded NYC fame-culture for life upstate" by Mackenzie Dawson (August 12, 2016).

For those of you following the genre/form trail, Janowitz did talk about hearing from folks about what can and can't be in a memoir.

10 August 2016

"Essays" per Rebecca Solnit

Genres and forms of library resources have been much in mind for some years now as the art project slowly works its way toward proposals for the Library of Congress Genre/Form Terms for Library and Archival Materials (LCGFT). The latest flurry for non-art headings involved whether or not "Essays" was a narrower term of Creative nonfiction and whether the word "creative" was perhaps too narrow. I'm a generalist so I think "Essays" should be used broadly as a genre/form term for short prose pieces without too much consideration of creativity. It's rather like "is it art?" I'm generally willing to accept something as art if it's presented as art.

My current reading is The encyclopedia of trouble and spaciousness by Rebecca Solnit. She's an incredible and creative writer, a leftie rabble rouser. The introduction includes her thoughts about "essays":

"As nonfiction -- that leftover term apotheosizing fiction -- gets defined down as only memoir and essay, I've wanted to open it up again, to claim everything else. Nonfiction is the whole realm from investigative journalism to prose poems, from manifestos to love letters, from dictionaries to packing lists. This territory to which I am, officially, consigned couldn't be more spacious, and I couldn't be more pleased to be free to roam its expanses. And maybe the variety of forms here is part of the book's breadth along with its geographical range. Calling this anthology an encyclopedia was a way to call attention to its range and maybe imagine these almost thirty essays as entries in an extremely incomplete encyclopedia. Essays explore; they also define, every essay is an entry in the author's personal encyclopedia."

Not only is there resonance in Solnit in regard to genre/form. I was reading the chapter on "cults, creeps [and] California in the 1970s" and she mentioned how Jess and Bruce Conner went their own way rather than play along with the East Coast avant-garde critics. I was reading that on the subway and then I was walking toward MoMA and there was a Bruce Conner banner on the streetlight post on 54th Street. Small world, great world, interesting retrospective of Conner's work.

That was yesterday. Today I was in McNally Jackson Books on Prince Street on Soho. The section of books on the landing on the stairs to the basement is labelled "Essays & Creative Nonfiction." Sigh. Then off to the new space for the International Center of Photography, now called the ICP Museum. The main show is "Public, Private, Secret" with plenty of gleanings from internet sites. Then cross the street to the New Museum for the Keeper show about collections. Quite a few of the collections were obsessive and reminded me of the art and autism show I saw at the Museum Dr Guislain in Ghent in fall 2014. The collection of teddy bear pictures seemed rather like an analog internet collection of images.

06 July 2016

separated at birth: Cor-Ten pyramids

Beverly Pepper
Paraclete, 1972
(on view at The Fields Sculpture Park at OMI, 2002- )

Marco Staccioli
The Pyramid, 38th Parallel, 2010
(Fiumara d'arte contemporanea, Sicily)

30 May 2016

revisiting Den Bosch

Well, this has been fun. I discovered the Bossche Encyclopedie while trying to identify one of my photos from Den Bosch. I was working on this picture:
I was intrigued by the central older facade with the new wings at the bend of the street, in the middle of the picture. Between maps and addresses and "Antonius" as the name of a drugstore in the new part of the building, I was able to get to the Saint Anthony Chapel (Sint Antoniuskapel) of 1491. Probably about 1900, it looked like this:
When I was in Den Bosch, I was so busy looking at the building at the bend in Hinthamerstraat that I didn't notice La Cubanita (tapas y mas) on the left side of the street.

Anyway, I have been working on identifying the Flickr pictures and practicing my Dutch as I cavort about in the Bossche Encyclopedie.

13 May 2016

Christiaan in China

One of the more amusing moments (insert emoji of your choice) on my Dutch trip was in Utrecht at the "Hair: Human Hair in Fashion and Art" show at the Centraal Museum. One of the galleries was devoted to stylist Christiaan who accompanied Nancy Kissinger on the 1972 trip to China with Nixon. There was a vitrine with his snapshots taken during that trip, at a time when travel to China by Americans was heavily restricted. The show also included hair drawings, fabrics made of hair, mourning pictures, etc. The photo above was just one of the responses to a Google image search on "christiaan hairdresser" but the tangle is somewhat evocative of some of the works in the exhibition.

12 May 2016

piles of clocks and chairs

clocks in the Amsterdam School exhibition
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
April-August 2016

Rietveld chairs and animated children
Centraal Museum, Utrecht
10 May 2016

11 May 2016

building from the inside out

The May issue of American Way magazine, in the seat pocket on my flight back from Amsterdam, had an interesting article on Jeanne Gang and Michael Halberstam. He is the artistic director of Writers Theatre in Chicago and Studio Gang just did their new building. The article describes their collaboration on the building program and design and quotes Gang as saying she builds from the inside out.

This trip to the Netherlands has included plenty of good architectural moments. Yesterday, I was at the Rietveld Schröder House in Utrecht. You can't study modern architecture without coming across this building and it's a World Heritage Site. It was a major collaboration between architect Gerrit Rietveld and client Mrs. Truus Schröder-Schräder who lived there with her children, then with Rietveld (after they were both widowed), and left the house to the rest of us after her death in 1985.
One of the comments I read on the house website mentioned that the house is small. It is, it is. When it was built, the lot was at the edge of town and looked out over polders and wild land. The introductory film describes the location as well as the collaboration. Rietveld and Schröder determined the spaces and then put walls around them. The plans, submitted to the city, were a bit less radical but the intention was to make alterations as the house was constructed. While the inside space and function were critical, the relationship of the house to the view was also important.

No studying of the text or pictures can quite prepare you for the raised highway which is now just East of the house. The roadway was built by the 1930s and then was raised some decades later.
Rietveld wanted to tear the house down when the outside space around the house had been so altered.

Two days before I was in Utrecht, I was in Hilversum to see the Town Hall designed by W.M. Dudok. Another of those buildings that pops up in any survey of modern architecture.
I went without doing research and figured I'd just be able to see the outside, weep at its beauty, and get on my way. Well, I was lucky to be there on one of the days that there is a tour. There were four of us for the tour and it was in Dutch. The guide was expressive and occasionally did a bit of English-language catchup for me. We even got to climb the tower and were up there at 3 pm when the carillon rang the hour.
The organizing outline for the tour was the route that a couple getting married would normally use. That is, through the front doors, up the marble staircase, through the reception hall to the marrying room. One thing I hadn't anticipated was the amount of color in the tiles and other materials, inside and out. We also visited the council chamber, mayor's office, conference room, and coffee room. On top of all that joy, the gift shop had a small walking tour booklet of a dozen other buildings by Dudok in Hilversum. So off I went.

I hadn't been to either of those buildings. I had been to the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag but not for 25 or 30 years. It was designed by Hendrik Petrus Berlage and built 1931-1935. It has wonderful spaces too though they may drive the curators and exhibition designers crazy. On the other hand, they put together an incredible installation of a Klimt and Schiele show featuring a portrait of Schiele's wife Edith and Klimt's Judith (as in Judith and Holofernes). The featured paintings were both in a gallery by themselves in a stunning setting.

As I was rolling around the thoughts from the article in American Way that started this post, I was thinking for a moment that all great architecture starts from the program and builds out. Yes and no. I can certainly picture funny little rooms in odd spaces in various buildings, just filling out the floor plan. In truth, of course, a successful building is a combination of form and function. Both of those factors, and our appreciation of them, change over time.

05 May 2016

Bernardette Corporation / Carl Andre / H.P. Berlage

One of the works in the Bernadette Corporation show at the Stedelijk Museum seemed to be channeling a Carl Andre floor piece:
A Carl Andre wood sculpture, meanwhile, was being held captive in one of the small (but beautiful) galleries at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag:

The Gemeentemuseum (municipal museum) in The Hague was designed by Hendrik Petrus Berlage, and completed in 1935. I have really been enjoying Berlage's works over the past few days in the Netherlands. There is a small show at the Beurs (stock exchange) of decorative elements and furniture for the building. His works are displayed with works by others, influenced directly or more loosely by Berlage. The "Living in the Amsterdam School / Wonen in de Amsterdamse School" exhibition of furniture and decorative objects at the Stedelijk is not so much Berlage as many others working at the same time. In The Hague, the central De Bijenkorf department store building was designed by another Amsterdam School architect, Piet Kramer. The exterior was lovely in the late afternoon sun:
The interior has mostly been renovated away but there is a double staircase that goes up five floors. I had the wood-panelled staircase to myself as folks rode the escalators or elevators through the pristine white shopping area. There is evidence of an atrium but it's all shopping-mall white. Berlage did a Christian Science Church in The Hague and there was a good Amsterdam School parking garage and other buildings from the same era.

The Hague is the government center though Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands. It has a much more bureaucratic feel: men in suits, etc. Amsterdam is more funky and gritty. It's rather like the difference between gritty Rome and fashionable Florence. Give me the grit, thanks.

By the way, there are more pictures on my Flickr photostream:

03 May 2016

is lassitude a deadly sin?

Since I've been thinking about the Seven Deadly Sins, you can imagine what I thought when I saw "Woman Lying on her Back: Lassitude" by Toulouse-Lautrec (Musée d'Orsay) in the "Easy Virtue" show at the Van Gogh Museum:
Is lassitude a deadly sin?

Ship of Fools plus Allegory of Intemperance

The Ship of Fools is one of Bosch's more famous works. It was part of a triptych, now dismantled, and is now in the Louvre. One time when I was there, as I waited for a chance to look at the Madonna of Chancellor Rolin by Jan van Eyck which was being monopolized by a large group, I kept going back to look at the Ship.
The composition of the fragment is pyramidal which feels more Renaissance than many of Bosch's paintings that are more like a carpet, flattened in a medieval way. The Ship is the upper part of the left panel.

The lower part of the panel is now in the Yale University Art Gallery and is called An Allegory of Intemperance. The triptych probably represented the Seven Deadly Sins with greed or miserliness on the right panel, now in the National Gallery of Art as Death and the Miser.
Here, the composition is not so centralized as the Ship, feeling more like the fields of cavorting individuals and monsters that are usually associated with Bosch. And it feels like a fragment. I was thrilled to see it in New Haven a few years ago but didn't think about how it fit together with the other fragments.

Because the two parts of this panel were separated a long time ago, they have aged differently. They were displayed together, without frames, in the Bosch show in Den Bosch. The cut between the Ship and Allegory is clear. Together, the composition is much flatter. This was the most compelling moment of surprise, for me, in the Bosch exhibition. There is a picture of the reconstruction, with the right wing, on the Wikipedia page for the Ship:
The Ship has now become part of a larger composition, rather than feeling independent as it does as a fragment. This was a revelation for me, a delightful revelation.

Though tickets for the last couple weeks of the show were pretty much sold out online, some day tickets were available on site. I did go to Den Bosch on Saturday even though my ticket was for Sunday night. A day ticket for Saturday at 6 pm was available so I did get to go through the exhibition twice.

26 April 2016

back and forth ... and finally on my way

It was probably a year ago when I first heard about the major retrospective exhibition of works by Hieronymus Bosch at the Noordbrabants Museum in Den Bosch in celebration of the 500th anniversary of his death. This is also a centennial year for Shakespeare and Cervantes, both died in 1616. A recent article in the Times about the two authors did not mention that it was also Bosch's year.

I decided that I just HAD to go to see the exhibition. Then I started reading about it and the anticipated crowds and I thought "no way, I hate retrospectives." I saw a list of paintings and realized that I'd seen all of them at least once in their respective collections except for one in Lisbon and I want to go there. So I thought I didn't need to go though I still wish I'd been to the Ottonian show in Hamburg many years ago. Then I read about the restoration of many of the paintings, partly funded by the Getty, and that a number of diptychs, triptychs, and altarpieces would be on view together though they are held in different collections. So I was back on for the show and got a flight late in March.

Then this spring didn't work out the way I expected because of Mohs surgery and reconstruction which meant I couldn't go in late March. I was able to get a new flight and accommodations reservations for late April without losing too much money though it took more frequent-flyer miles on American.

So now it's April 26th. I'm at the Rochester airport waiting for my flight to Boston. There, I'll transfer to a British Airways flight to Heathrow. Then, take the Tube and Docklands Light Rail to London City Airport for the flight to Amsterdam. By the time I could order an exhibition ticket, only late evening tickets (10 pm and 11 pm) were available. Most of the hotels in Den Bosch were full on May 1st but I did find a 3rd-floor room at the Hotel Terminus, near the train station. Since my viewing will be on May 1st, I plan on working on some Marxist interpretations of the Bosch paintings. No, not really.

With the London airport switcheroo, the late ticket for the show, and trouble finding a room in Den Bosch, I have been pretty anxious about this trip (and I'm probably still feeling a bit overwhelmed by the surgery and treatment which meant missing the ARLIS/NA-VRA conference for the first time since 1973). But now, here I am, at the airport, and the adrenalin is starting to kick in. I'm hoping it doesn't keep me up overnight since London will need attention. And, on top, it is King's Day tomorrow in the Netherlands so I have to do a workaround to get to the apartment where I'm staying in Amsterdam. The Central Station is closed for the holiday and public transit will not be running in the center of town. I'm thankful to the fellow whose apartment I'm staying at for letting me know and how to work around via South Station and a different bus.

(picture from "Jheronimus Bosch 2016" About page; the file is named vrijstandd1.jpg - "free-standing")

28 March 2016

how do you get back to "normal"?

After about five weeks with four rounds of surgery involving local or general anaesthesia, how do you get back to "normal"? You are accustomed to the doctors and nurses having control of what the next day(s) will bring. You can only plan maybe a couple-three days out with any assurance. In mid-February, just after the College Art annual conference in Washington, D.C., it seemed like I would have a few weeks at home and then head off to Seattle for the joint ARLIS/NA-VRA conference, followed ten days later by heading to the Netherlands to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Hieronymus Bosch's death by seeing the major retrospective at the Noordbrabants Museum in Den Bosch. The next two older blog posts give more detail of those plans.

Being in the midst of the surgeries made "recovery" seem like something in the future. I still had surgery on the horizon and recovery is for healing after treatment. Today I began to feel like I was entering that recovery phase and, strangely, it was unsettling. The secure, scary, uncomfortable momentum of waiting to hear what your caregivers needed to do next is replaced by the realization that real life has to recommence, those income taxes need to be filed, the Avery indexing and Scholes Library hours need to be re-established, real meals rather than grazing. No using the surgery or bandages as an excuse. Of course, part of you desperately wants to get back to normal.

I have been incredibly lucky in the whole process that my basic mobility (that is, movement of arms and legs) is not restricted and I've had very little pain. I just look like a Mack truck drove over my face. So tomorrow I'll go on my "normal" morning walk around the three-mile loop in Alfred, come back to the house, have some breakfast, maybe work on my income taxes, etc. We can do this .... I hope. And dream of Bosch.
Bosch: St John the Baptist
(Museo Lázaro Galdiano, Madrid)
(Google Art Project / Wikimedia Commons)
(my current bookmark is a detail of this painting)

10 March 2016

carrying on .... and on

The last ten days have been pretty intense. The second round of surgery, to move the flap from my forehead onto my nose, happened last Thursday (March 3rd, my dad's birthday). It rather zonked me out. Dr Quatela and others checked me on Friday morning and left me in the caring and knowing hands of nurse practitioner Julie Chatt while Dr Quatela went on a long-scheduled trip to work with children in Vietnam (HUGS Foundation). Julie has been re-dressing the wounds every day. I mostly feel up to doing things but the bandages between my eyes make it somewhat hard to focus on text, either printed or online. It's a little like the Vaseline that cinematographers use on lenses to soften the age lines (or sexy bits) in movies.

I won't know for sure when the third round of surgery, to remove the bridge supporting the patch on my nose, is going to happen but it is likely to happen within a week of Dr Quatela's return next Wednesday. That being the case, there is no way that I can imagine being ready to travel to the Netherlands for the Bosch show on March 23rd. So I've rebooked my flight for later April. The show closes on May 8th. Many of the works will then be in a similar show at the Prado in Madrid. I think I still prefer my other Plan B for missing the show in the Netherlands: going to all of the home collections of the paintings and drawings. Road trip! (with a bit of flying)

I've been staying with Rachel in Rochester and there's a Bosch electric box in the basement of the big old house that her apartment is in.
We're both used to living alone so we're working on not becoming some scenes from a Bosch ..... whatever? Hell mouth? Last Judgment? Ship of Fools?

29 February 2016

medical selfies

When I posted a Bosch picture as a diptych with a picture of the current round of Mohs surgery for removal of skin cancer on my nose and reconstruction, the art librarian at Vassar College -- Thomas Hill -- speculated that "hospital selfies -- they seem to constitute a new and serious form of portraiture. I hate to look at mine, but I can't help wondering if they serve over time as trauma therapy."

I hope you'll forgive my using blog entries as more trauma therapy. The good part of the report is that I'm not in much physical pain.

This round of surgeries was originally scheduled in January and would probably not have conflicted with the joint ARLIS/NA + VRA conference in Seattle which is scheduled for March 8-12. And I've been dreaming of getting to the Bosch exhibition at the Noordbrabants Museum in 's-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, since I first heard about it. This is the 500th year since Bosch died (1516). The progress of the surgery is dependent of the doctor's schedule and on the healing of the flap of skin which will be the new right exterior of my nose. Very much, one step at a time.

This morning's visit to the doctor involved removing the stitches on my forehead and replacement with steri-strips. Quite a lovely pattern:

One feels a weird mix of self-involved and over-exposed when you talk about these things on Facebook or in a personal blog entry but there's that other therapy: the simple "likes" and expressions of support and concern that mean an awful lot, especially when you're not at home and feeling rather adrift.

So it's a bit after 1 pm and there's a lecture at Eastman School by JoAnn Falletta, the conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic. The plastic surgeon's office is on East Avenue near the Eastman House. I'm staying with Rachel Stuhlman who lives next door. The lecture is downtown and I'm looking forward to the walk downtown, probably about a mile.

14 February 2016

separated at birth: suburban life

Top photo: Paul Cadmus, Aspects of Suburban Life, seen at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, February 2016. cf http://shermaniablog.blogspot.com/2016/02/cadmus-berry-sonsini.html

Bottom photo: "Dr. Kenneth B. Clark, the prominent black psychologist, scholar and educator, at home in the predominantly white New York suburb of Hastings-on-Hudson" cf http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/cp/national/unpublished-black-history/kenneth-clark-at-home (part of the Times photo history for Black History Month)

Neither suburban existence was part of my growing up.

12 February 2016

Cadmus, Getsy, Berry, Sonsini

Last week was the annual conference of the College Art Association in Washington. The conference hotel, the Marriott Wardman Park, was pretty far from the museums so I didn't get in much galleryhopping, just a quick visit to the Smithsonian American Art Museum which shares its building with the National Portrait Gallery. There, I saw three paintings by Paul Cadmus entitled "Aspects of Suburban Life." Some suburb I've never been to. The paintings were transferred from the Department of State.

At the hotel, I saw David Getsy several times and did a fly-by greeting as we passed in the hallway. I was pretty excited that his new volume entitled Queer, in the Documents of contemporary art series co-published by Whitechapel Gallery and MIT Press, was available at the MIT Press booth.

Last night at the library, I was looking at the February issue of Art in America and the "Sightlines" column was a selection of things that are inspiring Ian Berry at the moment. One of them was David Getsy's new book Abstract bodies. Berry says the essay on Nancy Grossman "should be required reading for anyone looking at and thinking about contemporary sculpture." Berry is the director of the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College. He and the museum do the finest shows.

There was also an advertisement for a John Sonsini show at the Ameringer McEnery Yohe gallery in New York City. Sonsini hails from Los Angeles and paints wonderful portraits of Latino day laborers. The exhibition catalog is available online via issu.com and includes essays by Ian Berry, Jeffrey D. Grove, and Allan M. Jalon. The name Allan Jalon seemed very familiar and then I remembered that I ran into him at Anton Kern gallery in New York City when I lived there, in late 2002. Allan used some of my comments in an article on Matt Mullican that he wrote for the Los Angeles times. It's such a small world, except when it's huge.
This is a Sonsini portrait from the Ameringer McEnery Yohe artist page.