Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How things work

Amazing illustrations from David Macaulay's 1976 book, Underground

The Latin term Magnum Opus refers to a literary or artistic masterpiece, perhaps the greatest single work of a writer, composer or painter. The staggering amount of meticulous research and complicated drawings David Macaulay has undertaken in his astounding books The Way Things Work, Cathedral, Pyramid, and Unbuilding confirms the term can also apply to a body of work.

Monday, November 29, 2010


If the winter light becomes too bleak and dreary...
think of the succulent paintings of André Derain.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Lights, camera, location!

Clever! I think it's a good beginning. Canada is sorely missing. So many films were shot in Canada dressed to look like New York City or Los Angeles.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Neat and tidy

Part of the evening ritual for J. included the placement of his keys, wallet and coins on his dressing table. The coins were always stacked, which made them easier to pick up the next morning. I have no idea where he is or what he is doing these days, but I'd bet my last dollar that he's still stacking his coins. Neat and tidy sticks. After viewing the many orderly images on this website, I see that J. is not alone.

Friday, November 26, 2010

New York Notebook

Laurie Rosenwald's New York Notebook is a brash and joyful overview
of the city that never sleeps.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Alfred Eisenstaedt

Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.

--Marcel Proust

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Home town

I ran into M. and her sister at a movie theater. It has been nearly 8 years since we worked together, so all news was big news. She led with,"We're moving to Chicago soon; I've only been there once, but liked it a lot." Wow. It's almost December, and everybody knows Chicago boasts a fierce winter. If you're planning a move to Chicago, December to April are the least welcoming months. Still, if you can look beyond the wind chill factor, there is so much to love. I chose 3 images of the Chicago river to sum it up:

It's true! In observance of Saint Patrick's Day, the Chicago River is dyed green. What's that you say? The river is already green? Well yes, but not Kelly green! Tradition is sacred after all. It's pointless and absurd and all in the name of

The surreal image of the river looking like a giant slushy reminds you to appreciate those sticky days of summer. The winter passes and like anything that doesn't kill you, knowing you survived it will make you stronger.

Yes, the bridges are raised to let sailboats pass. Even one puny sailboat can bring traffic to a halt. It's completely normal to get out of your car and watch the magnificent fanfare. Everyone can have their moment. Little things matter.

Good luck in Chicago M.! I am jealous!

Chicago is


A tail wagging song for Chicagoans, just like New York, New York is for those Big Applefolk.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Self portrait w/brushes

Lee Krasner

Alice Pike Barney

Elin Danielson-Gambogi

Anne Preston

Zinaida Serabryakova

Anna Bilinska-Bohdanowicz

Monday, November 22, 2010

Take aim

How do you picture yourself?
Not just this minute, but over the years, what hasn't changed?

In 1936 when she was just 16 years old, Ria van Dijk posed for her first self-portrait. Mind you, she wasn't sitting, and the prop of choice was a gun. The shooting gallery at the local fairground in Tilburg, Netherlands rewards a shot on target with an automatic photo. Ria made an annual pilgrimage over the following 74 years. The series can be seen in a book titled,
Almost Every Picture #7.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky's new film Black Swan, is a psychological thriller that follows one ambitious ballet dancer who may have met her doppelganger in the new member of her company. After years of dedication, Nina (played by Natalie Portman) has a body that has been customized for ballet: lovely, lithe, her joints crack as she stretches, her feet are contorted and bandaged and her ribs are visible. Finally, she has been cast as the Swan Queen in Swan Lake, the reward for all those meals she has skipped or purged, the relationships she has avoided and the normal life she has denied herself. Is Nina simply misreading everything that Lily (played by Mila Kunis) says and does out of paranoid rivalry? Or is she really losing her grip with reality?

There are notable actors that have physically transformed to fully embrace/inhabit the characters they portrayed. Robert De Niro, Christian Bale and Charlize Theron famously gained or lost weight and were nearly unrecognizable as a boxer in Raging Bull, a disturbed insomniac in The Machinist and a damaged serial killer in Monster. I read that both Portman and Kunis trained rigorously for months to prepare for their roles. Somehow, two beautiful women transforming into two beautiful ballerinas doesn't have the same impact.

My mind was wandering after 30 minutes of 'Is she? Or isn't she?' I thought about John Cassavettes' film, A Women Under the Influence, Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver, and Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard and their ways of depicting madness and a mind fracturing in disturbing and sometimes subtle ways. The love that is tested in A Woman Under the Influence is palpable, the stunted Travis Bickle of Taxi Driver inspires pathos, we are distressed by Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard.

Like professional sport and its athletes, ballet requires exacting movement, precision and repetition over years of grueling practice. But dancers are different: their audience is smaller, their world is more isolated. Surrounded by mirrors, hours of every day a dancer gazes at her/his own reflection. It sounds a bit crazy, no?

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Alfred Eisenstaedt

Edward Steichen

André Kertész

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Red Shoes

Dazzling images from Michael Powell's 1948 film, The Red Shoes.
Technicolor at its juiciest, searing best!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Seeing double

Everett Spruce, Twins

Albert Herter, The Bouvier Twins

Doris Clare Zinkeisen, Janet and Anne Johnstone

Alice Neel, The De Vegh Twins

In my head

There was a pair of worn brown shoes in a plexiglass box on display at the Maira Kalman exhibit. She mentioned that the shoes were actually hers, and that she had purchased them knowing they were too large for her feet. "Because when I wore them, I had to walk very carefully (so they wouldn't fall off), it was my way of slowing down time." I thought about this throughout the day and found it disarmingly funny.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ooh-la-la Maira

The exhibition, Maira Kalman: Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World) opens today at the Skirball Cultural Center. As any fan of hers would hope, there is is a large assortment of paintings from her beloved children's books, as well as her journalistic work from the New Yorker and the New York Times. As an added delight, there are also objects she has collected and repurposed that reflect her appreciation for the overlooked and absurd.

At the informal and sold-out lecture last night, on every seat, there was a sheet of paper which listed the names in Part 1 of Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Idiot, and also a Snickers candy bar. Sweetness/sadness, frivolity/serious study, a delicate and necessary balance.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The water's fine

The Sutro Baths (San Francisco, CA) opened to the public in 1895. The large glass and steel structure housed 7 pools, with either salt or fresh water and a choice of temperatures. The structure burned down in 1966 but the ruins remain accessible for visitors.

The ghostly remains of the Sutro Baths

In 19oo, fun for all!

Monday, November 15, 2010

O! for the sea!

Isamu Noguchi

Relocation center at Poston, Arizona

Letter to Man Ray, from the Smithsonian Archives of American Art
(click on image to enlarge)

In February 1942, two months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. The document authorized the establishment of military areas as relocation centers for over 110,000 Americans of Japanese heritage for the purpose of national security. The order applied to residents of California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Colorado and Arkansas.

As a resident of New York, the Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi was not required to report for relocation. As a conscientious objector, he worked to halt the internment by writing letters to officials, attending hearings and finally, arriving at Poston camp to enroll as a voluntary internee. Noguchi was at Poston from May to November of 1942, where he worked in the carpentry shop and created designs for recreational areas in the camp. Amid accusations of espionage by the FBI, the frustrated artist returned to New York.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The King's Speech

History is written by the victors.

--Winston Churchill

Colin Firth delivers an incredibly moving performance as King George VI in the film, The King's Speech. 'Bertie' as he is called by his family, suffers from a pronounced stutter that has plagued his official royal duties at public engagements. Less than a year after his father King George V dies, his brother Edward, the rightful heir to the throne, famously abdicates to be with the woman he loves (Wallis Simpson). If the stakes weren't already high, it's 1937 and England is preparing for war with Nazi Germany. As the new king, it's essential that he speaks with courage and conviction to prepare his country for the lean and awful years that lay ahead.

Bertie's supportive wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) commissions the assistance of an eccentric speech therapist named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). With patience, kindness and unorthodox methods, Lionel coaches Bertie in finding his voice and his confidence. It's the unlikely friendship between Bertie and Lionel, and the believable camaraderie between Firth and Rush that make the film both fascinating and heartwarming.

History tends to gloss over the personal challenges and private matters of important figures. For the entire 11 years of his presidency, FDR was paralyzed from the waist down, Abraham Lincoln struggled with debilitating depression, JFK suffered chronic back pain and experienced the tragic death of a son during his presidency. We look to our leaders for strength, yet overcoming such adversity and how it defines character is left for writers of fiction.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Without you...

Paul Gauguin

James Whistler

David Hockney

Georges Seurat

Gustave Caillebotte

In Greek mythology, the Muses were goddesses who inspired creation of literature and the arts. The modern muse is the stuff of tempestuous relationships: F. Scott Fitzgerald had Zelda, Pablo Picasso had Dora Maar, George Balanchine had Suzanne Farrell. Others found something mysterious, majestic and evocative in Mom.