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Monthly Archives: November 2013

A Plethora of Drawings

Besides the very obvious but often neglected aspects of life that one is grateful for: love, friendship, shelter and security, it is a blessing to be able to draw. Drawing is a way to slow down, to really look and see. It is the artistic soul’s equivalent of a spa day. That is why I am very excited about the The Morgan Library and Museum’s two drawing shows which are up now. One is of Leonardo’s works, the other consists of the Morgan’s collection of 18th century Venetian drawings. Looking forward to seeing both of these on my birthday. Closer to home beginning in late January the Princeton University Art Museum will be mounting an exhibit of some of their Italian drawings. Although the exhibit is a departure from the traditional old master works, the description of the Brush Writing in the Arts of Japan show at the Metropolitan Museum pertains very well to the classic draftsperson of the Western world. For a fresh take on drawing, the Newark Museum’s Papyraceous is an offbeat look at works on paper. At this time of year, when multitasking and distraction is even more pronounced than usual, it is wonderful to quietly observe and linger.

Portrait of a woman in profile

 

 

 

 

Jacquie’s Hummels

Jacquie had several Hummel figurines. These intrigue me the way old movies about warm, loving families do. I can relate to a family like the one in Donna Tarrt’s The Little Friend: depressed, fragmented, mostly selfish. But bright-eyed, sappy children: I just don’t get them. When a bunch of the figurines came to my house broken, they made more sense. I have been a little despondent since returning from Florida having helped my mother with her tangled finances. As usual, books and art have helped me climb out of it. Aminatta Forna has written a masterpiece in The Hired Man. Its main character, Duro Kolak, embodies the loss, grieving and emotional bewilderment of war. We feel love and tenderness for him right away, and his tragic story, and the lives of his fellow townspeople as well as its animals, haunt us. Forna has done everything right, from the characters, the cultural dissonance between the privileged and those who have not and the petty dislikes that turn into hatred during wartime. Just so good. I have also been reading about George Bellows and Henry Darger, two artists with nothing in common, personally or professionally. One, a he-man athlete, who depicted boxers and the changing world around him, the other a queer and sensitive soul who created an alternate universe to help him overcome his Dickensian childhood. Elledge’s biography of Darger is a compulsive read.

Happy BirthdayBroken Hummels

Biblio-feel-ia

I was horrified one day when my sister did publicly what I usually do privately. She sniffed the pages of a book she had picked up at the library. Both of us seem to share a love for books. Not just for the written words but the make up of the book itself. We skim the pages with our fingers as we read. We look at each cover, each spine, literally getting a feel for what the tome will contain inside. In my case, I think my love for the book as object has a lot to do with being an artist. Artists develop a love for materials, for the physical presence of paint, wood, canvas, ink, graphite, charcoal, etc. But this desire to want to handle books is more than that.

I trace it back to our childhoods, my sister’s and mine. Besides books being refuge, they also provided, I should say provide, a form of what a psychologist may call mirroring. In the pages, in the smell, in the colors or the type are presences that I can examine undisturbed: attention is brought to them and I am rewarded with a form of love. Speaking of love…

I prefer the sort of love that is not messy. I find drama to be wasteful. Yelling is verboten. My idea of love is akin to my mothers’ constant pronouncement that children should be seen but not heard. So, love for me means internally keeping a constant vigil of  longing. This is quite easy to do. I just don’t allow myself to desire too much, but I do allow myself to desire just enough. For each person this is of course defined differently.

This long preamble is a way to introduce my love of sketchbooks. Sketchbooks seem to define bibliofeelia best. They provide the inner workings of a creative mind in tangible, loving, deeply personal ways. Take the sketchbooks of Derek Jarman as discussed and illustrated in the beautiful Thames & Hudson production edited by Stephen Farthing and Ed Webb-Ingall. Jarman would buy several books at a time. These were beautiful to begin with. But, as an indication of his subversive ways, he would put a layer of paint on each sumptuous leather cover before using the book.  To someone with my level of repression this is tantamount to sacrilege, but it fits in perfectly with Jarman’s work. There are pages filled with photographs, feathers, dried flowers, printed ephemera, and shells. But what really brings these beautiful books to life, and into our hearts, is the excitement displayed in the writings and drawings. The marks themselves are alive. This is true for Jarmans’ marks as well as within the writings of others, which he has pasted onto his pages. We become aware of the filmmaker’s money woes, his health concerns, and his relationships with people in his immediate community. The sketchbooks show a man deeply involved with the world, and the people around him. He is influenced by them, as well as the great artists whose works he encountered, including Caravaggio and Goya.

What a privilege to examine this man’s warm and creative mind in one of the most personal ways possible. Pure, unadulterated bibliofeelia, without any mess or fuss. No gloves required.

An informative video about the sketchbooks themselves: Inside Derek Jarman’s sketchbooks

A woman from the past

A few weeks ago I had visitors who wanted to see Lambertville. We went to The People’s Store, a wonderful place filled with curiosities. I spotted a decrepit, once velvet-covered photo album. Seeing its’ contents, and in spite of my wish to save money, I knew I had to have it. One of my kind visitors asked if she should save me from myself, but, since I knew I didn’t want to be saved, I said no. Now I am the proud owner of many old photographs containing visages of unknown people. I painted this woman first because of her unusual face. I wonder if the elderly woman is one of her ancestors: a forbidding face if ever there was one. In fact, she reminds me of someone I admire, aged many years. I am anxious to paint her also.

photo_album_fr_peoples_store_lambertville_nj

Poor soul
A poor soul

From a beautiful photograph