Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Childhood Memory

Fumbling Toward Adulthood

Valerie asks: what defines adulthood?  Different people will have different milestones: your first job, your first car (not the one your parents gave you - the one you bought with your own money), first apartment, marriage, first child.  But what defines adulthood from a child's perspective?

I was raised in a house full of books.  My father had the lion's share, having majored in English on the GI bill after World War II, but my mother saw to it that I had my own collection early on, and taught me how to read before I started school.  There may have been an element of self-preservation in that.  Now that my parents have both passed on, it can be told: my mother did all my father's graduate research while he was going to school during the day and teaching English at night to support our family.  I passed many an hour in the children's section of the palatial Brooklyn Public Library while my mother was researching and writing my father's term papers, so it was in her interest to give me the tools to keep me happily occupied while she was in the musty fusty gravely serious and cerebral adult's section (to which I hardly ever dared venture).

At home, I noticed early on that adult books had no pictures in them. My initial impression of this was that books without pictures were a bit sad, and didn't pique the imagination at all.  I thought children's books were so much more stimulating, with pictures on every page.

The Winnie-the-Pooh series was far and away my favorite during my childhood, and my mother periodically gave me animals to match the Pooh characters, some of which I still have.  They didn't look the same as the ones in the book (this was before the Great Era of Targeted Marketing), but I had a bear and a kangaroo with a joey, and a tiger and a donkey and an owl (or Wol, as he is often referred to in the books).

One Christmas I received a copy of The World of Pooh -  a compilation of all the Pooh that was fit to print, with countless charming illustrations on almost every page.  Some two hundred pages into this three hundred some odd page book, I had an epiphany, and completely changed my views on illustrations in children's books.  Aha, I realized, adult books had no pictures because adults could conjure up their own images.  Well, I thought, I can conjure up my own images, and don't need illustrations.  The text is the thing.  The only thing.  The everything.  So I got the huge eraser out of the stationery drawer, and set to work erasing one of the suddenly tiresome images.  The eraser did not work, so I used the next best thing - a bit of spit, and my index finger.

Looking back at what I did, I am horrified, but at the time I saw this as a small but determined step I could take out of babyhood and into adulthood.  As it happened, removing the illustrations turned out to be a far larger undertaking than I had bargained for, so, in a move that should probably be recorded in the annals of child psychology, I economized by strategically rubbing out only the star figures in the illustrations.   I did this to several pages until I saw the unintended consequences of my actions: in my fervor to make The World of Pooh conform to adult publishing standards, I had gone right through the paper, and destroyed the all-important text on the other side.

Here is some of my handiwork below.  See the big white space in the center of the illustrated page?  (It's the same one I'm pointing to in the first photo.)  And maybe you can see the hole in the first paragraph on the left page, too.

I don't actually remember my mother's reaction to all this, which is great, because it probably means she didn't freak out in front of me, or yell at me or punish me for what must have appeared, on the face of it, to be an inexplicable, wanton act of destruction from an otherwise well behaved child.  But I do know how she responded: she went out and bought me a pristine copy.

I still have both, and cherish them for different reasons.

(Below is the undamaged copy, and the same page the way it's supposed to look.)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Tea Party

Last Sunday, we attended a tea party hosted by Debra Rapoport and Stan Satlin at Stan's art-filled apartment in Westbeth, the artists' community in the West Village. On the street after the festivities, we encountered a lovely couple and their young daughter trying to take pictures of each other. In exchange for our taking a family photo of them, they took a picture of us and lent us two of their daughter's pink pom-poms for props.

Debra Rapoport is an artist and milliner and stars in the Advanced Style documentary. Stan Satlin is a composer, songwriter and singer. His "Auratoria Americana: Songs of Peace, Love and Spirituality" will be performed at a 7/18/14 event at Riverside Church honoring Nelson Mandela. (For information about the Footsteps of Mandela event, just click on "Auratoria ...) Stan and Debra threw the tea party in honor of three friends visiting from Sydney, Australia.

Debra is wearing a white vest of her own design made of Viva paper towels, one of her favorite materials of late.  It really is a strong, sturdy fiber, and lives up to all the claims made in the advertisements.  And if you take a look at her necklace, you'll see its deceptive centerpiece is a household tool found in any standard toolbox.  Her friend is artist and Westbeth resident Claire Rosenfeld. We had a wonderful time chatting with Claire about numerous topics, including New Mexico's Santa Fe and another artist enclave, Mexico's San Miguel de Allende.

Here's Stan with Sydney visitors Tessa and Robert.  EVERYone loved his shirt, which he said was a gift.  A little tiny label on the pocket says Supreme, which it turns out caters to skateboarders, and has a long list of very high profile collaborators.  (Gents, notice how well he's matched it to his pants and shoes.)

Vivienne Cable, the third Sydney visitor, owns a women's boutique in Sydney called Image by Design. Debra's friend Francesco brought a fellow Aussie (in polka dots) to the party.

Marsha Carlin, Peri St. Denis and Susan Dean posed for a photo. Marsha is a jeweler and Peri is a water colorist.

Nita Angeletti is a doll maker and costume designer. Lily Pink is wearing another of Debra Rapoport's Viva paper towel hats. She'd gotten it at Debra's sale the day before at Lynn Dell's Off Broadway Boutique. We'd last seen both ladies at the National Hat Day Party hosted by Lynn Dell.

Debra's sister, Cydonia Boonshaft (left), and Dr. Nonnie Balcer. Wish we had a full length picture of Cydonia's suit.  It had amazing seams in unexpected places.  Cydonia said she'd gotten it at Kaliyana in Montreal (one of Jean's favorite haunts in that city).  We'd met Nonnie at an Asia Society event last year.  We - and everyone else - loved her hat, by Kate Bishop, which she was kind enough to share (momentarily) with several admirers.  What was really interesting about this hat was how versatile it was - it could be worn backward as well as forward, with the wonderful fan flourish either high or low.  Stan's chairs, by Donghia, were a thrift shop coup.  Oh, envy, envy!

We met filmaker Lilly Rivlin, also a Westbeth denizen. Her latest movie is "Esther Bronner - A Weave of Women".  Love those stripes!

Lina Plioplyte, director of the Advanced Style documentary is a Lithuanian-born New York-based cinematographer and editor who makes short films, fashion documentaries and music videos.  She and Lilly's friend Ilse enjoyed the party.

Tziporah Salamon who also appears in Lina's film with Debra, is wearing one of Debra's Viva hats.  Harriet Levine (left) whom Debra describes as a dear friend actually introduced her to Stan!

Stan with triple-threat (artist, milliner & blogger) Carol Markel, always in marvelous living color, and wearing one of the wonderful gumball necklaces she makes.

Carol's husband, artist Richard Cramer, next to one of the pieces from Stan's extensive collection of Americana. Click on Carol's name above to view her blog posting on the party.

We both loved how jeweler Diana Gabriel's black and white jacket of pressed and felted yarns played off her wonderful black and white jewelry designs.

Sydney visitor Tessa with Debra's friends Mark Brennan and Michael Ing.

Elke Kuhn, wearing an outfit from Swedish designer Gudrun Sjoden, sits with Tessa's husband Robert.

Debra, looking Pharaonic in her Viva paper towel vest.

Here we are with our wonderful host in his amazing apartment. The Statue of Liberty mask is by Debra. And did we mention the food? Absolutely delish!  If they were serving tea at this tea party, we never noticed, since Prosecco was the beverage of choice for most of the guests, including yours truly. What a excellent way to spend an afternoon. Many thanks to our host and hostess for a wonderful event!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Jean The Cat Whisperer

An amazingly talented friend and colleague of Jean's created this cartoon, titled it "Jean The Cat Whisperer" and posted it on Because the cartoon is so beautifully rendered, we just had to share it with you, and the story behind it. (Just click on an image to enlarge and to view slide show.)

Jean had been feeding a colony of feral cats while an East Village neighborhood cat lady was in the hospital. When she found out that the lady also kept two feral cats in her apartment, Jean started feeding them too.

Unfortunately, after nearly three weeks, neither cat would come out of hiding. This (below) is as close as Jean ever got to the shy black cat that hid under the bed whom she dubbed "John".  She never even saw the other even more reclusive cat, a grey and black striped tabby she named "George", until she opened the apartment door one evening and surprised him in the kitchen.  She got a glimpse before he was airborne and ran to hide in another part of the apartment.

Sadly, the cat lady died, so Jean had to trap and remove the two cats from the apartment. Luckily, she was successful and got them out just in time -- the night before a demolition crew was scheduled to arrive to clean out all of the contents and renovate the apartment!

Ah, but where does one take two feral cats who have never been socialized? These two felines have the worst of both worlds: they have no socialization skills to get along with people and, having been indoor cats for nearly five years, they have none of outdoor feral cats' essential survival skills.

Cue the trumpets! Enter a knight in shining armor!  Martin, an East Village resident with a heart the size of the state of Texas, built an enclosure for the cats.  He placed it in a protected location where the cats could acclimate for three to four weeks to living on the outside, get used to the noises, sights and sounds of the great urban outdoors before they are released in the protected courtyard area where he has established feeding stations and sleeping enclosures.

Martin set up the largest water containers (designed for large rabbits) to train the cats to use them, obviating the need for outdoor water bowls since standing water creates a fertile breeding ground for mosquitoes.  The fiberboard floor and sides had been painted with a sealant to waterproof them to withstand the elements.

Here's a bird's eye view of the enclosure. The rectangular brown wooden feeding station on the far left can be accessed through an outside door so it can conveniently be refilled without disturbing the residents.  The burgundy and dark grey dog house is in the middle and the silver covered litter box is against the right side of the enclosure, next to a second door.  This two-dimensional shot makes things look closer together than they really are. The widely spaced chicken wire keeps them in but allows maximum air circulation. The blue tarp was just placed on top to prepare for an impending rainstorm.

To protect against windy, torrential rainstorms, the enclosure can be securely covered with tarps fastened with carabiners.

Peek-a-boo! After spending their first day in seclusion in their insulated dog house -- with carpet cut to fit the floor to provide a cushioned sleeping area) -- George, the shyest cat, made an appearance. (Apologies for the blurry cell phone photo, but we didn't want to scare him off, so we didn't move in for a closer shot.)  Please keep your fingers crossed that George and John successfully make the transition and will stay in their protected area with food and shelter once they are released from their temporary enclosure!

Meanwhile, Jean continues to feed the five feral cats (ear-tipped and neutered) who live in the backyard of the apartment building and roam the adjoining backyard areas, inhabited by another colony. ('Ear tipping', for the uninitiated, is a way to signal to rescuers that an animal has already been captured, neutered and released.) Who wants to lay bets on how long it takes for her to become one of those "cat ladies" she swore she'd never be?

For those of you who would like to assist animals in need, but don't know how, here is a website you can start with. It's called The Animal Rescue Site. You can click daily to provide food for shelter animals, and there are petitions you can sign if you are so inclined. And Jean's favorite charity is Social Tees Animal Rescue on East 5th Street in the East Village.  Repeat after me: Adopt. Foster. Donate.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Outsider Art Fair

Following our meeting with Sue Kreitzman two weeks ago, we were reminded that the Outsider Art Fair would have its annual exhibition here, so we made a trip on Sunday.  The Fair used to be held in February, and it was delightful not to have to brave snow and black ice, but rather to have sun and warm temperatures on the day of our visit.  Although we kept our eyes peeled for Kreitzman sightings, we were unsuccessful.  We figured she must have gone on Saturday and  only after the fact did we learn that we were two ships passing in the night, just missing each other at a variety of booths.

Since we often focus on clothes, it seemed appropriate to look at other people's views of clothes, too.  Here's a multimedia piece by the late James Castle at Fleisher/Ollman Gallery.  Castle was born deaf and mute, but expressed himself eloquently with pencil and paper.  Read more about Castle's interesting story here.

At Galerie Bonheur we saw the work of Craig Norton, who did large cutouts in various media of people in his town.  Below, the folds in The Preacher's gown are achieved by actually cutting slivers of material out of the uppermost layer.  Norton's figures, and their faces, are very expressive.

Also at Galerie Bonheur was this beautiful watercolor by Justin McCarthy.

Some of the works we saw were characterized by the endless patience of the artist.  Carl Hammer Gallery had several works by Jesse Howard, who held forth on numerous topics on large canvases.  You can read more about Jesse here.

At Pure Vision Arts we found the tiny artworks of Oscar Azmitia.  His profiles of such well known figures as Ronald McDonald and Batman (seen here) and Fred Flintstone, Cookie Monster, and Darth Vader (not shown) are all painted on pennies, and framed in cardboard penny files.

The work below was done on a canceled postage stamp.  We found this amazingly detailed work at Yukiko Koide Presents.  The gallerist explained to us that the artist, Tomoatsu Takase, was intrigued by magnified pictures of microbes, and sought to reproduce that effect in his work.  So small and detailed is Takase's work that Koide's booth has maganifying glasses on hand.  Most of his work is done in black and white.  This piece, Patterned Background, is unusual for being in color.

But surely the most detailed work we saw was by Kongo Laroze of Haiti.  This untitled work, one of several by the artist, had to be about four feet square, and was made entirely of buttons.

We stopped briefly for a nibble, and had the opportunity to meet Susann Craig of Raw Vision magazine, devoted to outsider art.  Don't you love her hair?  And her earrings?  She obligingly took one off to show us.  They're aluminum, and hinged at the ear.

We were also greeted by Justin Jorgenson. the creative force behind Dapper Day at Disneyland.  We had to ask him where he got his shirt, and were disappointed to discover that we missed our opportunity to get one ourselves - they were sold last year at Topman, the men's side of Topshop.  Topman did a line of Memphis Group designs.  Justin figures this was the best of the lot.

It was Mother's Day.  We ran into Jennifer, dressed mostly in white, and her mom, dressed mostly in black (but both in hats!), for a great study in contrasting pairs.

The last time we wrote about the Outsider Art Fair, we mentioned Gerard Cambon, showing at the Judy Saslow Gallery, and have to mention him and his charming otherworldly constructions again.  We left this at a fairly high resolution so you can get a better look at his people.  The little yellow umbrellas are made of dried and shellacked lemon rinds.

This vibrant piece, by Beverly Baker, at a gallery called Institute, seems to have some Kandinsky-like elements.

And this work by Marcos Bontempo, also at the Carl Hammer Gallery, has marvelous fluid lines.

Having just met artist Angela Rogers and viewed several pieces of her work just the week before at Sue Kreitzman's studio, we were excited to see her work at the show.  Loved this piece simply called "Medicine Chest".  Her juxtaposition of skulls and mummies (the original Walking Dead!) with her main characters gives an edge to her colorful paintings. In 2014, The Gallery at HAI (Healing Arts Initiative) hosted "Medicine Show" an entire site specific installation of her work.

Angela's "Carnival of the Trinity" echoes many of her themes and recurrent images.

Lindsay Gallery featured several of the robots by Donald Henry (1966 - 2009), an artist who suffered significant impairment due to a head injury and fever and spent time in a mental asylum. After his release to a group home, he began attending Visionaries and Voices, a Cincinnati art program for individuals with developmental disabilities.

We discovered arresting oil on board portraits by painter Clementine Hunter (1886-1988) at Dean Jensen Gallery. This piece, "Grandma" is circa 1960.

In the same gallery is "Kelly" by Eileen Dorfman (American, born 1945), a 2003 acrylic on canvas board.

Hirschl & Adler Modern had numerous double-sided drawings from the remarkable album by James Edward Deeds, Jr. (1908-1987), who spent nearly his entire life in Missouri's Nevada State Hospital No 3. Diagnosed a schizophrenic, Deeds was committed to the hospital in 1936, where he began to create two-sided drawings in pencil and crayon on official ledge paper. He hand-sewed 148 pages in a crude album of leather and cigar box parts that he clutched as a type of talisman until into the 1960s. In naming this drawing "Ectlectrc", Deeds encoded "ECT: into the title, with references to the electroconvulsive therapy. This drawing was the source of his pseudonyme "The Electric Pencil" until his true identity was discovered in 2011. His album was rescued from a street-side junk heap by a 14-year old boy who safeguarded it for 36 years.

We met Nancy Josephson, who created the wonderful 2013 "Honey Badger" using taxidermy form, glass beads and rhinestones for the badger and a glass vessel filled with real honey.

Josephson's 2013 "FRI-DOE" takes the genre further by creating a whimsical sconce reminiscent of a wall-mounted mouse head.

Several different galleries carried work by William Hawkins; his 1983 "Yellow Buildings, Black Arch" in Lindsay Gallery was one of our favorites and had sold at the show.

On the outside wall of Tokyo gallery Yukiko Koide Presents was a huge boro (rag) yogi (sleeper) large enough for two people to sleep in. Dated from the late 19th to early 20th century, it was made of cotton and hemp, crudely mended and patched, but with a modernist sensibility much prized by collectors.

In the same gallery is Masahiko Ohe's 2011 wonderfully cartoon-like "Ultraman Ace" of pen and pencil on paper.

Fred Giampietro Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut featured a large number of colorful works by Larry Lewis (1919-2004), several of which looked like they came out of a Monty Python animation.

Among the artists featured by Pan American Art Projects is Kongo Laroze. His glitzy untitled mixed media piece looked like a black 1950's Tiny Tears Doll in sequined headdress and costume, mired in red glitter quicksand.

The Gallery at HAI also featured Lady Shalimar Montague's "Folies Bergere"

How could we not end with this vibrant 1997 oil on linen poster by Jean Tourlonias (French, 1937-2000) titled "Speciale Jacques Titaud" featuring a canary yellow Ferrari? The notice says "La- Nouvelle-Jacques-Titaud-Coupe'-Ultra-Rapid-et-Robuste-Moteur-12-Cylindres-Ferrari".

What we're wearing:

Valerie is wearing a vintage black straw hat, black and yellow wooden earrings, mid-century metal necklace (from a thrift shop), suit with shibori highlights by Ocelot (Angelina DeAntonis) and DVF boots.

Jean is wearing an Amy Downs' gazar origami turban; black & grey striped jacket and black skirt by LUNN; Pataugus Mary Janes from A-UNO; flea market necklace with silver orbs and aluminum mid-century earrings; black and white resin disc bracelet.