Taking the Sheepskin Trail off the Great Allegheny Trail – a fantastic railtrail that extends 140 miles across Western Pennsylvania, which is the focus of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Sojourn biketour – you bike through woods, over the railroad tracks, over a stream, and suddenly, the forest opens up and suddenly, Dunbar appears, like Brigadoon.
It is as if time stopped still. There are no people on the street. Nothing is moving.
Dunbar once bustled as a manufacturing center for wire corrugated glass – the kind of glass you likely grew up with in schools and government buildings; as a transit center and coke ovens. The buildings, from 1904 and 1906 (a common date we find as we go through these small towns), look vacant now. It reminds me, again, of a movie set. We are greeted here at Dunbar’s Historical Society, housed in what used to be the US Post Office building (constructed 1903-1907), which harbors a really wonderful collection of artifacts. But in just the past two years, Dunbar has acquired a world-class piece of art that has put this tiny town back on the map – and not just for the internationally renowned artist, but for how the piece, “Seated Torso” – the largest glass sculpture in the world – came to Dunbar: Donald Trump.
Pat Trimbath a member of the Historical Society’s board, tells us the wonderful story of a 60-year odyssey of this piece of glass, which began here as an abandoned two-ton chunk.
Dunbar used to be a center for glassmaking, and specifically, the manufacture of shatterproof glass reinforced with corrugated wire but when the Pennsylvania Wire Glass Company shut down in 1955, it was full of large chunks of glass, including a two-ton piece of green/blue glass in its furnace.
Artist Suzanne Regan Pascal learned of the treasure trove of glass in Dunbar in 1960 and stayed in Dunbar for an entire year, working on sculpting glass. She bought all the glass and had it moved to her Beverly Hills studio. (There is a marvelous display with photos of Pascal chiseling the “Seated Torso”.)
She produced many sculptures from the Dunbar glass between 1961-67, had various gallery shows, and ultimately sold many of them to patrons including President and Nancy Reagan, Frank and Barbara Sinatra, Henry Mancini, and Armand Hammer who presented a sculpted glass necklace to Princess Diana for her wedding.
In 1994, Pascal sold the Seated Torso to billionaire John Kluge for $3 million. He moved it to Charlottesville, Virginia, where it was placed in the center of a fountain in his Morven Carriage House.
After Kluge died in 2010, Donald Trump purchased his estate including the carriage house. About this time, Donna Myers, Dunbar Historical Society secretary, put a question on Askart.com seeking information of the Seated Torso.
In 2013, the head winemaker at what became the Trump Vineyard Winery found the two-year old question and contacted Myers, offering the Seated Torso to the Dunbar Historical Society if the society could raise the funds to move it back to Dunbar – $11,000.
Trimbath tells us that once the association with Trump was known, “donations poured in.”
The Dunbar Historical Society built an annex to its building, and the sculpture was officially opened to the public in May 2016 (coinciding with our Sojourn). We noticed a change from last year: the letter and photo from Donald J. Trump was moved to a slightly less prominent corner.
Even if you were unable to get to the once-a-year Museum Mile Festival along Fifth Avenue on June 13, when six museums (some of them with pricey admissions) throw their doors open to one and all for free, it provided a marvelous preview of some spectacular exhibits that are on through the summer or fall.
At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, at the southern “border” of Museum Mile, I visited the Irving Penn Centennial, a marvelous survey of this brilliant photographer’s career and an opportunity to see the museum quality prints that would have been seen in the pages of important magazines like Vogue; the exhibit is on through July 30, 2017.
I went from Irving Penn Centennial to the “Age of Empires” exhibit of breathtaking sculpture and artifacts from the Qin and Han dynasties, spanning 221 BC to 220 AD, including near life-size but extraordinarily realistic statues of terracotta warriors from Xian (so life-like they appear to breathe) that I had seen for the first time when I visited what was at the time newly uncovered site in 1978 in China. This important exhibit is on view through July 16, 2017.
Then, I couldn’t resist, I luxuriated in the galleries devoted to Impressionists and Post-Impressionists.
Outside, the Met Museum hosted performance art – a troupe of dancers whose movements formed artistic poses. (My favorite time to visit is on a Friday or Saturday evening when the Met is open late, has music on the mezzanine; favorite place to eat is in the American Café in the sculpture garden; also, take a docent-led “Highlights” tour, which brings you all around the museum.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue (at 82nd Street), New York, NY 10028, (212) 535-7710 http://www.metmuseum.org/.
(My clever strategy was to start at the Met at 5 pm, giving me an extra hour of the Museum Mile Festival in order to cover more territory.)
I next visit the Neue Galerie New York and get my annual “fix” of the breathtaking “Woman in Gold” and other Gustav Klint paintings (Klint has become one of my favorite artists). The Austrian Masterworks exhibit is a celebration of the 15th anniversary of the museum’s founding, highlighting Gustav Klint, Oskar Kokoschka, Alfred Kubin and Egon Schiele.
The Solomon R.Guggenheim Museum, which always gets an enormous crowd for the Museum Mile festival, is featuring “Visionaries: Creating a Modern Guggenheim,” “Hugo Boss Prize 2016: Anicka Yi, Life is Cheap” Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue (at 88th Street) New York, NY 10128, (212) 423-3500, https://www.guggenheim.org/
Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, which is part of the Smithsonian Institutions, a collection established by Sarah and Eleanor Hewitt as the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration in 1897, housed in an exquisite mansion, is presenting a marvelous exhibit, “The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s” – bringing together the design elements of the era through a range of furnishings, architecture, clothing, paintings and music, and what made the designs so distinctive and reflective of cultural trends of the time. For example, “Bending the Rules,” the cross-pollination of American and European artists (“A Smaller World”), the infatuation with technology and machines. One of the special delights of the Cooper Hewitt is their interactive opportunities to create designs.
Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian National Design Museum, 2 East 91st Street (off Fifth Avenue) New York, NY 10128, 212-849-8400, http://www.cooperhewitt.org/
The Jewish Museum’s special exhibit this season also focuses on the 1920s, featuring the painter and poet and exemplar of the avant-garde, Florine Stettheimer. This was all new to me – I had never heard of her, or her incredible sisters, before (their independence, feminism and stunning range of creativity reminded me of the Bronte sisters, except these ladies did not keep their creative output a secret).
The Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Avenue, (between 92nd & 93rd Streets), New York, NY 10128, (212) 423-3200, www.thejewishmuseum.org.
The two exhibits – at the Cooper Hewitt and the Jewish Museum – are that much more inspiring to see contiguously, to have this extraordinary in-depth insight into the Jazz Age, a time of tumultuous change in culture, social mores and political currents on a scale that only recurred 40 years later, in the 1960s, and now. I became intrigued when I heard of the Jewish Museum’s exhibit at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island in June (you have another opportunity to enjoy this fantastic festival August 26 & 27, jazzagelawnparty.com; see story)
From there I walked further north, to just about the top of the Museum Mile with only about an hour to go of the festival.
The Museum of the City of New York always has smart, clever exhibits. The not-to-be missed exhibit, “New York at its Core,” that is on now is in three parts, in three different galleries. It explores the essential question, “What makes New York New York?” (Answer: Money, Diversity, Density, Creativity) and takes the city from its very beginnings (room-sized images of neighborhoods morph from centuries ago into today), to its development as a melting pot for cultures, and then lets viewers imagine what the city of the future should look like (“Future City Lab”) and how it should solve the challenges of affordable housing, greenspace, environment, transit, and so forth. One of the most interesting parts is a computer-generated animation that puts you into the scene.
Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Avenue (at 104th Street), New York, NY 10029 (212) 534-1672, http://www.mcny.org/
Then, at the end of the Museum Mile, El Museo Del Barrio is featuring “Belkis Ayon: Nkame” and “A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayon” El Museo del Barrio, 1230 Fifth Avenue (at 104th Street), New York, NY 10029, (212) 831-7272 (http://www.elmuseo.org/)
When RJ Rosegarten left Great Neck 17 years ago, where he had gone to school, raised a family, had a career in advertising and served as Mayor of the Village of Great Neck Plaza, he was finally free to pursue an ambition from childhood: to be an artist.
He returns to the Gold Coast Arts Center in Great Neck Plaza – which as mayor he helped bring fruition – with a show, “Lost & Found: the Art of Assemblage” which draws upon his strong sense of design and construction. The exhibition is on view through March 12.
“Assemblage involves the thoughtful combination of elements to create something new and original,” states Jude Amsel, the curator who installed the massive exhibit of some 50 works.
RJ Rosegarten (better known by Great Neckers as Bob) claims that the pieces are not intended to hammer home a theme or message or story, that he approaches the work from the point of view of design, color and form, meticulously choosing objects that together form the image he has conceptualized in his mind.
At the end of it, he says, he comes up with a title. “That’s often the most difficult part,” he says.
His humor comes through with the titles (“it’s Great to be King”), but don’t read in a theme or moral – it’s for the beholder to find your own meaning.
But if the piece is built around an aesthetic, the choice of objects – each with their own meaning – the title, in fact, broadcasts a mood, emotion or message even if was subconsciously in Rosegarten’s mind, or resounds in the viewer’s own head. The design captures your attention, but then you keep going back to explore and discover and your head forms its own patterns and themes.
These aren’t objects. These aren’t randomly selected. Each element is meticulously chosen – sometimes involving longtime searches.
He describes his effort obtaining just the right red delicious apples (so realistic you think they are actual fruit), for his piece, “Legacy of the Red Apple,” (2016). He had two heads that he fused into one, like Siamese twins. Why apples? “In the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Knowledge had fruit.”
He can tell you the provenance of each object in the piece – where he obtained the silver head in “Sarah Silverstone Presents” and how it took a long time before he found just the sunglasses he wanted for the piece, how the drawer it is assembled in came from a factory (the writing is on the side). He sees Sarah as a person, referring to Sarah as “her”. Indeed, the two gauges and thermometer evoke her personhood, even symbolically.
There is a story behind every piece – about how I got there, where the pieces came from – can tell you where every piece came from – glasses – looked for it a long time – looked for a long time where to put – fit on Sarah – gauge, knew where it would go – design them, lay them out, do not glue them, leave for a week, come back and keep looking at them, move around, put pieces in/out, then glue, last stage – once glue, sign name, over – can’t go back and say I wish I put a ball in there.
“Sarah Silverstone has a twin sister,” he says, explaining that he bought two of the metallic faces. “Sarah represented to me the absolute woman, a sexy woman; her sister is so sexy, every time I pass her, I talk to her, ‘Hope you have a nice day.’”
He has the same personal connection with the “Wizard of Odd” and the “Thought Collector”.
The personal connection is manifest in his work, Dorzi/Dorzi, built around a vinyl record, but not just any 1950s 45rpm. His friend made the label to suggest it was made by the Bobby Randall 3 band. You learn that Bobby Randall, he explains was non-ethnic name Rosegarten was going to use when got out of college and was going into advertising. (He was discouraged from changing his name by his grandmother.) There are 3 hands – for the three band members, in a pose as if they are snapping their fingers to the beat.
His grandmother and grandfather appear again in small photographs that are embedded into a series of four “Junk Drawer” works.
Junk Drawers may look like a hodgepodge, but are not random, he says.
“I visualize what junk drawers have,” he says. “Everyone has junk drawers – in bedrooms, kitchens, desk drawer, basement.” He chooses the items that fill the drawers (which he builds) independently, and over time, lays them out and photographs them. “Then I take everything out and glue back the items one by one.”
The Junk Drawer series each has a photograph of grandmother and grandfather at Rockaway Beach.
One of the boxes has a plastic Howdy Doody figure, while another has the Princess character from the show. He says he goes for colors, shapes and looks for holes.
“It’s not nostalgia,” he insists. But as he knows the provenance of every piece – some have personal connection, like the photos of his grandparents and a John Lennon/Imagine photo.
“Every time you look, you see something else.” Or actually, you “find” something new.
But looking at the items, it is hard not to become nostalgic as you find items that spark memories of your own past. The Junk Drawer series and his Americana series are like mini-Smithsonians of American cultural icons of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and so forth.
Rosegarten says he loves making the Junk Drawers and would customize for someone on commission. “I would go to your house and if you didn’t have the elements I wanted, I would ask if I could use some of mine.”
The pieces he chooses are specific – he combs particular shops (he has his favorites for manikins in the Garment District), antique stores, flea markets, garage and barn sales, which “are entertainment in the country and have become an essential part of my new work with found objects. One day I might find a rusted scythe with a broken wooden handle; the next day a box of glass dolls’ eyes or a red View-Master. I put the material in labeled boxes and store them to be rediscovered.
“When I select objects for a new composition, I may sit with them for days, moving them around like pieces on a chessboard until they take shape. Placement and balance are key. I remove pieces; add others, balancing shadows, shapes, textures and color until I know instinctively that the work is completed: the new composition has taken on another dimension, a unity of its own and gained strength and character.”
Rosegarten, who grew up in Great Neck (he graduated high school with movie director Francis Ford Coppola), now lives “in the country” in upstate New York, in a house he built 17 years ago where he has a 30 x 30 ft studio off his bedroom that opens to a deck and pond, and a 2500- sq ft basement work area.
His collected objects are neatly organized in labeled tubs under tables – machine parts, metal parts, extra toys, manikin hands.“Everything has a place, a place for everything.”
Often, he visualizes the entire piece in his head before he starts his assemblage.
“I just finished a piece Thursday. It doesn’t have a name (or does it have a name): The Quick Brown Dog Jumps Over the Lazy Fox. Why? Because part of the visual – a box,with 2 white hands, at the top has the keyboard of a very very small typewriter –a vertical piece, a piece at bottom, a nodule on top hands,. The sense of design is perfect. It was in my head.”
“I never went to art school, except for a month at the Art Students League, Bruce Dorfman, teaching there since early 60s – he said, push the envelope. It’s ok if off-center, if you don’t have anything there and want it to sit there.”
Indeed, it is so ironic considering that most people move to Great Neck from New York City because of the public schools, that his big regret is that when his family was still living in the Bronx, he was accepted into Music & Art, but before he could attend, his family moved to Great Neck.
“I should have gone to Music & Art. I would have had an art background and the chances are I would have gone to Pratt, School of Visual Arts, or Cooper Union.” He said his father was not keen on Rosegarten going into advertising, but had he had an art background, he would have been on the creative side, instead of a “suit.” “I would have been more Don Draper than the account guy.”
He was doing painting until 1990s, then, around 2000, he went to an antique show on 6th Avenue and came upon wooden patterns which were used to make metal parts in the early 1900s. “I bought 20 of them –they were inexpensive – I didn’t know what I would do with them. I washed them off, That’s when I started.“
It fit into his overarching philosophy of reuse, repurpose, renewal – “an ability to use things that have been tossed away and have them come back and serve another purpose – Lost and Found (is what I call it). I’m not interested in what is sold in dollar store but things that have age, patina, character. Snapshot” is built around an antique folded camera and tractor parts.
“I take individual pieces that by themselves are utilitarian and they become a “body” – a personality. Each has its own personality.”
The exhibit also includes Rosegarten’s paintings, which have the look and vibe of Pop. “Just as I have reinvented myself a number of times in the past 30 years, so too has my art undergone a metamorphosis. Over the last ten years, it has moved from post-Pop paintings to a more muscular sculptural medium, where form and design take precedence over color.”
Regina Gil, Founder/Executive Director of the Arts Center, writes in her introduction to the catalog:
“In this latest chapter of his creative life, RJ Rosegarten draws upon the rich fabric of his imagination, strong art and design skills, and solid knowledge of carpentry that lets him execute what he already sees in his mind fully formed. And the results are impressive.
“Here is a man who grew up in a small town, absorbing all the qualities of civics, ethics, and community values that one associates with such an upbringing. He married young, had three sons and led the life of the American Dream. He even went on to work in the advertising world; that fabled Madison Avenue bastion of the creative idea sellers; but not as an artist, as a ‘suit’. So, without knowing it, he was adding to his arsenal of skills by including leadership, salesmanship, and public speaking to his repertoire. But he was fascinated by and engaged with the artists and designers.
“When he left advertising, he became a beloved and respected mayor of that same town, bringing his love of the town and business acumen to the job. He demonstrated that the world of politics and government were new fields on which he could impose his creative eye. As a result, the town grew and he was elected and re-elected time and again.
“It was only when he left the town again, retiring from public life that he began to fully realize his longtime dream of being an artist in his own right. And he is an artist in the fullest sense of the word. Not only are his technical skills the very best; but his thoughts, ideas and vision are on display, inviting the viewer to enter his carefully constructed world; challenging the viewer to understand his point of view, to embrace it or to disagree. A lifetime of thinking and living, of humor and wit, of deep, serious emotion and also of playfulness; the full range of the human experience in a construction of wood and found objects.
“As a longtime friend, I am delighted to see RJ ‘Bob’ Rosegarten come home to Great Neck. Without his friendship and assistance, mentoring another dreamer through the shoals of politics, fundraising, and community engagement, it is doubtful that this Gold Coast Arts Center could have found its home here. It seems fitting that we honor him with this exhibit that introduces the people he served as mayor to the man he is now — the artist.”
“RJ Rosegarten, Lost & Found: The Art of Assemblage” is on view through March 12 at The Gold Coast Arts Center, 113 Middle Neck Rd, Great Neck, NY, 516-829-2570 or www.GoldCoastArts.org.
The 43rd Annual Village Halloween Parade, the largest Halloween event in the world, got underway with extraordinary precision, as all the skeletons, ghouls and monsters – some 50,000 in all – got into order for the march up New York’s 6th Avenue to the rhythm of a host of bands.
The theme this year invited participants to “Sink into Reverie —that liminal space in which one creates.”
“One thinks of Halloween as a chance to fantasize, but more than anything Halloween lets us realize, allowing us to play ourselves, leaving the remainder of the year for sleepwalking…. In these moments of reverie, our eyes are fresh, a child’s eyes. Our thoughts unfettered by habit, ideas and inspirations swirl in. So this year we celebrate Reverie, inviting one and all to recreate their waking dreams.”
Indeed, this is one day a year when New Yorkers, en masse, release their inner exhibitionist, their inner Action Hero. It’s Body English, when your entire being is a placard to transmit your message. For some, it is a way of releasing inner rage, anxiety, and confront demons. For others, it is a way to convey spiritual blessings, cheer.
This year had its Willy Wonkas, the Egyptian Pharoahs (one carried a “10 Commandments for the 21st Century that included “gender equality” and “no more wars”), Action Heroes and Cartoon characters, spirits from myth and folklore, and a good smattering of political characters and commentary, with candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton (more mocking him than her), Anonymous, and against the NRA.
Tens of thousands of people lined the route, which extended a mile from Spring Street up to 16th Street, delighting all as the bigger-than-life skeleton puppets poked into the crowd and stilt walkers and costumed characters engaged.
Creativity is on full view, a mischievous spirit in the air – this is New York City’s Carnival and Mummers wrapped into one.
It is amazingly artful, marvelous to behold – indeed, producer Jeanne Fleming, who took over the planning for the parade after its 8th year when the crowd reached 100,000, saw the Village Halloween Parade as an art installation.
And the scenics! with the lights of the Freedom Tower downtown, the church at Greenwich with its giant spider crawling down the side and the tower lighted, and the Empire State, lit in crackling light show for the occasion uptown, and the buildings lining 6th Avenue like canyon walls – creating a fantastical atmosphere in which the walking creatures and monsters feel most at home.
“New York’s Village Halloween Parade is committed to the cultural and imaginative life of New York City and to the advancement of large-scale participatory events in the belief that such events, when artistically inspired, can play a major role in the resurrection and rejuvenation of the City’s spirit, economy and the life of its people,” is the mission statement. “Fleeting as it may seem, the Annual Village Halloween Parade provides a subconsciously experienced time structure that lends a sense of durability, continuity and community to New York City life.”
Indeed, it is a collective giggle, a communal hug against the forces beyond control, and while you are in the spirit of it, you forget everything beyond.
Walking around Manhattan, with the oddest sights (half the time, you don’t know if people are wearing costumes), just adds to the special thrill of Halloween in New York City.
From humble beginnings in 1974 when Greenwich Village mask maker and puppeteer Ralph Lee started a walk from house to house for his children and friends, the Village Halloween Parade, now headed by Artist and Producer Jeanne Fleming, has become an iconic event of New York City, with some 60,000 participants and tens of thousands of onlookers.
The Village Halloween Parade, the only major night parade in the country, is the largest public Halloween celebration in the world. It has been named as “The Greatest Event on Earth” for October 31 by Festivals International, and has been listed as one of the “100 Things to Do Before You Die.”
The ghouls and ghosts in the parade certainly would agree.
I have come to Pittsburgh for the three-day, 120-mile Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Spring Sojourn on the Great Allegheny Passage, and used it as an opportunity to explore Pittsburgh, a city that once was known for steel mills, but which now has won accolades as “America’s most livable city.”
I am fascinated to see how it made such a transition from grey to green.
With only one full day to explore, I specifically seek out attractions that define Pittsburgh, all walkable within the downtown, getting advice from the Omni William Penn Hotel concierge.
I continue my walk from the Fort Pitt Museum, over the Fort Duquesne Bridge toward the National Aviary (it was the “national” that got my attention), fascinated how city planners managed to turn a city designed for industry and machines into one that can be so walkable and bikeable.
The National Aviary, America’s only independent indoor nonprofit zoo dedicated to birds, offers a lovely exhibit of birds, including being able to walk through massive habitat-style exhibits, where the birds – like the Victoria Crowned Pigeon (amazing headdress), Golden Breasted Starling (nesting) fly freely about you, often landing very close by.
There is also a bat exhibit (you can watch bat feeding), poke your head up into the penguin pen, As I walk about, I am surprised to read a marker that states this was the site of the Western Penitentiary (1826-1880) and held confederate prisoners here 1863-64.
The National Aviary (www.aviary.org), which was designated “national” by President Clinton, would certainly be a highlight for family travelers and am having such an amazing time taking pictures, seeing some birds that I had never seen before in such close proximity without cages, I lose all sense of time (which is why I didn’t have enough time to visit the Heinz History Center).
The Warhol Museum
The National Aviary is also just a short walk to my next stop: the Warhol Museum. I had not realized that Andy Warhol was a native son of Pittsburgh (born to a Slovakian family of modest means, he attended Carnegie Mellon which was Carnegie Technical at the time) – this museum is in the tradition of the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, totally extolling the life of one artist. It basically continues what Andy Warhol did most successfully his whole life: market his art to inflate prices. The best part, for me, was learning more about his biography – what made him “tick”, his creative process and about his techniques.
My own belief is that Warhol was more of a marketing genius than an artistic one (at least Salvador Dali was both a marketing genius and an artistic one), but I am willing to be convinced otherwise as I roam the museum.
Indeed, as a placard notes, since the seven-story museum opened in 1994, there has been a steady increasing level of recognition of Warhol’s “singular contribution to 20th century art and his extraordinary influence on contemporary art internationally. The museum is on the forefront of research into Warhol’s work.”
There is a timeline along the massive walls that document in excruciating detail Warhol’s life and learn such tidbits as: Andrew Warhola was born in 1928 to immigrants from Mikona in Slovakia; he graduated Carnegie Tech (which became Carnegie Mellon); in 1956 he met Edmond Walloaitch who used photography in his own works; most of Warhol’s early endeavors were self-published; he was inspired by popular culture and enlarged images from magazines and photographs with a projector, then painted the projection on canvas; he used a rubber stamp, then the silk screen process; the first silkscreen painting based on a photograph was a baseball, in 1962; he “replicated the look of commercial advertising, giving Warhol faithful duplication of his appropriated source image, while also allowing him to experiment with over-painting, off-register and endless chance combinations”.
After graduating Carnegie Tech, he took a “risk” and came to New York City where he got his big break, illustrating a story “What is Success” for Glamour Magazine. “He became one of the most successful commercial illustrators.” A particularly noteworthy item on the timeline: 1972- after publication of his “Vote McGovern,” the IRS audited Warhol annually until his death.” Warhol died in 1987, at the age of 58.
He created the “blotted line technique” – where he could trace or copy and an image “appropriating images from popular culture” – and reproduce any number of them, factory-style.
Warhol, we learn, made a fortune from portraits, once again, getting a giant commercial boost after an exhibit at the Whitney in 1979, curated by his close friend David Whitney consisting of 56 double portraits of artists, fashion designers, collectors, art dealers, which showcased an aspect of his painting “that he characterized as ‘business art’.”
After the 1979 show, his private portraits business hit heights- early 80s – he produced did 50 a year at $40K for 2-panel, or $2 million in annual profits.
“He was unapologetic in his imposition of lucrative business model as part of his art practice.”
I notice a prominently displayed portrait of Prince from 1984, which is up just after the musician’s death.
Andy Warhol was known for his passion as a collector – very possibly an outgrowth of his impoverished childhood and his expropriation of others’ art and design. Over his lifetime, he collected some 500,000 artifacts. There is an immense room, called the “Vault” that is filled with “time capsules” – 610 flimsy cartons, each with 500 objects.
I found it totally ironic, though, that you are not allowed to take any photos since Warhol’s art was based on expropriating the images and designs created by others (ie. Campbell Soup Can, Marilyn Monroe photo). You can take part in workshops to learn the silkscreening techniques he used. The museum is a must-see for anyone who is a fan.
The Andy Warhol Museum was created by the Andy Warhol Foundation, Dia Center for the Arts, and the Carnegie Foundation which operates the museum. It is one of four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh (Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of National History and Carnegie Science Center are the others, www.carnegiemuseums.org).
The Andy Warhol Museum, 117 Sandusky Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15212, 412-237-8300, www.warhol.org ($20/adults, $10/students and children 3-18, half price on Fridays, 5-10 pm; closed Mondays).
What is inside, and what is outside? What are the boundaries that delineate “interiors”. How much of what is interior is our own perception, our own making? These are the questions explored by three artists – Laini Nemett, Orestes Gonzalez, and Maxi Cohen – represented in “Interiors” on view at the Gold Coast Arts Center in Great Neck, through November 20.
Interiors is an exhibition that explores the artist’s relationship with familiar places and how they connect to interior landscapes of personal history, memory and association. The painter Laini Nemett comments that she wants the composite imagery to conjure memory but also to emulate an experience of place. Orestes Gonzalez’s photographs of interior spaces captures moments of loneliness, happiness and a time of innocence. Photographer/videographer, Maxi Cohen captures moments in the ladies room, “as a space of sanctuary and solitude”.
The only thing common to all is that their creative works “serve as a portal to interior spaces that are in plain sight and yet frequently overlooked,” notes Jude Amsel, Gold Coast Arts Center Gallery Director. They offer a portal to a new way of looking and experiencing what we all take for granted.
Laini Nemett: “Last Door on the Right”
Laini Nemett creates her own sense of place and space – literally. Her paintings stem from imagination – memories and relationships – which go into intricate cardboard models models she constructs at the beginning of her process. She then creates bold paintings that realistically represent these imagined places. They take the viewer in, forcing the viewer to contemplate the scene. It is at that point that the viewer realizes the impossibility of the place – a window that is upside down, a ceiling that has the texture and color of carpeting which should be on the floor.
One of the most interesting perspectives stems from a whirlwind visit to Paris and the Eiffel Tower. You would never realize it is the Eiffel Tower because the perspective is looking down from a landing through plexiglass casting a reflection made “wobbly” with rain.
“I assemble my own relics of experience. I discover their logic in the ways they fit together and attempt to make sense of how we decipher place,” Nemett says. One of her paintings in the exhibit is titled “Last Door on the Right.”
“A constant kaleidoscope of imagery the mind sorts at random, concealing and revealing fragments of memories. I choose to disorient myself amidst the puzzle, letting observation suggest the direction.”
“Extended time in different architectural cultures has shaped how I understand the idea of ‘home.’ In downtown Baltimore, buildings are boarded up and left as skeletons of a family’s history, while new constructions incite possibilities of new beginnings. In the boroughs of New York, old facades are painted away or torn down as new anonymous condo projects begin almost every day. The expansive land of Wyoming holds 100-year old ranches and hand-built homesteads that remain as physical mementos of multiple generations.”
But while the constructions hold the histories and the memories of the people, the paintings are devoid of people altogether. Like a dream, you are surveying the scene.
There is such detail that at first glance, you think you could walk in. But these structures don’t exist – and can’t exist.
“It’s more compelling. I don’t want the painting to answer the questions, but get you to think more, ask more, linger longer. That’s why I paint instead of take photographs. I want to do something that can only happen in painting.”
Orestes Gonzalez: Photographs of Havana, Miami
Orestes Gonzalez also challenges people’s perspective. His black-and-white photographic series from Havana, Cuba, “This Island is My House,” (2016) shows interiors which are really exteriors – a barber who has turned a courtyard into his shop, a building without a roof. Exteriors become interiors and vice versa.
In Cuba, he notes, roof collapses are common, and the lack of materials nad maintenance has created a landscape of ruins in a city of 2 million people.
By necessity, then, “public and private lines are blurred or compromised,” he says. In Cuba, where interior space is very limited or compromised, “interiors are more symbolic rather than literal.” These are people who live their inner lives in a public setting and deal with their environment – their situation – the best they can. In Cuba, the island is the ‘house’ they live in.”
There are also four mural-sized color photographs taken of his Uncle Julio’s apartment in Miami, taken after he passed away. “Julio’s House,” 2007, shows how his interior space was revealing of who he was inside, but afraid to reveal to the outside world.
Maxi Cohen: ‘Ladies Rooms Around the World’
Maxi Cohen, a filmmaker, turned to a different camera in making “Ladies Rooms Around the World.” The series, produced over decades, makes you rethink these customarily private spaces. Her own journey began in 1978 when she was at the Miami Film Festival with her first feature length film documentary, “Joe and Maxi” about her relationship with her father. She retreated to the Ladies room to escape the boring awards dinner and found herself among a gaggle of octogenarians fussing over corsets and false eyelashes. She was entranced by this “tribal dance” and whenever she saw an interesting scene in the ladies room – Australia to Zambia, Bombay to Bosnia, Rio to Tel Aviv, she snapped it. Almost all of them also capture her in the scene – she said she didn’t feel it was right to invade the privacy of others and not include herself. “Since I am recording others in their private rituals, the sanctuaries of women, I have not wanted to separate myself; there is no ‘them’, only ‘we’.” She says.
She notes that in the 1990s, she was in an Aboriginal bar in the Australian outback, when women took her into the ladies room to confide in her about the incest and rape of the young boys and girls in the community. In Zambia, she watched as a ladies room attendant would be accepting cash all night, and exchanging little packets in blue tissue paper.
The contrast in places, scenes and colors (since she shoots with available light), not to mention the range of women captured in the images – the New York Thruway, 1978; Livingstone Disco, Zambia, 2003; a film festival in 1981 where Maxi Cohen captures herself in a borrowed gown or possibly robe her friend got from Yoko Ono – is artful and aesthetically pleasing in a way you would never expect hearing about a series of photos of “Ladies Rooms Around the World.”
The Gold Coast Arts Center is located at 113 Middle Neck Road (entrance from the Maple Avenue parking lot), 516-829-2570, goldcoastarts.org.