Category Archives: Arts

Former Mayor, Now Artist RJ Rosegarten Returns to Great Neck With ‘Lost & Found: the Art of Assemblage’ Exhibit

Artist RJ Rosegarten with Jude Amsel, curator of ‘Lost & Found: the Art of Assemblage’ at the Gold Coast Arts Center, Great Neck © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.

“It’s Great to be King” by RJ Rosegarten © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.”

Artist RJ Rosegarten with Gold Coast Arts Center Founder/Executive Director Regina Gil and his piece, “Legacy of the Red Apple.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

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 Presents,” by RJ Rosegarten © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

“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.

Dorzi/Dorzi by RJ Rosegarten © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.

RJ Rosegarten with one of his “Junk Drawers” © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.”

RJ Rosegarten with one of the Americana series on view in ‘Lost & Found: the Art of Assemblage’ at the Gold Coast Arts Center, Great Neck © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.”

Two in RJ Rosegarten’s “Americana” series © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.

RJ Rosegarten’s paintings and assemblages are on view at the Gold Coast Arts Center, Great Neck, Long Island through March 12 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“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.

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

New York City’s 43rd Annual Village Halloween Parade Inspires Reverie

New York City’s 43rd Annual Village Halloween Parade, the largest in the world, was themed “Reverie” © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
New York City’s 43rd Annual Village Halloween Parade, the largest in the world, was themed “Reverie” © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.

New York City’s 43rd Annual Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
New York City’s 43rd Annual Village Halloween Parade is living art © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The theme this year invited participants to “Sink into Reverie —that liminal space in which one creates.”

Skeletons on parade in New York City © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Skeletons on parade in New York City © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“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.”

Fantastical figures delight parade watchers on 6th Avenue. Tens of thousands turned out to watch the 43rd Annual Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Fantastical figures delight parade watchers on 6th Avenue. Tens of thousands turned out to watch the 43rd Annual Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.

Skeletons join the 43rd annual Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Skeletons join the 43rd annual Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.

More than 50,000 join in the Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
More than 50,000 join in the Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.

Gay Lesbian Marching Band join the Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Gay Lesbian Marching Band join the Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Creativity is on full view, a mischievous spirit in the air – this is New York City’s Carnival and Mummers wrapped into one.

Fantastical figures delight Village Halloween Parade watchers © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Fantastical figures delight Village Halloween Parade watchers © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.

More than 50,000 join in the Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
More than 50,000 join in the Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.

Parade producer Jeanne Fleming has made the Village Halloween Parade into an art installation that inspires a sense of community © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Parade producer Jeanne Fleming has made the Village Halloween Parade into an art installation that inspires a sense of community © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“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.”

The Village Halloween Parade is a rhythmic musical extravaganza © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Village Halloween Parade is a rhythmic musical extravaganza © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.

Ghostly presence in the Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Ghostly presence in the Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.

More than 50,000 join in the Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
More than 50,000 join in the Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.

New York City’s Annual Village Halloween Parade is the largest nighttime Halloween event in the world © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
New York City’s Annual Village Halloween Parade is the largest nighttime Halloween event in the world © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.”

Three guys who know something about the afterlife. The Village Halloween Parade has been listed as one of the "100 Things to Do Before You Die." © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Three guys who know something about the afterlife. The Village Halloween Parade has been listed as one of the “100 Things to Do Before You Die.” © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The ghouls and ghosts in the parade certainly would agree.

A wink and a nod from some of the fantastical characters in the Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
A wink and a nod from some of the fantastical characters in the Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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© 2016 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

36 Hours in Pittsburgh: Andy Warhol Museum is at Center of Revitalized City

The Andy Warhol Museum pays homage to a native son of Pittsburgh © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Andy Warhol Museum pays homage to a native son of Pittsburgh © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

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 start on its two remaining funiculars, going up the Monongahela Incline and down the Duquesne Incline, dating from the 1870s, and stroll Grandview Avenue that links the two, and continue on to Point State Park and the Fort Pitt Museum. (This is third in a series) 

The National Aviary

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.

Children delight at the exhibits at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Children delight at the exhibits at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.

Bats at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Bats at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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 National Aviary in Pittsburgh lets you see up close, without any caging between you, such exotic birds as the Victoria Crowned Pigeon © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The National Aviary in Pittsburgh lets you see up close, without any caging between you, such exotic birds as the Victoria Crowned Pigeon © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.

The Andy Warhol Museum, a 7-story temple to the artist which opened in 1994, was created by the Andy Warhol Foundation, Dia Center for the Arts, and the Carnegie Foundation which operates the museum © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Andy Warhol Museum, a 7-story temple to the artist which opened in 1994, was created by the Andy Warhol Foundation, Dia Center for the Arts, and the Carnegie Foundation which operates the museum © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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). 

For more information, contact Visit Pittsburgh, 412-281-7711, 800-359-0758, 877-LOVE PGH (568-3744), info@visitpittsburgh.com, www.visitpittsburgh.com.

Next: Pittsburgh Walking Tour Continues to Strip District 

See also:

One Day, Two Nights in Pittsburgh: From Grey to Green, A Proud City Revitalized

36 Hours in Pittsburgh: Point State Park Proves Highlight of Walking Tour

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© 2016 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

The Boundaries of ‘Interiors’ Explored in Art Exhibit at Gold Coast Arts Center

Gold Coast Arts Center gallery curator Jude Amsel with ‘Interiors’ artists Orestes Gonzalez, Laini Nemett and Maxi Cohen © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Gold Coast Arts Center gallery curator Jude Amsel with ‘Interiors’ artists Orestes Gonzalez, Laini Nemett and Maxi Cohen © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.

Gold Coast Arts Center Director Regina Gil and Alexandra Gil who curates the Shorts Films in the Gold Coast International Film Festival, with artist Laini Nemett and her painted perspective of the Eiffel Tower © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Gold Coast Arts Center Director Regina Gil and Alexandra Gil who curates the Shorts Films in the Gold Coast International Film Festival, with artist Laini Nemett and her painted perspective of the Eiffel Tower © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.

Laini Nemett with one of her paintings on view in ‘Interiors” at the Gold Coast Arts Center. © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Laini Nemett with one of her paintings on view in ‘Interiors” at the Gold Coast Arts Center. © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“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.”

One of the models that artist Laini Nemett meticulously constructs out of her imagination which will be realized in painting © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
One of the models that artist Laini Nemett meticulously constructs out of her imagination which will be realized in painting © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“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.”

GPhotographer Orestes Gonzalez poses with his series, ‘Julio’s House’ © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Photographer Orestes Gonzalez poses with his series, ‘Julio’s House’ © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.

Maxi Cohen with part of her photographic series, ‘Ladies Rooms Around the World’ © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Maxi Cohen with part of her photographic series, ‘Ladies Rooms Around the World’ © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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 of Maxi Cohen’s photographic decades-long series, “Ladies rooms Around the World,” is artful in a way you would never expect © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The contrast in places, scenes and colors of Maxi Cohen’s photographic decades-long series, “Ladies rooms Around the World,” is artful in a way you would never expect © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.

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