Monday, September 29, 2008

Shorter Days Longer Nights

Maybe it's the shorter days that has created the illusion that this past week seemed to have just disappeared so quickly. Or maybe it is the amount of things going on that has seemed to have collapsed so much into a short amount of time. From my own presidential debate party, making calls for Obama, teaching classes, attending charitable events and traveling to the East End, I seem to have been very busy this week.

In any regard, I find myself at the beginning of another week feeling like there is as much to do, if not more, than last week. Like many of my friends, I will have to start working through the nights, which proceed as if time has stopped. Unlike the daylight hours that have decidedly different arcs of time - morning, noon, afternoon, early eve - the evening hours have no such distinctive markers. Without the advent of ones favorite shows to mark time, the night hours march on undistinguished. If I could summon creativity without the use of sunlight, I might produce more than ever in those dark nights.

I have been so blessed with great friends that have always been supportive of me and my pursuits. And some of these same friends have taken their energies and are giving back to the world in many altruistic ways. Just this past week, I was able to participate in some of their efforts on behalf of others.

My longtime buddy, Hector Rojas, had his fifth annual fundraiser for the Wayuu Taya Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of indigenous children living on the border between Venezuela and Colombia. He has taken on this effort solely out of his desire to advance the life situations of children from his part of the world. He had a tremendous turnout of people lending their support in every way.

In attendance was our friend and his mentor, Leo Preziosi, who is the founder and executive director of LIVE OUT LOUD, New York's premier nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting LGBT youth to leaders in the LGBT community through events and programs at area schools and universities. Leo had this wonderful idea several years ago, to address this need, and has tirelessly worked on it since. His current Homecoming Project encourages Gay and Lesbian professionals to go back to their high schools as role models to the LGBT teens there. If any of you would be interested in bringing your stories back to your alma maters, please contact him directly.

We spent the weekend at our dear friends' home in Easthampton, where we were feted to a Sunday brunch that set new standards for us all. It is not unusual to be floored by their attention to their guests and their comforts but this even surpassed that. We were all out there for the spectacular celebration that our friend, the publicist and marketing director, Genita Ingram, produced in conjunction with the fundraising efforts of John Rivers, at their vacation house, with his partner, Gavin Morrow, on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign, the muscular legislative arm of the LGBT community. Their donation prowess was cause for the organization to invite top donors to their beautiful home in Easthampton, to recognize them for their efforts. Needless to say, their party, as usual, was filled with interesting people and delicious food and a fun time for all.

With all that my many friends and my partner Joe Steele has going on, I am again motivated to fulfill on my own purpose. Though that may seem to have many tentacles, from time to time, they are all worth the efforts.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Peace in the midst of turmoil

Contrary to popular belief, peace is not an elusive experience but an abiding sense of being that exists within us all. With all the turmoil that the country has gone through in the past week looking for a peaceful space IS sometimes hard to do. Oftentimes the real culprit is our own fears of losing something in the future, rather than appreciating what we have in the present. I have had to take a deep breath a number of times to bring me into the moment and to refocus my attention as to what is important, and what are the actual blessings that I am benefiting from, right now. It has been my experience that the fears I conjure up generally don't materialize. Not to sound unrealistic about the potential outcomes of events, it is just better for me to focus on what I can do right now. That focused attention allows the fears to melt away by it essentially not giving them energy to exist.

Sometimes the easiest thing to do is to turn off the media frenzy and to just go take a walk. Joe Steele and I took a bike ride in our community which instantly took us back to the impermeable consistency of life through nature. Life goes on within and without the concerns of man. The sight and sounds of birds, sheep, horses, deer and cows were enough to bring us back to a sense of peaceful acceptance of ongoing life. As they say, "This will pass too".

Yesterday actually began with a meeting of locals at the post office to do the weekly Claver-Walk. Led by Vicki Rosenwald, and joined by John Issacs, co-editor/publisher and designer of Our Town, Enid Futterman, author and editor-in-chief of Our Town, the monthly magazine of record on life in Claverack, Adele Slocum and others, the group of us went off, on an hour walking tour of our lovely hamlet. Along the way we encountered many residents enjoying their piece of the hamlet. Notable among them was the well-known artist, Ken Polinskie, who invited us in to see his new paintings and renovations. This time together provided an opportunity to get to know one another and to share our feelings about the political and economic landscapes and what we can do about it, as well as, the bucolic landscape we find ourselves in. Above is a photo of our home here, where bails of hay dots the landscapes this time of year.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Storms Roll In but a Brighter Day is Ahead

It seems that a lot on storms has descended upon the shores of the US in recent days. The destruction they bring with them are yet to be assessed but can be fathomed by the obsessive attention directed at them by the media. None seem to be more unfathomable than the storm of political distraction called Sarah Palin. The media has decided that focusing on "who she is" is more important than focusing on the issues that confront our country and the basic differences in how to contend with them from the two national candidates. One has the message of hope for the power of government to enhance the lives of the many, in the world, and the other is looking for another "feather in his cap".

Many of you have already made up your minds regarding who you plan to vote for in November, so subjecting yourself to the media onslaught is an unnecessary and profoundly debilitating experience. We have to keep in mind that our true power is in our belief in a political change and our faith that it will come to pass. Allowing these distractions to undermine our sense of the positive inevitable outcome could potentially produce unwanted results. As a advocate for the hope and change that is the hallmark of the Obama campaign, I will not let self inflicted fear deter me from the focus of renewal in this country. The days of setting on the sidelines and letting others carry the water for change are a luxury of bygone times. Each of us must pickup the pail of commitment in some form or another. Whether it is hosting events, making phone calls or travel to voters in swing states, calling apathetic relatives, talking in conservative or liberal chat rooms, voter registration or joining local political groups, we can lend a hand for change.

Though I have sent these photos to many of you already, it is worth reviewing and passing on. They spell out our charge and what we are working for. It is not the intent of this blog to make political statements but I felt moved to reach out to the many of you who are focused, assertive, successful people in your own realms of influence.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Dawn of a New Season

Just as the long rainy night washed away the summer heat, our transition back to the Hudson Valley washes away the high level of social activity that characterized our time on the Vineyard. A peaceful revelry now infuses our re-orientation to life in the country, which is an easy thing to do, with vistas of rolling hills, fresh air and the lull of bird calls serving as an inducement. The environment calls me to the end of season cleanups and preparations for the long months ahead. Bails of hay, haystacks, field cutting and cleared cornfields are iconic signs of a season in change.

Stepping into the classroom at Parsons again this week reminded me of why I have devoted more than 15 years to teaching. The young and inquisitive faces that stare back at me - as they assume the roles of personal responsibility and educational advancement - are expectant of finding new skills through discovery of their talents. They bring an infinite amount of experiences, as young people having lived all over the world, to provide vast perspectives for their design concepts. Living fashion is the credo at the design schools, however, I am personally challenged by the ever-changing names and faces in the industry and the "real-time" awareness that all of these young people have with it. In an effort to keep up I must read WWD, Vogue, DNR, each day, which is a totally different focus from my fine art career.

The full measure of a man or woman is not really known until you hear from the people whose lives they have touched. Such was the awareness that met Joe and myself when we went to see a tribute to our friend Philip Reed, the former New York City Councilman. Shown here with his colleague Candy Vasquez and a supporter. We learned that many of the parks, open spaces and monuments that grace the upper half of Manhattan had been brought to their current revitalizations because of Philip. Add to that, the work he has done for seniors in the city, his health care initiatives, including HIV, rescuing The Museum of the City of New York and other local institutions, the beginning and sponsorship of many political careers, and you see a man of many dimensions. I left wanting to provide such a legacy to the world based on all the love that was showered on him by major and minor politicians, constituents, beneficiaries and friends.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Fall Forward

Our two car caravan of dreams wound it's way back from the shores of Martha's Vineyard to the pastoral hills of the Hudson Valley, carrying back the happiest of memories and bouyed by the feeling of success. Joining the well known annual pilgramage to schools to drop off loved ones, we stopped by The College of Holy Cross to deliver our "godson" Ricon Wrenn for his senior year there. His first visit to the Vineyard in August was met with the swirl of events that highlights that time of year.

With the formal opening of Suesan Stovall's fabulous new gallery, at her home in Oak Bluffs, we met many friends and collectors for a "dancing in the street" type of event. Her charming mom was in attendance, looking lovelier than ever, greeting all ever so graciously.

Of course, the creative offerings for our last week on the Vineyard did not stop there. The wonderful talents of Myrna Morris were on display at Cousen Rose Gallery, with a new collection of nudes and dancers. We were also delighted to finally see a collection of Dorothy Burnham's evocative collages that transported viewers to southern and African locales, at the Featherstone Gallery.

Of the many uplifting experiences I had in those final days on the Vineyard, none were more delightful than the time I spent sketching the beautiful Adrienne Childs. As we sat, overlooking the lagoon, on the most beautiful of days, we discovered a deep respect and regard for one another. It was in the process of doing this sketch, I now realize, more than ever, that I want to capture the beauty and confidence of the women who visit the island every year. It is this essence that makes the Vineyard so memorable for me.

Upon our return to the Hudson Valley we were met by friends to go to Tanglewood to see the jazz vocalist, Dianne Reeves, who was in the best voice ever. The following day began at the Columbia County Fair in Chatham where we saw every manner of agricultural device and farm animal known in the northeast. Met there by the ever vivacious Carol LaBrie (who was featured in the recent Italian Vogue "Black Issue") and her husband the well-known photographer Uli Rose, we enjoyed our return to the bucolic climes of the Hudson Valley, with our thoughts turned toward the season ahead.