Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Tender of a Smile

As you know, many people from different cultures on various continents chose to celebrate the Christmas holiday on Christmas Eve. My first experience of that occurred in Paris '76 at the home of Carol LaBrie (whose birthday is today) and Uli Rose. After a wonderful dinner prepared by these master chefs, their babies, at the time, were allowed into the closed off living room, which was festooned with decorations, gifts and toys, and soon after the gleeful expressions of little David and Ruby. My next experience of the Christmas Eve celebration began in the home of our friend Paulo Mattos' parents in Rio de Janeiro, and continued for many years. There the tradition of a sumptuous Brazilian holiday meal, served to family and close friends, that lasted until the wee hours of the morning, became a way for Joe Steele and I to observe the holiday whenever there.

Accompanied by the ever beautiful, Deborah Thomas, we experienced the celebration on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, with the double commemoration of the holiday at the homes of our friends/family in Easthampton. Appropriately blanketed with mountains of snow, the settings could not have been more storybook-like, these beautifully designed homes had every tasteful interpretation of the season imaginable, all enhanced by meals that satiated ones eyes, as well as, stomachs.

John Rivers and Gavin Morrow had transformed their space to accommodate sixteen of us, who were already dear friends and family, into the warmest appreciation of the holiday that we have had in many years. The cocktails flowed as the delicious assortment of delectable foods tickled our souls, all amidst meeting and reconnecting with friends in the high spirit of the season. The only one missing was the lovely Genita Ingram, who stayed home with a cold.

The following evening was just as breath-taking in the beautiful home of Walter Allen and Brian Leister, where just the decorations were an inspiration, with a coordination of ornaments that had to have taken years to acquire. The delicious and festive meal was coordinated by the great cook Walter with the help of another chef, Julia Hotton, the noted artistic maven from the New York art scene, and her daughter, Tanya Hotton. With Barbara Lawrence on hand, the smiles abounded throughout the evening, as we shared a love for one another and the hopeful prospects for 2010.

It was nice to have had this time with our friends, without the usual pressures of the holidays, that entail gift exchanges that oftentimes miss the mark, and leave one feeling unsatisfied or unappreciated. All we gave one another were our smiles. We are so often consumed by the desire for and acquisition of the material things in life that we overlook the true currency of the soul, which are smiles given and smiles received. This form of currency cannot be taken to the bank, however, it is the only wealth that we can take with us when our time with these bodies are over. As we go forward into the new year, let's plan to make as large an investment into this spiritual fund as we do in our other pursuits.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

An Individual Flight to Unity

I awoke this morning thinking about one of the many arresting natural phenomena I get to witness here, from time to time. In part the thought of it came to me because of my dream that woke me up.

We are fortunate to be surrounded by large expanses of nature and hence, the natural life that convenes within it. On any given day, I have seen these roving flocks of birds settling in and around our grounds. They flow in perfect harmony with one another, as if psychically linked and prodded to move from section to section in an aerial swirl that sweeps you up in its magnitude. They rise and settle like the components of a giant entity, moving one part and then another, perambulating along with it's different segments, as they ostensibly forage for food and then quickly move on. This unified dance of sweeping motion is a fascinating joy to behold, one that symbolizes for me, the interdependency of these creatures and their psychic link to one another, which is evident of man himself.

We go about in an individualized state of mind, with our various wills deciding where and when we will do anything. The overall appearance is random and chaotic at best, yet the results for us are all but homogeneous. In my opinion, our individual efforts are driven by vast unconscious promptings that lead us toward common goals. We sweep toward one goal or another, propelled by our own desires, yet falling into the step of general mentalities that influence us. The simple need of providing shelter has led us to acquire larger and larger homes, replete with every amenity conceivable, in a nationalistic desire to represent or exceed our station in life. We easily feel these efforts individualizes us, when in fact, it homogenizes us, in a way that separates us from other cultures. There is nothing wrong with being confluent, yet, the overwhelming effect in our country is our over usage of materials that weigh heavily on the environmental resources available.

Like many of you, we have a new granite counter-top, prompted by what we believe is a good investment move for our shelter. We needed to improve the kitchen, yet was it necessary to engage in this design fashion of the times? It looks great but was it the most environmentally sensitive thing to do? As we move forward, we will need to ask ourselves how does the things we want affect us as a group, nation, species? It seems that our unity has more to do with how we as individuals fair amongst others, as opposed to how we fair working for the benefit of one another. Our current health care debate highlights some of those differences.

Back to my unsettling dream, which was about my belonging to a large group of people that transitioned from life voluntarily, for the symbolic good of one another. Understandably, in my nature, it's the last thing I would consider, so when it came to my turn, I balked. The people in my dream reverentially moved toward their demise, like that flock of birds, seemingly voluntarily, yet driven by the promptings of their masses. I guess the question in all of this is, how do we tell the difference between what we actually want and need versus what we are told we need? When do our efforts for the whole jeopardize us individually and vice versa?

As we venture forth into the holiday season and the settling culmination of an unsettling year, that included the contentious health care debate, we can ask ourselves these types of questions, to begin our lives anew with new perspective. Happiest of Holidays to you all....

Monday, August 17, 2009

A turn to the future

The magic of Martha's Vineyard melted away on this sunny day as we left the island by the ferry and was engulfed in a heavy and unexpected fog. The eerie change from the bright crisp day, that opened the morning on the Vineyard, folded into the dense visual fog which sent a chill up my back and felt like a Twilight Zone moment. Suddenly unsure of where or whether we would emerge from it seemed to cross the minds of all the passengers.

The symbolism of the halcyon summer days fallen behind us was not lost on us, as we emerged into the light of a
new segment of our life in the Hudson Valley. Fond memories mixed with goals for the we formulated the next steps ahead in our lives.

A desire to start work on a couple of art books that capture my life in the field of art and one that compiles these blog posts into a single volume, has taken hold of me. Even my next series of paintings are beginning to take shape in my mind. The essence of culture is oftentimes carried on by women who pass on traditions in everyday activities. Some of these incredible woman have allowed me to see them in the elements of the island that provides reflection and solace to them. Their sense of being will be a part of my creative expression as I go forward.

The experience of this summer will also inform what I will share with my new students, at Parsons and Marist, with a perspective on perseverance and forbearance, being the essence of achievement. Learning the hard way....there is no easy way to a goal worth achieving.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Fun and ease

The flow of support came streaming in from every quarter of the island last night. Friends, family, associates, acquaintances, collectors and strangers combined to create an atmosphere of sweet harmony and success for us all. Some had come a tremendous distance, from Chicago and California to Atlanta and Singapore, in a gesture of support, that only they knew what trials it took, to accomplish their being there. The mood was "happy" and "generous" in spirit, and one we all needed that night.

As they say, folks were there "representing" themselves and loved ones who were unable to make it for whatever reason. Some who wanted to attend were unable to come but their spirit of support filled the spaces and added smiles to all faces. There were many new friends, who were only met in the space of this week, bringing well wishes and appreciations, alongside the ardent supporters who have held us in their prayers for many years. Adding to the mix were people who came for the first time, whether by an invitation or by curiosity, who soon felt the energy that held us together. To all of them, I say "Thank you".

As I assembled the paintings for the exhibition, I knew I would be saying goodbye to some of them, for the last time, as they'd venture forth to new homes.They were gathered up slowly at first and then a sudden flurry of acquisitions left me seeing red dots where the paintings once hung. The gracious gallery owner, Zita Cousen, and her team attended the needs of the collectors with aplomb and assurance in a very committed way.

For many, the evening was enhanced by the fun and ease that my life partner, Joe Steele, brought to the event. He welcomed many of our dear friends, "family" and colleagues, in his inimitable way, that brought joy to their hearts and smiles to their faces. A very few of which are presented here by quick photos he took of them.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sharing success

He has started his very first job since graduating from college and a smile radiates deeply from my core. Someone is interested in producing her film script and the step in my walk is much lighter. She is healing from her accident and I sleep through the night more completely. He's received great responses from his new clients and a sense of peace and security flows over me.

Whether you've had love ones buy a new home, salvage a relationship, finish school, rebound from illness, scale to career heights or turned out a great party, you have shared in their success. There have been times when success meant for me what I was able to put onto my resume of experience and achievements. The places I've worked and the things I did, where I've sold my work and those who bought it. But when looked at in such a limited way, one misses the success of holding a hand, forming a dream, building a foundation and being a penny investor in the lives that surround you. Every time they realize their dream, you are a winner. Your spiritual resume flourishes with deeds that only show up in your soul.

As I celebrate my birthday today (July 29), I am filled with all the wonderful achievements of those of you who allowed me to participate in your dreams. Please keep sharing those dreams with me and those you love, because it makes us all a success.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The road we travel

Wherever you are on your road to success, it has been traveled on before by those you most admire. Some have reached the same point earlier in their lives, some later. However, they have all been in the spot you now stand, with the same hopes, fears, losses and successes. Sometimes the accomplishments seem of little consequence, until they are viewed from a perspective further down the road, when one realizes how that little step fostered a major development in their lives. Sometimes those losses are the biggest step to one's overall advancement because of what they teach you.

The step by step approach to fulfilling your dreams, which is, at best, tedious and limited in effect, has one inevitable impact. It gets things done.

Not once in the process of completing my new series of paintings did I foresee any of them completed on time or being part of a substantial whole. Each painting sat by itself, in various stages of completion, looking nowhere near the original concept that it was started with. It was only the step by step relentless application of one stroke after another that moved them along beyond my greatest imagination. Things happened with them and to me in the process that I had not envisioned. Color choices and their relationships evolved, almost on their own accord, with me being no more than a witness. You can see a partial compilation of the artwork in a new book entitled "Sumbrellas, A Vision of Martha's Vineyard", which is a catalog of images for the exhibition on August 8th at Cousen Rose Gallery.

The implementation of the paintings are a microcosm of the life I am building and if they can be pursued relentlessly, so can my dream. When we are in pursuit of something the steps to achieving it reveals itself one after the other, just like the steps taken. Sure one needs an overall plan, but the steps are minute, and it takes many of them to reach the goal.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Finally serenity

It seems as soon as something ends, something begins. There is the sensation of a transition from one thing to another, but in reality the next thing has already begun. All the subsequent steps of an action are in motion from the very first step along a road. As I complete the paintings for the showing of my new works, beginning on August 8th, at Cousen Rose Gallery, the last brushstrokes precipitates the framing and promotions and everything else to follow. It only appears to be a linear achievement when in reality the consciousness surrounding the choices have been all made in tandem long before. Whether one is aware of it, at the time, or not, doesn't prevent the inevitable unfolding of those steps.

There have been some works that materialized with seeming effortlessness in a very short amount of time, whereby others have required continuous redirection with many changes along the way. One's dreams are murky at best and do not come together with advance clarity of vision, without an inherent struggle to achieve them. The payoff is in the struggle because it provides the challenge and reward of living. Everything that comes out of that is "gravy", as they say. The recent painting shown here entitled, "Serenity", captures for me the peace of just being.....

Many things have transpired since my last writing here, some happy and some sad and all motivational. The recent transition of Michael Jackson have brought him back to life to each of us in a more personal way and has allowed us to reflect on the stage of his life we loved the most. All of our lives have various stages which we will be remembered for and each of them holding an appeal for different people. At best you can make them all memorable for yourself, too.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Beauty Diet

If love and beauty were foods, than I have been fully satiated this past weekend. Rather than an effort to limit my sustenance levels of these things, I soak them up in everyway I can. True beauty seems to be a rare commodity these days because it is often celebrated without the love that creates it, the result being an empty vehicle for commercial gain.

My first feast of beauty was viewing the film"Valentino, The Last Emperor" at the Film Forum this weekend. From the moment it began, I was swept up into a world of luxe living that can only be dreamed of. It wasn't just the exquisite fabrics and settings that wrapped a rich warm tapestry about me but the cloak of an abiding love and friendship that has existed for about fifty years between Valentino and his life partner, Giancarlo Giametti. Their love and security with one another was palpable on the screen, to the point that they seemed like two sides of a single gold coin trimmed in diamonds. The visual sumptousness of all those evening gowns on the runway were nothing compared to the sartorial lessons imparted by just watching those two turned out elegantly at every turn. You're left with wondering where have all the elegance gone? This film has been held over because of the sold out viewings, so I suggest you order tickets online to secure you seats.

Stepping out into the drizzling day afterwards, I strolled over to the June Kelly Gallery at 591 Broadway, to see the exhibition of sublime sculptural images by Elizabeth Catlett. June escorted me through the exhibit, sharing insights into the creation of each work and the motivations of the artist. Her loving descriptions and infinite patience only made me feel all the more blessed to know her, and motivated to continue to aspire to my own creative greatness. The 94 year old artist, who is an American national treasure, will be on hand on April 15th, at the gallery to greet admirers of her work and legendary life.

Finally, I dashed uptown as the weather broke, to the opening of "The Line of Fashion" at the Society of Illustrators, at 128 East 63rd St. At the behest of the director, Anelle Miller, Robert Richards had curated a marvelously beautiful showing from some of the leading Fashion Illustrators of our times. I was pleased to be among this selection of artists, some of whom I have admired for the entirety of my career. Having had a personal relationships with the likes of Antonio Lopez, Kenneth Paul Block, Steven Stipleman, Richard Rosenfeld, and an apreciation of others - like Mel Odom, Jim Howard, Eric, Bouche, Joe Eula, George Stavrinos, Bil Donovan - I felt right at home in the throng of admirers of their works. A new vanguard of artists like Steven Broadway, Alvaro, Carlos Aponte, Glenn Hilario were represented, giving a fresh look to the future of the artistic specialty. I was greeted there by Alva Chinn, (who appeared in the Valentino film), Renaldo Barnette (whose birthday bash last week was a blast)along with Kishiburo Ogawa, Steven Faerm, Erika Groeshel, Alston Greene, Judy Francis (another artist in the show), and so many others.

Filled by these images of beauty, I only felt lighter, if not heady, from so much luxe in my life this weekend. This is a diet I can recommend, that will fill you up yet will make you feel all too good.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Without a word of warning

The lyrics, as sung by Aretha Franklin, reverberates repeatedly - "Without a word of warning....the blues walked in this morning.....and circled around my lonely room" - in my head, as I deal with the sudden and depressing loss of my hard drive. Yes, my computer crashed and I am in an advanced state of suspended animation. One foot is in the future, where all my plans and goals are being implemented, in my mind, and the other is stuck in the past, hopeful that the files could still be retrieved by computer "techies", to make it all possible. I totter between trying to move forward only to be pulled back whenever a file or software cannot be found and used. Even now, I am using the "old slow laptop" that prompted the purchase of the now defunct eggshell of a computer, in order to continue a life, preserved through these tech enablers.

Like all cautionary tales, the admonishments to backup ones files fit along side those to maintain one's health, buy auto insurance, take your vitamins and save for a rainy day. While I have towed the line assiduously on most of those things, I have been less than consistent with backing up files to an external drive. The halfway effort of saving everything into their proper folders serve no purpose when the file, folders and software no longer exist. Without a word of warning....they were all gone. Now hope lingers, like a flickering flame, that the recovery of the lost hard drive is still possible. If you too have been less than conscientious, then go to your window and say " I'm as mad as hell and I'm going to backup my files, to an external drive, right now"!

Tempering my stunned state of mind is the inclusion of my work in an exciting exhibition on legendary fashion illustration, opening April 3rd, entitled The Line of Fashion, at the Society of Illustrators on East 63rd Street. Many of these elegant works of art set the standard for fashion and beauty throughout the 20th century, and will be recognizable by many of you. With a portion of the proceeds going to GMHC, the exhibition will continue until May 2.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Spring Break

Two of the sweetest words ever conjugated together in a phrase. To just say them fills me with exhilaration and a lightness of being that lifts my spirit. For those of us who have waded through the dark harsh winter - laden with the responsibility of reshaping student's talents and skills - this momentary "break" provides the sustenance of rest before a last stretch. Like the long distance runner that stops for a breath or drink of water, before continuing to the finish line, so too, do we inhale time to ourselves and imbibe peace of mind before that final sprint to summer.

For those of you who are instructors, at any level, you know this yearned for passage coincides with the recognition of whether your hard fought efforts have had the results you've worked for. Those dreaded mid-terms allows you to know whether anything that you said or did was actually being taken in and used by your students. I was pleased to find that many of my "diamonds in the rough" had found a way to show their many facets, especially since there is nothing more satisfying than seeing the expression of joy on their faces, as they recognize talents they had only hoped for.

The "break" will find many of my students from Parsons and Marist College, either running off to far flung vacation spots, where they will explore the pleasures of basking in the sun, speeding down slopes, or simply sleeping undisturbed in the well fed homes of their families.

I will use the "break" to continue the assault on a barrage of work - including paintings for my art show at Cousen Rose Gallery, on Aug 8th, preparing the course outline for the inauguration of private lessons at my studio this summer, developing more imagery for the fashion work my agent has in mind for me and preparation of the gardens that are springing up as I write this.

"Spring", the other component to this wonderful phrase, has crept ever so slowly into our mindsets. Our winter frocks have found their way back into the closets, as our transitional garb greets the blush of life filling tree limbs and blossoming scents one can only associate with nature stirring from a long slumber. The first daffodils have started to peak out their heads, while the crocuses, in full display, trumpet the new season. And, as we take on the feelings of the new growth in our hearts, which mirrors growth in our society, after a long "winter of discontent," we must seize it now, with both hands, for as we know, seasons come and go.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Liberation of Uncertainty

I had an accident yesterday. There, I said it. Oh, nothing serious, just a fender bender, but enough to put my car into the body shop for two weeks. Yet I am reluctant to say anything about it. That insidious embarrassment that wells over one when something bad or tragic happens, struck me in the moment that I had to call Joe and let him know. What is this sense of being that makes us not want to let others know that we going through a challenging time. What is this feeling that makes us seem culpable for the trouble we have to deal with. It's like we haven't lived our lives right, or something.

I know you must have experienced it too. My friend sadly, and quietly told me his apartment had been robbed recently. I could feel his not wanting to say anything about it, yet something like that needs to be talked about, as you try to regain your balance and make sense of it. He didn't orchestrate the theft himself, yet he seemed to feel responsible for it, in a way that guilt often unjustly and erroneously attaches itself to you. Maybe it was someone he knew, maybe not, but why take responsibility for others actions, especially when you are the victim.

When we or a family member are stricken with a severe illness, the first reaction is to be silent about it, as if no one else knowing would render it not real. As if, we or they had done something terribly wrong and others mustn't know about it. Of course, these things happen, without intent on our parts, but we resist sharing them, as if, we had a plan that went awry.

I remember when my mom passed in '84, I couldn't bring myself to tell anyone. People would call, as usual, and yet I couldn't utter a word about it. It was as if I was going to spread bad news. When friends did find out, THEY spread the word and many people responded with an outpouring of love and affection and appreciation of who she was.

Today, in some ways, there has been a liberation in uncertainty. With the challenges many of us have dealt with, because of economic changes, many more of us are speaking up, as never before, about things that the "oppression of affluence" would have silenced. Conversations about business and work levels are more easily expressed than before. Topics as wide ranging as credit card rate manipulations and property value fluctuations to retirement fund devaluation or employment limitation are easily spoken about, in a way that the "affluent face" would not have dared bring forth. Even the ability to say "no" to our spending propensities have been enhanced. Just let a cold call marketer try to solicit a sale or donation from me these days, I hardly need to search for an excuse to say "no."

An open awareness and expression of the reality in our lives provides a freedom of action that can sometimes be circumvented by false or extravagant presumptions. Adversity is the other half of the coin of life that provides perspective and invention, and could be used in full measure to arrive at a better location in life.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Feted in New York

Joe and I were feted in great style this weekend by John Rivers, the entrepreneur and Gavin Morrow, the scientist, and John's au courant business partner, Genita Ingram, of JDR Consulting, at the annual Human Rights Campaign benefit dinner at the Hilton in Manhattan, of which his company is a major local sponsor. At their table, I was able to catchup with Veronica Jones, the legendary retailer, who shares a long history with me, as well as many, many friends. Seated with us and inspiring as always were the ever elegant and devoted couple, Walter Allen, of IBM and Brian Leister, who never fails to give a positive lift to our lives. The great works of HRC was applauded by every major New York politician, that evening, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Senator Charles Schumer, new Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and the new president of NY Senate, Malcolm Smith. After a rousing rendition of the hit song, "We Break the Dawn", by Michele Williams, we were brought to our feet by a throbbing speech about everyone's inadvertent sour taste of discrimination by the MSNBC anchor, Keith Olberman. His point was that whether or not one fits into a discriminated group, they will some day be a victim of it by the tentacles of misguided hate that touches everyone. We all left feeling empowered by the commitment to go forward in our mission for self determination.

Yesterday, I watched the sunrise from possibly one the most beautiful vistas in Manhattan, the Rainbow Room at Rockefelller Center, with one of my dearest friends, Dwight Johnson, who had coordinated a breakfast benefit there for the New York Urban League. As the morning sun filtered into that gem of Art Deco design, I watched Dwight perform as a maestro, orchestrating every detail of the colorful enhancement of the space - right down to the hint of spring in the tiny daffodils at each seat. The "Champions of Diversity" breakfast honored General Electric, Goldman Sachs and The New York Times for their outstanding efforts in the need for diversity in the job market. I was fortunately seated next to Elinor Tatum, the publisher and editor -in-Chief of the Amsterdam News. The venerable publication has a great new energy with her at the helm and we look forward to the expanding directions she has in mind for it.

Lastly, we are saddened by the sudden transition of our friend, Hakim Maurice Wyche, whom we had shared many wonderful times together on Martha's Vineyard. He was the loving patriarch of one of the most beautiful families we know from Cambridge. His wonderful daughter, Shahara, whom I met on the Vineyard Town beach is the inspiration for my painting entitled, "Lady in Blue", which he was very pleased with. Our sincerest regrets and condolences go out to the entire family.