Tag Archives: Art Shows

Soho Revisited-Oct 22nd 2011

The air is cool today as I ride the train to New York, heading in today to repeat a self guided tour I did a year ago as well as do a photo shoot. I have cast a critical eye over my pictures from the last photo-shoots in New York. So armed with a little new knowledge and a more focused purpose I hope to come home with better pictures than ever. What I figure is the best pictures come from focusing on one area and working that completely. This will be better than walking from one side of Manhattan to the other, and will save my feet from a forced march. I also want to check out Vesuvios Bakery, part of the green bakery project in NYC. The new owner Maurey Rubin has taken a huge step in preserving the past by keeping the 1920’s storefront but updating the old wood fired ovens to make the business safe. I have it on good authority that the Maple Bacon Scone is to die for and a popular breakfast item. I also intend to check out Yakitori Taisho, a place that has a great reputation for Yakitori, the grilled meat on a stick that is the mainstay of Chinese lunch and happy hour. But I’m also thinking that a slice of pizza at Rivoli’s is in order, since the triumph of my painting of their storefront. I think it’s only right that I go and have a slice to see the place and say yes…I ate there. The weather is turning cooler fast and although I say I won’t let the winter keep me in, if it’s anything like last winter-I will  be.

I come up from Penn Station on the NE corner of W.33rd & 7th Ave and walk east passing lines of out-of-townees waiting for tour buses, along the way I pass a series of pubs and public houses. The traffic is backed-up as the garbage is noisily collected by crews who sweep clean as they pass, anything that’s dropped must be picked up. The sounds of the trucks echo down the glass walls of the canyon like building as I come up to Greely square. I make it to 6th Ave and head south, this is a busy area in the low thirties through the twenties. There are busy shops, hotels and souring structures of glass and steel. I hear a snippet of conversation behind me. One young guy relating a story of trying to get a cab and an older woman with a southern accent asks if she can have it first saying “I’m so tired, can you let me take this one?” He did the thing that gives New Yorker’s a bad reputation. He ignored her and got in the cab. He laughingly tells his friend “Hey lady…this isn’t the south!” They both chuckle and I really wanted to tell him what I thought of him, but at almost 50 I can’t risk a beating by two guys in their twenties. Besides the evil that you do comes back to you threefold, so they will get theirs one way or another. A street fair is being held so the police barricades block off traffic and I walk freely down 6th Ave past dozens of vendors. They are selling sunglasses, jewelery, scarves, hats, clothing, and food of all kinds. It’s just getting set up this early but later these streets will be teeming with people buying  early xmas gifts or just trying on some hats as I do in my quest for the right hat. Finding none that I like I move on into the village proper, I notice more than ever the homeless today. They seem to be out in force and it pains me to walk on by, but the sad fact is that if I helped them all I would be standing right next to them shaking my own empty coffee cup. I hear Blue Jays echo though the streets as I pass the Spring St subway station, looking for a loo and wishing I had a hat it’s a little cold.

So after using the loo at Starbucks, the travelers friend. I make my way to my breakfast destination, Vesuvio’s is very small and quaint with pictures of the old ovens in the basement on the wall above the milk and sugar bar. The friendly staff serves me my Maple bacon scone and coffee, they don’t make faces when I ask for some hot water to warm up the coffee gone cool from the freezing cold milk. Why we haven’t adopted the French method of warming the coffee milk is beyond me. The scone is crunchy and delicious and every bit what I love in a scone, but I can’t resist going back in for an oatmeal cookie for later, these have also been highly recommended online. I move on and walk down W. Broadway, there is an art show on the sidewalk and I admire the work of the artists showing today along the way. It’s so different now that I’m painting again, I no longer feel ashamed when I look at others work. I feel like an artist again with a purpose, even if I’m not doing important social commentary right now. I feel like I bought back a piece of myself. Now I begin to wander looking for good shots and feeling warm and happy, I can ignore my sore back and do what I came here to do. I pass a professional photographer sitting in a chair by his work, he too sits and writes in a small book just like I do. I wonder what he’s about…

I leave the art show and find myself on Lafayette St where an artist is painting the facade of an old bar in a  style based on a small collage of liquor ads he’s been given, it’s very nice work and reminds me of my old style of painting. I talk with him a few minutes but move on to leave him to his work, it looks like it could rain all over his parade soon. Turing the corner I pass an art gallery and decide to go in. Brentano’s Gallery on Crosby St has an amazing collection of original prints and paintings, one whole wall is nothing but Salvador Dali’s work and on the other side a nice seating area with more art. I tell the owner that I’d like to move in and he laughs. Then I share with him the story of Harvey my old friend who would have loved to be here with me looking at Dali’s work. The one I like is a hand signed  lithograph, limited to an edition of 150 which is only $4700. This may sound like a lot but by Dali standards it relatively cheap. Then of course and actual drawing by him is worth a fortune in comparison. I leave the gallery and circle back around to take some pics of the muralist from a distance without bothering him and then begin to move uptown starting to think of lunch, it’s been a few hours since the scone and I’m starting to get a little hungry.

I come to Bleeker St and turn right taking it to Bowery (4th Ave) and then north to St. Marks Place, it’s a long walk from where I was but carried along by the hipster crowds and tourists I make it to my lunch destination Yakitori Taisho, only to find it doesn’t open till 6 pm. So I will not be experiencing the delights of chicken parts cooked on skewers over glowing coals today. So I decide the only thing to do is take the long walk back to the other side of town and go to Rivoli’s Pizza. The clouds have gone away again and the sun is warm as I make my way to 7th Avenue South, passing through another street fair as I do. I stop and look at hats again and even find a $25 hat I like but they don’t take credit and I decide to pass it by instead of looking for a cash machine. When I arrive at 7th Ave South I can see Rivoli’s in the glare of the late afternoon sun and cross the street with others making the most of this glorious day and go in Rivoli’s for a well deserved break. I look at the pie and am immediately disappointed by the looks of it, this is utility pizza at best-nothing special here. I can’t imagine this place turning out veal scallopini or mussels marinara. But with a sigh I order a slice and a soda and settle down in the same window seat I struggled so hard to get the reflections of the table, chairs and taxi in. The pizza is as good as it has to be right now as I am ravenous after my long march, so I read the Village Voice and slowly drink my soda to rest for the walk back.

I sit and it occurs to me that right now or on any other day that I’ve been in NYC.  I might be the person in the picture that someone took as part of their art project, or livelihood. It’s an interesting thought as I look through the window and eyeball the people walking by and crossing the street. I leave and make my way down 7th Ave with the wind at my back. Today I saw many homeless people and heard many French voices all around me, too many of the former and not enough of the latter. The weird and wonderful I saw today in people as I passed by, I would need a personal secretary to remember and document them all. I think to myself God how lucky I am to live so close to this city. I wonder if I could ever leave it.



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Filed under Art Shows, Food Writing, French, Greenwich Village, Life, Memories, New York City, Street Art, Village Voice, Writing

Van Gogh Exhibit-Jan 4TH 2009

Thank God it’s not too cold today, 41 degrees and sunny. The last hurrah before beginning the new work year, it’ll be Memorial Day before I get another day off. I’m always a little sad after New Years day, as we get older things are getting tougher and time seems to be growing short. Maybe it’s just a by product of  living in a accelerated society, but this new year has alot riding on it for me personally and the country as a whole. I get on a train bound for Penn Station in New York to catch the Van Gogh exhibit before it closes in a week or two. I get my window seat and settle down, soon a troop of cute young girls enters the car, they are all in their mid-teens and I figure my ears are going to be tortured by silly girl talk and squeeky laughter. They seemed to be chaperoned by an older woman, probably going on a fashion field trip based on the jist of the talk I hear around me. Two girls sit across from me and play with their phones and message back and forth, the one closest to me has on such low rider pants I can see her red thong and half her bottom coming out! I don’t see how anyone can be confortable like that, I start to get the shakes if I get a hole in my sock and have to spend the day with a toe sticking out!  But it’s nice to look at so I’m not complaining, I guess if I had a body like that I wouldn’t mind showing it to anyone who wants to look. I’m sure they were all glad they didn’t get stuck sitting next to me, thong girl gets up and starts taking pictures of everyone in her group and pulls up her pants at the same time. No doubt one of her friends caught me looking and texted her to cover up, so back to looking out the window. The relative quiet is broken when two moms and three daughters get on the train, the three little girls are heartbreakingly cute in their wooly caps with pom pom tasssels tied under their chins. They laugh at everything and giggle constantly, an older girl, a cousin probably  seems to be in charge of wrangling them and taking pictures over and over. “Ready …1…2…3!

I get out at Penn Station and walk down 8 Th Avenue towards my brunch destination for today, Maison is located at 53rd St & 7 Th Ave and is purported to be a taste of Brittany, that rugged region that juts out into the Atlantic and Maison claims to be modeled on the quaint restaurants that are found there. But it is a sprawling place where the walk to the bathroom is a hike requiring you to pass through a covered breezeway, go into another building,  around another seating area and up two flights of old stairs…whew! I make my way back into the main area which looks like a circus tent, or the inside of an umbrella that opens in the summer to allow smokers the pleasure of eating while smoking. But the thing you will notice right away is the floors, they bounce when you walk, so as you sit and look at the menu you will find the table shakes up and down every time someone walks past. This is very annoying but the food looks good so I wait with my bouncing table for my food. It takes forever for my food to come and my coffee was delivered without the milk I asked for but rather cream, so I wait and look around me. A gay couple sits next to me, an older guy with a younger Latino partner, I notice right away that everything the young guy says is put down by his partner and I feel sorry for him, all his suggestions for the garden are wrong, the interior decorating is wrong, etc. I can’t help feeling for this guy because it reminds me of my ex- girlfriends attitude towards me,  but can’t help also feeling like he treats this guy any way he wants because he’s a foreigner and doesn’t speak English well enough yet to tell him off properly. But it’s none of my business, still I can’t wait till they leave, the tables are so close and I just can’t shut off my hearing.

My Pizette arrives finally and my milk so I’m good to go, the pizette is a delicious tart of goat cheese, roasted red peppers, anchovy paste, nicoise olives and Gruyere cheese, it is delicious but a little heavy on the anchovy paste and big enough to be a lunch. Next my main course arrives, a Croque Madam is supposed to be a crispy pressed sandwich of black forest ham and Gruyere toasted on bread with lots and lots butter.  But what I got was more like a Monte Cristo with a fried egg on top, and since I have ordered this sandwich in another French bistro and got the exact same preparation…I can only guess that in these fast paced times this is what you get now, not the original hand held lunch designed for bridge games. The food was good enough but the service is terrible, the staff is clueless, probably underpaid, and are all tired college students and actors looking for a break. I leave thinking that I would try it for dinner some time in the future but right now I walk up the two blocks to the MOMA and find it packed!

I go inside easily as a member I don’t wait on lines except at the coat check, and there I meet “The Coat Nazi” a bellowing museum employee who not kindly leads us mice out of the maze to stand on line for each of the coat check windows. He walks back and forth loudly barking orders like a drill Sergeant! “Stay in single-file!”-“Shoulders against the wall!”-“What letter are you?…Step this way!”-“Hold right there!” and this goes on and on. I know he’s only trying to do a difficult job and has to deal with a crowd of sheep who talk amongst themselves and wander but there’s a way to do this with tact, comedy, and respect. Many people laugh at him and so do foreign speaking people who ignore him, he really shouldn’t be doing this job, the man has no patience.

Finally I get upstairs to the exhibit, it is very crowded, it’s hard to see the paintings but I just stand and listen to the audio guide and wait till I can get a good look. I like Van Gogh’s early work, the landscapes are earthy and have much feeling. I think he’s very under rated as a painter, yes he’s famous for the Starry Night style that he developed, but the mood of his work is what strikes me, I “feel” what it’s like to live in that part of the world at that time when I look at his early work and I feel also the somber mood he was in when painting some of them. My favorite is actually “Starry Night Over The Rhone” rather than the other more famous one. I read all the text on the walls too, it’s a great way to get a good education. Then I go up to breeze through the Juan Miro’ exhibit again, which I still have to write about  and downstairs to watch a projection of Pipliotti Rists “Pour Your Body Out”, it is beautiful and colorful and the actress in the movie is gorgeous, her naked body shown just enough to keep the attention of all the men present. The movie has a message too about the human condition and how we pollute the planet, destroy our environment and consume like the animals we kill and eat. I leave the museum as always feeling a little changed, the experience changes you and that’s good. If you feel that way the artists did their job.

Walking down 6 TH Ave I feel a little sad that Xmas is over, I pass Macy’s and see that the Miracle on 34 TH Street scenes are still on display in the windows, depicting pivotal scenes from  my favorite holiday movie but only in black and white. Nearby many businesses have taken down the lights and decorations. I cross the busy streets and finally I decend into Penn Station and grab a coffee for the ride home with 5 minutes to spare before the train leaves. I write on the way home and I’m back in my car by 4:10, not a bad day I think as I drive home still plenty of time to things before bed.


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Filed under Art, Art Shows, Food, French Food, MOMA, New York City

Winter Medley – Jan 11 Th 2008

 It’s a sunny cool day as I sit waiting for my brother to come out of the house, I have to drive him to work before I head into Manhattan today to see the new pieces of Abstract art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection. The weather has been strange lately, we had a few warmer days so it’s not too bad weather wise.  I’m off this week so I don’t care that I’m getting a late start, my brother finally comes out and we go to his job. The two of us joke around in the car a little on the ride there but I feel bad that he has to work and can’t join me today. I drop him off and make my way to the train station and search for a place to park, I try to park under the lights so I can feel safe we I come back at night, this isn’t a bad neighborhood but it’s better to be safe.

 I board the train and am happy to find it’s an express-good deal, so I sit looking out the window and and listen to the people around me, as an artist and writer I find that this kind of voyeurism is good for my creativity. I write this poem by looking and listening…

 Old places glass and steel.

Bricks with black lettering.

Pools of water on rooftops.

Shinning rails of travel, momentary blindness.

A man sleeps seeing nothing

A man sighs behind me.

Sleeping man passing gas oblivious to the

Smoke billowing black from chimneys.

A man sighs again alone.

A lone flag flies in the distance.

Is it all nothing to you?

Copyright  G. Henley 2008

 We are going into the tunnels now and I feel the creative energy coming back, must keep it turned on always I think as the train stops and I head out into the stuffy platform and walk upstairs to Penn Station and up to the street. I grab a taxi to the Met, I will walk later but right now I just want to get in and see the exhibit, later I will head to the Village for some Hong Kong style Octopus balls, which I will explain later.

  This is a collection of 55 new works given by Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman, an astute collector of art who collected works of both the old guard of Abstract Expressionism, but also the work of younger artists that proved to be worth her attention years later. This is an exceptional show, many new pieces by some of my boys, I am happy to see a Robert Motherwell. I am lucky to own a large hand signed print by him, it’s not in great shape but at least I got one-too bad it’s so big I can’t frame it. There’s also a few by Jasper Johns and Robert Rauchenberg (god rest his soul) that I hadn’t seen before, there’s a Pollack, a Kline I especially like, a DeKooning and work by David Smith, Helen Frankenthaler, Larry Rivers, and Anne Ryan. But it was a smallish exhibit so it doesn’t take me long to see it all and I make my way to a special exhibit of African Reliquary Art.

 The word reliquary means literally container or vessel where religious relics or artifacts are stored.  Some held the remains of  tribal people who had died, say a finger bone or a piece of the skull which were thought to be magical andwere used with carved guardian figures on top in tribal rituals. Many reliquaries were used used in Christian ritual from the 4th century and have been venerated by Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches. These carved figures are fantastic, detailed and so finely made, the most famous of these is The Pahouin or Black Venus made by a member of the Fang people, Betsi group; Gabon. Many of the most famous artists in Paris collected and studied tribal art including Pablo Picasso, Andre’ Derain, Henri Matisse, and Maurice de Vlaminck just to name a few. There are also beautiful statues made by the Punu and Kota peoples, the fascinating thing was the Gothic ones made from metals, a finely wrought hand in a magical gesture kept my attention for twenty minutes, the only time I really wanted to steal a museum piece in my life. I then watched a short film taken in the 30’s by an Anthropologist, a burial of a huge reliquary. The dead person was sewn inside a huge stuffed Golem like doll which was carried and buried in a huge grave with much crying, singing, and ceremony and the TV on which this was viewed was about 5ft away from the actual reliquary in the museum!  This thing was bigger than a Volkswagen Bug standing on it’s end, I won’t forget this exhibit anytime soon…I just wish I had the money and the proper space to collect African art myself like my old friends in Paris, now we know where the influence for Cubism came from!

 I leave the Met and take the subway all the way down to the East Village, I’m on a kind of pilgrimage you see, after watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations where he ate them in Osaka, I just have to try the Takoyaki at Otafuku. Located on 235 E. 9th St (Btwn 2nd& 3rd Ave) this place is the real deal, it’s tiny-I mean there is enough room for about three people to stand inside and place orders. The two young men that run the place are cramped in front of a tiny grill, a special device for making octopus or squid balls sits next to the take out window. But what are they? you ask puzzled. Well it’s a seasoned batter witha piece of octopus inside which is cooked in a grill that has dozens of  holes the size of a golf ball, as they cook crispy they are turned crispy sideup so that more raw batter hits the hot grill until they are crispy on the outside-gooey on the inside, they even turn a switch and the grill shakes to help loosen the hot treats so they come out easier, they also make a great batter pancake with veggies and your choice of toppings. Everything is covered with sqeeze bottles of Japanese mayo, thick soy sauce and dried flaked pork or fish, they also serve yakisoba noodles and a good assortment of teas or soda.

 I take my hot food and go to find someplace to eat, finding a little park at E.6th St and Cooper Square I settle down to try my food, it’s magical and delicious, crispy then chewy then gooey describes the balls, the pancake is savory and sweet and the hot tea is welcome as it’s getting colder. I see a group of people coming down the sidewalk and wonder what’s going on, but I am surprised when the group stops and the guide begins to talk about the building behind me. This is strange because I can see that everyone is not watching the guide, they are all watching me eat! Here I am, dressed in many layers of clothes looking like a bum dinning Al fresco on a bench using chopsticks no less!  They move off and are replaced by a group of young goofs with thier girlfriends who come inside the park apparently to throw pennies at the Pigeons, a boom crane moves slowly nearb, sirens, traffic, the bang and boom of work being done and people walk by. I go on enjoying my meal and ignore the world for a while…It’ll still be there when I get back.

  I ride home on the train enjoying a young redheads reflection in the window, she is facing me and I can see her even though a seat separates us(a miracle of refraction or reflection?) and enjoy being a voyeur, I wish I had a drawing tablet with me, she looks like the actress in “Lady In The Water” when we come topside I can’t see her anymore, the glare of the setting sun robs me of the view, so I write and remember the day and hope to do this again real soon.


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Filed under Art, Art Shows, East Village, Food, Greenwich Village, Japanese Food, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Juan Miro’ Exhibit Part 2-Nov 29Th 2008

 I walk to 2nd  Ave up to 3rd but then after a while I start going back up towards midtown, the brisk air is warmer now and my meal has renewed my strength so I walk to Union Square  taking the 6 train back up to 51 St Street then it’s a short walk up to MOMA. I go in and quite frankly I didn’t know what to expect from Miro’s work, I wasn’t a big fan of his work really. I mean the pieces I had seen other days in various shows looked all the same to me, repeated shapes and colors with thin black lines connecting things together. I as a painter would stop short of saying “a kid could paint that” because I know that it’s not true but I have to admit I didn’t get his work and figured the only reason he was famous was because he did it first. But now after seeing the exhibit as a whole I can tell you I was wrong. Miro’ wanted to as he put it “assassinate painting” and he did just that, and although the other Surrealist painters made fun of his childlike symbols and bourgeois reserve, the leader of the movement Andre Breton was quoted as saying “that he might have been the most surreal of us all”  that was high praise from a bullying control freak like Breton.

 When you look at the early works on unprimed canvas you see some very simple shapes, and a few with words painted in and you think to yourself that you might be embarrassed to show these to a gallery.  But then you move on to the paintings called Dutch Interiors you see a man who is taking classic paintings and dis-assembling them in his own fashion. The effect is breathtaking because the thought that went in to breaking down the classic work took much time and effort, seeing them side by side you pick out all the details. Miro’ has left nothing out, nothing to chance so as he said “I create nothing it’s all there” he is correct. I move on to the most impressive part of the exhibit for me which is the collage studies and resulting paintings of 1933. These are a mind blowing exercise in genius I think, he has taken advertisements in newspapers for crutches, telephones, coat racks, medicine bottles, even a political cartoon and he has arranged then in a seemingly senseless collage on paper (senseless to the uninitiated, collage isn’t easy) then working from that collage has transformed the collage shapes into a much larger work. The absolute way in which he made recognizable objects into shapes that hark-en back to their models is when my opinion of Miro’ went through the roof! I can clearly see now why Breton spoke so highly of his work, but what I see too is that he was really in my view the first Abstract Expressionist artist,  I see more of Miro’ in the work of Alexander Calder, Robert Motherwell.  Why even Jackson Pollacks non drip figurative work lends itself to Miro’s trail blazing. The series from 1935-36 painted on Masonite and copper are just astounding in their luminosity, the pieces on copper actually seem to glow from the copper as the Tempera used on Masonite glows from the medium instead of the surface. These small paintings are among my favorite and would love to own one. But these paintings also recall the shapes from the Dutch Interiors and represent a break in style from the Collage Paintings of 33. The exhibit concludes with a series of paintings on Masonite from 1936 that seem to me to recall the simple pieces from the start of the exhibit, all painted without being primed they look very much like the unprimed canvases of 1927 in style as well as lack of background pigment. These pieces leave me a little flat but in no way decrease my respect for what I’ve seen, the exhibit ends with a luminous piece done in 1937, and here Miro’ changes direction wanting to do something different he adopts a figurative style painting the hallucinatory “Still Life with Old Shoe” a dazzling painting that uses a fork, a potato, and an old shoe to tell the story of the war years as this was painted during the civil war in Spain,  he and his family would not see Spain again for four years. 

 So I leave the museum after a walk around the gift shop filed with excited tourists and art students all wandering like kids in a candy store, I mean you want one of everything here no joke, beautiful home accessories from the design collection are available, glassware, cups, mugs, dishes. Books galore for the armchair art historian and toys for the kids, as well as limited edition prints framed professionally and all manner of scarves, brooches and pins for the ladies. too much for me to even try to remember here, take a look if you get a chance. But right now I’m getting hungry and I’m thinking that a cold glass of Harp at Tracks in Penn Station and some oysters with hot sauce would be just the thing right now. But as I leave the museum and start walking towards 7 th Ave I gotta wonder if I can wait that long, there’s alot of street food between here and there and it smells mighty good my friends. Lets see do I want Shish-Ka-Bob or Gyro, Knish with cheese or dirty water dogs with relish and mustard, or how about a pretzel with cheese sauce, or maybe…..

 I finally decide on Harp and oysters on the half shell, I’ve never tried these before and decide that I would be able to eat them so as not to offend a host at a party but I didn’t need to order them again. I make the mistake of starting up a conversation with a guitar teacher at the bar sitting next to me, he goes on and on about how good he is and I should try him as a teacher. I explain that I had to stop lessons because I couldn’t afford the monthly bill anymore but he goes on anyway ignoring what I’m telling him to promote himself. So I finish my beer and hope that he does not follow me out and get on the same train, when he doesn’t I’m relieved, I wouldn’t take lessons with this guy if I won a million dollars, too much talk, too full of himself to be a good teacher.

 I sit later on the homeward bound train and think about what I saw, during his life he created over 2000 paintings! If nothing else Juan Miro’ taught me not to judge a book by it’s cover, a quiet man who said little and thought much did more for art than I ever imagined.


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Juan Miro’ Exhibit Part 1-Nov 29th 2008

 A brisk morning, the third day of a four day weekend for me, I’m going into Manhattan to see the Juan Miro’ exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art and take some pictures. The next few weekends after this will be spent cleaning and decorating for Xmas, which is right around the corner. So I sit on crowded LIRR train and I imagine “Black Friday” has spilled over into Saturday because of the people crammed into every car like a can of peppered kippers. Like always I listen to the people around me, a good artist/writer has to take in everything otherwise your missing out on good material that’s free!

 A girl across the aisle goes over the details of allegedly unwanted male attention the night before to her two friends. She sure seems to be happy to tell the tale of fingers being run through her hair and close talking…I can imagine the rest. The guy apparently didn’t cross the line into creepy…just horny. Behind me a couple from Jamaica on vacation is studying a map of New York City and discuss the details of their trip in low tones, they are well dressed and call friends on a cell phone to check their info. There is a little tension in the air because of the bombings in Mumbwai. My oral surgery that I mentioned in a previous post went well (see Mouth To Mouth for details as I am catching up on writing after the holiday season) a longish recovery though, but I can eat normally now.

 The sun coming in through the train window is warm and I take off my hat and scarf and coat as I get too hot. I wish this was a express train. Next week I begin a search for a second job, I hope I can find one close to home.The girl is going on about dancing with the awkward horny boy and how he bumped into walls and offered her a condom and explained it’s use! I think she is lucky she wasn’t raped and cut into pieces and put in a dumpster myself, when will these stupid girls learn. I won’t go over the details of my exit into Penn Station, sufficient to say that I found myself on the E train to 23rd St and went topside and began to walk in a zig zag fashion to my destination. I’m looking for 1st Ave but find myself on the NW corner of 6th Ave and and Tenth St, there the Ansonia Pharmacy uses two of thier four windows to show the artwork of various artist. They have been doing this continuously for years, they sponsor and sell the works of painters, photographers, etc. This is a good thing, I haven’t been here in years so I am glad that some things haven’t changed. I walk on and am puzzled to see a strange sight on the ground which led to this poem as yet untitled.


  A cigarette and a surgical glove lie together on the ground. 

  One used to give life, the other to take it away.

   There was pleasure in the smoke, I remember it well.

   So now I wonder when I will face the surgical glove.

   Do those that wear them find pleasure in what they do?

   As we find pleasure in what keeps them wearing them?

   Copyright 2009 Glen Henley

 Well, anyway I think it’s good. I’ve overshot my destination by a few blocks by taking pictures and being drawn to things by curiosity. I got a shot of the Jefferson Market Court House as well as Lafayette St, so being denied last time I was in NYC this time I will be having brunch at Prune, where Head Chef/Owner Gabrielle Hamilton presents with an eclectic menu of childhood favorites with a twist or two. Located on 54 East 1st St between 1st and 2nd Ave, I double back till I’m there and put my name in with the cute red headed hostess. Armed with a free copy of  The Villager to read I stand outside and wait for my table, leaning against a pole I relax. This is a quiet neighborhood… I like it here, across the street is the back of a school playground, next to Prune is a club for young girls with arts, crafts & performance space. A nice place for young girls to gather and feel safe and be themselves. I almost regret  leaving my post when I am called in to eat at the bar after about a twenty minute wait.

 Being a big and tall guy I am a little cramped at the bar but at least I’m in and happy to finally be eating here. I order an egg “En Cocette” ,which is a coddled egg, (served in a ramekin, kinda like soft boiled) and greens on the side in a light vinaigrette accompanied by thick country toast with butter, coffee and orange juice. Next to me a young girl tucks into omelet with hash browns; bacon; lamb sausage; stewed tomatoes; toast and tea. It looks good, the place is alive with people, small and noisy but I read my paper and sip my coffee and wait for my order. My plate arrives it’s not alot of food but it is every bit good and cheap by NYC standards. The egg is peppered and flavorful served over a bed of juicy chicken, tender white and dark meat. The greens are crunchy and cool in a tart vinaigrette, a generous portion. But the toast… unlike any you’ll get in the supermarket, crispy and buttery and delicious. The girl next to me marvels at the bartender, a girl who works non-stop making bloody marys, all different kinds. There’s one that has pickled Brussels sprouts and radish, another has string bean, olives and lemon,  a dozen different kinds of em, I didn’t know that any others existed except the standard brunch issue at eateries in the boring suburbs.

So I strike up a conversation with this girl about the food here, she tells me she comes here for lunch during the week and has tried almost everything served here. Marina is a beautiful girl (about 25 I guess ) and she tells me the burgers here are the best in the city, but sadly only served on the weekdays when I’m usually at work. She also suggests that I expand my small meal and order the garlic lamb sausage like she did. I find out that she came from Russia and has been here a long time, we talk briefly about the advantages of city life vrs suburbs life but after finishing her tea…she leaves (the story of my life) while I wait for my sausage. I pick up the empty stool to my right and place it on my left in the spot by left by the lovely Marina when she departed, people have been trying to squeeze past it all day. It’s jammed between me and a seated guest at the bistro table behind me. I sit and when the sausage comes out I am glad I waited, it was so good I wished I had ordered two, the flavor of the lamb counter balanced by the garlic and Rosemary was so intense I thought that God must have come up with the recipe himself. I was saddened by the thought that it might be weeks or months till I came here again and could taste these flavors, I knew that I would be going to the butcher to try and get some of these beauties soon. I finished my meal and coffee, paid my bill, left a tip, and started down the street. I would have to get to a main avenue to get a cab uptown or perhaps I would just take the subway. I’ll decide whichever presents first I think as walk down the quiet street and enjoy the cold but sunny day.
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What Is Obey Giant ? – Part 2-November 2008

 The reaction that first summer in Providence was very motivating to Shepard, people were talking about the Andre stickers on line at the store, and it was written up in the local paper. Shepard began to see that there was a psychological component to this whole process…people needed to interpret the image in a way that meant something to them. He was very fascinated by the reactions he was getting. Then he began making large paper paste ups of his images, the old Andre face was replaced with a more stylized version, a “Big Brother” kind of face. The iconic face also got a tag line added to it “OBEY”….inspired by the the Sci-Fi movie “They Live” in which aliens have taken over the planet and use subliminal messages to keep us in line. But also exposure to Barbera Krueger’s use of words in her art was a driving force in his idea that art with words could affect social change, a theme that would be used to this day.

 During his many out of town art trips he stopped to paste up his iconic image everywhere, he even went so far as to climb an eight story water tower to paste up an eight foot high Obey face! Nobody would risk life and limb to make a statement on art and provoke thought…unless your an obsessed artist that can’t help from doing what he believes is his right-the walls, wheresoever they may be, belong to all of us. The objection is that it’s not making anyone any money, and that’s where the capitalist piggies put their cloven foot down. You see it’s okay for posters to be pasted up on every square inch of available space in “Any City, USA-as long as some money has been made off the people who put it there. So with that being the case, Fairey has been arrested 13 times, often being kept from his medication (he has Type 1 diabetes) in retaliation. He has been very straight forward about taking responsibility for his work, admitting that any of his images seen out there…might have been done by him. But he also has some fanatic fans who go to the trouble of making their own copies of his images and pasting them up themselves. Shepard however, has his standards, he never pastes up over another artists work, he always uses fresh clean walls.

 But although Shepard had achieved a real status in the punk world of indie artists living on the edge, he was sleeping in his car when he did art shows out of town, he couldn’t even afford a cheap room! So, after much soul searching, he decided to move to San Diego intending to work in his beloved skate industry, but instead he went into graphic design and started to do some commercial work, he co-founded BLK/MKT Design Studio with Dave Kinsey and Phillip DeWolff where he would spend six years before going out on his own. Selling out was what some felt he was doing, but to Shepard it was stayin alive. It was after all, Paris (the center of the art world in the old days) that was covered in paste up advertising way back in the late 1800’s, Fairey figured he was in no way encouraging street art tactics to be used to sell products, it had all been done before….long ago.

 Things started to happen for him, he was asked to make some posters to advertise “Man on the Moon”, the Andy Kaufman biopic in 1999, and he would also create brand logos. But it was also in 1999 that he met his future wife Amanda, who proved her love for the guerilla artist by being the lookout for him on paste up nights, even to the point of having to convince the police she wasn’t a prostitute waiting for a John on the street corner! 

 Fairey would go on to design album covers and movie posters, as well as many concert posters, sometimes the buildings where his meetings with ad reps were taking place by day, would also be the next target for a paste up attack by night, even if he had gotten the commission!  Shepard has found a way to get the most “street” into his commercial work without letting it become about the money, often passing up lucrative deals because there was no creative juice in it to make the job attractive. But it was a slow and painful process, that still had not come to the fruition that would come, a few hundred paste ups later.
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What Is Obey Giant ?- Part 1-November 2008

 In 2006 I was searching on Ebay for some hand signed artwork to purchase, inspired by my late friend Harvey Ellner’s art collection, I had been buying art for years and putting it in storage to be sold for my retirement. I didn’t think that I could expect alot of return on my investment at my level (which is small) but hoped that I could at least realize a profit to finance some travel in my older age. One particular day I was searching for something unusual in hand signed prints and found the words “Obey Giant” attached to auctions, page after page of unique images unlike any I had seen before now began to appear. I started to research what this was and who made this art and why, and will share a little of what I found with you.

 The artist who made the images is Shepard Fairey and he is now considered the father of the modern street art movement, he inspired a generation of street artists, pasters (artists who use wheat paste to put up paper images), and stencil spray paint artists like England’s “Banksy” and he has the scars to prove it-literally. But before he became the icon of social consciousness in modern graffiti art he was just Frank Fairey, a South Carolina boy who as he puts it just “faded into the woodwork”…that is until he discovered ( in 1984) the two things that would change his life and ultimately the art world forever, punk rock and skateboarding. 

 In conservative Charleston, S.C. some young people would get into skateboarding and the collecting and pasting up of stickers associated with the skateboarding culture as a passing phase, stickers were not abundantly available but the few that he would see advertising skateboarding were gold  and he would buy all he could get, but punk band stickers were another matter, not available in Fairey’s experience so far. So he learned to draw all his favorite band logos, and copied them out on sticker paper at his parents business (when they were out of the office) and soon he was stickering to his hearts content. In 1988, Fairey began attending the Rhode Island School of Design and it was here while he was working on an art degree, when he decided to major in Illustration, his life would be changed forever.

 One night when a friend asked him to teach him how to cut paper stencils he found a picture of Andre the Giant and suggested to his friend that this would make a great stencil, and they should make it and be Andre’s “posse”.   The friend gave up cutting the stencil after a while saying that it was stupid, and Fairey finished the stencil himself, adding the wrestlers height and weight to the stencil as well as the tag line “Andre the Giant has a posse”. Then after making a silkscreen of the stencil, Fairey began to spread these paper stickers all over Providence that summer, and later switched to vinyl inked stickers that would last longer. He is said to have made over a million hand cut stickers between `89 and `96 and after moving to California, he switched to getting them made professionally to save his last few brain cells from the toxic vinyl sticker ink. What started out as a joke and attention getting would later become a full fledged phenomenon, as Shepard (his middle name) would eventually take these stickers to New York and Boston by car, and begin to send them to friends all over the country that had been bitten by the sticker bug-thus sending the image he had created out into the world, where it would find an unsuspecting public that would question the meaning of the image. Speculating that it was somehow tied to a band, a cult of some sorts, and generally something to be mis-trusted and even feared, many people began to ask themselves and others…What is this Obey Giant thing?
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