It has not been a very happy year so far and it shows no sign of getting better any time soon. I know I’ve been off the radar for two years now and I can’t seem to get back on the horse. I am putting a link that will tell the tale for me in the hopes of getting some help. Here it is http://www.gofundme.com/bm047c
I never thought it come to this but desperate times call for desperate measures. Thanks for reading, and to any who used my work for term papers and such. I hope you got good grades.
Tag Archives: Art
It has not been a very happy year so far and it shows no sign of getting better any time soon. I know I’ve been off the radar for two years now and I can’t seem to get back on the horse. I am putting a link that will tell the tale for me in the hopes of getting some help. Here it is http://www.gofundme.com/bm047c
So I’m sitting on an express train bound for New York and it’s a nice day…real nice. I am armed with both cameras intending to do a photo shoot and I am also pondering whether or not to go downtown and cover the Occupy protest. I sit down across from a pretty girl with a backpack, I am busy admiring her whilst trying not to leer (that would be creepy) when she pulls out a camera so big if a puma attacked her she could kill it! This is of course a real camera with a lens as long as my forearm, it makes mine look like child’s play. So much for the ego of the great shutter-bug. Today is all about the art project I’ve been working on lately but I’m bothered by the feeling that I should visit the Wall St protests. This kind of thing is happening all over the world, people are fed up with the government, the corruption of the politicians and are taking to the streets. But I can’t help feeling like something bad is going to happen, maybe not today but soon. The rumors of jails being built to house the creators of dissent with videos to match on You Tube are possibly true. People have been arrested by the dozens and New York’s finest have even herded women into penned areas and pepper sprayed them at close range! I think it’s gonna get ugly real soon.
I predicted all this would happen years ago and the revolutionary in me wants to be there standing up for what I believe in too. But I worry, what if some idiot does something stupid and incites the police? I could easily find myself in a situation. This is one of those times when I wish I was free to do whatever I wanted. If I get arrested and wound up in jail and missed work I’d be in real financial trouble. I have people depending on my income for their life too. But this is what the government and our employers count on-fear. This is how they keep us in line and make us work like slaves. I’ll see how I feel later but at my age I’m a little tired and sore from a busy week at work, I’m getting too old to be doing the grunt work I do.
I head straight for the Lunch Box Buffet, an Asian place right near Penn Station. They are rumored to have the delicious egg tart the Chinese are famous for but when I get there they have none, the only breakfast they have is the ubiquitous NY bagel and rolls or pastry. I was never a pastry for breakfast type so I pass up the chocolate croissants and move on in search of something better but cheap. I start walking in the busy hustle of the city just before the shops open. The problem with the city in the morning is the blinding sunlight, if you’re walking east your blinded-even with sunglasses on! But I forge on shading my eyes and zig-zag to stay on the shaded side of the street. I hit 3rd Ave and head south. There’s many Indian and Thai eateries here as I walk through Gramercy Park , it’s a busy built up area but as you go south it gets quiet and quaint in ti;s own way. I see many places are not open yet and I make mental notes on shoot locations. I pass a new restaurant where a nice old French cafe used to be, I wish I had eaten there just once. Soon however I come to the industrial part of town, it’s busy and loud here, this area has many restaurant supply shops and metal works fabricating those shinning steel counters where are food is made and sold. Recently on his new show “The Layover” Anthony Bourdain gave a quick tour of such a place, showing viewers how one could cheaply buy the same saute pans they used at Les Halles for $18.95, in fact he got a whole bag of stuff for under a hundred dollars. I also read online that the people in these shops on Bowery are really helpful and nice to walk-ins so I will make it a point to go over my kitchen inventory and buy my next pans at such places instead of high priced department stores. I turn off the avenue and go down Prince St into the heart of Little Italy. By chance I turn on Elizabeth St and walk right by Albanese Meat market to see Moe sitting inside, I go in and greet him and chat a little about business and the weather. He’s in early on Saturdays as he supplies the restaurants before shutting down for the weekend. He’s always cheerful and happy, I often wonder what his secret his?
I move on to get my breakfast and wind up at Cafe Duke, a fancy name for a place that serves every kind of food you could want in separate stations- both hot and cold can be had. This place also doubles as a cyber cafe and has the mix of cuisine to please everyone. I order a bacon,egg and cheese on an everything bagel with utility coffee and wait for my order as the smells begin to drift about from various stations that are firing up the days offerings. It smells real good in here as food is being cooked in half a dozen places, who would have thought a place that’s not very attractive could be so appetizing. This is the kind of place that amazed my relatives from England in 2008, they have no English equivalent over there. I suggested they open one up and hire people to run it but they politely declined. My egg sandwich is nothing special but it’s still good and compared to a sign I saw advertising a $9.00 egg sandwich with truffles on it I think mine for $3.50 is as good as it has to be. I leave full and in search of my reason to be here today.
The sun is making today’s walk a little hotter than I would like but maybe it will burn the head cold out of me that hasn’t taken hold yet. I walk in the direction of the west side but stop when I see a girl getting off a Vespa, I walk over to make a little conversation about scootering in the city. I ask her about the safety issues of driving a scooter on NYC streets and she tells me that she’s had hers for years and never feels like she’s going to get mowed down by a truck, but also confesses that she stays away from big avenues at rush hour anyway. Big avenues really aren’t needed to get around in her orbit. She suggests that I look into buying one and tells me that it was a gift to herself for her 26th birthday. I wish her a happy birthday and she excuses herself to go about her business at the Vespa dealer nearby. I decide to move on without looking at them, I can’t afford one right now and of course the vintage one that I would like is the most expensive and hardest to find. I would like to go to Rivoli’s Pizza and have a slice, having just finished the painting of the storefront but I actually don’t have the address. It was weeks ago that I took that photo and I don’t remember. So I wander through familiar streets till I come to Broadway and see a strange and wondrous sight.
There are crowds gathered on the sidewalks watching dozens and dozens of skateboarders go south on Broadway! Each green light releases another group in all shapes and sizes and colors are coming in waves right alongside the traffic. Many are wearing their cameras taped to helmets or carrying small sticks with cameras running to video their run. The run of their lives! I don’t know why they are doing this but it is but I love it! I snap a few pictures and videos as they pass and am amazed to see some older guys in the mix and girls too. Up ahead a young guy stops and leans over, he’s sick and throws up a little bile. He apologizes and moves on but stops about six feet behind me and throws up for real. It’s pink in color and I figure he has a smoothie for breakfast, I wait till he done and offer him my unopened bottle of water. He gratefully accepts and begin washing out his mouth and drinking water to rehydrate. I ask him “What’s this all about?” puzzled.” Were going down to Wall St.” he says. “Oh to join the protest?” I ask knowingly. “No we just love skateboarding.” he says as he catches his breath. “I mean some are going there for that too.” he says. “Oh I see…where did you start out?” I ask curious. “Ah 116th street.” he says plainly. “Ah hundred and sixteenth street! I repeat astonished. That’s basically three quarters of the length of Manhattan! He offers me a few bucks for my water but I refuse, so he thanks me and turns off to join the ride again. It is then that I think the arrival of hundreds of young skateboarders could turn the protest into a free for all. So I decide to sit it out this time. The sad fact is that I could only stand around impotently for a few hours and go back home. I would then be protesting equivalent of a teeny-bopper from the sixties, spending the weekend as a hippie then going back to my real life. Essentially with all that’s going on at home and at work I could never live the life of a real political activist. The reality is that we can only muster a few signatures on a petition or two and then the powers that be just do what they want anyway. I am no advocate of violence but the only way to achieve change is through total rebellion, like the Star Wars saga. We would have to be funded, armed, organized, and military-like in our actions. Lets face it, a bunch of hipsters, latter day hippies, low level office workers, and housewives are not going to change anything. That might be a cop out but it’s the only one I got. I walk away to find refuge in my work.
I continue my walk and soon find myself on Laguardia Place by a happy accident. This is near where the French pastry shop Mille-Feuille is located, there is no way I’m not going in for a Macaron or two. I walk down a few streets and find it there between Bleeker and 3rd. Once inside the small shop I seek consultation on which is good today. The salted caramel and a rose are my choice with a decaf coffee-the caramel is the best. I excitedly tell the young staff about the skaters and between customers show them the video I made on my cell phone. They are suitably impressed and happy about it and I leave the shop in search of more pictures. It’s not easy to find good shots, either the lighting is wrong or there is a truck in the way but I persevere. I stop in a Spanish deli and look around, there is an amazing array of oils, olives, sausages of every kind and a whole Serrano ham being sliced paper thin for a customer who talks and waits as his meat is lovingly arranged on butcher paper. The owner offers me a tiny piece and it is magical melt-in-the-mouth good, but a $28 dollars a pound I’ll have to pass this time but I will be back to make some serious purchases some day. By now it’s getting on to about two in the afternoon and I’m hungry again. I wanted to try and find Rivoli Pizza after finishing the painting I felt it would be only right to be able to say I had eaten there once. But I can’t remember where it’s located exactly, so I go around the block to a place I passed before. Roma Pizza is doing one thing and doing it well, pizza on artisinal bread in the tradition of Rome. This is a slab of thinner crust pizza made in long rectangular pans, it’s nothing like Sicilian or Neapolitan or anything else I’ve seen in my life. I go in to a long counter bar with a dozen different pies, I’m greeted by the hipster pizza chef and he tells me what each one has for toppings. I pick the potato and sausage with hot pepper flakes and an imported Italian beer. The pie is cut into two large pieces with “chicken scissors” and brought to me at a small table by the wall. The bread is really nice but too soft for me I like my pizza crunchy, but at this point I just want to eat. I’m actually very hungry after hours of walking and taking pictures. The flavor of the toppings is very good, meaty sausage and cracked peppers provide a salty sharp counterpoint to the mild potatoes and smooth olive oil. It’s good but as usual I went for something I never saw before and I really should have gone with a cheese and tomato slice instead. By the time I was done however there was no room for a second slice. I paid my check and went to the back for a loo break before leaving, there was also an outside dinning area past the actual dinning room. I chatted with a couple from Pittburgh while waiting for my turn and after went back outside to walk the pavements once more.
I spent the rest of the afternoon so wrapped up in shooting that I didn’t actually write any more notes on the trip, and by the time I got on the train going home I was too tired to even try to remember all the places I’d been. This is very unusual for me and I regret now not being able to finish the story of today correctly. The pictures I took offered up about six good choices for my project, so on the whole it was a very good day.
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.
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.
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.
The artist Salvador Dali was born in Figeuras, Spain in the year 1904 and from the start was destined to be an artist, he made his first landscape painting at the tender age of six and although he originally wanted to be a chef because as he put it so often “I know what I’m eating, I don’t know what I’m doing” he abandoned that idea and by the age of ten he had already developed an understanding of art even declaring himself to be an Impressionist painter, to the amusement of his family.
But it was in school that Dali would have an experience with an image that would be repeated through his life. When he first observed a reproduction of Jean-Francoise Millet’s “The Angelus” which hung outside the door to Dali’s classroom (causing him to look at it obsessively every time the door was opened) this picture would change his life and his art forever. Millet painted pictures depicting the rough life of the peasant farmer and The Angelus portrays a man and a woman, standing with heads bowed facing each other a few feet apart. The man stands with hat in hand, his wheelbarrow and pitchfork standing idle nearby, and his wife has her hands clasped in front of herself . They give the appearance of praying but overall is a feeling that they must not take too long, there’s work to be done and they should pick up their tools and continue the long day of the fieldworkers but the real impact of the painting on Dali would not manifest itself until twenty years later when Dali was in the prime of his Surrealist powers.
Then in June of 1932 the image of The Angelus appeared in Dali’s minds eye, he said at the time “Without advance warning or any kind of conscious associations, the image was clear and colorful and dis-placed all other images.” The experience made a deep and devastating impression because even though his vision precisely matched all the reproductions he had seen, it seemed to him totally transformed, fraught with so powerful a latent intent that Millet’s painting suddenly struck him as the most bewildering, enigmatic, compact picture, rich in unconscious ideas that had ever been painted.
Dali would go on to paint numerous different versions of the figures used in Millets Angelus, in “Atavism at Twilight” the figure of the man has a skull face and the wheelbarrow is morphing out the back of his head while the pitchfork is sticking out the woman’s back! In another painting Dali introduces a coffin and claims to know that Millets original has the couple mourning over their dead child’s unmarked grave. They were also painted as tall ruined buildings in “Archaeological Reminiscences of Millets Angelus”(my personal favorite), and also used in Dali’s illustration of “Les Chants de Malador” and also to great effect in Dali’s woodcuts of Dante’s “Divine Comedy” which will be featured in Dali & Death-Part 2. This is a mere scratch at the coffin lid of Dali’s obsession with death and his use of death symbols in his work, and it’s very telling of how images seen as a child can penetrate ones mind and influence future events and work. Dali would even go so far as to paint a portrait of his dead brother who died before Dali was born!, and was never photographed as a child but Dali painted it from intuition!
But as always, Dali was way ahead of everyone else in his thinking and indeed when Millets original was x-rayed layer by layer years later, it was revealed that a “coffin like shape” was underpainted thinly on the canvas where Dali said it would be years before…in the space between the mourning couple under the ground at their feet!
In 2006, Shepard would publish “Supply & Demand” the quintessential book on his art, a coffee table tome with huge pictures covering all aspects of the man and his manifesto, now in it’s second printing. He would go on to have a big show at the Merry Karnowsky Gallery that year in October but he was just getting started, and the next eight months would find him working on his breakthrough pieces.
In June of 2007 he would open for the first time in New York City at the Johnathan Levine Gallery, his new show featured his most groundbreaking art to date. The show was titled “E Pluribus Venom” and was every bit a critical look at nationalism, the blind ambition of capitalism, and the ease with which we still go to war. The images were stunning, the print “Proud Parents” features a couple, dressed in early sixties attire holding a new baby ( but the baby is a bomb!) and the captions U.S. Treasurey-Bringing Dreams To Life, No Cents at the bottom and also has the phrases More Milliterry, Less Skools on the left hand and right hand sides respectively, the whole image looks like an old stamp from my parents younger days. The same couple are also featured standing on shore looking across the water at the city with it’s factories belching smoke into the air, and the caption at the bottom “These Sunsets Are To Die For!” also there was a second installation in Brooklyn, in DUMBO where the largest pieces were housed. It is said that South Park’s Matt Stone purchased a sixteen foot mural and another was bought by a German collector, in fact the show was sold out! During the remainder of 2007 Shepard would have his first London exhibit in November, called Nineteeneightyphoria and focusing on the culture of surveillance and in December he would be back at Merry Karnowsky’s to finish the year in Los Angeles.
But 2008 would prove to go beyond these previous triumphs and place him in the pages of history beyond art. When he got word from the Obama campaign people that they would welcome his input he decided to create a phenomenon. He started making posters featuring a portrait of Barack Obama with the words HOPE and CHANGE and PROGRESS at the bottom, done in his classic style with cool blues and vibrant reds and black they remind me of Andy Warhol’s portrait work. Shepard would make over 80,000 posters and 150,000 stickers for the campaign, and his print “Rock the Vote” certainly did. Then after winning the election, Barrack Obama himself would send Fairey a hand written letter thanking him for all his work and saying that his art” has a profound effect on people whether in a gallery or on the back of a stop sign.” In Setember of this year he also had a solo show in San Francisco’s WhiteWalls Gallery, entitled “The Duality of Humanity” featuring work in collaboration with legendary photographer Al Rockoff, and his images of the Vietnam War.
While he looks forward to the future, Shepard who has work in numerous collections including The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Baltic Center for Contemporary Art, New Castle, UK; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, can look back on his life and work with satisfaction. Since his beginnings in RISD to the sticker campaign, and the early struggle in skateborad shops silkscreening his original t-shirts. To being a founding member of BLK/MKT design studio in which he worked from 1997 to 2003 along with Dave Kinsey and Phillip DeWolff, to his Time interview in 2005, the triumph of his 2007 shows to his direct impact on the 2008 election, Shepard (who hasn’t made a dime off the Obama campaign) has done what few artists have done in the past.
What started out as an experiment in what the German Philosopher, Martin Heidegger called Phenomenology (the process of letting things manifest themselves) has evolved into a case study of a man and his art, and the world at large. I am happy to say that after starting my internet search for some hand signed art to invest in two years ago, I too have been able to make a nice collection of works by Shepard Fairey and I have stuck a few stickers up too. But most of all I have seen what art can do for an individuals sense of self, and I have learned many important lessons from Shepard that I can use in my own work. One of Shepards motto’s is “The Medium Is The Message,” but his message is and always will be-Keep your eyes and mind open…and question everything.