EVERY NOW & then, I still run into someone who asks me why I tend to ignore ‘modern’ art and I always readily admit to a deep bias to all its myriad manifestations, trends, politics, movements, isms, agendas and earth shattering, mind-blowing, ‘cutting’ edges. I usually point out (if they seem truly interested in my ‘why’) that since its inception in 1984, ART TIMES has always tried to take what I call the “long view”, readily giving over our pages to the recognized past masters as well as those artists of today who follow in their footsteps, faithfully learning the ‘basics’ to produce equally ‘good’ art. My ‘bias’ stems from the knowledge that, historically, most ‘modern’ art was ‘born’ after World Wars I & II, both of which harshly revealed our feckless ‘morality’ and the cruel and senseless underbelly of our so-called ‘civilization’. Whether rightfully or not, philosophers, soothsayers, pundits, politicians, theologians — and, yes — even artists, aestheticians, and critics eagerly jumped on the bandwagon, proclaiming the world rotten, corrupt, meaningless, ugly, and just plain ‘shit’, and that it was the artist’s ‘duty’ to ‘tell it like it is’ and to quit producing ‘phony’ idyllic beauty. (Some months back, I participated in a small group show in which 3 or 4 representational works ((a few of my ‘idyllic’ landscapes included)) were hung alongside one non-representational artist who I overheard claim that she was the only “honest” artist there). ‘Isms’ and ‘ists’ abounded, all armed with manifestoes, rationalizations, apologies, catchy labels (“Dada”, Surrealism”, “Futurism”, Suprematism, “Cubism”, “Fauvism”, “Constructionism”, “Op”, “Pop”,”Outsider”, etc., etc. etc.), and justifications as to why it’s ‘hip’ for artists to produce crap henceforth. Discrediting classicism and classicists, they succeeded in convincing artists that even human excretion in a jar or a crucifix in urine is not only ‘art’ but relevant ‘art’. Persuading an uncultured and aesthetically-ignorant moneyed class to patronize such ‘art’ was easy — after all, middlemen had been serving clueless and wealthy royalty as art ‘pundits’ since they saw how easy it was to convince Catherine the Great (and her father, Peter) to buy ‘art’ by the truckload, because whatever it ‘meant’, collecting ‘art’ showed the world that they were ‘cultured’ (Peter’s only direction to his middlemen was “Don’t buy bad art.”) One need only weed out substantives (nouns) that purport to define what you are seeing from the adjectives, conjunctions, adverbs, modifiers and ‘fluff’ that professional art bloviators freely employ to ‘magnify’ their ‘criticisms’ so that they can earn their ‘cut’ of the profits. Well, I’ve tried to avoid touting stuff I don’t believe in (or even like) in ART TIMES merely to appear ‘au courant’. To be blunt, I just don’t care about your angst, your anger, your politics, your agendas, issues, hot buttons. fetishes or feigned inscrutability, nor want visual renditions of same on my walls. I want my life enhanced by viewing ‘good’ art and not reading about it ala some bloviator’s hyped jargon. To me, ‘crap’ in a jar is still ‘crap’ and, if I want such negatives in my life, there’s always prime time news that can supply it ad nauseum. ART TIMES has managed to survive with its benighted views for over 30 years, witnessing several “hip slicks” come and go during our tenure — so why fix what ain’t broke?
TO KNOW HER was to love her — but then, I might be a bit biased. Over the years, as we got to know each other better, she became my “Puerto Rican Princess” and I, her “”Pseudo Rican Boyfriend”. It was hard not to like Mery — she was open, amiable, accepting, always welcoming as you entered her “Mezzaluna”, displaying a joie d’vivre that was infectious and heart-warming. I don’t remember when it was I first came to her Cafe Bistro Latina, but once was enough to hook me for evermore. After a huge hug, she would always lead me to a corner, out-of-the-way table, where she knew I preferred to be alone, most usually with a book open before me alongside of one of her delicious cappuccinos. Since I rarely varied my routine, people used to whisper about the ‘snob’ off in the corner — enough times for Mery, always the joyful host, named my favorite drink the “snobbucino” — which ever after became a widely known ‘joke’. “Snobbucino?” she would call out from behind the counter and I would invariably answer “Yes, please” from my corner of the Cafe. It didn’t take long for others — mostly friends of mine — to come to Mery’s and ask for a “snobbucino”; “Ah,” she would say, “you know my Boyfriend?” Even more than our cordial friendship, however, to the community at large — especially the creatives (artists, musicians, stand-ups, etc.) — Mery was known as a force for good. Restaurateur, Inn-Keeper, Real Estate Rep — even an erstwhile Wall Street Trader — to many she was a steady friend of the arts, opening her Cafe to open-mic Musicians and performers on the weekends and her spacious walls to artists’ exhibitions from near and far (I attended more than a few Opening Receptions at Mery’s, including two of my own). Her many friends — and the surrounding communities of Saugerties and Woodstock (some even as far as NYC and Pennsylvania) — will sorely miss Mery; I know that I surely will. She was one of a kind and an all-too rare phenomenon in the population of our world.