Glimpses #1: Germany, Italy

October 2, 2016

Originally intended as a small book, “Glimpses: In which a Casual Traveler Ruminates on Passing Scenes—1989-2011”, I should like to share it with my readers in a more informal manner as a series of Blogs.

Ranging across some distance around the globe including Europe, Asia —and closer to “home”—Canada and Barbados, in addition to these ‘hosting’ countries, I’d like to acknowledge the following friends and hosts (as well as countless clerks, guides, porters, fellow travelers—in brief, all those unnamed but not forgotten people in Japan, the Czech Republic, Belgium and Austria whose helpful presence often eased the hassles of travel): Heinrich J., Konstanze and Christian Jarczyk, Jacky Sparkowsky and Jorg Iwan, Gaby and Norman Wittmer (Germany); Piero Augustus Breccia (Italy); Chen Chi and Zu Min, Jason and Crystal ((college students)), Xue Jianhua and Shao Li Ke (China); Ann Mamok, Rick and Jo Canning (England); Isabel and Bertrand Azema (France); Laslo Fesus (Hungary); Barbara and Ronnie Gill (Barbados).

A note to the reader: I have not included dates in separate entries since most of these recollections have been gleaned months — if not years — after their occurrence, not a few popping into my mind during sleepless nights long after I had returned home from my travels.

Included will be some of my paintings & sketches as well as some photographs taken by Cornelia Seckel.

Gardens as seen from the trains in Germany

Gardens as seen from the trains in Germany

Germany: On a train from Cologne to Berlin: small, enclosed garden plots, many with tiny buildings (for the storage of tools?), most with a sitting area containing a bench, followed by open fields and larger farms. Such plots also flashed by my window in China and Japan, each time before and after the environs of large towns or cities. Do city/town dwellers come out here to these tiny, well-tended gardens on evenings and weekends? Does man ever fully divorce himself from the land? Stop putting his hands into the soil? What happens when he does?

Italy: Rome: Waiting at a bus-stop. Having just missed a bus on our way to Piero’s studio (where we were staying), we put down our packages to await the next. How long? We notice a church across the street. Why not? We enter and are astounded to discover that it contains Bernini’s “Ecstasy of St.Theresa”. No signs to give a clue! How many other hidden treasures have I blithely passed by on my way elsewhere? (Note: Pier ((Piero)) Augusto Breccia is an artist I met in NYC and whom I wrote about in ART TIMES).

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MERY ROSADO— To know her was to love her

December 2, 2014

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 wasMery awe mtg 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.


Believing Your Own Eyes

May 15, 2010

WHILE VIEWING THE exhibit, “Giovanni Boldini in Impressionist Paris” at The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, I overheard a woman say, “I know I’m not supposed to like them, but I love Boldini’s paintings!” I kid you not! How did we get to this pass? Just how far have we undermined the confidence of ordinary people to make them think that they cannot view art on their own terms? Unfortunately, although she might have been outspoken about her uncertainty on whether or not she “ought” to like the work of Boldini, she is surely not alone. Many are simply more hesitant to boldly state opinions and views on art — especially on art that they do not quite understand, or “get”. In fact, in the past 25 years or so that I’ve written for ART TIMES, I come across an increasing number of people who have opted out of dropping into art galleries and museums altogether simply because they claim to feel “confused”, if not, at times, downright “intimidated” by the exhibitions they see. So, where did this woman — and many of her counterparts — get the notion that we “ought” not trust our own eyes —  that we “ought” not like or prefer a certain style of art or, conversely, espouse something else? Where else, but having read it somewhere, presumably written by someone who was an “expert” in the business of looking at art! And just who, we might ask, are these so-called “experts”? I recently gave a talk on “The Art of Art Criticism”, a mini-lecture on the insubstantial ground that underlies all art criticism — in brief, that it is an art and not a “science” — and, as I often do in my presentations, made it a point to remind people that we give picture books to children because they do not know how to read — because looking at pictures is an inheritance all humans enjoy. Why have we forgotten that picture-making precedes by centuries word-making? Or that looking at and interpreting images has been going on since mankind became “mankind” — some even arguing that we became homo aestheticus simultaneously with becoming homo sapiens? Why have we lost sight of the fact that looking at images (“art”) is a “built-in” skill we all enjoy? As I emphasize in my lecture on Art Criticism, there simply are no infallible “experts” in the business. Kathleen Arfmann, Executive Director of the Salmagundi Club, NYC, recently directed my attention to an article in the New York Times (March 13, 2010), which featured the “New Guard” of curators that presently hold sway at many of our most prestigious art museums. Hailed by the Times’ writer as “The New Breed”, most are just breaking into their ‘30s, hardly seasoned enough to warrant the title of “expert” in matters of cultured taste. Granted they have an ever-growing audience for their tastes and anything-goes punditry, but comments like “fusty academics” in institutions that are “stuffy” or a “bit sleepy” coming from their “long years” of expertise starkly tell the tale. With such studied mindsets in place at the very dawn of their careers as arbiters of cultural taste, it is not difficult to imagine what they might have in store for us. Who can fault the confused woman up at The Clark Institute who simply did not want to come across as “fusty”, “stuffy”, or “sleepy”?  Since Boldini is anything but “cutting edge” it would be gauche — or even worse, “old-fashioned” — to admire his work, would it not? But, I wanted to shout out to this woman, “Please! Please! Enjoy the work! Trust your own sensibilities. It’s OK to be a bit fusty now and then! Really it is!” Of course, this squarely plumps me into one of those “sleepy” and “stuffy” categories…but then I am that. Still, I was 30 once — knew infinitely more than I know now — so who am I to point a finger? Of course there are new trends, new tastes, new things to engage the mind. And our institutions are correct to allow for these new points of view to be encouraged, touted, even supported. But is it necessary to peremptorily invalidate the past as “fusty”, “sleepy” or “stuffy”? Ought we make it necessary for viewers to be embarrassed by their choices? I offer a resounding NO! And let’s hope that poor woman regains her birthright of confidently looking at pictures once again. Let’s also hope that, as they grow into their responsibilities, these curators with their ready-made categories will eventually recognize that great art is timeless and that opinions, fads, and trends are only of their times, relevant only as long as the current tastes prevail.