#19 Berlin, Amsterdam

January 17, 2018

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.

Painting on Silk by Silke

Painting on Silk by Silke

Germany: Berlin: During one of my visits to our friends Jacky and Jörg, Jörg introduced me to his young cousin Silke, an artist who made delicate paintings on silk (an appropriate ground for a woman named Silke!). I spent an afternoon with her at her apartment to watch her at work, snapping photos of her as she applied her brush to the stretched panel of silk, her boyfriend hovering nearby all the while. (Silke is a beautiful young woman, and I could sense how uneasy he was to have a man spending so much time with her in her studio). How delighted I was, when some weeks after our return to the States, I received a small card of thanks from her with one of her original silk paintings enclosed!

Holland: Amsterdam On the suggestion of the artist Françoise Gilot whom I had met and wrote about in ART TIMES, I sought out the gallery that represented her in that country. The gallery, located on the main canal, was a handsome building, the owner welcoming and pleased that I had taken the trouble to visit. Her English was excellent, and I commented on that fact. “Oh, I lived in America for awhile — mostly in New York State. Both in Manhattan and in a small upstate town.” “Oh,” I said. “Where upstate?” “Woodstock,” she said. “I visited and stayed with some friends there.” “It wouldn’t have been the van Hamels, by any chance?” I asked. “You know them?” she asked. “Oh yes. Manette and Dick have been friends for some time. I know her as an artist,” I added. “I’ll have to tell her that I met you.” “Please do,” she said. “Will you be visiting their son while you are here?” “I didn’t know they had a son,” I said. “I only know her daughter, the prima ballerina, Martine van Hamel.” “Oh, but you must stop in and say hello to him. He lives on a barge just down the canal from here.”

Meeting up with Cornelia who had been visiting the Anne Frank House while I was at the gallery, I told her about my visit and we decided to look up the van Hamel son. We did not find him at his barge but at a nearby gallery where he was setting up a show. When we knocked, he opened the door and we said, “Your mother says hello!” Surprise, and then amusement as we shared our story with him. Another pleasure when we returned to share the whole story with Dick and Manette back in Woodstock.

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THE SKETCH BOOK

December 31, 2012

ALTHOUGH THEY ARE displayed now and then —usually tucked inside a vitrine that features memorabilia — at a retrospective of some noted artist, the humble “sketch book” is more often than not overlooked, neglected, passed over as insignificant in an artist’s life and work. True, they are usually dog-eared, travel-worn, and pocket-sized, but, at least for me, sketch books rank very high as offering some of the most revealing insights I can ever get while I sit in some artist’s studio trying to garner enough material for a Profile— and besides, I learn so much about art! Of course I “take in” the artist’s studio surroundings (which tell me a lot) and listen to their words (which tell me a lot less), but when I get the chance to take a peek into a sketch book or two — well it’s something like looking into a diary. So private are many artists’ sketch books, that they often hesitate — even refuse — to allow me a perusal. Some keep them out of sight, hidden in drawers, far away from my ‘prying’ — “close to the chest” like some poker player hiding his pair of aces — and thus I am often deprived of those insights that ‘flesh out’ my finished Profile (not to mention not being able to “flesh out” my knowledge and understanding of art). By now, most artists are familiar with my work and know that I am not ‘in the business’ of publishing “tell-alls” that can mean-spiritedly embarrass people and titillate others. Most now know that I am indeed probing — but only to uncover the source(s) of their creative spirit/output (as I note above, many artists — rightly so —are unable or unwilling to translate their work into words). I say “rightly so” since (I’ve found) the glibber they are, the less are they genuine artists. And, I say “genuine” because there are a great many talented (and untalented)  craftspeople that know how to “sell” their work and few “real” artists who are aware that “art” (images) and “language” (words) are two    different means of communication. Paul Cadmus, for instance, a most articulate individual on many topics never strayed into discussion of his art — except to point out a drawing he had done as a child while saying, “My de Kooning period”. Anyway…early on in my interviews (I’ve been doing them for over 30 years) it was not always easy for me to get an artist to hand over their “diaries.” Two that stand out in my mind are Robert Angeloch and Françoise Gilot — first, because they were so reluctant (at first) and, second, because (after they gave in) their sketch books were so enlightening, giving obvious clues to their finished work. Gilot’s was particularly interesting in that her tiny books were not only full of drawings, but also poems, and comments in what little margins were available; Angeloch’s less ‘chatty’, but full of annotations as to color and what the finished product might or ought to look like ‘compositionally’ (not sure that’s a word) thus, often side-by-side sketches of the same scene. Another that stands out in my memory was the sketch book / journal of Elizabeth Mowry (PSA) — not for her reluctance to share it (she readily showed it to me) but for its sheer beauty. At the time (1986), I urged her to publish it but do not know if she ever did (it contained notes and drawings of the plants, flowers, and shrubbery around her property made during the time her husband was house-bound and she could not leave him alone ). Nowadays, instead of refusals, I often get a “Why?” or “What for?” before sketch books are slipped out of drawers or nearby cabinets and handed over. And when they are…