#24 Paris, Narita

February 22, 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 accessible from our website.

France: Paris: Walked the famous flea market and while at a booth that featured posters, found a small piece of paper stuck to the back of one of the posters I was turning over. Gently peeling it off, I discovered it was a page from a sketchbook that contained three separate pencil drawings: two small portraits with some inscriptions in French beneath each and an oval landscape alongside. The landscape had immediately attracted my eye and I asked the vendor what he wanted for it. He glanced at the drawing and said “Twenty francs.” I knew he did not even know the drawing had been there before I discovered it and thought I might do better. “It isn’t signed. Do you know who did it?” I asked. He pretended to study it and finally said, “No.” “I’ll give you ten for it,” I said. A Gallic shrug and an unspoken acceptance. I still have no idea who did the drawing, but have since been able to decipher the writing by dredging up my old college-day French lessons. I have not figured out who the upper figure is, but the lower one is obviously Dumas (as confirmed by the words below the drawing). One more treasure for my walls back home!

Japan: Narita: Taking advantage of a few hours layover on our way to Beijing, Cornelia and I stroll through the town, a small guide book in our hands. We were looking for a small monastery, unable to decipher signs along the way. Totally lost, we stopped a young woman to ask for directions — language difficulties! We pointed out the place in our brochure, but she looked at us helplessly as she had no words to tell us how or where to go. Suddenly a car pulled up and a large smile appeared as she beckoned us to get into the back seat as she slid next to the woman behind the wheel. A bit taken aback, we got in and, with the driver’s (her mother, it turned out) limited English, were told that it was easier to take us where we wanted to go rather than try to give us directions. How nice to be treated so hospitably by complete strangers!

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Raymond J. Steiner owns up

October 7, 2017

ALTHOUGH IN RECENT issues of ART TIMES I’ve not contributed much in the way of profiles, reviews, or critiques on the current art scene, “art” is seldom far from my thoughts and interests in what’s ‘going on’ out there. I see the announcements, daily receive press releases and, though I avoid the telephone, my Publisher and Partner Cornelia Seckel keeps me apprised of the more than many phone calls from galleries and art-reps who advise me “you gotta see this show!” Truth is, I frankly don’t see or hear about many exhibits that I oughtta see. It’s true that my health and stamina are on the decline and I rarely travel other than to present myself to the growing list of MDs that I oughtta see, the market — and I emphasize the work market—rarely entices me to take up my time to travel there to browse their wares. Too many modern ‘isms’, trends, ‘hot’ exhibits, and such on the present art-scene leave me aesthetically, intellectually and spiritually cold and totally uninterested at the core. Don’t get me wrong—I know there are good artists out there (I know many of them and try to keep in touch), but the hyper-bloviating successfully keeps them in the dark and drowning in the deafening noise of ‘what’s new!” Those of you who’ve followed me through our 30+ years of publishing know my feelings about the deluge of political-based, gender-based, race-based, self-expressionist-based—the whole range of “ism”-based—‘art’ that has overwhelmed plain, old art-based art. I have always believed that art ought to be life-enhancing and not a mere political tool. Artwriters no longer dare to even define what ‘art’ is. Pundits such as Danto have already pro-claimed that ‘art’ is dead. So my dear artist-friends who still attempt to put heart, spirit, and meaning into your work, don’t stop fighting the good fight. History moves on…it always does…and genuine appreciation of culture will come back, and maybe I can’t travel much anymore and you’ve been left in the dark, but if not you than your work will see the future.

 

By Raymond J. Steiner


…and Winter will be cold as — usual.

September 9, 2016

Well, Spring has sprung, Fall has fell…and Winter will be cold as — usual. Fall, or Autumn, or Indian Summer — whatever you choose to call it — is my favorite time of year up here in the Catskills. I can breathe freely, imagine I can see forever in the air’s clarity, and generally find it the Season to “get it together” since Old Man Winter has mostly kept me indoors these latter years — to sit, to read, to mull, to assess, to look back, to sink even lower into my much-loved solitude and get myself prepared for the next phase of this thing called “Life.” My “doings”— especially those related to my editor/artwriter duties for ART TIMES — have been severely curtailed for some time now — so many exhibition receptions I have missed, so many worthy artists still to be profiled, so much…ah, well.

Perhaps I may even get out to try to capture just-one-more autumnal scene of magical color on a small piece of canvas before the cold sets in, the snow covers all, and I plump up the pillows on my easy chair…another pipe dream, I guess, since here I am in my 83rd year and haven’t managed to do a painting that really “gets it” yet. My usual excuse is simply, “I’m a writer — not a painter!” True, but then I haven’t managed to capture the mysteries of Nature — or of those artists who do get it — in words either.

The “human condition”* sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. Anyway, the dénouement can’t be that far off — I’ve already put in for a front-row seat. Hope I’ve earned the privilege of that much-vaunted overview promised by our theologians upon our “phexit” (physical exit)…however, I’ll be happy with that 6th-century Chinese (Han Yu) poet’s observation: “Better a long-dark silence, than a life full of lies.”

* The best description of which I found in Gaius Plinias Secundus’ (more commonly referred to as “Pliny the Elder”) Chapter 7 of Natural History.

(High Woods, NY. September 2016)


Zero to One Hundred

August 18, 2016

(Some notes on the Saugerties Artists Studio Tour 2016)

 

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Raymond J. Steiner and a visitor during the Saugerties Artists Tour

Well, for those of you who already put up with my complaints (spoken or written. See, e.g. October 2013 Online “Peeks and Piques!) and frankly tired of it, here I go again. As I’ve done for about the last 10 years (+ or —), I — or more strictly, Cornelia — signed up again for the Annual Saugerties Artists’ Tour, allowing my inner sanctum to be once more invaded by visitors from near and afar over a weekend (this year, Sept 13, 14). An ‘isolatoe’, a hermit, a curmudgeon who cherishes solitude and isolation (why I live on a dead-end road in the middle of nowhere, for God’s sake!), I am never easy with more than one or two visitors at a time — and preferably none. Cornelia tells me there were about 50 people on each day…hence my ‘title’ above. A writer who enjoys daubing landscapes when the dreaded “block” halts my thought process (more and more often, I’m afraid), I am not entirely easy to ‘strut my stuff’ for the curious…my “oeuvre” therefore is merely a personal catalogue of my writer’s block “breakthroughs”, a ‘diary’ of sorts of where my head was at that time. As you’ve all heard ad nauseum, I’m a writer and NOT a painter… so I won’t bore you by droning on and on…again. Rather, I’d like to admit (full disclosure here) that almost every time I succumb to Cornelia’s urging (and threats of no dinner) I often am treated to some ‘upsides’ during the ordeal — collateral boons, you might say. For example, some old friend ‘pops up’, or a niece or nephew — in this case, a brilliant ex-student who himself became a teacher due (he says) to “my” ‘influence’. So, it wasn’t all downhill this time — in spite of the 3-day headache that followed the weekend (including right now as I write this thing). Anyway…a few of my ‘diary entries’ managed to sneak out of my sanctorum. I hope they bring the respite they gave me when I daubed them.

High Woods, NY, 8/17/2016.

 


“SIDE BY SIDE”

August 8, 2016

The past several years have brought on enough ailments (hand surgery, etc.) to hold me back from much of my duties as Editor/Artwriter for ART TIMES but also interfered with a good deal of my “play” time. Often, when I ran into writer/word-blocks, I would gaze out my study window and suddenly be entranced by a mesmerizing view — the sun glinting off a rock, a bush, Indian Summer colors — whatever — which made me grab a canvas, some colors, brushes and stuff and dash outside to “capture” whatever I was (or thought I was) seeing. I live in High Woods, NY which is indeed a place of “high” woods and I am surrounded by Mom Nature in all her untrammeled beauty — and so my forays outdoors usually end up as a “landscape”. Click here for RJS DMB show Brochure.

Since I schmear outside I am therefore sometimes referred to as a plein air landscape painter…. a pretty lofty title for a writer who finds daubing in oils a respite from over-thinking. Consequently, and to make a short story long, my outside excursions have also been curtailed by uncooperative body parts (BTW: if we are supposed to be earth’s animal #1, how come our Creator gave all our body parts different expiration dates? Annoying!).

On the upside of all this complaining, for the past couple of years I’ve had my sister’s eldest daughter periodically “dropping in” to urge me to give a few painting “tips”…. A late starter (as was I) she has been bitten by the “schmear bug” and wants to play in oils. Enter “Unka Ray”. For the past 2 years, she has managed to put a fire under my tush to go outside and paint! So we have been; and do from time to time. We’ve managed (or she managed) to do it enough times to “amass” enough of an “oeuvre” for her to get the idea of a joint showing at a local bank, The Mid-Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union, in Woodstock, NY.

Hence, “Side by Side”, a taste of which is here shared with you. On the really up side is the fact that she has gotten me off my easy chair enough times now, that I find I can even go out alone again to shut off the mind-machine and go out and play. Brava Diane Baker!


Lev Shalem Opening

May 24, 2016

IMG_3841AS A MEMBER of the “Hudson Valley School of Sunday Afternoon Painters” I was pleased to see one of my plein air landscapes accepted and hung alongside so many professional artists when I attended the Opening Reception of “The Art of Summer” this Sunday (May 22) at the Gallery Lev Shalem, Woodstock Jewish Congregation, Woodstock, NY wjc.shul.org. Curated by Kim Borelli Butwell, former owner of The Connoisseur Gallery in Rhinebeck, NY, “The Art of Summer”, featuring a wide array of 40+ paintings, photographs, prints, paper and fiber art, mosaic, ceramic and mixed media, presented an eye-catching panorama of color and shape.

IMG_3842Tastefully spaced and hung by the WJC Art Committee, the potpourri of artwork was more than well-served in their bright, well-lit gallery…inviting to both the art and to the steady stream of viewers that kept the large hall buzzing with gazing, commentary and frequent visits to two large nosh-filled tables that were conveniently placed in the center of the room for easy reach. This was not the first exhibition that I visited at the Lev Shalom Gallery (and, in fact, was represented in a few of these earlier shows), but this was my first Opening Reception (as many know, I tend to avoid crowds) and, as I noted above, I was more than a bit puffed-up by rubbing space and elbows with so many ‘professionals’ — and honored that this old autodidact was so warmly accepted. You might want to stop in at the gallery on 1682 Glasco Tpk. In Woodstock, NY and take a look for yourself — the exhibition will be up until August 22. Gallery Lev Shalem Facebook Page


HUH?

December 20, 2015

MANY YEARS AGO, sometime back in the mid-eighties, Ted Denyer (a Woodstock artist) and I were walking and talking, wandering in the environs of his Mount Tremper studio/home, finally coming to a small bridge where we stopped and hung over the rail to watch the light play on the rippling stream that flowed beneath us. Eventually (of course), our conversation turned to art in general, pursuing the never-ending question of just what the word ‘art’ means. How to decide if it’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’? How do we assess it? Who are the ‘genuine’ artists? Who are the ‘fakers’, the ‘charlatans’, the ‘wanna-be’s’? What does it mean, at bottom, to be an artist? Who’s to judge? Why must, or ought, we judge? And if we do so, by what criterion? By who’s principles or standards? The artist’s? The viewer’s? The critic’s? Won’t the artist be ‘biased’? We rambled on for some time and, at one point, Ted commented, “When a viewer goes to a museum or gallery and is ‘stopped’ by a certain painting, he or she usually pauses for a second-look. But when they step closer and note that ‘Oh, that’s a dock with some people walking on it…and there, a little off shore, are small sailing boats’ — when this happens,” Ted continued. “the viewer has stopped looking at the painting and is now looking at the picture.” “So what ‘stopped’ them in the first place,” I asked. “I’m not sure,” he replied. Then suggested, somewhat Jungian, that “Perhaps shapes, colors? Something that attracted some inner, instinctual predilection or past memory?” Hmmmmm. Well, reader, what’s your answer? Is it something deeply buried within our memories or genes that attracts? Something that ‘hits our gut’ or moves our ‘spirit’? Is it, as the artist may suggest, the technique? The play of lights and darks, the brushstrokes, the overall ‘composition’? The price tag? Around the same time that I was rambling with Ted, I visited another Woodstocker, Karl Fortess, a cantankerous curmudgeon whom I grew to like very much (kindred souls, I guess) and who was friends with the Soyer Brothers Raphael and Moses (who once did a portrait of Karl that I own and cherish*), Jack Levine, Philip Reisman and other ‘Social Realists’, and while visiting Karl I rather off-handedly asked him how long he had been an artist. Karl exploded. “Don’t call me an artist goddam it! I’m a painter! Nowadays, anybody can call himself an ‘artist’ and go out in the woods, pee on three trees, and call it his ‘thing!’ Today canning peaches is considered an artform for chrissake. Won’t be long,” he predicted, “that we’ll see macramé on the Woodstock Artist’s Association’s gallery walls!” Oh, he’s probably been spinning in his grave for some time now, since his prediction has proven oh, so right! So, if Karl wasn’t an ‘artist’ what or who is? Hard to tell nowadays since “artists” have learned that if you can’t make the grade you simply change the rules. You concoct a ‘manifesto’ or new ‘-ism’ so that your work can compete and then get some hypster to drum it up. Must we, in the end, depend on the critic to tell us what we ‘see’, what we ‘like’, whether or not what is displayed is really ‘art’ created by a bona fide ‘artist’? I was once at an exhibition of the Italian Impressionist Giovanni Boldini at the Clark Museum in Connecticut, when I overheard one woman tell another, “I know I shouldn’t like this stuff, but I love his work!” Shouldn’t? Huh? What many ought to realize is that all ‘criticism’ or ‘judgment’ — or whatever you want to call it — is nothing more than opinion (I’ve harped on this before, too). Granted that there is opinion and then there is opinion — when we feel that sharp twinge in our chest we probably head for a doctor rather than a plumber or our gardener for an ‘opinion.’ Some opinions are simply more valid, trustworthy, more grounded in study, education and reliability. Some people do know what they are talking about. The trick is to choose the right ‘expert’ to lead you, to inform you, to give you confidence in making up your own mind. All I’m suggesting – ‘opining’ if you will — is that fame, hype, and price are not always trustworthy defining factors when it comes to judging ‘art’ and ‘artists’.

*BTW: I also have a bronze head of Raphael sculpted by Rhoda Sherbell, which I also dearly love and cherish!