Sidewalk Portrait

Sidewalk Portrait

While walking around the Lower East Side the other day, I stumbled upon this sidewalk portrait…who doesn’t appreciate a well-executed sidewalk portrait?!? (well, probably not the owner of the 7-Eleven where the art was located). The material appears to be black paint and very permanent. The subject, location and simplicity were so unexpected, which made me smile and wonder who created it.

The Monuments Men

While binging on several films at the theater today, I previewed a trailer for an upcoming film, “The Monuments Men” based on the book, The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History. I am excited about reading the book (ideally, before I see the film)…this line from the film set my heart on fire, and is probably the most profound statement [about art and culture] that I’ve heard all week:

“You can wipe out an entire generation, you can burn their homes to the ground and somehow they’ll still find their way back. But if you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements and it’s as if they never existed. That’s what Hitler wants and that’s exactly what we are fighting for”


Life Imitating Art Imitating Life


I remember when I first saw “The King’s Speech” at the theater in 2010. I was enamored by the production design of Eve Stewart, and that gloriously painted wall. Overall, the film was a brilliant example of how people overcome challenges, and that not alone.

I found this video on Open Culture which depicts the journey of a young man with a similar challenge as that of King George VI–he has a stammer–and how, with the help of his teachers, he was able to be successful in high school. I have been thinking a lot about education processes; how people learn, motivation and just as importantly, what hinders success.

As a proponent of life-long learning, I really enjoyed watching this video and experiencing a small part of this young man’s evolution. I am reminded that among other things, great educators:

1) Nurture confidence in their students

2) Expect the best of their students

3) Create solutions WITH their students

4) Watch movies


Throwing Pottery Isn’t Sexy


If your first thought of throwing pottery involves a certain scene featuring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore from the movie “Ghost“, I hate to disappoint you, but it’s nothing like that. Throwing pottery is an incredibly physical process–but not in a sexy kind of way. The goal is to control the clay just enough to create the desired form but not to overwork the clay. The process is labor intensive and difficult, requiring focus, precision, control AND flexibility. From beginning to end, there are several steps involved:

1) Acquiring the clay – Some artists find their own clay sources from the earth, but clay can also be purchased, ready to use.

2) Wedging – The purpose of this step is to create uniformity and consistency in the clay body, eliminating air bubbles.

3) Throwing – Developing the shape of the piece on the pottery wheel.

4) Trimming – Removing excess from the bottom of the piece to create a finished look.

4) Glazing – Glazes are applied on the “bisque-fired” piece (fired at a relatively low temperature)…this is the most mysterious step as the glazes look completely different when they’re applied than when they’ve been “fired”

5) Firing – The piece is cured in a kiln (an extremely hot oven) to make it impenetrable and permanent.

I have created lots of pieces within the past few months. Right now, I am experimenting with glazes and color gradation. While I enjoy each stage–there is something uniquely cathartic about the throwing process, and it is overwhelmingly exciting to see the finished result.

Ok, so maybe it’s a little sexy.

Fashion in Portraiture

It’s a natural pairing, fashion and portraiture. With the exception of nudes, the inclusion of fashion has been prevalent in portraits for hundreds of years. As in life, I am particularly drawn to the unique, masterfully constructed, personable sartorial qualities in portraits. During a visit to the Met’s newly renovated American Wing a few days ago, I was drawn to this portrait by Thomas Anshutz, entitled A Rose. The most immediate thing that drew me in was this magnificent dress in a beautiful shade of red. The delicate and intricate detailing in the yoke, the voluminous skirt and that color! (Did I already mention that?). After closer study, I became more intrigued by the expression on the subject’s face, one of annoyed compliance. Admittedly, the rose was the last thing I noticed. Perhaps it was Anshutz’s goal for the rose to play second fiddle to the real rose. I really enjoy speculating about the subject of portraits. People are so complex and multidimensional, there is no way to create any 2-dimensional work that inhabits the spirit of a person–it’s impossible and yet it is the aim of the portrait artist. A perfect pursuit.

Chuck Close

"Lucas" 1986-87

Oil and pencil on canvas
Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York

A painting by one of my favorite artists of all time, Chuck Close. His mastery of realism is nothing short of incredible. In this painting, I am especially drawn to his use of color and brush work. Unlike his earlier portraits, this work exhibits a more free approach. He still maintains control but there is a certain joyous, relaxed quality–how he situates color to mimic variations in light reflected from the skin is brilliant, the exposed pencil marks gives a glimpse of the process while maintaining its polish. Even the subject, Lucas–with his intense focus, seems unconstrained.