Monday, September 28, 2009

Moss on Park Row

September 28, 2009. Out for lunch and I came across nature doing what it does, asserting itself into the spaces left open for it, reminding us how easily it can move back in. Here, continuing the prongs of tar between cracked cement, encircling that tiny bit of cement, adding contrast to it and creating an unbroken line back and beneath the wall that separates it from the forces of man and building. Quiet, unassuming, soft moss. It covers over the hardness of our urban materials.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

September 27, 2009. On 43rd & 3rd I went into a bare storefront space for the Recession Art Sale. There were many beautiful works, and if you go to The Art Point, you can see the names of many of the artists involved. Of particular interest to me though, was this work by Charles Seplowin. Along with this large piece, were half a dozen smaller works. It looked like he warmed, twisted and molded metal into fantastic shapes that metal shouldn't be able to achieve. There were two, Batik and Gutter, that I especially liked. The shapes, the curves and sharpness of the angles. And then I found out they are made of styrofoam! The play of the forms in the light, the raised edges and then the smoothing back out to a flat plane. I loved these pieces.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

September 26,2009. The 13th annual DUMBO Art Under the Bridge Festival. This is the first time I’ve been here. After an endless trek up stairs, through a bleak corridor, and up more stairs, we emerged into a beautiful afternoon to find that our subway entrance was being protected by two silent sentinels, a Swiss guard maybe, enmeshed in yarn. They stood silent, unmoving, like some secret military supermen, this one in green. He must have been sewn into the suit, which covered his entire body, but I don’t think he was ready to give up the secret. No one seemed particularly afraid of yarn man, but how could you when yarn is so often used in such comforting domestic applications like scarves, hats and blankets? The allure of a man in uniform.

Standing in the Brooklyn Bridge Park you can peer up at the inspiring Manhattan Bridge, a suspension bridge opened in 1909. What a structure. The massive supports, the cables stretching, the roadway, all of it dwarfing everything around it. How it must have played on the minds of those watching it being constructed. And then there is the latticework of supports - all angles, half circles, and straight lines. From the ground it looks so delicate and ornamental, but at eye level, the steel must be broad and functional. I never think of the color as drab, and I like how it always fits to its purpose and lets you focus on the design against the ever changing backdrop of the sky, which is now turning partly cloudy – Simpsons clouds says my friend Keith.

This is the last work that we saw as we ended our day. It was the second image of Hendrix for the day. I didn’t take a picture of the first, which was drawn using the lyrics to his songs, words & image. In this nook in the wall, everyone wanted to get involved. The larger image has started to weather, Ganesh and lotus blossoms beginning to wear under the elements, but the Hendrix portrait remains strong. On the ledge is a shrine with images of a beloved pet, a man holding the pet, coins and other offerings and mementos added that have an implied meaning we can only add to by way of our own experience. These memorials spring up around the world as part of our grieving when the body leaves our realm. Then there is the cutout to the left, of people around a table, like a family photograph. We can imagine our own choices on this grouping. Who are the adults, whose children are these? Someone wanted to remember this gathering, or did they just get a new camera? Finally, Short Jewish Girl adds her tag to the assembly, leaving us a mark to say that she had been here too. This nook in the wall has room for everyone.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Commuter Angst at 23rd

September 25, 2009. You've got to feel sorry for this traveller. We've all been there. I missed my train and I'm now going to be late for my interview. I left my favorite jacket on that subway that is now leaving the station. The artist caught the comic gravity of these situations - these things are not the worst thing that can happen to us, but at the moment they seem so important. We have an emotional response that outweighs the real situation. But his frustration is so great that defacing a transit station is ok, screaming out loud seems like a good thing to do, scaring the hell out of anyone passing by is a valid resonse. Perspective. We need to cultivate it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


September 24, 2009. Off to the dentist for a new tooth. On the way back I took a detour and passed by 59 Maiden Lane, the second place we moved our offices to after 9/11 and before we came back to our headquarters. Across the street from 59 stands a beautiful work by Louise Nevelson. The site is now under construction, and I am looking forward to seeing how the new plaza will look when it is done, still anchored by this magnificent sculpture. It was fun to see it wrapped in this ribbon of color, probably to hide the worksite - to try to make the space look 'brighter'. But I find the anticipation of a work site exciting in itself. How will the final space look, will I like it, will I want to come here, will I smile as I walk past, will it add to the city-scape? How wonderful to see the arcs and curves and hanging boxes in such stark contrast to the repitition of shape and line of the nearby buildings. And painted black, the color of choice, then beribboned in the beautiful yellow, lavender, pink and blue. Was it unintended or by design?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bird on a Wire

September 22, 2009. Tuesday night, haircut night. And I'm back in the East Village, close to Tompkins Square Park. High up on a signpost is this image. A bird perched on a branch, bent low and looking forward. It isn't warbling, its poised. Is it to strike, for flight, or rest? And is the dripping red as ominous as it portends and what statement is our artist making? I can't infer from what I see here. Maybe it is the expected gloom of winter coming with the first day of fall.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


September 19, 2009. Another morning walk and I came across these pods at the turn off to the J.B. Majerus family farm, currently farmed by my cousin Kathy, her husband Hank and their family. These pods are so spooky, like something otherworldly will burst forth from them, when we least expect it. They have an uneven casing, that gives an image of being spikey, and makes you shy away from touching it. At the same time, they are so wierd, that you can't help but be drawn to them.

Lamb on a Block

September 18, 2009. In the last several years I've started visiting the cemetaries where my ancestors are buried. I usually go with my mom and we water the urns that she and my sister have planted and placed. It has made me more attentive to displays of devotion to the creator and our attention to those that came before us and where their bodies now rest. Some of the inscriptions are heart breaking, others attest to a long life, with a strong family line.


September 17, 2009. On my morning walk, along a country road near Bellechester, Minnesota, I spyed this - the ancient art of weaving. Beautiful, site specific and useful. Using only a beak, a bird is able to weave this incredible structure, supported by three weeds, and it resists the battering or wind, rain and the periodic gusts of passing of traffic. How it maintains is tenuous grasp is amazing to me.

Wanted - Bandito

September 14, 2009. This Wanted poster is in a bedroom at my mother's. It was drawn by her youngest grandson, Lee John. A few things - I like the sweep if the cowboy hat. Oversized and dramatic, just right for the bandit bad guy. And what cowboy boots would be complete without heels. I think it is interesting that those details register at the age of 4.

View from a Covered Bridge

September 12, 2009. Covered bridge in Zumbrota, Minnesota. As a youth I gave it no attention. As a man, my friends wanted to see it, and once inside its protective walls, I began to have a remembrance of it. From its deeply inset windows you can peer out over a meandering stream, which I know can rage with spring floods. I saw pastoral fields, much like R.E. York did in 1915. I wonder who he/she was with such a precise and extravagant signature.

Christmas Ken

September 12, 2009. This is what I did for the day after September 11. My sister-in-law's exhibit went up at the Zumbo River Art Splash. It was the reason I traveled to Minnesota this season, along with the constant of visiting my family. She brought portraits of family members and pets, and still lifes of fruit and fauna. I like her work for its colors, often soft and hazy in its overall impact, until you get close. She displayed a trio of plums, glistening with rain and vibrant with a red that I never expected. She looks for, and captures, that moment that resonates. One of my nieces thinks that every home needs a Ludwig.

Friday, September 11, 2009

SEPTEMBER 11, 2009

September 11, 2009. Today I am reminded about my concern and worry about the men who ran the coffee carts around our office on 9/11. If I remember right, their carts were swept away in the confusion and horror. But Kasim came back, whole and smiling, when we returned to our offices in April 2002. He didn’t want to move forward to the window, but that’s ok. This is how I know him. He’s proud of his enterprise.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sharif on Park Place

September 10, 2009. I see faces. Everyday, from the time I wake up, until I go to bed, I am surrounded by faces of infinite variety and form. I like them. I have portraits in my home, I watch faces in profile and frontal on the subway and at my job. I see noses, eyes, ears and mouths. Every working day I see this face, Sharif, and he sells me coffee and a bagel. If I don’t come to his cart, he asks me where I’ve been. He is concerned that I go to work and that I arrive on time. He knows my routine, so if it is too close to 9, I’ve been out walking. If it is close to 8, someone called in sick and I am coming in to open the office. And I know his routine – and he knows it. I’d miss him if he wasn’t there.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


September 8, 2009. I went back to my acupuncturist after a 5 year hiatus. It was a beautiful afternoon in NYC, so I decided to walk a bit, but when I saw the entrance to the subway by the Public Library, I took it. Once under ground, I lamented my decision, the passage was dreary. And then it happened – a mosaic of green and brown along the lower wall of the underpass. Then I saw a milky white iridescent wall of tile and before I knew it I saw golden roots shooting down from the ceiling. Further along there was a burrow – rabbit, gopher, snake – I don’t know. Then blue. It became a glorious walk to my station.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Art Around the Park at Tompkins Square

September 6, 2009. On Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend, you can move your feet in the direction of Tompkins Square Park in the East Village. There you will find Art Around the Park. Surrounding some of the park’s north, west and south sides is a sheath of canvas, and at work are scores of painters working side by side in whatever style suits them. The artists have two days to work on their canvas and at the end of the day on Sunday, there are gaping holes, maybe where a work has been sold, or maybe where the creator took it home.

My friend Rael liked this work by Steve Cox. The texture of the lines leaping and covering in alternating patterns was inviting. The grey lines were soothing, but ominous, asking how to decipher what contained them in this densely moving mass like a school of mackerel being herded by unknown hunters.

I like this work by Lora Morgenstern. She creates this patchwork community, the strollers by, and the onlookers. History – who has been here again, before, and never again because they have left us. She engages you as you stop to look. She talks, she looks, she sketches - some more, some less - but she wants you on this quilt. She will remember you in this way.

And then I like this work. And am still thinking about it. You can’t help thinking of all the religious themes playing out here in a global view. But I want to know about the individuals. Who is the dark skinned person, back to us? What is that relationship to the figure with the outstretched arms. Who is the man standing next to him, facing us, arms down, plaintive, staring? What has happened in the pietà scene at the bottom. What tragedy befell them, and can we still help them? Maybe it is the End of Days.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Jewels in Midtown.

September 5, 2009. Street fairs are a summer staple in NYC. You can find anything or nothing. Food, bed sheets, rugs, jewels, sun glasses. There is a profusion of sights, sounds, smells and people. I had just finished my Saturday morning swim, and I had to go the fair, before going off on the rest of my day, which would end in a full moon stroll on the Highline. These stone bracelets were jumbled on a table, a kaleidoscope of color and texture, waiting to be picked up, looked at and slid on your wrist. They could be the pebbly beach in some wonderland world …. and here they were, on a table towered over by midtown Manhattan hotels and office buildings.

Corn and Girls

September 3, 2009. I’m missing home just now. Girls and Corn 2009. The black earth farmed by my sister and her family, beneath the feet of her sandled granddaughters, reminds me of barefoot summers, running through the yard and pastures. The green of the corn, higher than the 4th of July, against the brilliant blue of a Minnesota sky (you don’t see it here). Their eyes focused out to the woman behind the camera, as ours would have been, to the one we love.

96th Street Sage

September 2, 2009. On my way to work. What a surprise to find these words, which I find important in approaching life. I might be, I often am, and sometimes I am not – I’m spot on. But I’m ready to hear what you have to say, see your point of view and consider that what I think might be wrong. I am open to so much more experience that way. But what a struggle! It’s a lot of work to try to stay open and available to new information as it arrives. Was the tag to the side the name of the sage, or an admirer who wanted to say ‘I second that.’?

Cooper Union mosaic

September 1, 2009. Anyone who moves through the East Village has seen these installations on lampposts, street corners, store fronts and many other sites. The texture, color and patterns can be wildly exotic, and I love them as an inspired addition to the streetscape. It looks like someone doing street maintenance, or marking the area for some rehab, added their own red paint, as if the glaze of the pottery, and splashes of color weren’t enough. When I took this picture I didn’t notice, what is to me, a grinning face in the middle of the composition. Large white teeth grinning out of a swirl of shards.

Dykeman Excavation too

August 29, 2009. More. The tearing away was more complete on this panel at Dykeman Street. The posters were torn away to the black glue, cement and flat white surface underneath. The blue was vivid and part of an ad that was built up from the base. Like an ancient passerby, someone left their mark on the upper left corner – just to let us know he had been there. I wish I had investigated these closer, and recorded in my mind the minutest details, because these are sure to vanish.

Dykeman Excavation

August 29, 2009. Take the A train to Dykeman Street, said Philip. You’ll see these marvelous billboards. I did. Paper ads are torn away, excavated, to reveal what is beneath, but not in neat layers. Rather in subsequent layers, overlays, color upon color, words shapes forms, bits and pieces. A view from above if I was in space – 10 snapshots in time – but none of them wholly in charge of the final work. I especially like the bits of green outlining the borders of the white space. The peace sign seems appropriate to the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love.

Gates to Heaven

August 28, 2009. Behind these blue gates once stood a rectory to St. Peter’s Church, the oldest Roman Catholic parish in NYC and NY State. Now there stands this giant luxury apartment building. During construction, this gate was erected, and I watched from my office window as a construction worker carefully constructed and affixed the cross at the top. It remained unadorned, in stark contrast to the bright blue, and the faded prints of the Jesus and the mother Mary on either side of the locked entrance. It isn’t the Gates of Paradise, but someone thought about how to construct it, to give it some dignity relative to its meaning to the church building. To whom does the Danger sign speak? The weak of heart, the pious, the converted, or the believers?

Tree Root Rub

August 26, 2009. I’m still learning how to focus my camera phone, so some of these don’t quite do justice to what my eye sees, but I hope you get the idea. On the street outside a school in Chelsea is a tree, and the roots bubble around the trunk and fill the square left open by the sidewalk. I took my last civil service exam there. As children tumble out of the school, they scrape and rub their soles across the nodules on the roots. It has created a pattern of textures, punctuated with deep green moss, that reminds me of ceramic work that I saw in Red Hook.

Dutch Street School

August 25. Dutch Street is a dark forgotten alley in lower Manhattan, and home to a place called the Downtown Little School. At the entrance to the school, someone painted these barriers a multitude of colors to brighten the entrance and perhaps engage the children coming to the school, or maybe some unknown passerby. It is there, on the way to my dentist, that I found it.

Kickity Kick

August 24. I was first drawn to this because it was on the side of a Verizon service trailer. It could have been created anywhere in the 5 boroughs and gets a new venue every time it is hitched up and towed around. Then kickity kick reminded me of a time when I was wearing cowboy boots and descending into the subway. Some kid, coming out of the subway with his pals, commented on me wearing hilly billy boots in Manhattan. Tonight I am drawn to the assertiveness of the lines – the first and the last marks especially – solid, assured, no hesitation in the sweep of the marker.

No Idling

August 23. I am enchanted when I find something like this. A solitary figure waiting to march forward to an ancient war. A helmet that recalls a Hessian warrior. Or is it the hat of the local vicar coming out to conquer the dragon. It exists as a temporary installation, exposed to the elements that reshape it from its creator’s original intent. Pieces have worn off, or maybe the owners of the building will move to clean the surface to restore the brick. I wish it would stay this way forever.

Mushroom on 96

August 22. Some part of us drives us to take risks in order to leave a picture for those who come after us that says “I was here.” That we braved some challenge that others did not. Whether we were ancient hunters, loomed over by mastadons, or modern urbanites, as in this case, facing a live third rail and oncoming locomotives that could knock us into the next county. Does he like mushrooms or was she growing them? Any surface becomes a canvas.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Black Locust Grove

August 21, 2009. My morning walking path takes me past a stand of trees for which I have no name. Every day I ask as I pass, “What are you?” and I receive no response, just the quiet calm of a small grove. I am attracted to the deep fissures in the bark and how it merges and separates to form shapes like waves running up and down the trunk. Half of these trees are now destroyed, a casualty of Tuesday’s storm. This beauty, now lying on the ground, will disappear into a pile of wood chips, its singular glory lost to all of us.

Downed Tree

August 20, 2009. Tuesday night there was a tremendous storm. 100 trees were downed. Maybe 200 more were damaged beyond saving. The park that is my backyard, from 86th Street north, has been rent asunder. I slept in Wednesday morning, but today I had to go out, drawn by the questions from my brothers about the havoc visited on Tuesday. The rain was so heavy, the downpour so fueled by a furious wind, that I couldn’t see out my windows and I was driven from them by the pounding of the rain against the glass. Was it hail? I was almost giddy with the fury of the elements – lightening and thunder – wondering if they would crash through my glass and invade my home and lash at my art stashed under the windows. I moved the art. There was a smell amidst all of this splintered wood, an unpleasant smell, something I didn’t want to be around. I worried. But the giant London Plane that I greet on my walks was intact, even the fungus growing out of an ancient wound where a limb once grew looked untouched. Tonight people wandered among the fallen trees, nearly crying, gaping at the tragedy of these giant providers of shade and comfort that had succumbed to 40 minutes of turbulence.

9th & A

August 18, 2009. Today would have been my parent’s 67th wedding anniversary. I thought about it as the day started on my walk through Central Park. That was it, just thought about it. That thought had nothing whatsoever to do with the art that is pictured here I thought this photo was interesting in the context of the narrative with it. Is the man under the car, or has he fallen out of the car? Is it fatigue over all of that art sitting in the closet, is it an accident, is it a murder. The mystery just sits there. And then someone added a sketch of glasses to the grouping. They’re looking, watching, but out at the viewer, not in at the photo.

Friday, September 4, 2009

88 at 96th

August 19, 2009. I’m on my way to work. The MTA tells me where I am. Someone unknown tells me where I should be. Is it a favorite restaurant, a rendezvous, a street? A yellow plastic number magnet. A child’s toy in the hands of a conspirator, teaming with an unknown designation from the MTA – 8. Maybe it is the eternal twice, no beginning and no end. I have been engaged.