Saturday, December 29, 2007


In an unusually touching piece in this week’s New York magazine (Dec. 24-31), entitled “Love Underground,” four couples describe, in their own words, how they met in the subway—and it reminded me again (see below) of how agents and publishers may not be in touch with what the public wants to read and, of course, I AM. Many years ago I wrote a proposal for a book of interviews with couples entitled How They Met. I’d been collecting the stories for some time, my favorite being about how University of Iowa graduate student, Matt, got to spend time with Jude, the aloof and glamorous New York artist and professor, when he accidentally cut off the tip of this finger in the sculpture studio and she, who was supervising the studio, accompanied him to the hospital. He said "it was totally worth it to have this beautiful woman with me in the ambulance, rubbing my chest" (they’ve been together now for many years, and BTW his finger got sewed together and is fine).

Anyway, I wrote up the proposal, got on the subway, and dropped it off at 5:00 at the office of a legendary literary agent. She called at 9:00 the next morning (I was still asleep and, at first, thought it was my aunt calling) to say she was interested in representing the project on the condition that I’d be willing to change it to interviews with celebrities. I was not. That wasn’t my idea at all. Who cares how celebrities meet? My interest was in real people—I saw myself as a collector of oral histories, the Studs Terkel of modern romance, spreading hope among the lovelorn.

Less than two years later I was walking by a bookstore in the Village and there it was in the window, How They Met, interviews with celebrities such as Walter Matthau, Robertson Davies, Jay Leno, Daniel Dinkins, and Carly Simon, published just in time for Valentine’s Day. I just checked, and you can buy it on for $1.00. Not exactly a bestseller. (However I remember once reading, perhaps in Rolling Stone, that when Carly Simon and James Taylor first met at a party they went immediately into the bathroom to fuck—if it’s in the book, that story alone might make it worthwhile. But do we really care how Mrs. Matthau met Mr. Matthau?)

I can’t do the book now because it’s such a good idea that, completely independently, the New York Times took it up and the “Vows” column on the wedding page, is one of their most popular. However if anyone wants to comment and tell me how they met, I’m all ears.
The photo is from the NY Magazine article, of Mitchell Ratchick and Suzanna Ko.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas is over

No, this isn't a Paul McCarthy, but the aftermath of our Christmas cake. After taking this photo, Roberto threw it away. He couldn't bear to eat the head.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Even though the heading was "I still want it all," when I sent this out as an ecard a few years ago, most of my friends thought it was an antique image I found somewhere and didn't get that it was me. But it is me, with my brother, John, probably at Wanamaker's in Philadelphia. My father took the photo and did the lettering. That's a terrifying grip Santa has on my arm.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

More about seeing

In the latest issue of The New Yorker (December 24 & 31) there’s a cartoon by Michael Maslin of two toddlers in a playroom, and as their mothers approach, one says to the other, “Here they come—act infantile.” It reminded me of a conversation I had with Judy Fox, where we were talking about drawing being all about observation (but then, isn’t everything?), and I said I thought we underestimate children’s abilities, that if they were shown more sophisticated ways of seeing their world they’d be able to represent it. I was thinking about how my father, an engineer, taught me to draw in perspective when I was five. My early talents lay with music, and artistically speaking, I don’t think I was particularly precocious—yet as soon as my father pointed the concept out to me, I could draw it. Judy told me that when she was little, she drew stick figures because she thought that’s what she was supposed to do. Then one day in school when her friends were wondering what adults looked like naked, she volunteered that she’d seen a naked adult and proceeded to draw them a picture—with such graphically detailed breasts, nipples, belly button, and pubic hair that it was immediately confiscated by the teacher. Ultimately Judy grew up to be a sculptor of naked people, but at the time she took the wiser course and went back to stick figures.

Judy's sculptural installation, Snow White and the Seven Sins, was seen in New York this fall at P.P.O.W. and will be exhibited at Ace Gallery in Beverly Hills in the upcoming months, dates to be determined.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Everything you always wanted to know about Art Basel/Miami but were afraid to ask

For all five of us who didn't go to Art Basel/Miami, Joanne Mattera has posted a complete review with pictures and comments on her blog that feels almost like being there--minus the sore feet and champagne.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

More winter brights

While I'm on the subject, I could not resist posting this photo I took on my first trip to Reykjavik, where they have the most sophisticated sense of winter fashion:

Winter brights

Scott introduced me to The Sartorialist fashion blog, and now I’m an addict, because it doesn’t feature fashionistas but people the world over, young and old, who have created their own style of dressing. Therefore I was inspired to take this picture of the gentleman who sat down across from me in the Coop café the other day, who I’d noticed a number of times before because of his charmingly colorful garb. Neither hippie-ish nor gypsy-ish, his elaborate use of bright color only enhances his thoroughly distinguished look. It turns out he’s an Irishman named John ffrench (the correct Norman spelling), and a ceramicist who uses a lot of color in his work. It must run in the family. ffrench told me his wife buys his clothes, while his daughter, Crispina, is well-known in the Berkshires for her colorful fashions made of recycled fabric.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sign of the times

Leaving the Whitney Museum the other day, we were in the mood for a quick cup of soup. The coffee shop that used to be in the same block was gone. Walking down Madison we passed a number of upscale restaurants, but no place where you could sit and simply get a bite--until 15 blocks later the Viand coffee shop appeared, looking like a complete anachronism amidst all the the steel and glass glitz. It reminded me of a piece the late Glen Seator did in 1999, where he inserted a full-scale replica of a check-cashing joint into the facade of Gagosian's Beverly Hills gallery. At the time Michael Duncan in Art in America saw it as "rather obvious social commentary" saying that "the contrast between the high-tone gallery and the low-rent check-cashing store seemed too much of an insider art world joke." Now the joke's on us when we can't get a cup of soup.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Kara's brother

How many people notice, upon leaving the Kara Walker exhibition at the Whitney, that there's another show equally rooted in racial stereotypes outside?

It's up to you

It was reported in the New York Times Sunday that with their pay-what-you-will system, Radiohead sold 1.2 million downloads of their new album, In Rainbows, grossing somewhere between one and five million dollars. The article suggests, with some skepticism, that this could be a new business model. I had a friend who, in the eighties, worked in a California restaurant where the diners were asked to leave whatever amount they thought the meal was worth. She said they consistently overpaid.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

It's really all Chinese

The weird thing was that after seeing so much Chinese art at the beginning of my Chelsea tour (see "It's all Chinese" below), everything else began to look Chinese too. Ross Bleckner’s Chinese red flower swirls:

Cy Twombly’s splash blossoms, also Chinese red, were like blown-up brush paintings, and I'm amazed that I never before made the association between Pat Steir’s drip paintings and Oriental screens:

And Charles Ray’s farmer? Definitely Chinese:

Saturday, December 8, 2007

It's all Chinese

Su Xinping (Stux)

This week, pounding the sidewalks of Chelsea, it became more and more evident that the Chinese takeover of the art world is complete. First stop was the group show at the vast Arario Gallery (521 West 21st with three other branches are in Korea and Beijing) followed by another across the street at Stux. While there’s no means of presentation here that’s particularly new—the Asians are riffing on Western contemporary art in a big way—it’s oddly refreshing. They bring, however, more than just exotica to the mix. While Westerners appreciate traditional Asian painting and sculpture for its beauty, at the same time it's opaque, a foreign language. By adopting Western tropes, these younger Asian artists are working with a visual code we understand, and one that allows their personal sensibilities to shine through. In writing classes I taught in the graduate program at SVA, where many of the students are Asian, I made a practice of encouraging foreign students to forget about using correct grammar and simply concentrate on expressing their thoughts and feelings. The results were charming and illuminating—and because of their heartfelt nature—surprisingly literary. The students told me they could express personal insights and observations in English that would be unimaginable within the confines and traditions of their native languages.

However the same Warholian and Duchampian ideas that the Asians find so liberating have been recycling in the West now for more than thirty years, to the point that they have become mechanical and rote. Pushed in art school to do work that looks “relevant,” students imitate what they see in galleries, which is work generated by artists who were imitating what they saw in galleries ten years before, which is work those artists saw in galleries ten years before that, so by now it’s all so denatured and watered down that it looks like the souvenir shop version of the original impulse.

Perhaps its time for us to take up brush painting.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Thorsteinn's Star

More from my friend, Einar (click label below for other posts), here with his newest configuration. He tells me a few (around 14) stars or stellated polyhedrons are known in geometry, the earliest being those of German mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630).

Einar first discovered Kepler's stars in the Kepler Museum in Weil der Stadt, Germany in 1973. That, along with meeting Buckminster Fuller in 1975, was the beginning of his involvement with geometry. When I asked how long this project took he said, "I've been working on geometry since 1973 and cannot figure out how much of this third of a century it took to finally define the Thorsteinn Star. Maybe it was the fine Brieselang air..." -- referring to the village outside Berlin where he and Manuela live.

I wanted to know more, and when I looked up Kepler I found this image, which I suggested to Einar looked a lot like him. True, Kepler's nose is much longer, as Einar immediately pointed out, and his eyes are brown, not blue. But what I see isn't a superficial commonality as much as a mischievous glint in the eye and look of deep inner satisfaction.

For more information on stellation and facetting, Einar suggests Guy Inchbald’s website: