Saturday, October 2, 2010

Catching up...

I find I have taken an inadvertent vacation from my blog—not for any particular reason, I just didn’t have any thoughts or opinions, which anyone who has known me for longer than five minutes will find difficult to believe. It happens rarely, but it does happen.

I did go to the Chelsea gallery openings and saw some shows I enjoyed (Joan Snyder, Judy Pfaff, and Jane Rosen) and others I thought were ridiculous (best left unsaid), as well as Gerhard Richter at the Drawing Center in SoHo, which I didn’t love but, regardless, found surprisingly inspiring. I bought the catalogue and when I came back to my studio, all I wanted to do was draw.

I also discovered a new art material: PanPastels.  A while ago, out of the blue, the company sent me some samples to try, and I recently unearthed them. They call them “painting pastels,” and the colors, which are highly pigmented, come in little pots like rouge and are not overly dusty, so it’s like painting, but without the muss and fuss. I love that I can just up and leave the drawing board and when I come back hours later my brushes haven’t gone stiff, and nothing has dried up. They can be purchased in individual colors ($5.14 each at Dick Blick) and in sets, and my only complaint is that the sets don’t really contain what I want (you have to order a set of 20 to get one that contains orange!) and if they do there are duplicates (Payne’s Gray appears in both the gray and the blue sets of five each).  But it’s a small quibble, and every day I compulsively order more. 

Drawing, 9/30/10, graphite and pastel on paper, 9" x 12"

I also became completely hooked on a book—a fascinating, in-depth (875 pages), and completely annotated biography of the Beatles by Bob Spitz (out-of-print but still available), who seems to have interviewed everyone who ever came in contact with them and brings the times alive.  He doesn’t do much editorializing, but lets the information speak for itself. Who knew John was a bully? Or that he and Yoko were hooked on heroin? Or that the main occupation of the nightclub owners who hired the Beatles in Hamburg was running prostitution rings? However while there’s a certain amount of dirt (the author does not love Yoko), as well as insight into the claustrophobia of fame, what I got most from it is a comprehensive picture of how great art was made—and the serendipity involved. The chances of these four guys—who were really not equipped to do anything else in life—finding each other and then, in Brian Epstein, someone who was willing to promote them, as well as the contributing genius of George Martin…not to speak of the volume of rejections, the inhuman amount of work they undertook, and their uncompromising belief in their own vision…the story is mind-boggling. The book is so long that I felt as if I was living my life, then their life, then my life, etc. and I missed them all when it ended.

I did find one inaccuracy—when the Beatles left the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram (because of a story about a presumed affair the Maharishi had, apparently concocted by a Beatles sycophant who feared losing control) Spitz says they cut all ties. However, consulting Wikipedia, I find that Paul has found the Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation (TM) useful for most of his life, and that he and Ringo performed at a benefit concert for the David Lynch Foundation, which funds instruction in TM for at-risk youth.

Further, eleven years ago, after learning TM, which I still practice (and chose because it was used by most of the people I knew who had life-long meditation practices) I was at the Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center in Lancaster, MA, taking in the benefits of an Ayurvedic healing and cleansing program called panchakarma, when George Harrison appeared with a small entourage. He was apparently a regular and adored by the staff. Before my sojourn at Lancaster, I’d been working with the high-end European furniture company, Vitra, as a consultant, producing celebrity print ads (the photographs, taken by Christian Coigny, were later shown at the Louvre). The most challenging part of my job was finding the famous people to sit in the famous chairs, and as a consequence I was celebrity-ed out. I remember that, even though I’d organized the shoots, I passed on meeting Ed Koch and Philip Johnson, because I thought, “why?” (Of course now i wish I had.) However I wasn’t as blasé as I assumed, because that first night, knowing George Harrison was ensconced on the floor above me, I could barely sleep. The next day I passed him in the hall, both of us swathed in white terry robes with towels wrapped around our sesame oil-soaked hair. He said, “Hello” and I said, “Hello.” It was a big moment.

Sadly, no amount of belated clean living was going to save Harrison from the excesses of his youth (in addition to taking a gazillion drugs and drinking like crazy, all of the Beatles smoked up a storm), and he died of lung cancer a year later.

Now that I’m finished with the Beatles, I’m reading a biography of Carl Jung, which isn’t nearly as good, but at least proves I have range.

Lou Reed on my roof, in a chair by Phillippe Starck. Photo by Christian Coigny for Vitra, ca. sometime in the 90s 


Anonymous said...

I love the sketch! And that Beatles book sounds great. (Envy: George Harrison!) So glad to hear from another personal benefitter from TM! My husband adores David Lynch, and I bought him Catching the Big Fish our first Valentine's Day. Check it out if the new book doesn't cut it!

Berni said...

Thank you for this post. It's great to see and read about what artists are doing with PanPastel. It's very important to us.

Our rationale when developing the range was to develop a color material that was a dry color that worked like fluid color and worked for both drawing and painting.

We knew that we would put the material out there for artists, and they would know instinctively what to do with it.

I'd love to see more of your work with PanPastel.
Berni Ward
Co-creator, PanPastel Colors