Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Art Exhibitions of 2013

What better way to end the year then by catching an art exhibition! JM and I fought the crowds at MoMA this afternoon so we could catch Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938, about the pivotal years in the Belgian Surrealist's career. The work you see here is entitled The False Mirror, 1928 (image: MoMA) and gives a quick sense of how Magritte's images and titles are plays on one another (the eye is a reflection of the soul? what one sees? of anything?). Alas, his images have become so ubiquitous in reproductive form that upon seeing an outpouring of his paintings such as in this exhibition they become almost tedious and disappointing. Frankly, the curators could have done a better job engaging the viewer with the works (i.e. shouldn't we be addressing the misogyny and violence toward women in his paintings?). We also popped in to see Isa Genzken Retrospective, which turned out to be another prime example of the art style I classify as "Self-Indulgent Crap." Some of her large-scale minimalist sculptures in concrete and wood were interesting, but the rest of it was just mind-numbingly awful. I can't believe this is the same artist who produced the boldly delicate Rose II as part of the New Museum's Facade Sculpture program.

Readers of bklynbiblio know that I visit a number of art exhibitions, but only some stand out for me as the best of the year, and a smaller number ever make it onto this blog. (I attempted to start a "best of" in 2010 but couldn't keep up with it; hopefully we will in the future.) In writing about my top favorite exhibitions, you probably won't be surprised to see that most largely reflect art of the past. But living in NYC I have become more and more attuned to "modern/contemporary art," so I'm always happy when I discover some new artist or great exhibition that can excite me about art post-WWI or post-1980. All that said, it should come as no surprise that my favorite exhibition of the year was clearly Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design, 1848-1900, which I saw at the National Gallery of Art, but which had opened in London the previous year at the Tate. Although I was readily familiar with most of the works in the show, it was great to see so many of them from different museums and private collections brought together again for an exhibition that documented the accomplishments of these talented artists who sought to be modern through inspiration from the past. The image you see here is the book jacket for the exhibition catalogue. (See more of my thoughts on the show here.) My second favorite exhibition this year--and I hesitate to call it that, as it is more of an installation and performance--was Janet Cardiff: The Forty Part Motet. Held at the Cloisters, this sound-based piece captured the spirit of its medieval origins not only with the musical composition but with the architectural space, a medieval chapel. They were made for one another. Listening to all of the recorded voices individually as they surrounded you made you feel as if the entire recorded motet was a living, singing sculpture, albeit one that existed in space and time and not in person. You had to close your eyes to experience it best, and it came close to a transcendental art experience.

My third favorite exhibition of the year was Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity at the Met. The idea that the Impressionists and their contemporaries were inspired by current trends in fashion and the rise of bourgeois industry were first explored in art history nearly 20 years ago. But the bringing together of important French paintings from the 1860s and 1870s and juxtaposing them with fashion from the day--including some of the same gowns or accessories depicted in the paintings--made for a fabulous exhibition. The mannequins wearing the clothes helped make the paintings come to life. In addition to seeing great paintings by Manet, Monet, and Morisot, lesser-known brilliant artists like Tissot were given their due acknowledgment as well. This was definitely an exhibition worth seeing. (Image: installation view of Gallery 3: The White Dress, Met Museum).

Among my other favorite exhibitions of the year were Gordon Parks: The Making of an Argument and Edward Burtynsky: Water, excellent photography shows curated by my friend & colleague Russell Lord in New Orleans. The Parks show played with a journalistic story and opened your mind to understanding so much more about how photographs are manipulated and reframed to tell a story. In contrast, the Burtynsky large-scale photographs of water-themed images were simply mind-blowing and beautiful. (Read more of my thoughts on these shows here.) At Brooklyn Museum, the exhibitions on to El Anatsui's monumental sculptural detritus installations and Sargent's jewel-like watercolors turned out to be a counterpoint in beauty (see more of my thoughts here). And Edwardian Opulence at the Yale Center for British Art was an extravagant, jam-packed plethora of art and cultural artifacts from the post-Queen Victoria period (see more of my thoughts here). Honorable mentions for this year also go out to: David d'Angers: Making the Modern Monument at the Frick, a small but informative exploration into the life and career of this 19th-century French sculptor; Beauty and Revolution: Neoclassicism, 1770-1820 at the Staedel Museum, Frankfurt, a show of important classical paintings and sculptures, Canova and Thorvaldsen taking center stage (part of my Zurich/Frankfurt tour this year); NYC 1993 at the New Museum, on art of a century ago; and monographic shows on the ever-queer Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt at MoMA P.S.1 and Eleanor Antin at the Wallach Gallery at Columbia. 

As always, there were great shows I missed, which I shall regret, including The Boxer: An Ancient Masterpiece at the Met and the Rain Room at MoMA. But fortunately there is still time to see a few shows that have opened and are ongoing for a few weeks or months more, especially The Armory Show at 100: Modern Art and Revolution at the New-York Historical Society. Hm...I may even go to see that on New Year's Day!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Auction Sales of 2013

Considering today is Christmas Eve, it seems rather appropriate to blog about the work you see here: A Christmas Carol, 1867, oil on panel [image: Sotheby's]. The painting is by the Pre-Raphaelite/Aesthetic artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882). The picture reveals many of Rossetti's interests at this time, from the beautiful woman in a bower to the connections of the visual with music as a timeless, experiential art form. But the reason why I'm showcasing this Victorian picture is because the painting was sold at Sotheby's London on December 4 and earned a record-high sale for Rossetti, coming in with the hammer price of £4,562,500 ($7,475,200). This actually beat the sale for a Rossetti color charcoal drawing of Proserpine that had just been a record high for him a few weeks earlier at £3.3m ($5.3m). Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic art continues to rise in popularity...an ongoing testament to the recent Oxford conference following up on the successful exhibition held at Tate Britain, that I saw in Washington, D.C., and then went on to Moscow and Tokyo.

That said, auction prices for Victorian art still pale in comparison to the market for post-WWII art, which continues to skyrocket, with more and more sales coming in at the $100+ million mark. As I noted in last year's post on auction sales of 2012, 10 of the highest-priced auction and private sales have all taken place since 2006. We can now extend that to point out that the top 17 spots for the most paid for art in auction/private sales have all taken place over the past 10 years! According to a recent article in Businessweek, "the top 10 auction lots of 2013 raised $752.2m, a 27 percent increase from 2012 and an 82 percent jump from 2011." Trends in the art-buying auction world are showing that the "tres nouveaux riches" are from China, Russia, and the Middle East. (Not coincidentally these are the same groups who are also buying up high-end real estate all over Manhattan, leaving the Everyman little chance of ever being able to own property in NYC.) Art, more than ever before, is a commodity, something to be flipped and sold at a profit. Museums cannot even compete in this new art market. Jed Perl, art critic for the New Republic, has written an interesting editorial about this, noting how the super-rich are ruining for the rest of us the ability to appreciate art.

Three major auction records were broken this year for post-War art. Francis Bacon's Three Studies of Lucian Freud, 1969, sold on November 12 at Christie's New York for $142,405,000 hammer price (see my blog post about this here), making it currently the highest amount ever paid at auction. Andy Warhol's Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster), 1963, silkscreen ink and silver spray paint on canvas [image: Sotheby's], broke Warhol's record when it sold on November 13 at Sotheby's New York for $105,445,000. Finally, Jeff Koons's Balloon Dog (Orange) stainless steel sculpture, 1994-2000, sold at the same Christie's sale as the Bacon for $58,405,000, giving Koons the record for the most money paid at auction for a living artist's work.

Keeping track of the most money paid for works of art can be tricky, as most resources combine auction and private sales. One example is theartwolf.com, and another is this Wikipedia entry. Both focus on paintings and they also account for inflation and current value (which is both helpful and distracting, as it alters the ranking of "most valuable"). Extracting data from these and other sources, I've put together my own Top 5 Auction Sales of Works of Art. I have no doubt it will change each year, but this is how things stand as of today.

  1. Francis Bacon, Three Studies of Lucian Freud, 1969, oil on canvas in three parts, sold Nov. 2013, Christie's New York, $142.4m.
  2. Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1895, pastel on board, sold May 2012, Sotheby's New York, $119.9m.
  3. Pablo Picasso, Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, 1932, oil on canvas, sold May 2010, Christie's New York, $106.5m.
  4. Andy Warhol, Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster), 1963, silkscreen ink and silver spray paint on canvas, sold Nov. 2013, Christie's New York, $105.4m.
  5. Pablo Picasso, Garçon a la pipe, 1905, oil on canvas, sold May 2004, Sotheby's New York, $104.1m.

MWA XX: David's Nativity

Although I've never had the opportunity to study in-depth "Northern Renaissance art" (i.e. paintings by Netherlandish painters such as Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling), like others I find them to be some of the most beautiful paintings in the history of art. The crisp linearity and precision of draftsmanship is complemented by rich jewel-like colors, making so many of these paintings among the most precious in European art. Many of the works are altarpieces and Catholic in nature, as they pre-date the spread of the Protestant Reformation and thus the removal of Christian imagery (idolatry as it was called) in favor of the Word (Bible) alone. The Metropolitan Museum of Art holds a number of these works, largely because they were collected by Gilded Age industrialists at a time when a number of these early painters were barely known. Gerard David (ca. 1455-1523), born in the Netherlands and active in the now-Belgian city of Bruges, was but one of these highly-respected and talented painters of their day.

His scenes, such as this work from the Met, The Nativity with Donors and Saints Jerome and Leonard, ca. 1510-15, focus on traditional Christian imagery, but often reveal the secrets of his own interest in landscape painting. Just look in this detail over the shoulder of Joseph and you can see the shepherds peering through the window with an exquisite landscape stretching into the distance. The birth of Christ is the subject of the triptych, but the angels positioned beside the open window together echo the connections between God and nature. It's a powerful image, with many layers of meaning. According to the curators, "despite the joyful moment depicted, the figures all wear somber expressions, foreshadowing Christ's eventual suffering and sacrifice." The saints on the two end panels are Jerome and Leonard, but the donors kneeling before them remain unidentified, reminding us how much more we have to learn about the history and reception of these gems in Western painting. Gerard David himself was lost to history and only rediscovered in the mid-1800s. For more about his extensive life and work, see the Met's Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.

And to all my bklynbiblio readers, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lucy in Color?

I Love Lucy was ALWAYS a big deal in my family when I was growing up. The story of an immigrant musician who marries a crazy redhead who comes up with the most ridiculous shenanigans? This was basically the story of my mother and father's marriage. Not coincidentally, my red-headed mother in particular loved the show. By the time I ever watched the show with her, it was in reruns during the '70s, but it was originally on in the '50s and remains one of the funniest comedies in the history of television. Watching an episode today is as hilarious now as it was then. There is a timelessness to their stories because, as absurd as the plots are, they somehow still seem feasible. Plus, Lucy, Ricky, Ethel, and Fred were likable people you could imagine having as your neighbors (or your family, for that matter), especially if you were New Yorkers! I Love Lucy today remains charming in part because it's in black-and-white, giving it a nostalgic sensibility that makes you think of days gone by. But CBS is now apparently experimenting with that nostalgia. This coming Friday, December 20th, they are playing 2 Christmas episodes of the sitcom-colorized them. The purist in me is horrified by this, of course. When Ted Turner in the 1990s started colorizing old movies, the technology was so bad it ruined the films. And yet, looking at the sneak peek reel on YouTube, there's something about it that makes it look like a Mad Men-like historic recreation of a 1950s sitcom, filmed for the first time now. Lucy's red hair is too orangey-red, so it's not perfect, but the high-quality of the coloration does some reinvigorate it. Plus, it still seems funny though, so I'm looking forward to watching this on Friday night. The YouTube clip is below, or click here to view it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

HBA Interview

I'm pleased to share the news that I was recently interviewed about my interests in British art and my new job at Columbia. The interview has just been published as the first "member profile," a new feature in the Historians of British Art Newsletter (Fall/Winter 2013), with questions posed by Editor Catherine Roach, Asst. Prof. of Art History, Virginia Commonwealth Univ. (You may recall that she was one of the speakers at my Why Victorian Art? symposium back in 2009). The picture you see here was published with the interview and shows me on the campus of Columbia posing with Henry Moore's Three-Way Piece: Points, 1967. For your reading pleasure, here's the interview. I think it gives readers a good overview of my art historical interests and the scope of my job as Curator of Art Properties. Enjoy!

Member Profile:
Roberto C. Ferrari, Curator of Art Properties
Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University

What drew you to the field of British art? I’ve always been an Anglophile. Although my father is Italian, my mother’s side of the family is of English descent and I credit Nana (my maternal grandmother) as the source of my interest in all things British. Her parents were Victorian immigrants from Lancashire and, despite only an eighth-grade education, she was surprisingly well-read. We would partake of tea and biscuits while she told me stories about Elizabeth and Essex or the King and Mrs. Simpson. From there I gradually discovered British art, and like many a young Romantic fell for the art of the Pre-Raphaelites. (Rossetti’s La Ghirlandata and Burne-Jones’s Beguiling of Merlin are still two of my favorite paintings.) Once I began studying the Pre-Raphaelites, I discovered the underappreciated art and life of Simeon Solomon and began doing work on him. My interest in British art soon expanded to nineteenth-century sculpture as well. My interest in British art has been a gratifying experience.
Where did you do your graduate work, and on what topic? I earned my M.A. in Humanities from the University of South Florida, where I wrote my thesis on the fatal woman motif in paintings by Rossetti and poetry by Swinburne. I also earned my M.A. in Library and Information Science from USF. After many years as a librarian, I went back to school and earned an M.Phil. degree and my Ph.D. in Art History from the Graduate Center, City University of New York, graduating in May 2013. My dissertation was on the Anglo-Roman sculptor John Gibson, best known for reintroducing polychromy in sculpture with his Tinted Venus, although I go beyond his interest in polychromy to consider other aspects of his long, productive career.

What projects are you currently working on? Two essays from my dissertation on Gibson will be published in book collections over the next few years. I recently gave a presentation at the Pre-Raphaelite conference in Oxford on Solomon’s 1860 painting The Mother of Moses, discussing issues of race and religion. I am turning that into an article, with a related spin-off article focusing just on his mixed-race model Fanny Eaton. My colleague Carolyn Conroy (University of York) and I continue to update the Simeon Solomon Research Archive (http://www.simeonsolomon.com), adding more digital images of his work and exploring the possibility of publishing his correspondence on the site as well.

Tell us about your current post as Curator of Art Properties at Columbia University. As Curator of Art Properties, I oversee the art collections at Columbia. Few people are aware that Columbia even has a permanent art collection. Unlike other ivy-league schools, Columbia decided not to establish an art museum, but they did collect art from the time of its foundation as King’s College in 1754. By the 1950s an administrative body known as Art Properties was established to oversee the art collections, and the first curator was hired soon afterward. When the Wallach Gallery was established in the late 1980s, Art Properties was merged with it, but with the retirement of my predecessor it was decided that the two departments would be separated. This has allowed my department to revitalize interest in the art collections for educational and display purposes. The collection contains nearly 15,000 objects and ranges from Etruscan pottery and Buddhist sculpture to hundreds of portrait paintings and nearly 900 photographs. With my two full-time staff members and occasional interns, we are responsible for the organization and care of the collections, including inventory, exhibition and loan programs, conservation, photographic services, and so on. An educator at heart, I am pleased that we have begun new initiatives bringing art objects into the classroom, allowing students the rare opportunity to study closely and handle objects in a way they never could in other settings.
Are there any British works in the Columbia collections that you'd like to highlight? The art collections at Columbia are culturally diverse and include a few great examples of British art. Henry Moore’s bronze sculpture Three-Way Piece: Points, 1967, a gift from the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Foundation (1967.20.1), is a highlight in our public outdoor sculpture. We have some wonderful portraits in the grand manner tradition, including Joseph Highmore’s King George II, ca. 1750 (C00.62), and Joshua Reynolds’s Sir George Grenville, ca. 1764 (C00.442). The Plimpton bequest in 2000 added to the collection about 60 portraits of noteworthy British men and women by painters such as Thomas Lawrence and Martin Archer Shee. We also have a number of prints by William Hogarth and other British artists.

Do you have any advice for student members who might want to follow a similar career path? The job market for art historians is very challenging right now. My advice to any prospective student member is to follow her/his dream in studying what s/he wants in British art, but to be aware of the bigger picture in the art world, particularly trends and names in modern and contemporary art. Apply for lots of grants and fellowships, network as much as possible, and keep one’s mind open to alternative career choices. One never knows how things will evolve.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

First Snowstorm: 2013-2014 Fall/Winter

Much of the country has been going through rather horrific weather, with record low temperatures and a lot of snow. It's even snowed in Dallas/Ft. Worth already! This is clearly unseasonably early for this much snow, especially since Winter hasn't even officially started yet. Today, the NYC area got its share. The snow started about 8am, coming down hard. Sometime after noon it trickled to flurries, and by 3pm it was done and already melting. I wasn't sure at first I could call it an official snowstorm, but the snow did stick and we got at least 2 inches, so I'm declaring this our first official snowstorm of the season.

Here are two pictures showing areas at Columbia University with the snow accumulating. My colleague TG took the picture of Alma Mater, the bronze sculpture by Daniel Chester French, gathering snow on her head and outstretched hand. I took the other one with my iPhone showing the view from Avery Hall's front steps looking west. I don't mind first snowstorms when they're toward the beginning of Winter. It seems picturesque and right somehow. I'm sure by the end of February, however, I will be SO ready for Spring.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Books of 2013

I've become rather fond of this time of the year...the crispness of late autumn weather is in the air...turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie are about to be served...and the first "best of" lists of the year come out, most notably the "100 Notable Books of 2013" by The New York Times, as selected by the editors of the NYT Book Review. bklynbiblio readers may recall that I've been using this annual list to recap some of my own particular reads over the course of the year (e.g. 2012 back to 2008). As in the past, their list is divided into 50 fiction/poetry and 50 non-fiction books. And as I've also written in the past, I rarely if ever find myself reading anything on the list the same year that it's published. Surprisingly, though, this year I can make a "notable" exception! I was excited to pick up Amy Tan's latest novel, The Valley of Amazement, on the day it was released a few weeks ago, and even more delighted that it made the NYT list for this year. It's the book I'm reading right now too, so it's a convergence of my interests coming together rather nicely, I must say. The novel recounts the passing decades of an American courtesan and her mixed-race daughter living in Shanghai in the early 1900s. My taste for Tan's books have varied. I liked The Joy Luck Club and I rave to this day about The Hundred Secret Senses, but her others haven't been as engaging, in my opinion. However, this one so far is capturing my attention very quickly.

There isn't much on the NYT list in non-fiction that is of interest to me this year, although I do like the idea of a biography by Jill Lepore (Book of Ages) about Benjamin Franklin's sister Jane, a mother of 12 who kept on a lifetime correspondence with her famous colonial brother. On the fiction side of things, I already had on my wish list a few of the novels that have made it onto the NYT list (I guess I have good taste?!): The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (art-related coming-of-age book), The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (19th-century New Zealand; this also won the prestigious Booker Prize), and David Leavitt's The Two Hotel Francforts (gay love affair between two married men in 1940s Lisbon).

Compared to the last couple of years, my number of books read since last year's post on this topic is down from 29 to 20. I will claim it's because I've had a leaner year due to my dissertation, move, and new job. In the world of art history, I read Elizabeth Prettejohn's The Modernity of Ancient Sculpture (2012), an interesting theoretical take on how classicism has been misappropriated as anti-modern and why that needs to change (I have a review on the book coming out soon). I've also read a few exhibition catalogs on the life and art of Florine Stettheimer (1871-1944), the New York-based modernist painter whose work is still little known outside America. This is more related to my work life at Columbia now; I'll be posting about Stettheimer in the months to come.

My fiction reads over the past year began during last year's post when I was reading Richard Mason's History of a Pleasure Seeker (2011), which was interesting and a fast read, but not as enthralling as I had hoped. I also read Toni Morrison's Home (2012) while I was in San Francisco this summer; that book had been on the NYT 2012 list. I can't say it was among my favorites she's written, but Morrison is more about the way she writes then the storyline at times. Among my other fiction reads were A. S. Byatt's A Biographer's Tale (2001), F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise (1920), John Knowles' A Separate Peace (1959), and a few mysteries by Ruth Rendell and Agatha Christie. However, the two great fiction reads for me this year was a collection of short stories by Anton Chekhov (1890s)--truly a brilliant short-story writer--and George Eliot's masterpiece Middlemarch (serialized 1871-72; book 1874). I cannot believe I had not read Eliot's novel beforehand, and my friend MT insisted on changing that when she gave me the book as a thank-you gift. I can't say Eliot's book was as entertaining of a Victorian novel as, say, Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now (1875), but Eliot's novel is one of the most through-oriented I've ever read. It secretly masks as a feminist novel but concentrates on the roles men and women expect one another to play in society. Even more challenging, it questions the measurement of success, through monetary means, corruption, or intellectual prowess, and makes you sympathize with even the characters you're not particularly fond of. And then, just when you think it might never happen because of its crucial emphasis on the mind, a romantic twist that you hoped for is finally achieved, and you suddenly realize that the greatest moments in life sometimes are the ones that are the least important to the world at large. Middlemarch has one of the most beautifully written, poignant endings; the last two paragraphs simply made me cry. The book is a masterpiece because it explores the mind, the heart, and the soul, and forces you to confront for yourself which of these are most important to you, the reader, after all.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

MWA XIX: Millet's Turkeys

Jean-François Millet (1814-1875) was one of the great landscape and Realist painters of nineteenth-century France. Like his contemporaries Courbet and Rousseau, he was considered a radical in his day. Looking at his landscapes like the work you see here, Autumn Landscape with a Flock of Turkeys, 1872-73 (image: Metropolitan Museum of Art), one is challenged to understand why these works at one time were radical. The scene is Barbizon, where Millet lived with his second wife and numerous children from 1849 until his death. Barbizon was originally a village near the forest at Fontainebleu 60 km (37 miles) southeast of Paris, but from the 1830s on, when many artists started to visit to paint landscapes en plein air (outdoors), the village grew in size and by the end of the century had become a major tourist town. Millet trained as a history and portrait painter, but eventually found his artistic calling with scenes of peasant farmers working the fields around Barbizon. His break from the tradition of painting idealized subjects, to instead paint the lowest members of society--glorifying them with Biblical allusions--led to a backlash among critics and academics that his work was a threat to the fine art traditions of the day. Millet's most famous paintings with these subjects include, for instance, The Angelus, 1857-59 (depicting a farming couple in the field taking a break to pray; see an image of the work here). In the painting here, Millet presents the starkness of the end of the Fall season. The trees are bare, a gust of wind is blowing, and the only person in the scene has her back to the viewer, huddled in her full-length cloak against the elements. A storm is brewing. Only the turkeys seem unaffected, going about their business, eating and wandering about, unaware the woman holds a stick to steer them back to their pen. Millet and his contemporaries started something new with the sketch-like quality of their finished paintings. They were able to use the short brushstrokes to convey a vitality to the scenes presented. It was a technique the Impressionists picked up on and perfected from this period on. Despite its gloom and doom, this painting charms me because of the turkeys and how carefree they are, not only in their movement but in how he painted them. The turkeys also seemed rather appropriate as this month's Monthly Work of ArtHappy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Random Musings 15

Big news in the art world last night! More major auction records were broken at the Christie's New York post-war and contemporary art sale. The sale itself brought in a record-high amount of $691.58 million, and there were record high sales for major artists, including one that put Jeff Koons at the top for most-paid-at-auction-for-a-living-artist. The really big news of the night, however, was when Francis Bacon's triptych Three Studies of Lucian Freud, 1969, stole the show, selling for the hammer price of $142.4 million, becoming the most money ever paid for a work of art at auction. (The actual sale price was $127m; the rest was the buyer's premium that goes to the auction house.) The previous record happened last year with a version of Munch's Scream selling for $119. (Here is more on my past musings about these records and art sales.) You can see the trio of framed works by Bacon in the image above (source: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times), hovering over the crowd as the frenzy of the auction took place. I'm wondering if some wise ass will claim that as a triptych each piece should only count for 1/3 of the hammer price and thus be much lower. For the record, Bacon worked in triptychs over and over, and even though the three pieces are framed separately, that doesn't mean they're separate works. Unlike the Scream, which was quite a big deal but not life-altering to me, I must confess that this sale excites me because I'm a fan of Bacon's work. Long-time readers may recall my post about Bacon's rise in fame back in 2008, just prior to the big retrospective exhibition that was being planned for London, New York, and Madrid. I find Bacon's work visceral; it hurts to look at it. If you think you can hear the scream in Munch's painting, you will feel in your gut the heart-wrenching agony bellowing from Bacon's paintings. Despite the pain and angst, though, there's something also energizing about his pictures. They are both figurative and abstract in a way that makes you question what you think figurative and abstract actually mean. And in my chats with painters, I've discovered they love him as a painter. His brushstroke and use of colors dazzle them and demonstrate amazing skill and handling that make him a rival to Picasso and Matisse as the leading painters of the 20th century. And now that he carries the highest record ever paid at auction for a single work of art, few can doubt hereafter his awesome presence in modern art. For more about the auction, see the news report by Carol Vogel in the NYT. Some of CultureGrrl's observations about the sale and Christie's bizarre disclaimer on buyer and seller buy-ins shows that the old days of equality in auction sales are long gone.

Among some other musings I've been storing up... About two weekends ago, AA and I took a short getaway trip to New Orleans for some R&R. We got to see the RL-DGs and their new baby NGL, plus play with the ever-adorable dog Penny. But RL--officially and professionally Russell Lord, photography curator--also had some incredible exhibitions on that we went to see. Edward Burtynsky: Water at the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans was just beautiful. His photographs shot around the world highlight the importance of water in our lives and the ways in which we control it. The images are dazzling and breath-taking. He creates such complex compositions in colors so vibrant you would swear you were looking at abstract paintings. The image below is one of a number of these beautiful pictures (image: Dryland Farming #2: Monegros County Aragon Spain, 2010; copyright Edward Burtynsky). To top that show off, Russell also curated the thought-provoking exhibition Gordon Parks: The Making of an Argument at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Here, Russell explored how Parks's 1948 photographic essay, published in Life magazine about a Harlem gangster named Leonard "Red" Jackson, actually revealed a cropped, edited form of sensationalist journalism that belied the truth behind what Parks really saw in this so-called gang leader struggling to live an everyday life as a black youth in Harlem. Both of these shows are just fascinating, so everyone should go see them if you're in New Orleans. And while you're there, you can check out his third exhibition, a "best of" in the photography collection at NOMA.

For photography and architecture buffs who love New York City, there is a new fun website that appeals to all those people who love seeing pictures of cities and landmarks "then and now." Called NYC Grid, it allows you to use a yellow dividing-line bar over photographs to see how landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge and surrounding areas changed from the past to now. It's quite an amazing tool and demonstrates how fun Internet technology can be at times. There are currently only 32 works you can do this too, but the site has fun photography of different neighborhoods worth perusing as well.

Have you ever wondered how music sounded in ancient Greece and Rome? Mathematically and chromatically, scholars had determined in the past how it was constructed. Now with some clever tinkering of musical instruments, a scholar at Oxford University has demonstrated how Greek music sounded. You can read more about this interesting study here from the BBC, and click here to listen to a few of the recordings of vocal and instrumental music (in association with Archaeology magazine).

Finally...(drum roll, please!)...imagine my devilish delight when I discovered that my all-time favorite Disney villain, Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, was being given her own biopic in non-animated form! I haven't seen a Disney movie like this in eons, so I'm looking forward to this. Maleficent really was wicked...and could turn into a dragon too. How cool is that? Angelina Jolie plays her in the film...creepy! OK, it's also a bit bizarre, I know, but still...it's Maleficent! Here's the trailer for the film...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

First Snowfall: 2013-2014 Fall/Winter

About a year ago today we had our first seasonal snowfall, but it turned into a major snowstorm...and then never snowed again for the rest of the season! And now this morning we have snow flurries! It's not really sticking, so no expectations (wishes?) for an actual snowstorm, but it's a start to the season. It's not easy taking pictures of snow falling, but this is the best one I could come up with using my iPhone outside my apartment building about 8am this morning. Notice the little slanted white streaks...that's the snow.

Monday, November 11, 2013

DW: Day of the Doctor

It's been almost a year since I last posted about that time traveling (television) genius, Doctor Who! And although the last segment of episodes earlier this year were...well, acceptable, but not the greatest...I have very high hopes for the special 50th anniversary episode premiering on November 23rd! After all, it brings back Dr. David Tennant and reportedly many of the other earlier Doctors in a segment that celebrates 50 years of this British sci-fi show. John Hurt returns too as...well, I guess he's another future incarnation of the Doctor? I'm confused. But, I must say, I'm also rather excited, even if I have little idea what's actually happening in the episode, although Queen Elizabeth I makes another appearance in mid-1500s England, and the Daleks get to scream "Exterminate!" as they take great pride in doing. We do know that Dr. Matt Smith is leaving the show and Peter Cabaldi is stepping in as more-mature Doctor #12, so I wonder if this upcoming episode will actually be Smith's last one, that he will regenerate into the newest Doctor at the end, as has happened in previous incarnations. In any case, the good news is that we won't have to wait too long to find out. And to whet your appetite, here's a teaser of what's coming. And can I say again...Dr. David is back!!! I really do think he was awesome.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

MWA XVIII: Caravaggio's Medusa

If you weren't shocked by this Monthly Work of Art, then you're watching too many zombie movies. Our society today is overexposed to sensation. Every thrill has to be bettered by the next thrill. Special effects have to be even more realistic or over-the-top than what was seen before. And each time you're scared, you need to be scared even more by the next encounter. This all especially applies to the movies, our most popular of art forms, and you can probably blame Hitchcock and Psycho for starting that trend. But in the world of art (i.e. the "fine" arts), the ability to shock can still do that. We expect beauty, finesse, refinement, and serenity from paintings and sculptures of figurative subjects. Think Madonnas and Nativity scenes, Grand Manner portraits, and picturesque landscapes. So it startles us when we see something ugly or shocking or repulsive in a painting or sculpture. For some it is the sublime at work--beauty so terrifying it scares them. But for others it is simply the shock value of the grotesque.

Michelangelo Merisi, aka Caravaggio (ca.1571-1610), excelled in extreme forms of realism and in many ways ushered in the Baroque style, with dramatic lighting and unusual scenes, in Southern European painting. This work is no exception, and it is among Caravaggio's most disturbing. Painted in the late 1590s, this painting, oil on canvas laid on board, at the Uffizi in Florence (image: Web Gallery of Art), shows the decapitated head of Medusa. According to ancient the Roman poet Ovid, Medusa was a beautiful maiden who was raped by Poseidon, the sea god, in the temple of Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war. Athena blamed Medusa for seducing Poseidon and defiling her temple, so she cursed her and transformed her into a hideous monster with snakes for hair. One look at Medusa and you turned to stone (literally, petrified). She was eventually killed and beheaded by Perseus, who used his shield as a mirror to help him cut off her head. Athena then used the head as the aegis on her shield, a symbol to inspire fear in others. Hence, Caravaggio's painting depicts, rather shockingly in its naturalism, Medusa's head on Athena's shield. The blood and guts of the severed head are frightening enough, but it is the pathos of the painting that chills us even more. We fear her gaze, but we realize she is as frightened of us as we are of her. And that frozen scream of pain echoing from her gaping mouth makes us aware that she too was once was just a poor girl who suffered great tragedies in life. Beautiful works of art can convey many things, from spirituality to morality, but sometimes with gruesome, visceral subjects, they generate catharsis, that jolt, that sensation, which makes a viewer stop and pause, and feel something about what s/he sees, perhaps for the first time.

And, oh, yes...Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Simeon Solomon Fundraising Effort

If you think the grave site you see in this picture is appalling, then you're not alone. Those of us who are scholars (and simply enjoyers) of the life and work of Simeon Solomon (1840-1905) find it depressing. It is indeed a sad testament in the life of this extraordinary artist whose ended his days in a miserable way. I've written about Solomon more than once on this blog, and recently gave a talk about one of his first great oil paintings, so many of you are aware of my interest in him. I'm pleased to share the news, then, that Carolyn Conroy, my colleague and friend (and fellow Solomaniac), has been approached by Mr. Frank Vigon to help organize a fundraising effort that would place a new headstone at Solomon's grave in Willesden Jewish Cemetery in London. More importantly, the fundraising effort will also provide a scholarship/fund in the artist's name that will create opportunities for academic programs on the art of Solomon and the larger 19th-century British art world in which he worked. The scholarship/fund has the full support of Prof. Liz Prettejohn and will be based in the History of Art Department at the University of York, England. This project is a valiant effort on the part of Mr. Vigon, and with the support of many of us, it will be a great success. To read the full details about the fundraising effort, and to contribute by check or PayPal, go to http://www.simeonsolomon.com/simeon-solomon-fundraising-appeal.html.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Public Sculpture II: Columbia University

Following up on the post I just wrote about Storm King Art Center, another public sculpture-themed post is in order. My interest in public sculpture has taken another step forward, in that part of my job as Curator of Art Properties is to oversee the care of the public outdoor sculpture at Columbia University. (You may recall I went to a seminar recently on the care of metal outdoor sculpture!) We have a number of works that date from the late 1890s through the 2000s, and some are by major sculptors known to most people (can you say Rodin?). I'm pleased to announce that today we released the first iteration of what will be a growing collection of webpages or a blog about the public outdoor sculpture collection at Columbia. You can read the first webpage here, which was publicized today on Twitter and Facebook by TG. The image you see above is the subject of our first webpage: George Grey Barnard's The Great God Pan. I won't repeat all the information here about the sculpture, because that's on the webpage I just referenced. But I'm very pleased about this webpage, as it is a major step forward in helping to promote just one component of the art collections at Columbia, a task which is monumental in its scope, but something which I am eagerly challenged to take on. Stay tuned for more about the public outdoor sculpture collection at Columbia!

Public Sculpture I: Storm King

When I decided to move into the world of sculpture for my PhD studies and dissertation, I never anticipated that public sculpture would become an interest of mine. Even more surprising to me has been my gradual increase of interest in modern public sculpture (PR must be rolling his eyes right about now). Sculpture occupies space; thus, our interactions with it are determined by spatial arrangements. It forces you to engage with it (assuming you're actually looking at it), and it invites you to walk around it, take it in from all sides. It is, in many ways, a reflection of us, albeit in a different material form, be it stone, wood, or metal. The long history of figurative sculpture of course makes this idea of self-reflection more apparent. But abstract sculpture, works that base their existence on concepts and materiality over humanistic representation, can confuse people. In my personal experience, abstract sculptures are about their own material nature and how they blend/repel the environment that surrounds them. Placed in urban settings, they may take on a vitality that in a rural or nature-based setting changes them into some more contemplative. I make no claims to actually understand the socio-political and cultural ramifications of public sculpture, but I'm enjoying my own personal experience with it. Two weekends ago, AA and made a trip to Storm King Art Center up the Hudson River. We just meandered and took in nature and the sculpture installed everywhere. Some of it was fascinating, other parts just okay. It was a beautiful day though, with the leaves starting to change color, and just wandering, relaxing, admiring art and nature all from different angles was simply a great day. The sculpture above is by Mark di Suvero, Jambalaya, 2002-06, and for sense of scale you'll notice teeny weeny AA in the right foreground taking his own picture of the I-beam steel sculpture. Here are a few other pictures we took that day: Zhang Huan, Three Legged Buddha, 2007 (with another mini-AA beside it for scale); Andy Goldsworthy, Storm King Wall, 1997-98 (probably my favorite environmental piece that day, loving the way it interacts like a serpent of stone through the trees); Roy Lichtenstein, Mermaid, 1994; and Alexander Calder, The Arch, 1975.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

NECBS 2013

On Friday I headed up to the University of Connecticut in Storrs for the 2013 Northeast Conference on British Studies. I had never been there before, but I had heard that it was in the middle of nowhere and a rather charming campus. Both are true, and if you like being in the middle of nowhere in a small university town, then UConn is a place to consider. Not for me, however, but it was good to see a new place anyway, even if I had to take a 2-hour train to New Haven, then rent a car and drive in bumper-to-bumper traffic for nearly 2 more hours. Alas, because I had to return the car in New Haven before the agency closed, I wasn't able to stay for much of the conference, so I really can assess just what I experienced, which wasn't much.

I was there to read a queer-interpretation paper on the sculpture you see here, John Gibson's Mars Restrained by Cupid, 1819-25, a commission he received from the 6th Duke of Devonshire for his planned sculpture gallery at Chatsworth. I had given a less-organized (in retrospect) version of a paper on this same sculpture back in 2010 in Montreal at the British Queer History Conference (which I first blogged about here and talked more about the conference here). This current talk was an opportunity to polish up my presentation with a few new ideas. I was part of a panel session with 2 other NYers, our panel focusing on the role of British aristocratic patronage in the visual arts. Randolph Trumbach (Baruch Coll.) spoke first about the use (or dismissal) of images of Jesus with St. John in Last Supper scenes, as they moved from Italy to England during the period of the Reformation. Note that his paper was intended to be provocative in its homoerotic, iconographic approach; indeed, there has been scholarship on the so-called "queer Christ" image that includes him embracing on his lap the young St. John, to sensualized Crucifixion scenes (see also the great art historian Leo Steinberg's infamous book The Sexuality of Christ, which I mentioned here when Steinberg died). Although Trumbach is a well-respected scholar on the history of homosexuality, this was his admitted first foray into art history, and...well...it needs work. I have a great deal of respect for his past scholarship and publications. But this situation is not uncommon, when someone outside of art history chooses to explore so-called Visual Culture. Without art historical training, the "image" becomes merely a representation that, without proper contextualization in the making of art or its social historical construction, can easily be misread. His paper has future merit in his exploration of a changing iconographic theme, once he has a better grasp of exploring the background context for how the iconographic image was created and why it evolved over time.

And before it seems as if I am being hypercritical and not self-reflective, allow me to also say that I'm discovering more and more (frustratingly so) that my own explorations into queer-themed scholarship are often met with a lack of support and high levels of criticism. You would think one's (gay male) peers would encourage scholarship of any kind, but the essentialist/existentialist divide in gay studies/queer theory still creates an incredible sense of alienation. The essentialists want historical facts that "he" was gay and couldn't care less about theory; the existentialists dismiss anything as "gay" before the late 19th-century, when they argue homosexual identities came to exist for the first time. How then does one explore the middle-ground, which is how I work? It's a challenge, I must say, and I've found myself having to defend my work more often than not, and most often to other gay male scholars. (AA kindly stated they were jealous of what I had done. I appreciate the sentiment, but that isn't it. I do think some gay male scholars are simply catty bitches, but I would never claim my work is that good. I know it needs work. However, I also recognize that because it is in the in-between place, a moderate take that draws both on essentialism and existentialism, the extremists on either end just can't buy into this position because it doesn't satisfy their beliefs, practices, or perspectives.)  OK, that was a long-winded diatribe off-topic. Moving on with the conference...

Ching-Jung Chen's (City College) paper on 2 "conversation piece" paintings from 1732, commissioned by competing branches of the Wentworth family, was interesting. I like how she "read" so much iconography in these often understudied types of paintings and how they could tell the viewer so much about the families represented. The other panel session I attended also addressed of sexuality in 19th/20th-century British cultural history. Ruby Daily (Univ VT) gave a rather fun talk about the image of the governess as both a victim and a dominatrix (flagellation!) in Victorian literature and popular press illustrations. Brian Lewis (McGill) gave an excellent presentation about George Ives and his secret society, the Order of the Chaeronea, arguably one of the earliest gay-rights movements. Finally Paul Deslandes (Univ VT) spoke about the role of beauty and physique magazines in the 1950s/60s Britain. After a quick lunch, I had to head back to the City. It would have been good to hear more presentations, but alas it wasn't meant to be.

UPDATE 10/8/13: Ever since I published this post, I've been meaning to come back and do some editing. I've since decided not to edit what I've written, but add a follow-up comment. The feedback that I have received about this post has been both supportive and critical. Allow me to first say that in jumping from my discussion of Trumbach's paper to my diatribe on my personal reception of gay/queer interpretation was not related, so I didn't mean to suggest that it was. I'm still not exactly sure what led me to do proselytize about gay/queer studies, but clearly it was a personal sentiment I was feeling the need to express. I realize some might see what I've said as being defensive; but I'm also being honest about how I've felt working in this area of discourse, so I'm not going to sugar-coat that. (That said, to quote TM, one of my more sympathetic Facebook friends and colleagues, "Alas, it's not advisable to stand between two barricades when there is still some shooting.") As for Trumbach's paper, I don't mean to suggest that his paper and thesis were bad or not interesting. He has a solid working thesis that is worth pursuing and I look forward to seeing how he continues to work on this topic. One of his more interesting points was not only how or why the change in St. John occurred, but also how it manifested itself in English Reformation culture, in contrast to Counter-Reformation continental representations. My concern written here was more with how his images did not successfully communicate his thesis. If the image selection were fine-tuned and more time spent looking at a smaller number of images as exemplars of the thesis, then the overall presentation would have been--and would be--even stronger. I stand by what I said about numerous scholars in Visual Culture who have used images as merely illustrations of a thesis without understanding the making of the art object, which is critical to the understanding of how images are part of a culture's development.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

MWA XVII: Hunt's Awakening

With so much happening last month, I forgot to post a Monthly Work of Art. Hopefully we are back on track with this, as we post #17: William Holman Hunt's The Awakening Conscience, 1853. It seems appropriate to post one of the most important of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, considering my last post was a summary of the recent conference in Oxford. Few people really understand what the PRB (Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood) was or what the style actually means. Officially, the PRB was a group of 7 radical artists who in 1848 London gathered to create their own artistic society that would rebel against the traditions taught at the Royal Academy. In short, they believed that the primacy of art lay in masterworks before the time of Raphael or the High Renaissance.  Thus they were most interested in what was then seen as primitive art, i.e. art of the 1300s and 1400s, from Duccio and Giotto to Fra Lippo Lippi and Botticelli. But what made them also modern was that they wanted to paint modern-day subjects, or modern literary scenes, with a close eye that adhered to "truth to nature," the mantra established by the great contemporary art critic John Ruskin. The influence of photography on them was of course instrumental in their development, both as a way to borrow on the verisimilitude of photography's naturalistic capabilities, but also to surpass it as a work of art. When their art was displayed, they were both credited and jeered for their attempts to paint every blade of glass and their use of intense bright colors. They ultimately used techniques from the past to paint modern subjects.

Holman Hunt was undoubtedly the most consciously moralistic in what his paintings could teach people, and he wasn't afraid to shock middle-class values in the process. The irony of this, of course, is that although this painting was meant to startle people in its exposure of a man and his kept mistress, Holman Hunt was having an affair with the model, Annie Miller, so the painting does arguably reveal his own self-awareness and shame over the situation in which he was involved. This painting is so full of symbolism and details, and rather an exquisite gem of a painting, that I'm going to quote from the Tate's curators, who describe it so well on their collection website.

"A gentleman has installed his mistress (known to be such because of her absence of a wedding ring) in a house for their meetings. As they play and sing to Thomas Moore's Oft in the Stilly Night, she has a sudden spiritual revelation. Rising from her lover's lap, she gazes into the sunlit garden beyond, which is reflected in the mirror behind her. The mirror image represents the woman's lost innocence, but redemption, indicated by the ray of light in the foreground, is still possible. Intended to be 'read', the painting is full of such symbolic elements. The cat toying with the broken-winged bird under the table symbolises the woman's plight. A man's discarded glove warns that the likely fate of a cast-off mistress was prostitution. A tangled skein of yarn on the floor symbolises the web in which the girl is entrapped. Indeed, as Ruskin wrote to the Times on 25 May 1854, 'the very hem of the poor girl's dress, at which the painter has laboured so closely, thread by thread, has story in it, if we think how soon its pure whiteness may be soiled with dust and rain, her outcast feet failing in the street'. The frame, designed by Hunt, also contains various symbolic emblems; the bells and marigolds stand for warning and sorrow, the star is a sign of spiritual revelation."

UPDATE (10/6/13): Imagine my surprise when I was going back through old posts and discovered I had spoken about Holman Hunt's painting back in 2011 during a Random Musing! It's inevitable at times that I may duplicate images, but perhaps that's a subconscious reminder of certain things I actually enjoy and want to talk about even more.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Conference on Pre-Raphaelitism

Toward the end of last week, I was in Oxford, England, where I spoke about Simeon Solomon's painting The Mother of Moses, 1860, the abstract of which I posted a few months ago here. It was my first time in Oxford, and although it has some lovely architecture and history, I have to confess that it didn't impress me with its beauty the way Cambridge does (hopefully the Oxonians won't hate me for that). Oxford turned out to be more of a bustling small city with lots of tourists; Cambridge, I must say, is more bucolic and picturesque. In any case, it was still great to be there, and to participate in the two-day conference, Pre-Raphaelitism: Past, Present and Future, held at the Ashmolean Museum and St. John's College. Planners Prof. Christiana Payne and Dr. Dinah Roe, with Dr. Alastair Wright and Colin Harrison of the Ashmolean, did a fantastic job organizing a great two days. For me the highlights among the presentations included: Jason Rosenfeld on 1960s counter-culture and fashion today, and their relationship to the Pre-Raphaelites; Claire Yearwood on the use of the mirror in Pre-Raphaelite paintings; and Amelia Yeates on narrative genre paintings of the 1850s and 1860s and how they fit (or not) within the Pre-Raphaelite style. Yeates' paper focused on the work of artist Robert Braithwaite Martineau, who was considered a peripheral Pre-Raphaelite, and whose painting The Knight's Guerdon, 1864, is the image you see here, from the Ashmolean's collection. My dear friend and colleague Carolyn Conroy (go Team Solomon!) spoke about a cache of late drawings by Solomon held by the Ashmolean and did an amazing job determining for the first time their provenance and identifying their titles through archival research. Stephen Wildman, a noted expert on John Ruskin, gave what should have been a great opening talk, but drilling noises in the room next door actually made it impossible to hear anything he had to say, so I'm disappointed that I still have no idea if Ruskin actually liked the Pre-Raphaelites or not, which was the topic of his talk.

We also had opportunities to visit the galleries of the Ashmolean and a rare opportunity to see the frescoes by some of the PR's and their associates in the Oxford Union, followed by a lovely group dinner. Many of the papers were geared toward literature scholars, who seem to have gotten much more out of the conference than the art people. I've always said that with art history if you've never seen the picture before, the speaker shows it to you during the talk; with literature, if you haven't read the work before, you're completely at a loss to know what the speaker is discussing. I also enjoyed Tate curator Alison Smith's plenary talk about the history of various Pre-Raphaelite exhibitions and their reception over the past century, leading up to the currently-traveling show Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde, co-curated by her with Rosenfeld and Tim Barringer. I saw the exhibition in Washington, D.C. back in May, introducing AA to the PRB for the first time, and we both enjoyed it. That exhibition is now on in Moscow and then moves to Tokyo. The international taste for Pre-Raphaelitism has exploded, and the response from the people has been great. Art critics, on the other hand, have been a bit dismissive; their inability to move past the French trajectory of modernism leaves them short-sighted about the ways other contemporaneous art movements also were "avant garde" in their own way. Time will eventually show that there is more than one way to be modern.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Portal 3

Portal 3: Vizzola Ticino (12 July 2005)
(For others in my portal series, click here.)

Thirty spokes share the wheel's hub;
It is the center hole that makes it useful.
Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore benefit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there.

-- Laozi, Tao Te Ching, 6th century BCE (chap. 11, trans. Gia-Fu Feng & Jane English)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Happy 5th Birthday!

Wow, we are growing up so quickly! On August 29th, we celebrate the 5th birthday of our little blog bklynbiblio! It really is amazing how far we have come and how much has happened over the past 5 years. We are now at 427 posts. Our top 5 tags haven't changed since last year, although the order has: "New York" (107) and "19th-century art" (68) are still the top tags, but "photography" (64) has moved up, with "England" and "gay" still up there as well. My thanks as always to all my readers for your continuous support these past 5 years.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


With everything the past few months a big whirlwind for me, between a new job and a new apartment, I haven't had time to blog too much. I'm sure that will change soon, however, as I'm off on another great adventure: San Francisco! You may recall I was last in California (Los Angeles specifically) in February 2012, and about this time of the year I've been known to run off to Provincetown. But this year my friends and I decided to traverse to the West coast. It will be my first time in San Francisco, so I'm thrilled to be going, and we do have plans to go to Sonoma one night and partake of wine tasting opportunities. Hopefully I will recap highlights from the trip when I return. I wonder though...will I leave my heart in San Francisco? Tony Bennett did so, and he sang that song on Judy Garland's variety show back in the 1960s. Here's the delightful video of that crooner, or you can see it on YouTube by clicking here.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Movin' on Up!

The picture you see here is the front facade of the building in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, where I've lived for the past 8 years. It amazes me to realize that I moved here in August 2005 and how fast the time has flown by. My entire doctoral education took place on the 2nd floor of this building, as did a number of parties with good friends, and stayovers with family and friends who got a taste of Brooklyn on their visits. This is actually one of the longest residences I've ever had too. But one must move on. Or as I've been envisioning it, I'm "movin' on up!" Yes, readers, I'm moving into Manhattan. I'm moving into a studio apartment on the Upper West Side, which will make my commute to work faster. I will be able to enjoy the benefits of being near Riverside Park and Central Park as well. It's going to be a big change for me, but I'm looking forward to it. But what shall we do with bklynbiblio? The premise of this blog name was because I lived in Brooklyn. Do I change it because I'm moving out of Brooklyn? I've thought a lot about this, and I've decided the answer is NO. I've become rather proud of my blogging sobriquet, and rather than suggest by its name that I'm a current Brooklyn resident, my blog name will reflect where it was born and christened. So, although I bid adieu to 8 years of Brooklyn residency--to the BQE, to the Met grocery store, to Bocca Lupo's amazing food, and my local laundrymat and dry cleaner/seamstress (that poor Chinese woman will be devastated!)--I also say hello to Manhattan...I'm movin' on up! And to commemorate this great moment, I present to you George and Louise Jefferson, who once upon time found themselves "movin' on up" to the East Side (okay, I'm going to the West Side, but you get the idea). If you can't see the video, click here.