This below is my watercolor called Refreshing Day in Stony Creek: a slice of water and sky and land, that appeared in the summer group show of local artists at Willoughby Wallace Memorial Library in Stony Creek, Connecticut. Long Island Sound has a remarkable array of small islands: the Thimble Islands, right opposite the site of Willoughby Wallace Memorial Library, a library which houses a lovely gallery specifically for art shows like this.
Thursday, September 8, 2022
Thursday, September 1, 2022
I found an article today about plans that New York City is contemplating: to enhance the current incarnation of Penn Station by improving and enlarging its lower levels where Long Island Railroad commuters struggle with its current limitations. I will post some pictures of the magnificent original Penn Station, a sculptural wonder of glass and iron, which someone decided should be torn asunder in order to replace it with a huge and ordinary building. The terrible days began exactly when I was commuting to my first job in New York as they began knocking down those huge stone columns that held the whole place so perfectly.
It would have been in 1962 when I first began to commute daily to New York City. I had graduated from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 1961, commuting daily from Long Island to Brooklyn for four years. And after graduating from Pratt, I took courses at a business school in New York City, learning something called Speedwriting, and typing...I quite liked it. Following that, I found a job I also quite liked: Simplicity Pattern Company. Simplicity's offices were on two floors of a tall building right alongside Altman's department store. I still felt myself to be an artist, but something about the regular world of business and commerce was easing to my mind. But this also had much to do with what occurred just then: something so unexpected happened to my older sister Cynthia: after years of intelligent schoolwork in high school, four more years at Barnard College where she majored in Art History, and years' long study of ballet, at which she was considered very gifted, she developed something pretty terrible: schizophrenia. A world changing event for herself, and for all of us in the family. And that had a lot to do with my ease and comfortableness in going in every day to work in a regular and predictable world. Though I was not overwhelmed with interest in fashion, I did like my job as Secretary to the Fabric Editor, Norma...I liked them all: Norma, her Assistant Editor, Nancy and the other member of our staff, Judy: so agreeable that I found going to work to be a kind of balm to soothe the sense of worry that hung over our family. The four of us often ate lunch at our desks from local coffee shops.and laughed a lot. Down one hallway was the advertising department and down the other, a host of stylists who came in to our office daily and frequently to browse through file upon file of all the current fabrics that the garment industry was purveying that season. Will write a little more about this world up ahead...
Meanwhile, here are several archival photos of Penn Station:
Saturday, May 9, 2020
To go back to soothing memories of the untroubled past, a piece of music comes to my mind: Bobby Short, singing "I Happen to Like New York"...so shall give here a small view of my own New York feelings.
This is a reminiscence of a hot day last summer when I had gone in to New York on a Metro North train from Connecticut, not remembering what exactly I had done earlier that day but thinking it was most likely a stop to see my favorite Medieval gallery at the Met Museum, and visiting another place right nearby: Zitomer Pharmacy (where my daughters and I had all our prescriptions filled over the years when they were kids, and where they lavished attention on "Hello Kitty stickers", modestly priced at 35 cents, that had pleased them immensely.) I love going back to that neighborhood always, especially feeling at home in the Met's Medieval Gallery, where I can visit certain 13th Century polychromed little figures as sweet to me as my little grand-dog Archie.
That day, I had been walking downtown on Park Avenue, having left the Met Museum and Zitomer's, to go back to Grand Central from whence I'd come earlier. It was a disgustingly hot day, and as I walked down Park Avenue, feeling depleted and dehydrated, all I could think of was ice cream, how it would revive me, but was reluctant to walk either east to Madison Avenue nor west to Lexington to find some place where I could find and have some ice cream. I kept thinking: I must persevere and keep on my way to the station so I can get on a train and get home. I continued walking downtown on Park through the 70s, the 60s, the 50s, then finally finding one of Grand Central's entrances, the one on Vanderbilt Avenue, and got inside the station,. Once there, I could find no signs of any available ice cream, then saw, miraculously, a small neon sign, subtle but elegant, perched just above the main marble floor of the station. It said Cipriani Dolci and I had just read an interesting article about it in the Times or the New Yorker, so made my way in hopes that they were open. I saw two little tables out on a porch-like little platform, a few feet above the station floor, and went up the steps to speak to a waiter standing there, asking him if they were open for someone who just wanted coffee and some ice cream. He said yes, and I sat down. So glad!
I sat admiring the majesty of Grand Central's extraordinary ceiling, so high above, and felt like I had made some heroic trek to get here, to the salvation of cold and delicious ice cream, that would revive me for the trip home. He brought the dish of vanilla ice cream and a cup of hot coffee. My plan was to spoon some of the coffee into the ice cream and refresh my being, feeling I had reached some safe way-station, when the worst happened: I tipped over my coffee cup onto the whole of my little table, drenching its white cloth covering (though my ice cream was still intact.) He removed the debris, and I finished the ice cream, saving my soul from the heat exhaustion and dehydration of the moment. Very embarrassed was I, but he, in gentlemanly fashion, made nothing of it. I paid my tab and went down the steps and on to search for my train track.
From this vantage point...I would give anything to be heading back to Grand Central, to be back in familiar neighborhoods, in the ordinary but wonderful texture of life. We all know, though, that this is now, and memory will have to suffice...but here's to what we will call normalcy and it is very welcome!
An online photo of Cipriani Dolci in its marble-walled environs at Grand Central Staiton.
Today, Sunday, May 10, 2020, I found this picture below on the front page of the Sunday New York Times, its caption reading:
"Art Is Long. So Is Lockdown: Outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York"
I, too, with a million zillion others, happen to love New York.
Thursday, August 1, 2019
I was in my 30s when I first noticed among my pictures a small watercolor framed earlier which had stains permeating the paper on which it had been painted, apparently due to an unfortunate use of inappropriate adhesive applied by an unwitting but uninformed framer.
In those years, I was unaware of what are now standard procedures in conservation framing but everything that has been framed since then has been fine in its protection of the paper, the pigment and the essence of the image which, of course, should remain unchanged over time...the ideal objective in framing.
Here in my apartment there is a really wonderful collection of frames, in which reside paintings and drawings, some by myself, others by members of my family who are artists, and some by artist friends.
But there's also another dimension to the art of framing, beyond the holistic rightness of the methodology of framing, which has to do with the process that weds the image to its partner: the ideal frame.
My own preference is to paint on paper, not canvas, and have for years used a certain strong yet fine grained watercolor paper that comes in the form of watercolor blocks. It's a wonderful paper that can withstand multiple layers of watercolor and pastel and ink, and yet, like all paper, is vulnerable to the onslaughts of time, moisture and even so subtle an influence as air.
I like Instagram a lot, particularly when am able to post a photo of some small view of nature and then write a caption for it. I have so often found and posted leaves that were pelted by the rain and sent down to the ground before they've even experienced their season of summer days and nights. One caption describes photos of leaves flat on their backs on a wet pavement, the rain only bringing out more beautifully their extraordinary colors and delicate linework. So regarding a painting, fellow sibling to a leaf, its fate is not to be left to chance and the hazards of weather, but instead to find a comfy, permanent home in the two (yet also three) dimensional world called a frame.
I sometimes save favorite leaves in a book, an old and excellent dictionary that belonged to my aunt Connie, and think that once placed there, the leaf can relax and be safe from wind, rain, and life's general chaos. Likewise, a picture housed in its unique frame (chosen to surround it but also to harmonize with it) is in safe harbor just as its leaf siblings are in the dictionary. It can finally just be...be itself...and look out through the glass at a world that is otherwise unsafe for things made of paper.
After finding that sadly damaged watercolor (due to the unfortunate framing process years ago) I looked into Yellow Pages to find a shop in New York City that both did conservation framing and was open on Saturdays. My daughters and I lived in Roosevelt Island at the time, and my job, being Monday to Friday there on the Island, required going over to Manhattan on a Saturday to visit a framing shop. And of all the places called, only one said, yes, we're here Saturday afternoons. That was Hammerquist Gallery, and I was speaking to its owner, Bob Hammerquist, at the shop that was then on Third Avenue between 29th and 30th Streets. Bob and his wife, Cathy have had, over the years, several framing shops in the same neighborhood, the Rose Hill section of the city, just south of Murray Hill. Their earliest shop was on East 30th Street, with, as Cathy once told me, a lovely distinctive red door looking out onto 30th Street. The second shop was on Third Avenue at 29th Street, and this one now is at 529 Second Avenue Street, between 29th and 30th Streets (see the photo just below.)
|The view looking toward the door on Second Avenue...|
the wall covered with spectacular frames.
And then, a few years later, I went on to work there at Hammerquist Gallery on Third Avenue for several years, in the office on the upstairs mezzanine,. It was such a pleasure to be in an environment where art abounded and the framing excellent. I'm hoping the pictures I post will attest sufficiently to the rarity of good framing: the "rightness" of a frame and a picture finding a perfect yin and yang relationship.
Earl Mayan, for whom this shop is named, was a teacher at Art Students League for many years, and an illustrator of Adventure Magazine covers in the 1930s, and of Saturday Evening Post short stories as well. And when he was in the army in Europe during WWII, he made a series of exceptional drawings of his fellow soldiers, which drawings he was able to roll up and keep until he could send them home to his wife. Many of these are now framed and hanging there at E. Mayan Studio, along with much more of his work, including two striking ship's paintings that were recently seen in the shop's front windows on Second Avenue, and a large painting of a restaurant in France which you will see in the photos below.
Earl Mayan was also a writer of poetry and biographical writings about the Impressionists, whom he revered. Will post more about this in future.
Here follow some Earl Mayan paintings on display in the shop...in their distinctive Hammerquist frames:
Bob's wife Cathy...and Earl's daughter: Cathy Hammerquist is an artist in oils and acrylics, whose landscapes evoke the Hudson River school of painting, and whose imaginative subject matter, such as the frog seen below and other creatures of the natural world, can also be found displayed in the shop. Cathy's paintings are also housed in beautiful Hammerquist frames.
Some of Cathy's paintings:
One of several fish drawings done on a particular day at Citarella Fish Market on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, in a Hammerquist framing I love.
And my lovely cat, Luchy (Lucia), Cornish Rex, in her round gold frame:
Lastly, here are illustrations by my grandfather, Louis Fleming. He was born in the late 1800s, the youngest of five children, his mother having died when he was just a little guy. He went to school only through 8th grade, proceeding then to work almost as an apprentice, learning to do illustrations on a newspaper. He had assignments of things like fires and other happenings, this in the days before photography was used for papers. He and his brothers all were artists or in the world of printing. The two illustrations which follow were several of the many freelance jobs he did for years. The first below was for Mohonk Mountain House in 1925 and the second, for Texaco in 1929. At age 50, he became Art Director of Conde Nast Press, where he worked until he was 75. I always wished I'd known him to talk to when I was a student artist and a grownup person, but when he died I was still a kid and didn't realize what I would have liked to ask him about. Here are the illustrations mentioned above, and a couple of his ship paintings, all enhanced by their Hammerquist frames (except for the last one, see the explanation which follows.)
In all his ship paintings, he always placed the tiny red dot of color on the port side of the ship (as can be seen in the painting above, as per the world of sea travel.)
This last picture is also a ship painting by Louis Fleming which is inscribed, down in the left hand corner, to my aunt Connie, in 1937. Connie was also quite an afficianado of framing. She worked for years in New York City, and lived in Greenwich Village, where she found, way back, a wonderful framer on 6th Avenue. (I think his name was Buddy Adler, as I often heard her mention him, but will look into this to be sure I am correct about his name.) I think it was her love of framing (and my mother's as well) that influenced me to hold it in such high regard. She particularly loved a dark blue with a distinctive dark red, as this framing demonstrates. And note here also that Buddy Adler too liked to add a colored bevel to a mat, as Bob has done many a time....this is the real essence of good framing and should be hailed as an art to be cherished!
A final thought about the wonder of frame mouldings and what magic they can do to a painting. There are wonders to be found within the fabulous flat drawers at E. Mayan Studio, filled with these myriad, often vintage, mouldings...here, a small sampling:
But the wonders of a good frame do not automatically fly forth from the drawers into the reality of the final piece: this requires the artistry of Bob Hammerquist to bring together the art and its final realization in such a way that they seem inseparable (at least as I see it on my four walls here at home in Connecticut!)
Some views of the shop walls:
And the sign in the shop's window on Second Avenue:
Friday, April 19, 2019
This below is a photo of Renie interviewing Danny Kaye while she was at Cue Magazine:
And this is Louie's inscription in purple marking pen from the back of the photo:
When Renie died, Louie began sending things in large mailing envelopes to both my mother and sister out in Long Island, and to myself and my two daughters. They were fascinating things pertaining to our common family history, which Louie knew we would appreciate. I think Renie found interesting family history information when she wrote her play, The Great Indoors, and also the screenplay for The Beguiled, because her grandfather (my great-grandfather) was a Union soldier in the Civil War, and his wife was Granny Kittle who grew up in North Carolina, the very wonderful grandmother who helped raise Renie and her sisters (and the young man who was my father.)
Among the things that Louie sent us were photos like this above, and some wonderful notes and information about themselves, all revelatory of the intelligence and humor and creative inventiveness of these two people.
Will post more pictures up ahead, but also note there is an earlier post on this blog, dated 12/2/2013, that is also about Renie and Louie, and is titled: "EVERYTHING...and its Opposite", a favorite concept of Renie's.