Archive for July, 2009
During a bicycle ride through TriBeCa today, I came across some Bastille Day festivities on West Broadway, where a large crowd had gathered to play petanque on a sand court set up for that purpose in the street. There was a brass band playing music and a petanque tournament was in progress when I arrived, in front of the Cercle Rouge Brasserie, a French Bistro that is apparently named after the 1970 movie, Le Cercle Rouge.
This Petanque player’s energy was an amazing thing to behold; my drawing does not fully convey the intensity of his focus as he took his position to make his shots. The other players were much younger than him, mostly college kids, jostling each other and laughing, their energy loose and scattered by comparison. This man became completely rooted to the ground when he lined up to shoot: his gaze penetrating and precise as he bent slightly at the waist, his right hand poised for a moment like a discus thrower in an olympiad. I could almost feel the line of force radiating out from his face across the court. He was good, too: his boule frequently landed within an inch or two of the jack. After finishing a round, he would take a drag off of a little cigarillo before casting the circle for the next shot, saying nothing the whole time. Petanque, I recently discovered, actually means anchored feet.
On 10th Avenue and 20th Street, right on the edge of the Chelsea Art District, this accordionist was busking on the corner, his back turned towards the avenue, facing the parking garage that sits nearby. I noticed him as much for his outfit as his music: he wore a helmet modeled after a Star Wars character the entire time that he was playing. He would not remove the helmet even to wipe his face (it was a bit warm outside), but instead would deftly lift the mask partially away and run his hand underneath: I wondered if perhaps he was trying to conceal his identity. At one point he began playing a Philip Glass theme that I recognized, then segued abruptly into La Marseillaise and the theme from Star Wars. He was still there when I rode by again an hour later, groups of art tourists walking by tossing money into his open case.
I can’t imagine not having plants sitting around the studio. An artist friend of mine named Moses Hoskins gave me a tip on growing avocados a few years ago, and I started this one in a coffee can. I’m going to have to transplant it again soon. It’s sitting on my rolling palette-table, which is just a ready-made tabouret fashioned from an old crate I’d found on the street in Manhattan some 15 years ago. I screwed some caster-wheels onto the bottom and store my oil mediums in it. It’s dimensions are identical to the size of my 12″ x 15″ Enigromatic Paintings, one of which is mounted to the side in this photo.
A few years ago I saw an exhibit of Picasso paintings at a gallery on 57th street that included an old palette that the artist had sitting in his studio when he died. I was surprised to see how similar it was to this little crate that I’d found, with an old ceramic plate on top with black paint dried onto it, a brush still stuck to the paint. It was one of the most moving things I’d seen from Picasso: it reminded me of some of his guitar constructions somehow.
These were mostly done in my neighborhood in Brooklyn; the bridge goes over the Gowanus Canal at Union Street. I sometimes carry a small tin of watercolors with a special brush that folds into a tube; the whole thing fits into my pocket or a shoulder bag, along with whatever sketchbook I’m carrying.
My most recently published “artist’s book” is Buildings and People. This one is mostly drawings of my neighborhood here in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, and a few street scenes in Manhattan, plus some drawings of my fellow subway riders. You can buy a copy of Buildings and People at this great little boutique called Serimony in Brooklyn on Court Street near 3rd place.
While going through some old files, I found this bit of ephemera from when I worked as a guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, from 1993 to 1999. In the employee cafeteria there, which was under the Egyptian Wing at that time, there was a bulletin board where the folks who worked in the building would post various notices: jobs, old stereo equipment for sale, used cars, wedding and baby-shower announcements, funerals, retirements, flyers for a performance or an art exhibit, and so on.
Many of the guards who worked at the Met were artists like myself, or musicians, poets, fiction writers, actors and other creative people. One man that I knew was a Tibetan scholar with the equivalent of a western PhD degree, who had written an important text on aspects of vajrayana meditation. Anyway, one day I found this poem by Randall Jarrell photocopied and pinned up to the employee bulletin board; I thought it summarized something poignant about the situation of working as a security guard at an Art Museum:
One day last weekend while visiting the Francis Bacon exhibit, I saw someone I knew still working as a guard there. She told me about a big layoff that was coming: 100 people, apparently, were about to be let go from their positions there, and in spite of the fact that the guards have a union! No wonder I noticed that many of the galleries were roped off to the public: not enough guards to keep them open, and soon there will be even less, if what I heard is actually true.
Here’s one of the enigromatic notebooks that I carried in my coat when I worked at the Met: