El Rio – Raul de Nieves

After the 4th of July picnics, barbecues, and fireworks are over, don’t neglect the artistic offerings of the city.

Company Gallery at 88 Eldrigde Street on the Lower East Side offers a visually stunning installation of Raul de Nieves work through July 24th.  http://companygallery.us/

The installation is entitled “El Rio” – The River – and de Nieves brings vibrant color and jewel encrusted objects together to depict a force of nature both terrifying and rapturous. The journey to the gallery involves negotiating the crowded sidewalks of the Little Italy, Chinatown and the Lower East Side so time your visit to do some exploring in the neighborhood (more on that in the next post). The multi-media artist, performer and musician, originally from Morelia, Mexico, now resides in Brooklyn so watch for other chances to see him perform or exhibit locally. 

http://www.rauldenieves.com/

http://rauldenieves.tumblr.com

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Paris Je T’Aime

  

  I really have no words this week – so I leave you with Sara Teasdale’s poem written during World War I.

There Will Come Soft Rains

Sara Teasdale, 1884 – 1933

(War Time)

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground, 

And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,

And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

Robins will wear their feathery fire

Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one

Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree

If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,

Would scarcely know that we were gone. 

My friend Tom Vignieri set it to music at my suggestion.

Designs for Living

I was at the Margaret Mead Film Festival a few weeks ago and saw a film called “Ever the Land,” directed by Sarah Grohnert. The film describes the process of building a Living Building, the highest standard for sustainability, for the Te Wharehou o Tūhoe and the Ngāi Tūhoe Maori people of New Zealand. It was designed by the architect Ivan Mercep, who won the project by pitching it with a blank sheet of paper.  

The Living Building Challenge requires that buildings be net zero energy, water and waste. All materials must be sustainably sourced and non-toxic. The final goal is the creation of true ecological sustainabilty. The founder of the Living Building Challenge, Jason F. McLennan, means for green buildings to be not only ecologically sustainable, but also to promote social justice and support cultural heritage. Truly a challenge for those who work in built environment fields, it is a way of looking at and preparing for the future in a positive manner that incorporates preserving and promoting cultures and respecting our earth and it’s bounty. 

The film describes and shows the building process from community meetings, to hiring and training of local workers to the celebration of the building opening with a Tūhoe ceremony. Also interwoven throughout the film are the ongoing negotiations with the Government of New Zealand that resulted culminated in an historic apology and settlement for the Tūhoe last year.  

    

    

Lottie Hedley Photography

 

Orchids and elephants

I have always loved thes gorgeous Sèvres elephant vases at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Only 22 remain in collections today and due to their complexity, they were produced in a very limited quantity. Dating to about 1758, the two examples below are of soft-paste porcelain and were the work of the modeler Jean-Claude Duplessis (ca. 1695–1774).  Much favored by the French court, owners included Madame de Pompadour who owned 3 sets! 

  

 

Madame de Pompadour, mistress to Louis XV,  had retreat away from the Court, the Petit Trianon, a small palace built for her by the king.   

Though by the early1750s she was no longer the king’s mistress, she over saw new construction at Versailles as well as recommending the establishment of the Sèvres porcelain factory.

 

Madame de Pompadour at her Tambour Frame,  François-Hubert Drouais, 1763-4, The National Gallery, London 

In her honor I also share some gorgeous images of orchids from The New York Botanical Garden show earlier this year.  None of these are the Dendrobium Orchids actually named Madame Pompadour, but they are quite beautiful and I think she would approve.

                

Raising the Dead

Yesterday I took a trip to The Cloisters – a part of a The Metropolitan Museum of Art way up in Inwood in gorgeous Fort Tryon Park and along the Hudson River. 
      

One of my favorite paintings is there – The Merode Altarpiece by the Workshop of Robert Campin (or the Master of Flémalle) – one of his assistants was the young Rogier van der Weyden.  I could spend hours taking in each detail of this Annunciation scene packed with symbolism. For example, St. Joseph, in the panel on the right, works in his carpentry shop and has built a mousetrap. The trap  –  an illusion to the Crucifixation and St. Augustine’s analogy of the Cross as the Devil’s mousetrap.

  

And this angel from the north transept portal of the cathedral of Saint-Lazare at Autun. Named for Lazarus – Christ’s friend raised from the dead in a miracle. It is the season of celebrating memories of the dead – Halloween, Dia de los Muertos  – decorations and altars are all around the city.

 

   

Celebrating Dia de los Muertos at El Museo del Barrio.  
 

How will you celebrate the holiday or honor your dead?

I leave you with “Lady Lazarus” by Sylvia Plath
I have done it again.   

One year in every ten   

I manage it——
A sort of walking miracle, my skin   

Bright as a Nazi lampshade,   

My right foot
A paperweight,

My face a featureless, fine   

Jew linen.
Peel off the napkin   

O my enemy.   

Do I terrify?——
The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?   

The sour breath

Will vanish in a day.
Soon, soon the flesh

The grave cave ate will be   

At home on me
And I a smiling woman.   

I am only thirty.

And like the cat I have nine times to die.
This is Number Three.   

What a trash

To annihilate each decade.
What a million filaments.   

The peanut-crunching crowd   

Shoves in to see
Them unwrap me hand and foot——

The big strip tease.   

Gentlemen, ladies
These are my hands   

My knees.

I may be skin and bone,
Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.   

The first time it happened I was ten.   

It was an accident.
The second time I meant

To last it out and not come back at all.   

I rocked shut
As a seashell.

They had to call and call

And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.
Dying

Is an art, like everything else.   

I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like hell.   

I do it so it feels real.

I guess you could say I’ve a call.
It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.

It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.   

It’s the theatrical
Comeback in broad day

To the same place, the same face, the same brute   

Amused shout:
‘A miracle!’

That knocks me out.   

There is a charge
For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge   

For the hearing of my heart——

It really goes.
And there is a charge, a very large charge   

For a word or a touch   

Or a bit of blood
Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.   

So, so, Herr Doktor.   

So, Herr Enemy.
I am your opus,

I am your valuable,   

The pure gold baby
That melts to a shriek.   

I turn and burn.

Do not think I underestimate your great concern.
Ash, ash—

You poke and stir.

Flesh, bone, there is nothing there——
A cake of soap,   

A wedding ring,   

A gold filling.
Herr God, Herr Lucifer   

Beware

Beware.
Out of the ash

I rise with my red hair   

And I eat men like air.
Sylvia Plath, “Lady Lazarus” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1960, 1965, 1971, 1981 by the Estate of Sylvia Plath. Editorial matter copyright © 1981 by Ted Hughes. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Source: Collected Poems (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1992)

Beasts Magnificent and Mythical

Animals, animals everywhere – beasts magical, mythical as emblems of human power and status. Below is the Este family crest emblazoned with two white eagles as well as six fleur de lys and exhibited by two rampant leopards with a third perched on top of the helmet. A white ribbons binds his eyes symbolizing  loyalty as this panel was likely a gift to someone in the court of Philip the III, Duke of Burgundy (1369 -1467). This is the obverse of a Rogier van der Weyden portrait of Francesco d’Este painted around 1460 and in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  
                           Philip the III, Duke of Burgandy, Rogier van der Weyden

And in Vienna, outside the Hofburg Palace’s Imperial Treasury gilded griffins exhibit the coat of arms of the king of the Romans in honor of Ferdinand the I, a Holy a Roman Emperor.

  Inside, a talberd for the Herald of the King of Bohemia with a rampant lion exquisitively embroidered in gold thread on red velvet.

 As the weather turns colder in New York I had a last outing to the beach yesterday – the only beasts there were many varieties of seagulls, but the light on the water was spectacular.

  
   

Weaving Women

Weaving a story, weaving a tapestry, I’m thinking of women, weaving and spinning this weekend after a conversation with an archaeologist led to reading a paper about identifying tomb occupants by gendered grave goods such as spindle whorls. Most of the weavers in cultures around the world have been women, though there are exceptions, such as the male Navaho weavers. According to legend, Maya women learned their craft from the moon goodness Ix Chel.

  
Maya weavers in Antigua Guatemala,  © rudygiron.com

Weaving and spinning are everywhere in myth and legend. In Homer’s Odyssey there is the story of Penelope”s weaving and then unraveling a burial shroud for Odysseus’ father to fend off the suitors who wish to marry her and thus control Ithaca.

 
John William Waterhouse, Penelope and her Suitors, 1912, Aberdeen Art Gallery

The Lady of Shalott is another weaver but rather than unraveling her work, she unravels her life. Her ability to create her tapestries is destroyed when she gazes on Sir Launcelot. Both women have power. Penelope to accept a suitor and form a new alliance for Ithaca, but her faithfulness to Odysseus and belief in his eventual return is the cause of her ruse with the shroud. For The Lady of Shalott, her craft can only be practiced if she remains isolated and removed from the world. She must view events indirectly through her mirror and weave them into her tapestries. She loses this power when the knight, Sir Lancelot, rides by and she cannot resist looking directly upon him.

 William Holman Hunt, The Lady of Shalott, 1886-1905, Manchester Art Gallery 

    William Holman Hunt, The Lady of Shalott, c. 1890-1905, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

John William Waterhouse, The Lady of Shalott, 1888, Tate Britain

Weaving and shrouds and death – women as creators and as pawns. Enjoy Tennyson’s poem below and part two of weaving women next week.

The Lady of Shalott (1842 Version)

by: Alfred Lord Tennyson (Author)

Part I.
On either side the river lie

Long fields of barley and of rye,

That clothe the wold and meet the sky;

And thro’ the field the road runs by

           To many-tower’d Camelot;

And up and down the people go,

Gazing where the lilies blow

Round an island there below,

           The island of Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,

Little breezes dusk and shiver

Thro’ the wave that runs for ever

By the island in the river

           Flowing down to Camelot.

Four gray walls, and four gray towers,

Overlook a space of flowers,

And the silent isle imbowers

           The Lady of Shalott.

By the margin, willow-veil’d

Slide the heavy barges trail’d

By slow horses; and unhail’d

The shallop flitteth silken-sail’d

           Skimming down to Camelot:

But who hath seen her wave her hand?

Or at the casement seen her stand?

Or is she known in all the land,

           The Lady of Shalott?

Only reapers, reaping early

In among the bearded barley,

Hear a song that echoes cheerly

From the river winding clearly,

           Down to tower’d Camelot:

And by the moon the reaper weary,

Piling sheaves in uplands airy,

Listening, whispers “‘Tis the fairy

           Lady of Shalott.”

Part II.
There she weaves by night and day

A magic web with colours gay.

She has heard a whisper say,

A curse is on her if she stay

           To look down to Camelot.

She knows not what the curse may be,

And so she weaveth steadily,

And little other care hath she,

           The Lady of Shalott.

And moving thro’ a mirror clear

That hangs before her all the year,

Shadows of the world appear.

There she sees the highway near

           Winding down to Camelot:

There the river eddy whirls,

And there the surly village-churls,

And the red cloaks of market girls,

           Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,

An abbot on an ambling pad,

Sometimes a curly shepherd-lad,

Or long-hair’d page in crimson clad,

           Goes by to tower’d Camelot;

And sometimes thro’ the mirror blue

The knights come riding two and two:

She hath no loyal knight and true,

           The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights

To weave the mirror’s magic sights,

For often thro’ the silent nights

A funeral, with plumes and lights

           And music, went to Camelot:

Or when the moon was overhead,

Came two young lovers lately wed;

“I am half-sick of shadows,” said

           The Lady of Shalott.

Part III.
A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,

He rode between the barley-sheaves, 

The sun came dazzling thro’ the leaves,

And flamed upon the brazen greaves

           Of bold Sir Lancelot.

A redcross knight for ever kneel’d

To a lady in his shield,

That sparkled on the yellow field,

           Beside remote Shalott.

The gemmy bridle glitter’d free,

Like to some branch of stars we see

Hung in the golden Galaxy.

The bridle-bells rang merrily

           As he rode down to Camelot:

And from his blazon’d baldric slung

A mighty silver bugle hung,

And as he rode his armour rung,

           Beside remote Shalott.

All in the blue unclouded weather

Thick-jewell’d shone the saddle-leather,

The helmet and the helmet-feather

Burn’d like one burning flame together,

           As he rode down to Camelot.

As often thro’ the purple night,

Below the starry clusters bright,

Some bearded meteor, trailing light,

           Moves over still Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow’d;

On burnish’d hooves his war-horse trode;

From underneath his helmet flow’d

His coal-black curls as on he rode,

           As he rode down to Camelot.

From the bank and from the river

He flash’d into the crystal mirror,

“Tirra lirra,” by the river

           Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,

She made three paces thro’ the room,

She saw the water-lily bloom,

She saw the helmet and the plume,

           She look’d down to Camelot.

Out flew the web and floated wide;

The mirror crack’d from side to side;

“The curse is come upon me,” cried

           The Lady of Shalott.

Part IV.
In the stormy east-wind straining,

The pale-yellow woods were waning,

The broad stream in his banks complaining,

Heavily the low sky raining

           Over tower’d Camelot;

Down she came and found a boat

Beneath a willow left afloat,

And round about the prow she wrote

           The Lady of Shalott.

And down the river’s dim expanse –

Like some bold seër in a trance,

Seeing all his own mischance –

With a glassy countenance

           Did she look to Camelot.

And at the closing of the day

She loosed the chain, and down she lay;

The broad stream bore her far away,

           The Lady of Shalott.

Lying, robed in snowy white

That loosely flew to left and right –

The leaves upon her falling light –

Thro’ the noises of the night

           She floated down to Camelot:

And as the boat-head wound along

The willowy hills and fields among,

They heard her singing her last song,

           The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,

Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,

Till her blood was frozen slowly,

And her eyes were darken’d wholly,

           Turn’d to tower’d Camelot;

For ere she reach’d upon the tide

The first house by the water-side,

Singing in her song she died,

           The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony,

By garden-wall and gallery,

A gleaming shape she floated by,

A corse between the houses high,

           Silent into Camelot.

Out upon the wharfs they came,

Knight and burgher, lord and dame,

And round the prow they read her name,

           The Lady of Shalott.

Who is this? and what is here?

And in the lighted palace near

Died the sound of royal cheer;

And they cross’d themselves for fear,

           All the knights at Camelot:

But Lancelot mused a little space;

He said, “She has a lovely face;

God in his mercy lend her grace,

           The Lady of Shalott.”