Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Art Students League of New York, a reception

Tonight was the reception at The Art Students League of New York for the 2008 Merit Scholarship Winners. The winners of merit scholarships from 2008 presented their work. Jerry Torre received the Martha T. Rosen Memorial Scholarship and he presented two sculptures: "Bohack Dorata," in Italian sandstone and "Confetti," in Spanish limestone.
I attended the reception and here are some photos of the event.

This is Jerry with "Bohack Dorata."

This is Jerry with "Confetti."

Albert Maysles arrived with his daughter, Sara, and I was thrilled to meet him. Albert Maysles is the filmmaker who, with his brother David, made the documentary "Grey Gardens." Sara and her sister, Rebekah, are the authors of the brand new book, "Grey Gardens." Albert Maysles told me tonight that it was thirty years after "Grey Gardens" was made that he was reunited with Jerry. He kept in touch through correspondence with Edie Beale, who had moved to Florida. And Edie had told him that Jerry was living in Saudi Arabia, working as a gardener for a royal family.

This is a photo taken tonight of me and Albert Maysles.

And this is a photo of Jerry (Edie Beale's "Marble Faun,") Albert Maysles, and me! How wonderful it was to see them together again, almost 35 years after that legendary documentary was made.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Brian Gari, at "Don't Tell Mama"

Tonight, I went to "Don't Tell Mama" to attend a show by Brian Gari which honored the Beach Boy songwriter Brian Wilson on his 67th birthday. Brian Gari performed his complete album, "Brian Sings Wilson," which features rare songs by the legendary songwriter. In his description of his show, Brian Gari writes, "for this special event, Brian Gari will utilize the layered vocal and instrumental tracks of his CD to replicate the Beach Boys sound he created on the original album. He will also be playing electric guitar along with these tracks to enhance the concert performance."
In the audience were Joe Franklin, Janet Gari, who is the daughter of Eddie Cantor and Brian Gari's mother, Alan Colmes, and Yvonne Roome, a singer who performs in many NYC cabaret clubs.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Wegman Dogs, artistic inspirations

Tonight, I interviewed the Wegman dogs. They are magnificent and they are owned by the artist, William Wegman. If you go to his website you can read Mr. Wegman's bio and see a wonderful gallery of photos.

I asked the dogs a few questions and they delightfully responded, "Woof." Tonight, the beautiful Wegman dogs helped me find my smile. Thank-you Mr. Wegman, for sharing some time with me tonight and helping to create photos for this blog.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The High Line, a park in Chelsea

In NYC, there is a brand new elevated park. It is the only elevated park in the country. It was built on the old railroad tracks. I went over there today and took a walk though the gardens. As Cindy Adams says in her sign off, "Only in New York, kids, only in New York."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Billy Cunningham, photographer

Billy Cunningham is a photographer for Architectural Digest and I have known him for many years. He took the photos for the piece, "Dog Heaven on Earth," which appear in the July 2009 issue.

I asked Billy three questions:
1. How did your interest in photography begin?
I started photographing when I was on the USS Mark, in the waters of the Mekong River in Vienam around 1968. When my enlistment was over, I came back to NYC and showed some of my photos to my younger brother, Hugh, who was an art director at that time and he said," You should become a photographer." And that is what I did.

2. How did you become a photographer for Architectural Digest?
I took a break from photography around 1974 and I was looking for work. I started working at this fine art studio where they did silk screen prints with famous artists like Helen Frankenthaler. This is where I met John Loring, who was both an artist and writer and a friend of Paige Rense who had just become the editor of magazine called "Architectural Digest." Now Architectural Digest at that time was a small regional magazine that really did not have much to do with interior design. Paige Rense was able to refocus the magazine and turned it into what it is today. At that time she was looking for someone to do scouting photography of various projects around the NY area and I was asked if I wanted to do that for the magazine.
I had never photographed an interior before and I gave it a shot and that is how I learned how to shoot interiors over many years and by buying lots of equipment. Then, after about 5 years of doing scouting I started to get assignments that would be published in the magazine. Now, some 30 years later I am still doing both scouting and published jobs for AD.

3. Can you talk a little bit about a few of your memorable experiences as a photographer?
A few highlights of my career were studying with Richard Avedon, teaching at ICP, meeting Cary Grant at his home in Beverly Hills, CA, photographing at the White House, photographing Madonna's apartment here in New York City, and being in London when Princess Diana died and getting some amazing photos of the funeral.

Thank-you so much, Billy, for sharing some pieces of your amazing career. Billy is a true artistic inspiration. I am going soon to the brand new High Line Park and I will take some photos... which hopefully I will post later to this blog.

The photos at this entry appear with the written permission of Billy Cunningham.

Boris Fishman, writer

I first met Boris Fishman in the laundry room of my building. He was the only one there when I went to the basement late one cold Sunday night. He was looking through the magazines in the bookcase, but when I arrived he seemed happy to have company and he asked me how to operate the washing machine. We began a discussion that would last for almost an hour. We talked about Minsk. Minsk gave us a common denominator, because my ancestors were from Minsk. I remember thinking he was a strong masculine presence... and he was memorable. After that night, I saw him again several times and we always talked... but I never asked to interview him for this blog. He's the interview that got away.

Boris Fishman is quite an accomplished author, and he has written many pieces which appear in an extensive list of publications. He wrote an article called, ""Paid in Persimmons," which was published in "Departures Magazine" on October 1st 2007. In the article, he tells about his experience of leaving the USSR as a Soviet Jew. His family emigrated via Italy, and in the article he talks about his landlady, Signora Limona: It was mid-October and one day after he finished raking leaves, she gave him three persimmons.

When the day came for Boris's family to leave, they passed Signora Limona in the village square where she sat reading a newspaper. She saw his family and then quickly disappeared into the house. Boris writes: "A minute later she emerged, carrying in her hand a parting gift of the clay-colored fruit that would bind me to that autumn forever."

Boris's writing is moving and very powerful, and I am sorry I will not be able to properly interview him for this blog. But, my discussion with Boris, on a cold winter night in a basement laundry room, will remain with me forever.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"T" is Dead!

I wrote this shortly after the finale of "The Sopranos" and I published it later at one of my blogs. When I closed that blog, I moved "T" is Dead to this blog. So, here is my interpretation of that brilliant ending to a phenomenal TV series.

"T" is Dead!

"Made in America" is the controversial and confusing last episode to the phenomenal series "The Sopranos." Many fans were disappointed and even angry that the series did not come to a more satisfying conclusion with more clear closure. It was so layered with different innuendos and possibilities that some diehards referred to the last episode of "The Sopranos" as the Zapruder film of TV finales. But, I am very convinced that my initial impressions and interpretations are valid.

The textured theme for the entire run of this series has been the meaning of life and the afterlife. "You probably don't even hear it when it happens, right," Bobby asks Tony in "Soprano Home Movies" when they are out in his little boat on the lake. That one line was a nuanced foreshadowing in terms of the final scene of "Made in America" which opens with the soundtrack of a funeral dirge and then moves along to the family dinner at Holsten's. A suspicious guy in a Members Only jacket enters the restaurant and he nervously looks around. We are thinking he could be dangerous. When he gets up to go to the bathroom, the tension that has been building is unbearable. And all of this is happening while Meadow unsuccessfully attempts several times to park her car. Just as she runs across the street, Tony hears the bells as the restaurant door opens and he looks up and seems startled. Then, the infamous quick and unexpected cut to a dark and silent screen that lasts for about 20 seconds before the credits roll. "What the fuck?" we all initially thought. And all across America customers were calling their cable companies.

After I calmed down, I realized Tony Soprano got whacked by the guy in the Members Only jacket! In his death there was no lighted "Inn at the Oaks" filled with deceased family members, no big answer to "where am I going," and no insight into his desert revelation, "I get it." Carmela was wrong... Tony did not go to hell. The blank and silent screen at the very end implies Mama Livia was right all along! "It's all a big nothing," she told AJ. How funny is that? In my book, that's surreal, mind-boggling, and ultimately amazing. The series ended in great irony and dark comedy.
My jaw drops open at that final 20 second blank screen each time I see it. David Chase has to be disappointed that people reacted so negatively at first to his masterpiece. They did not "get it," so maybe it was a bit too esoteric. But it remains a twist so bizarre, so richly funny, so blended with the theme of the entire series, that "I just can't shake it." In the end, Mama was right and "it's all a big nothing!" "T" RIP. In June 2007, I sat shiva for Tony Soprano.

And in August 2009, I took this photo of Michael Imperioli as he was walking on a street in Chelsea.