Thursday, December 31, 2009

New York City

The combination of people in New York City really is incredible. I drove up to the Big Apple after Christmas this year and experienced NYC like never before. Every street, every neighborhood looked like Times Square; the city was packed. The streets were thick with bundled faces, some meandering, some purposefully pursuing. I tried to keep track of the number of languages, the number of nationalities or different states but after only two days, I lost count.

To see so many faces, various shapes, big noses, little noses, almond eyes, round eyes, wide mouths, big lips, no lips, huge hair, dyed hair... not to mention the fashion or styles people chose to cover or compliment or accentuate those features... I was as overstimulated as an artist could get! And to think that all of these features, natural or donned, stem from different backgrounds and cultures and experiences.

That combination of people brings out an amazing array of creative outlets that could not be showcased anywhere else the way it was here. Walking from Madison Square Gardens through Central Park to The Plaza, I experienced a trio of hilarious, energetic young men doing a stand up comedy routine with jokes said in unison and feats of gymnastics thrown in. We also saw a group of artists drawing people's portraits with charcoal in 2 minutes, a man selling Obama condoms, Statue of Liberty impersonators taking photos with tourists, Santa's looking lost, Toy soldiers enthusiastically managing and entertaining a line of frozen parents and crazy kids about a half a mile long for F.A.O. Schwarz, a ragged man playing beautiful saxophone holiday songs, a man in bare feet trotting through the crowds, a group of drummers and dancers celebrating Kwanzaa with ancestral beats, chants, and awesome shimmies and stomps, and a man in shorts and a tank top and gloves up to his armpits running 5 minute miles through the crowds. Through all of this, conversations, food smells, and faces around me were Russian, French, African, Spanish, Korean, Chinese...

If you've not had the opportunity to travel much, NYC (or London, I hear) is, you might say, a great bang for your buck. You get a HUGE variety of pretty authentic experiences from around the globe in one place. Aurthur Schopenhauer, an early 1900's philosopher wrote a number of essays now collected in a volume called "Studies in Pessimism." I read a quote from these essays where Schopenhauer says,
That is a strong encouragement to broaden one's own vision in order to better understand fellow man and the world in which we live. Reading, traveling, in conversation, art, fashion, food, work; all of these experiences

Sunday, December 20, 2009

House Beautiful

"Believe me, if we want art to begin at home, as it must, we must clear our houses of troublesome superfluities that are ever in our way, conventional comforts that are no real comforts, and do but make work for servants and doctors. If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

-- William Morris, 19 February 1880 --

Friday, December 18, 2009

Posts from a Spanish Diary: # 3 An escape to Milano!

While in Spain I met a great friend of mine, Abigail, in Milan, Italy. Italy ... oh Italy. What an amazing place, from the food to the fashion to the beautiful people to the passions running rampant! While I don't know from personal experience, I hear that Milan is quite different from the rest of Italy. Oh but it was still Italy. The Italians win for best language, hands down. The price of fashion and the amount of people who spent that much made me a little sick but, oh, was it beautiful!

Abigail travels to and from Africa frequently and keeps a blog (what a different life on that continent!). She recently posted about our trip to Milan here. If you are interested, you can read more about Africa as well.

Enjoy a little escape to Italy through those pictures and I have a few more here: Sarah's Italy photos. Also check out the awesome photos taken by Christopher Sabatini, our host. He is a photographer in Milan and wow, does he do a beautiful job. He captures the essence of a person so well. There are two links: Abigail and Sarah & the Photo Shoot.


The Holiday momentum is gathering and snow droops lower and lower in the sky. This time of year is so full but if you have free vacation time or visitors in town looking for something to do, check out some of the great exhibits in DC right now!

The American Art Museum

The Corcoran Gallery of Art has a wonderful looking show on Sargent and the Sea right now.

If you see any of these or any others, please share!

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Roger Scruton is a British philosopher with a tall mess of strawberry blond hair and an English fashion sense. His patterned suit coat, patterned shirt, and patterned tie played wonderfully into the British stereotype. That being said, his lecture did anything but.

This past week I went into DC to a beautiful club for Scruton's lecture on Beauty. Scruton is boldly breaking from modern aesthetic philosophy on beauty to say that it is absolutely necessary, that it is about redeeming human life and making this world livable. I found the lecture very encouraging and thought provoking. I will try to give a coherent picture of his lecture (I'm going to quote him periodically. He was free with his language so I'm sorry if it is offensive to anyone):

He started by noting that beauty is not paid attention to much these days, saying that there is "nothing which to raise your eyes." In the world of art, he went on, beauty has been neglected; we are stuck in a moment in which art is not the pursuit of beauty but the desecration of it. He called this the tragedy of modern life and by neglecting beauty we produce ultimately useless things. We can see this in the buildings built and torn down without thought in contrast to the buildings that we want to save. Why? Because pure function "resigns things to oblivion."

One of my favorite points of the lecture came after this introduction. He clarified beauty to be beyond just "art". Scruton thinks of beauty and its place in the lives of real people; where does beauty fit in the lives of ordinary people? He envisioned a table set for dinner, an easy image to conjure at this time of year! The arranging of the items, the making of the food, the inviting people to participate ... its not just a matter of food in the belly. With that image in mind, contrast it to much of art today: not inviting others in; "its ME on display and f*** you if you don't like it." In the Q&A time afterwards a gentleman in the back asked Scruton to define beauty. Scruton gave a wry smile and said that that is like trying to define "red". Beauty is defining "a state of mind in the objects, the arragnging of the world so that you are at home in it."

So why is it, Scruton asked, that our tastes in ordinary things like food are not argued about but accepted as part of a person but with beauty we want to discuss what we like and why. He claimed that it is because these are things that actually can demean the human condition which matters incredibly to you, being part of humanity. The desecration of beauty is oppressive and being oppressed, there ought to be some discussion about this!

At this point I connected this to why there is a noticeable lack of interest in/engagement with art today: not only because the artist is not inviting the viewer in but because this needed "discussion" mentioned above is a difficult and blurry path to go down.

Scruton gave some interesting thoughts on education, saying that there should be some education in producing the things that entertain us, giving us a foundation of knowledge upon which to base an opinion of what we listen to, look at, enjoy, etc. And that way, he claimed, there might be some agreement in community of what entertains us.

Well, where does the desecration of beauty/humanity start? Scruton had what I thought was a great point, that it starts with the ruling thought that "I am alone." That is the downfall.

Well, I am not alone! And I hope that provoked you to some thoughts on beauty and humanity as well.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Local Idea

Where are all of the artists!? Some times I ask myself that as I wander Northern Virginia. I know they are out there, hiding amongst the sprawl of the suburbs but finding them is the trick. There are non artists too who would love to support a local artist but how do they find them?

Well, I've stopped wondering and being frustrated and am answering those questions and problems with SYLA: Support Your Local Artist. SYLA is a free local connector for artists and non artists alike. I want to provide an easier way for artists to find kindred spirits and for non artists to know where and how to support local artists and own original local art.

SYLA will provide
- bios to know WHO creates art in your area,
- a directory to know WHERE to purchase local art,
- a description of mediums to know WHAT is being created in your area,
- and a calendar of events and shows to know WHEN artists are on display.

I also wanted a sense of depth in the artists we promote so I've established a mission statement for SYLA:


To promote connectivity, artists with artists and the local community with artists. We are comprised of artists dedicated to creating beauty which strives for three things:

1. To uplift humanity
2. To promote communication
3. To encourage the general public to re-engage with Art, sensing a lack of engagement today.

Check it out!
Since this is a free public service, I'd love to hear feed back as I develop the idea. Email with questions or comments:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A.S. Byatt

My sister posted a great quote from A.S. Byatt, a contemporary British author. I thought I'd share it too:
On Ceramics

"Early humans shaped and scraped clay to make vessels, cooked in them and realised they hardened, learned to make them impervious to water, and also to decorate them, with incisions and with glazes made from salts and metals. All pots are different, and all resemble each other (except for some defiant modern monsters). They are made elementally, using earth, air, fire and water. They represent the arts of peace, domestication, and elegance, whether of pure simplicity of form or of bravura demonstration of difficult mastery of techniques and images. They are where art meets craft, the useful meets the beautiful."

-- AS Byatt, "The Wonders of Porcelain", The Guardian. October 10, 2009.