June 13, 2017

Four Sisters and a Mother

Two Sisters, Valencia  (1909) by Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida
Art Institute of Chicago

This past Sunday had a lot going on here in Chicago. The annual Old Town Art Fair has been held every June for 70 years but GSL has an Ex who is on the Planning Committee who has created a little Beer & Wine Garden Drama for about 10 of those 70 years.  GSL decided that a scorching hot and muggy 94 degrees wasn't likely to help her find 'deep in cups' closure. An indoor air-conditioned Drama-free venue seemed a far better option to whet one's aesthetic 'Whistle'.

GSL boarded the Brown Line 'L' Train bound for the Loop and our wonderful Art Institute. As we snaked thru Old Town, GSL knelt for cover under window view as we passed over the Beer/Wine Garden.

The Art Institute of Chicago on Michigan Avenue sits right in front of Grant Park.
I remembered that this was the very last day to see a work of iconic American art that hasn't been in Chicago since the Old Town Art Fair began.

Upon arrival, I realized that my membership card had recently expired and had it renewed within a few short minutes.
This floral arrangement is among the best I've ever seen.

In fact, within 75 feet of each other for the first time ever were three of the most famous works of American Art. I'll bet you could guess one quite easily and the other two would come to mind in a short while.

But first, I always pay my respects to The Den's Kindred Spirit.

Paris Street, Rainy Day by Gustave Caillebotte

Then stop by to see the most beautiful painting in the collection.

Two Sisters on the Terrace by Renoir.

OK, ready for those three iconic pieces of American Art?

American Gothic by Grant Wood.

This next one has inspired numerous imitations.

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper

This last one was here for only a short time as it's owned by the French State.

Whistler's Mother by James McNeill Whistler

I picked up a couple of books in the gift shop.
I had no idea Whistler's Mother was so well known internationally.  By coincidence, Den reader, Yvonne from Down Under, commented on a post I did on Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol mentioning how Whistler's Mother was then on tour in Melbourne and only a couple hours prior to her comment, I was reading a fabulous novel by Josephine Tey where a central character was said to resemble Whistler's Mother. I didn't know then that she'd soon make her way to Chicago.

The small and combative James Abbott McNeill Whistler had feuds with Oscar Wilde, who satirized him in The Picture of Dorian Gray, and John Ruskin. Whistler's guiding principle was "Art for Art's Sake" and he wasn't bashful about ruffling feathers and even wrote a book titled The Art of Making Enemies.

Portrait of Whistler by William Merritt Chase circa 1885
Whistler and the entire Art World thought Chase lampooned Whistler's dandyish ways and preening self regard. Whistler and Chase remained 'frenemies' forever after.
GSL wonders how Whistler handled his Beer/Wine Garden Drama.

May 23, 2017

The Write Stuff and Dark Arts

Interesting article in the New York Times by movie director William Friedkin who was married to Jeanne Moreau when he first began retracing Proust's early steps. I intend on secluding myself for a couple months and reading all 7 installments of In Search of Lost Time. I've tried doing the audiobooks but it's far too subtle and complex to pull you in while driving.
*this pic was poached from Slim Paley who identifies the model (or is it designer?) as Karlie Kloss

Long absence so much to catch up on. First off a few books. John le Carre's wonderful memoir The Pigeon Tunnel is narrated (audiobook) by the master himself. Like P. G. Wodehouse and Patrick O'Brian, le Carre' has elevated his genre into the very highest rank of Literature.  I made the mistake of reading his magnum opus A Perfect Spy and beginning To Kill a Mockingbird the next day. Atticus Finch & Scout never had a chance so soon after inhabiting the fascinating interior life of Magnus Pym.

85 year old John le Carre' at his home in Penzance, Cornwall. GSL has been summoned to St. Ives, Cornwall this August (but might be delayed til next summer) so may have to arrange for a meet. He's still going strong and has a new novel out in September: A Legacy of Spies

Read Norman Mailer's The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing and came away slightly less impressed with Mailer although it was an interesting read. Mailer's magnum opus was Harlot's Ghost about the CIA that unfortunately didn't find the wide audience and critical acclaim it deserved.

Interesting to compare le Carre' and Mailer as both had massive international fame at an early age.  Mailer set out to become a prominent Public Intellectual while le Carre' kept a low profile and eschewed literary awards which Mailer craved.  It's become something of a joke that le Carre' freely acknowledges in the Introduction that he always resolutely proclaims, during an interview how he's a private man and this is the absolute last interview he'll ever do and blasts writers that always make spectacles of themselves like trying to dazzle while dining at High Table (was he thinking of Mailer?) when they should be secluded in their writing cabin.  A few of us noticed how le Carre' began these tantrums before doing about 5 extensive telly interviews, offering his biographer (the brilliant Adam Sisman) 40+ hours of recorded interviews, and then of course the memoir....and let's not forget that A Perfect Spy was hugely autobiographical. While hearing le Carre's reluctant admission, I couldn't help but think of a very talented writer I know who has shared more personal details than I know about my own mother or virtually anybody else while simultaneously proclaiming how private she is and then has reminded me how private she is...across 4 different social media platforms.  Like my talented friend, le Carre isn't really private but goes thru periods of craving solitude and has a few things he'd rather keep hidden or offer a more interesting account as biographer Sisman noted of a few Pigeon Tunnel anecdotes that had suddenly acquired a fresh polish....always a telltale sign of a first-rate creative mind.

Any thoughts on John le Carre', Norman Mailer, Proust, or any recent reads?

January 21, 2017

Recent Developments...and Zsa Zsa

This movie deserves to be seen. GSL has never been a fan of Meryl Streep or Hugh Grant but both were superb in this little gem. We were introduced to the real FFJ about 15 years ago by Terry Drama as he owns an original recording of her Carnegie Hall Massacre of Queen of the Night. Yes, I saw Meryl Streep's Golden Globes speech with her sudden concern for press freedoms. Where was Meryl and her Hollywood 'Activists', so concerned about Women's Empowerment, when the first female editor of the New York Times, Jill Abramson, got sacked for expressing outrage over the Obama Administration's criminalization of press freedoms?

With his strong, subdued performance in FFJ, The Den has considered elevating HG to Den Whipping Boy Emeritus.

We lost George Michael. His superb album, Older, came out in 1996 barely making a ripple in America. GSL had Fastlove and Move On in heavy rotation during the late '90s.

We lost Zsa Zsa. This is how I remember her, in a similar OTT outfit going on the Johnny Carson show dripping in jewels. Johnny adored Zsa Zsa and was perfect straight man as she tried to remember, in that thick Hungrarian accent, which husband she was on while proudly replying to Johnny she was indeed a marvelous housekeeper:  "dahling...every time I leave a man, I keep his house....."

Zsa Zsa has always been a huge inspiration to The Den's Sausage Pinch Workshop attendees. In her honor, we are re-naming our workshop the Zsa Zsa Gabor Institute For Advanced Sausage Pinch Studies. Oh sure, everybody belittled her meager acting talents, but nobody has ever emerged from a Rolls Royce to bitch-slap a cop (6 foot 4 and thickset) on Rodeo Drive with greater panache.

We lost Debbie Reynolds and her daughter, Carrie Fisher. Whenever Debbie Reynolds is mentioned, I remember this sweet little man I called on in the mid 1980s just out of Uni. Since I was only 22ish, and looked 12, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a return call from the Purchasing Director of a fairly large stationary company (now long gone) after  leaving a message with an underling. A few days later he greeted me in lobby and once back in his office,  shared a detailed recollection of meeting my mother at a convention in Miami Beach in the early 1960s when she got dolled-up for a night out with my father.  He closed his anecdote with: "your mother was the spitting image of Debbie Reynolds..."
***Debbie Reynolds was also quite a collector of Hollywood Memorabilia which our friend Jill posted on here.