Close, and Closer

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I’m interested in the art of Chuck Close. His early portraits are disarming, closely detailed examinations of individuals faces at such painstaking depth that nothing is left to the imagination. In fact, they are called “photorealism.” And then, in his later work, the grids take over, in which the faces are dissected into small pieces, almost as if they are viewed through water droplets: get too close, and they are just boxes of color; step away, and the face is there, with its unique detail and expression. How does he do that?

And why? Why a lifetime of dissecting faces, many of them over and over? Indeed, he spends a great deal of time painting his own face, over the years, as it changes and ages. It’s interesting to read that Close suffers from the neurological condition prosopagnosia, or face-blindness, which prevents him from recognizing faces. Irony.

There’s a much to study about the artist who spends his days painting parts of faces. He employs others to set up his grids, to do some of the painting: does that make the work any less his own? What about the other things people say about him, that he takes advantage of his students, perhaps harasses the assistants in his studio? Should we not look full-on at his work when these things have been said? If he sees one of his subjects on the street, does he recognize her? Does he “see” his subject at all, or just the inch he is painting at each moment?

Good, and Lazy, but Good for You

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So this is how I get my produce these days. These cups are loaded with fruit, veggies, herbs, nuts, other stuff that I often don’t want to think about, and it’s all good for you. And it tastes good when you add some kind of milk to it (I add almond milk) and blend it. Yum, really. Sometime it’s a dark, lumpy green, and sometimes it’s a really offensive puce color. Like that Crayola color, burnt umber, that no one ever used. Often it looks nice, like raspberry or light green. But mostly it borders on the edges of the green family, because there’s always a leafy something in it. Kale, spinach, whatever makes us big and strong.

I do feel guilty, briefly, about getting these cups delivered, but only until I realize that without them, I wouldn’t be drinking these smoothies at all. I’d rarely buy the ingredients to make them so well-balanced, and throwing a banana and an apple in a blender with some protein powder and chia seeds in no way resembles these delightful drinks.

I also get my food in a box, so what can I say? No one ever taught me how to cook, and I understand that take-out seven days a week might be hazardous to one’s health. I do have to put the food in a pan and cook it, which is presenting a challenge, but so far I’ve only destroyed one pan and a couple of pot holders.

Try #Daily Harvest. They also have lattes and cookies. How could you go wrong?

Remember

When I was a child, people often asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I think they found it comical when I said that I wanted to be a college professor like my father. Har-dee-har-har. “Why, she’s a real cutie, Les,” they’d slap my dad on the back. “You’d better watch out – she’ll take your job someday soon.”

Yeah. As if.

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Then, when I was older, we’d have to write essays about people we admired. Can you imagine kids today having to do that? I feel bad for them. I’m sure the selections would all be pop stars or actors. There was a time I wanted to be Gloria Steinem. And then Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Briefly, in college, I aspired to be Georgia O’Keeffe, but then I decided the lonely life of a painter was not for me. Or more accurately, a blunt instructor told me I’d never make a living as an artist, so I’d better look for something else to do where I had “actual talent.” He said that just before he told me I couldn’t major in Art, even though I’d taken all the prerequisites for three years. I’d have to start over in a new field.

Yeah. As if.

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So I danced, for several years. I wasn’t bad. Not good enough to go on a stage, but I did read a lot about the prima ballerinas that one was supposed to admire. I really wanted to emulate Mikhail Baryshnikov – flying and jumping around with pure abandon. Not many roles for female dancers doing that, except where I ended up. In the circus.

Flying through the air on a trapeze is exhilarating – until I fell from 50 feet without a net. Landed on the clown car.

Back to the discussion of heroes and aspirations. Can a young man become an astronaut if that’s who he admires in grammar school? Sure, if he studies and has a passion (and aptitude) for the science required to achieve that goal. Right? But what if he wants to become rich and famous, like Justin Timberlake or Lebron James? Hard work and passion can get him to a certain point, but what are the odds that he could break into the music business and become a success, or be chosen to play for an NBA team? What I mean is, are those goals realistic? Not to be too judgmental – well, all right, I’m going there – but think about how many athletes and musicians are positive role models. If a kid aspires to be “just like Mike,” what exactly does that mean?

I’m trying to stay away from politics in this blog, but I think the childish, vindictive, and unstable occupant of the White House has done nothing but harm to the national psyche. What do we think its long-term effect is going to be on the youth who are taking it all in – the lying, the thuggish bullying, and the narcissism? I hope that no child chooses to write “When I grow up I want to be Just Like DT” (I won’t write out his name).

I hope they aspire to be much better people than that.

A Beautiful Thing

metrocardWhen I was a kid and my father would bring me into the city for a visit to a museum or to the theater, we’d take the train and then the subway, using those old tokens. I still have one or two somewhere, in the bottom of my coin bottle. I couldn’t get rid of them. Even though the MetroCards are wonderful conveniences (but they also have allowed the MTA to easily and substantially increase prices over the years), the tokens were cool.

I like to walk, when the weather is good. This is a perfect city for walking, except for the tourists. In the summer, it’s good, because lots of people leave. I had a car when I first moved here, but it met with an unfortunate combination of explosives and fire. So much for the combustion engine, eh? I use the subway when I have to go long distances, but that hardly happens, except for visiting Lincoln Center or MOMA.

When I was a child, my father let me figure out how many tokens we’d need for our trips to the city. We saw the Nutcracker, skated at Rockefeller Center (even though there was a better place in Princeton, it was still cool to go there at Christmas and skate near the tree), and went to dinner at the top of the World Trade Center once to celebrate some award I’d gotten. It still gives me a lump in the throat, what was lost there.

It’s a wonderful city. Not mine yet, but I hope it will be someday.

Welcome 2019 with Wands

A little late getting to this; sorry to all my avid followers! I am not one for resolutions or joining gyms to get a fresh start in January. Bah! Humbug! (Just kidding.)

seven of wandsI did pull some cards on New Year’s Day, and an interesting one popped up that really does shed some light on why I’m not skipping down the street these days. The Seven of Wands is depicting one man’s battle against many, which can seem overwhelming, or even pointless. Symbolically, it represents an ongoing struggle to decide whether to stand and fight for something – against seemingly overwhelming odds – or wait for another, better opportunity to fight and win. It’s hard to know when you’re tangled up in the daily struggle if you’re making the right choices.

Is NYU the right place for me? Do I even have a chance to get tenure there, and what will I have to compromise to get it? On the other hand, will my novel ever get published, or will I have to alter it so much that it won’t be my story any longer? Should I scrap it and start something else, or should I take it to another publisher? And what about Yurgos – why did he show up here? Never mind how he’s messed things up with Ty… which I hope I can salvage. If that’s the right thing. My nice quiet life has just exploded, and I’ve got some things to sort out.

Maybe I should join a gym. Kick-boxing sounds like good therapy.