I am not white and yet I feel white. Some might say, I am brown or olive skin. Though to me, being olive makes me sound like I’m green around the edges. I’m not, of course. Continue reading
Can you imagine a life without art? Not me.
For, as long as I can remember, art has been a major part of my life, beginning with the Crayola crayons that were on my school supply list each year. The anticipation of a new box, the hope that maybe this would be the year that my mother would spring and get me the biggest size—the set of 64–was enough to make me do a happy dance.
Oh, yes! I’ll never forget the scent and waxy feel of the colors—Magenta, Blue Bell, Burnt Sienna, Carnation Pink, and Violet Red. For me, it was the best thing about the end of summer. The joy that art brings, and the anticipation of creating new art projects—was mine for the taking. Ah, happiness. Ah, hope. Which springs eternal, after all.
School helped form the foundation for my love of art. In grade school, we took field trips to the city, visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Guggenheim. I was always drawn to the Impressionists, though I also came to love Victorian Classicism while seeing a special exhibit at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.
Art could be found in my home. My father collected paintings. Some were originals of lesser-known artists; others were replicas. I loved them all except one, a portrait by a well-known artist that hung opposite the door to my bedroom. It was of a solemn woman with deep, soulful eyes. She terrified me to no end.
With time, my father acquired so many paintings, that we ran out of places to hang them, so they were stacked on the wall, all the way to the ceiling, just inches apart, much like you’d see in an art gallery.
When I went to college in the Boston area, I took classes in art history and fell in love with the work of John Singer Sargent. You can’t truly appreciate his art until you’ve seen it for yourself at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. There, you’ll see one of my favorites, “The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit.” Sargent used a canvas so enormous (87 x 87 inches or 222 x 222 cm), that it’s practically life size, making you feel as if you’ve just walked into the room and encountered Mr. Boit’s sweet, enchanting daughters, innocently at play.
I love to draw, though I’m far from good at it. While in college, I enrolled in classes in oil and acrylic painting. You could tell that my professor was frustrated with me. I was awful at painting the models that posed for us each week, and the professor would push me to find my inner passion, as well as the right perspective, so that I could make my paintings come alive. I kept trying and trying, to no avail. Until one day, I was painting in my little apartment. So small was it, I propped my easel in the scant kitchen and the only thing I could paint was the miniscule bathroom that was just off the kitchen.
And something clicked. I poured my all into painting a still-life of the bathroom, at least that which was visible from the kitchen, the sink and part of the toilet. And when I took it to class, anxiously awaiting my professor’s reaction, to my astonishment, he was pleased.
“You’ve got it!” he exclaimed.
I was dumbfounded. A sink and a toilet had contributed to my art in a way that nothing else had! It was perplexing, but, who was I to question progress? Which just goes to show you: you never know what you’re going to find in a toilet (and a sink)! As a result of my effort, I finished the class with flying colors. It doesn’t get any better than that!
Through the years, I’ve continued to dabble in painting. These days, my home is my palette. I paint, I stencil, I take photographs—another of my father’s fascinations—and I seem to be following in his footsteps when it comes to acquiring art.
For, I cannot resist! I don’t care who the artist is, if I fall in love with their work, I’ll find a way to add it to my collection. It seems whenever I go to an street festival, community fair or to the annual Harvest Festival held each fall around here, I gravitate to the art. My friend, Gale, who often goes with me, gets exasperated by how much time I can spend looking at paintings and other works of art.
Most recently, while in Seattle, I visited Pike Place Market, which is known as the place to shop for produce, fish and the like. But, it has become so much more, over the years, selling all kinds of local art. While there, I met a woman, Sally Simmons, who uses watercolor and her imagination, to create brightly-colored, whimsical paintings. A couple were of owls, which are a favorite of mine. (Just look at the banner atop my blog!)
I lingered awhile over her exquisite art, that seemed to sparkle with rich colors dancing before my eyes, and I agonized over whether to buy an original piece, or a less expensive, smaller copy. The colors on the copy weren’t as vibrant, so in the end I bought the original and Sally could tell it was going to a good home, seeing how I “oohed” and “ahhed” over her paintings, and wished I could have taken them all home with me.
Which is why, I cannot fathom a day without art. Can you? What does art mean to you?
Not that anyone has asked, but I’ll say it anyway: I thank my lucky stars I grew up in New York.
I mean, when you think about it, when my parents left their country for the U.S.—just after World War II—they could have ended up anywhere. Today, I could be saying that I hail from Gainesville, Florida or, that I was born on a cattle ranch in Nacogdoches, Texas, assuming they have cattle in Nacogdoches. And, maybe if that had happened, I would be saying I like these places very much.
Or maybe, if their plane had been going at warp speed and shot right over the states, today I might be calling myself a Canadian. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. They have a beautiful national anthem, after all.
So, given the odds, it’s a wonder my folks made it to New York at all. By the city that never sleeps. The Big Apple. Where Mad Men dreams come true. Home to Woody Allen, Lady Liberty, an empire state of mind, and, as it turns out–me!
Which means, I grew up shopping at the Macy’s flagship store in Manhattan—the very same one that inspired Miracle on 34th Street. I went to school at P.S. 154 and, later, to P.S. 117. We didn’t bother giving schools names; after all, New Yorkers don’t have time for such trivialities.
When I was a mere infant, my mother and her friend, who also had a baby, would push our baby carriages to the supermarket and park us out in front, while they went inside and did their grocery shopping. All the while, we, babies, would be innocently lulled to sleep by the cacophony of traffic on Main Street. Who had time for finding babysitters? The streets were our sitters!
Growing up in New York, meant class field trips to the United Nations, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Hayden Planetarium. Does it get any better than that?
Every time there was a new film playing at Radio City Music Hall, my family was there, listening to the organist play while we took our seats (boring!), and seeing a movie (the Doris Day films were the best!). And, when the film was over, it was exciting to see the fabulous, New York City Rockettes, tapping and kicking away, in all their glory.
Growing up in New York meant waking up at the crack of dawn to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, live and in person. We saw it in all kinds of inclement weather, with pummeling, freezing rain being the worst. Best of all, growing up in New York meant I got to see many Broadway musicals, like The Sound of Music with Mary Martin, and My Fair Lady, with Julie Andrews. I also got to see Here’s Love, a musical version of Miracle on 34th Street that flopped, despite my seven-year-old self, predicting to my school chum, that it would be a big hit.
Growing up in New York meant that, as a teen, I got to see up-and-coming journalist, Geraldo Rivera, and his One-to-One benefit concert at Madison Square Garden. The line-up included John Lennon, Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack, and best of all, who can forget, Sha-Na-Na.
Growing up in New York means that I say “on line,” and not “in line” when I’m standing on a line and waiting my turn.
Being a kid in New York was so much fun that I’m hard pressed to find any drawbacks.
For, had I not grown up in NY, I would never have met Rod Serling in Central Park, back when he was still producing The Twilight Zone TV series.
I wouldn’t have been able to read the local newspaper to keep up on that nefarious serial killer, David Berkowitz, aka, Son of Sam. And how would I have ever found a $20 bill at the Flushing subway station if I wasn’t in Queens at the time? Or mastered my cool, aloof, don’t-bother-me stare, while assertively striding through the streets of Manhattan?
Perhaps, too, I would never have eaten gads of steaks at Tad’s Steak House, only to learn they weren’t serving steaks at all. Horse meat was the meat du jour. Talk about indigestion.
And, I probably would never have experienced the hot, sweaty platforms at the subway station in summertime, or the crushing sensation that you feel when you wedge the subway doors open as they’re closing, because, if you don’t, who knows when the next train will come along?
Or the mobs of people everywhere, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in cramped restaurants, and dining so close you could almost kiss the stranger next to you on the cheek, but, why on earth would you?
I was raised in New York, which gives me carte blanche to call myself a New Yorker, or Nu YAWKER, depending on your accent.
New York and proud of it.
How about you? What makes your hometown special to you?