Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Physical markers

The cast of Nabucco taking their bows last night at the Metropolitan Opera House. The legendary Plácido Domingo (center) sang the title role and James Levine conducted. 10:30 PM. Photo: JH.
New York is under construction, or so it often seems. The roads being narrowed by new rules; dug up for wires and pipes all over town, and buildings going up higher and higher to handle all those billionaires who can afford to pay any price for a living space. The end result for all of us canyon dwellers is more grit, more dirt, more dust and infinite bang-crash-bang of the machines put everything together.

My neighborhood, which is one of the quieter ones (maybe the quietest) on the Upper East Side, is no exception. Three blocks down, they’re beginning to put the finishing touches on a Robert A.M Stern limestone facaded luxury condominium which looks quite impressive with its own drive-in courtyard.
Here's a rendering of that drive-in courtyard.
Two blocks down, they’re taking down the oldest building on the avenue (originally a factory in the early 20th century) an apartment building that held our only supermarket and a restaurant, to put up (probably) another luxury condo.

One block north, the Chapin School is adding more floors to a serene Delano & Aldrich building which only a few years ago was topped with an ugly post-modern three or four more floors on top of it. And across the avenue on the corner, they are demolishing three old brick apartment buildings from a century ago to construct a building that will house part of the Brearley School (which is located on East 83rd by the river). This latest project is interesting at least because the demolition has been conducted with the neighbors in mind – carefully, quietly and as cleanly as possible.

Here are three photos of the project: first the block before demolition last Spring where we had a deli, a popular local restaurant, a hairdressing salon, and a gift shop. In the second photo you can see they wrapped the buildings with a netting to control the detritus of the demo, and thirdly – a photo taken yesterday morning – they’ve been taking it down almost brick by brick, neatly and very quietly. Bravo! 
Originally, this half block between 82nd and 83rd had four buildings put up a century ago. Several years ago a real estate developer tried to buy the whole block. The owner of the building on the far left, for whatever reason, did not sell it. It is still occupied by a liquor store and rental apartments. The other three stores contained a hairdressing salon, a dry cleaner, a gift shop, a small Italian restaurant and a deli, plus rental apartments. They were all vacated more than two years ago, except for the apartments where some renters held out for a long time.
When the buildings were empty, the scaffolding went up and the demolition team began. Interestingly they put up this screen around the entire building to keep in a lot of the musty and otherwise detritus.
Most amazing when they began was to see how carefully (“almost brick-by-brick” commented one neighbor) they have been taking it apart. Probably by next week, it’ll be leveled.
Clearly this will be a neighborhood without any commerce at all, so there will be no more running down the block for the quart of milk or can of soup.  But you can always send your chef or butler or even your maid over to York Avenue if it’s an emergency. Or go yourself; good exercise. Life goes on, oobla-dee-oobla-dah.

Someone told me the other day the Christmas/New Year’s holiday begins on the 16th of December. That’s when the last of the parties take place and everyone begins their plans for the holidays – travel, hunkering down, getting out the cards and the gifts; maybe getting out of town, and eventually, taking a break if possible.
The curious scene at Linda Horn.
Last week someone sent me a book I hadn’t heard about. It is an art book published by Assouline called “Cross Purpose” by the artist Adria de Haume. Adria and I have a number of mutual friends but we’ve never really got to know each other ... until this book.

It’s beautifully packaged (and heavy) and it’s all about  Adria’s cross-themed artwork, compiled over the past 26 years. Crosses.  The book itself is beautifully produced and the photographs are stunning and almost always evocative. I was unfamiliar with Adria’s work, but I am unfamiliar with a lot of important art work; and so I wasn’t sure what to make of it — until I read her “Statement” at the beginning. Now I can see.
Click to order Cross Purpose.
Adria is a bespoke jewelry designer and artist by profession although she donates all of her earnings to charities. Inside I first turned to read her own words about it, and it all came together for me. A beautiful compilation, a masterpiece of beauty. Then I found an homage to this revered art form in Charles A. Riley’s detailed essay exploring the complexity and depth of each piece’s unique story, and a comprehensive catalogue raisonné of de Haume’s cross sculptures, panels, and prints from 1989 to the present.

Adria held a champagne opening last month at Antony Todd Studio, hosted by Amanda Ross Bacon and Antony Todd, to view her artwork. The artist was also busy signing every book in the room . A portion of the evening's profits will be donated to Lighthouse Guild. The exhibition continues through December 22nd.
Elana Nathan, Katrina Pavlos, Jennifer Creel, Dana Auslander, and Adria de Haume
Bippa Cohen and Ann Dexter-Jones
Charles Riley II, PhD
Katrina Pavlos, Milly de Cabrol, and Irik Sevin
-Dayle Haddon and April Greaves
Oli Green, Evie Henderson, and Maximillian Weiner
George Roush MD, Bianca Chevallard, and Will Roush
Aurora Lopez Mejia, Jaime Dondil, and Marie-Hélène de Taillac
Vanessa Von Bismarck and Anne-Marie Sevin
Alejandra Cicognani, Milly de Cabrol, Antonia Miletto, and Natascha Demner
Oz Woloshwn, Tatiana Hambro, and George Roush MD
Amanda Ross, Betsy Ross, Nicolas Rytting, and Alejandra Cicognani
Jennifer Creel, Antony Todd, and Dana Auslander
Michel Cox Witmer, Adria de Haume, and Dino Rivera MD
Will Roush, Adria de Haume, Talley Nigel, and Bianca Faris
Adria fashioned her first Cross sculpture in 1982 to encourage the recovery of a critically ill friend.
The Artist’s Statement: I am often asked why I chose the cross as the central theme of my sculptures since I was raised in the faith of Judaism. The answers are complex. From the earliest age, growing up in Detroit, Michigan, Christmas and Easter were magical holidays, even though my family didn’t celebrate them.  I heard magnificent choral favorites – “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” and Handel’s Messiah – on TV and sang along with all my heart, even thought I didn’t know the words or their meaning. 

Adria de Haume.
By the age of ten, I felt perfectly at home at the neighborhood Gesu Church. I never told my family that I spent hours there in serious prayer and once fell asleep in the pew. I dreamt that Christ descended from the magnificent god crucifix on the altar and walked over to me. He spoke with extraordinary compassion, sharing his brilliant wisdom. This changed me profoundly forever.

According to my juvenile reasoning Christianity seemed an extension of Judaism. Both teach the same core lessons: to learn to truly love they neighbor, to genuinely forgive and to recognize the divine hand in all of creation.  The cross became the daily reminder of that and embodied Christ’s message of peace.

In my early teens, I was horrified to learn how this sacred symbol I cherished had been used to persecute, torture and destroy life. I had enormous difficulty coming to terms with war, senseless hatred, and violence until a friend, who was a wise woman and Baptist minister, helped me to realize that the gruesome misuse of the cross was man-made, not God-made.
Twenty years later, that same devout friend, Nellie Mae Cox, became critically ill.  Semiconscious in an intensive care unit, she wasn’t allowed flowers or visitors. Desperate to comfort her, I made my first cross out of two mixing sticks, painting each quadrant with vibrant colors and tying the center with a red silk cord. It was imbued with my prayers for Nellie’s healing and with gratitude for her existence. I wanted this cross to communicate that she  was loved and needed on earth. A nurse kindly agreed to use a paper clip to attach it to the drapes directly across from her bed. (Thankfully Providence was a Catholic hospital!) Every time Nellie opened her eyes she saw it. Against all odds she recovered and told me that glimpsing this cross gave her the sign she needed to live. The telepathic lucidity of this cross taught me that prayers are  heard and miracles do happen!
The most compelling message came in 1988, shortly after the birth of my son. While deeply asleep one night, I had a dream in which I heard a resolute command: Wake up and make crosses!  It was 3 a.m. and I was stunned. Determined to follow this directive, I got up but had no idea where to begin. I improvised with the help of cutlery, baggie ties and rubber bands, finding I could form makeshift crosses, and finally I went back to sleep. The next morning, I began to create crosses in earnest. Each had a distinct purpose and many were created to engage my young son, who often worked beside me, in the sheer delight of making art. Whether to communicate a message, express reverence for the gift of life, honor the human spirit, commemorate events, or as my own tangible “Ode to Joy,” this passionate pursuit continues to the present day.

In spite of the layers of historically controversial context, the cross for me ultimately remains a symbol of unconditional love and protection. It is a locus in consciousness where the Divine Spirit meets and merges with human existence, becoming a physical marker, transcending time and space into the pure consciousness of All That Is. — Adria de Haume

Photographs by Annie Watt (Adria viewing party)

Contact DPC here.