Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Diary notes

Having an afternoon smoke. Photo: JH.
Tuesday, February 14, 2017. Cold and windy, but sunny and bright, yesterday in New York. Times for Valentine’s.

Diary Notes. The other day at Michael’s, American Heart Association National Volunteer, Star Jones, was all in red, from head to toe, in celebration of the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement (February is American Heart Month). Star brought together a group of movers and shakers from across the country, all in red, no less, for a lively discussion about the state of heart disease in women. One in three women will die of cardiovascular diseases.
From left to right: Carol Branson, Tisha Lindberg, Lauren Lindberg, Star Jones, Kitsy Adams, Hallie Vanderhider, American Heart Association staffer (in black), Linda Vickers, Tricia Estey, Andrea Frazier, Carole Rae Culliton, Ellen Wasserman, and Liz Elting.
The women shared personal stories about how cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, has impacted their lives. They also discussed the unique challenges women face in building heart-healthy lives for themselves and their families.

Star is a heart disease survivor. She underwent successful open heart surgery in 2010, and is now a heart health and women’s advocate. She “goes red” so women know that while 1 in 3 women may be affected, 80 % of cardiovascular diseases may be prevented with lifestyle change and action.

The action she wants all women to take? To “Know Your Numbers.” Meaning, understanding and managing the numbers – blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and BMI (body mass index) – that indicate risk for cardiovascular diseases.

Last Sunday, my friend and neighbor Joan Hardy Clark invited me to a New York City Center Encores matinee performance of Roger Miller’s “Big River; the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” with Book by William Hauptman, directed by Lear deBessonet. The original production opened at the Eugene O’Neill Theater on April 26, 1985 and ran for more than 1000 performances. This current version had its Encores limited run of last Wednesday through Sunday. When it was over, both Joan and I wondered if it would go to Broadway.

I’d heard about it but never saw it and didn’t even know it was about Huck Finn. How many of you have heard of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn?  And how many of you have heard about it since you were a kid, yet never read it? I’m in that category. The title (“Big River”) meant nothing to me. In fact, I had no idea the show was based on the character, and on a cold, grey rainy Sunday afternoon in February in New York, the title was enough to make me want to stay home.

Ha! The joke was on me. It was brilliant riveting entertainment, with fantastic performances from everyone in the large cast, as well as very topical, and moving. The kind of show which keeps your total attention (and fascination), the kind of show you think everyone should see not only for the pure entertainment but for the thought it provokes and moves.
The cast of "Big River" taking their final bows on Sunday afternoon at the New York City Center.
“Huck” was played by the very talented (and young) Nicholas Barasch, and his raft-traveling companion “Jim” played by Kyle Scatliffe kept the sold-out audience at complete attention with its humor, chills, thrills, and Mark Twain’s wise and witty view of the hard-knock world of mid-19th century America.

Encores! is the best deal in town if you like Broadway musicals. Tickets start at $35!! Every cast I’ve seen in these series is astounding. Their great talent, all of them, fills the theater with their bursting energy and thrilling skills, not to mention their songs and dances. Every time I see one of these shows I’m again amazed at how talented these New York actors are, even in the smallest parts, bigger than life far more than Hollywood.
Nicholas Barasch, who played Huck Finn, and Kyle Scatliffe, who played Jim, taking their bows.
Coming up in March is Cole Porter’s “The New Yorkers” which opened at the Broadway Theater in 1930. The show, built around Jimmy Durante, satirizing New York types in the Prohibition from high society ladies to bootleggers, con men, thieves and prostitutes (Porter’s now-standard “Love For Sale” is in the score). Without ever having seen it, I know it’s going to be great, especially with the casts they put together for Encores!  It opens on Wednesday, March 22nd and runs through the following Sunday. Get your seats now; they sell out for good reason!
Peter Arno's poster art for the original Broadway production of The New Yorkers.
Art and Art’s sake. When I opened the email with this image in it, seeing the name of the artist Julian Lethbridge, I knew it was a painting -- although at first glance there is it had a compelling photographic quality. As if it were an optical illusion I was trying to grasp, it took on changing images; a packed beach in the madness of our population; a massive crowd of people at a concert, in a theater, in a park.

The more I looked, the more I was drawn to it: the more people I saw, the more dramas of the world, as well a sense of swelling winds, waters. All in my imagination of course, because it was Realist. The more I focused, the more transformative it became: the state of the world we’re living in; many things to many people, all in one personal experience.
Julian Lethbridge, Untitled, 2011, oil and pigment stick on linen, 60 x 72 in. (152.4 x 182.9 cm).
It’s an oil and pigment stick on linen 5’X6’ by Mr. Lethbridge who has a show opening this Thursday (Feb. 16) at the Paula Cooper Gallery at 534 West 21st Street.

The email also contained an art historian/curator’s description (see italed below) of the work and of Mr. Lethbridge’s artistic vocabulary. It meant nothing to me; I’m ignorant of official descriptions of a work of art. I am simply a person who looks, especially when the image grabs my attention and my imagination. That is the pleasure available to all of us.  For me, Mr. Lethbridge’s “Untitled 2011” is about all of us. Right Now. And probably Forever. True and a remarkable moment too.

Informed by the vocabulary of abstract and minimal painting, the works of Julian Lethbridge are defined by an assertive lyricism. Beginning with a grooved grid or gestural base, Lethbridge builds his compositions layer upon layer with seductive, luminous oil paints and pigment sticks. In an additive process that results in complex, textured images, Lethbridge constructs a dynamic interplay between surface, space, light and depth. Though their surfaces are flat in actuality, the paintings’ contrasting pigments and saturation evoke expansive spatial breadth, and abound with recessed crevices and protruding convexity. Lethbridge then incises a structure of undulating or grid-like parallel lines. The pattern maps an expansive and overarching order to his turbulent accumulation of brushwork, a methodical precision that works through, rather than against, the looseness of the artist’s hand.

Contact DPC here.