The Nature of Art

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Enjoying the new installation in the Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden at the Cooper Hewitt. Photo: JH.

Friday, May 17, 2019. It was bright and sunny, yesterday in New York, with temps reaching up to the low 70s, low humidity, and tall masses of cumulus clouds passing through under the blue blue skies.

The calendar is going full blast right now with many “annual” events. Last week at the American Museum of Natural History, they hosted their annual “Spring Lunch; Science, Society, and Our Environment.” The subject this year was Geoengineering. Ever heard of it? Neither have I. But the American Museum of Natural History is there for us, for that reason: whence we came and where we are (possibly) going.


The Spring Lunch in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life.

The effects of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent, in our own backyards and around the world.  And the most current scientific report reveal a climate that is warming even faster than anticipated. Geoengineering, the deliberate and large-scale manipulation of an environmental process, is garnering interest as an innovative and technology-based countermeasure. 

Lynn Sherr moderated the discussion as she has so effectively for as long as I can remember these luncheons. Her effectiveness is her curiosity. Moderators often can turn a panel discussion into a debate. Lynn goes after the opportunity to learn what we don’t — but should — know. 

The luncheon’s guests were the Reverend Fletcher Harper, an Episcopal priest and executive director of Green Faith; Sheila Jasanoff, Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard; Douglas MacMartin, researcher with the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell, and Marcia McNutt, a geophysicist and president of the National Academy of Sciences.


Moderator Lynn Sherr with panelists Douglas MacMartin, Marcia McNutt, Sheila Jasanoff, and The Rev. Fletcher Harper.

The discussion was “exploring” the great possibilities, and potential pitfalls – of geoengineering, as a “bold new approach to fighting global climate change.” 

The subject was of personal interest to me as a citizen of the same planet as everyone else. Our reality is climate change, which is the nature of the planet. For all of us. We small beings, loud as we can be, have no idea of our smallness in the scheme of things planetarily. 

The AMNH, for example, has tens of thousands of pieces of evidence of life here before on this very planet that is inconceivable to our world of animal life. All of that reflects the reality of climate change. Mother Earth will always be the final authority. Our ability to “accommodate” nature will be reflected in our ability to survive its evolution, if indeed that is our “purpose.”


Co-chair Catherine Sidamon-Eristoff, Museum President Ellen V. Futter, and co-chairs Alexandra Mondre, Sarah M. Belz, and Katheryn P. Kempner.

The AMNH is a beacon to all of us.  It’s a quintessential “learning” as evidenced by its vast, almost religious interest of the very very young when first exposed to it. This luncheon is very successful for the adults also, and it has grown in attendance noticeably over the past decade or so. The luncheon used to be held in the Great Hall with the great dinosaur. It is now held in the enormous Milstein Hall of Ocean Life with the Great White Whale suspended over the main room. 

All the proceeds raised go to support the Museum’s scientific research and educational initiatives, including important work in biodiversity conservation.


Museum President Ellen V. Futter with Vice Chairs John and Jodie Eastman.
Founding Chair Payne Middleton.
Cena Jackson, Katie Kehoe, Whitney Schwartz, Lauren Pelletier, Claire Bernard, Jacqueline Keber, Courtney Nataraj, Alice Zarari, Marisa Rose van Bokhorst, Monica Castillo, Andrea Kukish, and Leslie Finerman.

Today, Friday, The annual Whitney Biennial 2019 opens to the public and will be on view through September 22nd. Jill Lynne attended the preview with her camera to give you a taste of this very important event in the art world.

She writes:  Ever since I was a young one growing up in the New York Art World, I have looked forward enthusiastically to The Whitney Biennial.  At one time it was the only significant venue showcasing avant garde, edgy Art.  It was ontroversial, and thought provoking. And always the subject of myriad conversations and debates regularly pushing boundaries, while questioning What is the very nature of Art.

This 2019 Whitney Biennial represents  the 79th survey of recent American Art by the Whitney Museum of American Art.


Argentine-born (now Miami-based) AUGUSTINA WOODGATE presents NATIONAL TIME (2016-2019) — a room filled a closed circuit network of clocks. The clocks are adapted so that they gradually erase their numbers, no longer telling the time.

Co-curated by Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley, the exhibition mirrors back a new dynamic multiculturalism — one in which artists both explore and embrace their diverse roots.

This year I was most attracted to the Assemblages displaying a multi-media and multi-materials approach. With a remarkable self-confidence the  Artists express a concern for community as well as socio-political issues. The Biennial also includes a full Program of Live Performances as well as film presentations.


MATTHEW ANGELO HARRISON reflects on African and African-American “abstracted ancestry” combining authentic antiquities and mixed materials.
Two rows of Inflatable Floating Form Sculptures are infused with abstracted imagery by RAGEN MOSS. A native New Yorker, MOSS frequently places one transparent form within another suggesting what lies beneath the surface of ourselves …
Hanging by JEFFREY GIBSON “People Like Us,” 2019 utilizes canvas, cotton, brass grommets, artificial sinew, wooden tipi poles —  reminiscent of colorful Native American weavings and blankets.
THE FIRST FIREPLACE by JOE MINTER 1998 utilizes Found Materials — a metal teapot and ladle, fireplace tools, metal grate and chains – alluding to critiques of race and culture …
MARIA MARIA by the Puerto Rican born and based DANIEL LIND-RAMOS suggests the Virgin Mary. However closer inspection reveals references to Hurricane Maria which devastated the island …
TODD GRAY presents PAX 3,  2017; three masterfully executed ink-jet prints (resembling oil paintings) with found frames.
JOSH KLINE showcases a photographically-based collaboration of brilliantly colored chromogenic prints with hardware pumps, water LED lights, acrylic, colored gels.

The Photography itself and concept is by KLINE, frame design by Lawrence Pollman, and fabrication by associates Kate Brechlin, Thomas Slattery, Joanna Raynes, Aimee Anthony, Ido Abramson.

Hats off to KLINE for acknowledging his collaborators!

Together they have created a series of Jewels all infused with real water — Beautiful!
JEANETTE MUNDT based her paintings on New York Times photo composites of gold medal-winning members of the Women’s Olympic Teams …
WANGECHI MUTU’S SENTINEL, 2018 created with paper pulp, wood glue, concrete, glass beads, stone, rose quartz, gourd and jewelry…
A Whitney volunteer.

Last Saturday, Herb Alpert and Lani Hall Alpert and their Herb Alpert Foundation hosted a celebration at the Caldwell Factory in Manhattan honoring 25 years of Herb Alpert Award in the Arts (HAAIA) winners and panelists and celebrating with 125 winners over the years.

Among those attending were prominent artists including Vijay Iyer (a panelist/winner) and George Lewis (also panelist/winner) and legendary  broadcast journalist Bill Moyers paid tribute to the awards program and Herb Alpert himself for his unwavering support of the arts, along with his impact on American music, culture and even careers of others.

Past winners Derek Bermel (music), Joanna Haigood (dance) and Bill “Reverend Billy” Talen (theatre) gave performances. Multi-disciplinary panelist Kristy Edmunds gave a rousing tribute to the awards and talked about a recurring theme heard from guests the entire evening – what it meant to receive the recognition, encouragement and funding to continue their important risk-taking work.

The awards recognize artists working in Dance, Film/Video, Music, Theatre and the Visual Arts; those who are risk-takers using their talent, vision and labor to make something that matters within and potentially beyond their field.


Meshell Ndegeocello, Cecila Vicuna, Herb Alpert, Lani Hall Alpert, Pam Tanowitz, Lloyd Suh, and Beatriz Santiago Munoz.

Peter Brown and Peter Heywood.

Meanwhile, this past Wednesday night I went downtown to an art gallery 632 On Hudson to attend the opening of Peter Heywood’s new show. Peter is a Yorkshireman who taught math and physics for thirty years while devoting his free time to painting. In the mid-90s he was voted Britain’s Best Teacher in a national newspaper, and he also had a successful one man show at the Aberbach Fine Art Gallery on Saville Row. It was that aha!  experience that changed his life: he decided to become a full time painter. We met through his friend and companion Shirley Lord Rosenthal here in New York seven or eight years ago.

The reception brought out a good crowd – of mainly uptowners. The building has been there since the 1880s. Its current occupant/owner told me about photographs she has of the block back then when horses and carriages were the only mode of transportation in New York. This part of New York is very prosperous and popular now not only with residents but with tourists. Its prosperity mirrors the same prosperity more than a century ago before New Yorkers began moving uptown and eventually abandoning this area.

Getting down to the gallery was in very heavy, often barely moving, traffic from the UES all the way down below 14th Street. The subway was the only “fast” way, although you have to know your way around both subway and the West Village. The reward was a good show.


Cave Grande Diptych, 36 x 60; $6,000.
Island of the Sirens, 36 x 72; $7,500. 
Communications, 64 x 72; $20,000.
Chrysler reflected, 40 x 50; $5,500.
Reflection in No. 9, 50 x 40; $6,000.
Complex landscape 2, 48 x 36; $6,000.                          The beauty of simplicity outside the gallery doors.

And right now … NYSD women readers are perhaps familiar with Karen Roberts New York, who sells what they rightfully call “simply elegant day dresses (and evening dresses too!)”  It’s one style (and variations on the theme) — Classic American: Simple, chic and elegant.  And practical on many levels.

Beautiful sheaths, beautifully crafted and sewn in New York City. They’re produced in a multitude of fabrics, colors, patterns and textures.  Karen Roberts continuously produces new dresses in frequent, small lot production runs so there are many items to chose from for any occasion at any time of the year.

Day Dresses, Evening Dresses, After 5 and Special Occasion. Right now they’re showing their new colors for Spring at a Trunk Show at Andrea Carrano, the luxury Italian show designer at 1126 Third Avenue (between 75th and 76th Streets), today and tomorrow from 10 am to 6 pm, and on Sunday from noon to 6 pm. Check it out, especially if you’re in the nabe.


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