Monday, February 28, 2011

Visual journal, Journal in space

Some of my blog posts will now be the next in my continuing series of visual journals, where I write and then obscure or obliterate, with line and color, perhaps an edge of a few letters dangling off the sides. In the case of blog posts, I’ll just write, and the continuity with previous visual works is that I will not tell anyone. I told some people when my posts were more like artists' statments (you, perhaps, unless you stumbled on it). With “labels”, perhaps people will come who are looking for something else entirely.

I may not be able to spill my heart completely, in which case I will onheybn tsu shraybn azoy, af yidish, zoln di vos farsheyn yidish nokh leyenen. Anyway I always wanted to write in Yiddish, only Yiddish in fact. Then if I want to say something very personal, or if I just feel like it, װעל איך שרײַבן אױף ייִדיש מיט העברײיִשע אותיות.

Or I will come full circle.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Neverland Lost, at Foley Gallery

There is a wonderful show at Foley Gallery, 548 W. 28th Street.  Neverland Lost: a Portrait of Michael Jackson, photographer Henry Leutwyler.  Most are single dazzling objects on a black background, but one very poignant photo is a chair, a throne really, sitting in a warehouse, waiting to be shipped someplace or just waiting.

Women and Unions

Friday the snow had gone, but so had the sky, and nothing taller than a young tree was visible. The morning rainy gray was dismal, but in the late afternoon the gray had softened to something silkier, a Manhattan silver light, and walking to the store for milk felt like it was beyond here, someplace where they hadn’t yet forgotten the smell of cool fresh air.

But Saturday!

First off, 11 a.m., Robin Berson and I went to the rally in the sunshine for Wisconsin at City Hall Park, at least 10,000 people, and no news coverage at all, lest the simmering unspoken longing for unions be given a spark. It’s getting its spark, not to worry. Things will be happening. Thank you, Tunisia, thank you Egypt. Thank you Democratic senators who walked out in Wisconsin. Thank you labor movement that created a middle class in the United States and gave hope and sustenance to untold millions.

1 p.m. to another huge rally, in Foley Square for Planned Parenthood, women’s health and reproductive rights, concern for babies AFTER they are born. The cost of caring for premature babies will now far out-strip the federal money allegedly saved. We'll return to dangerous illegal abortions, as many as are now safe. Who or what have we become in this country?

Sunday, today, so relevant to both those rallies, RB and I went to the Shirtwaist Sewing Circle, organized by the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition. I heard about it from Susan Dessel, who heard about it from her friend, who read about it…. Imagine if Triangle had had a union instead of a sweatshop. There were, I don’t know, 25 people in this wondrous house in East Harlem, cutting, sewing, decorating, drawing, gearing up for the 100th anniversary commemoration of the Triangle fire, March 25th. Unions, women’s rights, the week-end. (17 men too among the 146 victims of the fire). Here’s the website:

I have no drawings about any of these things, but many about things toppling, barely holding on.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Voyager 2

I feel like Voyager 2 writing this blog, just hurtling through space, sending back messages, read by a couple of people looking for something, not necessarily what I send.  Is there one that flew too far, out of range, and keeps on traveling, and nobody knows where it is?

Alphabets and the Middle East

The current gripping situation in the Middle East reflects a focal point of my work for a long time, Israel and Palestine. I am squarely in the “progressive” contingent here, but I correspond with a “settler” (who does not, of course, use that term), because I really want to find out the truth, get an accurate picture, which I’m not sure we get, either one of us. My correspondent is not altering my position so much as whetting my appetite for facts, for a real assessment of the myriad events and policy enforcement decisions that I hear about from “my” side. I’m now reading “his” side, too, and I hope he reads what I send him. I want a more balanced view of things, but mostly, of course, I want peace, and a just society in Israel. In this piece, Model for a Gazebo, Hebrew and Arabic newspaper, (2005), there is a tentative meeting of the two sides. (One image to the side here is Model for Two Houses, in Yiddish and Polish, speaking really about Polish people who hid Jews during WWII.)

In my blog of January 16, I talked about the importance that I place on language. Actually my thoughts are more basic than that, as I have long been interested in the letters themselves, of several alphabets that are known, and one that I made up. My very first sculpture was called Note of the New Alphabet, sensing the parallel rhythm in music and in speech, a sort of unvoiced form of speaking. At that time I was making up letters of a mysterious alphabet and writing stories in it. Somehow I could follow the story, without verbalizing, even bursting into laughter from time to time!

I also spoke about shelter in the January 16 blog. The word “House” for me has many meanings: sanctuary, cloister, shelter, home, private place. These ideas, writing/alphabets/language and shelter/house/room/space, are the basics on which I build sculptures or make works on paper. It all came together in my MFA thesis presentation  built entirely of elements representing the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, .  

House: בּיּתּ,   cherrywood, poplar, cedar, pine, 20' x 17' x 8'h (2002).
Phoenician was the first real alphabet, with 22 letters, such that words were composed of letters representing sounds, rather than glyphs representing objects. Early on, though, most of the letters also retained a meaning as a symbol. Phoenician "beth", the second letter, originally did represent "house", and I find that very interesting, as "beyt" in Hebrew also symbolized "house". The modern word for house, bayit, (“by-it”) is spelled the same way as is the letter when you find it in the dictionary, בּיּתּ. This gave the title of my thesis an added dimension. Arabic also derived from the Phoenician, and the second letter, ba, ب‎ , has a similar history: "house" in Arabic is also "bayit".

                                           Shelter 1                   Shelter 2

In these drawings, shelters/vessels are stacked on a new symbol, a “house” made of the Phoenician, Hebrew,and Arabic second letters: beth, beyt, ba. They are colored pencil on black board, 20" x 15"