Showcasing local Arts, Culture, and Style without any contrived formality. VENÜ is published six times a year as a fresh yet discerning guide to art, culture and style throughout Connecticut and beyond. Not too artsy or too fussy, we’re thoughtfully written for the curious, the acquisitive, and those devoted to the one-of-a-kind and hard-to-find.
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The brasserie is a casual place with daily specials and tapas where people meet for lunch, dinner or even just catch up with a friend over a glass of wine and a snack. Our menu is affordable to ensure that we will not only be a place for special occasions, but for every day dining as well.
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W W W . T H E B R A S S E R I E C T. C O M
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Locally Sewn: Frock
Greenwich Concours dâ€™Elegance
art really matters
Interview with Stephen Wilkes
artist appreciation Thomas Mezzanotte
Artist Market & Jeffrey Price
The Swans by Chris belden
Nutmeg & Eggnog by William Squire
Rare original works through December 29, 2010
Open 7 days. Catalog:www.ArtistsMarket.com/Escher/Catalog.pdf
Escher works ÂŠ The M.C. Escher Company, B.V. Baarn, The Netherlands visual center of horizontal format
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founderâ€™s letter Print is Dead
Some Words From a Talented Few
events and gatherings
FCBUZZ in Norwalk pg.16 Artist Joel Carreiro pg.17 WAC Party pg.18 Peter max at Geary Gallery pg. 20 CCP - Woodcuts pg. 20
music notes Kung Fu Fighting
travel + leisure The Art of Adventure
Womens sportswear, outerwear, eveningwear, jewelry, handbags, shoes, accessories, unique gifts
420 MAIN STREET
PRINT IS DEAD? So often we hear comments like “Your magazine is beautiful. But why would you publish a print magazine in a digital age? Haven’t you heard? Print is dead.” I usually reply “Really? I haven’t heard that. Did you read that on the Internet?” Okay, so maybe I have heard that print is dead… but I don’t believe it for a second. Every day I meet people who enjoy a good read they can hold in their hands. And speaking for myself and many like me, I can only handle so much time at my computer before my body and mind demand I “step away from the monitor” and go decompress… lest I explode into tiny ions! And it seems I’m not alone. I’ve spoken to many people in our lively community of intellectuals, artists, business owners, jet-setters, and especially those living the commuter lifestyle, who feel the same way. In fact, like all pendulum-swing stories, I’ll even venture to say that print will actually become in vogue again. All of us at VENÜ are happy to be among the trailblazers. Other questions we get: “Why would you start a magazine in this economy?” My answer? There’s no better time to start a business than when the chips are down. From General Electric to Microsoft, some of the biggest names in business launched during tough times. Other reader comments: “VENÜ looks great on my coffee table. Can I subscribe?” Of course! See page 69 for more info or sign up venumagazine.com. And be sure to “like us” on Facebook and tell us your thoughts. Meanwhile, pick up a free copy of VENÜ at your favorite local stop. On page 76, you’ll find a growing list of locations where you can find us. If you are thinking of advertising but feel it is too expensive or doesn’t work, there’s a reason for that. Advertising is ONLY expensive when it doesn’t work! But to remain successful in business, you can’t afford not to advertise. Advertising DOES work, but you need to advertise smarter, and we can help you with VENÜ’S AD-VALÜ ™ program. And with the holidays and winter around the bend, you don’t want to be left out in the cold. Until then, let’s not surrender our sensory experiences to the digital age. Here at VENÜ, we’re happy to remind you that your five senses are alive and well by bringing you the best of what there is to touch, taste, smell, hear and see in our area. In that spirit, let’s raise a glass to all things print, paper, and palpable. Happy Holidays folks! Looking forward to celebrating the New Year with you in our next issue.
Autumn Cabbage, Oil on Canvas, 40"x 36"
J U L I E S AT I N O V E R FLORALS . ABSTRACTS . PORTRAITS
4 November/December_CT Edition
founder, creative director: J. Michael Woodside
executive director: Tracey Thomas
senior editor: Ellen Ullman
senior arts editor: Philip Eliasoph
Venü Media Company
art, design & production: Venü Media Company
Chris Belden, Caryn B. Davis, Alex Defelice, Nancy Helle, Christian McEvoy, Diego Rosenberg, Ryan Odinak, Amy Orzel, William Squier
Caryn B. Davis, Ron Kovis, Amy Orzel, Diego Rosenberg
Thomas Cosutto, Man In Motion, LLC
on the cover:
Revealing to us how to open our eyes to the world — STEPHEN WILKES of Westport looks through his lens. He packs his equipment constantly departing for frenetically paced globe-trotting adventures and assignments. VENÜ is delighted to present a candid ‘up close and personal’ interview with the master photographer in an interview/conversation with Senior Arts Editor, Philip Eliasoph. Honored with exhibits at museums, galleries and often on the pages of the nation’s leading news and feature magazines, WILKES instinctively “thinks” in capturing that “perfect moment.”
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firstname.lastname@example.org The small print: No responsibility can be taken for the quality and accuracy of the reproductions, as this is dependent upon the artwork and material supplied. No responsibility can be taken for typographical errors. The publishers reserve the right to refuse and edit material as presented. All prices and specifications to advertise are subject to change without notice. The opinions in this publication are not necessarily those of the publisher. Copyright VENÜ MAGAZINE. All rights reserved. The name VENÜ MAGAZINE is copyright protected. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted without written consent from the publisher. VENÜ MAGAZINE does not accept responsibility for unsolicited material. This is a bimonthly publication and we encourage the public, galleries, artists, designers, photographers, writers (calling all creatives) to submit photos, features, drawings, etc., but we assume no responsibility for failure to publish submissions.
Chris Belden Chris Belden’s stories have appeared in various literary journals, most recently Skidrow, Penthouse and SN Review. He also writes songs, and his two albums, Songs About Anything and Camouflage (SpankyTone Records), are available from iTunes and other online retailers. With any luck he will, graduate this January with a Master of Fine Arts degree from Fairfield University.
NAnCY HELLE Nancy Helle is a freelance writer whose articles on the arts, architecture, travel, lifestyles and real estate have appeared in many Fairfield County newspapers and magazines. A former publicity director for the Silvermine Guild Arts Center, she is currently a contributing writer for New Canaan and Darien magazine.
Caryn B. Davis Caryn B. Davis is a commercial, architectural, marine, travel and portrait photographer and published writer with a studio in Chester, Connecticut. Her images and articles have appeared in over 60 national and international publications, and she has numerous exhibitions to her credit. She is a member of the American Society of Media Photographers, and teaches photography to adults and children. As an avid world traveler to over 35 countries, she enthusiastically and artistically photographs people, places and things at home and abroad. For more information visit www.cbdphotography.com.
Christian McEvoy Christian McEvoy is the Director of the Connecticut Challenge Cancer Survivorship Center in Fairfield, CT. He is a graduate of Fairfield University, and he earned his Master’s Degree in Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. In this issue of Venü he writes about the mixing of music and funraising into a delightful experience for everyone.
Alex Defelice Alex co-owns a production company and record label based in New Haven, HMG Recordings. The company releases a variety of blues music, roots/americana, gospel, etc. available in stores and digitally on the web. He has also been a freelance writer for nearly twenty years. Alex interviewed Kung Fu for VENÜ.
William Squier William Squier is EMMY Award winner who has written for television, film and the stage. He is a frequent contributor to Stamford Plus Magazine and the Tribune’s Fairfield County Weekly, where he often covers the theater scene in Connecticut. In this issue, he writes about traditional holiday plays and musicals that return to the stage year after year.
PHILIP ELIASOPH Philip Eliasoph is Professor of Art History at Fairfield University. “I met Stephen Wilkes a few years ago and we came to realize that our paths had been crossing for many decades,” he notes. “In the hustle-bustle of our frenetic lives I take great pleasure in taking time out to sit with Stephen at a very tranquil picnic table to rejuvenate our aesthetic sensibilities. We both know a lot of CEO’s, eminent surgeons, and financial geniuses – but we are both refreshed gazing at the way a passing cloud will create peculiar shadows on the ripples of a tidal pond. To meditate with another kindred spirit is the source of our unique friendship.”
Diego Rosenberg Even though his sister got the normal name in the family, Diego Rosenberg is used to receiving funny looks when he says he likes muscle cars and Citroens. His first memory was at two years old with his dad’s ‘67 Cougar, and it’s been downhill ever since. If you’d like to read his car blog on Examiner.com, shoot him an email at email@example.com because the URL will give you a conniption.
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>> Department: EVENTS + GATHERINGS
FCBuzz In COOL NORWALK! A hot spot bursting with creative energy by RYAN ODINAK
Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County Clockwise from left: Alicia Candiani, printmaking artist, with Christopher Shore, workshop manager and associate printer, at the Center for Contemporary Printmaking; Shooting a commercial at SoNo Studios; an opening reception at the Rowyaton Arts Center; the SoNo Arts Festival’s Puppet Parade.
hen asked to share the mission of the Norwalk Arts Commission, Chairman Jackie Lightfield says, “Making Norwalk cool!” With a wealth of creative businesses, lively arts and cultural organizations, hip restaurants and boutique-style businesses, who could argue that Norwalk is totally cool.
ArtSpot, hosted by the Arts Commission, brings together the arts and business communities at regular gatherings throughout the city. It has become an incubator for building partnerships and hatching projects as well as unifying the creative community. Performing and visual arts are always featured. Mayor Richard Moccia, a regular at these mini-celebrations, comments, “I look forward to attending ArtSpot gatherings for lots of reasons. They offer a chance to mingle among Norwalk neighbors in one of the most enjoyable and hospitable environments available to a mayor!” Recently, ArtSpot was held at the Center for Contemporary Printmaking, located in Mathews Park, adjacent to the beautiful 62room Lockwood Mathews Mansion. Housed in the mansion’s stone carriage barn, the Center is dedicated to the art of the print and offers hands-on workshops for adult and teen artists/printmakers throughout the year. A gallery named for founder Grace Ross Shanley features exhibits throughout the year including Footprint, a biennial international print competition; and Monothon, a fun-filled
Photo: SoNo Studio
Photo: Gillian Marshall
Photo: Sue Gordon
printmaking marathon. In addition, the Helen Frankenthaler Printmaking Cottage offers an artist-in-residence program. Located in the heart of the Rowayton section of Norwalk, the Rowayton Arts Center is celebrating 50 years as a community cultural hub dedicated to the exchange of arts-related ideas. Monthly exhibits, classes, lectures and other activities attract participants and visitors. Included among its 500 members are nationally recognized professionals, talented amateurs, beginners and non-artists. Places that nurture creativity are in abundance in Norwalk. The 18 artists of Wilson Avenue Lofts and the 12 artists that are part of SPAG (St. Paul Artists’ Guild) each provide studio space, a supportive community and opportunities to exhibit. SoNo Studios—recently acquired by local filmmaker Bret Stern—is available for TV
production companies, ad agencies, music artists, and filmmakers seeking state-of-the-art production facilities. The Factory Underground Studio is a one-stop resource for recording, production, mixing, and mastering needs. The SoNo Arts Celebration, now in its 35th year, comes to the heart of the Arts and Entertainment District of historic South Norwalk every summer. The streets come alive with more than 135 juried artists’ exhibits, music, a giant puppet parade and a children’s art playground. In September, the Oyster Festival draws around 60,000 people who enjoy rides, nautical exhibits, performances, arts and crafts, the art of BBQ and more. Visitors from across the state and country make their way to the Maritime Aquarium and Stepping Stones Museum for Children, both of which are hubs for kids and families to view underwater life or explore interactive exhibits. The Aquarium’s IMAX theatre is a destination for all ages, whether seeing the Rolling Stones movie, Cirque du Soleil or a nature feature. Wrap all this in a scenic waterfront area, plenty of fine dining and nightlife opportunities, not to mention some of the best chocolate anywhere, and any day or night of the week you will find plenty of FCBuzz in Norwalk.
To find out what’s happening in Norwalk and the other cities and towns of Fairfield County visit www.FCBuzz.org, presented by the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County. This arts-and-culture resource offers ticket and event information for music, theatre, visual arts, history, lectures, literature, kids and families, classes, workshops, social events and so much more. For more information contact the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County by emailing info@CulturalAllianceFC.org, or calling 203-256-2329 or visiting our website at www.CulturalAllianceFC.org.
>> Department: EVENTS + GATHERINGS
Artist Joel Carreiro’s Seeing Things On exhibit through December 5th, at the Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery, Fairfield University
“I see things not as they are, but as they could be, mutable and available for transformation.” – Joel Carreiro, artist
n artist’s vision is unique, always provocative and often revelatory. It is the reason that Dr. Diana Mille, director of the Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery at Fairfield University, sought out an unusual artist like Joel Carreiro. His exhibition,
“Seeing Things,” runs through Dec. 5 and is part of the Arts & Minds season of events. In this mid-career survey of the work of New York-based Carreiro, Mille finds a visual expression of her definition of the creative process: “it is ongoing, with art as a continuous dialogue between generations.” She continues, “Joel Carreiro is a genius in the post-modern dialogue. While appropriating realistic fragments culled from his study of western art history—specifically the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods—this artist transcribes these images into a kaleidoscopic tapestry informed by his skilled and abstract painting language.” Carreiro describes his work as an evolution, “from a close reading of cultural artifacts; paintings, drawings, decorative objects, from various times and cultures. The result is a slow emergence of other possible configurations hidden in these sources. I tease an image out of its original identity and coax it into a new one. Far from being an aggressive act or hostile takeover, I believe this process celebrates its sources
and reveals hidden talents and the potential for new hybrid life.” Mille describes the effect of Carreiro’s work as “being someplace you know, but don’t know; he takes you to a place that is at once familiar yet mysteriously unfamiliar.” In the exhibition’s catalogue essay, Elinor M. Richter, associate professor in the art department of Hunter College, likens the artist to a Byzantine mosaicist, as he creates a grid that provides the underlying geometric structure so that he may “play off against the organic shapes that he prefers.” The artist takes the images, copies them onto transfer paper to which heat is applied, thus releasing the wax coating and allowing the image to be absorbed into a porous panel support made of birch plywood, an updated process from that used to create tempera and panel paintings during the Renaissance. Richter supports the enchanting effect Carreiro’s paintings achieve with a nod to the respect for his sources that is inherent in his work. “He always leaves enough of the original image in order to retain its associations.”
>> Department: EVENTS + GATHERINGS
Photos: Helen Klisser During
Summer Exhibition, 8/6/10 The Westport Arts Center celebrated the artistic diversity of our community with its annual Group Members Show with over 400 attending. This themed exhibition, which explores the spirit of summer, was juried by Alexandra Munroe, Ph.D., Senior Curator of Asian Art at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.
>> Department: EVENTS + GATHERINGS
PETER MAX BRINGS HIS ICONIC ARTWORK TO DARIEN’S OWN GEARY GALLERY
n impressive collection by artist legend, Peter Max’s exquisite paintings will be available for acquisition at the Geary Gallery in Darien, Connecticut. Exhibit previews will begin November 4th, 2010, and the exhibit extends through November 7th. Artwork is available for acquisition and all appearances are open to the public, with Meet the Artist receptions on Saturday, November 6th and Sunday, November 7th. RSVPs are requested and taken by the Geary Gallery @ 203.655.6633. With paintings on exhibition in hundreds of museums and galleries worldwide, Peter Max and his vibrant colors have become part of the fabric of contemporary culture. Max has been successively called a Pop Icon, Neo Fauvist, Abstract Expressionist and the United State’s “Painter Laureate.” The artist has the distinct honor of painting the last seven Presidents of the United States and the world’s best-loved celebrities, among them the young sensation Taylor Swift. Ms. Swift joins the roster of many other people of stature that Max has celebrated with his expressionistic brush strokes of vibrant colors. He has also painted Presidents Clinton and Obama, The Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela, Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger, and Mickey Mantle and Muhammad Ali, to mention just a very few of the world’s most well-respected and revered personalities. This exhibition at the Geary Gallery in Darien features paintings of the magnificent “Vase Of Flowers,” the iconic Statue
of Liberty, Max’s famous “Flag” pieces, “Umbrella Man,” and the prestigious 10 Cent Stamp bearing the title “Preserve the Environment.” There will also be presentations of never-before-seen celebrity portraits. The Geary Gallery of Darien is well-known as a pre-eminent Fairfield County gallery for representational art. Its proprietors, Tom and Anne Geary, are more than art dealers. They are friends to artists, spotting talent and market appeal, and nurturing careers, with a lively schedule of art exhibits that rotate approximately every five weeks. They
Leona Pierce & Antonio Frasconi: Woodcuts While Frasconi is best known for his series of woodcuts “The Disappeared,” depicting missing persons from his home country of Uruguay during the dictatorships that ended in 1985, Frasconi’s new body of work is inspired by the surrounding wetlands and marshes of Long Island Sound as seen from his home and studio in South Norwalk. Leona Pierce, Frasconi’s late wife, depicted in her prints children at play in New York City streets. They moved to Norwalk in 1957. Both Frasconi and Pierce’s work are in the permanent collections of MoMA and the Brooklyn Museum of Art, among many other prominent museum collections. The exhibition runs from December 2 through January 30, 2011, at the Center for Contemporary Printmaking 203-899-7999 contemprints.org
feature both Connecticut-based artists with national reputations and well-known artists from along the Eastern seaboard. Gallery owner Tom Geary remarked, “It is our distinct honor and pleasure to host Peter Max in our gallery, and to be able to exhibit works of this caliber and cultural significance”.
For further information and to RSVP to the event, call the Geary Gallery, 203655-6633 or visit gearygallery.com
from Dec. 2, through Jan. 30, 2011 at the Center for Contemporary Printmaking
“It’s just a piece of clothing. If you like it, try it on. If it fits you great, and if not, we can make it fit you.”
FASHIOn: Locally Sewn
by Caryn B. Davis
In the olden days, a frock was a loose, outer garment worn by peasants, monks and laborers; characterized by its frumpy form. In modern times “frock” no longer has to mean shapeless smock. It can be a hip, handmade clothing store where women of all sizes and contours can find something fashionable to fit their figure. Frock is not your typical boutique. Frock is an experience. The shop is housed in an antique building on Main Street in the tiny village of Chester, Connecticut. With its eggshell blue walls, uneven wood floors, rows of large windows that allow the natural light to stream in, thread in every conceivable color perfectly aligned in old printer’s trays, and racks with textiles that hang from the ceiling on poles of bamboo wrapped with twine, Frock is visually pleasing, and the design of the store is also a work of art in it of itself. Owned and operated by fasionistas Trish Ginter and Laura Williams-Larson, it becomes quickly evident to all who enter, that these gals are having fun creating their wearable art on-site. Their infectious laughter, energy and passion for what they do, immediately engages their customers making them feel welcomed. “People have commented that we really seem be enjoying ourselves in here. It’s because we love what we do. Having put in many years in other careers we celebrate this and feel very fortunate to be here,” said Williams-Larson. The shop is split into two connecting rooms. On one side is Ginter’s clothing line called Mergirl, and Williams-Larson’s line Whosiepie. They both sell blouses, skirts, dresses and pants, and accessories like jewelry from designer Mahady Makrianes, and their own Frock fragrances. On the other side are 4 sewing machines, mounds of fabric and thread, one-of-a-kind hand drawn paper patterns, and a custom built 8-foot-by-4-foot cutting table where Williams-Larson and Ginter sew, cut and create their own designs. Every garment can be altered at will to accommodate each woman’s unique body type, and taste, if different a color, pattern or fabric is preferred. “Women are curvy and beautiful, and everyone is different. Everyone has something they don’t like about their body. But we can work with
D av i s
that and enhance the parts they do like,” says Ginter, a graduate of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. “That’s why women like coming in here. They don’t have to look in a mirror and hate what they see.” At Frock, there are purposely no labels placed inside their clothing to indicate what size the garment is. They just want women to feel good about who they are and what they are wearing, and size does not determine that. “It’s just a piece of clothing. If you like it, try it on. If it fits you great, and if not, we can make it fit you,” says Williams-Larson. Before confounding Frock, Ginter worked for many years in fashion houses throughout New York City, and designed a line of children’s sleepwear that was represented by showrooms in New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles. But she quickly grew disillusioned from working on clothing lines a year before they were destined to hit the selling floor. “I remember walking around Bloomingdales and seeing something I designed so long ago, that I had no connection to it even though it was mine,” says Ginter. “It also wasn’t who I was as a designer anymore.” Ginter left New York to live on Martha’s Vineyard for a while where she had summered with her family, but ultimately made her way to Chester where she opened Lucille’s, sewing on-site and selling her Mergirl wears. In the meantime, Williams-Larson, a graduate of the Art Institute of Boston, was busy working as a freelance graphic designer and illustrator on the east coast, until she headed west where she got involved in the booming dot.com industry. While in California, she began sewing her own clothes and accessories out of necessity, a skill she learned from her mother who had a home business making gowns and doing alterations. When people began to inquire as to where they could buy the clothes she was wearing, Williams-Larson started selling her designs at private trunk shows. As a lifelong painter and printmaker, she added another dimension to her clothing designs by silk-screening her own artwork onto the fabric, which
was an instant success. In 2006, she returned to Connecticut and assisted Ginter at Lucille’s sewing the Mergirl line. “I was helping Trish produce her clothes while she was working on Smashing Darling and she allowed me to have a rack of my Whosiepie clothing in her shop,” recalls Williams-Larson. Smashing Darling is an online store where independent designers from Canada, England and the United States can create and maintain their own boutiques. They can also link their personal web site to Smashing Darling and use it as their shopping cart. The idea was born out of Ginter’s need to find an online platform in which to sell her own clothing. “As a small business, I don’t have enough money to pay a programmer to change my web site every time I have a new design,” says Ginter. “I thought I can’t be the only designer in this position. So I established a do it yourself marketplace for all of us.” Smashing Darling has grown from having just two designers (Mergirl and Whosiepie) to over 700 in just 3 years. It’s free to sign up, but 18% of all sales goes towards the upkeep and running of the site. Ginter decided to close Lucille’s in 2008 and opened a private studio in Chester with Williams-Larson as a partner. They continued working on their independent clothing lines and brainstormed as to what their next move would be. It soon became clear that a larger and more public space was needed. “We started daydreaming about 26
the kind of store we wanted which was something clean and simple, and came up with Frock,” says Ginter. Frock doesn’t function like the average fashion house where the designers are hidden from public view off sewing in another part of the building. Or where they go into production making clothes a full year before they are seen. Nor do they start working on their fall line before summer is even half way over. These designers remain free to “catch the energy of the day” which keeps their ideas fresh and flowing. “If it’s hot in September, we’ll still be making cute summer things,” says Williams-Larson. Ginter appreciates the immediacy of being able to work in the now, creating because she is inspired to create, and not because a marketing campaign has demanded that she does, as in the traditional fashion world. There are no expectations to produce just for the sake of producing, nor anyone telling them what to make and when to make it. “We can continue to do summer until we feel the very first cool breeze and that’s when it will tell us it’s time to do fall. We are in the season we are in, the way it feels this week,” says Ginter. Both Ginter and Williams-Larson believe that the fabric dictates the design and tells them the form it wants to take. Although their clothing lines are distinctively different, their aesthetic is similar and often they find themselves inadvertently moving through the same color palettes; sometimes concentrating on blues and greens, or reds and oranges, and then on to stripes and patterns. Comfort is an essential element in all of their designs and it’s never sacrificed. They never encourage people to buy something they are not completely comfortable in. Like the local food movement where people now want to know where their food comes from, they also want to know where their clothes come from. They like buying clothes that they know were made in Connecticut and supporting a local business. “A woman in her 60’s came in, and when she saw us making the clothes right here she said ‘The world is getting better.’ People need inspiration like this, especially now,” says Williams-Larson. And Frock is doing that, one stitch at a time.
For more information, directions and store hours, log onto www.frockshoppe.com.
Experience + Art + Science = Problem Hair and Nails Solved
curls/cuts/color/nails/eyebrows d. sabrina salon 1499 Post Road Fairfield, CT 06484 203.256.8209 www.dsabrinasalon.com
words and photographs by
Greenwich Concours d’Elegance Where is the best place in America to be a car nut? Some would say California, which would be an obvious choice. Michigan is the logical one. But the mid-Atlantic area? If New York City is the premier city of America (and the world), why can’t the region have a reputation for being the place for
all things automotive? Oh, the weather isn’t the kindest to things that rust, but Keystone State’s Hershey and Carlisle shows are two places very familiar to any American restoring an automobile. Plus, the region has Englishtown (in the Garden State) for shows and drag racing, and Connecticut’s very own Lime Rock satisfies those whose veins are filled with gasoline. And, thanks to Bruce and Genia Wennerstron, we now have Greenwich too. The first Greenwich Concours d’Elegance was organized by the Wennerstroms in 1996. It stood out from other Concours because of its split format: a focus on American cars on Saturday, and foreign cars on Sunday. But why even consider Greenwich the hub of the East Coast car scene? As local automotive hobbyists, the Wennerstroms pursue their interests in numerous motorsport activities, including the 24 Hours of LeMans and vintage racing. They also preside over a monthly luncheon of like-minded car comrades at New York City’s famous Sardi’s restaurant. And, due to their network of Fairfield County’s prominent car collectors - not to mention the cooperation of Town Hall - Greenwich was only a natural.
Since French probably isn’t your strong suit, I’ll point out that a Concours d’Elegance is a competition of elegance and excellence. It has its roots in 17th-century French aristocracy - during the summer holiday months, the rich brioche-lovers paraded their carriages in the parks. As carriages evolved into the horseless kind, the display also evolved into an aesthetic tournament. Only the creme de la creme are invited to compete at a Concours, with the famous ones being at Meadow Brook in suburban Detroit and Pebble Beach near Monterey, California. Because each day’s show respectively features cars from our shores or elsewhere, the motorcar mix will attract ARTS/CULTURE/STYLE//MAGAZINE
Sport cars were not an American phenomenon, but many servicemen from WWII brought back nifty British runabouts that were loads of fun and were the exact antithesis of the bigger, lower, wider cars that were a part of American culture. aficionados of many different stripes. Generally, as cars are merely a reflection of a country’s culture, we can compare the emerging sports car culture from Italy like the 1954 Ferrari 250 GT and an American-hybrid response, such as the 1954 Arnolt-Bristol Bolide, a product of Chicago industrialist Stanley H. “Wacky” Arnolt commissioning an Italian body designed by Bertone and installing a Bristol motor from Britain. Sport cars were not an American phenomenon, but many servicemen from WWII brought back nifty British runabouts that were loads of fun and were the exact antithesis of the bigger, lower, wider cars that were a part 30
of American culture. However, what became an American phenomenon was the Corvette; it barely lasted two years until 1955 when Chevrolet engineers convinced the bean counters to stuff the fiberglass body with Chevy’s brand-new, small-block V-8. By 1957, the Corvette was truly a world-class automobile, with available fuel injection and a physical form that was the perfect reflection of the best of American style with little of contemporary 1950s ostentation. Another example of culture’s relationship with the automobile is Lancia’s Aprilia. Small by American standards and not quite mainstream by Italian standards, this sedan
offered such features as a functional aerodynamic design, unitary construction, and independent suspension in a time when a mainstream 1939 Ford Deluxe convertible sedan had twice the amount of cylinders but was utterly conventional in all other manners. It wouldnâ€™t be until 1960 with the debut of the Chevrolet Corvair that an American sedan offered the kind of features that make engineers smile. Despite the Wall Street crash of 1929, the ensuing decade was arguably the golden age of the automobile the world over. The combination of Art Deco style and the gradual influence of streamlining gave coach builders inspiration that hasnâ€™t been rivaled to this day. These cars are the ones ARTS/CULTURE/STYLE//MAGAZINE
“Despite the Wall Street crash of 1929, the ensuing decade was arguably the golden age of the automobile the world over. The combination of Art Deco style and the gradual influence of streamlining gave coach builders inspiration that hasn’t been rivaled. that fascinate people to spend beaucoup dollars for the bragging rights of winning a Concours d’Elegance. Names like Fleetwood, Derham, Bohman & Schwartz, and Brewster are as important to the identity of a car as are brands like Pierce-Arrow, Stutz, and Cadillac. Across the Atlantic, the talent went by Saoutchik, Figoni et Falaschi, and Hooper; their designs may have graced the chassis of Talbot-Lago, Hispano-Suiza, Rolls-Royce, or even a car from America. The 1935 Delage D8-85 roadster by Clabot is a grand example of the convergence of engineering and art. Alas, many of these companies failed as the decade progressed, but the 1950s brought new fame and purpose for coach builders as Italian and German automotive brands began to subcontract these firms to design and sometimes build their cars. Perhaps the most ubiquitous were Karmann and Pininfarina, the latter having designed the 1967 Ferrari 330 GTS pictured. 32
Bonhams & Butterfields Auctioneers also have established a presence at the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance. This year they auctioned more than 80 vehicles, the bulk involving a vintage Italian collection that included a 1959 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint coupe whose trademark grille is pictured here. Other sponsors include a mix of media like Automobile magazine, automakers such as Jaguar Cars North America, and fun like the Vivapop All-American Soap Box Derby. And while we can claim to be the beneficiaries of the Wennerstrom’s (and their cast of thousands) efforts, no doubt the biggest beneficiary is AmeriCares and those they help around the world. Next year’s Greenwich Concours d’Elegance has yet to be announced, but keep early June free. You can count on an interesting mix of collector cars from many countries and all eras... and you can count on Greenwich to kick off the show season in America’s premiere region for car nuts.
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Jerry Vigorito and Rob Fried mix music and fundraising into a delightful experience for everyone.
Christian McEvoy photos by Ron kovis
Band of Gold
I have no idea who John Oates is, but Jerry and Rob assure me I will know his music when I hear it. They tell me to write the name down. I write – Haulin’ Oates. No no no—Hall and Oates—Darryl Hall and John Oates. I buy their music on iTunes when I get home. They were wrong. I’ve never heard it.
t’s not that I am oblivious to popular music. It’s that I was two years old when Hall and Oates was topping the charts. But these guys, Jerry Vigorito and Rob Fried, were in high school then, and they were playing music. Nearly 30 years later, we are talking about John Oates because Jerry and Rob are still playing music, but now they are using it to help people. One of their upcoming concerts is featuring John Oates. After I disappoint them for not knowing who Oates is, they dive into telling me about the music they played in high school. “We played to get girls.” But they didn’t play together then. What is Band Together? I’m sitting with Jerry and Rob in a Westport café, and I’m trying to understand their organization—Band Together—because now they do play together, and it seems they play for a more, um, laudable purpose. “The first thing you have to understand,” Rob leans across the table and pauses, “is that Band Together is not an organization. It’s a spiritual idea.” He’s completely serious. These two guys have raised a ton of money, won awards, and touched thousands of people, but they didn’t bother to start a nonprofit or incorporate their efforts. “If we do that, we risk making it not fun anymore,” Rob explains. Jerry agrees. I think I’m asking simple questions: When did it start? Who is involved? What do you do? And Rob is leading with “spiritual ideas.” But that’s who these guys are—a complicated team—and they are not just going lay out the story for me.
“… Band Together is not an organization. It’s a spiritual idea.”
Band Together seems to be a reflection of the complexity I see in Jerry and Rob. Jerry is a mortgage broker, and Rob is hedge funder. As they explain, “We stop being rock stars as soon as the lights go on.” What they mean is that they work in normal jobs and have kids, but about 15 times a year they put on kick-ass concerts. And they play in those concerts. And those concerts raise Brinks trucks of money for organizations that can really put it to good use. Jerry steps into the conversation. He is the more direct of the two. “Basically, we like to play music, and we want to make it work for people who need it.” Band Together is an idea, but these guys are serious. It is not a stretch to say it is a part of their religion. “God directs what we do and it all brings us one step closer to heaven,” says Jerry. I don’t think I’ve ever met two guys who seem as calmly content as Rob and Jerry, and I really want to know where they get it. It goes something like this. They like to get together with other musicians and put on concerts that raise money for good causes. Each concert has a theme, and they invite notable local, national, and international musicians to play with them. They cover songs, and they pack any joint they play. They’ve been doing it since 2003, and they’ve raised more than $500,000 for Connecticut charities. That’s the part
that makes sense to me—the mechanics of it all. What doesn’t make sense is how they arrived here. In the Beginning Rob and Jerry have been playing together in some capacity since 1995. They rattle off names of the bands they’ve both played in; Bone Dry and To the Max are the two names I catch. They explain they’ve each been in and out of these bands during the past 15 years. When I ask why they’ve floated in and out of various groups, I halfexpect to hear stories of fighting band members and storied conflict. In just micro-seconds, I construct the story in my head. Conflict in the bands leads to all the musicians falling away until it was just Jerry and Rob left. They mutually decide that all the conflict and craziness of the rock scene is too much, and they want to use their talent for betterment of society. Begin Band Together. Call CNN Heroes. Great two-minute story. Jerry sets me straight. “I don’t know,” he says casually. “Life just got in the way.” And that’s when I remember that Jerry and Rob are both dads. So I joke and ask, “Did you guys ever play all night and go straight to soccer practice without showering or sleeping?” In unison, “Yeah, of course.”
As in sync as they are, Jerry and Rob are severely different. Jerry doesn’t really read sheet music, and in the mid-nineties, Rob spent his evenings at SUNY Purchase taking classes and studying classic musical techniques. “Rob is a technichian,” Jerry tells me. “Yeah, but Jerry Vigalates,” says Rob. Vigalating or Vigalation is a term Rob uses to describe how Jerry works a crowd and moves through life. “It’s the highest form of social networking. People feel like he [Jerry] is really really really totally with them. It’s selfless, and when he vigalates, you’re powerless.” I’m sure I look puzzled. Rob re-gears and says, “It’s like my father said when he first heard Jerry play. We were in my backyard, and we were all jamming. My father pointed at Jerry and said ‘that guy’s got schtick.’” Neither Here Nor There To understand how surreal a conversation with these two guys is, you have to imagine that you are sitting with me. I’m prying into this non-organization that has raised a half-million dollars. I’m trying to understand how it all started, and I’m getting explanations like Jerry’s: “Rob just had a bolt-of-light inspiration.” I accept that answer, but my Johns Hopkins-trained inquisitive mind has to know how Jerry ended up working with Rob. They had been in and out of bands; life had gotten in the way; they didn’t seem to be best friends. How does the guy with schtick end up sitting next to the guy who had a bolt of light? “Mutual respect,” Rob answers. By the time we got to mutual respect, I forgot entirely about bolts of lightening. And that’s what it is like. Old stories and obtuse explanations. Until I stumble on the right question. “How do you pick the charities that benefit from the concerts?” Rob and Jerry look at each other and push back from the table. They look at me like they are about to close a deal. Rob starts, and they pop the answer back and forth like it was rehearsed. But I know it wasn’t. They were just playing together. Rob: “We ask ourselves three questions.” Jerry: “Is there a need? Does the charity have the infrastructure to work with us? Is the charity compelling?” Rob: “If they meet all three, then we find a way to help.” I ask the guys what makes a charity compelling. Jerry: “Basic needs.” Rob: “Children. Medical. Disasters.” I guess I don’t have my answers, or at least the answers I set out to find. I’m pretty sure Rob and Jerry are going to keep those held close to their chests. The easy thing would be to assume that they didn’t know the answers to how, why, or even when. I don’t accept the easy explanation for their broad and dodging explanations. Here’s why. The entire time I was talking with Jerry and Rob, I was trying to find my pull quote. A pull quote is a quote from a story like this one that gets pulled from the regular text and put in the big typeface. It somehow explains the entire piece in just a few words. Mine came when I asked the guys about the Red Cross Hero Award they received a few months ago. This is a serious award. People who save lives win this thing. I asked them how that felt. Jerry just smiled, but Rob got jittery. “I’m like a secret agent. Jerry and me, we’re like secret agents. People don’t realize how much fun we’re really having. We don’t need awards for this!” Secret agents indeed. They found something, and they’re not just going to give it away to some kid who doesn’t even know the music of Haulin’ Oates.
notes mus usicnote
kung fu fighting
by Alex Defelice
music notes//_ review
CT’s newest supergroup lights up stages everywhere They come from different bands, improvisational settings and locations around the Northeast. But musically they may as well be from another planet. They are the latest supergroup that is so far out there musically, but manages to rein it all into an incredible heady array of funk, fusion and jazz. It’s no surprise since their collective experience encompasses some of the best jam, jazz and funk bands around. Kung Fu is a musical force to be reckoned with. A trip to another dimension and at the same time a tutorial smackdown in all worlds of improvisation. Made up of some of the finest band members and session players around the jam scene, Kung Fu can
not only call artists like John McLaughlin, Miles Davis, Frank Zappa. Weather Report, Sly and the Family Stone and many more influences, but also the Top 40 world of AM radio when stations like WABC belted out classic soul and funk music. Kung Fu consists of guitarist Tim Palmieri from The Breakfast, keyboardist Todd Stoops from the Vermontbased group RAQ, saxophonist Kris Jensen who has played with the Dickey Betts Band and Jaimoe, bassist David Livolsi who has worked with John Scofield and Jazz is Dead, drummer Adrian Tramontano from The Breakfast, and the most recent addition is Rob Somerville on sax from Deep Banana Blackout. These multi-talented individuals have been wowing crowds together as Kung Fu since they formed in November of 2009. They still retain membership in their original groups and continue doing session work and sitting in with other artists while building up the Kung Fu dynasty. Tim Palmieri is one of the best guitarists on the jam scene today. His capabilities to call up any song or riff at any time are legendary and he
has been mentioned nationally for his remarkable fluidity and dexterity honed with his original band, The Breakfast. He has also played with moe, Umphrey’s McGhee, The Disco Biscuits, members of Frank Zappa’s group and many more. It’s also worth noting Palmieri’s other side project, The Beatles A to Z, a solo performance where he will play any tune from the Beatles songbook called out from the audience at any time. Palmieri’s other partner in Kung Fu also hails from The Breakfast. Like all good drummers. Adrian Tramontano is an animal on the skins with the raw power of a Keith Moon or John Bonham, but with the subtlety to segue into jazz rhythms at the spin of a drumstick. He and Palmieri have collaborated since high school and have toured the US and Canada extensively with The Breakfast. Todd Stoops plays keyboards for Kung Fu and is the other member of the group to come from a traditional band setting playing for the Vermont-based group RAQ. His keyboard expertise and songwriting skills have gained national recognition for his
work with RAQ. Stoops has also played on stage with moe, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and many others. Kris Jensen brings much of the jazz element to Kung Fu. He taught as an assistant at the Hartt School of Music through the ‘80s and’90s while appearing with artists like Dickey Betts, Maynard Ferguson, and Jaimoe, and sat in with the Dave Matthews Band. Bassist Dave Livolsi holds the rhythmic foundation down with his tight groove playing. He has performed with the likes of John Scofield and Jazz Is Dead. Most recently added to the Kung Fu lineup and sure to beef up their sound even more and also bring in more of an audience is sax player Rob Somerville from Deep Banana Blackout. Like the great martial art that Kung Fu is, this new group lays out their own brand of discipline while at the same time bringing their improvisational skills to the highest levels of achievement. You can check their schedule for upcoming appearances.
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>> ART REALLY MATTERS: Stephen Wilkes_Interview
In The Moment
Stephen Wilkes took some time on a crisp fall day a few weeks ago. He looked out the window to observe the perfect light, poured some home-brewed espresso, and paused to reflect on his career—jet-setting around the world in search of the perfect moment. It was difficult arranging time with this globe-hopping, world-renowned photographer as he gathered his gear to take off to the next hot zone on the turn of a dime. A bit exhausted and mentally worn out from the intense physical challenges of wading in the oil-soaked bayous and endangered waterways of Louisiana’s barrier islands, Wilkes surged with emotions. TIME magazine’s world audience had an exclusive look inside a BP oil rig and the environmental disaster with Wilkes’ eye-opening photo essay last summer.
“Sometimes I do get to places,” once remarked Ansel Adams “when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.” That person for our time – who thinks, feels, and ‘clicks’ Ellis Island, the wreckage of Hurricane Katrina, Eric Clapton, Ruth Madoff, Carlos Santana, or day transforming into night in New York – is Stephen Wilkes.
Venü magazine: Stephen, thanks for spending some time with us this morning. Let’s jump right in: How do you coordinate—with perfect synchronism —your mind, heart, and eye when you are on location? Stephen Wilkes: I live in the moment. I‘ve learned over the years how to let go and embrace what’s unknown. Sometimes unexpected problems can create their own unique magic; challenges force you to think in a different way. I may have a specific idea or image in my mind prior to arriving to a location, but once I’m there, I allow my senses to completely take over. Allow yourself to see and feel what’s there, as opposed to looking for what you think should be there. Let’s talk for a minute about your early involvement as a teenager with photography. I know you apprenticed on countless weddings, anniversaries, christenings, and bar mitzvahs while you learned the ropes of the trade. And your teacher taught you some valuable basic lessons. I was fortunate enough to discover photography at the impressionable age of 12. As a child I had developed a keen interest in science, and decided to take 42
a weekend class on scientific photography. It was through this experience that I made my first photographs through a microscope. I’ve always believed that this was a defining moment for me, reinforcing my need to look deeper into the world in which we live. I still remember my excitement upon seeing those first black-and-white microphotographs; I quickly realized that I had discovered my life’s passion. Photography became my life; I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Every time I’d open that little yellow Kodak box, it was like Christmas! I’ve also had the good fortune of having several mentors throughout my career. At 13 I began to work for the photographer who had photographed my bar mitzvah, and every Saturday my parents would drive me to Queens where I would spend the day assisting him. He was a wonderful photographer who taught me many valuable lessons. One in particular that has stayed with me throughout my career: “They only throw the rice once!” I worked as an assistant for two years and then decided to start my own business when I turned 15. Weddings, bar mitzvahs and special events. My slogan was “take advantage of me while I’m young and innocent!” I was published editorially in
Photograph by Greg Gorman
Senior Arts Editor, Philip Eliasoph sat down with Wilkes at his Westport studio – headquarters.
For more than two decades Stephen Wilkes has been widely recognized for his fine art and commercial photography. With numerous awards and honors, as well as five major exhibitions in the last five years Wilkes has left an impression on the world of photography.
by Philip Eliasoph
Boy in Beijing, China
Cover Girl magazine while I was still in high school, and continued my career path by enrolling at Syracuse University’s (SU) Newhouse School of Public Communications. At SU, I was a dual major in communications/photography and business/marketing. It was in my junior year of college that I got an opportunity that most young photographers dream of. After I showed my portfolio to Jay Maisel, he offered me a job to assist him for the summer. Jay would become my mentor and friend; his influence has had a major impact on my career. Jay taught me so many things, but what always rings in my head was one of his mantras: “No matter how much talent you’ve got, it’s 90 percent work and 10 percent talent. If you really want to make it… you have to out work everybody.” Jay really defined the work ethic
for me. It probably took me five years to realize how much I actually learned. Our readers will be fascinated to hear about some of the celebrities and internationally recognized personalities you have photographed. Can you share some of those stories? Who was easy to work with? Who was difficult? How did you overcome their issues of vanity, self editing, and control and put them at ease? I’ve been blessed over the years to photograph a varied range of subject matter. Whether I’m shooting some of the world’s greatest athletes, musicians, or working as a photojournalist documenting Hurricane Katrina, or the Bernard Madoff story for Vanity Fair, there are always stories behind my photographs. I had the pleasure of photographing Michael Jordan for
Nike during the peak of his career. We organized a street basketball game for him in Chicago with a group of very lucky local high school students. The image was of Michael flying through the air in a pickup game on his way to a monumental dunk, with a graffiti wall behind him. Michael was real clear with me from the get go, he would only dunk five times on an outdoor rim. Magic happened on that last dunk, as one of the kids started talking trash to Michael. Being the ultimate competitor that he was, he decided to take this kid to school, air Jordan style! He suddenly made a crossover move and began to jump from the top of the key. It looked like he’d suddenly been shot out of a rocket. He was literally floating above the entire group of kids, as if he was in another dimension. The photograph ARTS/CULTURE/STYLE//MAGAZINE
Page left: Tuberculosis Ward, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island. Clockwise from above: 1) The Autoclave, Ellis Island. 2) Isolation Ward, Recreation Room, Window Study, Ellis Island. 3) Isolation Ward, Curved Corridor, Ellis Island. 4) Administrative Quarters, Staff House, Ellis Island.
has become an iconic image from Michael’s illustrious career. I photographed Eric Clapton in his hometown of Ripley [England] for Rolex. It was an amazing experience, yet it was also quite challenging to get a unique expression from Eric, something truly different than much of the published work that was out there. We had to shoot our background at sunrise without Eric, as he was unavailable. I created a tented outdoor studio at a cricket club close to his home. I‘ve been a fan of his music for many years, and had studied many of the artists who had influenced him. To break the ice, I made sure we had one of his favorite albums playing in the tent prior to his arrival. I chose Buddy Guy’s Vanguard collection. As soon as Eric walked into the tent he turned to me and said, “Great album, man. Is this the Vanguard collection?” That was it; he gave me an
additional hour to photograph, as we were having a real good time working together. I actually got a shot of Eric smiling, which a longtime friend of his said he’s never seen before. Music was the common denominator. I currently shoot most of my commercial work digitally. As I’m shooting we often have an opportunity to review images; this allows me to engage my subjects in a more collaborative manner. Working this way allows the subject to become part of the process. Everyone begins to relax because they’ve seen the shot already. I‘ve found that shooting digitally actually allows me to push the envelope creatively. Your fine-art portfolio is both varied in subjects and rich in its emotional content. If we could walk through an imaginary Stephen Wilkes Retrospective exhibit at a major museum, can you pick some of your signature works as highlights? Tell us about each of those
moments captured forever. As long as it’s imaginary—I’m a bit young for a retrospective! Photographs are kind of like children… you have a special place in your heart for all of them. If we were discussing signature works, I would say a representative selection of my personal projects over the years. I’ve always been fascinated by history and forgotten places. That’s what initially drew me toward my work on Ellis Island. I discovered through my work on Ellis that photographs could inspire change. This became a benchmark for the kind of art I wanted to create. The passing of time has always been a theme in much of my work. Over the last several years technology has gotten to a point that as a photographer you can create almost anything that you can imagine. With the ability to blend images in Photoshop, I became fascinated with the idea of changing time in a single photograph. This fascination has ARTS/CULTURE/STYLE//MAGAZINE
Central Park, NYC, Day to Night Collection >> ART REALLY MATTERS: Stephen Wilkes
Page left: Washington Square Park, NYC, Day to Night Collection. Below: The Highline, NYC, Day to Night Collection.
led me to create a series called Day into Night. I photograph from one camera angle for 10 hours. I shoot literally from day into night, and then electronically blend the various times together in one photograph. I study and photograph the overall scene in extraordinary detail, capturing hundreds of images within the image. This project fuses two of my favorite types of photography: pure street shooting, melded with large epic cityscapes. This work resonates with my deep affection for NYC, as each image is iconic in its view and subject matter. Let me play devil’s advocate here as the art historian. We know that the 19th-century was the turning point in the millennial development of human imagery. Once Daguerre perfected the ‘mechanical image’ in Paris in the late 1830s, the role of the painter was challenged. How do you explain the
divergent paths from that moment of photography’s conception? Where did Monet, van Gogh or Picasso take the image versus where did Stieglitz, Mapplethorpe, or Wilkes go in another direction? Is if fair to compare the ‘brushwork’ of the painter and the large-scale digital chrome of a master photographer? I’ve been a student of the pictorialist period of photography for many years. I’ve often dreamed of what it would have been like to live in that period, truly an extraordinary time to be an artist. When you look at the breadth of work of Stieglitz and his contemporaries—Gertrude Kasebier, Edward Steichen and Clarence White—the photographic movement of pictorialism was truly beginning to challenge the world of painting. I’ve always felt that abstract expressionism, which became popular at around the same
period as the pictorialist movement, was a direct response to photography’s ability to look like impressionist painting. Photography has obviously evolved from those days, and yet… what is old is new again. Many are revisting the period processes of the turn of the century. Photography is constantly evolving with technology that allows the photographer to find new ways to express one’s personal vision. One of my hobbies is to collect 100-year-old lenses, the very lenses that photographers like Stieglitz and Steichen used. I mount these antique lenses into modern camera bodies and photograph using a state-of-the-art digital camera back, melding old with the new. Many people operate under the delusion that it’s easy to take a great photograph. I sometimes hear them ARTS/CULTURE/STYLE//MAGAZINE
Page left: Moonrise Rooftop, Bethlehem Steel, Pennsylvania. Page right clockwise from top left: 1) Flywheel, Bethlehem Steel, Pennsylvania. 2) Coke Ovens, Bethlehem Steel, Pennsylvania. 3) Overview, Bethlehem Steel, Pennsylvania. 4) Welfare Room, Bethlehem Steel, Pennsylvania.
say, “If I had a high-end Canon or Nikon with all the bells and whistles, I could get pretty close to taking my own Edward Weston or Ansel Adams shots.” Respond to that? I always laugh when people describe today’s photography as “not photography,” and that masters like Stieglitz would never shoot digital. I think quite the opposite; he’d be the first in line to play with this new technology. In the end, the thing we photographers care most about is the image, not how you get there. The current printing technology has further changed the perception of the photographic medium. One of my favorite things as an artist is to create a photographic print that actually gives the viewer a visceral experience when they see it. I want the
viewer to experience the same feelings I had when I made the photograph. Today’s technology is allowing me the ability to create images with extraordinary depth and detail, expanding the visual narrative within my images. It’s an incredibly exciting time to be a photographer. Can you deconstruct for us the process that separates the well-equipped amateur and the advanced professional photographer? As a professional photographer, you think about every possible situation that could go wrong on a shoot. You make sure that you have back up for everything. When I take an assignment, I guarantee a picture, with or without the sun. Being a professional means
you’re prepared for any scenario. It’s like any other profession. Amateurs almost never have to think about photographing in that way. Tell us some of your hopes, dreams, and ultimate challenges. What else would you like to shoot? Where else do you want an international magazine to send you on location? Who would you want to capture in your lens? I’m currently working on several personal projects simultaneously. My hope is to keep growing as an artist, stretching into new areas. I don’t ever want to feel comfortable, as that’s when you stop learning. I hope to visit several more countries this coming year; Russia and the Arctic are both high on my list. ARTS/CULTURE/STYLE//MAGAZINE
>> Department: TRAVEL + LEISURE
the art of adventure D I S CO V E R IE S
IN S P I R E D
by Amy Orzel
T R AV E L E R
Left: Kochi’s Chinese fishing nets at sunset. Right: In a traditional Indian wedding, the groom’s family celebrates before the ceremony with an elaborate send-off.
Unexpected adventures in far-flung places transformed Amy Orzel into a passionate, curious traveler. They also inspired a love of travel photography and storytelling. When she’s not exploring, Amy lives in Manhattan, where she divides her free time between Joe the Art of Coffee and the Strand bookstore, in Greenwich Village.
Feast, Dance, Marvel Traveling to India is the experience of a lifetime. It’s an Alice-in-Wonderland tumble into a world of brilliant colors, spicy fragrances, and catchy Bollywood beats. Every sensation, sight, and smell is exotic, and you’re constantly thrust into the present by juxtapositions. Poverty collides with color. Women stride down the sidewalk in brilliant saris past a cow lounging on the pavement. Beneath a tangle of jungle vines or the chaos of an overcrowded city, the ancient walls of a temple might just be visible. The absence of familiar things might seem unnerving, but in India, that vacuum is rapidly occupied by moments filled with wonder. In Kerala, a lush and peaceful state in southwestern India, houseboats ply palm-fringed backwaters. Occasionally, a rooster crowing or the splash of an oar against
the lake’s silky surface breaks the silence. Meanwhile in the bustling port city of Kochi, gigantic wooden fishing nets line the sand, dipping in and out of the ocean to a gentle rhythm. For centuries, Kerala’s native spices attracted traders and merchants from all over the world, and Kochi reflects those influences in a gaudy patchwork: Christian temples alongside Jewish antique stores, Dutch buildings lining a square named for the Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama. A thousand miles away, Mumbai’s cosmopolitan frenzy vies with New York City’s. There you can shop, party, and hope to rub shoulders with a Bollywood star. Or if you’re suffering from confirmed wanderlust, it’s also the jumping-off point for a ferry ride to Elephanta Island, where ancient
VENÜ’s regular travel column brings you lifestyles, destinations, and off-the-beaten path inspirations from around the globe. 52
Left: Boarding a traditional kettuvallam, or houseboat, in Kochi. Right: A statue of Shiva on Elephanta Island. Below: Visiting a cave temple on Elephanta Island.
A thousand miles away, Mumbai’s cosmopolitan frenzy vies with New York City’s. There you can shop, party, and hope to rub shoulders with a Bollywood star. Hindu cave temples carved into rocky hills provide opportunity for hours of exploration. Sunlight filters into abandoned rooms and illuminates crumbling statues of gods and goddesses. The temples suggest an elaborate formality, a striking contrast to the noisy celebration of
a Hindu wedding ceremony. For in December, just as the monsoons and intense heat abate, the Christmas and New Year’s holidays give Westerners the luxury of time to participate in the vibrant, joyous spectacle that is the traditional Indian wedding. During
my last week in India, I attended a friends’ ceremony. By “attended”, I mean that I had my arms tattooed with henna, feasted non-stop on delicious food (rose-petal ice cream, anyone?), and danced for hours down a rural highway in a raucous wedding procession that included an elephant, a marching band, and fireworks. It was an epic celebration, an extravaganza that left us equal parts exhausted and exhilarated. That left me wondering... It’s practically a knee-jerk reaction, to assume that a privileged, convenient Western lifestyle represents the highest of achievements. My weeks in India confounded that assumption. Do we occasionally trade aliveness for convenience, and the thrill of being completely in the present moment for safety? There are no trite answers, but there are always places on the other side of the world that challenge and inspire, offering just as many questions as answers.
Photo: Caroline Valites
>> Artist Appreciation: Thomas MezzanotTe
by Nancy Helle
Artist of the year:
Photo: Ulla Surland
Linking the past and future of photography
Clockwise from top left: Developing an Ambrotype, that is a wet plate collodion Â photograph on glass. Â Shooting a self portrait with a 3 foot square cardboard shipping container fitted with a magnifying glass lens. The resulting shot with other paper negatives. Thomas Mezzanotte in his studio with some of the cameras that he uses to do his work.
>> Artist Appreciation: Thomas MezzanotTe
Clockwise from top right: 1) Mezzanotte holding an ambrotype on ruby glass. 2) Developing an ambrotype (collodion on glass) self portrait. 3) Shooting on his adapted 1917 Levy process camera.
fashioned photographs from tintypes (photos on metal), ambrotypes (photos on glass) and Daguerrotypes (photos on copper coated with silver), as used by the acclaimed Civil War photographer Mathew Brady. There’s also an 11 by 14 inch antique “Century View Camera”, much like the one Brady used, which gets frequent use by Mezzanotte today. In a more contemporary vein, you’ll see an informal gallery of Mezzanotte’s compelling images of human subjects which range from occasional stark realism, to startling abstraction, some impressionistic “painterly” images where he has actually hand painted the negative with emulsion of 19th century light sensitive chemicals,
exposure process which requires the subject to sit still and remain emotionally focused for a longer time, resulting in more revealing photos, sometimes casting an aura of mystery. “My work, these images mostly of bodies and faces, is really about photography itself, about its history and the history of art.” says Mezzanotte. “First of all, I’m an artist and photography is my medium of expression. Throughout history, photography has been judged chiefly on its ability to record what was in front of the lens and no one bothered to explore the alternative aesthetic possibilities inherent in the medium itself. In the 19th century the appearance of truth domnated the discussion
and other images printed on rag paper which look like ink drawings. You’ll also discover a couple of 21st century homemade cameras, conceived and constructed by Mezzanotte, utilizing the principles of the historic camera obscura and pin hole photography which he uses frequently to create the arresting images of his subjects today, both faces and bodies. As he explains, once you understand the basic concept of photography, you can actually construct a camera out of such unlikely materials as a large cardboard box which once housed a dishwasher by painting the inside black, adding a lens, a light fixture and photographic paper, which is paper treated with chemicals such as silver nitrate. The concept is so old that it almost seems new, in contrast to all of today’s pocketsized digital cameras. Mezzanotte likes the authenticity of the camera obscura’s time
about the place of photography as a medium and aesthetic judgements were always at the service of verisimilitude. Painters of the time predicted the death of painting because photographers could now capture the world as it really appeared to the human eye. Supposedly when he saw his first photograph in 1839, Paul Delaroche said, “from this day painting is dead.” But today the emphasis has changed, Mezzanotte observes, and simply recording images is only one avenue that artists and photographers are pursuing. Many are far more interested in “interpreting” the world as they see it, or depicting the world as they imagine it. As for digital photography, he experiments with it on occasion, but says, “It is not, by definition, photography. It is an alternative imaging system that coincidentally uses the camera. While it
“My work; these image really about photogr the history of art.” Say A visit to Thomas Mezzanotte’s studio – in a 1906 industrial building in downtown Bridgeport where 25 artists now work - is both a step forward and a step backward in time, as reflected in his passionate pursuit of photography. Blending historic and traditional methods of photography with his own innovative techniques, Mezzanotte’s explorations are producing an amazing array of photographs that are 21st Century cutting edge. The envelop-pushing, historically oriented work of this Fairfield artist/ photographer has been recognized by numerous grants and awards, the most recent of which is the Fairfield Arts Council’s “Artist of the Year 2010 Award.” On the historic side, in his studio you’ll find vintage cameras on display in a glass cabinet, many books on the history of photography, plus framed examples of old 56
creates wonderful images, they are not photographs; they are not images ‘written with light’. They are prints done with ink or toner. ” “Art today is all about challenging our conventional way of seeing the world,” Mezzanotte insists. The raison d’etre was for
art to show us what the world looked like and that’s what photographers did. Today we all know what the world looks like. Our cell phone takes pictures. “Today I’m using the medium of photography to show a new way of seeing the world - breaking with the conventions that have dominated the visual
word photography means “writing with light.” An Islamic scholar named Ibn al-Haytham in about the year 1000 created the first camera obscura. In 1827 Nicephore Niepce recorded the first image on a light sensitive plate in the interior of the camera and photography was invented. George Eastman invented the first Kodak handheld camera designed to use rolled film in 1888, the modern day camera was born, making it easy and affordable for anyone to take a photo. The Mezzanotte enthusiasm is contagious; even if you didn’t think you cared what the inside of a camera looks like or how it functions, it’s easy to find
landscape since photography was invented” Elaborating on this concept, he adds, “My work is about the expressive potential of the medium of photography as much as it is about the subject before the lens. The photographic vocabulary that I’m interested is not the same as the one Ansel Adams was interested in. I like the look of movement in my images. I like the blur caused by chromatic aberration and negligible depth of field. I want images that have a raw gutsy quality and not necessarily pristine perfect photographs.” Mezzanotte is a walking encyclopedia on the history of photography as well as current innovations and potential future applications. We learned that the word “photography” comes from the Greek words “photos” meaning “light”, and “graphos” which means “to write”. Put together, the
yourself mesmerized. A natural teacher, the artist shares his love of photography with students ranging from third graders to high school and college students. As a CT Commission of the Arts Master Teaching Artist he has conducted workshops at schools throughout Connecticut and been a Visiting Artist at universities across the country for the past 14 years, including Connecticut College where he was an Artist in Residence two years ago and an Adjunct Professor last year. Through a state grant to the Fairfield school system, his current mission is to integrate art and science for Fifth Graders. He explains the basic theories of optics and how the human eye works. To demonstrate, he covers windows in black to convert the classroom into the dark interior of a camera. A firm believer in hands-on learning, he
Photo: Caroline Valites
s mostly of bodies and faces, is aphy itself, about its history and s Mezzanotte.
>> Artist Appreciation: Thomas MezzanotTe
Clockwise from center: ‘1) Jackie’ - hand-applied Palladium contact print from anamorphic negative. 2) ‘Marcella with Mask #2’ - painted tintype in collaboration with Marcella Kurowski. 3) ‘Untitled’, hand-applied Palladium contact print from anamorphic negative. 4)‘ Debra’, hand-applied Palladium and gouach. 5) ‘Marcella with Mask’painted tintype in collaboration with Marcella Kurowski. 6)‘Adele’- Hand-applied Palladium contact print from anamorphic negative.
demystifies photography by showing his intrigued students how to make their own camera obscura from a shoebox with a blackened interior; they load film, shoot a picture, develop a negative and print the image. He also travels around the country presenting a portable room sized (12 by 12 ft.) camera obscura at places such as The International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven and the Photo Arts Festival of Santa Fe, NM, as well as many museums and colleges, showing teachers how they can use the pinhole camera to meet a variety of objectives in their classrooms. High School was when Mezzanotte first became interested in photography and it was a rather serendipitous beginning. The school’s photography club darkroom was to him initially “just a cool place to hang out,” and while he had his own camera and enjoyed using it, he was not yet addicted to the medium. Eventually, demands from the yearbook staff propelled him to learn how to develop negatives and he became hooked. Although he entered the University of Bridgeport as a Physics major, his know-ledge of optics and interest in photography and art led him to shift gears and transfer to the Fine Arts/Photography program. In the 1980’s he became director of the University’s acclaimed Carlson Gallery which where they showed such famous artist as Louise Nevelson, Red Grooms, Josef Albers, Dan Flavin, and Gregory Gillespie . During the past 35 years he has combined his artistic explorations with sharing his knowledge and passion through teaching and conducting photography workshops. His work has been exhibited at many galleries and museums around the United States including NY University, the Santa Fe College of Art, the Elizabeth Leach Gallery in Portland, Oregon, The George Eastman House, the John 58
Stevenson Gallery in Chelsea, NY and the William Benton Museum in Storrs, CT. He has received three individual artist grants from the state of CT and a Director’s Choice Award from the Edward Moore Foundation. He was a resident artist at the Weir Farm in Wilton in 2001, the McColl Center in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2005 and held the Dayton Artist Residency at Connecticut College in 2007-2008. Thomas Mezzanotte is the subject of the award winning documentary film Mezzanotte Obscura directed by Emmynominated filmmaker Lori Petchers. The
film takes an inside look into Thomas’s creative process and has been screened at many festivals throughout the country including The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Cleveland International Film Festival, Kent Film Festival (where it won Best Documentary Short) and New Filmmakers NYC. Today, Mezzanotte continues to be challenged “to take photography in every possible direction. The expressive potential of the medium is endless,” he notes. “At night, I don’t read novels anymore; I read about photography.”
Thomas Mezzanotte: The Autobiography of an Effort, An Introspective will be on exhibition at the Fairfield Arts Council Gallery located at 70 Sanford Street, Fairfield from October 23 through November 27. (203) 319-1419
PROFILE: JeffRey Price
Gallery owner of the Artist’s Market, www.artistsmarket.com
V e n u S e n i o r A rt s E d i t o r P h i l i p E l i a s o p h t o u r e d t h e g a l l e ry w i t h P r i c e a n d t h e n s at d o w n f o r a n a n i m at e d T o u r i n s i d e t h i s g a l l e ry o w n e r ’ s f e rt i l e m i n d .
The magic and mystery of Dutch master M.C. Escher [1898–1972] captured the imagination of gallery owner Jeffrey Price of the Artists’ Market. In 40 years of successful management, he has expanded his passion into an internationally respected source for all things Escher-related. Escher once said: “I believe that producing pictures, as I do, is almost entirely a question of wanting to do it very much to do it well.” Price has surpassed himself; he goes beyond presenting Escher “well”—by doing it “unbelievably well.” Jeffrey, thanks for taking time from your busy schedule as you are multi-tasking here at Artists’ Market. Let’s jump right in. Tell us a little bit about your journey. What is your arts background and how did you focus on a career as a gallery entrepreneur? I always enjoyed the combination of art and entrepreneurship. While I was studying history of art at UConn in the early 1970s I started my own business selling bagels to folks studying late in the dorms at night. That was much more exciting to me than getting a “real” job, and I still feel that way today. I assure you, running an art gallery and designing fine framing is more fun than most people have when they go to work! Artists’ Market started as a small art center in 1970. That was back in the day when we sold macramé cord and paint along with pictures, pottery, and frames. I was always more interested in talking about art and
selling beautiful things than in teaching people to draw or selling heavy boxes of clay, so the focus of Artists’ Market naturally evolved toward a sort of hybrid of a museum and a museum gift shop. I have to admit, I often find a museum’s gift shop more enjoyable than some of the exhibits. So I present art in the same way I arrange it in my home: an Ansel Adams photograph can be next to a remarkable mirror, and M. C. Escher’s work can hang beside a beautiful print by someone you have never heard of. As a pioneer in the Connecticut art community—opening the gallery in 1970—you have truly talked the talk and walked the walk. In creating a remarkably respected source for original fine art, what would you say were the ingredients for your long-term sustainability? It seems today that the Internet, malls, and megastores dominate shopping. Artists’ Market is quite the opposite: We’re a single store, a brick-and-mortar (and wood!) business where you can come in and talk to knowledgeable people who enjoy human interaction. How often do you find that, let alone in a business that’s open seven days a week? I’m lucky to have a good staff here, and all of them have been with me for years and years. Most days you are still likely to find me behind the counter gift-wrapping some blown glass goblets for a wedding gift or talking about Escher
in our Masterworks Gallery, and I think that sort of owner-operated personal business is really appreciated these days. I like being that kind of dinosaur. Every year, I think we’re treasured a little more by our clients because there are so few businesses like ours left. Let’s zoom in on your lifelong passion: the art of M.C. Escher. How did that passion begin? Many of us remember having those hallucinatory Escher posters on the walls of our dorm rooms in college back in the sixties. How have we all matured from those early mind-bending images to a more sophisticated appreciation for Escher’s truly magical imagery? I think every generation has to discover great art for itself. I’m passionate about jazz, and Ben Webster’s sax from half a century ago can be as enjoyable for me as whatever Bruce Springsteen is playing right now. Shakespeare and The Beatles will probably be playing forever, and The Odyssey is still one of the best adventure stories of all time. Great art is like that: timeless. Escher himself was a rather straight-laced and serious Dutchman. He studied architecture and his dad was an engineer, but he was one of those students who always hung out in the art room. He barely passed his graduation exams, but he was lucky to have a great printmaker as a teacher. For most of his life he was known only in Holland and in Italy, places where he lived and could exhibit regularly. Then in the 1950s and ‘60s his work started to be seen by mathematicians and scientists, and that’s what really brought him international fame. My father taught history of science at Yale, and that’s were I first saw Escher’s work: on the walls of academic’s studies. But just about that time (that would be about 1967) I also saw Escher’s
PROFILE: JeffRey Price
Gallery owner of the Artist’s Market, www.artistsmarket.com
“M. C. Escher, “Ringsnakes” three-color woodcut 1969 Signed and noted ‘Eigen druk’ (self-printed), printed with nine impressions from three woodblocks, each block printing 1/3 of the circle. work in San Francisco in the poster shops of Haight-Ashbury and under black lights at the Fillmore Concert Hall. The Escher prints I saw there were large and colorful, and I was a bit surprised when I discovered that most of Escher’s original woodcuts were smaller and printed in black and white. I actually enjoy both kinds of images, and I keep a collection of the black-light posters here at Artists’ Market. It is the fact that Escher’s imagery is both scientifically precise and wildly imaginative that gives his pictures lasting appeal. It’s also incredibly important
that Escher hand-printed his works in small editions in his home workshop. And there are so many different themes in Escher’s work. Sometimes I’m in the mood for a quiet philosophical print like “Three Worlds,” and sometimes the complexity of “Ringsnakes” carries me away. Now there’s a print that, for me, captures the nature of the universe on a sheet of tissue paper: infinity, life and death printed with hand-carved woodblocks. That’s something of a miracle, if you ask me, but there are many different ways in which Escher prints intrigue people, and they con-
tinue to do so generation after generation. That’s the key to lasting value, both as truly fine art and also as an investment. Speaking of knock-off posters or cheaply reproduced but fake prints, can you offer our VENÜ readers some do’s and don’ts on what to look for when acquiring an original print? Reality and originality can both be surprisingly difficult to define, and Escher certainly enjoyed exploring that type of thing in his pictures. Often, you can’t quite be certain
what is real and what slipped in from another dimension, and that’s the fun of it. But originality in artwork is a serious and complicated question, especially in these days of digital reproductions and virtual reality. All original Escher prints are valuable, and though some can be bought for a few hundred dollars, it is not unusual for an original Escher print to cost as much as an automobile. That difference between an original and a reprint is easy to understand when we think of what’s in our wallets. We know that a photocopy of a dollar bill has no value, no matter how good a copy you make of it. In fact, it is illegal to make really good copies of our paper money, yet today we find paintings are often copied as prints and we’ve become a bit desensitized and even confused about the value and impor-
forgeries. Escher wrote in his will that all his woodblocks and printing plates should be destroyed; he really didn’t want anyone else printing his pictures! And that was back when good prints were a few hundred dollars. Today the finest Escher artwork can be measured in fractions of millions, and I still think they are undervalued! These days, unfortunately, I see forgeries pop up all too often on eBay, which I consider sort of a wild-west tag sale and the sheriff sure is out of town. People can get fooled pretty easily since most folks cannot compare what they are buying to an authentic example of Escher’s work. I’m contacted every week by someone who’s bought an Escher print at a thrift shop or online and they want to know if they hit the jackpot, but of course that almost never happens. For 30 years I’ve
Haven in a house crowded with books… so many books that they were piled in rows on the floor after they filled all the bookcases. Old books were hanging on a clothesline strung over the couch, airing out to get rid of their musty smell. And from under that couch Christopher brought out a cardboard folder, and when he opened that folder I saw my first major Escher prints. There were the beautiful lithographs “Waterfall” and “Belvedere,” and another woodcut of a strange planet, and an Italian landscape, all signed by Escher and as fresh as they were when Christopher had visited Escher in Holland many years before. Escher prints have always gone up in value, and by the time I saw them, those prints had gone from being a few hundred dollars to being in the thousands, and I was thrilled that I was able
It is the fact that Escher’s imagery is both scientifically precise and wildly imaginative that gives his pictures lasting appeal. tance of original, hand-made art. History has a way of sorting these things out, and original Escher graphic prints are the only ones with lasting value. But just what is an original print? Prints are multiples, after all; so how do we know if something is an original or a copy? It may be easiest to understand if we back into the question and answer by simply saying if a picture is a copy of something, then it’s not an original. Escher’s prints were made by putting ink on a woodblock or a lithographic stone block and then carefully printing the image. You wouldn’t call the piece of wood or stone the original artwork, would you? It’s true that Escher’s carved woodblocks—which are all in museums— are fascinating, and so is van Gogh’s paint brush, but people travel across the world to see “Stary Night” by van Gogh or an original Escher print at Artists’ Market. Woodblocks and paintbrushes are simply different ways for artists to create their pictures.
looked at Escher originals. I’ve seen more or less everything Escher created during his lifetime, and I can tell you that every print has a personality and a particular look. Escher stopped creating his work in 1970 and died in 1972, so all original Escher prints are at least 40 years old, and to me they each have their own personality. Escher drew in a very precise manner. He used certain paper and certain ink, and if you print from a woodblock every print must be exactly the same size as that carved block. So measuring a print is a good starting point for determining authenticity, and then we check ink and paper as well. You develop a second sense about such things. Fortunately, Escher was very consistent in the way he signed prints and I keep a reference library of dozens of authentic Escher signatures. With all that, it’s easy to make a bad forgery, but just about impossible to make a perfect one.
Considering you are one of the world’s most respected authorities on Escher’s breathtaking artistic oeuvre, let’s learn from you about what you have seen in that very specialized field. I can remember decades ago seeing wonderful Escher prints available for less than $1,000, but now I understand they can reach as high as $50,000. Now that they are highly valued, that brings on the fakes and forgeries. Tell us about the numerous counterfeits you have spotted. Can you give us an idea of your connoisseurship methods for validating authentic Escher works? For many years there weren’t many Escher
And what about your greatest purchases? Did you ever come across a treasure trove of Escher prints that you alone recognized and came to acquire? Very early on, back in the 1970s, I’d been able to find some of Escher’s small woodcuts and I was searching for the famous ones I’d seen in books. My father, the Yale professor, suggested I call a teaching buddy of his. “I think Christopher visited Escher in Holland,” he remembered, “and I think he has some prints.” I called Christopher and, sure enough, he had bought some woodcuts and lithographs from Escher, and I will never forget visiting him in New
to buy a few and mount an exhibition of Escher’s work at Artists’ Market, and in time I was able to buy most of Christopher’s collection. That was really the start of the Escher gallery at Artists’ Market, and I still have a small print Escher signed for Christopher hanging in my office. Beyond the “over the transom” counter process of buying and selling fine art, as a true art lover and expert, can you explain to our readers your extraordinary abilities in understanding the intrinsic value of art? That’s quite a compliment. Art is visual communication. Like poetry, which says more than the words themselves describe, timeless art must open up viewers’ intuitions and convey a message that is instinctively meaningful, personal, and resonant. While this sounds complicated, what good art does is very simple indeed: It engages you, it makes you want to look at it some more, and it is satisfying in way that might be hard to describe. I believe that if you asked Escher what his art was all about, he might say, “Look at my pictures, that is how I explain those things.” He was a true artist and so he communicated in pictures, and I suppose he left it up to people like us, Philip, to try to match up words with his extraordinary images. Sometimes I think I come close to doing just that, and if that happens, then I’ve really achieved something worthwhile since not only can I understand these amazing pictures better, but I ’ve found a way to share that magic with others. To me, that’s really extraordinary.
“Fronds” four panel square, 24" x 24", Giclee.
HEIDI LEWIS COLEMAN Heidi Lewis Colemanâ€™s new collection of giclee prints merges contemporary still life images with the artists uniquely abstracted backgrounds. The results are fresh and engaging... and better yet, entirely affordable.
>> WRITTEN WORD: SHORT FICTION
The Swans by Chris Belden
I did not want her to go into the lake. The water was dark and thick with vegetation, she would get bogged down before reaching the swans. Plus these were wild, aggressive animals. I’d heard stories about swans attacking people, hissing and using their vast wings to knock them down. I would have to jump into the muck to save her. e had been biking for hours and were now headed home. Laura, riding several yards behind me, suggested we stop by the lake on the way. Last week we’d seen a family of swans there, the upright, imperial parents and their five little cygnets. She’d been talking about it for days, the babies so soft, so sweet and innocent, covered in ash-gray down. So I turned right onto the lake road instead of left onto the dirt road that led to our home, where the food was, and the liquor cabinet. I was tired and hungry, and I was sore from all the riding. Ever since we’d bought the house—a cottage, really, where we spent the summer weekends—I’d had more than my share of hikes and excursions into the insipidly pretty countryside, with its green hills and fields and old stone houses. Then there were the trips to local wineries and museums, parks and antique shops, none of which particularly interested me. But I
smiled through it all, noting the effect my good behavior had on Laura, and I secretly lived for the evenings, when I would pour myself a gin and tonic, turn on the news, and relax. The lake abutted the road down at the bottom of the hill so closely that it sometimes flooded after a hard rain, stopping traffic. It had no name, as far as I knew, just “the lake,” though it was more a pond, a blue dot on the road maps, mottled at this time of year with algae, and populated with some geese, a few ducks, and the family of swans. I braked by the side of the road, set down the bike and stretched my aching back. It’s not natural, I thought: all one’s weight concentrated on such a narrow, thinly cushioned seat. Laura pulled up next to me. “There they are.” The family of swans floated about fifty feet out, the parents side by side, the cygnets close by. The adults floated serenely on the
lake’s surface, their long necks shaped like question marks. The babies had grown since last week, each about the size of a football now, but remained toy-like, their gray down like the fur of a kitten. They all seemed so content, one big happy family out for a stroll, enjoying the late summer breeze that rolled across the algae-pocked water. Laura set her bike down next to mine. “They’re so adorable, aren’t they?” Looking at her now, beside this lake, her face still pink from the exertion of riding, her eyes soft with sentimentality, I thought she appeared as healthy and sane as she’d been in a long time. Over the summer she’d put back on some of her old weight, softening the sharp angles that had surfaced on her face. And she seemed to be breathing slower and deeper these days, like a person in repose, not so tense and breathless. I recalled the doctor’s recommendation: “She needs some good old-fashioned R and R,” he’d said,
Some people like to get it more often than others...
>> WRITTEN WORD: SHORT FICTION inspiring images of sanitariums nestled in the Alps, “rest cures” for pampered society ladies. We had laughed about it later on, Laura and I, after she’d recovered enough to make jokes about the whole ordeal. She looked up at me now and smiled. I smiled back, knowing we’d be home soon. I would sit on the deck, reading a magazine, while she prepared dinner. What a relief not to spend every waking moment consoling her, watching helplessly as she wept, holding her until she finally fell asleep. Such jags still occurred, of course, but less and less frequently, so that I could now go off on my own, even if just to another room to have a cocktail in peace, without feeling guilty or worried. “What’s happening?” she asked. One of the adult swans seemed agitated. It spun in a half-circle, churning up water with its powerful legs. “Something’s underneath it,” I said. “A snapping turtle?” “I don’t know.” The swan, I could see now, was locked in some sort of battle below the surface of the water, and yet remained weirdly serene above, as if it did not want anyone to know what was happening. The other adult was paying close attention, while the cygnets floated nearby. “Wait a minute,” Laura said. “What?” “There are only four.” “Four cygnets?” I counted them. “I could swear there were five last time,” she said. Just then, from beneath the agitated adult swan, there emerged a dark gray head and thin neck. “Oh my God.” “Is that one of the cygnets?” I asked, though by now it was clear. The struggling creature opened its beak and let out a shrill cry before both parents moved in and, using their webbed feet, forced its head back under the surface. “Oh my God,” Laura repeated, covering her mouth. No, I thought—here it comes: the tension coiling itself up inside her. “We have to do something,” she said, moving toward the scummy edge of the lake. “I’m going out there.” “Wait.” I did not want her to go into the lake. The water was dark and thick with vegetation, she would get bogged down before reaching the swans. Plus these were wild, aggressive animals. I’d heard stories about swans attacking people, hissing and using their vast wings to knock them down. I would have to 68
jump into the muck to save her. The swans continued to force down the baby, abandoning now any attempt to appear composed. Despite their efforts, the cygnet was once again able to raise its head above the surface and screech. Laura looked at me with wide, terrified eyes, her mouth poised on the brink of a scream. How quickly, I thought, she can return to this state after so many months of relative calm and serenity. “What can we do?” she cried out. I looked around for a rock, but the ground here by the lake was littered with small, useless pebbles. I ran across the road and picked up a chunk of loose asphalt. Then I returned to the shore and tossed the clumsy missile at the swans, trying not to hit them but to get just close enough to spook them. The chunk of asphalt splashed a few feet shy of the mark. The swans ignored it. “We have to do something!” Laura screamed. I could see she was prepared to dive in, anticipating what it would take to swim out there to the swans. “They must be doing this for a reason,” I said. “What reason?” “Maybe the baby is sick. That happens sometimes, in nature.” I immediately regretted saying it. Laura looked at me as if I’d slapped her. “Maybe it has a broken wing or something.” “It seems fine to me. Look how it’s struggling.” As if on cue, the cygnet’s round little head reappeared, slick with lake scum. The parents again went to work, forcing their baby under. Laura began to whimper, and buried her face in my chest. Looking out at the lake, I noted how odd it was, all this violence going on beneath such a clear blue sky, the trees rustling gently in the breeze, the other water birds—the geese, the ducks, even the remaining cygnets—calmly floating on the lake’s surface. A jittery Monarch fluttered so close that I had to swat it away. The swan parents continued to struggle for several more minutes, then, quite suddenly, returned to their previous state of calm. “It’s so cruel,” Laura said. I held her closely. “Let’s go.” “No. Not yet.” She stared out at the water. I put my arm around her. If someone passed by now, they would see an early-middle-aged couple taking in a bucolic scene. “I should have done something,” she said. “It’s not our job to intervene.” I thought of those gruesome nature shows on televi-
sion, in which wild animals murder one another as camera crews looked on. “Nonsense,” she said. “I should’ve swum out there and…” Unbelievably, the cygnet appeared again, its tiny bill silently grabbing at the air. Laura tried to pull away from me, toward the lake, her mind made up now. “No,” I said, barely holding onto her. She leaned away from me, putting all her weight into the effort. “Let me go!” she hissed, but I held tight, pulling her toward me and wrapping my arms around her. The swans were upon the cygnet. The baby, by now too weak to fight, gave out one last high-pitched shriek before being pushed under. There was no struggle this time. Laura collapsed to the ground, her knees on the hard dirt. “I can’t believe I let that happen,” she cried into her hands. I waited a few minutes, hoping she would get it out of her system. I was angry, dreading the inevitable reliving of this trauma. It was going to be a long night. When her shoulders stopped heaving, I said, “Come on. Let’s go home.” “Did you hear it?” She looked up at me, her eyes pink and swollen. “How it cried?” I could hear it still, echoing around the lake and off the trees. I held out my hand, urging Laura to stand. I led her to the bikes, and lifted hers up for her. It was understood we would walk the bikes home. Balance was out of the question. I lifted my own bike onto its wheels and started up the hill, but Laura lingered and gazed out on the water. The swans floated blithely away, toward the middle of the lake, followed by the four surviving cygnets. At the spot where the killing took place the water was now placid. “Laura,” I called, but she did not turn. The sun edged itself below the tree line, plunging the lake into shadow. A cold breeze rolled through, reminding me that in a few short months we would close up the house, not to return until next Spring. Another long, cold winter in the city. “Laura, please.” Still holding onto her bike, she leaned toward the water. For a moment I thought she was going to vomit, and I prepared myself to run to her aid. Instead, she let out a long low moan that climbed unsteadily in pitch and intensified into a bloodcurdling howl. When she finished, the noise reverberated around the lake, like the call of some wild animal, a fox or a wolf. Finally, as the echo died away, she turned and followed me up the hill.
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Nutmeg and Eggnog Connecticutâ€™s Traditional Holiday Plays and Musicals
Photo contributed by NHTC
When playwright David Ives was growing up in a Polish-Catholic family on Chicago’s south side, his favorite holiday was Christmas. “I played Christmas records year round,” he admits. “At my Catholic grammar school, the principal intervened when I wanted to take A Christmas Carol out of the library in July.” So, when he was asked to adapt the 1954 Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye film White Christmas into a stage musical, Ives jumped at the chance, almost before the offer had been fully made. “I said, ‘Absolutely!’” Ives recalls. “I had such fond memories of it as a kid. And working on this show meant that I had to think about Christmas, so how bad could that be?” Ives is like many of us who have fond associations with Christmastime—ones that cause us to be instantly drawn into the retelling of a familiar tale like White Christmas. What is it that makes beloved holiday stories so indelible? Is there something more than sentiment that brings us back to them year after year? And is it anything that new Christmas plays and musicals can hope to tap into? Questions like these first occurred to me when I was invited to write the lyrics for a holiday musical that debuted in Stamford last December. As my collaborators, Jeffrey Lodin and Lou Ursone, and I began to ready the show, A Merry Mulberry Musical, for a return to Curtain Call this 72
season I decided to seek out the theater folk behind several of Connecticut’s other holiday shows to see if they had any answers. A Time-Honored Tradition The granddaddy of Connecticut’s theatrical sugarplums is, of course, Hartford Stage’s annual production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, now in its 13th year. The tradition was begun in 1998, when Michael Wilson took over artistic leadership of the theater. “Chief among the things I wanted to accomplish when I arrived was a holiday production,” says Wilson. “I felt that it was important for Hartford Stage to have a piece that engaged family audiences, particularly the very young. I knew that within A Christmas Carol there was a powerful means of bringing families together and, in a larger sense, audiences from across the state.” Wilson brought the show with him from the Alley Theater in Houston, where he’d been encouraged to write and direct his own adaptation while working as the associate artistic director. But Wilson’s take on Dickens dates back even further. “There was a school program called Great Books that started when I was growing up in North Carolina,”
Opening spread: From L to R: Matt Furtado (Harvey Beaver), Stanley Bahorek (Charlie Muskrat), Justin Bohon (Emmet Otter), and Scott Barnhardt (Wendell Porcupine) in Jim Henson’s Emmet Otter at the Goodspeed Opera House. Clockwise from page left: 1) The cast of A Civil War Christmas at the New Haven Theatre Company. 2) Kathy Calahan and D. Matt Worley in the MTC MainStage production of It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. 3) The 2009 Tour of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. 4) Gail Yudain, Dana DiCerto and Lou Ursone in A Merry Mulberry Musical at Curtain Call.
Photo by Joan Marcus Photo by Debra Lee Failla
Photo by Kerry Long
theater he remembers. “One of the stories we discussed was A Christmas Carol. The teacher had us debate whether or not what Scrooge experienced was a dream. I was vehemently on the side that it had really happened and very upset that anyone would suggest it was only a dream! When I first had the opportunity to adapt the story, I really wanted to play with that whole idea about the dream debate that began in my elementary school. I wanted to prompt that question because Scrooge is wondering the same thing. That puts the audience into his perspective, so they begin to empathize early on.” Wilson directed the play twice in Houston and 12 times in Hartford, on each occasion adding something more to his interpretation. This year’s production will be his last as artistic director of Hartford Stage, as Wilson has decided to step down to pursue other creative endeavors. “The fact that it’s still running when I’m finishing up my tenure is very poignant. Some of the actors have been with the production from the very beginning. Bill Raymond, one of the great Scrooges of our time, will be doing his 11th season.” It is Wilson’s lifelong connection to A Christmas Carol that has brought him back to it time and again. “It’s a very personal piece for me,” he says. “At the end of the year, there’s something really nice about looking back at what was accomplished and the people we’ve lost, taking stock and, maybe, planning what we might do better in the new year.” As Wilson ponders the next stage of his career, it will undoubtedly be heartening to do so with a like-minded audience that has gathered for much the same reason. A Christmas Carol runs at Hartford Stage from November 26th through December 30th. Like Wilson, many other theater artists in Connecticut have been moved to put their personal stamp on the season by creating a holiday show. Madisonbased Joe Landry’s It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play has been seen by local audiences at Bridgeport’s Downtown Cabaret Theatre, the Stamford Center for the Arts, and Westport’s Music Theatre of Connecticut, where the production won a Moss Hart Award from the New England Theatre Conference. It’s a theatrical version of the ubiquitous film about the beleaguered George Bailey and the bumbling angel who saves his life. Landry’s innovation was to present it like the radio adaptations of popular movies that were used in the 1940s as a marketing tool, complete with a studio setting and live sound effects. This allows theaters that can afford only a small cast and modest production values to mount a holiday presentation. “It’s a Wonderful Life was named one of the top-10-most-produced plays in the country by American Theatre magazine,” says Landry. Stamford native Lou Ursone, executive director of Curtain Call, Inc., came up with the idea for A Merry Mulberry Musical. The show is an original sequel to the romantic comedy Mulberry Street, which has been performed off-and-on in the city for the last 70 years, always to a warm response. “Area audiences have come out to see these characters time and time again,” says Ursone. “I really believed they were ready for a holiday treatment. Even though it’s a new story, there’s still 74
that sense of nostalgia which I think makes it feel like something that’s been around awhile.” So, Ursone sat down to write a continuation of the saga and then asked composer Jeffrey Lodin and me to incorporate 1940’s tunes into the show and write a few new numbers with a similar feel. To top it off, Ursone took on one of the lead roles. “My dad and great uncle appeared in the first Stamford presentation of the play in 1939,” he explains. “I’ve played both of the roles they played. But, long before I was ever in it, our family tradition was to see the show whenever it was performed.” A Merry Mulberry Musical will be in Curtain Call’s Dressing Room Theatre from December 2nd to the 12th. Writing an original Christmas show can have its pitfalls. It’s perhaps hardest to do if you start completely from scratch. But that’s what dramatist Paula Vogel did when she set out to pen A Civil War Christmas. To make her task even more daunting, Vogel said at the time of the play’s premiere in 2008 that she envisioned it as the American answer to Dickens’ masterpiece. But instead of Scrooge and his ghostly visitors, she wove Abraham Lincoln and a host of 19th-century real and imagined figures into a complex narrative with eight storylines that unfold in wartime Washington, DC. To raise the stakes even further, A Civil War Christmas debuted at New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre, minutes from where Vogel teaches at the Yale School of Drama. As directed by Tina Landau, the production received respectful notices but Long Wharf opted to not bring it back the next season. Like the central character in many a yuletide yarn, however, A Civil War Christmas was due for an almost instant redemption. Director/producer T. Paul Lowery had acted as associate producer of the play’s premiere. “I worked on it for over a year,” Lowery recalls. “And, as I was watching them throw away the set, I thought, ‘This is a show I would love to do.’” He got his chance when he moved from Long Wharf to heading up the non-professional New Haven Theatre Company. There, in 2009, Lowery restaged the play with a cast that was much larger than the original 15 actors. He thinks that helped audiences to better relate to Vogel’s 99 characters and her ambitious historical plot. “We were able to utilize a mass of people to tell the story,” Lowery explains. “The lead roles where played by one actor each and the narration was done by a Greek chorus.” The end result was something that Lowery believes honored Vogel’s original intent. “Paula’s eagerness was to have the community really involved in the telling,” he says. “In the script, the narrators address the audience to say, ‘We’re a community of storytellers and this is our story as Americans.’” That sense of a communal experience, both onstage and off, guided Ives in his reworking of White Christmas. As he says, “At its heart, this is a story about how being a part of a community makes you a better human being—whether you’re in the army, show business or a Vermont town.” Ives was called in by director Walter Bobbie to write book scenes for the musical after an initial stage
adaptation was tested at the MUNY in St. Louis in 2000 and optioned for Broadway by New York producers Kevin McCollum and Jeffrey Seller of The Producing Office. “Walter said, ‘It’s May 1st and we go into rehearsal on September 10th to open at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco,’” Ives remembers. “It was like being inside an Irving Berlin movie musical. I had to write a first draft in five weeks. At the same time, they were building the set, figuring out costumes and getting arrangements done, all for a musical that barely existed!” Nevertheless, Ives and Bobbie set aside an entire week to analyze the film and zero in on exactly what their adaptation could do to enhance the original property. “We didn’t want to be snarky about anything,” says Ives. “We wanted to make it a 1954 musical [the year the film was released] with all the innocence and humanity that goes along with it.” Ives points to a telling moment at a subsequent rehearsal when two of the lead actors were having trouble with a scene. “Walter said, ‘I just want to remind you that we are in a pre-neurotic musical,’” Ives recalls. “These men are not interested in why they’re doing this or in their feelings. They are interested in being decent and helping their army buddy.’ They got that and the scene worked perfectly.” He continues, “We worked on the show right up to opening night. As it came back, year after year, even on Broadway, we continued to work on it. Walter said, ‘We’ve been out of town five years!’ Each time, it got a little bit better.” The musical played limited Broadway engagements in 2008 and 2009 while it also toured performing arts centers across the country. You’ll be able catch it at the Bushnell in Hartford from November 16th through the 21st. The Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam produces musicals year round, so it was surprising to learn that you have to go back to their staging of the Miracle on 34th Street musical Here’s Love in 1991 to find one that’s explicitly Christmas-focused. Before that, its history was jingle-bell-free (unless you count the finale to the mega-hit Annie). “We’d spoken for years about Goodspeed being the perfect holiday family destination,” explains line producer Donna Lynn Hilton. “But the primary reason we were cautious was economic. Finding a property that we could produce well and that would deliver for us was a challenge.” Then, Goodspeed was presented with a stage adaptation of Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, the Jim Henson television special from the 1970s. “Michael Price and our associate producer, Bob Alwine, went to a reading and were so taken with the piece and the creative team,” Hilton recalls. “Especially Paul Williams, who is just a joy! It was a complete no-brainer to find a way to make it happen.” Emmet Otter began as a picture book by the celebrated author/illustrator team of Russell and Lillian Hoban; that was inspired by O. Henry’s short story The Gift of the Magic. The Jim Henson Company transformed it into an HBO original presentation featuring the Muppets and songs by composer Williams, whose catalog includes the Kermit the Frog crooner “The Rainbow Connection.”
The cable network ran the special for several years, and even permitted it to be broadcast on ABC in 1980, before it was relegated to the VHS market. It was the home video of Emmet Otter that choreographer Christopher Gattelli remembered seeing when he was growing up in Bristol, Pennsylvania. And it immediately came to mind when writer/producer Timothy McDonald asked if Gattelli had any dream projects he’d like to pursue. After several years of development, he, McDonald, and Williams suddenly found themselves on the main stage at Goodspeed, with Gattelli serving as both choreographer and director. “It happened very quickly,” says Hilton. “It was an enormous challenge to pull off, but also a labor of love.” The Henson Company pitched in to build the musical’s fanciful costumes and puppets, and the production team at Goodspeed took care of the rest. In four short months, Emmet Otter debuted to admiring reviews and enthusiastic crowds. The response was so positive that Goodspeed extended the original run by several performances and brought it back for a return visit in 2009. Hilton attributes part of the show’s appeal to placing the right musical in the right venue. “We’ve talked a lot about why audiences from the age of two to 80 are in tears by the end,” she says. “It’s a story about family and what’s important in life. That message set in a holiday show and placed in the Opera House makes for a magical experience.” Hilton says that Goodspeed has taken a year off from mounting Emmet to evaluate whether the theater can do anything more to present the musical efficiently and effectively. She reports that the sets, costumes, and puppets have all been safely packed away for future productions. In fact, the patrons are already demanding it. “We have people calling now to see if we’re going to do it again,” she says. “But my mother always said that it was important to leave them wanting more!” In the end, I came to the conclusion that it’s our collective attachment to favorite Christmas stories that causes us to hunger for more. That’s certainly the case for the artists I spoke with. It’s something beyond nostalgia, even in its purest sense, that transports us to a place where the feelings are profound and, at times, heartrending. That’s why, for example, there’s more than one reason Michael Wilson’s rendition of A Christmas Carol is subtitled A Ghost Story of Christmas. “My father grew up in a small railroad town where not only was there no theater, they weren’t even able to buy books for the kids,” Wilson explains. “So, his teacher would play a record of Lionel Barrymore as Scrooge every year. And he would put his head down on his desk, close his eyes and imagine the scenes and characters. He loved coming to see my productions, especially at Hartford Stage.” Wilson’s father died suddenly six years ago. In the intervening years, other of his friends that were associated with the production passed away as well. “There are a lot of ghosts that haunt our production happily and we remember them each year,” he says. “That’s always very emotional for me. And I don’t think that I’m alone.” ARTS/CULTURE/STYLE//MAGAZINE
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