Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Return

As I am re-acclimatizing to Santa Fe life and the art world in general I want to mention some thoughts of returning home.  Many of us travel and it is the one case where you can go home again!  Some travel to the other side of the world, others cross a continent and some just drive an hour from the beach.  In all cases it requires some adjustment.

Our trip home from Hawaii was, in travel time, just about 10 hours but it was a red eye which is not pleasant for anyone.  There is, of course, the need for an early arrival at the airport which in Kauai was quite unpleasant.  There are separate inspections for security and two more for agriculture.  Since we were flying to the mainland we were told to be at the airport 2 hours ahead of the 10:00 p.m. flight.  The airport was stifling with no air-conditioning or fans, and, as this is a family vacation spot, there were overtired, screaming children. There was no notice of our flight as other flights appeared on the board. Suddenly a loud speaker announcement came that our flight was at the other end of the terminal and we rushed to arrive at a mob of people with no organization what so ever.  Of course, there is the layover time between the two flights needed for our journey.  Since we had been up for 14 hours before the flight by the time we were done we had been up for 29 hours.

Scene at Lihue Airport in Kauai

A short nap was required on arrival home.  Because you need to readjust to local time, you cannot sleep too long.  The following day, having slept all night and then some, there is a good chance that re-adjustment will remain elusive as it did for me.

As you begin to retrieve your “land legs” you start to focus and find, in direct correlation to how long you have been away, a small or large mountain of mail. It gets somewhat reduced by the number of catalogs and solicitations you discard.  Business mail isn’t overwhelming since that comes by email these days but there are always bills to pay and matters that need straightening out such as a lost credit card and incorrect charges to be rectified.  Then there are appointments to be made that you may have thought about for 10 days but were not going to make on your holiday, and emails that may or may not have been read but not acted upon … which reminds me …

As I am writing this I see an email from an old friend referring to my second Hawaii Missive.  He writes, “You say you went back to reality?  That was unwise.  How long before you can get out of there and back to Santa Fe?”   I received another email that said, “Santa Fe must seem dry and dull after Kauai!”.  

Let me try to reply to both at the same time We have been having quite a bit of rain since our return breaking Santa Fe’s awful drought.  As for being dull, we live in such an arts mecca, --it is never dull!  A few days after we returned from our trip we went to the fabulous outdoor Santa Fe Opera where we saw Leonard Bernstein’s, “Candide”.  I won’t try to give a revue but let me say I quite disagreed with the local critic who panned both the opera and Mr. Bernstein who had written some very melodious music.  We seem to want our opera to be heavy and serious, with music difficult to hum.  This, on the contrary,  was the definition of a comic opera with wonderful singers.

Alek Shrader and Brenda Rae in Candide at Santa Fe Opera.
Photo by Ken Howard

The following day our new mayor, Alan Webber, who has taken both praise and abuse in our local paper, invited us to a pot luck garden party he gave as a thank you for all those who had worked on his campaign.  Penelope had made phone calls, canvassed and carried a poster at the gates of a polling place on election day and I had arranged a meet and greet for the prospective mayor.  There must have been around a hundred people who had all contributed to the Mayor’s success.  The pot luck food was wonderful with people binging fried chicken, roast beef, turkey, meat balls, corn muffins and a myriad of salads.  Additional catering was done by Youth Works, a local not-for-profit that helps younger folk who are trying for their GED’s with academic coaching and vocational training. An award-winning chef known as Chef Carmen and his wife Penny Rodriguez, who had owned their own catering company, head the Youth Works catering program.   So, with the latter as guides the young people baked delicious deserts and acted as wait staff for the mayor’s event.  They also participated in the car shuttle to and from a nearby church to his home.

Mayor Alan Webber on the right

Everyone had opportunities for their one on one with “His Honor” and he gave a brief speech, jokingly taking credit for the recent rains.  Needless to say, after he was finished the heavens opened and there was a wonderful downpour!  As an added bonus we were all urged to take home left overs, so further samples from the buffet rounded out our dinner.

In reply again, to my first emailer, we have re-found Santa Fe!

Sunday, July 8, 2018

A Dream Realized (Part Two)

I cannot explain the foreignness of the island of Kauai. We are staying in a condo on a resort property but  those who do not come from the mainland and are native, who can trace their Hawaiian heritage back speak English fluently but with a heavy accent. Besides the official Hawaiian Polynesian language, there is the widely spoken Pidgin, a  patois mixing the Portuguese, Japanese and Chinese of laborers brought in to work the sugar plantations.  On tours we were always given the Hawaiian names but  I couldn’t spell them and you probably could not pronounce them!     The clouds and rain and jungle surroundings are certainly a far cry from the arid climate of New Mexico.  Kauai’s average yearly rainfall is 400 inches while in Santa Fe it is just over 14 inches!  Then there are sights that I would say were uncommon anywhere: where else would you see two men chasing a pig down a main road and then leaping after it into the jungle? That was what we saw on one of our car journeys around the island.

This is definitely an outdoor paradise. The beaches are the main attraction but they are still not crowded. The resorts, of course, have multiple pools. In the water there is no end to the sports you can do. Kayaking seems to be at the top of most peoples’ list after swimming. Of course, there is great hiking through the rain forest, though it can get rather muddy. The ground is so fertile that golf courses abound, and they do not appear to be crowded either.

Being more the passive sort and not participating in the hiking, the kayaking and zip lining that our son and his fiancée, and even Penelope did, I was looking forward to the helicopter tour around the island.  I have been in a private helicopter before going from Manhattan to the estate of a client on Long Island … this was slightly different!  We had opted for the helicopter with no doors since the four of us would not have to share our adventure with anyone else.  We were given life preservers because part of the flight was over water and earphones, so we could hear the pilot’s tour over the gale force winds that occur when you are flying with no doors or windows.  We were securely buckled into our seats, but I still felt I was slipping off the seat which had no give to it.  I thought it might just be me but we all felt the need to hold on sometimes with both hands!  Our pilot also enjoyed heading directly for the mountain and then going up at a precipitous angle to give us an extra thrill, which was totally unnecessary!  The big plus to this adventure was the incredible views we had.  I have never seen a rainbow beneath me.  Clouds yes, in the alps, but not a rainbow over the water and beach.  We saw the mountains literally inside and out as we flew into the the canyons and volcano crater and out again.  We were not surprised to learn that a James Bond movie was filmed in Hawaii but on another Island.  However, Pierce Brosnan, a former James Bond, has a home here.  Lots of major films have been done on the island such as Jurassic World, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and South Pacific.  In fact, if you want you can take a tour of the Kauai movie sites.

Another highlight for me was a short river cruise on the Wailua river with the goal of seeing the famous Fern Grotto It is a naturally-formed lava cave at the base of Mauna Kapu, (forbidden mountain), named for the ferns that grow down from the the grotto walls. It has become known as a wedding location and thousands of couples have decided to get married here.

Returning down river the captain gave us some history of where we were while outbound we had entertainment of song and dance by a talented native family.  Here are three snippets of song and dance.

No visit to Hawaii would be complete without a rum tasting since Mai Tai’s and Pina Coladas are l Hawaii’s signature drinks and are served everywhere.  I used to love rum but now my palate has become more atuned to  tequila! Before lunch at Gaylords, a former sugar cane plantation, we went to their rum tasting. The Koloa rum that that is actually made right there, we all agreed was the best on the Island. We learned about the sweet and drier rums and why the former should just float on top of the latter for a proper Mai Tai.  It  The tasting ended with a coffee rum which would be fabulous over ice cream as a desert for company!

All good things must come to an end and so it did for us with a red-eye flight back to reality.

Hunter Saying Goodbye to the Sea

The Sunset

Sunday, July 1, 2018

A Dream Realized (Part One)

My business always took me to Europe, so, vacations were usually in Switzerland which I loved, and I was not much of a beach person… too much sand!  Things changed when we had children and they had an institution called spring vacation.  Then we started to explore the Caribbean. After the kids grew up because of my wife’s work and mine we rarely took this kind of vacation.

I had always heard of people going to Hawaii for holiday but from New York it seemed terribly far away while the Caribbean was a relatively short trip.  Then when we started to live in the Southwest and it seemed everyone and their neighbor had been to Hawaii. Now, at the age of 73 my wife and son, Hunter, planned a “surprise“ trip for me and Hunter’s fiancée, Mallory, to the island of Kauai. 

Truth be known, I wasn’t even sure exactly where Hawaii was, other than somewhere in the South Pacific. So, a few days before we left I looked at the globe in my office and it sank in that actually it is in the Central Pacific. Geographically it has nothing to do with the United States but it was made a U.S. territory in 1898.  A referendum in 1959, where more that 93% of the voters opted for statehood, and it became the 50th state. The huge book by James Michener called “Hawaii” (that I am listening to on my I-phone) was published in that year.

There are 8 or 9 islands that make up Hawaii, depending who is counting since one of them seems to be extremely small.  Volcanic activity created the islands and the minerals in the lava and ash combine with a wet climate make a lush paradise.  We are not staying on the main island, where the volcano has been erupting recently, but on Kauai, where they actually had almost 50 inches of rain in a single 24-hour period this past April.  Yes, you read correctly, truly incredible and parts of the island are still closed for repairs.  There is so much jungle all around us we are aware that the habitable parts of the island have been carved out of the rain forest.

Though I know there are others, the only wild animals we have seen so far are fowl.  Roosters, hens and a Hawaiian goose, an endangered species known locally as the Nene Goose.

With so many beaches this is obviously a children’s paradise.  Never seen so many little ones running around the many condominiums rented out to house them!  Our accommodations have a picture postcard view of Hanalei Bay.

I am sure no trip to Hawaii would be complete without a Luau so we booked one.  We did not have a great deal of hope for one that billed itself as, “We Put the Wow in Luau” but miraculously it lived up to that.  When our bus arrived we were greeted by a Hawaiian drummer.

There was a huge edifice which was built like an open tent seating over a thousand people at a great many tables.  Before we sat down we visited a small craft fair outside where I bought a great souvenir, a fountain pen made of Koa wood, unique in the mountains of Hawaii.

Then there was a hula demonstration and lesson for the younger folk and others!  During the meal of pulled pork and all the fixings various dances were performed by the professionals. After pork and all the plates were cleared, we were treated to a one-hour production on the early history of Hawaii, told mainly through dance.  It was extremely well produced and performed by a company made up entirely of native Hawaiians.  Naturally the most impressive fire dancers were left for the grand finale!

We have only been here three days including our arrival day.  There is definitely another Missive left in this trip. ‘Till next week….

Sunday, June 24, 2018

A Not So New Gallery In Town

Gerald Peters is a very well-known gallery owner in the field of American art.  If you want to buy Western Art that is where you go.  He has galleries today in Santa Fe and New York.  Four years ago, he split his gallery in Santa Fe into two parts.  One is still called the Gerald Peters Gallery but the other is Peters’ Projects where he was looking to expand his audience by showing edgier work and also with an emphasis on contemporary Native American artists. The space is huge. According to the gallery director Mark del Vecchio, it is one of the largest in North America at 8,500 square feet and he wants to use every bit of it.  So, Mark recently opened five  exhibitions at once, a most unusual decision, spreading the love, so to speak!

The exhibition in the main gallery is called “Quadrivium” with four artists, all Native American.  The title comes from “a medieval university curriculum involving the “mathematical arts of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music”, all relating to what artists need to understand.  The best known artist in the show is the Navajo painter, Tony Abeyta; from Santa Fe’s Institute of American Indian Arts he went on to do his  MFA at New York University. He now has studios in Santa Fe and Berkley. His image of “Unexpected Rains” 2018 caught my attention because we have had so little rain this year, with a reservoir only 25% full, that I hoped the Indian magic to bring rain would work once more.

In the same show is a Cochiti artist I have written about before, Mateo Romero, whose work we have collected in some depth. The largest of his paintings is a departure from his previous work, or, as he put it to me “ a bird of a different color”. It is a painterly rendering of a close-up of a large teepee, unusual in the Southwest as  teepees are used by the plains Indians and not seen here. Mateo based his composition on a photograph he took when he visited Standing Rock during the Sioux  protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline. He wrote there were “a long series of pitched teepees where the Lakota /Dakota/Nakota brought together their sacred pipe bundles (seven I think) for ceremony.  The last time this happened was at the Battle of the Greasy Grass/Little Big Horn.”

In another gallery is what I believe is the most space Peters Projects has devoted to a single artist, Cara Romero.  She happens to be the wife of the well-known ceramicist Diego Romero and sister-in-law of Mateo.  Her medium is photography and, in my opinion, she  has an incredible eye.  We already own two of the images in the show, albeit in far smaller size.  I have learned from my old world of Old Master paintings, often the test is whether an artist’s work will stand up is if she/he can work in large format as well as small.  Cara certainly manages that.  Here are “Last Indian Market,” 2015 and “TV Indians,” 2017.

I was wandering further through the galleries when, in the back of one room, I saw with a start a woman alone, crouching, working on a piece of figural sculpture.  I almost spoke to her before I realized she too was a sculpture!  Duane Hanson (1925-1996) was probably the artist who brought hyper realism to sculpture but in this case, Carole Feuerman did a mighty good job at fooling my eye!  The figure seems super intense on her work possibly because it is a 3-dimensional self-portrait. “Is it real or is it Memorex?”

Clearly Peters Projects is a gallery that we need to pay more attention to in the future.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Seeing the Collection in a New Light

I learned that I really wasn’t a New Yorker any more when I arrived at the Morgan Library and Museum on a Monday afternoon.  It was closed, of course, as has been the traditional closing day for most museums.  The Metropolitan Museum also used to be closed on Mondays but no longer. 

They say, “Necessity is the Mother of Invention” and so it is at the Met. The European paintings galleries have a rare combination of louvered natural light supplemented by artificial light. But skylights become dull over time and, worse, they leak and louvers fail.  Also innovations such as protection from ultraviolet light can be added.  In any case, the skylights at the museum that were installed in 1939 needed to be replaced and, therefore, the  art had to be removed from the galleries. Many paintings have to go into storage, but to keep the presence of the Old Master collection, the European Paintings Department has selected  some of their favorite things and installed them in a new way.

Keith Christiansen, John Pope-Hennessy Chairman of the Department, noted that after the 4-year project is complete, “we will be able to see the works of art in a new light!”  Reinstallation of a collection can offer the same possibilites.  I learned that at my gallery when a client never noticed an object he had seen several times but, when we reinstalled it as a focal point, he bought it.  In a museum or art gallery installation is one of the most important jobs of the curator.

When I walked into these newly reinstalled galleries I was bowled over by the intensity of each room.  Obviously, the curators wanted to show as many master pieces as possible, so they filled each gallery to capacity.  It was, however, clearly not haphazard but extremely carefully thought out with smaller paintings often on pedestals facing each other or totally isolated from other images which might interfere with the viewer experience.

As I walked through these new galleries I wondered what to focus on because writing everything that went through my head would have taken a book.  I finally decided to mention a few of of the more recent acquisitions, in the order of their purchase or gift over the last decade.

One of my very favorites, purchased in 2010, is by a Roman  artist I was not well acquainted with, Orazio Borgiani (1578-1616).  He painted this head of an old woman about 1610.  I found this painting so moving in the way the light plays over the woman’s face.  You see both her pain and the wisdom acquired in  her long life.

I am particularly fond of Jacopo Bassano (1510-1592); possibly because I wrote about him for my master’s thesis on the use of light in European painting. He was born Jacopo da Ponte but derived the name Bassano from the town where he worked. The Met’s Bassano is a fully developed late work of 1590. It shows the Baptism of Christ not in the usual sun lit scene but in darkness, using the light to make the event even more dramatic.  This is a 2012 partial and promised gift of Mr. and Mrs. Mark Fisch, meaning they have given a percentage of the painting to the museum and plan to (and must) donate the remainder in the future.

The Bassano is a large altar piece, but the Charles Lebrun (1619-1690) is truly humongous, over 9 feet  by almost 11 feet!  It represents Everhard Jabach and his family, and was commissioned for their new mansion in Paris around 1660.  A very wealthy merchant and banker of German origin Jabach was a collector of Dutch and  Netherlandish art and this was not lost on Lebrun who gave the painting a Dutch flavor.   Jabach chose politically wisely in commissioning Lebrun as he was painter to Louis XIV. The purchase funds were given in 2014 by Mrs. Charles Wrightsman in tribute to Keith Christiansen for his long and outstanding service to the museum.

In 2015 the Met used many gifts and donations to buy a wonderful Lamentation painted around 1560 by the Spanish artist, Luis de Morales (circa 1510-1586). His almost morbid devotional images made Morales a favorite of contemporary religious reformers.  One recent scholar wrote that "No Spanish painter was ever to surpass Morales in expressing the passionate, personal faith of  the mystical writers. "The  illustrious history of the painting includes the fact that it was owned by Pope Pius VII and remained in his family after his death in 1823 until 2014.

My final image is of Christ Carrying the Cross done between 1520 and 1525 by the Flemish artist Jan Gossaert, known as Jan Mabuse (ca. 1478-1532). Painted on a very small oak panel, it was obviously a personal devotional picture which could easily be picked up in the patron’s hands to contemplate at his leisure.  Again, it was both a part gift and part purchase with various funds added to the gift from the Honorable J. William Middendort II in 2016.

The Met was not always the great museum it is today.  In the field of Old Master painting our relatively young country had a lot of catching up to do with the great collections of Europe like the Louvre and the Uffizi.  Though I now live elsewhere, I feel a native-born New Yorker’s pride in seeing the Met continuing what its former director, Tom Hoving termed, “The Chase and the Capture.”

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Visitors to Versailles (1682–1789)

“Visitors to Versailles (1682-1789)” is an exhibition currently at the Metropolitan Museum where it will be until July 29.  I was not sure whether I would find it interesting since I have been lucky enough not only to visit with the public, but also have private tours behind the ropes.

This show, however, takes a novel tack: it attempts to recreate the experience of visiting the palace between the dates indicated in the title, using contemporary accounts.  From the time that Louis XIV (1638-1715) transformed this hunting lodge into the magnificent palace it is still today, it has been a remarkably public place, visited by the hoi polloi as well as aristocrats and diplomats.  When you walk into the exhibition they give you earphones with what they call “3-D audio” so that when you are in the pertinent sections of the show, in addition to readings from 18th century reports, there is background chatter, so you feel that it is as crowded as it was in the 18th century and is often today.  More evocative than some of the paintings is a folding screen which immerses you in the Chateau and all the people that were visiting on a specific day.  It is by Charles Cozette (French, 1713–1797) and from the collection of Monsieur and Madame Dominique Mégret, Paris. Photo by F. Doury.

I must admit that I cannot read labels, look at art and listen, all at the same time.   For me the audio was distracting.  My wife, however, who is a historian and seems to be able to do three things at once, liked it.  She particularly liked the fact that while the speakers were obviously actors they were quoting what was actually said at the time.  Since the show was seen by our son as well, he suggested that they tell you to read the label introducing each section before you listen to the commentary; that would have solved part of my problem!

I might also recommend going through the show without the audio first and then going back with the audio.  My wife, however, recommends going through with the earphones first and then going back and looking at the works of art that particularly interest you.  Whatever your choice, if you are at all interested in the subject, the exhibition is worth seeing.

The installation is divided thematically by room, so that you get the costumes required of visitors, the development of the palace, the grounds, visits by foreign ambassadors, etc.  Decorative arts such as furniture, royal carpets, porcelain are featured and explained as to their significance with paintings or prints and drawings serving as context.  Here is one of the most impressive room installations.

In the category of American visitors is, of course, Thomas Jefferson who took Benjamin Franklin’s place as Minister to France.  Today he would be called Ambassador.  A few days before the French Revolution began in 1789 he received a passport from Louis XVI so that he could leave the country and come back to the States.  His passport is in the exhibition lent by the Library of Congress.

For the most part this is a cultural history exhibition rather than one of great art treasures. There are, however, some wonderful pieces, for instance, this gilded armchair that has long been part of the Metropolitan’s own collection, given  by J. P. Morgan in 1917. It has been recently identified in an inventory as one used by Louis XIV at Versailles for formal occasions.  The photo is by Anna-Marie Kellen.

My last illustration is an object that will not hit you over the head, but if you are on the lookout for it and you will find it worthwhile.  It is a pietra dura mosaic top for a table from Versailles, here placed on the floor at a tilt for better viewing.  It brings together the arts and sciences with variously colored stones mapping the regions of France. It was presented to Louis XIV in 1684 probably created at the royal art 
factory of the Gobelins in Paris.

Curators for the show are Daniëlle Kisluk-Grosheide, the Henry R. Kravis Curator in the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at The Met, and Bertrand Rondot, Senior Curator at the Palace of Versailles.  Though there were over 50 lenders, mostly institutional, one thing that struck me is how much was from Versailles itself.  There is a large and sumptuous catalog that comes along with the exhibition.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

An Extraordinary Development Officer

At my age and having been involved in the arts all my life I have come across a great many fund raisers who, in the not for profit world, are known as Development Officers.  Unfortunately, I have met very few who are very good.  Often, when you check out an organization you will find the position of Director of Development is a revolving door.  No sooner are those wonderful interviewees in office than it is found that the only thing they cannot do is raise funds. On the other hand if they are good at their job, they are such a rare commodity that they are offered similar positions in other institutions which they may find more attractive, so they leave.

I don’t believe there are degrees or courses you can take to master the art of getting people to want to give up their funds.  Some development officers, however, use their life experience to achieve that goal.  We are extremely lucky in Santa Fe to have had such a person join the Lensic Performing Art Centre.  Her name is Laura Acquaviva.  I sat down to lunch with her a short while ago to learn her secret.  Though I have known her for a few years now, I instantly realized that on a one to one basis she is a real “people person”.    I had to remind myself more than once that there was a reason for this lunch other than a friendly chat.  It’s an attribute that every salesperson needs to have.  What you want is for the prospect to forget what the bottom line is!

When I asked about her training.  She said that she had gone to Fordham University.   I thought maybe she wanted to be a lawyer or a police officer which are common reasons for going there but her real reason was that she wanted to come to the Big Apple.  She had lived in Scranton, Pennsylvania about 2 ¼ hours away from New York and never been!  She was interested in Marketing and Music since she had studied dance and played the cello.  She received her B.A. in Communication and Media Studies and then went back to Scranton where she would get a Master’s of Education degree from Marywood University.  She taught  in grade school for a brief period of time.

I was curious how did Laura get to Santa Fe?  She told me one of many similar stories you hear often out here.  She followed a guy to Santa Fe and fell in love with the town instead!  Because of her interest and experience in dance she became Managing Director of Cathy Roe Productions and part of the job was running their dance competition.  A task that would require a lot of arrangements such as organizing participants, judges, prizes and an award ceremony.  As we know education may begin at school and university but you only learn once you start working because experience is the best educator.   Laura acquired a position at the Lensic Performing Arts Centre as the Programming and Events Manager.  The Lensic, as a not for profit, has to do a lot for its audience besides performances such as fundraising for a gala every year and smaller events such as meet and greets with performers and at donor events.

Laura Speaking with Lensic Visitors

To my way of thinking if you are good with people you are half way, to being good at asking for something and after almost 5 years as Programming and Events Manager she was tapped in 2018 as the Director of Development. 

I understand that some fund raisers believe that if someone has just made a donation then they are ready to give again so with the form thank you, there is another solicitation.  My reaction to that is often to immediately delete them from my donation list. As I have mentioned before when we first made a meaningful donation to the Lensic we received a handwritten letter from the founder, Nancy Zeckendorf, as well as another member of the board and then got an invitation to lunch from a board member.  When we could not make it we were not forgotten but received a second invitation some time later.

 Laura calls it “donor centered fund raising”.  She does not tell donors what the Lensic needs until she finds out what interests them.  In other words, if they like the idea of education of young people she tells them all that the Lensic does for 15,000 kids annually by bringing them to the Lensic for live performances and bringing, whenever possible, performers to the schools for a one on one experience.  If certain parts of the entertainment industry might be of interest, there is always a need for funds to bring in a dance company or jazz group.  There are special lighting effects or additions to the sound system that need funding or just the care and feeding of the artists themselves.  Maybe the prospect of having the supporter’s name attached to a specific show or group of shows would be attractive.  Laura goes out of her way to say that fund raising is a team effort and to say how much she has gained from working with founder Nancy Zeckendorf, from the Executive Director, Joel Aalberts and her entire support team.

Joel Aalberts & Nancy Zeckendorf

In sum, according to Laura Acquaviva, the most important aspect of successful fund raising is the opposite of selling. It is finding out what your prospective patron might be interested in buying. You just allow them to discover what they would enjoy doing with their spare cash!