Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Summer Trip to Cape May, New Jersey



Last week TD and I had a delightful trip to Cape May, New Jersey, which is at the southern end of the state and definitely worth a visit. First we stopped in Ocean City, New Jersey, which we always enjoy, and visited TD's jolly and hospitable relatives. Then we drove further on down to Cape May, which we had not been to before. The town was a very popular seaside resort in the nineteenth century, but in 1878, a devastating fire that lasted five days destroyed 30 blocks at its center. When the homes were rebuilt, they were designed in the style of the day - Victorian. In 1976 the entire city of Cape May was declared an historic district and so today visitors stroll along block after block of beautiful Victorian houses painted and trimmed in a range of delightful colors. Picket fences run along the sidewalks, and the streets are draped with tall shade trees. "I feel like I'm in Meet Me in St. Louis," said TD.


Luckily he had found a room in a charming B and B called Twin Gables where we unloaded our bags. The house is owned by the friendly and warm innkeeper Regina, who reminded me a little of my mother. Coincidentally, the B and B turned out to be around the corner from the home of TD's distant cousin Mary Ellen, who arrived at cocktail hour on the porch with her husband Joe. After a glass of wine, they took us on a quick walking tour of Cape May. Street after street of the prettiest houses and inns stretched out before us. The town reminded me of Cooperstown, New York, which is also an historic district, and of Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard.
Red, white and blue –


A cool porch under shade trees –


I liked this handsome chocolate brown Cape Cod house with turquoise blue trim –



A great spot in Cape May is the Congress Hall hotel. The large resort hotel was rebuilt in brick after the big fire in the nineteenth century. It was fully restored in 2002, and now it's a beautiful destination with enticing restaurants and bars. The striking main thoroughfare at Congress Hall features American flags and Victorian light fixtures – 


The hotel lobby was decorated dramatically with green walls plus red and black accents. Someone who knew what they were doing did a good job designing this hotel –


One night we ate outdoors at an excellent Mexican restaurant called La Dona. Many of the restaurants are BYOB so we picked up a small bottle of tequila and the restaurant made the most delicious orange, lemon and lime margaritas. The best I have had! The food also was delicious and excellent. Later, we walked to the big, old Chalfonte Hotel, which was built in 1876.


Simple and authentic, the rambling place has an old-school charm. There's a little bar on the side, and we sat and enjoyed a night cap on the long, wide porch, like that at the Sharon Spring Hotel in upstate New York. Families and friends who seemed to be there on an extended holiday pulled up rocking chairs and talked in intimate groups.
One day it rained, not a beach day alas, but afterwards a rainbow shone bright.


A fitting end to a fun adventure in Cape May –

Monday, July 31, 2017

Henry James and Friends at the Morgan Library




An Interior in Venice (The Curtis Family) by John Singer Sargent, 1898
The Morgan Library and Museum is one of my favorite places in New York, and the arts at the turn of the last century is an era I love so I has very happy to visit a new exhibit at the Morgan called Henry James and American Painting. The great American writer Henry James, who lived mostly in London and Venice, was fascinated by artists and sculptors; in fact earlier in his career he had dabbled in painting and went to law school before he became a writer.
While he worked as a writer, he remained influenced by artists, and painted his scenes with words instead of brushstrokes. The exhibition at the Morgan explores James' friendships with artists and how they affected him. The show is co-curated by Irish author Colm Toibin, who wrote one of my very favorite books, the novel The Master, which is based on Henry James. Displayed in one room at the Morgan, the exhibit includes approximately fifty objects including paintings, watercolors, photographs, sculptures and manuscripts by artists John La Farge, James McNeill Whistler, John Singer Sargent, and more.

Sargent painted this 1913 portrait of James upon the occasion of the writer's 70th birthday –



I also liked this portrait of James in a snappy polka dot bow tie by Ellen Gertrude Emmet Rand from 1900 –



Delightfully, James and Sargent were close friends. The writer and the artist shared much in common too; both were born in the United States and lived in Europe, captured the wealthy society of the day elegantly and deliciously in their respective media, and hid their homosexuality.

The connection between James and Sargent is evident in the gorgeous painting pictured at the top of this post. Sargent painted his cousin Daniel Sargent Curtis and his wife at home in Venice in the Palazzo Barbero where James was a guest. In fact, James wrote some of The Aspern Papers at a desk that is still housed in the palazzo today. James was a big fan of the palazzo's stunning Baroque interior and included a description of the salon in his novel The Wings of the Dove. The writer loved Sargent's romantic portrait of the Curtises, and wrote that he "absolutely and without reserve adored it." Alas, this gorgeous painting was not successful at the time. Mrs. Curtis felt it made her look too old and that her son was posed too casually so she did not accept the gift of the painting from the Sargent.
Can you imagine?
This and more stories abound in this entertaining exhibition. For a gentle trip back in time, visit the James exhibit at the Morgan Library, through September 10th.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Design Plus Art at the Decoration & Design Building

Artist Cy Twombly's apartment in Rome photograhed by Horst in 1966 – 
Art and design – two of my favorite subjects! A couple of weeks ago I attended Spring Market Day at the Decorating & Design Building here in New York City. The handsome D & D Building on Third Avenue houses over 130 manufacturers' showrooms, which are open to-the-trade and welcome design industry professionals from around the world. The day was called Art X Design, and was dedicated to exploring how art and design work together in interiors. Showrooms were open to visitors, plus there were three keynote speaker panels, 14 in-showroom programs, three cocktail receptions, and more.

I started the morning with a panel on "How Art of the 20th Century Shapes Design" which was moderated by Town & Country Editor in Chief Stellene Volandes and included artist Sophie Matisse, who is the great-granddaughter of Henri Matisse; interior designer Stephen Sills (pictured below); and Molly Ott-Amber, Senior Vice President at Sotheby's. In discussing how to decorate with art, Sills warned, "Don't do color schemes or rooms around art, ever." The designer said he is inspired by old photographs of artists' studios. "Great artists were great decorators and very conscious of their environment," he noted, citing Matisse, Picasso and Cy Twombly (pictured above) as favorite examples.
With the great American interior designer Stephen Sills at the D & D Building –



Next I headed to "Art Smart: A Primer for Designers" with moderator Galerie magazine editor-at-large Margaret Russell and designers Jamie Drake and Robert Stilin and art advisor Lorinda Ash. The panel discussed favorite art galleries to visit in New York which include Gagosian, Marianne Boesky, Chiem Read, Pace and Eleven Rivington. Later I hit "The Curatorial Designer: Interiors for Contemporary Art Collectors" moderated by NYC&G Editor in Chief Kendell Cronstrom with author Alisa Carroll, designers Gary Hutton and Amy Lau, and art advisor Blair Clarke. "A job is not finished until there is art on the walls," observed Amy Lau.

The art world can be intimidating place for buyers but throughout the day, discussions offered advice on navigating that world and how to best incorporate art into interior design. "The purpose was to provide a service to the design community and give them access to a variety of vetted experts including art advisors, art galleries, and auction houses," said Liz Nightingale, Vice President, Director of Marketing at the D & D Building, who organized the successful event. After a glass of wine at one of the cocktail parties, my head was swimming with all of the conversations of the day and the power of art to enhance and inspire. As Margaret Russell said during her panel, "Art elevates everything."

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Rei Kawakubo at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute




I am a little behind since my father passed away but earlier last month I did attend a preview for the new exhibition at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is called "Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçon: Art of the In-Between." Rei Kawakubo is of course the diminutive, avant-garde Japanese fashion designer who has been creating her artistic collections for her Comme des Garçon label since 1969. Kawakubo has been very influential in the world of fashion; you can see her effect on the work of designers like John Galliano and Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga. This is only the second retrospective at the Met for a living fashion designer; the first was for Yves Saint Laurent, which Diana Vreeland presented in 1983.




In the opening remarks at the preview, the curator Andrew Bolton noted that Kawakubo "blurs the distinction between art and fashion with designs that look like sculpture." Indeed, many of the garments on display defy the traditional norms of clothing with shapes and volumes that don't follow the lines of the body at all but create their own unique silhouette. I tended to like the more classic shapes like the red garments above and these dresses with a lace bodice –



The installation itself was very interesting too. I've never seen anything like it at the Met. Displaying about 150 garments, it's a white maze of different shaped modules that was designed by Kawakubo and Bolton together. Costume shows typically focus spotlights on individual pieces but this exhibition features 150 fluorescent lights overhead so it feels like you're in a very bright modern art gallery –



An additional treat was hearing Caroline Kennedy speak at the preview as she does not often appear in public in New York. Caroline Kennedy was the United States Ambassador to Japan during the Obama administration and so she talked about her friend Rei Kawakubo – 



For an exploration of clothing as abstract modern art, go see the new Costume Institute show at the Met, through September 5th. Up now also at the museum, which I plan to see, is an exhibition of photographs by the great master Irving Penn.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Musical Week in New York in Three Acts




Sunday in the Park with George at the Hudson Theater. This photo from The New York Times.
Before the sad event described in my previous post, TD and I had a wonderful week in New York when we attended three delightful musical events within seven days.
One: First up was the Broadway production of Sunday in the Park with George at the Hudson Theater, which was a joy. This musical by genius Stephen Sondheim is about Impressionist painter George Seurat and how he produced his pointillist masterpiece painting Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, which can now be found at the Art Institute of Chicago. What a pleasure it would be to see this painting in person –



When I met TD...that would be 32 years ago...he took me promptly to see Sunday in the Park on Broadway with Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin, and I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. This new production (which has now completed its run) featured movie star Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford.
Here is the charming cast collecting money for Equity Fights AIDS after the show –



Jake Gyllenhaal is a wonderful actor, and he brought the rough personality of Seurat alive. And I was particularly taken with Annaleigh Ashford who I thought was sexier and more lively than Bernadette Peters. The show is really about the commitment to creating art and the price it can take on one's personal life. It's breathtaking visually and the music is gorgeous. This is not a new notion, but in creating a show about making art, Stephen Sondheim himself produced a masterpiece.

Two: Later that weekend, we headed up to East 128th Street in Harlem to a gala at the Music and Mentoring House hosted by acclaimed opera soprano Laura Flanigan. Laura lives in the oldest nineteenth-century wood frame house in Harlem and it's a beauty –



In the house, Laura offers educational programs for singers, mentoring for artists, professional introductions, and a place for artists to train for auditions. At the fundraising gala on a bright spring day, guests sat in the living room as student artists performed to a piano accompanist while sun streamed in through the tall windows of the old house. Laura also offers Saturday Soirees in her garden where guests can meet and hear the students.
Afterwards we all walked to a nearby Italian restaurant in Harlem called Barawine for food, wine and more music. On the way, our friend Philip pointed out the gigantic home where actor Neil Patrick Harris and his husband and children live. As if on cue, Neil Patrick Harris passed us on the sidewalk with a big smile.
At the restaurant, as we ate pasta and salad and sipped red wine, Laura Flanigan herself sang some songs by Rufus Wainwright –



Outside, the sun cast its last rays on Harlem's beautiful brownstone row houses. It really was a lovely Sunday afternoon.

Three: The following week we were invited to a gala for the Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown which is one of our favorite destinations upstate. This annual gala in New York City raises money for the Glimmerglass Festival Young Artists and Summer Internship Programs. Like Lauren Flanigan's Music and Mentoring House, this program helps young artists in opera get to the next stage in their careers. This summer, the 110 Glimmerglass apprenticeships will offer emerging artists, craftspeople, production and artistic personnel valuable working experience and guidance.
The event, which we have attended before, is held at the gorgeous Edwardian-style Metropolitan Club on Fifth Avenue, which was completed in 1894. After cocktails in the Grand Hall –


guests progressed into the red and gold gilded salon room to hear performances by some of the young talents who will be singing in Cooperstown this summer
The Festival's dynamic Artistic and General Director Francesca  Zambello welcomed the crowd –


(Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival)
Charismatic director and choreographer Paige Hernandez performed a bit of her Stomping Ground, a Glimmerglass-commissioned hip-hopera that will have its world premier at this summer's Festival –



(Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival)
Youth Opera Artists Richard Pittsinger and the Sparklers - that is Emma Hullar, Catie LeCours and Aria Maholchic - sang some of Wilde Tales, which weaves together fairy tales by Oscar Wilde and will have its debut in the barn theater at Glimmerglass this summer – 


(Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival)
It's a great treat to sit in the intimate salon and listen to the artists sing. Several more performances promised an exciting season ahead. If you are near Cooperstown this summer, check out Glimmerglass!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

My Father




My father and I at a family wedding a few years ago.
I'm sad to say that my father, Bart Boehlert, passed away on April 9 in Colorado Springs. Fortunately he passed away in his sleep in the afternoon just after my sister Cynthia had visited him so he left peacefully and with a loved one near by. My sister called and told us on Sunday the 9th and on Monday the 10th, my two brothers Eric and Thom and sister-in-law Karen and I were on a plane to Denver at noon to be with my sister and her wife Barb to help with the arrangements and clean out my father's apartment. It was really nice to be together for four days and tell some stories and eat and drink and laugh.

Blog readers may remember that my mother passed away about four and a half years ago. After that, my father lived alone in the big house in Connecticut for a while but he was lonely, especially at dinner time, so a little over two years ago he moved to an assisted living residence near my sister in Colorado Springs, and we had a good time visiting him in Colorado  –



But unfortunately he started to decline pretty quickly with numerous problems until it overwhelmed him. He got wonderful care from my sister and the residence but we were nonetheless stunned by the decline. In the end it was better for him to pass on, but hard for us. My mother had a long illness so we/I were prepared, but this event with my father happened pretty quickly so it was a bit of shock. And when we went through it with my mother, we had our father with us. But now with them both gone there is a sad finality to this.
My mother and father –



A family photo from a couple years ago in New York – 



My father was big, tall man with a reassuring voice, and he was a strong presence in my life. We were very different personality-wise, practically opposites, and there were some conflicts but we never gave up on each other and always reached for each other. He was an ardent supporter of mine. When I told my parents I was gay, age 16 in upstate New York (and it was not cool then, believe me), he immediately supported me without blinking an eye. He liked to do things more than talk, and he was always providing for us - painting, repairing, cleaning, washing, he even liked to polish shoes. As I get older I find myself more and more like him, constantly cleaning, and yes, polishing TD's shoes.



My father single-handedly supported his rambunctious, demanding family of six, and when my mother was ill in bed for sixteen months, he devotedly took care of her, providing three meals a day, and cooking was probably his least favorite thing. But I never heard him once complain. 



He was a big, generous, supportive man who would do anything for you. I will miss him always.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Celebrating "Signature Spaces" at Gerald Bland




Yours truly with decorators and authors Philip Vergeylen and Paolo Moschino at Gerald Bland. 
My friend Michael Boodro, the editor of Elle Decor, recently invited me to celebrate the publication of a sumptuous book called Signature Spaces - Well Travelled Interiors by the London-based decorators Philip Vergeylen and Paolo Moschino –



The book party was held at Gerald Bland, which is a well-known gallery on East 59th Street that features a striking collection of furniture and art. At Gerald Bland, guests pressed into a smaller gallery to greet the authors and buy the book –



     I had the chance to meet the charming designers and congratulate them on their luxurious book, which was published by Vendome Press. With an introduction by Min Hogg, the esteemed former editor of The World of Interiors, the book includes lavish photographs by Simon Upton of the firm's interiors created for clients around the world. Interspersed throughout the book are arresting images like an iconic photograph of Babe Paley and a favorite Balthus painting, plus inspiring quotes including:
"I'm going to make everything around me beautiful - that will be my life."  - Elsie de Wolfe
"Style is a simply way of saying complicated things." - Jean Cocteau
"We think the book is a lot of fun," said Paolo, and it is. Since the tome is subtitled "Well-Travelled Interiors," I asked them what their preferred destination is. Marrakesh is their favorite, where they have a home that is easy to fly to from London.
     Afterwards, I had a look around Gerald Bland, which is quite a beautiful gallery that I had not visited before. Mr. Bland ran the English furniture department at Sotheby's before opening his own business in 1987. Now his gallery presents an eclectic collection of antique and modern furniture and contemporary art. Just as Philip Vergeylen and Paolo Moschino mixed interiors and portraits and quotes in their book, Gerald Bland arranges furnishings and art from vastly different periods in several large galleries and rooms, and the effect is very sophisticated. You have to know what you're doing to mix it up that well. The lighting throughout was alluring, and many of the rooms and vignettes featured a green plant or tree. A touch of nature is a welcome addition to elegant furnishings and art. Between the book and the gallery, the whole trip was an eyeful. After a glass of red wine, I headed downtown to meet TD at a friend's home for dinner, marveling at the treasures that New York has to offer.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

New York City Art Explored in Two Current Exhibitions




Untitled collage by Robert Rauschenberg from 1957
There is a never-ending stream of interesting art shows to see in New York, and coincidentally two now explore art produced in almost contiguous periods during the twentieth century. Inventing Downtown at the Grey Art Gallery at New York University on Washington Square is about artist-run galleries in New York from 1952 to 1965, and Fast Forward at the Whitney Museum of American Art is comprised of paintings produced in the 80s. TD and I thought it would be fun to have a look at both.
At mid-century in New York City, art galleries were located in midtown on 57th Street. The exhibit at the Grey Art Gallery shows how the art scene was transformed when it moved downtown as artists created their own galleries.
The cover of the catalogue pictures artist Red Grooms transporting art downtown in a baby carriage. Ah, those were the days – 


At the Grey Art Gallery, admission is free –



There was lots to look at. I particularly liked the Rauschenberg collage pictured at the top. The work of this artist has always hit me. It's abstract and a mix of various media but something about it strikes me emotionally. How did he do that? I was also drawn to the painting below of the great American poet Frank O'Hara by Wolf Kahn from 1954. In 1966, Frank O'Hara fell asleep on the beach on Fire Island and was hit by a Jeep in the dark and killed at age 40.



A wall was hung with a colorful mix of art –



Downstairs was a section devoted to Judson Memorial Church, where TD and I are members. Judson has always been committed to social justice and the arts, and in the 60s, Judson invited artists including Jim Dine and Claes Oldenburg to exhibit their work in its basement gallery. It's fascinating history.

At the new Whitney Museum of American Art in the Meatpacking District, architect Renzo Piano has designed a wonderful building. I like it much more than the Marcel Breuer-designed Whitney uptown on Madison Avenue, which is now part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. At the new Whitney, outdoor decks and stairways offer striking views of the city.



The Fast Forward exhibit states that in the 80s when artists were turning to new media like video and art installations, many artists actively embraced painting. As the elevator doors open on the top floor on this exhibit, the visitor is greeted by an eye-popping Kenny Scharf painting layered on top of a Keith Haring panel.


On the other side of the entrance, a Jean Michel Basquiat painting is hung on the same. The combination is strikingly graphic. When I moved to New York I once saw Andy Warhol come into the nightclub Area with Jean Michel Basquiat. And the Palladium club had a room painted by Kenny Scharf. This all takes me back.



This exhibition was only in three gallery rooms. We were surprised that it was not bigger. Surely a show on 80s paintings could be more extensive. Also, two whole floors of the Whitney are now closed where the 2017 Biennial, which opens on March 17, is now being mounted.
The exhibit includes a giant Julian Schnabel painting on velvet, and a serene abstract painting by Ross Bleckner, which looks like lights glowing in the dark.
I've always been a fan of Eric Fischl's lush figurative painting, and this very large canvas below depicts contrasting scenes on a tropical island. On the left, a family of vacationers frolic blithely in the sea while on the right a group of desperate refugees arrive on the shore. A timely statement for right now –



We headed down one flight of stairs at the Whitney to an exhibition of portraits. We'd seen this show already but we took a quick spin through.
A self-portrait of sorts is a painting called Cocktail by Gerald Murphy who is one of my very favorite characters. 




If you haven't read about the fabulous Murphy's do yourself a favor and read Living Well Is the Best Revenge by Calvin Tompkins and then read Everybody Was So Young by Amanda Vaill.
I've always liked the colorful, sparely elegant paintings of Fairfield Porter. The label for this one below, called The Screen Porch, said it pictures Porter's two daughters on the left and his wife on the right and in the middle is poet James Schuyler, with whom Porter was having an open affair...



No wonder no one looks happy. Porter and Schuyler were also friendly with Frank O'Hara.
At the entrance of this exhibit is a handsome wall displaying a variety of portraits in different media – 



– a fitting expression of the range and diversity of American art, which has been fostered and nurtured in New York City.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Women's March in New York City



On Saturday I had the great joy of marching in the Women's March here in New York City. I have been so extremely upset about the incoming Trump presidency and his racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic policies and his appointments and people from Breitbart, the extreme right wing, white nationalist, fringe site, in the White House. Everything has been such dark, bad news. I signed up to march with our church, Judson Memorial Church, and I made the sign above to hang around my neck. My mother had a slogan, "Love is all," and this seemed like an appropriate twist on the message for the occasion.
TD went on a bus with Judson along with our nephew Aaron down to Washington D.C. to march.  He made the sign below to pin on his jacket, dedicated to his mother Edna, a die-hard Democrat who passed away a few years ago.


In New York City I made plans to meet up with the Judson group and also invited my brother Thom and sister-in-law Karen to join us and they invited their friend Kathy from Mamaroneck. A jolly group. I rode my bike uptown and we met up with Judson and then all proceeded up Third Avenue. The directions from the march leaders were to enter the march at Third Avenue and 47th Street so that's where we went. And waited there standing and not moving for an hour and half. It was bad planning or too many people but in any case the corner got more and more crowded as people flooded in and nobody moved. The sky was cold and dark. Everyone was peaceful and pleasant but the crowding got dangerous.


Finally people moved eastward toward Second Avenue where the march was supposed to start. Thom and Karen and Kathy and I moved with the crowd and we lost the Judson contingent. Then suddenly it became apparent that we couldn't go forward and the crowd turned around about face and started chanting "Go to Fifth!" The crowd was going rogue and not following the march route and doing directly over to Fifth Avenue. We threaded single file across Third Avenue around cars which were stopped in their tracks. On we went over to Lexington where strings of buses were similarly stalled. Thom had enough and went up to the subway. Karen and Kathy stayed but as I filed through layers of stationary buses on Lexington, I lost them. I was by myself.
On I went determined to get to Fifth Avenue to join the march. Finally I reached Fifth and stepped on to the avenue which was packed with people shoulder to shoulder. The sun came out, the sky was blue, it was warm! It was like reaching the Emerald City.


As far as the eye could see, looking uptown or down, was a sea of people.


It really was an amazing sight. I've never experienced anything like it in New York City. The turnout was just gargantuan. And it felt good to be there and participating. The cool, good-looking crowd was a majority of women but a lot of men, and a range of all ages from small children to seniors. People were there with their parents and grandparents. The march site had indicated that we would march past Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue at 56th Street and everyone wanted to get there. But progress was slow. It took about an hour to go one block from 47th to 48th. I decided to peel off and go around up to 57th and Fifth. When I got there, surprise, police barricades. The police were diverting the crowd off Fifth at 55th Street so the march could not pass by Trump Tower. Cowardly.


But a lot of people were hanging out at 57th Street and Fifth, in front of Bergdorf Goodman, which was fun. The signs that people carried were clever. My favorite one, which was huge and carried by two people, said "Small march, sad," mimicking Donald Trump's pathetic tweets.
People were like-minded and wanted to connect. I started talking to a young woman and her mother and her grandmother. The grandmother lived on Riverside Drive and she was the most upset off all. Another guy struck up a conversation about the crowd size estimate. People enjoyed being together in solidarity against what is happening. Honestly I didn't want to leave but it was getting cold and late.
I had to pick up my bike so I headed down to 42nd Street. I was shocked to find that at 5:00, 42nd Street was completely packed with people who were just beginning the march, which was supposed to be over at 4:00. 


And marches just like it were going on across the country and the world. Political scientists said that Saturday was the biggest day of protest in history. It was so encouraging to see the massive turnout and realize that there are so many people who are opposed to this darkness. We can fight this. We can.