Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Connection Between Jane Freilicher and Fairfield Porter



A few posts ago I announced that I have been awarded a residency on Great Spruce Head Island, once the vacation home of Fairfield Porter who hosted numerous characters from the New York School of painters and poets, namely James Schuyler who had a room reserved at both the Maine and Southampton home of the Porters.

Fairfield Porter was an artist that only seemed to grow in importance after his death—like so many artists and writers. While alive the kind of art he pursued had no purchase, no level footing amongst Abstract Expressionism. Jackson Pollack was an acquaintance and neighbor of Fairfield Porter on Long Island (as was Willem de Kooning)—yet the two were worlds apart.

Firstly, he was viewed as a hobbyist. This was mostly due to the fact that he owned an island. He came from a wealthy family and in truth didn’t have to work or earn money. Yet he lived relatively modestly. Among the Bohemian crowd he circulated with, he was a bit of a dad, okay, a bisexual experimenting dad, but that’s not so unusual really. He loved widely, lived expansively. And never seemed to give up on his friends. His artwork is described as representational, his subject matter that of everyday life. The kids sitting in the living room reading, a boy and girl under a tree, a vase of flowers on a table, the Spruce Head house, the island in sunlight, a girl on a bike, friends.

James Schuyler with Fairfield Porter's daughter Katherine
Keep in mind representational encompasses impressionism. There is still great mystery to these pictures, a feeling that there is more than meets the eye. The images are not quite in focus, separate, alone.

on the island
Jane Freilicher also took the more conservative route. So many of her friends were into abstract—why didn’t she just go along or fall under their influence? What caused her to keep to her own path? One that didn’t get as much attention, reviews, shows.

From her New York Times obituary: Ms. Freilicher had her first solo show at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in 1952. In a review for ARTnews, the painter and critic Fairfield Porter called her work “traditional and radical.” Her paintings, he wrote, “are broad and bright, considered without being fussy, thoughtful but never pedantic.”

Ms. Freilicher also counted among her circle of admirers the New York poets Frank O’Hara, James Schuyler, Kenneth Koch and, above all, John Ashbery, who wrote frequently about her work and was the first to buy one of her paintings.

The dominant style at the time was Abstract Expressionism.

“Realism is the only way I can do it,” she told Mr. Porter, who became a good friend as well as a critical champion, in a 1956 ARTnews article. “Every so often I get an anxious feeling and would like to produce that bombed-out effect of modern painting. Maybe my form is too closed. I feel a certain desire for exploding a picture the way some artists do. Can you explode a painting realistically? I don’t know.” She passed away December 9, 2014.


Early Fall, 2013

Jane’s subject matter mirrors Fairfield Porters, the extraordinary ordinary.

Fairfield Porter painting Jane Freilicher       
Fairfield Porter Archive, The Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, New York
 
Right now I am applying for an arts grant from the city of Chicago. These are highly sought-after and fiercely competitive. In retrospect much of my work seems pedestrian, lightly topical. Vignettes, flashes of everyday life. Remembrances. I just hope that I don’t have to wait to die before my work gets appreciated.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

365 Affirmations for the Writer



Check out 365 Affirmations for the Writer, an eBook that will inspire you and keep you writing.

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Locus Solus: Kenneth Koch and Leonard Cohen



I’ve discovered a great blog called Locus Solus: The New York School of Poets. Andrew Epstein, an Assoicate Professor in the English Department at Florida State University Tallahassee, Florida authors it. A lot of his research and writing centers upon the New York School of Poets. He has authored Beautiful Enemies: Friendship and Postwar American Poetry (Oxford University Press), which focuses on Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, and Amiri Baraka, and a second book, Attention Equals Life: The Pursuit of the Everyday in Contemporary Poetry and Culture, Oxford University Press (in July 2016).

I should never be surprised at how wide the circle of friends and acquaintances were—the NY School reached into the emerging youth culture of the time and informed art on many levels. So, unsurprisingly, there is a connection between the NY School and the late Leonard Cohen.

Cohen was 82, Frank O’Hara would have been 90, Keneth Koch 91, Jane Freilicher 92, and James Schuyler. Of the original group only John Ashbery is still living, age 89. This is indeed sad.

Locus Solus reports: that Kenneth Koch and Leonard Cohen spent some time together on the Greek island of Hydra. From the blog:

Jordan Davis recently unearthed an unpublished interview he did with Koch where the poet talked about his friendship with Cohen and tells a funny story about the time Cohen tried to get him to try his hand as a rock musician too:
I met Leonard Cohen on the island of Hydra in Greece where Janice and Katherine age five and I had gone for a summer vacation. And we became very good friends. We traveled also to Turkey together, to Istanbul. I liked Leonard a lot and so did Janice. We saw each other then a few times after that, it was nice and intense, but never more than a day. After some years, we were already living on West 4th Street, Katherine must have been ten by then. I ran into him on a bus. “Leonard!” I asked him what he was doing and he said, “Don’t you know? I’m a singer.” He had been a poet and a novelist. I got him to tell me all about it. I invited him over to our place and he told me I should become a singer too. I should sing all my poems. It was wonderful because you met lots of women and made a lot of money and you got to travel around and it was very satisfying to sing your poems. I said, “That’s great, Leonard,” and of course I was interested. I said, “Leonard, I can’t sing.” He said, “What do you mean?” I said, “I can’t carry a tune.” He said, “That’s good, that means no one else will be able to sing your stuff.” And I said, “Well okay, but also I don’t play an instrument.” He said, “You can probably learn — let’s try.There wasn’t anything that made noise except a vacuum cleaner. I plugged in the vacuum cleaner and I thought I’d be more in the mood to sing if I stood up on a chair. He said, “Sing one of your poems.” I said, “There’s no music to any of my poems.” He said, “That’s okay.” I sang, with intermittent noise from the vacuum cleaner, “You were wearing your Edgar Allan Poe printed cotton blouse” in a hillbilly voice.

Leonard interrupted me after a few bars I think they’re called — “You’re not serious.” Well there I was standing up on a chair and playing a vacuum cleaner. I stopped playing the vacuum cleaner and tried to be serious. He said, “I don’t believe you. Who are you singing to.” “Leonard, I’m singing to you, there’s no one else here.” “No — who in the audience. Who do you want to go to bed with after the show? Who are you addressing? Who do you want to like you?” “Twenty-two year old women.”

“No. Everybody wants 22-year-old women. Sing to somebody else. You know who I sing to? 
  14-year-olds and 40-year olds.” I’m not sure those are the exact numbers — something like 14 and 40. I said, “Okay, I’ll try to sing to 14 yr olds.” But trying to sing my poems? It didn’t work too well. I said I’d try. At my age how can I get started? I can’t carry a tune I don’t play an instrument and I’ve never sung before. I was already 40 at least by then. “There’s one way you can help me.” And he said, “Anything, what is it.” “Are you going to have tributes on your sleeve, put me on the record jacket. Say, ‘Even the legendary Kenny has come out of retirement to praise Leonard Cohen.’” I figured that people who respond to this kind of thing are not exactly scholarly. He promised he would put this on the record cover. Months went by. I never heard from Leonard. I did receive from him this big rectangle, his record. On the cover was this girl (I don’t know if she was 14 or 40) rising from flames, somewhere in between, and on the back was Leonard, his lyrics, and no tributes. And no Kenny, and that was the end of another career, another attempt to become rich.

Koch’s daughter Katherine — an artist and writer who has begun publishing pieces of a memoir-in-progress about her experiences growing up around the poets and artists of the New York School — recently published a lovely essay about her memories of “Hydra, in 1960.” Read more HERE.

Check it out.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Hot Flash Friday: Order a copy of Freeze Frame TODAY



Read the headlines: ever wonder what’s behind them. The newspaper is full of real
stories that at some point might alter or connect with our own story. Think tsunami, school
closing, threat of e. coli in lettuce. Maybe not right away, but in a year flotsam will hit our
western shores, the price of a BLT will go up, and the nice lady down the street will lose her
job at the elementary school. A lot of what occurs in our life might fall under the header of
observation, without conclusion or closure. Walt Disney was right: It’s a small world after
all.

Ernest (the auto-correct keeps wanting to change it to earnest!) Hemingway had a
background in journalism. In Our Time places small vignettes between longer stories such as
“Big Two-Hearted River.” I’m not sure what he meant by doing this. Perhaps they were
palate cleansers, you know like eating cheese or grapes between courses. As a foreign
correspondent, he would eventually report on the Greco-Turkish population exchange, The
Spanish Civil War, and, was embedded with the 22nd Infantry Regiment during World War
II, present at D-Day and for the liberation of Paris. Quite a few of the inter-chapter pieces
were vignettes of his war experiences written in the journalistic-style without bias, comment,
or the hint of hindsight. Much like Frank O’Hara did twenty-five years later, he composed
flash from what he simply observed.

EXERCISE: What’s in the news? Using a headline as a prompt, write a flash. This can be
strictly memoir (See “Lana Turner has collapsed” by Frank O’Hara, mentioned earlier) or you
can take any headline and place yourself there as a reporter and write fictionally what you
see. Or, perhaps, a headline such as School Closures, affects you—write your flash as an
opinion (op-ed) piece. An artist after 9/11 created a word collage based upon the weather
report for that day memorable blue-sky day.


Today's Hot Flash is lifted entirely from Freeze Frame: How to Write Flash Memoir, my eBook available EVERYWHERE. Oder it today.*
*The link takes you to Amazon, but also available through
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Thursday, December 1, 2016

365 Affirmations for the Writer



365 Affirmations for the Writer is an eBook I wrote to inspire us to write and keep us writing. If you’re looking for inspiration for you or a fellow writer, then order today. Available from Amazon as well as ALL other outlets.
Every morning I read 365 Affirmations for the Writer by Jane Hertenstein. It's a daily shot of encouragement in the arm.—Sue Shanahan

November 2
Taking Risks
It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.
― J.K. Rowling

November 3
Taking Risks
Writing is finally a series of permissions you give yourself to be expressive in certain ways. To invent. To leap. To fly. To fall.
― Susan Sontag, New York Times, “Writers on Writing”

November 4
Crazy or Insane
One must be capable of allowing the darkest, most ancient and shrewd parts of one’s being to take over the work from time to time. . . Strangeness is the one quality in fiction that cannot be faked.
― John Gardner, from On Becoming a Novelist

Memoir writing. When did you realize you were a writer? Was there a time when words jumped off a page at you? When did you decide you wanted to tell a story?

November 5
Keep Going
The only way you can write is by the light of the bridges burning behind you.
― Richard Peck, Newbery-award winning author of A Long Way from Chicago

Click here for Amazon ordering info

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Art Week Residency, Great Spruce Head Island



A new week. A new day. But somehow I am having a hard time shrugging off last week and the election. I am trying to move forward.

Winter is coming.

When I was younger this might have been the time of year when each week brought something wonderful. Starting with my sister’s birthday in October, followed by Halloween, then my birthday, it was one party after another. Festivities leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas took over school. I was in choir so we rehearsed for a Christmas program. Industrial arts/home ec was given over to a great selection of craft-making options. My brothers and sisters and I always made some top-notch presents that when we were clearing out Mom and Dad’s last home, an assisted living place we were still unearthing these prizes. That’s tells you either how much they loved junk or how much they loved us. A bit of both.

Now—after the passing of my parents, and some of my friends and peers, I’m feeling a bit melancholy about the holidays. Not exactly looking forward to them. So I have to make some new horizons, something in the distance to work toward. That’s why I applied a couple weeks ago to an artist residency.

Last June when taking our daughter to start the next chapter of her life in Portland, Maine I had this thought: I would love to visit the place where Jimmy Schuyler vacationed and stayed with Fairfield Porter and his family off the coast of Maine. I knew it was an island. The Internet helped me locate it on a map, and indeed, it isn’t too far from Portland, but sadly Google and Wiki told me that the island was no longer in the family, but privately owned. I don’t think I was serious about visiting, but the fact it was now off limits felt like a giant period at the end of a sentence. Besides dropping in on an island probably would take some logistics.

Further research brought me to information on Art Week so I applied a couple weeks ago.
Now this has NEVER happened before. I got a response within a week of applying. Furthermore, I have never received a personal message, handwritten in stationary. Basically it was the most positive, art-affirming, soul-gratifying piece of mail I’ve ever received. They not only said yes, but alluded to funding being available. Anina Porter Fuller wrote that the island is still in the family, but held as a corporation, which made sense. For over a 100 years! “I would love to share this paradise with you since you have the sensitivity to appreciate it. I’m honored to have your application.” I re-read this portion of the letter again. They want me! Such welcomed news!

Thank you Jimmy, Fairfield Porter, all the Porters for giving me hope, that horizon to sail toward. I need this so much right now—you have no idea. 

Air Canada (long story, but they WOULD NOT reimburse me for lost reservations when I was held up in MontrĂ©al) has offered a 25% discount off my next flight with them—so I’m thinking of flying into Halifax with my bike and cycling around the Maritime Islands (especially Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail) and then cycling down the coast, visiting Arcadia National Park and then meeting the mail boat out to the island for the week. Bring on 2017!

Here are some lines from Schuyler’s poem “Today”:

The bay today breaks
in ripples of applause.
The wind whistles.
Spruce and bright-leaved birch
at the edge
are flat yet plump
as letters with “see enclosures.”
A gull mews, the mailboat toots,
the wind rises and pours with a noise like water
and spills black jazz
from spiked brown seed cups of red columbine …
A sailboat scuds,
a poplar tugs at roots
in soil a scurf on rock.
Everything chuckles and creaks
sighs in satisfaction
reddens and ripens in tough gusts of coolness
and the sun smites


John Ashbery and James Schuyler vacation at Great Spruce Head Island

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

365 Affirmations for the Writer



Writing is a journey. Every time we sit down to begin a piece or write the first chapter or the first line we are venturing into uncharted territory. We never know how it is going to turn out. Oh, we have a certain idea, like most pioneers or explorers. But, these journeys can take detours; we have to react to circumstances and often go with our gut.

365 Affirmations forthe Writer is about listening to those who have gone before us and letting them guide us with their insight, their own trials. They know the terrain, how harsh it can be; they know where we can find water, shade, and rest along the way. By reading what others have said, we can survey the path before us, count the cost, and plunge ahead.

My motivation for compiling 365 Affirmationsfor the Writer is to offer light along the way. From day to day, week to week, we are getting further inside our writing, further down the path.

The book is 365 days of inspiration—quotes from writers and writing prompts. Here is a what you might expect, from the first week in January:

January 1
You Determine Where You’ll Go
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go...
― Dr. Seuss, from Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

January 2
Books
Books are the grail for what is deepest, more mysterious and least expressible within ourselves. They are our soul’s skeleton. If we were to forget that, it would prefigure how false and feelingless we could become.
― Edna O’Brien, from It’s a Bad Time Out There For Emotion

January 3
Books
A room without books is like a body without a soul.
― Cicero

Can you recall the first book you read? Right now write about that experience and what keeps you coming back to books?

January 4
Outlines—Yes or No
I’m one of those writers who tends to be really good at making outlines and sticking to them. I’m very good at doing that, but I don’t like it. It sort of takes a lot of the fun out.
― Neil Gaiman, winner of both the Newbery and Carnegie Medals, and many other awards too numerous to list, from and interview by Chris Bolton, Powells.com, August, 2005

January 5
Outlines—Yes or No
A lot of new writers assume you have to know the where the story is going and that it flows out as molten gold. But really, sometimes you think you are going to one place, but then you decide that is dumb idea. Then you go somewhere else and it is a worse idea. But then you switch again and you might have a beautiful accident.
― Patrick Rothfuss, writer of epic fantasy, namely The Wise Man’s Fear

Do you use an outline or go by instinct? Mindmapping is one such way to free associate. Rather than work consecutively or following a certain set of logic, mindmapping allows you to start with one idea and link it to another, even if there is no obvious connection. Some work with words and images, drawing pictures or icons or simply the use of color to describe their feelings. It is the same part of your mind that doodles during a lecture. There is the main idea, but the supporting material under the surface that you want to access. Allow yourself to explore what appears to be non-sense.

January 6
Rules
There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there ever be.
― Doris Lessing, Nobel prize-winning novelist

January 7
Characters
First, find out what your hero wants. Then just follow him.
― Ray Bradbury