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135Journals: You Should Go to the International Print Fair. Here’s Why.

5 Nov

IMG_2180.jpg(Note: Linocut above by  the author, who graciously gave herself permission to use it.)


If you have the twenty bucks, and you live within a 20, no 50 mile radius of the Big Apple, and you have a few hours free, you would be insane not to gird your loins and race to the The International Art Fair at the New York Armory at 643 Park Avenue at 67th Street either today, November 5, (until 8:00) or tomorrow, November 6, 2016 (until 6:00) .

Why, you ask. What is this “Print Fair” (or more properly, “The International Art Fair Presenting Historic Masterworks, 20th Century Icons and Innovative Contemporary Projects” and why should I care?

The Print Fair, friend, is an exhibition of works on paper by some—probably most—of the greatest artists the world has known, curated and displayed for sale by vendors from around the world. It is a chance to get up close to gorgeous artworks that range from hundreds of dollars up to $160,000 or more. Just wandering around, you will pass by historical treasures such as original copies of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, works by Durer and Cranach the Elder and other Old Masters. There are also works by Picasso, Monet, and searingly emotional portraits by Edvard Munch. For those who favor more political and the moving, timeless, political woodcuts of the not-well-enough super-brilliant African-American national treasure Elizabeth Catlett, and the mocking pop art of Andy Warhol. It is hard to express the variety of what you can see here.

Here are a few  highlights from the fair:

Japanese woodcuts by the 19th century master of the Ukiyo-e “pictures of the floating world” School, Utagawa Hirashige. This school of art showed lovely, exotic and haunting scenes of beautiful women, theater, flowers—lovely and ephemeral things that haunt the Japanese esthetic spirit. These prints are amazing for their detail, but also for their incredible use of color and pattern. The subtle shadings of blues are so iridescent that I, a printing novice, cannot even fathom how they are done.

Another surprise for me was the kinetic, expressive artists of the Grosvener school, such as Sybil Andrews and Claude Flight. These artists worked in London in the  1930s, using linocuts brilliantly to express movement and pattern which gave their pieces of everyday scenes (kids running, a motorcar driving, people at a coffee bar)  a fierce futuristic energy reminiscent both of jazz and machines.

Karl Schrag was a painfully beautiful and heartfelt artist whose work depicted the horror of living through World War II in Germany. His work had recently been acquired by the Susan Teller Gallery.

In fact, noticing what individual collectors chose to collect and talking to gallery owners was one of the great pleasures of being at the fair. After all, these people have dedicated themselves to spending their lives with these artworks. These people are often passionate artists of observation in their own right.  I mention the Susan Teller Gallery because I particularly enjoyed their collection. It  specializes in American works from the 1920s through the 1950s. in addition to Karl Schrag and my much beloved Elizabeth Catlett, many artists whose works just hit me in the gut, among them artists I’d never heard of before, but whose works I really liked, including Betty Waldo Parish, Victor deWilde, and Ansei Yashima.

One Dublin dealer opened up a box containing an extremely expensive and valuable artwork consisting of pages that contained large gold leaf circles to share them with me. I am ashamed to say that I was so stunned by his kindness and the beauty of the work that I forgot both his name and the piece—that I felt as if I were enveloped in magic. He did not have to share this with me, because I obvious did not have 20 billion dollars to buy it, but he could just tell I adored it and he did, too. Afterwards, I told him, “Thank you, I will never forget this experience.” And I will not. It’s stabbing me in the heart that I can’t remember his name. I certainly remember his kind face and his gentle hands, holding the paper so reverently. Sometimes, it feels as if two people just breathe together, seeing something beautiful.  That’s all and that’s everything. Because someone was passionate and made something with care, and other people are alive enough to see it. It’s powerful enough to cut right into your heart. That was one of those moments that make you remember how time tesseracts.

Gettin’ corny now, so I’ll move on. Let’s just say that I would definitely say that I wish I could  give this nice man a  shout out because he could sell anything, and I would buy that damn book if I had 20 billion bucks for sure!

Of course, it would not be an art show without a bit of entertaining bullshit about which to grumble in a misanthropic fashion. There was an artwork that consisted of a high heeled shoe on a stand. Maybe I missed something. And there was a Damien Hirst picture of dots. If Damien Hirst wants to arm wrestle me and tell me why his damned pictures of dots are worth ca$h, I’m game. I like abstract art, and I still say those damned dots are nonsense. This is the reason why your relatives make fun of you when you take them to MOMA. “Right, here’s a corn beef sandwich and you want to call it Icarus Seven.” “No, Mom, it’s actually the guard’s corn beef sandwich.” hahaha.

To return to why you should see the Print Show–now–it is worth going simply because this show brings together works that are rarely seen, because these pieces are for sale, and won’t necessarily end up in museums, but in hands of private collectors. This is your chance to see them. And they are all printworks of one genre, which helps to focus the mind and help you to see a new side of many prominent artists. But even more importantly, there is something profound about experiencing both the individual lines of the artists up close and about being so very close to the paper itself. It feels different and more real to see the actual paper with the actual indentations that was once handled by a real artist.

As a student of printmaking,  I was absolutely astonished by the incredible range of possibilities that different artists brought to paper. Printmaking is difficult, technical, and expensive. There are any number of ways it can go wrong and very few it can go right. Every time a piece of paper is run through a press, the ink can be too thick or too thin, leaving the paper blotchy or empty. It is so hard for it to come out right. So each print is a miracle. Seeing how many of these incredibly delicate miracles still exist today is a breathtaking delight.













Pattern Books

26 Apr Tote bag, sharpies on canvas, Alexandra Hanson-Harding
Tote bag, sharpies on canvas, Alexandra Hanson-Harding

Tote bag, sharpies on canvas, Alexandra Hanson-Harding

Yesterday when I was at my book group, my friend Monica asked me, “Are you still looking at pattern books?”

That’s because I am an eternal drawer and doodler and writer (and she was catching me doodling under the table), and last year, I was doing a lot of my doodling modeled on pictures from pattern books.   I have incredibly restless, fidgety hands, and I have a hard time listening to a conversation if I am not taking notes, doodling, drawing, fiddling with yarn, or twisting something with my fingers. Thus has it always been. As you can see from the name of my blog, 135 journals, I have been keeping journals for some time. I have far more than 135 journals. (And yes, I do look back at them, and I still have all of them, and I am very happy I started the habit when I was 14 and I do write pretty much every day).

A few years ago, I became interested—or rather, re-interested—in art. Visual art has always been an interest of mine. It was my first love, before words came and stole me away. In recent years, especially since I have become sick, art has seemed to open different pathways than words. I feel as if there is a great roaring in my head of things I need to communicate. I have things I need to express, and things I need to be understood. These are two different things. Art has been utterly compelling as a force to help me to both.

On my path to rediscovering my own language in art, I started devouring art books, especially books on different kinds of patterns. There was something about patterns that particularly compelled me.

Studying these art books helped me. Why not be inspired by the gifts and wisdom of others? It gave me an expanded framework for thinking both about patterns and about symbols. This allowed me both to find and to create symbols that meant something to me. It showed me how repeating patterns can give emphasis and importance to certain areas of a piece. That designs aren’t just random. They serve a purpose. There’s a reason why people love patterns and have always found them comforting and important.

More importantly, I know why I love creating patterns. But now, I don’t look at pattern books for inspiration when I draw. I just breathe, put pen to paper, and let go. I don’t know what will come out, or, if it doesn’t, if I can fix it. But that’s okay. there’s a lot of paper in the world. And the patterns will still keep emerging, from the pattern book that is unfurling inside of me.


135Journals Art Corner, 13 Days of Christmas, Part 12

25 Dec Merry Christmas Madness Part 12, Art Project #64, by Alexandra Hanson-Harding
Merry Christmas Madness Part 12, Art Project #64, by Alexandra Hanson-Harding

Merry Christmas Madness Part 12, Art Project #64, by Alexandra Hanson-Harding

135Journals Art Corner, 13 Days of Christmas #11

25 Dec Merry Christmas Madness 11. Art Project #63, by Alexandra Hanson-Harding


Merry Christmas Madness 11. Art Project #63, by Alexandra Hanson-Harding

Merry Christmas Madness 11. Art Project #63, by Alexandra Hanson-Harding

135Journals Art Corner, 13 Days of Christmas #10

25 Dec
Merry Christmas Madness 10. Art Project #62, by Alexandra Hanson-Harding

Merry Christmas Madness 10. Art Project #62, by Alexandra Hanson-Harding

135Jounals Art Corner, 13 Days of Christmas,#9

25 Dec Merry Christmas Madness #9. Art Project #61, by Alexandra Hanson-Harding
Merry Christmas Madness #9. Art Project #61, by Alexandra Hanson-Harding

Merry Christmas Madness #9. Art Project #61, by Alexandra Hanson-Harding

135Journals Art Corner, 13 Days of Christmas, Day 8, Try number 2!

24 Dec Merry Christmas Madness #8, from Altered Book for Mom, by Alexandra Hanson-Harding

Somehow, there’s the image, and there’s the featured image, and they are supposed to be the same, but I messed them up before, and oooh! Well, I’m going to try to remedy that now. This is a picture of a spread from the book I sent my mother for Christmas this year

Merry Christmas Madness #8, from Altered Book for Mom, by Alexandra Hanson-Harding

Merry Christmas Madness #8, Art Project #60, from Altered Book for Mom, by Alexandra Hanson-Harding

135Journals Art Corner, 13 Days of Christmas #8

24 Dec Art Project #7, Art project number 59, Alexandra Hanson-Harding


This year, I went all-out on one Christmas present. It was a gift for my mother. I took an old hardcover book and decorated every single page. Most of the pages I just drew on with markers, like the page below. Some I made collages on, or painted with watercolors. What inspired me to this madness?

I was reading in my old journals about how my mom had told me that when  I was a baby of one, I used to ferret out pens whenever her back was turned, and draw pictures everywhere. The walls. My sheets. In books. I was completely compulsive. She said that I was a very good baby artist.

Later, I lost my confidence with art. And when I took up writing seriously, I just felt as if I couldn’t do both. But in the past few years, art has been a solace and an obsession. Also, my poor mom put up with a lot, having a one-year-old madbaby with a pen. I thought she should at least have something amusing to compensate her for the hours of describbling every surface I must have covered with ink!

So, Merry Christmas, Mom!

Merry Christmas Madness #8, from Altered Book for Mom, by Alexandra Hanson-Harding

Merry Christmas Madness #8, from Altered Book for Mom, by Alexandra Hanson-Harding

135Journals: On Not Decorating for Christmas

21 Dec


Do we look like “the Jews?” my husband asks as he looks at our completely und

Art Project #7, Art project number 59, Alexandra Hanson-Harding

Merry Christmas Madness, Art Project #7, Art project number 59, Alexandra Hanson-Harding

ecorated house standing in stark contrast to everyone else’s merrily twinkling fairylands up and down the street.I look at him, and he’s got this look on his face that is kind of joking and kind of not joking.

As he is the one who actually grew up Jewish, I am surprised that this concerns him in any way.

“I think it looks as if one Jew and one extremely lazy Protestant live here,” I say.

Actually, our halfie kid lives here, too.But he, the Lord of the Basement, is also as lazy as heck. He is not one for stringing Christmas lights.

I look down the street at the giant blown up igloos and skeletal deer lighting up the night. I say, “I think it’s good for people to know there are different kinds of people in the world. We can enjoy their beautiful decorations, and they can enjoy our” (gesture to admittedly sadly dark house)  “. . . relaxing  lack of electricity wastage.”

When the kinder were little, we were much better about the Christmakah decorating thing. Or, I will say, my beautiful husband was. He put up Christmas lights and Chanukah decorations, put out cookies for Santa, made sure that Santa’s footsteps in the ashes didnt get swept away before the children saw them. I went to specialty shops in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Passaic and shopped for singing dreidels and Chanukah gelt and the latest in Chanukah novelties to make the eight days special.I would dragoon the children into making ornaments with popsicle sticks and glitter, my husband would dragoon them into baking, and we’d try to make everything look magical.

But, I don’t know. Now I have too much pain to do much physical stuff. And he’s very busy writing a book right now. And the kids are adults and don’t really care right now. It just isn’t a season where it’s important to us. We do have the tree, and the latkes, and the Chanukiah, and the gelt, and the ornaments–but it’s going to be pretty low-key this year.

I love seeing what my neighbors are doing. I love their festive displays. But I love them because these nice people put up their lights and their creches because they are sharing  an expression of their happiness. But I don’t mind being different. I think it’s fine for people to remember that there can be all kinds of reasons, religious and non-religious, why their loving neighbors might celebrate, or not, holidays in very different ways in different years.






135Journals Art Corner, 13 Days of Christmas, Day 6

21 Dec

Not really “Day 6,” per say, as it is December 1st, but I am operating on the United States Postal Service Idea of mailing it in. Or the Fed Ex idea. I sent a package via Fed Ex Ground services a couple of weeks ago. I brought it in to Fed Ex office in New Jersey on a Sunday to be sent to a company in New York City, less than 10 miles away. You could literally see it from where I was. The building where I was sending it to was on top of the New York Penn Station train station, a 22 minute train ride away, if you felt like shlepping 20 pounds of books and someone wasn’t paying to get their damn books from the project I had just finished for them back. So I send off the books, hear nothing, think, huh, forget about it, and then eventually email to check about the fate of the package and the package didn’t get there until Friday. Seriously? It takes Fedex from Sunday to Friday to get a package on a 22 minute train ride? A certain bearded gentleman and I had some rollicking chuckles over that one over some generously spiked eggnog. Or maybe we were just chuckling over the generously spiked eggnog. There were some “don’t eat yellow snow” jokes that were making his merry eyes twinkle with hilarity yet I oddly cannot seem to recall why they were exactly so funny at the moment.After Christmas, he’s gotta lighten up on the sauce. I don’t want to upset the applecart at the moment, though. His cardiologist and I have been whispering a lot, but he’s been pretty good about taking those baby aspirins and well. . .

Anyway, here’s #6. It’s very abstract, so see if you will have to use your Twentieth Century eyes to see if you can abstract its arcane meaning. Good luck!


Christmas mystery Item. Merry Christmas Madness 6, Art Project #58, Alexandra Hanson-Harding

Christmas mystery Item. Merry Christmas Madness 6, Art Project #58, Alexandra Hanson-Harding