Tag Archives: inspiration

Friends, Madrid

21 Mar
Two friends eating tapas in Madrid. Alexandra Hanson-Harding 2017.

Two friends eating tapas in Madrid. Alexandra Hanson-Harding 2017.

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) .http://www.ifpda.org/content/print-fair

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. http://www.susantellergallery.com.

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.













Sloan Ranger

9 Oct

This is breast cancer awareness month and don’t think I don’t know it. Today is my Memorial Sloan-Kettering Day of Beauty. I will get an MRI and an exam as from the lovely Dr. Mangino, head of the Special Surveillance center for high risk patients.  Don’t get me wrong. It’s a very nice place. They get it. They have a beautiful modern building, a seat on the elevator, and snacks! Oh yeah—and so far, I haven’t had breast cancer!! But I have had Atypical Ductal Hyperplasia several times, and I’ve had enough surgical biopsies that if I ever cheat on my husband, my partner in infidelity is going to think I spent my former life as a not-very-good pirate who got in a LOT of duels. You should see the other guy ha ha ha.

Anybody who has read the book Brightsided by Barbara Ehrenreich knows that breast cancer is a disease that gets a way-disproportionate amount of funding, but is also probably a cash cow for companies who want to sell anything pink. And it’s also a disease where people are looking for role models. If you have pancreatic cancer, people don’t expect you to be jumping out of airplanes, kicking your feet up on the beach, cuddling a basket of puppies or doing any of those hyper-enjoyable activities that bring to mind ads for constipation or erectile dysfunction products. But breast cancer, oh no, your job is to inspire everyone else on the planet.

The funny thing is, I have a very dear friend with breast cancer and she actually is one of the most inspiring, positive, interesting people I know. And her loving husband is just as inspiring as she is. They had a big party on their 19th wedding anniversary because they didn’t think she’d make it to her 20th. And now, thanks to her fighting to be in an experimental drug trial and various other things, she’s planning her 25th. So here I am, ruining my storyline.

Anyway, the reason I wanted to write today is that I know that a lot of people are afraid of MRIs, and I want to tell you that there is nothing to be afraid of, and if you ever have the opportunity to have one, here are my tips. (My own dear husband has never had the pleasure.)

Okay, first, you get changed. Take off all your metal items—earrings, etc. You can keep your gold rings. You have to tell them if you have metal inside you (titanium markers or things like that are okay). Because that sucker is magnetic and things will go flying around. Nota bene: If you ever considered having a tattoo with any kind of metallic element—people sometimes do this with tattooed eyeliner for instance—don’t. Because then you can’t have an MRI and you may need one.

Then, you lie on this skinny table. This is the time when you get into your inner zen state. One of the gifts of raising children for me is that they tired me out so much that for the rest of my life, whenever I lie down, I can instantly drift off into a dreamlike state. Now here’s my special trick: ASK FOR A BLANKET. They always have blankets, but they don’t always remember to give you one. Sometimes the blankets are heated. Heaven! Sometimes they give you earphones, sometimes they pipe music in if you want it, and in your hand they place a ball to squeeze if you’re in distress. Then, in you go. Now, some people get claustrophobia, My advice is to reframe this thought. Remember in the 1990s or sometime back in the day, they had these special napping places in big cities where you could take the perfect nap for like 20 minutes? To me, that’s what it’s like. It’s your pod. Only, instead of costing $20 or whatever the ridiculousness was, it costs $1000 and you get pretty pictures.

Oh, that reminds me. Sometimes they put in an IV and give you contrast fluids so they can see certain areas. (Sometimes MRIs are WITH contrast, sometimes WITHOUT). The IV is no big deal especially if you ask the nurse questions when he/she is putting it in because I love nurses and they’re all interesting IMHO. Then, when they put the fluid in (usually sometime in the MIDDLE of the MRI—they might take you in and out several times), it may feel a little cold or warm, I can’t remember which. But it’s not a big deal. At certain points, they warn you that it’s going to make some loud noises. It does, but for me, I’m still happy because I lovvvvvvve lying down so much and it’s so much better than fishing pennies out of a two year old’s mouth or toy cars out of a toilet, or, say, work. All you have to do is lie there and think dumdedumdum, sing along with the music in your mind, think about clouds or that super romantic vacation you took on the beach or creative ways your enemies shall come to no good end that you have no hand in causing or whatnot and in about 20-40 minutes it will be over and you will be sad, because you have to rejoin the land of the sitting and standing again. You were all cozy in your little magic pod and now it’s over.

My other piece of advice for MRIs, and this is a big one my friend, is please make sure it is precertified by your insurance company. Or then you will be crying, big time, when you get the bill.

Happy Breast Cancer month! Pink balloons and ribbons and bunnies and bears and NFL mouthguards and cars for all!! XOXO

Writing Spark: What’s a medical procedure you’ve had and would like to explain to others, telling us whether it’s not so bad or worse than you thought.