Tag Archive | "Guild Hall"

Embroidering the Famous and Infamous at Guild Hall

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Christa Maiwald installation at the Museum at Guild Hall; photo by Gary Mamay.

Christa Maiwald installation at the Museum at Guild Hall; photo by Gary Mamay.

By Tessa Raebeck

What do Courtney Ross, Bernie Madoff and Osama bin Laden have in common? They are all subjects of the political commentary — by way of embroidery — of artist Christa Maiwald, on view now at The Museum at Guild Hall.

In “Short Stories and Other Embroideries,” Maiwald, who was named “Best in Show” at the 73rd annual Guild Hall Members Exhibition in 2011, highlights local artists, world leaders and celebrities through five series of stitched portraits, covering highlights from the last five years of her work.

Maiwald derives her work from her natural reactions to political goings on and personal relationships.

“If you ask me the name of this person, that person,” said Maiwald, “and about policies and really specific stuff, I don’t think I could talk about it. Because it’s more of a gut reaction to a situation — that’s what I work from.”

Maiwald explains that she has used creativity to capture her gut reactions her whole life. Before moving permanently to Springs, she tackled a variety of mediums, ranging from street performance to cooking school in Los Angeles, New York City and even Italy. She has tried her hand at sculpture, photography and video, children’s book illustration and writing screenplays.

“Finally,” she said, “I just decided, that’s it — I’m going back to art.”

Maiwald returned to painting and, following a practical decision brought on by the expense of transporting large canvasses, switched to embroidery.

For the past 13 years, the traditional “women’s work” has been her medium of choice.

She began with “sexy stuff” like body parts to work against embroidery’s classification as “this women’s thing.” After her daughter reached adolescence, she moved away from the sexy and instead focused on capturing the “crazy energy” of the teenagers now filling her house.

“It was a perfect medium to catch that energy,” Maiwald said, adding that the threads lent itself to the vitality of her daughter and her daughter’s friends, capturing the constant movement and unrelenting fervor of adolescence.

Although completely devoted to her art throughout the creative process, Maiwald finds she is often surprised by the outcome. Everything is done by her hand, which dictates the piece as much as her head.

“I just start working,” the artist explained. “I don’t have any preconceived notion of what color to use or stuff like that.”

Cultural commentary is her only constant.

“In most of my artworks,” said Maiwald, “my idea is to always have this kind of subversive quality to them.”

That subversion is prominent throughout “Short Stories and Other Embroideries.”

“Servitude,” a series of French maid aprons with portraits of public figures notorious for mistreating “the help” sewn onto them, portrays the likenesses of people like Ross, Martha Stewart, Thomas Jefferson and Naomi Campbell.

"Servitude" by Christa Maiwald, photo by Gary Mamay

“Servitude” by Christa Maiwald, photo by Gary Mamay

Stewart and Ross have homes on the East End and could very well visit Guild Hall, but Maiwald is not afraid of ruffling any feathers.

In “White Guys,” a selection from her 2008 “Dictators” series, Maiwald stitched portraits of Joseph Stalin, Francisco Franco, Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden, Benito Mussolini — and George W. Bush, together.

“Musical Chairs: Economic Crisis in G Minor,” a 2009 series, has portraits on the seats of 13 children’s sized chairs arranged in the fashion of the popular game. The portraits represent prominent figures in the American economic meltdown of 2008.

“I picked musical chairs,” said Maiwald, “because it just felt like everything that was going on was a ‘pass the buck’ kind of thing. I pictured kids — or these economists — moving from one chair to the next and saying, ‘Well, no it wasn’t me — it was him!’”

“As one sort of left or committed suicide or whatever,” she continued, “because of what a mess it was, someone else would always be there to take his seat. And it didn’t seem like it was any better from the other, so it’s roughly that kind of structure that I found appealing.”

There is a portrait of former Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, a chair with Alan Greenspan shouting and another with Ben Bernanke holding his head in his hands.

Wearing an incognito hat and trench coat, Bernie Madoff is featured twice.

“I have a few facts that I find out before I start something,” said Maiwald, “but it’s more like, the world’s a beautiful place, if only mankind didn’t mess it up….It gets me all riled up—– and then I end up doing a piece.”

“Short Stories and Other Embroideries” is on view at The Museum at Guild Hall, 158 Main Street in East Hampton, through January 5, 2014. For more information call (631) 324-0806 or visit GuildHall.org.

WPPB 88.3 & Guild Hall Benefit Set for Friday

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Scores of local musicians are expected to turn out this weekend to support two local non-profit institutions at a benefit concert courtesy of Amagansett’s Crossroads Music.

On Friday, November 30 at 7 p.m. Crossroads Music presents On the Air @ Guild Hall: A Community Benefit for WPPB 88.3 FM and Guild Hall. Money raised from the concert will support the efforts of Southampton-based WPPB, the local NPR station, as well as East Hampton’s Guild Hall, a center for arts and theater in the community.

Hosted by Grammy Award winning recording engineer Cynthia Daniels, along with the WPPB team – Bonnie Grice, Brian Cosgrove and Ed German – the concert will be directed by Randolph Hudson III and recorded by WPPB 88.3 for posterity.

Performers will include drummer Corky Laing from Mountain, the Kerry Kearney Band, Black & Sparrow (Klyph Black and John Sparrow), Miles to Dayton, The Black Petals, K-O-S (Keeping Original Sound), Glenn Feit, Dick Johansson, Alfredo Merat, the Ross Brazilian Jazz Quartet and more.

Tickets are $20 for general admission, $18 for members and $10 for students. Guild Hall is at 158 Main Street, East Hampton. For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.guildhall.org.

Throught the Garden Gate

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The sculpture “Rings” (2005) by Zhu Jinshi in the garden of Lisa and Richard Perry in North Haven.

By Paige Patterson


It’s the end of August and for those of us who are feeling overwhelmed, exhausted or just bored with their own garden, there’s a cure. When your own garden is no longer inspiring, go visit those owned by other people. Invariably you will see something that will give you an idea on how to make your own sing a little sweeter — an idea worth borrowing or a planting combination worth stealing. And one of the best garden tours of the summer is here just in time. This Friday evening Guild Hall’s Garden as Art Weekend begins with a cocktail party and continues through Saturday with a lecture and five different gardens to inspire, provoke and encourage us all.

I was lucky enough to take a peek before the big tour kicked off so I’m going to give you a little taste of some of things I’m thinking about borrowing. Ranging from a classic East Hampton picture perfect elegant series of rooms to a rambling 45 acre balance of formality and fun (it’s the home of Bosley, a pig who’s rumored to have flown – in an airplane granted, but still!!!) all the gardens had elements that gave me ideas of things I could steal for my own.

How about the amazing idea at the garden in North Haven, where they took the edge of the lawn and cut the bed that was to border it about a foot and a half deeper than the lawn, thus giving them the room to plant a border of limelight hydrangeas and rugosa roses that could be sculpted to the same heights as the olives and oak and cedars that line the ground that cascades down to the beach, thus allowing for both color and an incredible, unimpeded view of Noyac Bay and beyond? Or the wisteria that they trained over a metal fence and handrails that has become as wrought as the iron it covers?

Or perhaps you will see the way the driveway stealthily continues to the garage/pool house that lives on Huntting Lane and understand that stealth has a place in every home. While you are there, you should admire the opposite side of the pool’s long bank of Ayesha (also known as Popcorn) Hydrangeas, a plant rarely seen except in collector’s gardens, here used perfectly.

Perhaps like me you will want to copy the border of carex, witch hazel, blueberries and winterberries that finished at a bench where based on the plant choice you can be guaranteed a visual reward no matter which season you take the stroll. Or steal their idea of putting stone on edge to cut steps into a level change that’s both formal and casual all at once.

Maybe you’d prefer to transform your garden into a series of continuously unfolding rooms, one after another to create an experience not unlike what I imagine a perfect Christmas would be — where each present you unwrap is just as good, if not better, than the one before. I was mad for their pool!

Or perhaps you will want to create a taste of another country, the way Tuscan has arrived amid crape myrtles, sheared boxwood, ancient trumpet vines, terracotta and stucco with the most perfect blue trim in the fields of Bridgehampton. In fact the way they hid their tennis court is so perfect I almost left without finding it. Brilliant.

I found lights carved into boxwood balls as if they’d always been there, meditatively strolled a maze an inch high, watched static art tumble without moving, was able to bounce on a lawn higher than any kangaroo, watched a garden open up in front of me like the most elegant Russian nesting dolls I’d ever seen and found a saying carved into a stone that summed my whole day of garden exploration up perfectly, “A garden should owe its charm to secret realms and hidden meeting places laying siege to a unity you sense but cannot find.” I highly recommend you go plunder.

The Garden as Art Weekend kicks off on Friday, August 24 with a cocktail reception hosted by Lucy & Steve Cookson at their Devon Colony estate Windy Dune. On Saturday, August 25, there’s a continental breakfast, followed by an illustrated lecture by award winning landscape architect Edmund Hollander, who will sign copies of his newly released book, “The Private Oasis.” There is a luncheon for benefactor ticket holders from 12-2 p.m. at two neighboring exclusive East Hampton estates with outstanding gardens.

For tickets and information, please contact Laura Perrotti at Guild Hall at 631-324-0806 x22 or lperrotti@guildhall.org.

Escaping to Video

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"Female Sensibility," a 14 minute film by Lynda Benglis.

"Female Sensibility," a 14 minute film by Lynda Benglis.

By Emily J Weitz

Long Island, and in particular the East End, has a history as a place of escape. Whether it was the Fitzgeralds summering on the North Shore or Jackson Pollock seeking solitude in the Springs in East Hampton, this spit of land has long carried people from the bustling city to the endless expanse of ocean and sound. This is the theme of the first-ever all video exhibition on Long Island, which will open at Guild Hall this weekend.

“We chose the theme of escape,” says Lauren Cornell, guest curator of this exhibition and Executive Director of Rhizome and Adjunct Curator at the New Museum, “because we thought it was a theme that relates to so much art. We use Long Island as a jumping-off point because people go there to vacation and get away.”

The “escape” is manifold. It’s about escaping to Long Island, about escaping into art, and about escape into technology, video, mindlessness. Among the ten artists whose work will be on display, the idea of escape manifests itself in markedly different ways.

“Jonathan Horowitz’s piece deals with addiction,” explains Cornell. “It’s a cigarette held up against a wall, perpendicularly mounted, slowly burning. It appears as if it’s getting sucked from the other end of the wall.”

Others seem like much healthier escapes, like the work of William Wegman.

“It’s about his relationship with his dog,” says Cornell, “and about how we take a break from being human through our pets.”

A work by Joan Jonas, a pioneer in the video art movement of the 70s as well as a loud and clear voice during the rise of feminism, depicts a group of artists performing different ritualized actions on the beach.

“Jonas played a significant role in the development of video art,” says Cornell, “and that’s why we included her.”

Another piece, by longtime Long Islander Keith Sonnier, is an installation piece with four different TVs all playing at once. It’s called “Channel Mix” and features two split projections with four input cables and antenna TV.

“It’s about how we escape by numbing our minds through TV,” says Cornell. “That was originally from 1972, and I think it anticipates how we interact with our medium now.”

Laurie Anderson is another major figure in the development of video art, and she worked directly with Cornell and co-curator Hanne Mugaas to prepare her work for exhibition.

“Anderson is an amazing artist,” says Cornell. “She’s pioneered many different mediums, and her work [is so relevant it] could be made today. The video is part of a larger piece… it’s not so much about technology in the medium, but about the artwork itself.”

Her piece, “At The Shrinks,” takes place in a therapist’s office and addresses the idea of a psychological retreat or escape. It’s a video with an audio loop projected onto clay figures, and was created originally in 1975.

While the pieces were selected around the idea of “escape,” it was also essential that the artists had some connection to Long Island.

“This led us back to the 70s and 80s,” says Cornell, “when there were more artists working on Long Island.”

Warhol, not only a pivotal figure in art history but also a devoted Montauk resident, has a piece in the exhibit.

“It was one of the only videos Warhol ever shot,” says Cornell. “It’s a long, durational shot of a water cooler, a commentary on an in-office escape.”

As she pulled together the works for this exhibit, Cornell found it to be an almost archival endeavor. Video art, which used to be so modern and cutting-edge, isn’t new anymore. Some of the technology has even become so outdated that it’s challenging to find a way to present it.

“VHS players are hard to find,” says Cornell. “Getting antennas into the gallery is challenging because everyone has digital cable now. In that way this is an archival exhibit.”

As she flipped through the history of video art and the relics of the 70s and 80s, Cornell found that Long Island had a prominent role in the movement.

“It’s been really interesting to research Long Island’s role in contemporary art,” she says. “Working with all these pioneering and important artists [who are tied to Long Island] has been really exciting.”

Oliver Twist and the Art of Adaptation

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By Claire Walla

Everyone knows the story of Oliver Twist, the little orphan who takes to the streets of London and learns to live as a pick-pocket after being punished for asking, “please sir,” for more food.

But, not everyone knows the same version of the Dickensian tale.

The original novel was penned by Charles Dickens in 1838, and since then several adaptations of the original text have made it onto stage and screen. This notion — adaptation — will be the focal point of an event this weekend, Saturday, February 25, at Guild Hall in East Hampton.

After a 7:30 p.m. screening of the 1948 film version of “Oliver Twist” — it is, after all, the 200-year anniversary of the birth of London’s most feted chronicler of lowly street urchins and portly rich folk — actor Alec Baldwin will lead a Q&A with writer Jon Robin Baitz, during which another veritable Dickensian writer will come to the forefront of their discussion: David Lean, the man who adapted the book for the silver screen.

“[Adaptation] is particularly difficult with Dickens,” Baitz said in an interview this week.

A celebrated writer in his own right, Baitz’s play, “Other Desert Cities,” is currently running at the Lincoln Center Theatre in New York where it has received rave review. Baitz, who lives in Sag Harbor, knows a thing or two about adaptation, having rendered Henrik Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler” for a theatre production in 1999 (which ran at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor in 2000). Baitz has also adapted novels and plays for the screen, including an as yet unproduced version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic “Tender is the Night,” as well as his own play “The Substance of Fire,” which was released theatrically in 1996.

“Oliver Twist,” like much of Dickens’ work, was originally written as a serial and published in monthly installments over time. Like all serials, Baitz explained, it relies on plot, and “Dickens is also great at digression.”

The resulting novel is a long-winded, sometimes meandering storyline, rich with details and diversions and peppered with more plot points than can possibly fit into a single, two-hour film. In that sense, Baitz continued, the art of adaptation comes down to one word: compression.

“You have to impose a sort of censorious logic on [film] adaptations,” he added, because in no other way can you reduce a several-hundred-page text to a tightly bound screenplay that accurately reflects the essence of the original story.

Compression is different from condensation, he cautioned. Rather than completely eliminating story elements, a skilled adaptation will reveal details in shorter, more subtle ways.

“’Oliver Twist’ is interesting because it is beautifully compressed,” Baitz said. Part of the film’s success, he speculated, is probably due to the fact that Lean worked as a film editor before becoming a writer. Even though “Oliver Twist” is a scant 105 minutes (or about 100 pages), compared to the almost-500-page novel, Baitz added, “it doesn’t lose the sense of the book.”

“I think people don’t understand how much craft there is to all this,” Baitz continued. “Movies are magic and alchemy. Knowing what to put where, and when… it’s all very difficult to pull off.”

Baitz added that the adaptation process for him is in fact very tactile.

“I sort of tear the book apart. Literally. I paste it up on a wall and put red pencil through different parts — that’s what I do with my plays,” said Baitz who is currently working on an adaptation of “Other Desert Cities.”

“Then, after the initial act of compression,” Baitz said, “I sort of create a wall with big empty spaces to fill.”

Compression is difficult, he added, because knowing what to put in where is just as important as knowing what to leave out.

“I think it becomes more difficult [to adapt a novel for film] when there’s a degree of psychological complexity that’s entirely internal,” he said..

Baitz pointed to his adaptation of “Tender is the Night,” for example. Not only were two different versions of the book published in England and the United States; but the story is weighted in emotion.

“It’s a book about madness, and dedication, and devotion, and self-sacrifice, and the cost of all those things,” Baitz continued.

To capture this on film, Baitz said he wrote a screenplay that “concentrates on what the engine of the story is.” In other words, he focused on plot and characters’ actions rather than thoughts.

The case was similar with his own play, “The Substance of Fire,” which Baitz also wrote the screenplay for.

“The play had left sort of vast areas of blank space where you [the viewer] were asked to supply your own narrative,” he explained. “I just made it a straight, conventional narrative [for the screenplay] and it worked very well.”

Again, Baitz was careful to make a distinction between compression and condensation, because adaptation — while reducing a narrative — does not necessarily cut the story to make it fit.

“Compression means that you keep the energy, what I call the temperature,” he explained. “It’s like, when you’re cooking a whole meal, knowing what to take out when. It’s all about synchronicity.”

Tickets for “Oliver Twist” and the discussion at Guild Hall (158 Main Street, East Hampton) are $17 ($15 for members) and can be purchased by calling 324-0806.

Chaos and Pathos Captured in Images

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Gruen small

By Emily J. Weitz

We all remember where we were the moment the towers were hit. John Jonas Gruen was in the heart of Manhattan, and when he saw the black smoke filling the sky, he ran with his camera around his neck right to Ground Zero, which wasn’t called Ground Zero back then. He began to snap images, as if in a trance. He captured the chaos and the heroism of that day, as firefighters poured into the buildings before they collapsed.

In the days and weeks that followed, he continued to take photos of the desperate searches for loved ones, of the humanity that shone through the chaos. Then, he took those images — about a hundred in all — and he put them in a box and left them there. They’ve been sitting there for ten years, and they are about to go up on the walls of East Hampton’s Guild Hall in honor of the lives lost and irreversibly changed.

The potency of these images required that Gruen be very careful with when, where and how they would be shown.

“I knew this was not something I just wanted to send out into the world,” Gruen says. “It had to be a real occasion.”

The ten year anniversary seemed like the right time, and because of his love for Guild Hall, Gruen thought it would be the right place. Christina Mossaides Strassfield, curator at Guild Hall, took one look at his images and agreed. She selected 24 images from the 100, and this exhibit will be the first time they’ll be on display.

Gruen is a photographer who has gained attention predominantly for his portraits, which were on display at the Whitney last year. Art historian Justin Spring noted that “John Jonas Gruen has made it his business to be in the right place at the right time.”

In this way he has taken photographs of contemporary cultural figures from dancers to playwrights, poets to painters. Being in the right place at the right time is a complicated way to think of Gruen’s presence in downtown Manhattan on the morning of September 11, 2001. But because of it, the public will have the opportunity to look at the raw snapshots of that time with well rested eyes.

An exhibit like this requires great sensitivity. Even though Gruen is the person who took these photos, in a way they belong to all of us, and they mean something different to everyone. Everyone owns a piece of this tragedy, in that everyone was affected by it. When Gruen discusses the process of taking these pictures, it’s different than speaking to an artist about his or her daily work in the studio. This is art but it’s also something else. Gruen understands that.

“I want to tell you,” he says, his voice near desperate with emotion, “I was so moved and upset by the idea of nearly 3,000 perishing in both of those buildings. It broke my heart. These photos of what happened and what happened after: posters of families looking for their relatives. Images of posters written by children with crayons saying ‘We’re looking for my daddy. He’s got blonde hair and blue eyes. Has anybody seen him?’ That’s in the show.”

Gruen speaks of the tragedies, but also the extreme bravery he saw in those days. He took photos of “the unbelievable fire fighters who went to save people, many of whom perished. All over New York there were the fire and ladder companies with memorials set up, showing the guys who died with flowers and notes. You have to see the pictures.”

It is because of Gruen’s presence of mind and his empathy that these images are so powerful. He wasn’t an observer trying to document something. He was in it.

“When I took these photos, I was really moved,” he says. “There was a kind of numbness in my heart. There’s one image of a prayer center they set up in Central Park where people could just come and stand and pray and look into themselves and go deep into their emotions about this terrible event.”

Even though these images will make you cry, there is an underlying current of hope in them, as can be heard in Gruen’s voice when he speaks.

“That morning people got up to go to work in these beautiful, glamorous buildings which were a part of the New York skyline,” he says sadly, “and all of a sudden they found themselves trapped… Who knows what is going to happen in life? I thought this exhibition might make people realize the one fundamental thing that we all have in common is our humanity. When we are faced with this kind of tragedy what we must do is get closer to one another and love each other more.”

The Twin Towers Tragedy Exhibition will be on display at Guild Hall from Saturday, September 3 through Sunday, October 9 in the Boots Lamb Education Center. The opening reception will be held on Saturday, September 3 from 4 to 6 p.m.

Borrowing from Pollock

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Richard Prince By

By Andrew Rudansky

Guild Hall is opening its doors to famed artist Richard Prince this Saturday, August 13, for a premier of his new collection. The show entitled, “Covering Pollock,” uses photographs of the artist Jackson Pollock as both inspiration and canvas, while expressing Prince’s unique perspective on how to approach art.

Prince, born in Panama in 1949, works in a multi-media format with extensive usage of appropriated images. As an appropriation artist, he takes found imagery and puts it into his own original compositions.

This collection, which he has been working on since 2009, is comprised of 27 new works that have never been shown publicly. By combining acrylic paint, with photographs of famous pop icons, commercial pornography, canceled checks and other recognizable imagery, Prince is able to compress and then channel popular culture through his original artwork.

Prince uses stark photographs of Jackson Pollack and his wife Lee Krasner at their East Hampton home as templates on which to build. His paintings can be seen as commentary of both Pollack himself and the concept of the artist in general.

Christina Mossaides Strassfield, museum director and chief curator for Guild Hall said that the show will be infused with a fair dose of pop culture, it will feature “a lot of images that are recognizable to the public…Jackson Pollack at work, images from art history books, as well as photos of musicians and models.”

The work itself is presented mostly in black and white, with little color added. This austere lack of color projects a sense of moroseness to the viewer; this somber feeling hangs over much of Prince’s work. In many of the photos, Pollock is partially or completely obstructed by other images. His simultaneous presence and hidden nature in the collection is reflective of Pollock’s own personality; that of the famous recluse.

On top of the photos of Pollock are photos of deceased punk legend Sid Vicious, British model Kate Moss, as well as images of vintage pornography. The artist has said that he included these images because of his interest in imagining what Pollock would be doing and who he would be as an artist if he was alive today.

The juxtaposition of photographs creates a conversation between the subjects. Pollock as a celebrity, as a hero, as a pariah and as a subversive.

One work in the collection in particular, “Untitled (Covering Pollock)” — none of the paintings in the collection have individual names — seems to capture the urgency and voyeurism present in the entire collection. The painting uses the iconic 1956 photo of Pollock’s flipped over car on Fireplace Road, East Hampton as a base. The car is framed in the lower right of the painting, and surrounded by smaller photos of Pollock and Krasner. The resulting image is confrontational and engaging, allowing the viewer a window into Pollock’s untimely death.

Pollock is not the only East End artist that has given inspiration to Prince. Starting in 2007, he used Pollock’s friend Willem de Kooning to create another series of appropriation artwork.

“It was time to pay homage to an artist I really like. Some people worship at the altar — I believe in de Kooning,” Prince said at the 2011 opening of his de Kooning inspired show. Strassfield said that this current exhibit is very much in the same vein as the de Kooning show, and if that show was his homage to de Kooning, this show opening Saturday would certainly be his homage to Pollock.

Strassfield called Richard Prince one of the preeminent appropriation artists, an artist who has focused his talents into creating thought provoking artwork since the late 1970s.

“He is one of the leaders of [the appropriation] movement,” Strassfield said. “His work is eye opening…the public will be very interested to see it.”

Prince’s works have been featured in various museums around the country; highlights include exhibits at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, as well as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Prince also received the Lifetime Achievement Award Winner in the Visual Arts from Guild Hall in 2009.

The show runs from Saturday, August 13 until October 17 at Guild Hall, 158 Main Street, East Hampton. This Sunday, August 14, there will be a Guild Hall “Members Preview” from 4-5 p.m. and a free public opening reception from 5-6 p.m. After the night of the opening, there will be a $7 suggested donation for non-members to view the exhibit. Guild Hall also wishes to advise that the exhibit will feature mature content. For more information about the show please contact Guild Hall at 324-0806 or go on their website at GuildHall.org.

Finding Signs of Peace Amongst Cities in Turmoil

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web Sarajevo  Here

By Emily J Weitz

When Ellen Frank first completed “Jerusalem: A Painting Towards Peace”, she didn’t realize that it would be the first in a series of paintings devoted to shining the light on beauty in areas of suffering. Instead, Jerusalem was a piece that stood alone, a painting for which she would throw a party, a work of art that wove together Islamic patterns and stars of David. When Ellen sent out the invites to said party, though, she wrote in the subject “Jerusalem: A Painting Towards Peace: The First Painting”. It was then she realized that, while the city of Jerusalem had struck her personally when she was there in the flesh, other cities begged representation as well. The gold-illuminated works that followed are tributes to Baghdad, Sarajevo, New York, Monrovia, Beijing, Lhasa, Hiroshima, and Kabul. Together, they make up the exhibit “Cities of Peace”, and they will be displayed in all their striking splendor at Guild Hall from October 23 through January 16.

What Frank calls a “painting” is really a monumental multi-layered work of art that employs the use of precious metals, paint, stained linen and more. In them, she incorporates aspects of culture from architecture (the red tile-roofed city in Sarajevo: Here) to language (“This is My City” written in more than 30 different languages in New York: This Is My City), religion (sacred mudras in Lhasa: 10 Directions) to astronomy (the actual night sky on Liberian Independence Day in Monrovia: In Constellation), poetry (a 17th-century poem illuminating dancing figures in Kabul: I Love Her) to photography (the once-secret aerial photograph of Hiroshima taken by the US military months before the atomic bomb in Hiroshima: Winter Bloom). And each of these examples is just a tiny slice of the bigger picture of each work.

The purpose of these ambitious works is to use art to increase understanding of other cultures, because ultimately, “understanding is a prerequisite to peace,” says Frank. In her travels, Frank ended up studying with Tibetan wise men.

“I became angry with them at first,” she recalls. “I always thought there was an ‘enemy.’ A good and a bad. I couldn’t understand how someone who was wise wouldn’t find that same thing. I wept about this.”

But as she began to internalize these teachings, Frank realized the need “to transform the enemy into a figure for whom we need compassion and understanding… it became my goal to transform anguish into beauty.”

So how could one woman get such a grasp on this spectrum of cities, each of which has experienced suffering in its own unique way? “Research,” she says simply. Frank, with the support and assistance of the non-profit Illumination Atelier she founded in East Hampton, brought in teams of interns from all over the world. They devoted themselves to each city, up to eight people at a time working on each piece. They read everything they could, spoke to experts and those who had lived there, and pulled together an interpretation of the identity of the city.

For example, Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, is the only capital city in the world that has no electricity or running water. To get to know it, she spent time with the curator of African Art at the Brooklyn Museum, who had done his Peace Corps in Monrovia and had a tremendous collection of artifacts from there. She also spoke with Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, a poet from Monrovia whose mother had died there in 2000. Frank viewed photographs of the parades and stunning clothes worn by the women of Monrovia during the presidential Inauguration of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.  In this way, she pieced together an identity.

The way she selected the cities she did seems almost incidental. Some of the cities were places whose suffering personally (if remotely) impacted her, like watching from afar the tragedy of Tienanman Square in Beijing. Others were suggested to her, sometimes vehemently. One of Frank’s most valuable resources in her work on Baghdad and Kabul, Harvard scholar Jeff Spurr, asked her to “please do Sarajevo.” In recalling his request, Frank’s voice ignites.

“It was the single largest book burning in modern history. More than 2 million books were intentionally burned. This wasn’t just genocide, but also culture-icide – the death and destruction of cultures… [It]  effectively wiped out the entire recorded history of Bosnia and Herzegovinia.”

Frank’s response? To create a work that memorializes pages of lost manuscripts with imagined texts and images, and memorializes the city itself with representations of spires, minarets, and mosques.

Even if the reasoning behind which cities were chosen could be debated, the reasoning behind Frank’s selection of texts, images, and resources is exact. For example, the focal point of “Baghdad” is the earliest known map of the city. This map shows that Baghdad was designed as a circular city with four gates. This architectural decision was “an experiment in governance very much like democracy,” says Frank. Inside the circle, Frank dropped a muqarnas (the inside of an Islamic dome) in palladium leaf. Memorializing this history of Baghdad, a history that honors democracy and freedom, is a way of highlighting the things we have in common instead of the things that separate us.

“These paintings and the Illumination Atelier are my life’s work,” says Frank. “The Cities of Peace Project is part of a big dream uniting art and social justice.” As Jean-Marie Guehenno, former Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations at the United Nations, said ,“This is why Cities of Peace is so important.  Because art is the ultimate peace weapon.  Art comes before diplomacy.”

The opening reception for Ellen Frank’s “Cities of Peace”, free and open to all, will be this Saturday, October 23 at Guild Hall from 6 to 8 pm. The show will be on view through January. Go to www.efiaf.org for more information on Ellen’s non-profit and the Illumination Atelier.  Go to www.guildhall.org for more information on Guild Hall.

Finding Art in the Garden


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By Francesca Normile

“‘What’s behind those hedges?’ is everyone’s favorite guessing game [out here],” quips garden ‘stylist,’ as she prefers to be called, Dianne Benson. Benson, who designed the Appel Garden in East Hampton, is one of six garden designers being showcased in the upcoming Guild Hall event, ‘The Garden as Art.’

“Everyone in the Hamptons is so paranoid about privacy, it gives it an element of surprise [to go past the hedges], like ‘wow, I didn’t know that was back there,’” agrees fellow garden designer Eric Groft, whose work on the Rifkind Garden in Amagansett is also featured in the event.

In addition to touring six East End gardens, which showcase the design talent of five, celebrated designers, the event will include illustrated lectures by Groft himself as well as the president of the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, whom, according to the co-chair of the event’s committee, Nina Gillman, will be talking about the 100 history of that garden’s design.

Gillman, who has been a part of Guild Hall’s Garden as Art committee for five years now, got involved in the event after attending the museum’s first garden tour six years ago.

“And this year’s tour is the best one yet,” she says with confidence. “There is a unique blend of designer and gardens that reflect the personalities of their owners. It is like a great collection of people from all different walks of life, ranging from the very dramatic to the more… normal.”

“I am an amateur gardener,” says Gillman laughing, “and I saw [garden designer, Victoria Fensterer’s] work in that first garden tour and fell in love with it. I asked her to work on something small with me and it just evolved.”

Gillman’s own Amagansett garden, which showcases Fensterer’s design, is included in the tour.

It is her garden that fellow committee member, Elena Glinn— who refers to this year’s garden tour as “one treat after another”— says was the highlight of the tour for her.

“It is like something out of Alice in Wonderland,” describes Glinn. “A magical, secret garden on Windmill Lane. And the owner is also a passionate gardener. So it is a very special space.”

And it seems that Fensterer’s calling to the art of garden design was just as mystical as the gardens she creates.

“I’ve always loved trees,” Fensterer explains. “Even as a child, when I was climbing them, I was crazy about trees and well, I see them as sculptures really. When I was younger, a psychic woman saw these really large wooden sculptures [in me] and since then, I’ve started planting really large trees. I think that’s what those were.”

Fensterer, who describes her aesthetic as ‘controlled abandon,’ adds that she studied sculpture in school, had an art studio when she first came out here and that she does a lot of drawing. It has been in garden design, however, that Fensterer, who is the designer of the current Grey Gardens, has found her niche.

“I wasn’t as happy in the art world as I am in the natural world. This is really my art form,” she explains.

In regards to the Garden as Art event itself, Fensterer expresses her appreciation, saying,

“The design of gardens is an important art form, and it’s good that it’s being recognized and celebrated this way.”

Finding a similar artistry in the act of designing gardens, her contemporary, Groft, explains that arriving at a site is something akin to arriving before a canvas.

“We take the installation very seriously,” he says of his Washington, DC-based Company, Oehme, van Sweden & Associates, Inc. “When we get on site it’s very painterly— we are assimilating the design palette [into the space].”

Benson then proceeds to describe her style as dramatic and stylized, noting that her work on the Appel Garden was mainly a transfer from annuals to perennials, and so was an introduction to the garden of a new color scheme.

Placing an emphasis on the artistry of their design, Glinn considers this year’s collection to be particularly impressive.

“These are really great, world class examples of gardens,” she says. “From the un-pretentious to the very majestic, it really shows all the different lifestyles out here.”

The other two designers being showcased in the event are Craig James Socia, designer of the Caiola & McGill Garden in Amagansett and Edmund Hollander, designer of the Further Lane Garden and the Lynne Garden in East Hampton.

Glinn described Hollander’s Lynne Garden as an example of one of the more dramatic gardens, saying,

“It is very large and majestic, with cascading levels moving with the slope of the land. There is the orchard, the stone walls, a very special rose garden… You are moving from one terrace level to another. It is truly, truly memorable, and so surprising! The way a grand garden should be.”

The garden event takes place on the evening of Friday, August 27 and during the say of Saturday, August 28. The event opens with a garden, cocktail party on Main Street in East Hampton, hosted at the historic home of Mary Jane and Charles Brock.

“It was at one point, I believe, the postmaster’s home,” says Glinn of the Brock’s place. “And now it’s Greek revival style, with its porches and verandas.”

On Saturday morning, at 9:30 a.m. at Guild Hall, is the continental breakfast followed by the lectures. In addition to this, there is also a luncheon at Hook Pond on Saturday, hosted by Dorian and Gary Fuhrman. The touring of the six gardens will take place between noon and 5 p.m. on Saturday and includes a visit to Jack Larson’s Longhouse.

The ‘Garden Lover’ ticket costs $75 for members and $100 for non-members and that includes the continental breakfast and the lectures on Saturday, in addition to the tour. The ‘Patron’ ticket costs $250 and includes the Friday night cocktail reception, in addition to what the Garden Lover ticket enables. And the ‘Benefactor’ ticket costs $500 and includes all the aforementioned events in addition to the luncheon at Hook Pond.

Winslow Homer, Still Relevant After All These Years

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By Francesca Normile

Winslow Homer (1836-1910), was best known for his American landscapes, particularly those of the marine genre, and depictions of the ‘everyday life’ of Americans in the late 19th century. Though he had no formal training when he began to draw around the 1850s, he went on to become an artist whose work would captivate the nation. Homer’s paintings and drawings addressed a world that was changing around him. He witnessed the Civil War, the new beginning for American society that arrived after the trauma of war and what he saw as the shifting role of the American woman in the rise of leisure, work and family.

Growing up in and around New England, Homer’s artwork includes numerous visions of Long Island and of the pleasures of summer’s spent along the East Coast. It is relevant then, that the exhibition opening at Guild Hall this weekend is titled “Winslow Homer: The Pleasures of Summer” and it includes a number of works of East Hampton itself. Even more relevant is the fact that it’s the centennial year of Homer’s death. This exhibition is a celebration of an artist who, in addition to documenting the new American society, also turned his attention to the quiet, everyday life of summer days in the country.

“When I was a child,” Dr. David Tatham, the show’s curator, began, “my dad would take me around to the Boston museums — the Museum of Fine Arts, the museum at Harvard — and what I remembered the most after visiting the Museum of Fine Arts were a few Winslow Homer paintings. He was sort of a local hero. People thought he belonged in New England. I’m not so sure he did, but we did.”

When asked why Guild Hall is choosing to mount this exhibition now, Tatham, who is professor emeritus of North American Art at Syracuse University, responded, “not only is this year the centennial of Homer’s death, but Homer actually painted in East Hampton in 1874. The show at Guild Hall is focusing on a favorite subject of his: the pleasures of summer. He depicted summer on an East Hampton beach, for example, or in the Catskill mountains, or in farm meadows.”

Homer was quite a prolific artist and this show includes both drawings and paintings.

“The first 20 years or so of Homer’s career,” continued Tatham, “were as an illustrator. You can really see his growth as an artist in the collection. As the world around him changed, through the Civil War and then in its aftermath, so did his subjects. And he was addressing two different audiences with his art.”

Tatham explained that while Homer’s illustrations were geared towards the general public, he held his audience in great regard, and therefore did not “dumb down” his work for the masses, but rather offered a vision of the familiar.

“When he no longer needed to support himself through his illustrations,” added Tatham, “he moved to painting. And these were appealing to the fine art tastes of his time.”

What is it that enables Homer’s work to remain as evocative today as it was 100 years ago?

“There are two very different things that happen when people see Homer’s work,” explained Tatham. “First, it makes them think of a past century of America. Many are familiar with the French Impressionism of that time. In comparison, there is something more plainspoken and democratic about Homer’s work. He intended for his pieces to be more American.”

“Second, there is the strength and the power of his work that simply arrests its viewers,” he continued. “He had a remarkable drawing style and skill in painting. Critics in New York during Homer’s own time said, ‘You may like it, you may not. But damn, it is good work.’”

While the emphasis in contemporary art today is on dialogue, observed Tatham, this emphasis keeps Homer’s work significant.

“There is a kind of dialogue in his illustrations between the artist and his subjects that allows the pieces to remain relevant. And in terms of the importance today of art as discussion, his work says a lot about the status of the woman in 19th century America. He was the first artist to depict the new American woman — a woman with no connection at all to the domestic sphere, who was confident, athletic, independent, and well, usually upper-middle class. There is a lot of this in the Guild Hall collection.”

Of the numerous illustrations included in the upcoming show, Tatham contemplated which was his favorite. He decided upon an East Hampton scene called “Courting.”

“It is the only case in which Homer split the page into two sections,” Tatham explains. “In the top section is a nocturne — a couple, depicted from behind, sitting on a bench at the beach. In the bottom section we see a couple of little boys playfully teasing a little girl in the grass. In the foreground of this scene is a family of ducks passing by. So above, we see a couple who take courting very seriously and below, we see kids mimicking that courting, but to whom it means nothing. The ducks walking by in this scene act as a suggestion of what their courting will lead to — family.”

When asked to point out his favorite painting of Homer’s in the exhibit, Tatham chose a very early oil entitled “Croquet Players” from 1865.

“It was just at the end of the Civil War and Homer was making the big jump from wartime subjects to those of peacetime. And with no transition, he shows us the new American woman,” said Tatham. “There are no children in the scene, no suggestion of any connection whatsoever between the men and women playing croquet. No sense of male control. And croquet was a new game, introduced right around that time. He illustrates a new kind of combat. One with croquet balls replacing canon balls, with friendly competition replacing military competition. It is a very early painting of his and still it is marvelously done.”

“Winslow Homer: The Pleasures of Summer” opens June 19 with a Gallery Talk by Dr. David Tatham from 3 to 4 p.m. The opening reception follows from 4 to 5 p.m. for members and 5 to 6 p.m. for the public. The exhibit runs through July 25 in the Woodhouse Gallery at Guild Hall, 158 Main Street, East Hampton. For more information, call 324-0806.