Thursday, August 12, 2010

Alex Katz and "Cool"

Serene with a hint of vibe, An Alex Katz painting, print, cutout, wows without sweat. Appearance and style rule, as the artist himself confirms. Every move that the sleek haired Ada makes could be freeze framed. Alex looks at a person's gesture, or that person against a certain atmospheric condition, an iconic printed scarf, a dappled pond surrounded by, for example, birch trees....and says that's it! And through all the process he incurs to make the resulting image, the one-look remains.

The vibe occurs from the juxtaposition of subtle color which, at first seems contained. Yet each color plays off the other to create rhythmic images that jolt the eye of the viewer: the Wow. People and scenery in the paintings seem familiar, their features pleasant and unchallenging, gazing slightly away. Clothing, draped attractively on figures is simple and no trinket adornments occur to compete for attention. Leaves and tree bark are often silhouetted against a clear sky. But patchy, yet controlled eye movement sets up when reflections in water surface assertively point out the light, as if our camera's flash worked overtime to highlight the individual oddity of these surfaces. We know we are looking at a fleeting moment, and yet...

The cleanliness of the painted surface is refreshing every time. Painting with confident strokes, the hand of the artist, the brush stroke, is implied just enough to use the word painterly. Although obviously enamored of the scene before him, the artist refuses to let it get in the way of the music he is making. Think piano technical ability, which is all but forgotten as we are swept up in the beauty of the music.

Katz is a painter's painter in his loving application of broad sweeps of clear tones and subtle contained shapes indicating form. But at the same time, his gift for universalizing his subject matter comes from his ability to make icons at the same time. While certainly painting individuals, he sees their pose as a type, and this type, painted with strong areas of color that appear fresh, intimate, and 'cool,' immortalize the subject matter and stamp it in our minds, long after we leave the gallery or museum. We come away with a sense of looking at and thinking about the world through the eye and language of the artist.

Just as Keith Haring developed a unique form of symbolism to communicate, Katz sees the world through his own rose colored glasses,. He gives us a way to navigate the every day commercialism all around, to elevate our conception of the observable world, and make painterly sense of the mosaic of stimuli that we encounter every day.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Women in Today's World 2010

Something to think about:

Women today can do anything,
yet as they go through their chosen path
do they (want to) feel like a woman...
Dress, act, move, work like women,
Make-up, nails, clothing, jewelry, shoes.
Men's department, Women's department,
Men shopping in 'housewares'
Women shopping in 'hardware.'
Car repair shops, Barber shops,
Beauty Salons, "Outdoor stores.
Dentists, Lawyers, CEO's.
Truck drivers, Mailmen, Lifeguards,
Firemen, Policemen - and women.
Working Mothers,
Stay-at-home Mothers.
Stay-at-home Dads

The Women's Room (c)by Marilyn French 1977

page 437 (Penguin edition): " She was the woman for everyone;" ..."but it was not good enough. She would have to find a little man in her, whatever that meant. It did not mean being a champion sailor, or canoeing in white water, or being able to fence, all of which she did very well. It meant insisting on self, not the way they did, God forbid, but a little. Otherwise you were the tramping ground of the world."


page 441: "It is at moments like this that a lifetime's formation is revealed. People write plays or movies about agonized decisions, but I think our important decisions are made instantly, and all the talk is simply later rationalization."

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Review of book: "Look Both Ways" by Debbie Millman

My Review of Look Both Ways, by Debbie Millman (c) Louise Dunn Herman, July 25, 2010

…like the sculptor who looks at a stone and realizes what it could be, Debbie Millman has transformed the book form into her own creation. It has become, in addition to it's message, an object.

While reading the book Look Both Ways, by Debbie Millman, an enriching experience takes place. The cover is conventional, yet the palette and overlapping comma symbol on it’s front take on greater significance as the ‘story’ unfolds. Opening the book, you first find a series of pages that resemble the chalkboards of childhood. As you begin to read, you are drawn, literally, into the text by the casual conversational way it is written. You might be reading someone’s notes in their lined hard cover black and white school composition book. Or perhaps, it could be a diary. But soon enough, easyness in reading starts to give way to weaving eye movement as you are forced to follow the types' gradual uneven changes. Along the way, you encounter some cross-outs and smudges which speak of first drafts, or suggest the spontaneity of only one draft, or the innocence of a child's first efforts.

Periferally, you sense something more. The blackness of the chalkboard appears painted on. And toward the edges, color, quite pleasant, peeks through. This ‘underpainting’ or layering suggests the artist’s hand, or brush as it were. And the white chalk-like script is immediate, and familiar, and common. So, there is a lot to see, and read, and think about on each of the pages. Sensitized now, you notice as you read, that the pages appear to take on an ever increasing sophistication as the ‘child’ grows up, moves to the city, begins a career. This build-up increases in a gradual curve, almost imperceptible until you realize what is happening. The style is changing along with the author, as she reveals the various foibles and traumas of school, personal relationships, and work-related choices.

In the last two essays, a fully realized marriage of art, style, and content suggest the satisfaction of having realized a dream. In one essay, the direction lines, flow chart-like, pace the author and the reader in a choppy but purposeful stride. The final essay contains shadowy, ghost-like echoes of words, barely perceptible in strategic yet visually scattered places (read between the lines). Floating on a sophisticated evolved backdrop, this final piece displays a secure and fully realized artist’s hand as well as a firm control of the medium. Millman has, despite her aha moment of choosing ‘branding’ as a practical career, achieved what she tells us she really wants to be: an artist and a writer.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Need To Share

The Need to Share, an Essay ©2010 Louise Dunn Herman
Once in a while in a conversation, you perceive that someone feels uneasy, perhaps threatened by what you are saying, responding with hesitation. This unfortunately might morph to ridicule or criticism, questioning your opinion, or the validity of your experience. Upon recognize this in the person you are interacting with, you could just exit after the hesitation, but before the negative questioning (ex.: "how can you read that stuff?"), or the opposition begins ("why are you wasting your time on that?").

Remarks of this type are often evidence that the person you are talking to is disturbed by what you are saying, or how you are feeling. They may be unfamiliar with the subject and/or not at all interested in engaging in a conversation about it. Or they might feel they ‘should’ know more about it. You are enthusiastic and in addition have your arms around this topic. They are uneasy at your obvious delight in something they do not trust.

Time to hang up the phone, leave gracefully, end the conversation - a satisfying solution compared with trying to convince the other person of the worth of what you are saying or doing. Trying to persuade another to read or do or buy what YOU found to be meaningful, is as if you were to say that your favorite color should also be theres'. It only leads to frustration and feelings of inadequacy on your part, as they continually rebuff your misguided efforts.

Interestingly, they feel no remorse or guilt at their rebuttal of your topic, having convinced themselves that their path in life has fences on each side. Your remarks are a weather event threatening these fences, and you have to be ‘put in your place’ in order for them to continue on their chosen path. Staying on that road means security; everything is familiar. They have learned to deal with rocky parts by breaking them into little pieces, stomping on them, kicking them out, and then going on their way. Looking back is dangerous, revisiting past episodes is to be avoided. Visits often lead to questioning the way those episodes were handled, and that questioning is unsettling.

Why try to share your opinions, enthusiasm, or experiences with such people? You may think you are being generous to recap something that you find wonderful. Conversely, does the other person you are interacting with share their own special finds and passions? Usually not. You often find out accidentally after the fact that they have done or experienced something special. They may not even have thought they needed to share it with anyone.

People who appreciate what you have to say and who share your enthusiasm for an event are not threatened by your obvious delight in an experience. They know what it’s like, as the same desire for sharing often happens to them. They too, enjoy a conversation about what has transpired or been felt, not necessarily to evoke change, but to bestow upon another a little of their own flavor. When not in the presence of such kindred spirits, when your gift is about to be rejected, it's better to change your direction, and continue along to grow in an ever widening world of your own making.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Talk about Reverberations!

Chuck Redd appeared here with a six piece jazz group: piano, bass, clarinet, drum, and vocal.
Thinking about Lionel Hampton, Benny Goodman ("It's Gotta Be This or That"), Gene Krupa...
My parents' record collection
Reflections of piano hands in the mirror,
The vibraphonist's hands on his large 'keys'
Reverberations of the sounds blend
as part of the music.
He just plays over the sounds - vibing
Feels his way
Somehow reminds me of the day I witnessed
a silent piano lesson....the way the fingers strike the keys....
Playing with no sound, just getting the touch right.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Paint What You Like and it will show

When I was painting the marbles in the round glass bowl, it gave me such joy. Adding the other elements, the McDonalds figurine, the Cinderella figurine, the little ceramic pillbox with the red shoe on top, the catalogue from the Alex Katz painting show with Ada on the cover in the red coat-it all seemed to come together by itself. Like the painting took on a life. There was very little about the experience I did not like. When I think about painting, when it flows like that, when you go from start to finish in a swoop, regardless of how long it really takes, the outcome is joyous, both to me, the painter, and to the person who looks at the finished work. The joy comes through. The doubt never really surfaces, there is no doubt- about the subject, the composition, the paint quality, the color. It just works.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


When a chorus sings inside a church, perhaps a Baroque structure, sound often lasts a while after the voices pause. The sound may go on by itself, bouncing off walls. Choir members learn to watch the conductor to know when to start long to wait.

When one speaks and then there is silence, do the words seem to bounce off walls or off the person spoken to? Once in a while just let those words bounce around in the air instead of filling the space quickly with more words. At times it's interesting to speak and then wait. While listening to this silent reverberation, the meanings of words may change or expand, to broaden the experience for speaker or listener.

Words come back, in our minds. It just requires pausing when someone writes or talks. Pay attention to those echoes before responding. If responding! It is a choice, always a choice.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Just today I heard about someone who had to suddenly choose between two events. He chose to go on the path that was planned in advance, and not change plans. He thought about who would be most affected. Someone may feel that you should have chosen differently. You have to make the decision based on how you will feel after you decide. Sometimes you don't know until you do. Sometimes, you get a chance to backtrack if that is what you decide: 'I changed my mind.' But it is your mind! to change or not.
The innermost core can be touched by a decision that comes up all of a sudden.

It is not a moral issue. Not right or wrong. It is a choice...which path you will take. Each path comes with different experiences, learnings and results. Deciding to wait until you are ready to act is another path. It may seem like you're standing still, but you are waiting. Waiting is an option. Everyone in time has to choose.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Good and Bad decisions? Or just choosing different paths. One decision is one path, another decision is another path. Another choice. Choices sound less stressful than decisions. If the word 'decision' means choice and not good or bad, right or wrong, it is not stressful. And you may sleep better at night: "I chose to do it this way."- instead of- "I made a good or bad decision."

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Saturday Night Blind Side Notes

Just finished reading The Blind Side by Michael Lewis. Learned a lot about football. Nothing like a great human interest story to sneak in some technical information. The way the book morphs between the two is seamless. The blind side, the formerly invisible position that saves the day is food for thought. Not everyone needs published praise and honor but rewards come in many forms. It can be satisfying to be an unsung (well paid?) hero. Teamwork, background singers, sidemen...chorus. Thinking about personal experiences, situations, when not stepping forward yet still stepping up to the plate, works.

No spotlight, no diva, no pressure; working for a common cause. The players know. The reward is harmony. And victory. Very satisfying to be in a picture that is more than the sum of its parts.

The blind side. Playing the blind side...holding back, yet aggressively protecting your interests. Waiting for circumstances to play out. Not attempting to resolve situations that have yet to materialize. Not rushing the play. Standing firm to one side, but not on the sidelines. It's a deceptively active play that doesn't call attention to itself, yet enables a way to appear, a road to show up, a creative solution to develop.

You want to solve a problem. It is a definite plan: open ended. Allows things to evolve.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Use The Past

Phillip Lim, interviewed in today's Times Magazine: "I pass this framed piece every morning on my way out of my bedroom. It says, "Never Look Back." That's a big motto for me." When asked about his worst design, he says "I don't regret. I move on."

So simple and profound a motto. I am always drawing on the past. I think it informs what I do now and what I will do in the future. I have an affinity for late 40's and 50's kitchenware, tablecloths and dishcloths, cookbooks, music. When I find an object from this era in a thrift shop I feel a kinship with it. The learning here is to use or acknowledge that which is the past, figuring out how it can positively accessorize what is to come. Regret is a very strong word. If regret stops you from moving on, it can be quite a roadblock, a procrastinator, ultimately a paralysis.

It is a wonderful attitude and mood lifter to develop or morph the "look backs' into today's needs. In my case, they never really go away. They come to me in the middle of the night, and play over again like scratchy broken records suspended in time. To me, these clips of memories are very real. I think security was taken for granted until I could really understand the meaning of words. Words can be so powerful, despite 'sticks and stones can break your bones but words will never harm you'. Spoken words consciously or unconsciously often motivate negative or positive behavior.

Yet, being impressionable or sensitive defines an artist, who can look at things while they are happening and after they happen, and use these reflections as motivation to create. Objectivity comes in the ability to stand back a bit, as an observer. When it gels, that's the aha moment!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Watching The Day Evolve

It is not necessary to control the day. Nice to watch it evolve and be a participant. You can offer choices as to how the day might be spent, and decide which choice seems to feel right. Any choice might work. Any choice will have different results. But often there is no urgency or "right or wrong' choice to make. Just different paths.

Horoscope today said "ONLY YOU are the judge of whether you are successful." Nice. No one else's opinion can possibly be the answer to whether or not you are successful. What a relief. It is inside of you. Your own personal goals. Satisfaction when you achieve some goal that is yours alone.

It can be as simple as eating healthy all day long. Or for two hours at a time. Or exercising. Or spending two hours painting. Or going for a long walk. Whatever is your need at the time.

It can be figuring out a problem that has caused some worry. Waiting till you feel right about the solution or direction you want to go...till the decision feels right. No one can say your decision is not right, because it is right for you. Once you go through this process of internal review, contemplation, waiting till the right moment to act, you will save yourself from doubt.

At the end of the day, sleepy time, review your happy accomplishment. That one thing can make you smile as you start your dreams for tomorrow: that you achieved a goal that is meaningful to you.

People sense the pride in yourself and see your smile. It is relaxing to be around someone who is happy with themselves. By achieving your own special private goals...inch by live your life consciously and in the moment.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Wait. It Will Come

Today I thought about how sometimes when questioning what to do, a 'sign' will materialize and lead to your own right decision. It is not usually necessary to make an immediate decision when faced with a situation. When you keep your mind open or tuned in, something often happens that helps make the decision easy! And of course, when you test the waters, by thinking how you will feel making the decision, you will know if it will be right for you. Uneasiness or doubt means give it some more thought- a better solution may present itself. Or, your feelings about it may change, once more facts or options or circumstances come into the picture. And how nice it feels, to be comfortable with the final decision after this process takes place.

Painting sometimes involves starts and stops. Maybe it requires a bit of stepping back. Waiting, thinking, learning, and then getting back to the canvas can ultimately advance the work. It is easier to look at the work objectively when you step back, out of the room, then revisit the canvas. The origional motivation, that fresh look, can be sustained by keeping in mind your origional intent. Details tend to clutter up that goal. Backing up, as it were, refreshes the 'one look' concept. From across a room at a gallery or museum, what makes you want to come up and view a picture more intimately? It starts with scanning the room and directing your focus to what moves you, from way back.

And keeping your options open, working fairly loose and open ended will give you all the space you need to go in whatever direction you feel will work. It is amazing how accidents, circumstances, experiments, freedom, can further something in the direction that makes it work.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Self Image, Modern Love

After reading last week's Modern Love column in the Sunday Styles section, I have been thinking about the ways our parents thought of us. How they communicated those feelings affect how we feel about ourselves today. Going back in time, I thought about situations in which an opinion was offered and how it made me feel. How our parents reacted to us can feed a positive or negative image that we may carry around for years. Being blamed for something, justly or not, is one example. Because a parent said it,does that make it true? Reflect back on it as an adult.

One of my friends today says 'follow your heart' in making decisions. How you feel about the pros and cons of a situation is a way to influence your ultimate choice. If the thought of traveling some possible road makes me uneasy, I have to think why- and maybe that choice is not right. I want to know why it creates the uncomfortable feeling. Other people around us also may comment on some thing about ourselves and because of past interactions with parents, we might attach importance to that comment and add it to the picture in our mirror.

The Modern Love essay inferred that sometimes there is a misinterpretation...of a photo or situation that could be viewed in another way that changes its meaning entirely. Reviewing things that happened so many years ago, our memory is selective. Putting another spin on words spoken at that time can break a chain of doubt and self consciousness, to relieve anxiety associated with the words or event.

Confidence is an elusive entity...often affected by the slightest wind. I't's helpful to realize that true knowledge of ones self can be a steady undercurrent and those ripples at the surface are just that, temporary weather conditions.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Art and Chita Rivera

Saw Chita Rivera tonight in her one woman show, backed by a fabulous band including her trio: piano, bass, drummer. The drummer had such finesse: young guy, in total control. He was stage front and moved through the music effortlessly. What a show!

Perfect polish for Ms. Rivera.... at home on the stage; she's in character for every song. No inhibitions...a consumate artist. What a motivator and teacher: to be free on stage in front of a large audience and be able to go into yourself and pull out such feeling. Her costumes, props, progress from song to song, even her short sips of water were sophisticated and charming. This is a STAR.

A performance like this illustrates that to be an artist, to create art in it's various forms, you need to meld technique with expressiveness. No self consciousness, or holding back, worrying what the audience will think. Being completely in the moment and not questioning or looking in the mirror. The audience becomes part of the show, part of the book, painting, rhythm of the dance. It all comes together in an experience that is unique.

I think I was most taken by Ms. Rivera's extreme belief in what she was doing. Wrapping her body around each character in turn, she 'became' each of the women in every song she sang. And yet subsequently discussed with the audience how she differed from those women in real life. Art is magic..ageless.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Friends and Long Beach, staying in touch

When you are young, it is a kind of status thing to have friends. But then you learn that it is not how many but the quality. When you don't have to work at it, it is real. Sometimes a spoken word has to be explained or danced around, but a so what attitude helps. What is important is the unconditional nature of it. No need to dress; words, attitude, actions, intent are apparent and easy with a friend.

And fun to find out that sex has nothing to do with it. This opens up a wonderful way to facet your life. You see and hear your ideas bounced back by anyone you like. People I grew up with have such an affinity for one another. Small town life has created this cocoon of comfort. Certain things are understood as we all were raised and schooled in similar surroundings: the city by the sea..Long Beach, New York. Then we all left for college, work, the Long Island Railroad to NY and Brooklyn, different states, different vocations. We found the world was not all Long Beach.

So years later it's nice to reconnect with our homegrown peers, and nest among those who know and knew us well. We can sit back and relax, our proving done, and just enjoy what we know is important. Friendship.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Watching Others to Learn About Yourself

How others present themselves can be studied just like reading a book. Browsing an art exhibit, taking the time to speak with the artists to see what their point of view might be, what motivated them, is all about learning.

How the individual artists relate to their audience is also interesting. One artist takes the time to explain to a viewer how he enters international shows, and the pleasure he gets when he achieves or earns points from judges for his photographs. He even offers suggestions as to what the judges are accepting in order to help someone else. He gives freely of his knowledge and experience and takes pleasure in this. A totally pleasant experience all around and for so many reasons and on so many levels.

Monday, February 22, 2010


A day does not go by when creativity does not matter. Even if it appears to be a backdrop for an activity -this preparation is indispensible. If it is there all the time, there is a reason. It is more important than I understood.

How important this part of my make-up is, how really necessary-for doing what I feel I am capable of. Anytime I ever denied this part of myself-this necessary path explored-I have not felt like me.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Thoughts on Painting

"the first thing you see is the last thing you do." Helen Van Wyk book: Welcome to My Studio

You can really build on this remark. and..."the silhouette of her hair as it encountered the background." Poetry!

Paint colors are a keyboard of opportunity. They relate to sharps and flats, major and minor. It is not a stretch to think this way. A quiet color.... a feeling evoked. Grey....and all it's implications, alone or in a mix. A dark for emphasis!

Learning every day, Inside out

Today I read these important words: "Yes, the disease is progressive, but so is science."
This does not refer to a specific disease, it is an affirmation of hope for anyone suffering and hoping for a cure.
"Biology isn't destiny." More of the same. From Neurology Now Magazine. Meaning a diagnosis isn't definitive, because we never can really know what the outcome will be.

"What had been slowly leaking, years and years, the person who said "I." Last line of a poem by Rachel Hadas in "Speak Up" in Neurology Now, Jan/Feb 2010.
Slowly leaking....that part that might have been neglected through the years. Without even being aware. What could stop anyone from being ones self? From cultivating what's inside and allowing it to grow?

The person who said I. Thinking about how one feels about each thing they do. Stepping back and reflecting about anything before doing it. Listening to feelings and the way those feelings could be tied to intellect. Thinking before acting in order to make comfortable choices. Consciously deciding how to live each day.

What could stop a person from giving feelings respect? This is the core of what was leaking.

Happy times remembered are clues. Activities with people who mattered. It's amazing that some of the same people still matter. And they can reoccur and play a part now, in the "person who comes back to I." Enveloped in various layers, even as years brought changes. Clues to what one still wanted. Patient, sometimes impatient, and often ready to burst, hoping one would get on with it already! Fortunate if one can find ways to welcome them back.

And there have been dress rehearsals, although one was unaware.

And so not to be doomed 'dying with all the music inside,' one needs to find a way to plug the leaking 'I.' To allow all the self to be. To configure today so the writing can continue, inside out.