Bernd and Hilla Becher

Bernd and Hilla Becher documented the eroding industrial landscape of their native Germany throughout the late 1950s and into the 1960s.  Through their groupings of seemingly repetitive structures, we cannot help but see the distinct individual design in each, betraying the human influence in an apparent metallic wasteland.

Industrial Facades, 1978-1992

Their photos are truly documentary, devoid of agenda. So bleakly objective that any takeaway is solely subjective. Yet grouped as such, each individual structure seems to stand erect and proud of its particular quirkiness, as if, finally, through these photographs, they have been given their chance to shine.  

Winding Towers, Belgium, Germany 1971-1991
Water Towers, USA, 1988

Steel Storage Tank, 1960s


Shamuel and Khana Gorn: We Are a New Family

Friend and video artist, Sarah Hanssen, shot this great piece about a wonderful Russian couple in our building, the Gorns, and their secrets to a long and happy marriage.
Oh! the power of potato latkes!


Oh Mr. Bartlett!

Many theories have been posited about the reclusive Morton Bartlett, the self-taught sculptor, photographer and student of childhood. Some say that his own early life was so lonely, he crafted the playmates he always wished he had. Perhaps his lifelike sculptures were meant to convey the quotidian emotions of living dolls, and their photographs the documentation. Perhaps.

His work is inclusive of many emotions and, one would say, desires. These children aren’t tots; rather they are on the cusp of adolescence. They haven’t yet become aware of the power of their sexuality, with the innocent flip of a hem or translucence of a blouse. Morton’s dolls are ripe with flirtation, of possibility, and yet, still children, unaware. Yet the viewer is quite aware. It is almost as if Morton Bartlett has made to viewer carry the burden of his shame; our viewing his absolution.


All photos from the
Julie Saul Gallery


Robert Littman Floating In A Pool, 1982

David Hockney’s work transports me back to California, where the sun is hot and dry. The colors are bright yet slightly bleached and you know how the concrete feels on your feet and the cool pool water on your skin. There is a stillness in the air that is sharp yet calm, not the languid space heavy with boredom that weighs down so many California candids. Unlike the oily pus-colored horizon if urban California, Hockney’s air is clean, we are clean. Free, Fresh. Yet there is also certain eroticism in the clean open spaces of his pictures. The fleshy ripples of the water, the pink of skin. A tension just off in the wings of the canvas.


Hasankeyf, originally uploaded by stepan2008.


My New York: Part II

II. The 1980s

Crosby Street / Spring Street, New York, 1978
Thomas Struth (German, born 1954)

The 1980s in New York City was a good time. The epicenter of that for me was Crosby Street. In the late 1970s, my father and his girlfriend-soon to be wife--bought a dirt-floored basement warehouse and converted in into their studios-gorgeous wood floors, gallery-white walls, kitchen, bathroom, the works. Except it wasn't zoned for residential: no one was allowed to live there! Every time someone came to the house, we rolled up the mattresses and hid them.

Crosby Street at that time was a grizzly corridor. Almost a glorified alleyway, it was only seven or so blocks long, starting at Howard Street and running only up to Bleeker. That scene in Ghost when Patrick Swayze was murdered in that dark grimy doorway? Filmed across the street from us. They ultimately bought half the first floor above and ran stairs up. Looking out the first-floor window into the parking lot next door, I would see the hookers turn tricks. The upstairs used to be a shady gambling joint called the Four Deuces. My dad leased it from a guy called Junior, who would always be sitting outside the Spring Street bar in his undershirt and cane. Upon asking Junior's last name, he just said Junior, and signed the lease "Junior Junior." The place had been firebombed a few times and there were gunshot holes across the front grate. When my dad bought it, it still had the full bar in there. When the renovation was finally finished, they held an exorcism, just for good measure.

Growing up, I would come to NYC from California as often as I could, usually spring, summer, and winter breaks. As a young kid, it was just magical to explore Chinatown with the arcades that had games where you matched wits against a chicken, slurp down sesame noodles from Hunan Taste on Boyers Street and pick up prosciutto bread and smoked mozzarella on the way home. I remember sitting in the back room at Fanelli's eating burgers with my dad trying to pronounce "Venezuela" after Miss Venezuela had won Miss Universe in 1979 and wondering if my dad was telling the truth when he said Mike Fanelli used to put shoe polish in his hair back in the day. As I got older, I would wander starry-eyed through the cobblestone streets of SoHo with the funky shops and galleries: Untitled, the fabulous postcard store; Rocks In Your Head, record coolness; Leo Castelli, Les Deux Gamins. I used to love to visit the plant store on Spring Street: two 15' stories filled with trees, mist and cats. How I miss sitting on the stoop of Whole Foods watching the people go by!

As I hit my teens, New York was all about the clubs: Nell's, Danceteria, Area, The Tunnel, The World, Madame Rosa's. I had a much (much) older boyfriend at the time and he did a lot of interiors at clubs. Plus, he shared a summer house with the doorman at the Tunnel and the owners of Area, so we got in and drank for free! Getting ready listening to T Rex, hanging out till daybreak. Frankly, that is all I remember. I guess I had a bit too good of a time!


Rock on, Tiny Dancer!

I took my son to his first "all ages" show at Cake Shop on the lower east side.  He is currently obsessed with Care Bears on Fire and their song, "Everybody Else," and they were part of the line up for an all ages matinee. We've taken him to see live music many times before, yet mainly adult artists who perform for children (like the fabulous Suzi Shelton); this show was peer-to-peer action, and they ROCKED.

We arrive (after an obligatory stop at Economy Candy) and the upstairs is crowed with hipsters and ten-year olds, each curiously staring at the other. We descend into the (literally) underground club. The band members were adorable, with their peach skin complexions, ratty Converse and orthodontics. I was prepared for an afternoon of wincing and slightly embarrassed looks between the grown ups. The joke was on me--the kids brought it: amazing talent, genuine post-post-punk-power-pop with a bona fide snarl.

The first on the line up was BYS. The lead singer had a cherub's pudgy rose cheeks, Peter Frampton's hair and pipes like Satan with perfect pitch, but the star of the show was the 4'9" guitar player-he could shred! They were incredible: tight, polished and totally at ease with their bad-ass selves. They closed with their only cover: Led Zeppelin's Rock n' Roll. If they weren't so good, that would have been a cliché.

Next up, were Jack and the Jaywalkers. Now these were the big kids-high schoolers, and all of their skinny-jeaned pointy-shoe wearing friends stormed the stage for their Iggy Pop meets Elvis Costello antics-filled set. Talent wasn't their strong suit, but they didn't know that as their confidence infected the crowd. They were having so much fun and the crowd was too-bringing down the house with their songs of young love gone bad, visiting colleges, and the crowd-pleasing Weezer cover.

Now for the main event: Care Bears on Fire (or, CBOF). If I could have had 1/10th of the rock and roll these girls have in their soul. A guitar/bass/drums trio, these girls growled in their incredible sweet voices accompanied by a veritable wall of sound. I have never seen drums beaten so savagely and an angel-face so contorted with punk rock attitude. Their only cover? Richard Hell. Of course.

So, needless to say, we are on all of their mailing lists, my son now has BYS stickers and CBOF posters all over his room (although he chose to hide under my shirt when the opportunity arose to meet the band). When we got home, he sat at his drum set, counted out 1-2-3-4 with his drumsticks, and rocked out. All in all, a good New York afternoon.


Don Colley

Le Beau Monde, 2005. George Adams Gallery
I first saw Don Colley's work at his "Fall Guys and Zeitgeists" show at the George Adams Gallery in the spring of 2005. His small but vibrant portraits of bad clowns and bad situations gone worse were haunting. I remember going from picture to picture thinking, jesus christ! They convey the moment right before you die, alone. In his pictures there is no reprieve, no last-second call from the governor. It is bleakness in full panoramic color, and he had me at hello.

Playing on the almost universal and organic fear of clowns and the gypsy mysticism of carny life, Colley draws us into situations where there is no way out. His scale is intimate and his custom frames intricate, and while many of his works are pen and ink on paper, he also creates images through scratches on plastic, which remind me of one of his subjects scratching the walls hoping for the release that will never come.

Judicious, 2004.
George Adams Gallery

I would buy one of these in a heartbeat if I had any money. But lord, where would I hang it? In the sunny anteroom? Next to my bed to gaze at as I fall asleep?

Check out Don Colley's website.

Western Light, 2004.
George Adams Gallery

My New York

I've lived in New York City for 16 years, and have been visiting the city since the mid-1970s. At first glance, it seems totally overwhelming: an anonymous city of more than 8.5 million people; where do I fit in? But then I realized that human nature, and especially this human, needs community, and in this wild warren of people and activity, people have carved out wonderfully warm communities that make living in this crazy place possible.

In fact, I think that because people can come home and recharge into these communities--on the stoops, the floors, the blocks, the cafes, bars, libraries--they bring a warmth with them into the city, like an ember sparked from the fire. Because, for the most part, New Yorkers are pretty great people. Once you break through the game face, most people on the street will go out of their way to help you out. I know that sounds trite, but I think it is true. I think because this city can be bleak, the people have a need to personalize it with traces of humanity, little bursts of color on an undeniable gray city.

In any event, I am going to periodically write about the communities that I have made over my years here in New York.

I. The 1970s.

My dad moved here in 1974 or 5. I remember all of his crazy pads, especially the one on Lispenard Street with the bathroom in the middle of the room. Pearl Paint and Canal Jeans were across the street. The Wild and Wooly strip club was at the corner and they had a little closed-in window with furry fuzz and colored light bulbs and those crazy little gnomes with the big eyes and pointy hair. And a hand-drawn sign that said "Wild 'n Wooly" in a script that implied the good times were to be had. My dad had a beat up old Suburban and my great grandparents' wicker living room set. I remember showing up in my pretty dress with a bag full of avocados from California.

He would take me to Dave's Corner for egg creams. I loved Canal Street back then. It was a crazy strip filled with boxes of old electronics, wires, batteries. And lots of army surplus stuff. It hadn't yet turned into the counterfeit haven it is today. I hardly remember Canal Jeans when it was still on Canal Street, except for my dad being thrilled at the cheap price of Vidal Sassoon shampoo! We would go get his mail at the huge Post Office at Canal and Broadway, when it was still a post office. (I even remember the old post office at Mercer and Prince, but that is another decade). I can vividly remember him teaching me how to use chopsticks at a Chinese restaurant that was underneath scaffolding. Parked outside was his girlfriend's old Volvo station wagon in which we to soon drive across the country, camping all the way. I have such patchy but strong memories of that time; I was so young, but the memories are bright and faded, almost like snapshots.