Sunday, May 5, 2019

The Stories that Shape Us

This weekend the Sag Harbor Cultural District sponsored a three day series of arts and history-related events. The event's theme was, Sag Harbor: The Stories that Shape Us; highlighting the communities extensive literary history. I was able to enjoy a few of the events.
The John Jermain Memorial Library offered a self-guided audio tour to "Explore the library through the stories of local authors, musicians, and artists." Twenty-four artists and authors were featured. Check out an iPod at the front desk and take an audio tour. I need to return as I didn't listen to all twenty-four.
One local author, Emma Walton Hamilton, described how Sag Harbor was inspiration for Dumpy the Dump truck's village of Apple Harbor. In the book series that she co-wrote with Mum, Julie Andrews Edwards, illustrated by Dad, Tony Walton, Pharaoh's General store is modeled after the Umbrella House, reputed to be the oldest building in Sag Harbor. In Dumpy and the Firefighters, a fire threatens the town. Unfortunately, fires have been a too true part of Sag Harbor history. Luckily Pharaoh's General store is saved. Those who look closely may recognize other familiar landmarks or even a neighbor. 
Umbrella House now Cavaniola's Wine Cellar
I wonder if this little guy has read any of the Dumpy series?
The Sag Harbor Historical Society hosted a reading of letters between the daughters and sister of local whaleboat builder William Cooper written from 1830-1880. The presentation entitled,  "Voices of the Past: The Isolation of the Western Expansion," captured the worries and joys of women pioneers separated by great distance. William Cooper's daughers (Aunts to Annie Cooper Boyd) moved from Sag Harbor to other waterfront villages, the furthest away being Pomeroy, Ohio. The cosy front room of the Annie Cooper Boyd house was filled with a rapt audience entranced by the rhythm of each letter telling a story of lives lived over 150 years ago. 
Inspecting Haven's Beach treasures at Annie Cooper Boyd House.
Robin Brown reading poetry by Olivia Ward Bush-Banks

by Olivia Ward Bush-Banks
(1869 - 1944)

And now the sun in tinted splendor sank,
The west was all aglow with crimson light;
The bay seemed like a sheet of burnished gold,
Its waters glistened with such radiance bright.

At anchor lay the yachts with snow-white sails,
Outlined against glowing, rose-hued sky.
No ripple stirred the waters' calm repose
Save when a tiny craft sped lightly by.

Our boat was drifting slowly, gently round,
To rest secure till evening shadows fell;
No sound disturbed the stillness of the air,
Save the soft chiming of the vesper bell.

Yes, drifting, drifting' and I thought that life,
When nearing death, is like the sunset sky.
And death is but the slow, sure drifting in
To rest far more securely, by and by.

Then let me drift along the Bay of Time,
Till my last sun shall set in glowing light;
Let me cast anchor where no shadows fall,
Forever moored within Heaven's harbor bright.
American writer Olivia Ward Bush-Banks was a poet and playwright best known for celebrating both her African-American and Montauk heritages in her works. She founded the Bush-Banks School of Expression in Chicago to foster emerging African-American talents.  via
Listening to Bush-Banks' poems, I was struck by her lush descriptions of nature and knowing depictions of the heart. Truly an artist of timeless imagery. 
Afternoon Remembered by Michael A. Butler
Another storyteller, in paint, Michael A. Butler's work was still up on the Eastville Community Historical Society walls. Afternoon Remembered” is a painting that I fell in love with. When I spoke with the artist, Michael described the inspiration for this painting as though in a dream, “My mother, brother and I were walking to the beach along a wall of phragmites when a flock of goldfinches flew up. My mother did not have her camera with her, but I painted this scene with her holding a camera. She brought her camera to the beach every day after that, but we never did see another flock of goldfinches. “ (my paraphrase) 

What a wonderful day spent listening to the voices of my community, I am so grateful to live here.

New Audio Tour at John Jermain Library Highlights How Writers Work
Sag Harbor Retold in Images and Letters
The Stories that Shape Us in Sag Harbor

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Marie by Callas

Maria Callas image via Sony Classics
We recently watched the wonderful film Maria By Callas. The film's writer-director, Tom Volf describes the life of Maria Callas in her own words through interviews and letters. The film is framed by extraordinary footage of an interview with David Frost from December 10, 1970. The Frost interview, never archived and thought to be lost, was discovered by Volf as he was interviewing friends and family of Callas for the film. Ferruccio Mezzadri, Maria Callas's butler, had saved a copy of the interview footage and subsequently shared it with Voss. "There are two people in me," Callas declares in her interview with Frost, "I would like to be Maria, but there is the Callas that I have to live up to." Indeed.
David Frost and Maria Callas image via Sony Classics

Before seeing the film, I am embarrassed to say, I had never seen video footage of Callas's performances. WOW. I was transfixed. She defines opera even now. Great music expressively performed. She gave the libretti life. The performances chosen for the film made me want more. In fact, in order to deliver that more, 40 years after her death, there was a holograph tour, I wonder what Maria would have thought of that! Probably just a toss of her head and, "Oh, that's just like Callas." Interviews and letters demonstrate the contrasts between Maria and the legendary Diva myth of Callas. The film footage of the paparazzi badgering Maria shocked me. They were literally on top of her, jostling her and shouting their questions. The public's fascination with Callas was an early precursor of today's cult of celebrity. Maria Callas handled it all.

The film closes with Callas's performance of "O min bambino caro", a Puccini aria that I sang in college while studying voice. Listening, I mentally sang along, breathing when she did, feeling again the optimism of my 19 year college self. What a gift! Maria Callas died too young, before her 54th birthday. I am grateful for her legacy, captured perfectly in this film. She continues to inspire artists to create their best work always. To soar with the angels.

Maria Callas: The Exhibition

#mariacallas #music #art #opera #documentaryfilm

Monday, February 18, 2019

Young Jackie

Young Jaqueline Bouvier by Irwin D. Hoffman (1901-1989)
oil on canvas
Me and Jackie
Terry Wallace, Wallace Gallery
Jacqueline Lee Bouvier
1947 Miss Porter's school yearbook 
On a recent visit to Wallace Gallery in East Hampton, I viewed the lovely painting by Irwin Hoffman of Jaqueline Bouvier Kennedy as a young girl. Her father, "Black Jack" Bouvier had commissioned the work after young Jackie took a bad fall from a horse while riding in East Hampton. Jackie was unconscious for several days. Coincidentally, Jackie ended up giving the painting to her riding instructor, Theresa Schey. The portrait reminded me of a school yearbook photo, so I went google stalking Jackie photos. There are so many! It is incredible that Jacqueline Lee Bouvier was photographed by professional photographers her entire life. I didn't discover a photo that matched the painting, but did ponder the timing of her accident (summer of 1950) and the style of the portrait (young school photo) -- In 1950, Jackie would have been in college. Did her father ask the artist to paint from a photo depicting her as a youngster and not the woman that she had become? If so, she probably viewed the painting as a folly of a doting parent and not something she was particularly fond of herself. It makes perfect sense that this little painting beloved by a father afraid to lose his little girl be passed down to the horsewoman who participated in her upbringing. Jackie was only a year old when her mother first put her on a horse. Wallace Gallery is fortunate to possess this historic artwork until it is ready to be cherished in its next home.

Based on further information, it appears the creation of the painting could be earlier than the 1950 date that I had at my initial writing. A Dan's Papers article lists it as 1948 and an East Hampton Star article attributes the work to High School. 


Coincidentally, Jackie's sister, Lee Radziwill recently passed away. 
Jackie and Lee, 1955
image Horst P Horst/Getty Images via

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Lighthouse Obsession

The writing part of my January challenge leads to reading and research. A story set in Sag Harbor of the late 1860s. What were people's lives like? My pen scratches along and suddenly I pause with the thought, "Boats are sailing to.. where? A day in a lighthouse would consist of... what activities?" Historical fiction by definition means history and fiction. The more I write, the more I need to know in order to set context. I am excited though, a story is beginning to form.
The Three Sisters of Nauset by Charles Wysocki
Since falling in love with the Cedar Island Light, I've subscribed to the Keeper's Log through the U.S. Lighthouse Society. My favorite bits are the descriptions of the lighthouse keeper's life. One Keeper's Log cover, Charles Wysocki's painting of the Nauset lighthouses, features two women painting en plein air. I have yet to carry paints and easel out to Cedar Point, but have been working on watercolors from photos that I've taken there. All of my paintings imagine the lantern restored to its tower. I began painting watercolors of the lighthouse as part of the January challenge, but will continue until I get it "right". How many paintings will it take? I recently read a story about Monet renting a hotel room with a view over the Waterloo Bridge so that he could paint it over and over in different light. He painted over 40 versions. Monet is know for painting the same subject again and again. Haystacks anyone? I think I will follow his lead.
Cedar Island Light by Gail Gallagher
Watercolor on Paper, 9" x 12"
Cedar Island Light (Three Sails) by Gail Gallagher
Watercolor on Paper, 9" x 12"
Cedar Island Light (Sloop) by Gail Gallagher
Watercolor on Paper, 9" x 12"
I registered to enter a watercolor of Cedar Island Light in this year's Guild Hall Members Show on March 9th. Which rendering will it be? I continue to paint in hopes of creating the perfect one. In the mean time, I've discovered a few historic renderings of the lighthouse to inspire my work. The early pencil sketch below by Reynolds Beal depicts the original wooden lighthouse. The granite lighthouse that exists today was begun in 1868. William Wallace Tooker, the grandson of Sag Harbor artist and lighthouse keeper, Hubbard Latham Fordham did a sketch from 1869 that shows both lighthouse buildings. I can imagine Tooker sketching aboard a sloop on the sail over to visit his grandfather at the lighthouse.
Cedar Island Light, July 13, 1887 by Reynolds Beal
Pencil on paper, 10" x 14"
Cedar Lighthouse 
1869 drawing by William Wallace Tooker
 View of the Cedar Island Light by Cappy Amundsen
Oil on canvas, 24" x 36"
Sag Harbor glittered on the cultural horizon like a gem. In 1770 when the Long Wharf in Sag Harbor was built, Northwest began its decline and Sag Harbor continued its ascendancy as a major whaling port up until the Civl War. It had always been more cosmopolitan than any of the other East End towns and ever since Reverend Beecher (Old Presbyterian Church, East Hampton) had preached against the Atheists' Club there in the early 1800's, it had been regarded with some dismay. "Rum selling was widespread. In lower Main Street, lined to the dock with stores, taverns and warehouses, there was the irresponsible life of a seaport town. While on upper Main Street, in fashionable homes, there was brilliant society, and arrogant youth skimmed through the streets with horse and cutter," according to Nancy Boyd Willey in The Story of Sag Harbor. In 1845 its population was 4000 of which one thousand was literally a floating population. Mrs Rattray says that, "Sag Harbor was the shopping center of the East End villages." - from Miss Amelia's Amagansett by Madeline Lee
Afternoon in Sag Harbor, 1883 by Walton H. Roberts
Watercolor, 12" x 18"

The photos of historic paintings above are from Terry Wallace's Cappy Amundsen book.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

January Challenge 2019

I have chosen to experiment again for this year's January challenge. Thirty days of daily art - however I can get it done. This year I'm taking a tripartite approach. 
Watercolors. Prime subject the Cedar Point Lighthouse.
I've been using some of my old photos for inspiration. 
Doodles. Oil crayon complimented by oil paint.
  • Prime canvas
  • Doodle with aquamarine oil stick
  • Dry overnight
  • Paint around doodles
  • Dry for one week
  • Add Lemons

The third part of my January challenge is to write every morning on the ferry to work. I'm fleshing out one of my ideas that, "Someone should write a novel about ." So far it is a real mishmash. Writing for 10 minutes when you're barely awake does not necessarily a cohesive story make, but I hope by the end of the month I will have something to show you. 

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Victorian Christmas at the Moran Studio

The East Hampton Historical Society imagines a Victorian Christmas as it could have been celebrated by the Moran Family. The enchanting display of historic clothing, toys and furnishings was such a treat! Such charming attention to every detail. My only wish was that I could have returned to view it all in the evening by the light of the glittering Christmas tree.
The high ceiling of the main floor studio easily accommodates a gloriously tall Christmas tree. Mannequins dressed in festive vintage clothing inhabit the scene.
What stories could this gown tell?

Beautiful vignettes
I loved this gentleman with his pooch and carrier.
Fireplace mantel detail
Window chandelier
I recognize some of the furniture as being original to the house.
Moran Studio Photo via
Historic Photo of Studio Interior via
The mezzanine was set up for punch.
This wasp waist mannequin stood at the entrance to the turret room which was decorated with its own small Christmas tree surrounded by toys.
Top floor master bedroom
Master closet. Is that a bed jacket?
A view towards Town Pond.
More vintage clothing details.
Moran's desk includes a telephone. 
The Moran Studio Christmas exhibition also included a display of Vintage Christmas cards. I was struck by the depictions of Santa on the telephone. Makes sense. Santa doesn't rely on magic alone to keep up with children's wishes. There he was with the latest tech at the Sag Harbor Cinema holiday party that I attended the following day.
Best wishes for a lovely Christmas and a blessed New Year!