Showing posts with label Palm Beach Jewelry Art Antique Show. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Palm Beach Jewelry Art Antique Show. Show all posts

Monday, February 19, 2018

A Cultural Capitol in the Winter

This is “high season” in Palm Beach County for countless opportunities to enjoy theatre of all genres, dance, music and art exhibitions.  To try to take them all in would leave little time for anything else.  While I love the theatre in general, I share Stephen Sondheim’s general aversion to the opera, probably because, for me, it’s too much of a hybrid, theatre, music, sometimes dance and high drama all rolled into one, and while I appreciate a fine voice, my sensibilities draw me to the Great American Songbook. 

It’s not as if I’ve never been exposed to opera, although my parents never went to one or listened to them on their “Victrola.”  In college, when I minored in music, I was able to get a ticket once in a while to the nosebleed section of the Metropolitan Opera House where there were students’ desks, and I would endeavor to follow the score.  I was impressed by the pageantry, but the music left me rather indifferent.  So I grew away from opera which I’m sure is my loss.

Ann on the other hand loves the opera so we’ve gone our separate ways, she subscribing to the Palm Beach Opera season (after having enjoyed the Metropolitan Opera in NYC while we lived there or nearby) with a friend.  One of the features of the PB Opera is a “lunch-and-learn” a couple of weeks before each performance and recently one of her friends was unable to go and offered the ticket to me.  Normally I’d decline, but the program focused on Candide by Leonard Bernstein, one of my musical “heroes” who could write for all different musical genres. 

Remarkably, and luckily for us all, Nina Bernstein Simmons, the youngest daughter of the great Leonard Bernstein, was the main speaker, lovingly guiding the audience through the humor and genius of her father’s operetta.  Candide is to be performed at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach February 23-25.  Parts of the program are brief performances, accompanied by piano, by the Benenson Young Artists, all opera students ready to graduate to the main stage.  

Derrek Stark, tenor played Candide,and Chelsea Bonagura, soprano, played Cunegonde, 

Francesca Aguado, mezzo-soprano, played the Old Lady, 

 and Joshua Conyers, baritone, played Dr. Pangloss. 

Their voices soared, and in particular, the best known piece, Glitter and Be Gay, sung by Chelsea Bonagura.  None other than the great Barbara Cook who one normally associates with the Great American Songbook can be heard singing this on You Tube.

David Stern, the conductor for the Palm Beach Opera and the son of Isaac Stern joined Nina Bernstein to reminiscence about his father’s friendship with Bernstein.  It was moving to see their two adult children sharing those memories.

Before that, again I was lucky enough to be the recipient of a subscription ticket from another one of Ann’s friends, this time to the Miami City Ballet.  Ah, the ballet.  From The Chorus Line’s song, At the Ballet: “Everything was beautiful at the ballet, / Raise your arms and someone's always there. /Yes, everything was beautiful at the ballet, /At the ballet, /At the ballet!!!”  With a few exceptions, that’s as close as I’ve been to a ballet as well. 

But a couple of weeks ago I did a grand jeté to the Miami City Ballet centennial celebration of Jerome Robbins.  Like Bernstein, Robbins is a cross over artist, probably best known for his work on West Side Story, which he directed and choreographed, with Leonard Bernstein the composer and Stephen Sondheim the lyricist.  Here are all the musical artists I most admire.

And, the second part of the program was dedicated to the West Side Story Suite, including, a “Prologue,” “Something’s Coming,” “Dance at the Gym,” “Cool, America,” “Rumble,” concluding with the “Somewhere Ballet.”

Ironically, it was a company premiere in the first part of the program which stole the show, The Cage. When it first premiered in NYC in 1986 the New York Times remarked: “Once seen, ''The Cage'' tends not to be forgotten. Jerome Robbins's depiction of life in a covey of female insects is gruesome. These are females who consider males of the species their prey, and two males are killed with brutal dispatch during the ballet, with Stravinsky's String Concerto in D somberly accompanying the murders. “  Indeed, not to be forgotten.  It was spectacularly fascinating.

From opera and ballet early this month on to our annual attendance at The Palm Beach Jewelry, Art & Antique Show.  Opening night is the “social event of the season” – complimentary hors d oeuvres and champagne while you stroll about and look at the most eclectic and expensive art and jewelry you’ve ever seen for sale.  A couple of years ago I remember seeing Wilber Ross there.  You need his kind of resources to buy the art exhibited.  So why do we go?  It’s a moving feast of people and art.  See and be seen.  Just plain fun and it appeals to my diverse interests, from rare books, to paintings, to sculpture, to pop art.  Ann likes to look over the jewelry as well, but we’re both astonished by the prices, having looked at some gold ear rings, my thinking, maybe $5k, turning out to be $15K.  Look but don’t touch!

Some of the paintings that caught our eyes, and this is just a mere sampling, was the most expensive one, (a half a million dollars):

Louis Marie De Schryver,” Marchand de fleurs, la Rue du Havre, Paris,” 1893

Then a more contemporary artist:

 Marc Chagall, “Le vase bleu aux duex corbeilles de fruits,” circa 1961 - 1964

And one of my favorites:

 Norman Rockwell, “Mars Candy Christmas Card,” 1960

Talk about strange, but captivating, an iconoclastic UV print on birch wood:

 Sarah Bahbah, “Sex and Takeout”

 Finally, one that for a mere $29,500 I would even consider buying, if I had that kind of $ for art.  This one appeals to me because of my love for the sea and the color.  The artist is considered a “hyperrealist:” 

 Marc Esteve, “Breaker”.

In the rare book department, see the signed first edition of The Theatre Guild Presents Porgy and Bess. New York: Gershwin Publishing Corporation, [1935].  Breathtaking, signed by Ira and George Gershwin as well as by Du Bose Heyward who wrote the libretto as well as some of the lyrics along with Ira Gershwin.  This is as close as I’ll get to such a piece of history.

But who needs art like that when, in our own home, we now possess three professionally prepared giclées, by one of our favorite artists, our neighbor and dear friend, Nina Motta.

Her gift to us of “Jessica at the Piano” now hangs above my piano and not a day goes by that I fail to see her and even sometimes greet her.  The full story is the subject of a separate blog entry.

Recently we acquired giclées of two of her other paintings that we have long admired.  These hang in our hallway so we see them many, many times a day as well.

The first is a prize winning painting, one of our favorites,

 "Making Plans"

Nina told us the story about this.  She was sitting at a café around the corner from the Vatican.  A young woman stepped through the doorway of a salon across the street from where Nina was sitting. “It was impossible to miss her, the dress, hair, posture, cell phone. I grabbed my camera and put on the telephoto lens because I knew immediately it was going to be my next painting, taking about 25 shots.”

The other is called "Portobelo, Panama" which she painted from a picture she took in the harbor of that town.

Nina’s art shares that hallway with unique pieces created by one of my dearest friends, who passed away nearly ten years ago now, Howard Goldstein.  My story about Howard and our friendship can be read here

Howard specialized in carving wildlife figures from balsa wood, and painting them to life-like perfection. I was touched when he gave us two of his works, the only ones he said he had ever parted with from his personal collection.

The first is a Koala bear

The other is a Manatee, just like the ones which occasionally go by our dock.

That same hallway has an original work of art which we acquired in Nantucket when we first visited the island by our own boat, an acrylic on board:

John Austin’s “ Forty Four Foot Boat”

Another painting acquired in Nantucket that same year is by a better known artist, Kerry Hallam.  He is a British impressionist who later specialized in nudes and sailboats and the French Rivera coast.  A prolific artist (some 12,000 paintings) but we love this one, unique in many respects as he didn’t do many of the Nantucket mainland.

“Unitarian Church, Nantucket” 1986

Finally, I’ll call this art.  We needed to replace our front door, which was a nice solid wood mahogany but as it opened in rather than out, was not hurricane code compliant.  Therefore, we needed to put up shutters across the front door every hurricane season which took its toll on me as well as the stucco around the door.

As we decided to shop for a replacement door, why not find one that is aesthetically beautiful as well as functional?  After spending hours at a store which specializes in such doors,  we found one made of hurricane impact glass which encapsulates all clear bevels and an antique polished black Caming design, perfect for the Mediterranean feeling of our home.  A Canadian artisan designed and manufactured the glass, a work of art in our opinion.

Now that it’s been installed, we wonder why we didn’t do that long ago.  It’s hard to do it justice in these photographs, particularly from the front.

So, it’s been an “artsy” few weeks for us.  All that is missing from this entry are my theatre write ups but they are easily found from the index. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

American Rust to American Politics and Art for the One Percent

When I heard the praise heaped upon Philipp Meyer’s The Son which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, I was curious about his first published novel, American Rust.  It is a work of merit and promise, and a good read, close to a dystopian piece of fiction, the inverse of the American Dream, depicting the demise of the middle class and the seismic changes to the American landscape.  It is also a Bildungsroman, the protagonist, Isaac English, having to embark on an odyssey to escape the “American rust” of the Pittsburgh valley and its failed steel industry and his father as well, having to endure beatings, starvation and exhaustion during his journey, but ultimately returning home to save his friend Poe, and to find salvation.

This is a well-crafted character driven novel with each carrying a piece of the story, frequently that piece unknown to the others, at least in its entirety, and leaving the reader the omniscient observer.  Meyer skillfully maintains the suspense, making the book a page turner, to me one of the marks of a good writer.

The other characters are intertwined with the 19 year old Isaac English who was expected to go to any top college of his choice as he excelled in high school, as did his older sister, Lee, who went on to Yale on scholarship, and married wealthy right out of school.  Isaac stayed behind in the prison of his environment, to care for his father Henry who is in a wheelchair and also to be with his only friend, Billy Poe, two years older than Isaac, a star football player in high school who was expected to get an athletic scholarship to college, but ended up hanging around the dilapidated mill town mainly out of loyalty to his mother who is divorced, and living in a trailer.  There is the chief of police, Bud Harris, who loves Billy’s mother and has moved mountains to keep Billy on the straight and narrow.  And to further add complexity to the plot, there is the residual love affair between Billy and Isaac’s sister, the now married Lee, who returns to check on her father and finds her brother leaving.

I’ll not go into more details of the plot which brings all of this together but there are acts of sacrifice and love that ultimately set Isaac and Billy free.  Lurking in the background at all times though, are the remnants of the steel towns, the low-paying jobs left behind for those who have stayed and can find them, a future without a real future and violence.  The same feelings were invoked when I read about the empty mill towns of Richard Russo and the trailer parks of Russell Banks.  But Meyer’s writing is his own, and clever as he builds his novel chapter by chapter, from those different viewpoints, converging at the end. There is a little bit of modern day Kerouac here and even Salinger (such as the way Isaac in stream of consciousness refers to himself in the third person as “the kid”).

What came to mind over and over again is this election year.  Here we have two revolutionary yet entirely polarized players, the “democratic-socialist,” Bernie Sanders, and the “alpha male, say-anything-you-want” Donald Trump.  Each in their own way has forged a strong connection with the disenfranchised white middle class, or the young. What used to be a mainstream American Dream now exists mostly for the deliriously wealthy.  The phenomena of today’s Republican and Democratic primaries is the “do-you-hear-the-people-sing” voice of those who have been left holding the bag as we’ve morphed from a manufacturing economy to a techno-service based one. 

In this regard, Philipp Meyer’s American Rust speaks like John Dos Passos’ USA Trilogy, or John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.  The topography of the problem is laid down in similar social commentary. Lee is driving her father for a medical appointment and Meyer observes: Farther along she couldn’t help noticing the old coal chute stretching the length of the hillside, passing high over the road on its steel supports, the sky visible through its rusted floor; the iron suspension bridge crossing the river. It was sealed at both ends, its entire structure similarly penetrated and pocked by rust. Then it seemed there was a rash of abandoned structures, an enormous steel-sided factory painted powder blue, its smokestacks stained with the ubiquitous red-brown streaks, its gate chained shut for how many years, it had never been open in her lifetime. In the end it was rust. That was what defined this place..

Isaac in his travels on foot is approaching a western PA town: From a distance it looked peaceful. Up close it looked abandoned-most of the buildings in complete disrepair, vandalism and neglect. He passed through the downtown, there were a few cars parked, but mostly it was empty buildings, old signs on old storefronts, ancient For Lease signs in most of the windows. The only hints of life came from the coke plant by the river, long corrugated buildings, a tall ventstack burning off wastegas, occasional billows of steam from the coke quenching. A scooploader big enough to pick up a semitrailer was taking coal from a barge and dumping it onto a conveyor toward the main plant. The train tracks were jammed with open railcars full of dusty black coke but other than Isaac, there was not another actual person in sight.

The consequences are destroyed lives. Harris describes it as “The Great Migration” as Steinbeck might have defined it himself: Passing through the town, past the old police station and the new one, he'd seen the Fall, the shuttering of the mills, and the Great Migration that followed. Migration to nowhere-thousands of people moved to Texas, tens of thousands, probably, hoping for jobs on oil rigs, but there weren't many of those jobs to be had. So those people had ended up worse off than they started, broke and jobless in a place they didn't know anyone. The rest had just disappeared. And you would never know it. He'd watched guys go from making thirty dollars an hour to four-fifteen, a big steelworker bagging his groceries, stone-faced, there was no easy way for anyone to deal with it.

Migration jobs like the ones offered to Billy Poe involve constant traveling to dispose of the flotsam of shutting down our manufacturing facilities and its environmental impact: There was an opening at a company that did the plastic seals for landfills. Traveling all over the country. At new landfills they would lay down the plastic liners in preparation for garbage to be dumped there, to prevent leakage into nearby streams and such. At the old landfills they would seal them up, it was like a giant ziplock, a heavy layer of plastic overtop the garbage and then they blew them up with air to test them, just before they dumped the soil on top you could run across the acres of plastic, bouncing, it was like running on the moon…it was fourteen dollars an hour to start. But it was not really running on the moon. It was working with other people's trash. Technicians, they called themselves, but it was not really that. It was laying plastic overtop of trash heaps, it was hanging around city dumps. Your country is supposed to do better….[And then there was] dismantling work, taking apart mills and old factories, they had taken down old steelmills all over the country, locally and nationally. But…there was so much traveling, it was living out of a suitcase the entire year….The work was all in the Midwest now, taking down the auto plants in Michigan and Indiana. And one day even that work would end, and there would be no record, nothing left standing, to show that any-thing had ever been built in America. It was going to cause big problems, he didn't know how but he felt it. You could not have a country, not this big, that didn't make things for itself. There would be ramifications eventually.

Lee’s teacher in high school had come to the town decades before when the steel mills were thriving.  He moved to the Valley to bring socialism to the mills, he'd been a steelworker for ten years, lost his job and become a teacher. Graduated from Cornell and became a steelworker. There were lots of us, he'd told her. Reds working right alongside the good old boys. But there had never been any revolution, not anything close, a hundred and fifty thousand people lost their jobs but they had all gone quietly. It was obvious there were people responsible, there were living breathing men who'd made those decisions to put the entire Valley out of work, they had vacation homes in Aspen, they sent their kids to Yale, their portfolios went up when the mills shut down. But, aside from a few ministers who'd famously snuck into a white-glove church and thrown skunk oil on the wealthy pastor, no one lifted a hand in protest. There was something particularly American about it-blaming yourself for bad luck-that resistance to seeing your life as affected by social forces, a tendency to attribute larger problems to individual behavior. The ugly reverse of the American Dream. In France, she thought, they would have shut down the country. They would have stopped the mills from closing. But of course you couldn't say that in public…

Which brings us to the present, the “ugly reverse of the American Dream…you weren't supposed to get laid off if you were good at your job” and the consequences, a barbell society, lots of people at the one extreme, a select few at the other, and the vanishing middle class in between.  Indeed, there are “ramifications” reflected in the contentious presidential debates, the right moving further to the right and the left moving further to the left, not exactly what our founding fathers envisioned.

And speaking of how the other half of the upper 1% live, this past week featured the annual Palm Beach Jewelry, Art & Antique Show which we like to visit but with a look-but-do-not-touch mind-set.  Actually, it’s with an “unable-to-touch” approach as some of the works of art there are priced at $250k plus although there are some nifty pieces for “only” $10k. It is like an eclectic museum and it appeals to my idiosyncratic taste in “art.”

We attended it on “President’s Day” weekend.  Here is yet another change in American Life. We used to celebrate Washington’s Birthday on February 22, but that fell on unpredictable days of the week and there was Lincoln’s February 12 birthday to consider, so it became a compromised holiday, conveniently on a Monday for the benefit of blockbuster “Presidential” mattress and automobile sales.  Sorry, General Washington.

Nonetheless, at the show I was drawn to Mark Daly’s Broad Street Commute, President’s Day, oil on linen, painted in the classic impressionist style, one I’m particularly fond of and of the subject as well.  Merely a cool $14.5K. 

I’m a sucker for sea scenes, especially of the old classic sailing ships and if I had “another” $168k would be snapping up Montague Dawson’s Blue Pacific, The Titania.

Given the solipsism of today’s world, I was intrigued by Susan P. Cochran sculpture Narcissistic Ant.  Not sure that I have an appropriate place in the house to display it though : - )

Finally, after walking the exhibit, I thought a good cup of coffee might be tasty, but I was told to keep my coffee beans to myself when approaching the polished American Duplex Fresh Ground Coffee Maker on display – unless I had $14k.

Indeed, an interesting display of objects of art, but not to be outdone by the sunset a few days ago taken from our own backyard.  American rust, American dreams, dysfunctional government, all can take a back seat to this….

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Cultural Miscellany Redux

My life / blog seems to repeat itself.  At about this time last year I posted a similar entry.  But at the risk of doing it again, I’ll describe some of the events of the last few weeks.

The varied cultural events in SE Florida are copious and excellent, on par with many of the major cities around the country.  In particular there is our regional theatre.  Yes, there are touring productions of popular musicals, but many prize-winning plays are produced by local theatres as well – such as the Maltz Jupiter Theatre’s current production of Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet which was highly praised by the Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout.

Having loved Dramaworks’ production of Mamet’s American Buffalo (hard to believe that was five years ago now), we saw the Maltz production last Friday. And what a play Mamet has written! It is sort of the other side of the coin of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman – the American Dream corrupted by greed.

Teachout not only praised the production, but justifiably focused on Rob Donohoe’s performance as Shelly, who is the central character in the play.  For those of us who saw the film, who could forget Jack Lemmon’s Shelly?  Donohoe is up to the task of creating his own unforgettable portrayal.  We’ve seen Donohoe in several Dramaworks productions in the past, but never in such a leading role.

Peter Allas who plays Ricky (played by Al Pacino in the film version) is one of only two actors in the production who has never played on the Dramaworks stage (this production being under the skillful direction of another Dramaworks’ veteran, J. Barry Lewis).  We last saw Allas ten years ago in the Maltz Theatre’s opening production, Anna in the Tropics.  It was that play that persuaded us to become season subscribers ever since. 

Maltz usually gravitates toward revivals of Broadway musicals and lighter dramatic fare aimed at the mature South Florida audience.  It always takes on those challenges professionally and does not depend on touring companies.  Once in a while, it will produce some serious theatre, this Mamet play leading the pack, but I could also mention past productions such as Terrence McNally’s Tony prize-winning play about the great soprano, Maria Callas, Master Class, and one about the abstract impressionist Mark Rothko, Red, and last year’s production of Jon Robin Baitz' play, Other Desert Cities.
In any case, the rest of this entry is a wrap up of a few non-theatre events during the last month, told mostly in photographs.

First was a social event sponsored by our Gulfstream Grady Group boat club.  Their annual “bash” is held at the venerable Bonnette Hunt Club, a fishing and hunting club that has been frequented by luminaries over the years and now is a catering destination, but still retains its rustic Florida roots, barbecuing wild boar, turkey and ham for such events.  Bing Crosby’s locker is still there as well as testimonials from the likes of the cast of Gunsmoke for instance.  You can’t get more “old Florida” than this club, and it was a great night with the Group.

I gave my first theme concert in January at the Brookdale Palm Beach Gardens Assisted Living Home, this one covering the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein.  I’ve done many such concerts in the past including ones as Mangrove Bay (accompanying a singer), Waterford, La Posada and the Hanley Center to name a few.  It is an enjoyable way to give back to the community. 

Towards the end of January Ann left on a long-ago planned three week tour with Overseas Adventure Travel to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.  I would have liked to have gone, but health reasons prevented me, so I filled in those weeks with lots of emails from and to her, following her exploits through those communications.  She is such a good writer (and eventually I hope to post an edited version of her descriptions, along with some of her photographs, such as this one of her group in Laos). 

But just before she left, though, we went to Art Palm Beach at the Convention Center which mostly focuses on modern art and photographs.  These are just a few highlights, my favorite being a photograph of Marilyn Monroe lap dancing James Dean, a photograph I’ve never seen before, our reflections showing in my photo of the photo.

While she was gone, I attended the Palm Beach Jewelry, Art & Antique Show (PBJAAS)—also at the Convention Center -- with our friends Harry and Susan.  This show, as the title implies, covers a broader landscape.  The Jewelry doesn’t interest me, but the art and antiques are fascinating, as I hope some of the photos reveal.  In particular I found myself spending time admiring Guy Carleton Wiggins’ beautiful early 20th century impressionistic paintings of the NYC landscape in the snow.  (And what could be snowier than this winter in the Northeast.)

The PBJAAS is a very upscale exhibit and in fact we attended opening night by invitation only, champagne and hors d'oeuvres being extended to all guests as well as some operatic entertainment.  I include this brief video clip of the latter (but it will not play on mobile devices, sorry – it’s all Google’s fault!).

After my three weeks of bachelorhood, I was more than ready to collect Ann at the airport.  I say “collect” as she arrived exhausted. Her challenging trip became a nightmare on her return home as she missed her plane connection in Qatar.   But she’s now home, slowly recovering and I hope to have something to post in the future from her trip.  Plus I need to edit some of her photos, so it may be quite some time before we have anything for posting!