Earlier last week, I took my class to see the preview of Augusta Auctions latest sale. Twice a year, this auction house comes to New York, offering gorgeous fashion, textiles, and accessories that are de-accessioned from museum collections or consigned from private estates.
Pursuing the selections was so much fun. There were gorgeous dresses from every era spread out on racks and tables. I loved this day dress from the 1930s. The top stitching on the collar and sleeves was such an elegant touch.
Every object could be handled, as long as you wore a white glove. Auction previews are a great way to examine objects before they hit the block. You can determine the condition and your budget. If you are unable to attend when the lot is up for bidding, you can submit a phone bid. No more wasting the entire day waiting for the lot of your dreams. (New to auctions? Keep in mind that every auction house has a buyer’s premium. This means an extra percentage is added to your final bid. These premiums range from 20% to 35% depending on the auction house.)
There were also some fantastic dresses from the 1920s. Their condition was really impeccable. These dresses were carefully housed in a blue board box, and cushioned with tissue paper to preserve the shape.
I just loved the hemline on this dress.
This was another favorite! The auction estimates were very reasonable. I was really tempted to bid on a few things. Who wouldn’t love a dress with beading like this?
There were bins of ethnographic embroideries and textiles from around the world. Seeing the quality and craftsmanship of historical textiles makes it so difficult to shop the contemporary market. Just look at these hand embroidered flowers on this velvet cloth.
The best part? I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in ages! Giselle from Fashioning the Past was also at the fashion preview. If you haven’t seen her blog, you should really check it out.
The George Bellows show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art really blew me away this weekend. I worked at an art gallery for some time, and learned about the Ashcan School of painters. Founded by Robert Henri (1865″“1929) around 1900, this group of painters focused on depicting scenes as they were (Realism) instead of in the dreamy, staccato way of the American Impressionists.
Henri believed that painters needed to depict everyday subjects in an interesting and honest way: “What we need is more sense of the wonder of life, and less of this business of picture making.”
Members of the Ashcan School became instantly recognizable for their lavish use of black paint. Black paint had pretty much been eliminated by the American Impressionist palette, although it was used heavily by the Old Masters like Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Goya. Contemporaries of the Ashcan school affectionally called them the “Revolutionary Black Gang” or the ” Ash Can Group” (hence the name).
Stag at Sharkey’s by George Bellows, 1909. Image courtesy of cleveland.about.com
George Bellows (1882-1925) was originally from Ohio. He moved to New York to continue his study of painting. Bellows met Henri shortly after arriving and started to study with him. Henri encouraged Bellows to depict scenes of contemporary life, even if the compositions and subjects challenge prevailing standards of taste. Bellows focused on impoverished immigrants in New York, especially children in “squalid and dangerous slums”.
Cliff Dwellers by George Bellows, 1913. Image courtesy of The Tenement Museum.
Bellows is really my favorite painter from the Ashcan School. He has an amazing sense of value and color. All of the paintings have so many harmonious colors, and really express a sense of light and dark. The canvases are so luminous, they seem to have a radiant light source within. One of my favorite paintings in the show was called Noon.
Of course I’m partial to it because of all the blue paint, but you can definitely see how there are areas of light and dark. The bridge and how it casts shadows over parts of the canvas, the dark areas with figures in the shade, and even the billowing smoke – just take a look at how masterfully they are all done:
Noon by George Bellows, 1908.
There were so many great depictions of New York City. In addition to his sensitivity to color, Bellows was an amazing draftsman. He carefully outlines shapes within the composition. Almost all of the paintings have a balanced foreground, middle, and background. And the subjects just seem to come alive, with all the care and detail with which they are painted.
New York by George Bellows, 1911.
But really, the best part of seeing all of these paintings was the opportunity to look at Bellows’s brushstrokes. It’s really difficult to see in photographs and images. That’s why going to museums and galleries are so important. There is a really, tangible experience of the painting that you just don’t get by looking at on the internet or in a book. As someone that paints, it’s a special learning tool to see how other people push paint around the canvas.
The Palisades by George Bellows, 1909. Image courtesy of the Tate.
As I looked at certain paintings, I noticed that Bellows directed the paint to follow the specific object he was painting. So for example, the water is painted horizontally and the tree is painted vertically. Take a look at smoke in the upper right hand corner. It’s really easy to see that Bellows swirls the paint around to mimic the way smoke billows in the wind. So pretty!
Snow Capped River by George Bellows, 1911. Image courtesy of the Telfair Museum.
Snow Capped River was another favorite. You MUST see it in person. The image above doesn’t even hint at what a beautiful work of art it really is. Bellows also changed the thickness of paint within his compositions. Certain areas are very flat, with thin layers of paint, and others are thick and impasto.
The George Bellows exhibit is at the Metroplitan Museum of Art until February 18th, 2013. Don’t miss it – the show is included with general admission!
Last week, I went to Franz Kline: Coal & Steel. Abstract Expressionism is one of my favorite types of painting. Generally, I think of this movement being based around New York. But Franz Kline (1910-1962) was from Northeastern Pennsylvania.
This short story was a journal entry I wrote based on events that really occurred.
Sitting on the train, I take out my book and start reading. It’s rush hour on Monday. I’d like to get home as quickly as possible. Reading makes the trip go by so quickly. My mind is racing with thoughts of the weekend, what happened at work, and relationships. It’s hard to focus on what I’m reading. I continue with the book, hoping to obtain a calmer state of mind.
A man tries to access the seat next to me. There is a woman positioned in front of the seat, oblivious to the man while listening to her iPod. The man says excuse me, but the woman does not move. The man explodes into an angry tirade:
You should talk those damn things out of your ear so you can hear what’s going on around you. I’m sick of people like you, blasting that music and tuning out the world. You’re in your own little world there, and you could get killed and wouldn’t know it. I tried to warn a guy he was going to get hit by a car the other day and he couldn’t hear me because he had those damn things in his ears. All that for what, music? So you should stop looking at your phone and turn the music off because your life might depend on it.
The man continues yelling for three stops, which seems like an eternity. The woman is frightened. She replies sheepishly, “I can hear you“, which sends the man into a fury.
I sigh. My thoughts again drift from my book to this conversation. In a way, the man is right. Living in this city, we try to make our own personal time by listening to music, reading, distracting ourselves from what is going on around us. But I wish he wasn’t yelling. The man starts calming down, saying he doesn’t mean to take it out on the woman, but that he is sick of people not paying attention. I start thinking of the people that don’t pay attention to me. I sigh again, knowing that it is useless to think of those people. I wish something would happen so that I could change my thoughts, some catalyst. Maybe if I keep reading, some other thoughts will come.
I glance up to see what stop I’m on, 110th Street. All of the sudden, a woman sits next to me and says, “I really need your advice”. I look up from my book and instinctively say: “Ok”. Words tumble out of her mouth:
“I don’t know what to do. There are warrants out for me. I can’t stay in one place. I’ve been moving from hotel to hotel, and I can’t afford to live. I can’t work, I can’t make money, and I can’t buy food.”
She is gasping for breath, her eyes narrow in pain. She is clutching black plastic garbage back, which I assume are some possessions she’s managed to cart around with her.
“I don’t know if I should turn myself in or not, but I don’t have any money, I don’t have a place to stay. And I . . .“
It’s difficult for me to follow the words she is saying. At first, I’m confused and think she is trying to ask me for money. But I look right into her eyes. She is young, in her mid twenties. Her skin is smooth, dark like chocolate. She has some black eyeliner around her almond shaped eyes, all of which are framed by her thick bangs.
Her words wash over me and fill me with sadness. I interrupt her and say:
“Wait, what do you mean turn yourself in? What are you asking?“
She gasps for breath again. Taking a deep inhale, she tries to calm herself down. Focusing, she explains:
“There are warrants for my arrest. And basically, I’m asking . . . if you think I should turn myself in?”
I look at her and feel like my heart is leaping out of my chest. Her face is intense with fear, regret, and sorrow. Whatever has happened she deeply regrets it. Her life has been taken from her, living in the shadows and hoping not to get caught. Tears start to well up in my eyes. What can I say to this woman? I cannot judge her for what she has done, she is already aware that she is wrong. Even though she is free, she is imprisoned in fear and remorse. I know my face has such a concerned look, and without even thinking I ask:
“Do you think it’s the right thing to do?“
She looked down, and her whole body sank down a few inches. She nodded her head and whispered yes. I respond, “Well, then you already have your answer”, almost ready to cry. I patted her on the shoulder and said “Good luck”.
The train stops at 116th Street. She picks up her black bag, and walks to the exit of the car. I watch her the whole way. As she gets off the car, I see her burst into tears. The doors close, and the train leaves the station. I can’t read the book anymore. All the thoughts I was thinking before have left my mind. Did I tell the woman what she needed to hear? She reached out to me in a time of need. I think my words were exactly what she needed to hear. But I feel so sad. I can’t stop thinking of what is happening to her . . . even now.
To purchase Reading on the Train, please visit edwardbgordon.blogspot.com
Thanks, Edward and Ingrid! :)