A Menu For A Little Girl
Saturday, January 21, 2012
|Lauren Elizabeth Stewart|
While the picture of the little girl here might jar a bit with the content of what’s written it just so happens that one of the definite advantages about blog writing is that I am not subject to the whims of editors or art directors. I had enough of that in that era of my life where I was working for magazines. My wife Rosemary looked at the picture and was disgusted. Happily, she, too, is not my editor or art director.
In the last few months family dinners at home were marred by the explosive and moody outbursts of my older granddaughter whose body is going through changes of which I have no knowledge as I was never a 14-year-old girl. I attempted to reduce the dinnertime outburst by having her sit next to me. This way I could avoid eye contact and such remarks as, “Why are you looking at me like that?” Unfortunately a grandfather that has been used to teasing his daughters and granddaughters does not know how to stop. Even after I was warned, I persisted. And so it came that a couple of weeks ago RG (raging hormones) called to say she was no longer going to opt for coming for Saturday visits.
I must, of course, mention here that my wife is extremely angry at me. But there have been some advantages. Dinners have been quiet and peaceful. They have been not stressful at all. Conversation at the table is subdued but happy. We retire to watch a film on TV.
Now, the younger granddaughter, Lauren, 9, is able to take my teasing as if she were wearing plate armour. She dishes it right back. She is impervious.
I came up with the idea a few days ago that we should call up Lauren and ask her to choose the menu for today. She was very quick to immediately ask for her chewy meat. This recipe, which I post here, has become one of the family’s faves. The meat is not too chewy as I thinly slice it at an angle. The only modification that I have made to the NY Times recipe is to reduce the oil by one half. The purpose of the oil is to make your barbecue flame up. This immediately blackens the flank stake into a crust while keeping the inside moist and rare.
My recipe for mashed potatoes includes lots of cream, butter, pepper, freshly grated Parmegiano-Reggiano, and half a very finely chopped onion. I ignore all those who would scoff at my then whipping all the above with an electric hand-beater. Both Lauren and Rebecca like my mashed potatoes.
I agree with Lauren’s choice of Jell-O but when Rosemary is not looking I do not stir the mixture too much. The result is Jell-O that is a tad soft on the surface but at the bottom it develops a chewy consistency much like gum. I love it and I am slowly turning Lauren to appreciate this, too.
Lauren states, “Rebecca is going to miss out on this meal. There is more for us.” I presently agree but I do hope that Rebecca does eventually come back and that I will be able to sit her in front of me. I will try not to tease her, but I am not promising.
The Sun Shines In Rainy West Vancouver - An Intimate Concert
Friday, January 20, 2012
|Carol Tsuyuki, Craig Tomlinson, Marc Destrubé, Byron Schenkman, Natalie Mackie |
Photo Mamiya RB-67 Pro-SD with Polaroid 1500 ISO Sepia Film
Tonight my daughter Hilary Stewart and I were privy to an intimate concert (I don’t think I am over the top if I add with plenty of “quiet virtuosity”) of French Baroque music in the West Vancouver home of harpsichord/instrument maker Craig Tomlinson and wife Carol.
The trio performing in a living room of wondrous instruments, including a beautiful viola da gamba consisted of Marc Destrubé, Natalie Mackie on viola da gamba (two musicians I have followed since 1996) and and Bryon Schenkman on harpsichord.
The “excuse” for this concert has an explanation that is quite simple. The three performers were rehearsing for a week in Tomlinson’s house and there may be another one that is simple, too. After the performance Mr Schenkman told me, while glancing with longing at the Tomlinson harpsichord (in splendid black, red and gold), “I love that harpsichord.”
The performance area was an L-shaped living room dining room. I chose to sit on the dining room side for two reasons. For one we were two feet away from Natalie Mackie’s back and I could easily peer into her sheet music. From our vantage point we could see Schenkman’s face and Marc Destrubé full frontal. In most concerts you see him in profile. We could also hear, right there, the concert (and that gasp of air when Destrubé is about to swing his bow) and be able to enjoy all the subtleties of the sound of the viola da gamba.
If you look at the programme you might agree with me that you may have heard music of Rameau and Couperin before. But the others, as my Spanish grandmother would have said, were, “ilustres desconocidos”. All three performers are keen and knowledgeable in music history. In fact Schenkman teaches music history at Seattle University. This all meant that we were given lots (but just enough) of tidbits and useful knowledge on these French composers and their contributions.
Of Elizabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre Schenkman told us that from the moment she was four she was a favourite in King Louis XIV’s court and when she was older she was offered an important post in it by the Sun King himself. But it seems that de la Guerre had obtained her own private patrons and held her own musical salons in Paris. She did not want to travel to Versailles. De la Guerre and Jacques Duphly were catering to a new and growing audience that was beginning to shift from royal courts to the private quarters of wealthy patrons.
Both the music and our audience which included a prominent Vancouver jeweller and an arts patron was a 21st century version of what may have been that of de la Guerre’s this concert also included pleasant chats in the kitchen with nice things to eat and drink. Through it all my daughter appreciated those good things that our city has to offer if one looks.
After the concert, Hilary chatted with Destrubé who enquired about Rebecca and may have been wondering when she will return to these concerts. Since Destrubé has his own children he must know about the “teenage dark ages”!
As we drove back to our side of the bridge we reflected on a special evening in which the musicians catered to a royal audience and that royal audience was us.
Of special note for me was Marin Marais’s Sonnerie de Ste-Geneviève du Mont-de-Paris. It’s incessant vamp on the harpsichord (a constant smile on Schenkman) reminded me of the Dave Brubeck Quartet playing Paul Desmond’s Take Five (with that lovely vamp on the piano) and I could imagine that happy hunchback, Charles Laughton jumping up and down, pulling on the bells while the harpsichord’s red reminded me of Esmeralda’s (Maureen O’Hara) red hair.
|Photo from Programme|
Byron Schenkman on the piano
Rossi: Sonata sopra la Bergamasca (Venice, 1622) for two violins and continuo
In that Rossi, Byron Schenkman plays continuo, which means that he is playing the bass parts on his harpsichord. But there is another delightful continuo player, on the cello. It's Nathan Whittaker. Whittaker plays for our very own local and wonderful Pacific Baroque Orchestra. And the video below while lacking in a bit of video quality is quite unusual. This is a core group of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra with Marc Destrubé on the violin.
The Pacific Baroque Orchestra plays The Scaramouche Suite
The instrument used at the Friday concert, is a French Double manual harpsichord that I based on an instrument that was built in Paris in 1769 by Pascal Taskin. The original instrument had a range of FF to f3 (61 notes). I have increased the range to a high g3 as well as adding a note so that the instrument may be used at both high (modern pitch where a=440 hz) and low (baroque pitch where the a-415 hz) pitches. This increase in range to 64 notes is much needed in this instrument as it quite often will be used by Early Music Vancouver or The Pacific Baroque Orchestra one week at low pitch and a few days later will be used by The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra or Vancouver Opera at high pitch. The instrument has a disposition of 2 x 8' and 1 x 4' with a buff rail on the principal 8' register. The two manual keyboard has a typical French shove coupler that engages the upper and lower manuals together.
I measured the original instrument in Edinburgh in 1987 and was able to take a multitude of photos of it at the same time. Overall, the original is still in very good shape, has an incredible tone and a wonderful action. I was lucky enough to spend a week measuring and photographing the Taskin and a few of the other Harpsichords at the Russell Collection in Edinburgh, while the building where the collection is housed was closed off to the general public. On one such day, as the '1769 Taskin' is missing some bottom boards, I had my head, two hands and my camera inside of the instrument photographing internal braces. The curator of the collection, upon seeing my legs oozing out from under the instrument, proceeded to play a huge C major chord that, from my position, was about the loudest thing I had heard to date.
The woods used in my harpsichords are gathered from locations around the world. At the heart of the instruments is the European Spruce used for the soundboards. I buy the Spruce in log form in Mittenwald, Germany. At its thickest the finished soundboards are 4.5 mm thick and at the thinest are 1.9 mm. Other woods include Ebony, Swiss Pear, Yellow Poplar, European Beech, Holly and Basswood. Once after picking through a pile of logs in Germany in the 1990's I was gladdened to see the Steinway Piano manufacturers coming in to pick through what I had left behind.
A Pushy Robert Blake Pushes Me Into Art
Thursday, January 19, 2012
|Photo by Tamio Wakayama|
Sometime in 1989 my friend Nina Gouveia
brought a photographer friend to our usual noon, on Thursday lunch meetings at the Railway Club
. He was a pleasant looking, always smiling American. He was particularly American, I thought because he was pushy. While I was not yet a Canadian citizen at the time I had adopted the Canadian ways which seem to make it necessary that we keep any ambition internal and unknown to most. If I were less Canadian now and I must digress to point out that the pushy American photographer, Robert Blake, insisted he be present to document the event of my Canadian citizenship
when in happened a few years later. Let me again try. If I had been less Canadian then I would not have said what I write here and now. Blake was pushy and aggressive and many took it the wrong way.
But with some years of reflection I have come to realize that Blake may have been one of the most important persons in my life. I first must accept that I am an artist. Some say I am. I prefer the safe epithet of commercial photographer, one who dabbles in the arts.
But it was later in 1989 that Blake called me up and said something like this, “Alex, there is a group show at the Exposure Gallery on Beatty Street called The Eye of Eros which features nudes. I have seen quite a few of yours on the walls of your darkroom. Why don’t you participate?” Somehow Blake was persuasive (he was very good at this) and I did enter the show and then proceeded to enter stuff in just about every group show they ever had for something like 12 or more years.
|Photo by Ed Olson|
It was Blake who saw a side of my photography that I had never noticed. He gave me the chance to look at things under a new light. Suddenly I could go up to any wonderful looking woman on the street, or at a party, or on a bus and say, “I am an art photographer. I’m having a show at a local gallery soon. Would you be willing to pose for me undraped?” I never did get a no in all those years. “Blake, thank you.”
I did not have a one-man-show until 1993 but my first real show was one I shared with Blake in February 1990.
Because Blake had a most efficient and savvy wife, Patricia Canning. She did all the promotion of the show and since she catalogued and cut out all the clippings announcing and reviewing the show, Still/Water is the only show for which I have a thick file of information. The rest of the shows, and I had many, are mostly forgotten and not present in my files.
I was shocked that the day of the opening Blake had installed a video machine in the back which promoted his photographic services. Most of my friends were shocked, too. They thought it as an act by a crass opportunist. I will reserve judgment here as I really do not understand Americans. I am a Canadian.
But I will again and for the record write here, “Blake, thank you.” My life thanks to him has been a much richer one.
As I See Them Version 2012
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
|Bif Naked -Singer|
As I Saw Her in 1993
I wrote a bit about this here
which is all about the man who inspired me to have this show
I placed the photographs that I had in that exhibition in the blog yesterday, for me my best ever, to prove a couple of points. One of them is that the blog version of the show did not cost me a cent. Well not free exactly as I have to pay for my domain name and for my web hosting. But that’s it. It means that the web can now allow us to have shows that one time were prohibitively expensive once you found an art gallery to represent you. In Vancouver that was always tough and I would think even tougher now.
Alas not all is perfection. As in that 1993 show I will not sell anything with this virtual one. That is to be expected. But my real sorrow is that I cannot display here what accompanied that show. My friends from AS I See Them provided me with artifacts central to their life which were displayed at the Threshold Gallery in company to my photographs on the walls. Gibson provided me with the typewriter with which he wrote Neuromancer. Erickson passed on one of his pens and a sketch. Gavin Walker lent (it was tough getting him to do it) us his alto sax and his last ever pack of Kools which he never opened. The list goes on with artifacts that were quirky and intimate. I felt and still feel most blessed.
|Dana Luccock - Mezzo Soprano|
As I Hope To See them in 2012
Now in 2012 after quite a long time of seemingly being at see without a rudder I have come up with the idea of taking pictures of people from the arts. The photographs would all be similar. The women would all be wearing in some way my mother’s antique Mexican rebozo as the one worn by mezzo soprano Dana Luccock and they would be taken with the same gray seamless, same lens and camera. This time around I will not shoot in b+w and colour. That rebozo will only shine with Ektachrome. The men will not be forced to wear that rebozo! But should they volunteer…
The photographs will accompany some sort of essay written by my subjects that will begin Me and my…. They will write about something in relation to what they do. Once I have a few I will post them on this blog as a long string or, perhaps in haphazard manner.
These essays will be direct, and I hope, far more intimate versions of As I See Them from, excuse the expression, the horse’s mouth.
Dana Luccock-The Resolution Towards a Portrait
|Yvette Hernandez - Actress|
|Sandrine Cassini - Choreographer/Ballet Dancer|
Selling Cotton Candy
Monday, January 16, 2012
|Photographer/Artist Kelly Wood|
A few days ago I ran into a prominent Vancouver curator. He was all smiles. My relationship with many of the city’s art circle curators is a smiling one with the exception to one whose gallery is on South Granville and displays the works of two of my friends. This curator looks through me as if I were Claude Rains in the Invisible Man. If I am ever introduced to this curator, and I have many times, the treatment is as I we had never met before. The smiling curators look at me as if I were on the street selling pink cotton candy.
I wrote about this sort of thing here
but of late as I plan on a new artistic project after so many years of not exhibiting in a gallery It has come back. Luckily I need not look for a gallery as doors would shut in my face. There is no market for pink cotton candy these days. I need not look for a gallery because I can display my forthcoming project here. It will be fun, I will not have to sell anything (nobody really did buy) nor will I have to spend tons of money on invitations, matting and framing. But this more pleasant turn of events does not mean that I do not question the mystery of the smiling but perhaps disdainful curators.
Some time ago I knew a local photographer who had come from abroad and had thrown a party to the advertising agency honchos in a beautiful studio full of exotic German and Swiss large format cameras. This photographer was really good. Yet the phone never rang and the studio had to close. I ran into the photographer one day and the bitterness in the voice was palpable. For an artist, a presuming artist, and even for this hack writing here, bitterness is the kiss of death to get work. Those that hand it out notice it right away. The key to all of this is that the world does not owe me anything even if I am good or think I am good.
|Paul Wong video artist|
There might be some comfort that when I finally leave Vancouver in that inevitable one-way-journey those who inspect my files will come to the realization that there is much more than pink cotton candy. I hope that my daughters and granddaughters will profit from those files but I have instructed them (and put it as a codicil in my will) that if some hovering buzzard offers to take over the photographs, negatives and slides for an archive in a selfless "effort to keep my memory alive", that they place the files outside and splash them with gasoline and set them alight. Will they smell of burning sugar? I doubt that!
Samuel Frid, My Bitter Mentor Smiled Again
Sunday, January 15, 2012
|Samuel Frid, 1935 - 2010|
In 1992 I met and unlikely combination of a man. His name was Samuel Frid
. He had made a fortune in steel, he was Mexican, he was a redhead and he was Jewish. That may not suggest to anyone that this was an unlikely combination except that I must add that he had that quirk of a disease that pushes mostly men to open a restaurant, publish a magazine or start and art gallery. All three of these enterprises, with few exceptions lead to disappointment and a probable bankruptcy.
It was at Frid’s first location of his Threshold Gallery that I had my first real gallery show. I shared it with two other photographers. My part of the show was called Homebodies and it featured delightfully beautiful women wearing nothing while posing by their TVs, fireplaces, in the kitchen and playing the piano. I remember that since my nudes had the faces of my sjubjects several comments in the guest books were some form of, “Thank you for showing their faces.” At the time in Vancouver there was feminist movement going around that considered nude photographs of women a vicious act of objectification.
Frid contacted me to have in his new gallery on 6th almost Granville (now a place where you can buy expensive barbecues) and suggested something more personal. It was a show, a good show but only in the last few days have I come to realize that it was the best show I ever had. I am cooking an idea in my head for a new version of it but of that I will reveal in a subsequent blog.
Increasingly Frid, who lived in a palatial house in West Vancouver became bitter. He sold little. I am sure, though that many of the Rufino Tamayos which are part of the Audain Collection in display at the VAG right now came from Frid.
Frid became bitter because of what he perceived was a small town mentality that permeated the arts community of our city. For most of his time as a gallery owner he was ignored by the press nor could he ever talk with other gallery owners. He was, it seemed to me, summarily shunned. He told me that few in this city had any appreciation for the kind of art to be found in his gallery. They were Diego Riveras and Tamayos and wonderful sculptures by young up and coming Mexican artists. One young artist, David Merino, was Mexican resident in Vancouver. He painted with bold Mexican colours that took the gray out of Vancouver in the winter months. But all this was to no avail. Frid closed his gallery and started traveling more often back to his Mexico City. He would complain to me about the violence and petty graft of the city. Yet in Vancouver he felt out of commission and in a cold and sterile environment. He was not happy in either place.
I lost contact with him a few years ago and recently while searching for his whereabouts I found that he died in 2010, here in the city that he disliked. His obituary reveals that the former steel magnate became an artist and judging by the photo here I can only guess that he finally found peace in a place with no ochres, browns, oranges but full of cold blues, grays and greens.
For most of the time that we were friends, Frid urged me to leave my magazine photography business and to return to Mexico. He said I had a special talent for the kind of picture you see here. I took it sometime in 1962 in Coyoacán, Mexico in what seems a very long time as it indeed is. This photo and a few others won me an accolade (the only one I was ever to receive from anybody for my work) by Rufino Tamayo who was a judge at a group show at a University of the Americas (in Mexico City) in 1963.
It would seem that both Tamayo and Frid knew something about me that I never suspected I ever had. As I took pictures of undraped women and famous writers or actors, Frid could not hide his disdain for what I did and we bitterly parted ways. I just wonder, every once in a while, what would have happened if I had followed his advice?