Monday, January 29, 2018

PETER HUJAR PHOTOGRAPY at the Morgan: Review by Polly Guerin

Peter Hujar, Self Portrait
Why does the photographer, Peter Hujar deserve the first full-scale retrospective of his work at The Morgan Library and Museum? 
      Good Question!  I'm glad you asked, because there is more merit in the exhibition, SPEED OF Life, than meets the eye. Through May 20, The Morgan presents one hundred and forty photographs of this influential artist.
      To understand Hujar one has to understand the man, the myth and the mystery surrounding Hujar's life (1934-1987). He was a fixture in the downtown New York scene during the 1970s and 1980s, in the East Village, where he lived and worked, at a time when it was a magnet for bohemians, artists, writers, drag queen performers, musicians and iconoclasts. Back in those days, the neighborhood was rough and raw, in perpetual state of poverty that bred the avant-garde. Into this milleu Huger's mature career paralleled the public unfolding of gay life between the Stonewall uprising in 1969 and the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.  Image: Peter Hujar, Self Portrait Jumping, Gelatin silver print, purchased on The Charina Endowment Fund. The Morgan Library and Museum, 2013. Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy of Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francsico.
Susan Sontag 1975
INTO THIS MILLEU: Hugar began his career in the 1950s as a commercial photographer but soon left the market behind, preferring to focus on the creation of art.   In an era when cost of living was cheap he set up a studio in his Twelfth Street loft. 
       He created, in his words, and I quote, "uncomplicated, direct photographs and difficult subjects, immortalizing. moments, individuals and subculture passing at the speed of life"  Best known for his portraits of the most iconic figures of the time, from Susan Sontag, William S. Burroughs, and Gary Indiana to Cindy Darling, David
Wojnarowicz, and other notables, Hugar also created nudes, landscapes, cityscapes, photographs of animals, architectural images and documentary scenes.
Image: Susan Suntag, 1975, Gelatin silver print, purchased on The Charina Endownment Fund, 2013, (c) Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco.
      Hujar met Sontag through their mutual friend, artist Paul Thek, in Sicily in 1963. Sontag later contributed to Hujar's 1976 monograph Portraits in Life and Death, which included his iconic reclining portrait of the writer.  The reclining portrait is a genre of photograph that Hujar made his own. He relied on it as a means of reaching something unique in every sitter. To face a camera lens from a reclining position was a provocative experience and evoked different responses. Especially skeptic was his close friend Fran Lebowitz. .  
Ethyl Eichelberger as Minnie the Maid, 1981
Hujar was not not one for self-promotion. It apparently did not suit him at all. Where others like Andy Warhol invented branding strategies way ahead of Madison Avenue, Hujar simply kept to himself doing his work. "One thing I won't answer is anything about why I do what I do,  Huger 
told David Wojnarowicz in 1983." 
      The most photographed person in his body of work, Ethyl Eichelberger, remains an instantly "double" subject, in whom neither actor nor role predominates. The subjects of his art Hujar wrote, were "those who push themselves to any extreme: and those who "cling to the freedom to be themselves." Image: Ethyl Eichelberger as Minnie the Maid, 1981, Gelatin silver print, purchased on The Charina Endowment Fund, The Morgan Library and Museum, 2013. (c) The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy of Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco. 
PUBLIC PROGRAMS visit For instance, An Evening with Fran Lebowitz: on Peter Hujar reflects candidly on the traits and joys of her close friendship with the artist. February 8, 6:30 pm, Tickets $15, $10 members. In addition to several other events the film, Pink Flamingo, is scheduled for March 2, at 7pm and Gallery Talks March 9, 6pm and April 27 at 1pm.
     Ta Ta Darlings!!! Speed of Life is a thought provoking experience. Be so warned: "This exhibition contains mature content and nudity. Parent/Guardian discretion is advised." Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs on

Monday, January 22, 2018

WINTER ANTIQUES SHOW 2018: Review by Polly Guerin

Imperial Peter the Great Easter Egg
Wandering through the historic Park Avenue Armory at the press preview of the Winter Antiques show found me stepping over rugs just being  laid down, hammers nailing into place last minute hangings and the air electrified by the exhibitors putting final touches on their booths. Such was the case last week, when the Armory was being transformed into a spectacular showcase for the evening's gala opening ceremonies.
     The WINTER ANTIQUES SHOW, the leading art, antiques and design fair in America, now in its 64th year, offers a week-long opportunity, through January 28, to view a dynamic mix of works dating from ancient times through the present day. Each object at the fair is vetted for quality and authenticity.
       Image: Among the VMFA works on display are the Russian firm, Faberge's Imperial Peter the Great Easter Egg, which was present to Empress Alexandra Feodorovna by Czar Nicholas II in 1903. It was created to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the founding of St. Petersburg. Workmaster, Mikhail Perkhin used gold, platinum, silver gilt, diamonds, rubies, enamel, sapphires, watercolor on ivory and rock crystal in its creation. Bequest of Lillian Thomas Pratt. (Photo: VMFA) 
Still Life with Daisies, Arles, 1888, Vincent van Gogh,
The Winter Antique show invites one institution to showcase its collection during the show and this year the major feature is the loan exhibition from the (VMFA) VIRGINIA MUSEUM of FINE ARTS,"Collecting for the Commonwealth Preserving for the Nation, Celebrating a Century of Art Patronage, 1919-2018, which is an annual benefit for the East Side House Settlement, a community-based organization serving the Bronx and Northern Manhattan with programs which focus on education and technology as gateways out of poverty and as keys to economic opportunity. CHUBB is the presenting sponsor of the Winter Antiques Show. Open Daily 12 pm-8pm, Tuesday 12 pm-4:30 pm and Thursday and Sunday 12pm-6pm. Daily admission is $25 (includes catalogue). Tickets can be purchased at

       I was drawn to other notable works including Still Life with Daisies, Arles 1888, by Vincent Van Gogh from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon. Photo by Travis Fullerton (c) Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.  Then, too, there is cause to mention Paul Storr's stunning Figure of Hebe, Beauford Delaney's Marian Anderson, and George Bellow's Tennis at Newport.  Together, the exhibition's 48 varied works reveal as much about the museum's maturation as the patrons, who have shaped the collection.
Parisian Lady 1910, Kees van Dongen
 If you are into samplers, as I am, exhibitors at the Winter Antiques Show include Stephen and Carol Huber's rare and dynamic sampler by sixteen year old Jane Elliott of Chester County, exquisite technique, featuring a large red building and a profuse ribbon border. Then, too, Lillian Nassau, Tiffany Lamps include the rare Bat Lamp, c. 1906, on of the few elaborate models produced by Tiffany Studios.
          I particularly admired the charming portrait
Parisian Lady (La Parisienne) also referred to as La Dame au Chien, 1910, by Kees van Dongen (Dutch painter 1877-1968) from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, featured in the VMFA collection.  In this portrait of a fashionable Parisian woman, the subject's attenuated shape sits in playful contrast to her oversize plumed hat and diminutive frolicking pet.  
        Bernard Goldberg Fine Art's image of The Opera Singer, 1927, by Guy Pene du Bois, is also a most engaging portrait. Du Bois made a gift of the painting to friend and dealer Antoinette M. Kraushaar in 1927.. A superb pair of antique brooches, c. 1890, caught my eye at Kentshire. In the form of Birds of Paradise with diamond bodies and emerald, sapphire and ruby plumage the birds can be worn as a single brooch when joined at their beaks by a pearl which is contained in a concealed compartment, quite amazing to say the least! At A La Vieille Russie look for the two porcelain covered cups in the form of Turkish Ladies' heads with jeweled headdresses, by the Gardner porcelain Factory, Russian, 1770-1790, they are quite entertaining. For information on the Show lecture series visit
      Ta Ta Darlings!!! You ought not miss this show, it's packed with amazing, some never-before- seen objects and art works. The exhibitors are very friendly and really welcome your visit and inquiries.  Fan mail always welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs on fashion, poetry, visionary men or women determined to succeed on and clink on the direct links in the left hand column.

Friday, January 5, 2018

DISCOVER THE LABYRINTH and Healing Parks BY Polly Guerin

"All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking, " Friedrich Nietzsche.  Have you ever thought of walking a Labyrinth to unwind, recharge and seek answers to your innermost questions or heart's desire? Whoever you are and wherever you are on your journey of faith there are places in the heart of New York City where you can relax, refresh, contemplate or mediate in peaceful areas to escape from the cacophony of the city.  
Grassy Green Labyrinth at Battery Park 
What is a Labyrinth? A labyrinth is a sacred symbol that can be traced back in history some 3,000 years to ancient Greece. In English, the term Labyrinth is generally synonymous with the word Maze. As a result of the long history of the uuicursal representation of the Mythological Labyrinth, a labyrinth has an unambiguous route to the center and back and presents no navigational challenge. Unicursal patterns have been used historically both in group ritual and for private mediation, and are increasingly found for therapeutic use in hospitals and hospices. 

HOW TO USE THE LABYRINTH First, relax, there is no right or wrong way to approach the path. You may use a labyrinth in many ways. Perhaps you seek some quiet. Perhaps you bring some care or concern that you wish to release. Maybe you seek direction for a perplexing question. Perhaps you bring great joy and thankfulness, gratitude to your walk. You may find it useful to sit for a moment before beginning. Take a few deep breaths, releasing any tension as you exhale. 
     SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR YOUR WALK Read a passage from scripture or from some other inspirational writing, such as the healing quotations from the readings of Edgar Cayce. Use a walkman to provide music for your journey, skip or dance your way along the path, or walk slowly. There is no right or wrong way to move though a labyrinth. Remove your shoes and walk in your socks to feel the grass or pavement beneath you more completely. Walk once or several times. Pause in the center and contemplate, rest awhile before making your way back into the world.
    The BATTERY PARK LABYRINTH  located in Battery Park, invites everyone to freely express themselves and do the walk through its grassy green labyrinth, designed by Arianne Burgess, installed in 2002 and restored in 2015.  Directions: You will find the  LABYRINTH for CONTEMPLATION just north of Castle Clinton in Battery Park at the tip of Manhattan. It was commissioned for the first anniversary of 911. For further information: Battery Park is accessible by train or bus.    
Chartres-inspired Labyrinth at Riverside Church
     Then, too,  at the other end of Manhattan Island there is RIVERSIDE CHURCH at 450 Riverside Drive, 10027. with its MEDIEVAL-  INSPIRED LABYRINTH based on the inner circuits of Chartres Cathedral, France, circa 1200s.. The labyrinth type is marble inlaid in the floor of the Church Chancel. There is a charge of $10 for adults, $5 for seniors, students and children. Contact the Welcome Center, 212.870.6700. Group tours can also be arranged.  If want
 enjoy a long bus ride the number 4 Bus on Madison Avenue takes you along Riverside Drive to the Church. Otherwise use train service.
     While you are up in this area head over to Morningside Heights and take in the "Path of Peace," painted Medieval Style, GODSONG LABYRINTH. It was installed on Mother's Day weekend, 2014. For further information email the following:
The Permanent Labyrinth at Marble Collegiate Church
(1 West. 29 St., 1000l-4596) has a permanent labyrinth in the basement of the church open to the public. It is based on the labyrinth inlaid in Medieval, Chartres Cathedral, near Paris, France. Marble's was installed in 2012. The labyrinth is open for walking the first Sunday of each month from 1 to 3 pm, and every Wednesday from 5 to 6 pm . It is best to call first before visiting 212.686.2770.
    There are other labyrinths in Manhattan such as the EAST RIVER REFLECTION LABYRINTH, located at East River Park,  (Houston Street, NYC 10010), installed in 2004. The entrance to the park is at the foot of Houston Street where you cross the FDR drive. The labyrinth is to the right or south of this entrance. It is also available by several other areas off the East River Esplanade. Contact
     DE WITT CLINTON PARK (West 52nd and 54th streets and 11th Avenue) has two painted-on- concrete labyrinths, one for adults and one in the children's playground always open on its 5.8 acre public park. 
     As you walk the walk remember that Labyrinths are an ancient and yet modern way to stroll though its pathway and in this simple act of contemplation find release from personal concerns as the stress seemingly melts away to a renewed you. Hope to see you there on the pathway to enlightenment.