Saturday, September 14, 2019

Gustav Klimt

Thinking about the staggeringly popular Gustav Klimt, an artist whose work I recently checked out at the Neue Gallery. The visit was incredibly inspirational, and even though I’ve been very aware of the great Austrian painters’ work since High School, I became newly enamored and read everything I could find and bought a couple of books online - a fascinating, sexy, eccentric persona and exquisite output has currently has had me in his ecstatic, sensuous orbit this week.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Hester Sunshine


Sketchbook: One of the best reasons to watch the last season of Project Runway was the wacky & wonderful young designer Hester Sunshine! Her clothes were full of energy and color with loads of the coolest kitsch. It was super fun to see what this talented artist would come up with each week. Sure we’ll see much more from her in the future.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Skin

"Skin: Ephram" 1999 (unfinished watercolor) 
In the early 90's, I was briefly obsessed with the music of a young singer named Ephram Lewis. Lewis was one of those emotion - soaked soul crooners that seemed to drop out of another era.
But he never emulated the past or tried to repeat it. Sonically his sound was certainly modern - awash in waves of warm synthesizers and gently echoing vocals but his lyrics were sharper and more thoughtful than usual for a pop RB record of the time:
Searching for a way out of so much pain/ 
sometimes to hurt is better than nothing
Let's live again
I'm a public face with a private life
You wanna get close enough to touch
Weave your lies 'cos I can't hide
Never touch my soul, I need that much
Is my skin just a veil I'm wearing
Protect me from the world
So with this armour to cover me
From tortured skies
I'll burn the body - breathe poisoned wine
Only laughter and forgetting
Turns out though, Lewis is a sad case. A young boy brit born into a large religious family, the talented singer/songwriter left home at the age of 16. Soon after, he was picked up by Elektra Records and released a beautiful album, entitled Skin. Blessed with soaring voice and a penchant for transcendent lyrics, the album was critically acclaimed and sold respectfully well, powered by the lovely single, Drowning In Your Eyes. 
Work on his following album brought him to LA where his long - suppressed homosexuality was finally out in the open. For so long he was a victim of his strict parents' beliefs, and now he was free.
However, one fateful night, The LA police received a call of a "naked man going crazy" at 1710 Fuller Ave, where he was living at the time. When the police arrived, investigators said that Lewis had become parnaoid and began climbing outside balconies, leaping from "from balcony to balcony" until he reached the top floors where he smashes an apartment window and began stabbing himself with a piece of broken glass. Lewis was tased or by the LAPD and either fell or jumped from the building and landed onto the courtyard below. Lewis had been taking methamphetamines that night prior to his death and it was ruled by the coroner's office as a suicide. Now a gay icon, musically all that remains of Lewis' career is the single album he completed, Skin, which I think is a minor masterpiece. Despite its creator's tragic end, this small legacy deserves to be revisited.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Karen Carpenter

Recently saw a BBC documentary about the infamous Carpenters, a group reviled by some in their day. Yes, they were sometimes irredeemably schmaltzy, and got even schmatlzier as they went on, but they had a secret weapon that cut through even the worst their candy-coated sentimentality, The potent, emotional sound of Karen Carpenter’s voice. Cutting and direct, the melancholy tone of her singing stood out, even in the circus-like schizophrenia of 70’ pop music. With her brother Richard, a good arranger, (and who recorded and highlighted his sister’s voice brilliantly) the occasionally good song or two, (Burt Bacharach, Paul Williams, and Richard himself), The Carpenters’ music, most particularly Karen’s voice, could be soothingly affecting. Listening to her now, knowing the tragedy of a long, slow death from anorexia nervosa that led to finally succumbing the singer at age 36, the music now has a more powerful resonance.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Mary Halvorson

The Leopard was waiting for the C train and who do I see waiting on the platform near me with a huge guitar strapped to her back but the extraordinary young musician Mary Halvorson on her way to a gig. I don’t know Ms Halvorson personally, but I’m aware of some her beautiful, challenging, emotional music. I approached her and her colleague Rafiq Bhatia and she was incredibly friendly and genial. The meeting inspired me to go home & make a drawing as I listened to her latest record, Code Girl.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Vampire Girl


One of the few big conflicts I ever had with my mom as a kid had to do with a 6-foot tall Vampiress. 

When I was around 13 or 14 in the 70’s, I went through that big change I guess most adolescent boys go through. It manifested itself in small, weird ways. For one, I became obsessed with this comic magazine called Vampirella. For the uninitiated, Vampirella was an alien who came from a planet where blood ran in rivers like water.
Somehow she made her way to earth and was portrayed as a sort bloodsucker/superhero. I’d like to say that I bought it for the awesome art and magnificent storylines (which is what I probably told myself the time) but I’m pretty sure it had more to do with the skimpy costume.

In the back of the magazine there was an ad for a six foot poster of Vampirella holding a screeching vampire bat on her finger (I’ve recreated it here). It was so beautiful. Painted by the brilliant José Gonzalez, it was so lifelike, so perfectly rendered. I had to have it. I sent my money, received it, and proudly taped it to my wall.

When my mom walked into my room one day and saw it, she almost gasped. “Take that down this instant,” she quietly said to me. In a rare as act of defiance, refused. I said, “Why?” “She said, “You know why.”
“Why?”
I knew she wouldn’t say. Mom was a deeply religious woman and we simply didn’t discuss certain things in our house.
I had a Spider-man poster on the wall, a Bruce Lee and Star Trek. But she couldn’t bring herself say why this was any different. Finally:
“Just be sure to take that down when family comes over, Keith.”
“Why?”
“You know why. And if you say “why” one more time, you’re going to get smacked.”
I started to say some thing clever, but instead let out a soft sigh.

I held on to that poster for years.



Monday, June 11, 2018

Pervy Cos.

Current Wiki description :“William Henry Cosby Jr. (/ˈkɒzbi/; born July 12, 1937) is an American stand-up comedian, actor, musician, author, and convicted sex offender.”

Listening to an interview with Bill Cosby from 2011 where the comedian/sex offender discussed his long career of achievement brought to mind a thought: should the work of an innately bad person be completely dismissed, no matter how important? Cosby, throughout his career, from his early breakthrough years as one of the first hugely successful African American comics, his chart-topping comedy albums, groundbreaking television shows (including Little Bill, which my kids loved) - should all these works be boycotted and never watched or appreciated again? Same as the films of Roman Polanski or Woody Allen or Harvey Weinstein (which, at the very least, would include all the works of Quentin Tarantino), the paintings of Pablo Picasso, The music of Michael Jackson, the works of Lewis Carroll, - it goes on and on. I’m asking, not telling. How do we approach the heritage of a deeply flawed genius?