iPhone Travelogue

London from above 7:34 AM

Farmer's field near Ditchling

Boddington Lane

The duck pond in Ditchling

Skimmia japonica

Boston airport

Gas Station in Baltimore

Leaving Baltimore

I-95 heading North

I am glad to be home again for the last couple of days of the year.


Happy Holidays

The holidays inevitably bring thoughts of my father. He spent half his life at war, first fighting the French for independence then battling his own people to defend the South of Vietnam against the Communists. In the end, he felt nothing but hatred and bitterness against the atrocities and ugliness of war. I don't know if there is ever a "just" war, but I wish more than anything else this holiday season for peace.


I heart NY

Times Square

After the rain

Gowanus Canal

Berries in Prospect Park

New York magazine is having its annual issue of Reasons to Love New York.
Among many other things, I love this city for its varied landscape, with everything from skyscrapers to wild places and all else in between, just like the crazy mix of its citizens. Somehow it all works.



It's a rainy winter day.



Me: "Where are you getting all this energy today?"
Lily: "Life."

Her happiness is very infectious.

Copenhagen Climate Summit

"Tomorrow 56 newspapers in 45 countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency."

Editorial from the Guardian today.

The NYT is conspicuously absent from the list.


It's been a topsy turvy weekend weather wise. Friday was all sunny and mild, more like a brilliant autumn day than a day in early December. On our way to the galleries uptown Lynn and I walked across Central Park among massive trees baring their gnarly branches. The allée of American Elms looked like two rows of giants suspended in a modern dance movement, their limbs stretching and contorting every which way. We saw the Gerhard Richter show, which was such a treat. In his 40 years of painting, Richter has explored every possible genre from photo realist to abstract, something that irks many critics. The show at Marian Goodman includes some large squeegee paintings from the last decade, all of them a visual feast in colors, texture, and technical virtuosity. No reproduction can fully capture the luxurious feel of the oil paint gliding across the canvas and the subtle layering of colors in these works.
On Saturday winter announced itself suddenly, and we woke up to a freezing rain that turned into soft snow by the time we went to Lily's piano recital in the afternoon. It was dreary all day long, and we trudged around town in the damp cold. This morning, the brilliant sun returned but brought with it a biting cold air. Light pours through the windows, and silence reigns outside. The sky is clear and blue. Not a soul stirs on the street. I love mornings like this. But they never last long. The desire to hold onto to those precious moments, to stop time, is always overwhelming, like these lines from Faust express so well:

If I should say to the moment,
Stay awhile, you are so beautiful,
Then you may clap me into irons
And I will willingly perish.



My favorite hills along the highway

Highway 80 near Davis

Meyer Lemon plant

I have not lived in California for twenty years, but every time I go back, I think that I'm going home. It is where my father spent the last 30 years of his life, and being there has always meant being with him. Now that he is gone, memories of him haunt me when I'm there. The loneliness of the dark desolate road to his house is unbearable since he is no longer there waiting for me at the end. But everything reminds me of him, like the Meyer lemon plant that has doubled in size since we brought it home from Filoli Garden, the last outing my sisters and I took with our father before he died. He was so frail then, more than any of us had surmised. He was as stoic as those ancient trees that he told me he loved most in that garden. The day was as beautiful as we could have hoped for, and the garden was obligingly bursting with cherry blossoms, daffodils, and tulips. We sat silently for a while on a bench under the sun, and unbeknownst to me then, he staged the last fight for his life.


Cate Blanchett & Liv Ullmann

Photograph by Brigitte Lacombe

Liv Ullmann directs Cate Blanchett in A Streetcar Named Desire, coming to Bam November 27. I think I must see this.

I love this photograph. Brigitte Lacombe takes the most beautiful portraits of women. Of course it helps that Ullmann and Blanchett have two of the most beautiful and compelling faces on earth. I also like the homage to Persona in the composition.


iPhone Diary

Guggenheim Museum in the afternoon light

Sophora japonica on my way to the subway station

Empire State Building

High School Band after the Yankees Parade

Eva Zeisel

Design great Eva Zeisel turned 103 last week. She's an amazing designer and teacher whose life is as extraordinary as her work. Born in Budapest, where she wanted to be a painter, but at the behest of her mother, she apprenticed herself to a traditional potter. Her work took her to Germany and other parts of Europe, then to Russia, where she was swept up in the idealist fervor gripping the country at the time. She became the Artistic Director for the Porcelain and Glass Industries for all of Russia. However, in 1936, she became a victim of one of Stalin's infamous purges. Accused of plotting against his life, she was imprisoned for 16 months, where she was subject to torture, brainwashing, and solitary confinement. One day, she was inexplicably released and put on a train to Austria. She then made her way to England, where she married Hans Zeisel, and in 1938, the couple moved to New York, where they settled permanently. She now lives in upstate New York, and is actively producing new work.

In a TED lecture, Eva Zeisel said that she does not think of herself as a designer, but as "maker of things." I want to be a maker of things when I grow up.


Flower School

Nicolette and her friend Sarah taught a flower arranging class at Sarah's beautiful store in Red Hook, Saipua. It made me want to own a flower shop, a fantasy I've had since I was in college.


Light & Dark

This week began with two warm and brilliant days which lulled me into thinking that autumn was not about to leave any time soon. Then on Thursday I woke up to find the sky darkened, the wind howling and the last of the leaves from our purple sandcherry tree on the ground. Somehow winter had surreptitiously appeared overnight. On Friday I braced myself against the wind and walked around the Chelsea galleries with Lynn, something I hadn't done in a long time. I had spent so much time in recent months looking at nature, and it was a luxury to spend a day just looking at art.

Corrida In Rondo no. 2, Eric Fischl

Corrida In Rondo no. 8, Eric Fischl

At Mary Boone gallery, Eric Fischl showed his latest series of paintings, 8 large canvasses depicting the Corrida In Ronda. What caught my eyes in these paintings more than anything else–even the impressively large scale (they are all about 10 feet wide) and the super-saturated colors– is the sense of light. Perhaps because I am a photographer, which makes me hyper-sensitive to the depiction light, but it's something that I find uniform through all his work over the years. The light in Fischl's paintings is consistently hard, a glare that sears across the canvas to cast deep shadows in places and highlights that obliterate details elsewhere. One can only fully appreciate this sense of light when looking at his paintings in real life. The reproductions, in whatever medium, never do it justice.

Besitz, 2006, Tim Eitel

Haufen, Tim Eitel

On the other hand, the young German artist Tim Eitel, whose show at Pace Wildenstein consists of 10 exquisitely painted small-scale and 5 large-scale canvasses, explores a more subtle light, or almost an absence of light. Eitel extracts details – a face, garbage bags, figures in conversation – from photographs and paints them in isolation. Working with a dark palette, with the most subtle gradation of grays, Eitel paints nearly abstract scenes of haunting stillness. As with Eric Fischl, his work has to be appreciated in real life, where the most minute details can be discerned on a seemingly dark canvas, barely a hint of light to illuminate the creases of a plastic garbage bag or the folds on a jacket of a soldier in the shadow. The darkness drives at things hidden and forces a closer look into the nuances and resonances of each scene.


Jane Bown Photograpy

Edith Sitwell, 1959

Rudolf Nureyev, 1964

Margot Fonteyn, 1964

Angelica Garnet, 1979

Doris Lessing, 2001

Jane Bown is  an 83 year-old portrait photographer whose work has been appearing in The Observer since 1949, when she was commissioned by the magazine to photograph Bertrand Russell. Her work is now collected in a book, Exposures, featuring her most celebrated portraits of the famous and ordinary people. Legendarily shy and self-effacing, she works quickly, quietly and unobtrusively, using only available daylight and never with an assistant. She has once said: "Some photographers make pictures, but I try to find them," perhaps referring to the common practice of excessively elaborate set-ups involved in celebrity portraiture. 

I am most drawn to her photographs of women, but overall, but overall, what I like most about her work is how real the people come through in these photographs. With all contemporary celebrity portraiture being an exercise in Photoshop, it is so refreshing to see real skin, real drama written across these faces.


Landscapes of Mars

Eroded Layered Deposit near Ismenius Lacus

Aeolian Dune Monitoring Site

Very Fresh 1-Kilometer Diameter Impact Crater

Possible Phyllosilicates

Sand Dunes

View of Gullied Crater

All photos credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

These stunning photos are images of Mars taken from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been orbiting the planet at a height of about 300 km. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera has taken nearly 12000 pictures of Mars, and they are all posted on the HiRISE website. It is truly astounding that we can see such detailed images of the surface of Mars, but apart from this mind-boggling fact with all its cosmic implications, the pictures themselves have an eery beauty all on their own.