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.


The Japanese Garden

The colors in the Japanese Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden have been building up to a dramatic crescendo of gold, red, burnished orange and green. The two bald cypress trees (Taxodium distichum) have become two of my favorite trees, and they look so impressive, standing tall with their autumn coats of burnt siena color.

Mary Delany

Mary Delany (1700-1788), Passiflora laurifolia, 1777, paper collage

At the age of 72, after the death of her husband, Mary Delany, began making intricate botanical paper collage as an "employment and amusement... being depreived of that friend, whose partial approbation was my pride." Her almost one thousand botanical paper mosaics are now housed in the British Museum. The painstaking details of the works, which required an extraordinary dexterity, led the famed 18th-century botanist Joseph Banks to declare that these collages were "the only imitations of nature that he had ever seen from which he could venture to describe botanically any plant without the least fear of committing an error." For the Passiflora laurifolia, Mrs. Delany used more than 100 small strips of paper to make up the flower. Her work is the subject of a current exhibition at the Yale Center for British Art.


iPhone Camera

I find the camera on my iPhone a very useful tool for a visual diary. 


Lawrence Halprin 1916-2009

Study of water movement at Sea Ranch, drawing by Lawrence Halprin

Sea Ranch, photo by Eros Hoagland

"To be properly understood, Modernism is not just a matter of cubist space but of a whole appreciation of environmental design as a holistic approach to the matter of making spaces for people to live...Modernism, as I define it and practice it, includes and is based on the vital archetypal needs of human being as individuals as well as social groups."
Lawrence Halprin

The great landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, who passed away last week, once wrote, "Landscape design is about social relevance. It can become poetic and symbolic, but perhaps most importantly, it can articulate a culture's most spiritual values." He was one of a group of architects who conceived and built the utopian community called Sea Ranch along a wind-blown 10-mile stretch of the Northern California coast in the 1960s. Inspired by his experience on a kibbutz, Halprin came up with the idea of "open land held in common and houses designed in deference to nature." Today, much of this Modernist spirit has been supplanted by gargantuan suburban vacation homes, but the nature at Sea Ranch remains untamed. The wind still blows and sculpts the cypress trees into strangely poetic forms, and there are winding paths through meadow grass to rocky headlands. My family and I have spent many wonderful occasions on this mythical place, and the spirit of what inspired Halprin and his  colleagues in the original Sea Ranch community still haunts the place.


A Drive in the Country

Taking advantage of the beautiful weather and Lily's day off from school, we went for a drive upstate today. As much as we loved being in the country, it was very comforting to find the familiar city skyline in the fading light at the end of the day. 


Birthday Girl

Lily is eight years old today. She's been working on her writing at school. A boy from her class read her story and said, "Your writing is very powerful." She told me this with much pride. And I couldn't be any more proud of her.


Flowers and Foliage in Carroll Gardens

The autumn has been spectacular in my neighborhood. These are just some of the flowers and colorful leaves I've found in my walk home from the cinema today.