Friday Art: New York Movie (1939) by Edward Hopper

Hopper’s one of my favorites. His paintings of everyday urban life and the fine line between solitude and loneliness in his figures always ropes me in.

This is one of my favorite Hopper paintings, too. Yeah, probably ‘cus I’m a movie guy, and I also love the way he sets up the mystery in what he’s showing us.

The frame is divided in half by the end of the theater wall, separating what looks like an entrance to the balcony on the right from the lower seats to the left. So we get the juxtaposition of the audience watching the screen on the left to the lone woman leaning against the wall under the bright light off to the side.

The red stripe uniform tells us she’s a bored and/or tired usherette (remember, they had movie theater ushers in 1939). She rests her tired chin on her hand, maybe sighing. She evokes the tired & jaded barmaid of Manet’s Foles Bergere – a lone woman jaded at her job, even though the job is connected to the world of flash and entertainment.

And look at the glimpse of what Hopper offers us on the screen – looks like we can see the top of an actor’s head leaning into what looks like a big movie kiss. Is this the magical cinematic promise/fantasy missing from the reality of the usherette’s life?

Those sorts of themes fit in with the rest of Hopper’s output. I also love the colors in this one – the way he uses the oranges and browns to give us the darkness of the theater, with yellows and greens used for both the movie screen and the brightness of that light, illuminating the reds of the curtains on the balcony stairwell. The texture on the carpet is also a nice touch.

And the year fascinates me – 1939 is known as one of the best years for American film. We got The Wizard of Oz, Gone With The Wind, Ninotchka, Stagecoach, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Wuthering Heights, Dark Victory, Confessions of a Nazi Spy, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, The Roaring Twenties… all in the same year! Which one of those amazing classic films is the jaded usherette ignoring, I wonder? How jaded must she be to tune out such wonderful movies… unless of course, it’s The Return of Dr. X with Humphrey Bogart as the blood-sucking rabbit-loving mad scientist.

Hey wait, I actually like that one…

I wonder what Hopper’s favorite movies were. I might need to look that up now.

Advertisements

A Bittersweet Tour Through Yesterday

Back in the 1960s, resorts in the Poconos attracted fun-seeking young marrieds and celebrities, sort of an alternate Catskills. Numerous fancy schmantzy hotels & spas dotted the landscape.

And now, many of them are abandoned ghost resorts. Lance Longwell of Travel Addicts has a nice article about a lot of the abandoned resorts here – check it out for background and then…

Check out this great piece on dcist by photographer Pablo Iglesias Maurer where he took old matchbook cover photos and postcards of the resorts in their heyday (like the pic above) and then took current-day photos of the same locations from the same angles, cross-fading them online. It’s fascinating and depressing all at once, watching the slick resort locales dissolve into graffiti-laden ruin.

Then for more wonderful photography of the abandoned sites, Seph Lawless’ work can be found here in some clickable galleries.

I’d like to think the ghosts of Morty Gunty and Tubby Boots are still putting on shows in those places… but it all has an eerie “The Shining” vibe to it, don’t it?

Thursday Night Art: Chinese Restaurant, John Sloan (1909)

John Sloan is one of the better known members of the “Ashcan School” of early 20th century urban-themed art, pretty much the heirs to the Thomas Eakins wing of American painting. Sloan painted everyday life in the New York City of his day, mostly.

Sloan’s view of the city usually contains hustle ‘n’ bustle. He likes crowds, both small and large, and the people in his cityscapes go about their business quite pleasantly. Maybe not with the dreamy beatitude of Renoir’s Parisian cityfolk. Certainly not with the quiet alienation of Hopper’s subjects. Sloan’s city dwellers are a mix of attitudes, but everyone looks like they actually like living in the city on a daily basis.

I made some chinese shrimp tonight for dinner. Maybe that’s why I thought of this.

I’m sure you’ve guessed – I want to go to a Chinese restaurant where I can share my dinner with a cat, like the woman in Sloan’s painting does.

And keep those jokes about what’s really the main ingredient of the strange flavor chicken to yourself, mac. Nobody’s hurting that kitty!

But an hour later, you’ll have an urge to pet him again. Hiyo!

Saturday Roundup: Patriots Draft Picks, Cat Petting And A Book Safari

Today I went on a quest for cheap furniture – combing through a bunch of thrift stores in search of a replacement comfy corner chair for my classroom, as the old one is on its last legs, literally. Came up empty there, but found a couple of good books as long as I was there.

One looks like a nice true narrative of a major art forgery scandal called Provenance, about a forger & conman who managed to get the forgeries into collections and museums all over Europe where they remain to this day.

If forgeries sell tickets, they’ll say on the walls. It’s not like the public can ever tell the difference.

I read a lot of books on art forgery and theft rings while working out story elements for Wagstaff & Meatballs, and I continue to enjoy reading about the topic.

I also picked up a copy of The Truth Will Out: Unmasking The Real Shakespeare, a 2005 book that put forth a Shakesperean authorship theory I’m not as familiar with, making the case for Sir Henry Neville as the actual author of the plays & poems. CONFESSION: I am a confirmed skeptic as to the accepted idea that the Stratford actor Shakepeare wrote all that material, and I lean towards the Oxfordian theories. I think there’s a much stronger case to be made against Shakespeare than any positive case can be made for the different supposed authors, but I’m open to reading anything as well researched as this thing seems to be from my first skims. And it was only a buck!

And a brief Wagstaffesque synchronicity moment: As I browsed the racks of books coming up empty, some old dude who looked WAY too much like Scott Adams of “Dilbert” fame browsed the shelves over my shoulder, and he carried a couple of big volumes he’d scooped up. One of ’em was some enormous compendium all about Shakespeare performances in America. I always get annoyed every time I see other people holding onto books I didn’t get a crack at whenever I’m at some thrift store or library sale or whatever, and I thought to myself how it’d be cool if I found another Shakespeare book, especially on the author conspiracy theory.

Before I left the store, I figured I’d check the unsorted new-old-junk racks they’d just wheeled out…. and that’s where I found The Truth Will Out book.

On top of that? The Shakespeare authorship mischigoss is one of the elements in the third Wagstaff book I’m currently writing.

So I guess it immediately goes to the top of my reading list.

I got rewarded for visiting the thrift store in the same shopping center as a pet supply place with a big black store cat who I like to visit and pet whenever I’m jonesin’ for kitty. He’s easily found napping on one of his many dedicated cat trees around the store. Today I learned his name – Carlos the cat. I already knew he preferred chin rubs to damn near everything else. I didn’t disappoint him.

Then I came home and reviewed the rest of the Patriots draft picks in the final rounds today. It looks like they plugged all the position holes left by departing players. They scored a couple of cornerbacks who might replace Malcolm Butler. They got a wide receiver whose physicality and stats suggest a replacement for Danny Amendola, both in the slot and in punt returns. They picked up a couple of linebackers who will hopefully make good pass rushers, something they need badly. And, they did indeed draft a quarterback, Danny Etling out of LSU, a kid who doesn’t turn the ball over but clearly needs a lot of work. Can THE SYSTEM that made Cassell and Garroppolo into NFL quarterbacks work its magic on this kid? I certainly hope so, but who knows?

My realistic & cynical heart tells me that the Pats will be in a bad place psychologically next year. Losing the Superbowl despite what the offense accomplished and the controversy around the benching of Butler will hang over the psyche of the team akin to how the Seahawks were dogged by “Why didn’t we just run it into the end zone?” and how the Falcons were dogged by “Why didn’t we run down the clock and kick a field goal?” when they respectively blew both of their Superbowls against the Pats. Now it’s the Pats turn, I fear, and some of the stuff said by departing players about the overall not-fun and overly-regimented atmosphere within the team culture only bolsters my feelings. It all has that win-the-division-by-default but then go out in the first round as the third seed vibe. You heard it here first, sports fans. And I hope I’m wrong.

Now I’m throwing a soup & potstickers light dinner together and watching the Yankees pounding the Angels, at least so far. THIS IS THE YEAR!

New theory: Aaron Judge wrote all of Shakespeare’s plays. I’ll get back to you on my research.

Friday Art: “The Magpie” Claude Monet (1869)

Claude_Monet_-_The_Magpie_-_Google_Art_Project

Monet did well over 100 snowscapes, but this one, to me, really stands out. He gets the snow sticking to the tree branches and the unevenness of the blanket of snow over the various elements of the countryside. The snow has real texture to it, all brought out with subtle dabs of various colors on top of & blended with the white.

But it’s the shadows that are the true genius. The color of the shadows on snow, something Monet and many of his impressionist peers like Sisley would experiment with over and over again, is just PERFECT here.

I grew up in New England. Saw lots of snow. Saw lots of snow shadows, various times of the day, various cloud conditions, various heights of the sun in the sky depending on the time of year…. and that shade of gray/lavender/whatever it is in the Crayola 64 box (Periwinkle, maybe) just NAILS it.

He nails the sky, too. A gray/white overcast winter sky.

Oh yeah, the magpie? The poor little guy, sitting there on the rickety wattle fence, wondering when spring will finally arrive…. just like everyone else in the northeast about now, I bet.

Reading about that weather from out here in sunny SoCal & watching baseball games get postponed made me think of this painting.

I miss the beauty of snow.

But I sure as hell don’t miss shoveling it.

Journeying Through Some Old Mystery/Horror Comics, Part 1

I recently bought a boatload of old 1960s-1970s Gold Key horror/mystery comic book scans from this guy’s online store, and have been plowing through them.

It’s been a lot of childhood nostalgia, as well as a lot of memory-poking of old stories and the actual old comic books I’ve got boxed up & totally unorganized (perhaps a summer project might be going through them all & fixing that). The actual copies of these things are pretty tough to find and aren’t too cheap, so the digitized deal is quite the good one, if you enjoy this sort of crap.

And I certainly do!

I started out reading the complete run of the Dark Shadows series, all 35 of ’em. I have one actual issue of the thing, bought by my mom since we were both fans of the actual show at the time, and it disappointed both of us.

And in reading the rest, the reasons for that disappointment so many years ago still stand – while the Gold Key DS series reproduces a few of the characters from the show & utilizes vampire/werewolf/witchcraft plotlines, it doesn’t have the tone of the show at all. The art is also poor – the only character who looks like her TV counterpart is Joan Bennett’s Elizabeth. Barnabas the vampire is the main character & hero of the thing, but Julia’s role from the TV show is reduced to nothing, and Angelique only turns up a few times to torment him as a ghost. And they don’t look anything like Grayson Hall and Lara Parker, nor does Barnabas look like Jonathan Frid.

Later comic book versions of the thing I perused on Amazon are far truer to the look & feel of the 1966 TV series, and anything beats the forced campiness of the Tim Burton movie. I trudged through them, a couple of the stories weren’t too bad, but overall, weak tea.

Then I started on two different comics I had a few issues of back in the day – The Twilight Zone and Ripley’s True Ghost Stories. Both of these titles began in the early 1960s and ended around 1980 or so.

The T-Zones have a wider range of stories, from offbeat scifi to eerie revenge tales, similar to the TV show. A comic Rod Serling serves as narrator, and while the art is generic, there are clear attempts by the artists to crib the look of some characters from familiar faces of TV actors who you’d expect to turn up on the show. While many of the stories are formulaic and hit a real dead spot in the mid 1970s before recovering somewhat before the title ended, a lot of them are pretty good. Much like the show, you can categorize the stories into various sub-genres: someone changes identity (either via clothes, bodies, faces, masks, etc) and things go right or more often wrong; someone gets wishes granted and things go wrong; someone enters the past/alternate dimension/reality and must escape;weird unreal stuff happens to someone ordinary and then we find out we’re not in an ordinary world, a la “Eye of the Beholder,” etc.

The Ripley’s stories are all along similar lines – someone in the present or the past comes across some place that’s haunted, some local or creepy caretaker tells them the sad story of some wrongful death that resulted in the ghost, and they either GTFO or find a way to put the spirit to rest. The best of these are either the creepiest, such as one tale of a voodoo shaman with a sugar cane harvesting zombie army who try to dig their way back into their own graves, or ones where the “believe it or not” aspect is most likely true – like the story of two graverobbers who accidentally revive the “corpse” whose jewels they try to steal – a young woman who then returns home after being mistaken for dead and several years later gives birth to Sir Walter Scott.

I’m moving through the Grimm’s Ghost Stories series and the Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery ones now, more on those later. In the meantime, here’s one of my favorite stories from the collection so far… read it & you’ll see why I’ve always liked it.  It’s written (uncredited) by the legendary comic writer Len Wein. Link to PDF: A Thing About Cats

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑