Lady Aberdeen

Its been a very busy start to 2017! I’ve completed two chapters, one for a forthcoming book on Irish artist, Harry Clarke, and the other for a forthcoming book on the Throne Room in Dublin Castle!

Lady Aberdeen was the subject of my research for the Throne Room chapter,  which took me to the little village of Tarves in Aberdeenshire, and on to Haddo House, the family seat of the various Lords of Aberdeen. The photograph shows the village of Tarves on the night of the special moon in late February, 2017. The building on the right is the Aberdeen Arms Hotel, and the window on the top left is the room in which I stayed.  The moon is real! tarves

Lady Ishbel Aberdeen was an extraordinary woman, a supporter of Home Rule, and a founder of the Irish Industries Association in Ireland in 1886.  I’m giving a public lunch time lecture on aspects of her work in Ireland, and at the Chicago World’s Fair, for the Friends of the Crawford Art Gallery, Cork, on 22 March, 2017. With the permission of the present Lord Aberdeen, the lecture will be fully illustrated using photographs taken during my research visit to the Haddo Estate. Watch out too for the forthcoming book on the Throne Room in Dublin Castle. Published by Irish Academic Press, and edited by Dr Myles Campbell and William Derham of the OPW, with contributions from many writers doing fascinating research, the book promises to be very exciting indeed. It will be published in autumn, 2017.

 

Advertisements
Posted in Chicago World's Fair 1893, Dublin, History, Ireland, Irish art, Irish diaspora, Lady Aberdeen, Research journeys | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Mining the Image’, a short film featuring artist print maker, Margaret Irwin West.

Margaret Irwin West lives and works in Claddaghduff, Connemara, County Galway. Well-known to the art community in Galway and Dublin, Irwin West taught art in Dunlaoghaire, and in NCAD, Dublin, for many years. She has spent a lifetime teaching, making great work, and contributing in any way possible to the arts in Ireland through active involvement on voluntary boards and arts festivals . ‘Mo’, as she is known to her friends, has exhibited all over Ireland, in France, and in many other places around the world, but has never, until recently, had a full-scale solo exhibition in Dublin. Irwin West’s retrospective, ‘Mining the Image’, curated by myself, has opened in the Leinster Gallery, South Frederick Street, Dublin 2, 13-25 April, 2015. The film was made to illustrate the etching process, and is on view as part of the exhibition. ‘Mining the Image’ was filmed, directed, and produced by Dr Éimear O’Connor HRHA. Edited by Tom Rowley. http://youtu.be/ikfXNPLiwq4

Margaret Irwin West photographed on Omey Island by Dr Éimear O'Connor HRHA (copyright reserved)

Margaret Irwin West photographed on Omey Island by Dr Éimear O’Connor HRHA (copyright reservedprocess, and is on view at the exhibition. http://youtu.be/ikfXNPLiwq4

Posted in Dublin, History, Irish art, Margaret Irwin West | Leave a comment

Journeys in New York – Seán Keating: Art, Politics and Building the Irish Nation

Many of my friends and colleagues in New York, elsewhere in America, in England, France, Germany, and in Ireland, have asked for information about my recent book on Irish artist, Seán Keating.

The book is titled Seán Keating: Art, Politics and Building the Irish Nation. It is published in full colour by Irish Academic Press (Sallins, County Kildare) and is available in paperback in bookshops all over Ireland, and on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk
isbn 978-07165-3193-7 (paper)

Kenny’s bookshop in Galway and Hodges Figgis in Dublin may still have a few copies of the hard back, signed limited edition in stock.
isbn 978-07165-3161-6 (limited edition cloth)
isbn 978-07165-3197-5 (limited edition slipcase)

http://irishacademicpress.ie/
http://www.bookshop.kennys.ie/
http://www.yelp.com/biz/hodges-figgis-the-bookstore-dublin

Seán Keating: Art, Politics and Building the Irish Nation was recently reviewed by Peter Murray, Director of the Crawford Art Gallery Cork:

http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/artsfilmtv/artsvibe/sean-keating-biography-casts-new-light-on-artists-work-2383

Full colour publication of Seán Keating: Art, Politics and Building the Irish Nation was sponsored by ESB, and the book was designed by Sinéad McKenna at http://wwwsinedesign.net

The photograph above shows the book displayed in the window of Hodges Figgis Bookshop, Dawson Street, Dublin, to celebrate the Irish launch, which was held in the RHA, Ely Place, Dublin, on 25 April 2013. Images of Keating paintings, Men of the West (first exhibited 1917) and Men of the South (1921-22), seen in left and right of the window display, were reproduced courtesy of the Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane and the Crawford Art Gallery Cork respectively, and with permission from The Keating Estate. The photograph was taken by myself at about 6.30 in the morning. I managed to get the shot by standing in the middle of the road – which is not something one could possibly do after 7am – it is one of the busiest roads in the city!

The book should appeal to everybody (the general public, academics, collectors, second and third level students, art auction houses etc.) with an interest in Irish art history, Irish history, and Irish Studies.

I hope this information is helpful, and thank you for your interest in my work.
I’d be delighted, and encouraged, if you’d keep reading, following and sharing my blog.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Journeys in New York – Summer in the City of Welcomes

So, there came a point when I decided to spend a summer in New York. It was not going to be a holiday. I had a detailed plan of research for my next book. The whole project involved a lot of saving, serious organization, and making sure that I had somewhere to stay. That all worked out, flights were booked, and on the morning of 4 June 2013 I was amazed to find myself at Dublin airport with a large bag, a computer, absolutely no idea whether I’d meet new friends, but quite prepared to face whatever my journey in New York was going to throw at me. I’d never spent three months away from my home before; too many responsibilities for so many years. I was really looking forward to the prospect. I landed in John F. Kennedy airport, found my bag on a carousel that had a peculiar life of its own, and took a taxi to the East Village, my home for the duration of my stay.

The next thing was the launch of my book, Seán Keating: Art, Politics and Building the Irish Nation, which happened in the Residence of the Irish Consul in New York on 12 June. That was a fantastic night – my father flew to New York to attend, as did my publisher, Conor Graham, from Irish Academic Press, and the esteemed historian, Kevin Cahill, did me the great honour of launching the book. The entire evening took place 53 floors up in the air, and amid one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen. Keating, who visited New York in 1930 and again in 1939, would have loved it! I didn’t realise it at the time, but I met many people who were to become very good friends at that book launch. Those friendships matured over the ensuing weeks and months, and will, I feel sure, last a lifetime.

After the excitement of the book launch, I saw my father and Conor off in taxis, and then, it was down to the business of researching for the new book. Alone in New York, I knew what I had to do, and I was fully aware that it was going to be a major research project involving archives in institutions all over the city and beyond, and in private collections in the city and beyond. Ultimately, of the eleven weeks in New York, ten of those were spent researching – and I mean morning, noon and night – to get to the level of detail that I required for the project.

One of the first things that I did on arrival to the city was to take myself to New York Public Library where I did a brief interview with a wonderful person who oversees the writers’ rooms. I explained my project, and must have passed muster; I was given a key card to the Shoichi Noma Writer’s Room where I had my own desk, shelves and access to whatever material I needed. My own desk in New York Public Library – a researcher’s dream! I spent many, many hours in the Shoichi Noma Writer’s Room. Indeed, on several occasions, myself, and a fellow writer in the room, were the last members of the general public in the building. I will treasure that image – being one of the last in the building. There is something wonderful about seeing what goes on behind the scenes, however brief the view might be, when major institutions close their doors to the public for the night. My imagination ran away with me on those occasions. Perhaps, I’d be thinking, the ghost of some frustrated writer stalks the corridors, and if we could hang about a little longer, we might see it/him/her?

The image of closing time at the library reminded me that I was one of the last people allowed into the Orangerie in Paris in 2000, just before it was closed for renovation. That was an amazing experience – me, my friend, and the two security guards, standing alone with our thoughts in front of some of the most amazing work by Monet that I had ever seen. While in the Orangerie, and faced with closing time, I found myself imagining Monet standing there, nodding his head in approval, and making an appointment to return for the re-opening.

So what will I remember most about my stay in New York during the summer of 2013? I’ll remember the people that I met; their kindness, their generosity, and their warmth. I’ll remember the Mosaic Man – who turned the lamp posts of the East Village into intricate works of art. I’ll never forget The Cell Theatre and all of those involved with it. I’ll remember the awe I felt in Columbia University, in New York Public Library, and in several other libraries and archives that I had the honour and privilege to visit. I’ll forever recall the emotion that I felt when I visited Flushing Meadow to try to ‘trace’ where the two Irish pavilions had been during the World’s Fair in 1939-40. I’ll remember the kindness of several archivists, in many institutions, who took a personal interest in my work, and who all did their utmost to help me in my quest. My theatre experience was an emotional journey – I’ll certainly remember ‘The Nance’ for the complex stories about human life that it illustrated. Most of all, I’ll remember the friendships that were forged among artists, writers, musicians, journalists, photographers, bloggers, historians, families, and so many other people who, for the purposes of privacy, shall remain nameless, but who know who they are.

Dublin beckons, and the journey towards the new book will continue – so will the blog about that journey. In the meantime, I have a final thought to share; one that says so much about New York, and about the people and my journey through the summer of 2013. When I had completed my interview for a place in the Shoichi Noma Writer’s Room in New York Public Library, I was handed the key card, and I couldn’t believe my luck. Imagine, I thought to myself – me, researching in New York Public Library – in New York, the city of dreams! The man who oversees the writer’s rooms smiled at me. Perhaps he could read my thoughts. “Welcome to New York Public Library” he said – and I never felt so welcome in another city in my entire life.

Posted in Dublin, Irish diaspora, Journeys in New York, New York, New York Public Library, New York World's Fair 1939, Seán Keating, Theatre, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Journeys in New York – Flushing Meadows to Broadway – Hi, simply Hi

What a week it was! Artists Without Walls is an exhilarating experience for anyone interested in the arts, whether a spectator or a practitioner, or indeed, both. The group get together once a month at the Cell Theatre, West 23rd Street, NYC, not too far from the famous Chelsea Hotel. You’ll find poets, actors, writers, singers, musicians, orators, dancers, and once in a while, you may even meet an art historian! The atmosphere is electric; it encourages creativity, imagination, and very importantly, friendship and discussion between like minds amongst the audience and the performers. Everybody is welcome at Artist’s Without Walls. Their next gig is on 27 August – check it out:

www.artistswithoutwalls.com

As it happened, that same week I had been researching in New York Public Library about Ireland’s participation in the New York World’s Fair in 1939, the theme of which was ‘The World of Tomorrow’. It was all about modernity, engineering, technology, science, and the arts – a vision of the future and hope amid the tail end of the economic depression. The New York World’s Fair took place on Flushing Meadows in Queens. A former rubbish tip that was drained and cleared for the occasion, the site was a metaphor for everything the organisers wanted to change and modernise at that time. It is now a well-known public park, usually called Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and famous for its sporting facilities, the New York Hall of Science gallery, a botanical garden, the Queens Theatre in the park, a zoo and many other facilities:

http://queens.about.com/cs/parks/a/flushing_park.htm

In the year or so leading up to the opening of the New York World’s Fair, Flushing Meadows was landscaped and divided into sites on which enormous pavilions were built, each designed in a sharp modernist style and decorated by some of the best-known artists of the era. Among the attractions were huge water features, sculptures, theatres, cinemas, restaurants, car show rooms, a blimp landing pad, and the famous Trylon and Perishere buildings that featured on posters and advertisements. Many nations were represented at the event, and encouraged by a mesmerized press, millions of people visited the World’s Fair in 1939 and 1940. The site was clean, well-engineered and well-organized – a homage to modernity in the face of World War Two.

I’m always interested in the reality of historical situations, and anxious to find out more of the social history of the times, I read EL Doctorow’s book about growing up in New York, in which he portrays the atmosphere of excitement of the event as seen through the eyes of a young man. It is a great read for anyone interested in the history of the topic, and the effect of the Fair on the people who visited.

http://www.nytimes.com/1985/11/10/books/doctorow-fair.html

The week of intense research came to an end with a treat (always necessary when working hard!). A friend organized tickets for Broadway, and on Friday night we were sitting in the lovely old Lyceum Theatre (built in 1903) waiting for The Nance to begin.

http://www.lightingandsoundamerica.com/news/story.asp?ID=RS8EL7

Starring Nathan Lane as Chauncey Miles, The Nance is ‘set in the twilight of burlesque’ in 1937 New York (New York Times). It was important to Chauncey Miles that he always wore a dapper suit, tie, and top hat for his performance. His burlesque depended on humour, a wealth of facial expressions, and a little wave of his right hand accompanied with the bye-line “Hi, simply hi”.

But the play is set in 1937, and it soon becomes clear that the authorities were out to clean up Manhattan before the world’s press and millions of visitors arrived to marvel at the New York World’s Fair in 1939. The clean up led to the closure of male, or rather, ‘men in suits’ burlesque theatre. As his career, and ultimately, his life, collapses around him, the final scene is heartbreaking.

After numerous police raids, and the eventual closure of the theatre where he’d played the role of The Nance for many years, the only way that Chauncey Miles could get work was to dress as a woman. Officialdom didn’t mind that because he was ‘in character’, but for Chauncey, it was a humiliating end to a long career in show business. Standing, spot lit, to the side of a lamp post, and dressed in an expensive but well-worn satin ensemble, The Nance had become a burlesque parody of himself, and of modernity too. There is a moment when he drops the mask, and begins to cry in anguish, grieving for his lost private life, for his loss of stage identity, for his lost love, and for a life that will never be the same again. The World of Tomorrow that was going to encompass all things new, had no use for the reality of life for Chauncey Miles, and many more like him. Nothing new there. History is littered with new beginnings that forgot the old, the lost, the poor, the out of work, and the lonely. Several of Édouard Manet’s paintings of Paris illustrate the point.

http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artMakerDetails?maker=2952

There is something symbolic and sad about a ‘dark’ stage, where old ghosts still roam, and where there is little by way of illumination to aid empathy and understanding. But as Leonard Cohen says ‘there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’. Outside, on Times Square that Friday night, there was lots of light, and there were people everywhere. We were all enjoying the carnival atmosphere. It took a few minutes to adjust – and then I remembered – it is the twenty-first century and everyone is welcome, right?

“Hi, simply hi!”

Posted in History, Irish diaspora, Journeys in New York, New York, New York Public Library, New York World's Fair 1939, Theatre | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Journeys in New York – Charles Dickens and the Ghosts of Times Past

I had good reason, for the purposes of research, to apply for access to the Berg Collection of English and American Literature at New York Public Library. I arrived on the designated morning with library card, passport, laptop, and a bundle of research notes in a plastic ‘research’ bag. Having set up at my desk, and plugged in the laptop (with the very kind assistance of the librarian on duty who lent me an extension lead), I settled in to what was going to be an extraordinary journey through all sorts of rare and special material. It is a fabulous and exceptional resource, which was put together by brothers, Dr Albert and Dr Henry Berg (donated in 1940). I felt truly honoured to be sitting in the room:

http://www.nypl.org/locations/tid/36/node/54762

While I was waiting for my requested material, on George Russell (AE) as it happens, I had a few minutes to have a look around. Amazed at the wood-lined shelves and rare volumes, it took a few moments before I noticed the desk. Angled into a corner at the back of the room, with a wicker chair in front, and a glass-globed lamp on top which illuminated an old and well-used calendar, the desk seemed to command attention. A small label revealed an extraordinary provenance, and in doing so, unleashed a series of childhood memories that I had all but forgotten. The furniture had once belonged to Charles Dickens. I admit to performing a little bow in homage to an author who was so important to English literature, and, indeed, to my own times past. The librarian, well-versed in the prominence and significance of Dickens within the Berg Collection, readily agreed with my tribute.

The chair appeared to have been recently vacated, as if Dickens just popped out to get a book, or to find something in the Berg Collection. Much of the material in the collection pertains to him – perhaps he was looking for something? Or maybe, as I let my imagination run riot for a moment, it was 1858 in that corner of the Berg, and Dickens left his room in a hurry to take his trip to Ireland:

http://blog.discoverireland.com/2011/12/charles-dickens-in-ireland/

The possibilities were endless as I sat imagining a seated shape in the vacant seat where Dickens should have been. Was his spirit still attached to his well-worn work space, like the ghost of Archbishop Marsh, who is said to roam the aisles of Marsh’s Library in Dublin?

http://www.irelandseye.com/irish/ghost/stories/ghost_marsh_library.htm

I began to wonder – if Dickens were alive today, what would he say to Seamus Heaney, Paula Meehan, President Michael D. Higgins or to Edna O’Brien? Would he approve of e-books? Might he visit the Listowel Writers’ Festival? Did he like the various film versions of Oliver Twist?

I was immediately transported back, via my imagined ghost of Dickens, to my own times past. We had a lovely old library in St Thomas’s building at Sion Hill Convent, Blackrock, County Dublin, where I spent my senior years at school. Lined floor to ceiling with solid wooden bookcases that sat on a Victorian tiled floor, the library was overseen by a charming and very aged Dominican nun, Sister John, whose face was as crinkled as ancient parchment. We loved her; she made us believe that contentment was to be found in a good book (if not in prayer!). She was aided and abetted in this task by Miss Corr, our English teacher, who was just as enthusiastic about literature and the importance of reading. Miss Corr had a favourite expression – “A bored person is very boring” – and of course, we never wanted to be bored or boring. So we spent a lot of time in that library, happily wondering through rare and highly prized volumes, many of them leather-bound with extravagantly decorative labels denoting a previous owner. We made up stories about previous owners becoming nuns, then running away from the convent to get married – the innocence of it all! Yet, we were building strong foundations to support our individual creativity, as we all set out on our journey through life.

I had forgotten, until that day in the Berg Collection, that our little library in Sion Hill had a very particular and familiar smell – ancient leather, ageing paper and wax floor polish. I had forgotten about Sister John and Miss Corr. Vivid images of books returned – gorgeous leather-bound and gold-leafed little art pieces that I was allowed to ‘sign out’ and read on a weekly basis: The Pickwick Papers was among my favourites. Meanwhile, along with books by Dickens and the Bronte sisters, the black and white adaptation of Oliver Twist, and the ever-present Christmas Carol, provided some solid ground in the maelstrom of childhood.

That morning, as I sat in the Berg Collection, researching for books that I never dreamed I’d write, and thinking about Charles Dickens and the old library at school, I was handed a beautiful blue leather-bound volume, with gold-leaf on the cover. The book was not written by Dickens, but by George Russell (AE). I looked over at the desk and chair in the corner, and I thought to myself that things do come full circle. Visit the Berg Collection if you ever have the opportunity. You’ll need an appointment, and a reason to be there. But you never know who you might meet!

Dedicated to the memory of Sister John O.P. and Miss Patricia Corr.

Posted in Charles Dickens, History, Irish art, Irish diaspora, Journeys in New York, New York | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Journeys in New York – four days on the road

Continue reading

Quote | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Journeys in New York – The Mosaic Man, East Village

The East Village in NYC is an exciting and vibrant place, full of fashionable boutiques, small bakeries, pubs, restaurants, ice-cream parlours, yoga teachers and bookshops (one of which opens until 12 at night!). Walking along St Mark’s Place, you can’t help but notice the mosaic art work that has been attached to the lamp posts along the route. Who was responsible? It took weeks to find out, and then one day, there he was, working away on a piece that I’ve titled ‘Watch out for Cat.’ The artist is man called Jim Power, aka, The Mosaic Man. He is probably in his early to mid-sixties, although it is hard to tell. He wears denims, a tee shirt, a long ponytail, and he now has an electric scooter to aid his travel. Power told me that he’d emigrated to New York from Waterford in the late 1950s. He’d worked in the Carpenters’ Union, and had some hand in building the original Twin Towers. When he first arrived to New York he played rock and roll music, and discovered a latent talent for building domestic details, but on a very large scale. He proudly recounted several tales, one of which involved building an enormous stone fire place that “the the Vikings would be proud of” in twenty four hours. According to the artist, the fireplace was over ten foot high. It sounded like something you might see in a Norman tower house.

Moving from large scale to small detail seems to have been easy for Power. Having moved into the East Village to live, he thought that the area needed “something to brighten it up.” He began working on his mosaic lamp posts twenty eight years ago, completing over seventy over the years. But mosaic is fragile, and susceptible to the changes in weather; several have all but disappeared. There are now about twenty left, and Power is intent on rebuilding those that have been lost. His plan is to dedicate the new and the refurbished mosaics to lost friends and to others who seem deserving of the accolade. He’s an interesting man to talk to – open to questions, and happy to tell anyone about his dedication to art, and the importance of his art, and indeed, all art, in public places. He keeps a Facebook page, and a blog page – have a look –

http://mosaicmannyc.com/

While I was taking the photographs of Power’s work, several local people stopped to speak to me. They were pleased that I was so interested in ‘The Mosaic Man’. The neighbours watch out for Power; they are genuinely fond of him, and of his work. He is very much part of the East Village. He is ‘their’ mosaic man.

I asked Jim Powers about his family – he said they were from Waterford, or near perhaps, to Kilkenny. One of his grandmothers’s won an Irish dancing medal in 1916 – a Miss Rolleston. She was, he assured me, the first person to embroider an Irish dancing costume. “Was she on your father or your mother’s side?” I asked. He looked at me with his twinkling eyes, swimming, as they were, in a sea of weather beaten leather. “Do you know”, he said, “I can’t remember.” He didn’t seem to mind his lack of ability to recall that detail – he was inordinately proud of her anyway. One thing seems certain – he surely got his eye for colour, decoration and appreciation of form from his Irish grandmother of long ago, who, one imagines, danced her way to her hopes and dreams in Ireland in 1916. She’d be very proud of her grandson, Jim Power, aka, The Mosaic Man. The people of the East Village are very proud of him too.

Posted in Journeys in New York, New York | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Journeys in New York – a museum, a history lesson, and the red carpet

draftriot

A visit to the Museum of the City of New York was well-worth the walk from the metro station at East 103rd street. I was invited to attend an evening of talks there, but they didn’t begin until 6pm, so I had ample time to look around the exhibits. Housed in a nineteenth-century mansion facing Central Park, the museum is home to an eclectic and ever-changing series of exhibitions. The day I visited there was a fascinating show of psychedelic fashions from the 1960s and 70s by designer Stephen Burrows. Think 1970s dance music, and blocks of primary colour – and you’ve got the idea. They even had the right music playing in the background. From one end of the spectrum, ‘staying alive’, to the other, meeting ‘the dead’ – also on view was an extraordinarily well-designed exhibition titled A Beautiful Way to Go – all about New York’s famous Greenwood Cemetery. In between there was Activist New York – an interactive exhibition that explores the history of social activism in the city. Something for everybody so – http://www.mcny.org/

The series of talks that brought me to the Museum of the City of New York were a complete revelation. The theme of the night was the ‘draft’ riots, which took place in and around 5th Avenue and 43rd Street area over a few days in mid-July, 1863, during the American Civil War. Suffice to say that it was a humbling experience to sit in an audience in New York listening to history from a whole new perspective. The picture above illustrates one of the most infamous attacks that took place during those boiling hot days in mid-July 1863 – the attached link gives the story –

http://www.virtualny.cuny.edu/draftriots/Intro/draft_riot_intro_set.html

The following day, on my way to New York Public Library, I came out of Grand Central to find that a red carpet had been laid along 5th Avenue! I kid you not – the street was closed to traffic, and the road was covered with a red carpet for a parade – photograph of which can been seen on http://www.odwyerpr.com/story/public/824/2013-07-16/spectators-few-enthusiasm-high-at-chevy-all-star-parade-down.html

The entire area was fenced off, there were police everywhere, and hundreds were gathering to see the action. That was at 9am in the morning. By 5.30pm the carpet was gone, 5th Avenue was open, and you’d never believe that anything had happened at all, not least that the street looked something like a film set just a few hours earlier. I found myself deep in thought as I looked around 5th Avenue that evening, and the talks that I’d attended at the Museum of the City of New York came to mind. It was in and around the same area, and in mid-July, that the aforementioned infamous attack took place in 1863. History makes life far more interesting.

Posted in History, Journeys in New York, New York | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Journeys in New York – a trip to Beacon along the Hudson River

I took a trip on the metro North line from Grand Central Station in New York City to Beacon, a lovely town about eighty miles north. The train skirted the route of the Hudson River, and the views of the local landscape were astonishing. So too, the views of the many iron bridges that span the river along the way. The entire area is well-recognized for it’s architecture and engineering, and for anybody interested in bridges, as I have always been, a journey along the Hudson is not to be missed:
http://nyc-architecture.com/TEN/TEN-Bridges.htm

The Hudson River is famous for it’s history, especially with regard to the War of Independence. In April, 1778, a group of American Revolutionaries managed to string a cast iron chain across the river at West Point (famous for the West Point Military Academy). It sounds easy, but that chain was very heavy. Dubbed ‘General Washington’s Watch Chain’, it served it’s purpose well – no British ship managed to get through the unusual defensive strategy, and the stories of what happened to the chain subsequent to the War of Independence are legendary – see http://www.constitutionisland.org

The town of Beacon is home to Dia:Beacon – an extraordinary art gallery dedicated to abstract art and sculpture. The gallery is situated in an enormous building that used to house a Nabisco cracker factory, and is surround by luscious green grass and acres of trees http://www.diaart.org/sites/page/1/1003 The original building is red brick, with huge windows, pale wooden floors, and rows of north-facing glass in the mass-concrete roof – absolutely ideal for its purpose now – http://www.diaart.org/sites/main/beacon

The photographs were taken during my visit to Dia:Beacon. The Andy Warhol gallery is absolutely vast – with a row of invitingly plush couches down the centre of the room. The paintings are hung side by side all around the room, and the whole effect is calm and contemplative. The Flavin work is displayed at one end of the building, some of it alongside the original red brick factory walls and the huge windows, and the rest on purpose-built white walls, all of which serves his artistic vision extraordinarily well. Downstairs, there is a huge space dedicated to Richard Serra’s monumental works. I’ve always enjoyed interacting with Serra’s sculptures, and this room was the highlight of my visit. Walking in and around the work reminded me of Newgrange or Loughcrew in County Meath – there is something very ancient in Serra’s contemporary work.

It would be easy to overfill this vast space – which includes work by Beuys, Judd, Bourgeois, Kawara, le Witt, Nauman, and Agnes Martin – but the curators have resisted the urge to do that, and as a result, a visit to Dia:Beacon is refreshing, thought-provoking, inspiring and uplifting. What more could ask of a gallery space?

Posted in Journeys in New York, New York | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment