Tuesday, June 28, 2011


We went to the Catskills on the weekend. It was time for me to channel my inner hippie. I'm not very good at that any more. Too many Park Hyatts with work. But the anesthestist is an old hippie at heart; herbal toothpaste, organic veggies and early morning sun salutations. So it was off to the bucolic county of Delaware, 4 hours north of Manhattan. Think rolling green hills, lots of cows, local markets and red barns. All the hallmarks of a stunning east coast pastoral setting in summer.

There we stayed in a cottage that looks like it should have been pulled down a decade ago but holds cherished memories for the anasthetist of his boys growing up there during school holidays,

we cooked up a storm using veggies straight from the farm's organic fields,

bought fresh, young local lamb at the famous Round Hill Barn,

went swimming in the water hole up the back of the property,

sat and listened to the roar of the waterfall as it gushed into the water hole

and drove through the neighbouring countryside dreaming of milking cows, collecting eggs and selling our own organic produce one day.

Friday, June 24, 2011

French Interlude

La nuit ou la lune, 1922

A few weeks back when I was in Paris, I went to a Van Dongen exhibition. I really didn't know that much about him beforehand, but I'm a mad fan now - particularly of his early work. Born 1867 in Holland, he became a "fauve, anarchist and socialite" in Paris between the wars. He used color beautifully, inspired by his numerous trips to Morocco, Egypt and Spain and the likes of his contemporaries Derain and Matisse. Yet Montmartre and its women became his main subject in his later life. He ended up with a very wealthy socialite who changed his life, offering him entry into the salons and bourgeois life of Paris in the roaring 20's and 30's. This influenced his style tremendously, as he focused more on portraits of wealthy women in their silks and ermine.

I'm not so mad on this later period, but here is a selection of some of his paintings from the exhibition that really transfixed me.

Opera Singer, 1908

La doigt sur la joue, 1910

Marchande d'herbes et d'amour, 1913

Spanish shawl, 1913

Arab Girl, 1915

La vase fleurie, 1917

Portrait de Mme Maria Ricotti, 1921

Le Sphinx,  1925

It's very hard to find a good book on Van Dongen's work. But there was a beautiful catalogue published as part of this exhibition. You may be able to purchase it through the museum in Paris, here. If you are in Paris, I would urge you to go and see this. It finishes 17th July.

images: Paris museum modern art

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


"We built a home my husband and I, not to be old or new, just to be beautiful. And we built it for music."
- Lucie Rosen

Last Sunday the anesthetist was playing on his boat. I couldn't join him for fear of falling overboard and sinking straight to the bottom of the Long Island Sound due to my boot being as heavy as an anchor. So I threw caution to the wind and "stole" his car to drive further north to visit Caramoor, a lovely house & garden designed for the sole purpose of music and the arts.

Caramoor is the legacy of Lucie and Walter Rosen, a well-traveled and clearly well-heeled couple who purchased the property of more than 100 acres in 1928. They were both passionate collectors and musicians. They built the rambling stucco mansion that exists today, fulfilling their dream to create a place where they could entertain friends from around the world and host legendary musical evenings. In 1945, they bequeathed the estate as a centre for music and art and it is now the home of the hugely successful annual Caramoor summer outdoor concerts, featuring artists performing jazz, operetta and classical music.

What is most remarkable are the surrounding gardens. They're magical. They have evolved over the past 80 odd years and include sunken gardens, a cedar walk, a rose garden, a sense circle for the visually and physically impaired, and general rolling lawns dotted with picnic tables for the festival guests to enjoy.

It's a garden lover's paradise and a place where you would expect to see wood nymphs and sprites dancing amongst the trees. It's a far cry from the concrete of Manhattan.

Italian Pavilion

Pegasus Gates

300' cedars now 70 years old

Juliet Gate, a 17th C portal opening into the Sunken Garden

Sunken Garden

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Green Thumb

It's been really wet and humid here. Terrible for sinus issues but great for the plants. The anesthetist lives in a dreadful part of Manhattan - waaaaay way over east near Avenue D which he won't even let me walk down at night for fear of me being attacked by Puerto Rican gangsta rappers from the projects - but his apartment's one redeeming feature is the shared courtyard and his own little balcony.

Now, I know he is a great handyman, but who knew he also had a green thumb? Every time we drive somewhere, he has to pick up another box of herbs or a bright pink something or a weeping other thing. But now I'm not complaining. With the help of all this rain, I think he has created a tranquil little urban oasis amongst the filth of the very East Village.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Politics & Art

"Without freedom of speech, there is no modern world, 
just a barbaric one."
- Ai Weiwei

A silent but defiant protest has appeared in front of my work building. It is the work of dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. He was supposed to come here a month ago to open his installation, alongside Mayor Bloomberg. Unfortunately he was and still is regrettably indisposed at the hands of the Chinese government, being held in a place no-one knows where.

"Circle of Animals" is a series of 12 animal heads making up the Chinese Zodiac. They are each cast in bronze and stand majestically, as if on guard of the fountain they reside by. When Bloomberg unveiled the installation, he spoke of New York as a city "that fiercely defends the right of all people to express themselves," and referred to Mr Ai as "one of the most talented, respected and masterful artists of our time."

It seems the world agrees. Although Mr Ai is nowhere to be seen, his voice is heard around the globe as his art continues to be installed. When some new work of his opened in a Berlin gallery recently, it was accompanied by a huge banner by artist Rirkrit Tiravanija asking, "Where is Ai Weiwei?" Another exhibition is currently on at Lisson Gallery in London. 

The crazy thing about all this is that most people outside the art world - myself included - wouldn't have even known who Ai Weiwei is before he was detained. Now, in trying to silence him, the Chinese authorities have only succeeded in making his voice louder and more easily heard.

images: (2) art observed, rest: mine