Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Liminal Time and Space


Liminal - unmoored, in transition between one place, one time, and another, beyond even that, a fog of not knowing, whether there was a past place, whether there will be a future place; adrift in the present, without goal. 

Perhaps anxious. Perhaps joyous. Perhaps the present moment is crystal clear and vibrant with life. Perhaps the present moment is a dream, madness and symbolist, luminous. 

Sensing the deep currents of life. The tides that circle the earth, pulled by the moon The grand scale that our daily lives are placed within, blown by the wind, taking root in freshly plowed ground. New moments unfold.

A Walk Across a Bridge with Levi

Levi Shand is a Dadaist displaced a century forward in time. He uses a camera to explore concepts and emotions. He asks questions which have no answer and yet have a compelling need to be addressed. 

In October 2019, Levi led a small group of us with our cameras on a wander across Chicago neighborhoods, most showing the wear and tear of an ever changing city - some torn apart by interstate highways and urban renewal fifty years ago, some pulsing with life, all intermingled.

Each hub of activity has a history, waves of immigration and colonialism, of ethnic identity and globalization, of hegemonic design and grassroots disruption, of systemic inequity and liberation, of personal growth and dissolution. Each wave leaving an imprint that shapes and is erased by the emerging present. 

Crossing a literal bridge, spanning railroads and river, Levi described it as liminal, a transition. This was a place where the scale shifted and the humans seemed to have disappeared. Vast. Open. Unprotected. A multidimensional corridor connecting near and far, conduits of power and transit that separate the terrain they cross as they reach across distance.

And yes, when we are on the bridge, we might not see the bridge.

Larry Wolf, Chicago (2019)

Larry Wolf, Chicago (2019)

Larry Wolf, Chicago (2019)

Larry Wolf, Chicago (2019)

Larry Wolf, Chicago (2019)

Larry Wolf, Chicago (2019)

Levi, along with Shawn Rowe, co-founded Chicago Active Transit Arts 
To unite communities in examining and demonstrating the efficacy of walking, bicycling, and mass transit in art-making and appreciation in Chicago. 

Join them for a class or an event. Follow them on Instagram @active_transit_arts

Stuck Between Old and New - Video from Sean Tucker

Sean Tucker is a modern minister to the heathen of photography, us scruffy souls who are foolish enough to seek enlightenment and salvation in photography. I watch his YouTube videos and follow him on Instagram. He is a master image maker and a compassionate human. He pours his life into his work and offers it to the world, in visuals and in words. (So too does David duChemin, a story for another time).

Sean recently moved to York as one of many changes in his life. He is living in a liminal world. This video opens with amazing images, framed like photographs, beginning in stillness, coming to life. Mysterious. Magical. Embracing the liminal. 

He welcomes us with these quotes.

"Honour the space between no longer and not yet." Nancy Levin

"Not until we are lost do we begin to find ourselves." Henry David Thoreau

"New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings." Lau Tzu

"When we are betwixt and between, we are in that graced time where something genuinely new can happen." Richard Rohr

Every moment in our lives holds the seeds of new beginnings. Every moment is also the falling apart of what was. How I cling to the known, shy away from the unknown. Except. Except when I am as fully in the present moment as I can be, when time stops, when mind shifts into a mode of curiosity and wonder. The personal matter less. The heart breaks open to a tenderness of emotion, beyond the specific drama - being human - alive, breathing, seeing, feeling. A place where art happens.

Sean tells us of his pain as he moves away from his past and into a new present, of the plans which keep getting derailed, of the need to move beyond this time of transition, and yet, to honor this transition, to live fully in this moment. He is a master storyteller. Take a few minutes to soak in his presence. Explore other videos. Join him in his journey of discovery. Follow him @seantuck on Instagram to see the daily flow.

My Drift

The story I'm telling about myself now, as an artist, began in January of 2016 when I left the company I'd been part of for 29 years (and by some stretch of connections, going back to 1976, a full 40 years). There was a time with my own  LLC continuing the health policy work I had done for over a decade and some time employed by a software company. That all ended in January of 2020, when I fully turned to nurturing whatever was coming next. Little did I know what 2020 would bring!

There are forty posts to this blog in 2020, as I worked with my archive of photos going back to my childhood, as I took walks in my neighborhood, as I helped my husband through an extended health crisis, as I took on-line classes. COVID-19 was ever-present and yet is not the main topic. 

I've been considering the larger social issues of how outsiders shape and are shaped by the dominant society, of how I, as a gay white cis-gendered male, have been both activist and assimilationist, priveleged and discounted; of how systemic issues of racism, of colonialism, of heteronormativity, of polarization, are my history, my life, my world to engage. I've been reading, writing, drawing, painting, photographing. Spending time in my home bubble with Eric and his mother. Spending time online with friends, relatives and in classes, with videos, podcasts, blogs and music.

Some themes running through this

The long shadow of the holocaust on my life as a gay man, as a Jew, and the roots which go back into the depths of history and well beyond the actions of any one country or regime. There are many genocides and collective trauma.

Coming out into the joys of gay liberation and then the war which was the first fifteen years of AIDS (and continues today). There are many celebrations and collective brilliance

Livelihood, not only as a source of income, but as an engagement with the world, an offering to others; living as a professional, an advocate, a teacher, as a husband, a son, brother, and uncle, keeping body and home whole, working with the interdependence of being.

Learning the basics of drawing and watercolor, and yes, also photography, exploring being an artist.

Having hope and perseverance even though the institutions I believed in turned out to be deeply flawed and undermine the ideals they proclaim, finding ways to be reborn from the ashes.

Simply being, without words. Here. Now. Alive.

Journey of Lost and Found

Back in the mid-late 1990s, in the early days of the Internet, my email signature was "Am I lost enough to find my way?" That seems to be what still drives me. Being lost. Becoming Found. Losing it. Beginning again. And there is the relative stability of my daily life, safety, shelter, food, companions. My own generally good health and those around me. 

There are daily reminders that it is all falling apart. Family and friends become sick, die, as do organizations. The illusion of a uniformly generous government is blown away with police killings, riots, insurrections, walls at the borders. 

And there are daily reminders of generativity, of the spring which is happening despite climate change, of the multiple rovers on Mars (US and China), of the magic of this keyboard and screen putting words and images out into the world.

In this fluid space, exploring through teaching, inviting others into a container to learn together, to surprise ourselves, to join our inner experience with the outer world, making artifacts which mark our journey. (Currently in the middle of the first run for Contemplative Photography.)

Larry Wolf, Pen and Paper (2021)

The Context That's Danced Within

Larry Wolf,
Blooms (2021)
It's spring. The world is waking up from the long chill of a pandemic (well, some parts of the privileged world).  There are COVID-19 vaccines. A change in the Federal administration. Some signs that Black Lives Matter has finally shifted the conversation beyond a single crisis and has sustained a conversation on structural racism and structural inequities. There are hot and cold wars across the globe. A helicopter flew on Mars. Confrontational, polarizing forces are still pulling us apart. Day to day, I keep seeking to make sense of it all, finding continuity while acknowledging change. 

Monday, May 10, 2021

Flight Home - May 2021

 SWA LGA to MDW with Patti Smith Devotion

Larry Wolf, SWA LGA (2021)

Larry Wolf, Devotion (2021)
Her mind was a muscle of discontent.
- - - 
... all else faded as she stepped upon the ice, feeling its surface through the blades into her calves.
- - - 
He came to understand that tearing things apart was a powerful aspect of human nature.
- - - 
He found solace in the poet Rimbaud, who did so with words.
- - - 
The friction of her skates accelerated an already premature weakening of the pond's surface, precariously veined beneath a dangerously transparent layer. She did not slow down but whirled as if in the center of an infinity of infinities. That infamous space conjured and inhabited by mystics who no longer seek the nourishment of this earth. Free of all expectation or desire, she spun, and was at once the loom, the thread, the strand of gold. She bowed her head and lifted one arm toward the sky, surrendering, drawn by the gloved hand of her own conscience.
- - - 
... she performed with a harmony that only silence could match.

Patti Smith - Devotion 2017/2018

Larry Wolf, SWA MDW (2021)

Saturday, May 8, 2021

New York Museum Highlights - May 2021 - Part 3

Days On My Own - Part 3

David Hammons - Day's End 


Larry Wolf, David Hammons - Day's End (2021)

Larry Wolf, David Hammons Day's End (2021)

Larry Wolf, David Hammons - Day's End (2021)

Larry Wolf, What Remains (2021)

Dawoud Bey - An American Project


Larry Wolf, Dawoud Bey (2021)

Larry Wolf, Dawoud Bey (2021)

Larry Wolf, Dawoud Bey (2021)

Larry Wolf, Dawoud Bey (2021)

Larry Wolf, Dawoud Bey (2021)

Larry Wolf, Dawoud Bey (2021)

Larry Wolf, Dawoud Bey (2021)

Larry Wolf, Dawoud Bey (2021)

Larry Wolf, Dawoud Bey (2021)

Birmingham Project 2013

(see also https://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/2018/dawoud-bey-the-birmingham-project.html)

Larry Wolf, Dawoud Bey - Birmingham Project 2013 (2021)

Larry Wolf, Dawoud Bey - Birmingham Project 2013 (2021)

Larry Wolf, Dawoud Bey - Birmingham Project 2013 (2021)

Larry Wolf, Dawoud Bey - Birmingham Project 2013 (2021)

Night Coming Tenderly

Larry Wolf, Langston Hughes - Dream Variations 1926 (2021)

Joseph Stella - Brooklyn Bridge

Larry Wolf, Joseph Stella - Brooklyn Bridge 1939 (2021)

Alexander Calder - Circus

Larry Wolf, Alexander Calder - Circus 1927 1955 (2021)

The Benefactor

Larry Wolf, Robert Henri - Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney 1916 (2021)


Larry Wolf, Whitney Stairwell (2021)

Larry Wolf, Lunch (2021)

Larry Wolf, Next Generation (2021)

Friday, May 7, 2021

New York Museum Highlights - May 2021 - Part 2

Days On My Own - Part 2

Metropolitan Museum - Broken

Larry Wolf, Broken Met Museum (2021)

Larry Wolf, Broken Met Museum (2021)

Larry Wolf, Broken Met Museum (2021)

Larry Wolf, Broken Met Museum (2021)

Larry Wolf, Broken Met Museum (2021)

Metropolitan Museum - Alice Neel - People Come First

Larry Wolf, Alice Neel Met Museum (2021)

Larry Wolf, Alice Need Met Museum (2021)

Larry Wolf, Alice Neel - Still Life 1973 (2021)

Larry Wolf, Alice Neel - Addiction 1931 (2021)

Larry Wolf, Alice Neel - Futility of Effort 1930 (2021)

Larry Wolf, Alice Neel (2021)

Larry Wolf, Alice Neel (2021)
NIGHT: How would you describe yourself?

ALICE: I am a morbid person. 

NIGHT: Did you ever participate in an unrequited love?

ALICE: No. I ruined more mens' illusions than anyone living. 

NIGHT: Do you feel that the Earth is safe? 

ALICE: We are sitting on a tornado. Man is not fit to have nuclear energy.

NIGHT: Have you always been fascinated with death? 

ALICE: All my life I have wanted to commit suicide. I never look out a window without wanting to jump. 

NIGHT: What were you thinking moments before you attempted suicide in 1930?

ALICE: I heard voices. I thought I heard my parents talking. I was at the point of a nervous breakdown. I thought that I had gone mad. I went downstairs and put my head in the oven and turned on the gas.

NIGHT: A comment on men and women:

ALICE: Men are like otters. They like to have fun. Women are the beavers. They keep the home fires burning. 

NIGHT: What do you think about the quality and type of art being produced in the 1970's? 

ALICE: This was the deadpan decade. The corporation decade.

NIGHT: Do you attempt something new everytime you paint? 

ALICE: No. I don't give a damn.

NIGHT: Can you appreciate bad art?

ALICE: I am an intellectual. I am sick of trash. 

NIGHT: What authors do you like?

ALICE: Thomas Mann, Hesse, Proust, Joyce, Fitzgerald [he liked money too much], Hemingway [for what he was], Tennessee Williams and Auden.

NIGHT: What do you think of the beautiful people? 

ALICE: I would hate to be one of the beautiful people. You have to smile all the time.

NIGHT: What is the most reckless thing you do? 

ALICE: My paintings.

NIGHT: Through the years how has your work developed?

ALICE: I don't think it has changed. 

NIGHT: Describe your seizures:

ALICE: Blackness comes from the sides of my head, I perspire and feel faint. I think they come from my subconscious. I have to take three phenobarbitals a day to prevent them.

NIGHT: What is death? 

ALICE: Oblivion.

NIGHT: What is life?

ALICE: Life is a sentence of days and nights. There is no joy in ife. There are only a few minutes of happiness in any life.

Poem (Written in New York, Winter 1929)

Oh, the men, the men
they put all their troubles
into beautiful verses
But the women, poor fools
They grumbled and complained
and watched their breasts
grow flatter and more wrinkled
grey hair over a grey dishcloth
and no one loves their grumbling
Sad, sour, dry with red and shiny knuckles
Oh, for the words
separate from reality
Something to read, stretched out 
In a little green book

Larry Wolf, Alice Neel - Synthesis of New York The Great Depression 1933 (2021)

Larry Wolf, Alice Neel - Ninth Avenue El 1935 (2021)

Larry Wolf, Alice Neel - Kenneth Fearing 1935 (2021)

Larry Wolf, Alice Neel - Nazis Murder Jews 1936 (2021)

Larry Wolf, Alice Neel - Save Willie McGee 1950 (2021)

Larry Wolf, Alice Neel - Christopher Lazare 1932 (2021)

Larry Wolf, Alice Neel - Jose 1936 (2021)

Larry Wolf, Alice Neel - A Spanish Boy 1955 (2021)

Larry Wolf, Alice Neel - Black Draftee James Hunter 1965 (2021)

Larry Wolf, Alice Neel - James Farmer 1964 (2021)

Larry Wolf, Alice Neel - Jackie Curtis and Ritta Redd 1970 (2021)

Larry Wolf, Alice Neel - Jackie Curtis as a Boy 1972 (2021)

Larry Wolf, Alice Neel - Peggy 1945 (2021)

Larry Wolf, Alice Neel - Kenneth Doolittle 1932 (2021)

Larry Wolf, Alice Neel - John Perreault 1972 (2021

Larry Wolf, Alice Neel - Margaret Evans Pregnant 1978 (2021)

Larry Wolf, Alice Neel - Self Portrait 1980 (2021)

Metropolitan Museum - Open Space

Larry Wolf - Open Space Met Museum (2021)

A Statement 1960

Larry Wolf,
Alice Neel - A Statement 1960
Being born I looked around and the world and its people terrified and fascinated me. I was attracted by the morbid and excessive and everything connected with death had a dark power over me. I was early taken to Sunday School where the tale of Christ nailed to the cross would send me into violent weeping and I'd have to be taken home. Also I remember a film they showed at the church of the horrors of delirium tremens that quite unnerved me and prevented my sleeping for many nights.

I decided to paint a human comedy - such as Balzac had done in literature. In the 30's I painted the beat of those days - Joe Gould, Sam Putnam, Ken Fearing, etc. I have painted "El Barrio" in Puerto Rican Harlem. I painted the neurotic, the mad and the miserable. Also I painted the others, including some squares. I once, many light years ago married a Cuban and lived in Havana where I had my first show. Then that all dissolved and in the thirties I was on the W.P.A. turning in a painting every six weeks. I had a show at the Pinacotheca Gallery during the war and later two shows at the A.C.A. Gallery. I never knew how to push myself and still don't know how. Like Chichikor I am a collector of souls. Now some of my subjects are beginning to die and they have an historic nostalgia: everyone somehow seems better and more important when they are dead. If I could I would make the world happy, the wretched faces in the subway sad and full of troubles worry me. I also hate the conformity of today - everything put into its box -

When I go to a show today of modern work I feel that my world has been swept away - and yet I do not think it can be so that the human creature will be forever verboten. Thou shalt make no graven images...

Alice Neel 1960
The Hasty Papers - A One-Shot Review

The New Colossus

Larry Wolf,
Bartholdi - Original Statue of Liberty
[bronze cast from plaster] (2021)

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she

With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Emma Lazarus 1883