Tag Archives: Harlem

Cinat Paints Light — and Dark — to Explore Spirituality

14 Sep
CINAT-EVENTSY-2-642x360
Close up of one of Cinat’s paintings; image via Eventsy
The members-only networking club Eventsy invited me to attend a special viewing, co-hosted by CATM New York, of Argentine artist Mariano Cinat’s thought-provoking exhibition “New Works” in The Narthex Gallery of Saint Peter’s Church, located at 619 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan, on September 12. From dark and haunting to fluid and ethereal, his work elicited a visceral response, an impulse to examine one’s own beliefs and feelings through the cryptic scenes depicted in the paintings.
Average-sized paintings, the canvases ranged from 12” x 9” to 69” x 48”. During the Q&A, Cinat explained that his work was a particular size by request of the Louvre. He said, “I wish they commissioned me, but it was more like a competition.” Untitled, the paintings felt like a cohesive collection covering three intertwining themes: the Classical world in earthy tones; the spiritual realm in light, bright colors; and a mysterious interior of saturated colors.
Displayed in a gallery situated within a Lutheran church, the paintings took on perhaps more spiritual meaning than the artist intended. This religious interpretation of the artwork was helped along by the press release, which stated:
Be not afraid of spiritual idiosyncrasies but rejoice in the continuity of life. Experience the nuance of a master of color and emotion as Cinat refreshes the senses.
Many of the paintings varied from landscape scenes reminiscent of the Biblical-era Middle East, showing walls like one would envision in Jericho and simple homes in which one would imagine people tucked away breaking bread together, to more dream-like settings suggestive of ascension into heaven.
In one painting in particular, hung on a far wall, an image of a cross seemed to shine over a stone wall. And yet, the artist himself seemed put off that his work might be interpreted through a Christian lens. When I told Cinat of the cross I had discovered, he asked which painting I’m speaking of. He informed me he had not painted a crucifix in any of his paintings and sounded incredulous that I had seen such specific religious imagery in work. He told me:
“I’m spiritual but not religious.”
I suppose we all see what we want to see in art, or what we’re predisposed to see. Interpretation is left up to the viewer. Despite his surprise at my reading of his work, Cinat himself prefers not to explain his art to viewers. He said to the crowd of onlookers:
“Each one of us interprets it in other ways.”
Though he did reveal:
“I have a search for spirituality, and light is an element I use. It’s not a real place.”
His painting of figures seemingly ascending into heaven, then, may just as likely have more to do with a state of mind. The spiritual significance therefore changes from the physical presence of heaven and hell of Judeo-Christian to perhaps a transcendence of one’s mind through meditation in an Eastern religion. It could even be a bodily movement from one dimension into the next through portals. Of course, one may also interpret the work through a more metaphorical lens. In that case, a viewer could see it as impetus for change in one’s life, of moving on from the past and entering a future full of potential.
While those paintings seemed more clearly tied to positive spiritual themes, there were a series of paintings that seemed more secular, more human, but perhaps too almost more sinister. Unlike the other paintings, which used the browns and blues readily found in nature, and which depicted outdoor scenes, these paintings ensconced figures dressed in flame-like red and deep violets in rooms pitched in black. As with the other figures, their poses and placement on the canvases suggested an almost hypnotic state. If taken with the others as a reflection on religious matters, one may view them as agenda-oriented leaders of the Church—whether cardinals or kings—because of the way the figures are clothed in rich colors as they move about an interior that though sparsely decorated is vast and foreboding. These paintings hearken back to the works of Renaissance painters such as Raphael.
Taken to a more extreme secular interpretation, these darker paintings bring to mind the psycho-sexual Stanley Kubrick film Eyes Wide Shut, starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Cloaked identities suggest secrecy and positions of power.
But again, this is just what I personally saw in the works. They may actually be situated in much more real and less portentous places. Cinat said he imagines everywhere from Utah to Japan, as he paints in Harlem.
When asked during the Q&A what inspired him, Cinat said it was opera that had inspired his work. “I went to see The Magic Flute,” he said.
Advertisements

Allen Ginsberg’s William Blake Vision

3 Apr

 Blake_Roses_Sun-Flower_LillyWilliam Blake’s illustrated “Ah! Sun-Flower”

I’m kicking off this National Poetry Month series with William Blake for reasons that will soon become obvious. In 1948, when he was in his early twenties, Allen Ginsberg experience a supernatural vision. He was alone in his Harlem apartment, reading William Blake, when the Romantic poet appeared to him. Ginsberg said he wasn’t high at the time but was having some … um, personal alone time. Wink, wink. He looked out his Harlem window at the bright blue sky and realized that the sky had been created, that the sky did the creating, and found God. In later years, Ginsberg experimented with drugs to try to recapture that feeling.

One of the poems that Ginsberg heard Blake read in his vision was “Ah! Sun-flower,” published in his 1974 poetry collection Songs of Experience. Blake illustrated the poem (see above). Here is the poem in its entirety:

Ah Sun-flower! weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the Sun:
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the travellers journey is done.

Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow:
Arise from their graves and aspire,
Where my Sun-flower wishes to go.

Close to a decade after his Blake vision, while in Berkeley in 1955, Ginsberg composed his own sunflower poem, “Sunflower Sutra.” I’m inclined to say it’s my favorite poem. You can read it here.

You may also like these posts:

And of course you can read more about Allen Ginsberg in the book I coauthored, Burning Furiously Beautiful.

Jazz for Peace

10 Dec

When my dear friend Sue, whom I’ve known since first grade, invited me to a jazz show fundraiser I immediately said yes. As I’ve been studying Jack Kerouac, I’ve been reading a lot about how he frequented the jazz clubs of Harlem and wrote jazz reviews. I’m kind of a method writer, and I like to get out and experience what I’m writing about. And of course it’s great to be able to help others just by doing something you love — listening to music and eating great food. And when I say great food, I mean they had fried olives stuffed with blue cheese! Afterwards, I asked Sue if she’d be interested in doing a little write up, and she not only agreed but was so enthusiastic about it.  Below she shares about this worthwhile fundraiser, the great music, and the cute moment we shared with people at our table:

Jack, Josie and I hurriedly rushed into the restaurant.  We finally arrived at Lura Restaurant Lounge at 949 Columbus Avenue (Duke Ellington Blvd and 106th Street), way uptown.  We were running late for the Jazz for Peace Event, the Global Alliance for Community Development’s (GACD) 2nd Anniversary Fundraiser.  Jack serves on GACD’s Board of Directors, and the three of us work for the same company in midtown, where we were rushing in from.  I was to meet my friends, Mike and Stephanie, at Lura by 7pm.  I walked in and looked around.  To my left, Steph sat alone at a table, dressed in black, buried deep in a book.  Mike was off to my right at the bar, looking directly at me and smiling. 

Josie and I gathered Mike and joined Steph at the table.  I know them; they know of each other.  The usual chatter ensued, and drinks and food were ordered.  Lura has an exceptional menu, and we had a hard time deciding what to get.  Everything looked (and was) scrumptious.  As we settled in, David McCoy, Executive Director of GACD, stood up in front of the room and talked about the work they are doing and aspire to do and the results of their labor up to that point.  One of the most inspiring initiatives that he described was the water programs GACD has designed in collecting and filtering rainwater for communities. It made one feel so proud to be a part of this great cause in some way and was an appropriate reminder of what was going on outside of the room.  He turned our attention over to Rick DellaRatta and Jazz for Peace* and, appropriately for a late October evening, they opened up with “Autumn Leaves.”

I noticed that Josie was talking to an elderly couple at the next table.  The man was keeping half-time with his hand on the table and on his knee, joking that the music was too fast for old people to dance to.  Josie, who was sitting closest to the woman, was deep in conversation, probably partly due to the fact that one could hardly hear anyone unless he or she was right next to you.  After a few moments, Josie revealed to us that this couple happened to be, in fact, the parents of the keyboardist and vocalist, Rick DellaRatta.  The man, DellaRatta’s father, had been a musician in the War, and his wife, DellaRatta’s mother, was a pianist who had played with him.  They’d been married for over 50 years.  DellaRatta’s father displayed so much insight into the music being played, the technicalities of it, how each instrument contributed to the overall sound.  The bassist plucked away, with all ten fingers at one point.  The drummer, who looked like a teenager, blew everybody away with the seeming madness of his drumming.  He paused and syncopated with so much force, yet absolute grace and control.  The saxophonist, who stood in front, slightly to the right of the stage, whenever I looked over at him, would just be standing there, still, looking out at the audience.  Every so often, you’d hear him first, the singing, soaring sounds of the sax, running up and down the octaves where his fingers, all of a sudden, were a blur, a complete contrast to his previous state of inertia.  The energy emanating from the stage forced one to stop what one was doing, or even thinking about, and to just feel the music, to let the symphony flow through you and move you.

The next day at work, Jack and I agreed that the night was too short.  Josie and I were anxious to see the pictures Mike had taken of us inside and outside the venue. 

4

Please see links for more information on GACD and how you can help support them and their more-than-worthy cause to combat poverty.  Hope to see you at GACD’s 3rd Anniversary Fundraiser!

Sue J. Chang lives in Manhattan, NY in Battery Park City and publishes mixes on 8tracks.com.

* Via: On September 25, 2002 Jazz pianist and vocalist Rick DellaRatta was invited to lead a band consisting of Israeli, Middle Eastern, European, Asian and American Jazz Musicians in a concert inside the United Nations for an International audience in what is now considered one of the significant cultural events of our time. Rick named this band JAZZ FOR PEACE™ and has since performed over 800 Benefit Concerts to raise funds, publicity and awareness for outstanding organizations in need worldwide. In addition Jazz for Peace performs educational programs bringing music and Jazz back into the schools and donates musical instruments to underprivileged children. Jazz for Peace concerts have featured Rick DellaRatta along with such notable jazz artists as Paquito D’Rivera, Victor Lewis, Lenny White, Eddie Gomez, Dave Valentin, Ray Mantilla, Rick Margitza and many others. Mr. DellaRatta’s Jazz influenced orchestral composition “Permutata” was recently recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra.  For more information please visit http://www.jazzforpeace.org