Tag Archives: media

Clip: Essay after Visiting the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Written from a Skyscraper

5 Mar

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In 2017, my friend Mark Chalfant, author of Devereux Emmet: American Master, invited me on a road trip up to Catskill, New York, to visit painter Thomas Cole’s home. It was a crisp autumn day, and with so many of the colorful leaves having dropped from the trees, we were able to get an incredible view of the landscape that the Hudson River School painter became famous for depicting.

Strewn around the Thomas Cole National Historic Site were quotes from Cole’s 1841 “Essay on American Scenery.” Take this gem for instance:

May we at times turn from the ordinary pursuits of life to the pure enjoyment of rural nature; which is in the soul like a fountain of cool waters to the way-worn traveler….

Cole’s way with words, his love for the American landscape, and his reference to travel reminded me of that great intrepid traveler Jack Kerouac, whom Paul Maher Jr. and I had written about in the literary biography Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.”

Visiting the painter’s home had a profound experience on my weary soul. It invigorated me. It inspired me.

I ended up writing about my experience visiting the painter’s home, and last year I had the great honor of my “Essay after Visiting the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Written from a Skyscraper” being selected for the Landmark exhibit, presented by the Albany International Airport and the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. The exhibition, which was on view at the Albany International Airport, from September 29, 2018, to February 25, 2019, explored our relationship with nature and our ever-changing American landscape.

Here’s what the official press release had to say:

Landmark, at the Albany International Airport Gallery, features 10contemporary visual artists and seven writers whose works explore our relationship to the natural world, and share common ground with Thomas Cole’s greatest written work, Essay on American Scenery, 1836, which is among the most influential proto-environmentalist essays in America.

On view at the Albany International Airport Gallery September 29, 2018 –February 25, 2019.Opening reception: Friday, October 5, 2018, 5:30-7:30 pm.

Albany, NY (September 17, 2018)–The Albany International Airport Gallery will host the upcoming exhibition Landmark from September 29, 2018 to February 25, 2019. Developed through a partnership between the Airport’s Art & Culture Program and the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, NY, Landmark considers the legacy of Thomas Cole’s paintings and advocacy for environmental stewardship as they echo the concerns of artists and writers today. A public reception to celebrate the launch of Landmark will be held on Friday, October 5, 2018 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm in the Albany International Airport Gallery.

Thomas Cole(1801-1848) is recognized as the founder of America’s first major art movement, the Hudson River School of landscape painting, and a proto-environmentalist who advocated for the appreciation and preservation of America’s landscapes. Kathy Greenwood, Director of the Airport’s Art & Culture Program, and Kate Menconeri, Curator at the Thomas Cole Site, invited 10 contemporary visual artists to participate in this exhibition, whose work has compelling connections to Cole’s, and engages the persisting resonance of the same issues and ideas from a 21st-century vantage point.

The 10 visual artists are Ellen Driscoll, Valerie Hammond, William Lamson, Portia Munson, Kenneth Ragsdale, Anne Roecklein, Lisa Sanditz, Kiki Smith, Darren Waterston and Susan Wides. The exhibiting artists have international careers and also maintain deep local ties to the Hudson River Valley, as did Cole. Artworks include works on canvas and paper, video, photography, new site-specific installations and sculpture, as well as woven jacquard tapestry.

“This exhibition is the perfect complement to this landmark year, as the Art & Culture Program celebrates its 20thAnniversary, which coincides with the 200thAnniversary of Thomas Cole’s arrival in America,” said Kathy Greenwood, Program Director and Landmark co-curator. “At its core, this Program seeks to showcase the outstanding cultural institutions and artists that populate this region, and it’s exciting and satisfying when we can accomplish that within a single exhibition.”

“We’re excited at the Thomas Cole Site to have this opportunity to work with the Albany Airport to create such an extensive project,” said Kate Menconeri, curator at the Thomas Cole Site and Landmark co-curator. “Thomas Cole was an advocate for living in harmony with the natural world and thoughtful development. What he saw happening to the landscape in the 19thcentury –new train tracks and industries expanding along the Hudson River –resonates with what artists and writers are responding to now. The project bridges art and ideas past and present but also inevitably is building new connections and conversations about how we might navigate today.”

Thomas Cole expressed his concern and regard for the American landscape through writing as well as painting and addressed the environmental impact of industrialization in his Essay on American Scenery, published in 1836. In the spring of 2018, the Thomas Cole Site launched its first call for writing and invited writers to respond to Cole’s Essay with their own writing and asked them to consider not only how the American landscape has changed but what should be preserved. The occasion sparked conversations between Greenwood and Menconeri that gave rise to the Landmark exhibition.

Among the contemporary visual artwork presented will be a selection of Ellen Driscoll’s large-scale works on paper from her recent Thicket series; Valerie Hammond will develop an iteration of her lyrical Forest installation; an immersive projection of William Lamson’s Infinity Camera will allow visitors a journey along New York waterways that defies a single viewpoint. Portia Munson’s Future Fossils will consist of an encased arrangement of common green plastic objects that both reflect and reject notions about ecology, resource consumption, and the persistence of plastics in the environment. Kenneth Ragsdale has produced a new site-specific installation for Landmark, titled Course of Empire. This work shares its title with Thomas Cole’s iconic 1836 painting series and expresses metaphorical cautionary concerns about the inevitable collision of expansion and consumption. Anne Roecklein’s panoramic vintage travel postcard collages are spliced-together landscapes both real and imagined; Lisa Sanditz’s vibrantly-hued paintings describe places in America that are both revered for their beauty and imperiled by human reach. In Kiki Smith’s 10-foot-high tapestry Harbor—jacquard-woven by Magnolia Editions—birds circle a rocky island amid star-studded sky and sea. A selection of Darren Waterston’s Ecstatic Landscape paintings reveals places habitable more by the spiritual than the corporeal form, and in Susan Wides’ I Kaaterskill series of photographs, relationships are drawn between Thomas Cole’s paintings of the Hudson Valley and those locations as they appear today.

The Essay contest, which was organized by 2017-2018 Cole Fellow Madeline Conley, received many outstanding responses. They were whittled down by a group of distinguished jurors: J. Jeffrey Anzevino, Land Use Advocacy Director, Scenic Hudson; Kathy Greenwood, Director, Art & Culture Program, Albany International Airport; W. Douglas McCombs, Chief Curator, Albany Institute of History and Art; Kate Menconeri, Curator, Thomas Cole National Historic Site; Nancy Siegel, Professor of Art History, Towson University; and Alan Wallach, Ralph H. Wark Professor of Art and Art History and Professor of American Studies Emeritus, Professorial Lecturer in Art History, George Washington University.

The seven writers whose work was selected for the exhibition are as follows: Sandra Dutton, author of six books for young readers, who resides in Catskill and teaches creative writing at Southern New Hampshire University; William Jaeger, a photographer and writer who lives in the Catskills and teaches photography and art criticism at the University at Albany; Jennifer Kabat, who lives in the western Catskills and teaches at The New School and whose essay “Rain Like Cotton” is in Best American Essays 2018; Herbert Nichols, a resident of Hudson, for whom this is his first published writing; Stephanie Nikolopoulos, a writer, editor, and writing instructor based in New York City; Justin Nobel, a magazine writer on science and the environment, who lives in Germantown and whose writing is in Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014 and Best American Travel Writing 2016; and Sara Pruiksma, a resident of Albany County with a visual studio practice, who revisits her early passion of writing to further her creative voice. Their writings, alongside Cole’s original words, are a crucial component of the Landmark exhibition.

THE ALBANY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT’S ART & CULTURE PROGRAM: Since 1998, the Albany International Airport’s Art & Culture Program has sought to showcase the cultural vitality of New York’s Capital Region through exhibitions and installations throughout the Airport’s terminal. Such presentations enhance the experience of airport travelers and foster the advancement of a thriving creative community. The Art & Culture Program has become a cornerstone for demonstrating the breadth and quality of the arts throughout the Region as well as a resource for learning about local culture. Through exhibitions presented in the Albany International Airport Gallery and the Concourse Galleries, the Exhibition Case Program, free public programs and group tours, the Art & Culture Program has extended the reach of area artists and museums to an audience of more than 3 million people each year. Additionally, DEPARTURE, The Shop of Capital Region Museums –the retail arm of the Program –has become an important community service and a unique shopping venue lauded nationally and prized locally.

THE THOMAS COLE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE is an international destination presenting the original home and studios of Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School of painting, the nation’s first major art movement. Located on 6 acres in the Hudson Valley, the site includes the 1815 Main House; Cole’s 1839 Old Studio; the recently reconstructed New Studio building; and panoramic views of the Catskill Mountains. It is a National Historic Landmark and an affiliated area of the National Park System. The Thomas Cole Site’s activities include guided tours, special exhibitions of both 19th-century and contemporary art, printed publications, extensive online programs, activities for school groups, free community events, lectures, and innovative public programs such as the Hudson River School Art Trail—a map and website that enable visitors to visit the places that Cole painted. The goal of all programs at the Thomas Cole Site is to enable visitors to find meaning and inspiration in Thomas Cole’s life and work. The themes that Cole explored in his art and writings—such as landscape preservation and our conception of nature as a restorative power—are both historic and timely, providing the opportunity to connect to audiences with insights that are highly relevant to their own lives.

I am so thankful for The Albany International Airport and The Thomas Cole National Historic Site, as well as my friend Mark Chalfant and his friend who did the driving, for making this experience possible.

Also, thanks to all the media outlets that covered the exhibition, including:

(By the way, you can find out where else I’ve appeared in the media here.)

You can read my “Essay after Visiting the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Written from a Skyscraper” here.

Discover my other publications here.

 

“The Mediterranean Is a Miserable Place”

6 Jun

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While surfing the Web, I came across an article titled “Vacationing in the Most Miserable Place on Earth This Summer?” The tag line: “The Mediterranean is a miserable place.”

By the second sentence, the author Curtis Tate, was finger-pointing Greece: “[…] Greece was the flag bearer for the economic and social misery these countries are experiencing.”

There are countries in the news right now for deadly protests, horrific crimes against women, suicide bombers, and warlords. Vacationing in those countries would quite possibly be a more miserable experience.

But wait! Tate’s article actually has nothing to do with vacations. It’s about how people actually living in the Mediterranean–not only in Greece but also France–are unhappy with their current economic situation. His article concludes by saying “[…] China, Brazil, and even Kenya are optimistic for the future….” I have nothing against those countries, and I’m sure they can make lovely vacation destinations, but I’ve heard more people say they’d want to travel to France and Greece. Tate’s article is dangerously misleading.

Tate’s article title perhaps compels readers to click to read but it is offensive in its fear mongering. Unfortunately it appears to be a tactic he–or his editor–has used before:

Is Europe’s Unemployment Worst Than We Thought?

7 Reasons to Fear the Housing Bubble

Is Europe Holding the Rest of the World Back?

Are Chinese Export Numbers Increasingly Sketchy?

To be fair, the actual content of Tate’s “Miserable Place” article is not inaccurate in terms of the statics cited for the outlook of people in the Mediterranean.

The topic is not even his original idea.

Instead of linking to the Pew Research Center’s reports that he cites, Tate links to Drew DeSilver’s article published the day before his, entitled “The Mediterranean: Go for the Beaches, Not the Mood.” Although not identical word for word, Tate’s and DeSilver’s articles have the same content and in the same order. While Tate’s title invokes fear, DeSilver’s title is slightly more optimistic but suggests that the mood will affect one’s vacation.
While it is true that a poor economy can put a damper on tourism because of diminished resources and increased crime, neither Tate’s nor DeSilver’s articles are not making this point. Their articles says absolutely nothing about if and how the economy is affecting vacationers.Instead, Tate remarks that young people are unemployed. Unless he is subtly trying to warn you that you’ll be ordering your frappes from someone in their forties instead of some hot young thang, the fact that young people aren’t finding work right now probably isn’t going to deter your vacation plans. Oh and about that age thing — Jennifer Aniston is 44 and John Stamos is 49. We age well.

DeSilver says, “And, in what should surprise exactly no one, Greece has by far the bleakest outlook.” Hm… “in what should surprise exactly no one,” huh? He’s right: I’m not surprised that the statistics say 99% of Greeks say their country’s economic situation is “very or somewhat bad.” We’re a notoriously melodramatic people. Have you ever read the tragedies?

Does our “miserable” and “very or somewhat bad” outlook on the economy really affect who we are and how we treat our tourists, though?

My sense is that it doesn’t. Certainly, I’m a bit biased, but I’m basing my understanding of Greek tourism on the fact that every non-Greek I know who has visited there has loved it. They’ve found the people to be warm and generous, and they’ve gone multiple times or wished they could.
An article published the same day as Tate’s article was titled “Greece: Athens Tourism Up 10% for First Time in Three Years.” It concluded saying, “Arrivals at regional airports across the country last month showed a 20.5% increase in arrivals of foreign tourists compared to the same month last year.” Earlier this year, the Austrian newspaper Der Standard even hypothesized that this could be “the year of Greek tourism,” according to Capital.Gr.

I did my due diligence and checked out the Pew Research Center’s report. Guess what. The words “travel,” “traveler,” and “vacation” appeared no where in the report.

Greece needs your tourism now more than ever.

Video from Collaboration with Jazz Musician David Amram

19 Sep

 

This is the video from my collaborative reading with David Amram at Cornelia Street Cafe on Labor Day.  If you missed my full recap, you can read it here.

In the video you’ll hear me reading a section on Jack Kerouac’s time in Mexico, which gives some perspective on Kerouac’s faith, his sensitivity toward animals, and his tumultuous friendship with Neal Cassady.  The book I’m reading from is my book with Paul Maher Jr. called Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road

Special thanks to my videographer Liz Koenig.

The event also picked up some press!

Larry Closs mentioned it in his article “Transcending Beat with David Amram.”

The Pappas Post mentioned it in “Stephanie Nikolopoulos and Jazz legend David Amram pay tribute to Jack Kerouac.”

Greece Leading the Pack

2 Jul

So many people I talk to seems to have this idea, driven by the media and not personal experience, that Greeks are lazy and aren’t doing anything innovative.  This is simply not true.

  • Greeks were ranked third in Europe for the number of hours they work in a year, according to a poll surveying 1995-2005.
  • Greek healthcare is amongst the best in the world.  It’s universal.
  • The Greek maritime industry is recognized as incredibly powerful in the world economy.  It’s not as high as it was in the 1970s, but Greek shipping heirs still seem to be attracting the likes of Paris Hilton and an Olsen twin.
  • Greek companies, such as Korres and Apivita, are leading the natural skincare and makeup revolution.
  • Greece is leading animal rights activism by banning the use of animals in circuses.
  • Greeks are often considered the most hospitable people.  It’s no wonder tourism continues to thrive, despite the media’s ploy to scare people away from the country.  Time + Leisure magazine named Santorini “The World’s Best Island” last year.
  • Greece’s Peloponnese region hardly needs to market itself to attract surfers and golfers from around the world.
  • Greek wine is currently having a revival.  Greek wine is very trendy right now in the United States.
  • Greece is home to the longest cable-stayed bridge in Europe.

Greece is working hard to bridge the gap between its rich history and its present.  The country is respecting its past, its traditions, its natural landscape, and its flora and fauna, while simultaneously capitalizing on these strengths.