I know I live in an art bubble. Most of the time I’m thinking about art, or making art, or talking about art. But lately I have lifted my head from the microscope, looked at the world around me, and realized why the word “arts” is plural. There are SO many ways to create.
Terrence Mann as Charlemagne, and Matthew James Thomas as his son Pippin
Like: the Dramatic Arts. A couple of weeks ago I saw the current version of MacBeth that is playing on Broadway starring Alan Cumming. He plays 95% of the parts himself, and it all takes place in an insane asylum. It’s an amazing tour de force, frightening, mesmerizing, and often quite funny. I also saw the new revival of Pippin, a musical that I loved (twice) as a teenager. This is the first time the show has been reintroduced on Broadway, and if Terrence Mann weren’t reason enough to go (which he is) it is a wonderful production with dazzling dancing, singing, and circus acts. Some people think the story is a little thin, but either I’m very shallow or they’re missing the real universal appeal and poignancy of Pippin’s search for his identity amid the spectacle and laughter. The story has stuck with me for decades, and I was not disappointed with the new iteration. (Tony Awards on t.v. tonight at 8. Hope what I like wins!)
Alan Cumming as MacBeth…
and signing autographs after a performance
The Musical Arts: my nephew Troy is enrolled at the Clive Davis School of Music at NYU, studying music production. But he is also in a great band, Cheap Blue Yonder that you can often catch playing venues in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. I love their song Picnic, and love that kids (young men!) whom I know can create such energy and pleasure out of thin air – and years of practice. Listen to the song on their website: http://cheapblueyonder.bandcamp.com.
Cheap Blue Yonder
I think that’s what makes the arts so miraculous to me. Humans create brand new experiences, objects, and spectacles with their brains and hands. No one can make someone else’s art. Each person, each artist, is unique. What he makes carries a little piece of his soul, even if he’s reading from another artist’s script. My day job is in finance. And I certainly don’t mean to say that business, the sciences, or other fields are without creativity. But I’m not sure that they create joy or reward it.
Arts and Crafts: Last week I went to my usual yarn store to get what I needed for my current project (hint: it’s orange, so you’ll recognize it when I wear it). And for once I walked past the front doors of Lion Brand Yarn on West 15th Street and looked in their front window. The window display of an undersea kingdom is absolutely stunning. I can’t imagine how long it must have taken for the Lion Brand employees to knit it and put it together. If you look at their website or Google Images, you can see lots of their window displays. What’s amazing is that they are created entirely from yarn. But they are still art.
The window display from March 2012 at Lion Brand Yarn on 15th Street, west of Fifth
Yesterday I took a walking tour of the Flatiron District and Gramercy Park to look at the architecture and especially the gargoyles that decorate so many of the buildings. Those are carved gargoyles, not cast. They reminded me of the tradition of European Cathedral builders, taking centuries and generations of craftsmen to finish their work – just like St. John the Divine, here in Manhattan, which was started in 1892 and is still under construction. They also reminded me of a wonderful drawing course I took as an undergraduate at Lyme Academy, in which I learned to draw gargoyles and lions’ heads and acanthus leaves and egg and dart moldings. It was taught by the amazing Randy Melick. Thanks to him I can do justice to the stone carvings which surround me here in Chelsea.
Thanks, Randy, for teaching me how to draw.
And with that, my head is back in the art cloud.