OLD MEETS NEW

Lyndhurst Mansion
Lyndhurst Mansion

And what brings you to the mansion on this glorious day? This past weekend, April 16th and 17th, were two Spring days that embodied the essence of the “budding” season and were a perfect reason to be on the Lyndhurst estate grounds in Tarrytown, NY. It was also the annual Lyndhurst Family Fun Day which showcases the creative works of all emerging, and in some cases well-established, LEGO masters aged 5 to 72. What an amazing opportunity for mostly children to participate as exhibitors and viewers of LEGO construction art. The Lyndhurst mansion, a 19th c. gothic-revival gem, is part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and one of the most exquisite sites in the Hudson Valley. My personal history with the Lyndhurst property goes back at least 25 years, when I first attended the bi-annual Crafts at Lyndhurst, usually held in September and May; the summer concerts; the Rose Garden show; the lectures in the Carriage House, and even an occasional Kennel Club Dog Show. I always sensed something magical about the estate and I am now beginning my second year as a volunteer and potential docent. It’s rewarding for me to contribute and be a part of the landscape I find inspirational and refreshingly spiritual.

The little plastic interlocking LEGO blocks offer endless visual and engineering

Table of LEGO Exhibits

LEGO Exhibit Presentation

opportunities as well as challenges for children to explore and create.  My monitoring assignment inside the mansion allowed me to observe and protect these little plastic constructions from possible destruction as 2 to 4 foot high viewers were compelled to handle them. The Lyndhurst curators of this event deserve enormous credit for conceiving this juxtaposition of the classical ornamental antiquity of the mansion as a backdrop stage for these petite plastic new assemblies. It was quite an incongruous meeting of OLD and NEW and YOUNG and OLD. As this was “Family Fun Day,” it was wonderful to see how many families had children who were “constructionists,” but who also introduced their kids to this exhibit in the environs of a historically preserved landmark. I was impressed

Little LEGO Enthusiast

Little LEGO Enthusiast

to see the many ethnicities and varying nationalities of the families who attended this exhibition with gusto; and their awesome appreciation of the interiors of the house as well as the displayed creations. On the whole, these parents took advantage of a ‘beautiful day at the mansion.’

Little Girl enjoying LEGO

“Can’t get enough of this funky stuff.”

One very imaginative and abstract LEGO piece entitled “Brainstorming,” stood out among the recognizable edifices and array of multi-purpose vehicles. I respectfully requested clarification of the unrecognizable random forms with “eyes” from the single-digit creator, and received, with assistance from her Mom, a very technical explanation. I shall attempt to paraphrase my interpretation of her description: “Brainstorming” was about finding channels, i.e., entranceways, to corruptive sites and structures in the brain – pretty heavy - but what a

"Braintstorming," the Exhibit.

“Brainstorming,” the Exhibit.

concept! I should also mention that the father of this child was a neuroscientist. It was evident that there was much parental guidance and/or participation in these LEGO projects. And to the other extreme, across the hall, settled on the entire expanse of a marble radiator cover, was a magnificent collection of shrines of an Eastern Indian appearance. The master engineer, who admitted his age to be 72, said he collaborated with his 5 year old grandchild. The designer proudly posed for me next to his exhibit and also explained that all the temples housed independent deities of Hindu origin, there was also one church (one God).

Lyndhurst LEGO Artist

Lyndhurst LEGO Artist

The primary colors and basic plastic palette of the LEGO bricks had their day in the grandeur of the manse with its subdued Victorian shades enriched with elegant gold, bronze, mahogany and marble. It was a day of OLD and NEW.

 

Not a good day for DIA

DIA, Beacon, NY

The entrance, where should we go from here?

As an art lover, a previous art major and a creative person, an excursion to the “Museum Mile” along upper Fifth Avenue in New York City is an exhilarating experience. Choosing one of the famed museums along the route, e.g., the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cooper Hewitt, the Frick collection, the National Academy Museum and the Guggenheim is never easy. On a recent Saturday, a friend who is an artist as well as an art teacher, suggested a visit to a new museum venue. Neither of us had ever been to DIA in Beacon, NY. We do not share the same aesthetic in style: he likes surrealism and abstract expressionism, I like classical realism, impressionism, and all of the American schools of art, but we shared the same unexpected shock and disappointment during our day at DIA. 

Colored Shapes

Boring colors, boring shapes

Whenever you exchange money, goods or services for an “agreed upon” return, you are disillusioned when, for your good faith offering, you receive nothing. A $12 admission fee is not much to gamble away to glean some enlightenment, however small; but include travel time, gasoline $, and factor in the realization that you have also been

Shapes

If a child of 6 did this, you'd say, "Good Job! - but what is it?"

intellectually scammed: now recalculate your losses. That feeling, together with a significantly greater financial injury, was similarly felt by those lured to purchase Facebook (FB) at the IPO. My analogy is simply with the feeling, not the endeavor. I had not done any prior research on the tone or presentation style of DIA. I was on board to see some form of art, i.e., new talent and/or creativity after a fashion. My friend and I entered the empty armory-like facility – there was no direction or guidance. Being but two of few souls physically present in the enormous expanses of white-washed and grey spaces with clerestoried 30/40 foot ceilings (once purposed industrially in the previous century), was much like being adrift at sea without land or ship in sight.

Big Room, Great Floor
This would make an excellent dance floor, just clear off those metal objects and find me a good partner.

Is an artistic experience one that also detracts, subtracts, and offers nothing? My understanding of “minimalism” is that it doesn’t go a great distance to produce a desired effect, yet is suggestive, giving shape to a concept, form or hue – “less is more.”

Exhibits of objects I quickly noted as offensive, depressing, and ugly, forced me to avert my eyes while removing myself from the area so that I didn’t retain any lasting impression. Random piles of garbage, e.g., crushed metal fenders and car parts compacted in a scrap metal yard; and colored, cut out shapes with no relationship to one another, do not make it in my world of insightful talent and beauty (in execution). This gutted one-time factory building continued to “un-amaze” me with its squandered use of space to harbor items that lacked any useful definition, such as the 4 deep holes of varying shapes, at least 14’ x 14’ with no way in or out. There was a

Holes

More black and grey spaces you don't want to fall into.

nightmarish quality to being quite alone in these vast undefined areas. You wanted to just wake up and find an exit – but you had endless traversing of monotonous wood or concrete floors before any egress was visible.

Surely, I cannot have been the only visitor to the DIA exhibits who felt this venue presented an updated telling of The Emperor’s New Clothes based on the offerings:

Empty Gallery

My inspiration is to repurpose this space.

  • Presentations that would not suffice to pass any reputable art school entrance exam;
  • stuff you don’t need talent or innovation to create;
  • randomly scattered debris;
  • amorphous grey shapes, repetitively laid out on floors or walls;

allowed to be viewed as “significant” or “thought-provoking” or, dare I say, “inspiring.”

The upside – The spaces have wonderful potential for:

  • Catered events:  parties, dinners, weddings, sweet sixteens, etc.
  • Practice space for aerial acts/trapeze artists.
  • Ballroom dancing.
  • Dance and staged performances.
  • Studio space for any form of dance or exercise class.

However harsh and definitive this may sound, I recommend no one go to DIA, Beacon, NY, for its current usage. But, should you feel a perverse need to try something new and potentially toxic, consider the above list of contraindications – forewarned is forearmed.

Do ya like good music? Spotlight on Teri Lamar & New Company

Teri Lamar & New Company

Teri gets this dance crew into full swing. Everyone's gettin' down w' the music.

To achieve performance perfection without pretention is a natural gift; and Teri Lamar & New Company, whether performing as a duo or with her full band, delivers simple, unadultered talent and fun.  Fortunately, my last minute perusal of the ArtsWestchester website on Thursday afternoon, 6/27, (offering  daily opportunities for performance, classes and exhibits) listed  TL & Co to be the season’s opening act of outdoor music at Patriot Park in Tarrytown.  What luck!  I was now committed to getting there on time to hear a favorite band. I had the pleasure of first encountering Teri and Frank Brenna, (keyboards and vocals) at the Dunwoodie Golf Course a year ago.  For me, it was love at first listen.  I am not a greedy person – when my expectations are fulfilled and my objective met, I am happy.  Such contentment generates loyalty to the source, and so, I became an instant fan of Teri Lamar & New Company.  I relate immediately to quality and precision (especially in the arts) regardless of the window dressing.  Being a dancer, I am compelled to move my body whenever the beat grooves me, and there is plenty of music to rock my world when I am in this band’s audience.

Teri gets the party started

Teri gets the party started on 7/3/13

The group is unique in their music choices,  starting their sets with songs from the mid-60’s which never get covered by any other band.  For an aging “Baby Boomer” it’s an instant “OMG –  I haven’t heard that song since I was a kid or pre-teen” moment.  Of course, you can’t believe you’re actually listening to “This Diamond Ring” by Gary Lewis and the Playboys or a totally accurate rendition of a jazzy rock instrumental, “Glad,” from the group Traffic.  There isn’t a lot of glitz,  just perfect pitch “covers” of songs that range for 5 decades from top 40 pop to classic rock, r&b and disco.  Check out their playlist.  Teri sings the “best of the best.” Amazingly, she plays my favorites in every genre.  Her songs are so personal to me, that I wonder if she picked through my ancient pile of “45s” from back in the day to create her selection of “oldies from the ‘60s.”  It’s true as well for her current “top 40” catalog.  This band is a crowd pleaser, and their repertoire is vast.  Teri has a smooth, unstrained vocal and comfortably delivers sultry or demanding, up-tempo, disco, rock and pop effortlessly.  Teri just sways to the music and aims to please, her occasional tambourine is always a great accompaniment.  You never think to yourself that the original is better, Teri and the band reward the audience with flawless execution  of every song they cover.  Keyboards are very strong and whether full band or solo, Frank incorporates a fully-nuanced sound – technology!  I swear I heard a harmonica, but couldn’t see one being played.  The drummer is also dead on. 

Teri Lamar

Teri Lamar with her signature hat (photo used w/permission)

On this recent Thursday night, the ominous skies and wind didn’t deter TL, and the group soldiered on through the evening from 7 to 9 p.m.  The weather was promising to storm, but held off till the stage was empty and all were in our cars.  I drove home in blinding torrents of rain, but I wasn’t disappointed.  Besides sampling an array of great dance tunes and songs of every genre, including a few from The Beatles and Stones, Teri performed moving and inspiring versions of If I Ain’t Got You by Alicia Keys; It Will Rain by Bruno Mars; Sunday Morning by Maroon 5 and yes, in full voice, Rolling In the Deep, by Adele.  This girl can sing anything.  I went to see another performance in Ossining on 7/3 with fireworks.

Teri and Frank are genuine people, humble and modest when receiving compliments; and I will continue to let them know how much I enjoy their gigs – because I like good music.

*Title Reference: “Sweet Soul Music” Arthur Conley

 

 

As the Ring Turns

Lyndhurst Estate

View from Lyndhurst Estate

My two annual creative pilgrimages, held a week apart from each other at the end of September are:  Crafts at Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, NY and The Armonk Outdoor Art Show in Armonk, NY. Many of the same artisans return every year as well. These are juried events and the level of artistry and creativity is simply awesome. If happiness is a fleeting emotion, I am completely happy for the 3 hours I devote to each show, respectively; receiving spiritual and inspirational renewal as well. I have spontaneously made unique purchases of jewelry, clothing, accessories, and artwork, which I have never regretted. Most rewarding are my conversational exchanges with the artists, praising their work while being instructed in their techniques. There are a minimum of 200 exhibitors at each show and I manage to see them all.

Going about my merry way at the Art Show, I quickly perused a display of large sculptures. The sculptor addressed me unexpectedly as I was leaving his booth. He began a hard sell and the dialogue went something like this:

“You look like you’re ready to make a purchase and you need and want one of my sculptures.”

“They are beautiful,” I said, “but I don’t know why you think I’m ready to buy anything.”

“I’ll make you a good deal and I’ll help with delivery and set up.” He said.

“I don’t think so. I certainly don’t have the space to properly display such exquisite work.” I said.

“I’m sure you have a beautiful home.” He said.

“It’s a home – no room for sculpture though.” I said, finding his persistence off-putting. The conversation then refreshingly shifted to his State of origin.  “I used to live there too,” I told him, “when I was married.”

“And what about now, are you still married?” he asked.

Taken aback by such a personal question, I quietly said, “No, not currently.”

“But, you’re wearing a wedding ring,” he insisted, “what if someone wanted to approach you and ask you out? You’re making yourself unavailable.” He said with some irritation.

I was at a loss, so unprepared for this attack. Feeling and probably looking confused as well, I said, “But I’m not wearing a wedding ring.” At least I didn’t think I was. I started to feel my ring finger and realized that the simple, unpretentious gold signet ring I always wear had turned, revealing a skinny band of gold. “Well,” I said, with a hint of humor, “that can really come in handy at times if I don’t want to be approached.”

Not amused, he started on another rant. “You’re misrepresenting yourself and losing out on opportunities for men to talk to you.”

“But I talk to people all the time when there’s a topic of mutual interest. Whether anyone is married or not is of no concern to me.” I further added, “I’m just going to continue to enjoy the show. It’s been nice talking to you. Good luck.” I started to move off, feeling strangely violated and somewhat disoriented.

His points might have had a place at an event for “Singles” or at a Bar (where au contraire, a good many married people come sans their rings); but certainly his arrogant delivery was simply inappropriate. Here I was at a favorite venue for beauty, enlightenment and peace of mind, and I wind up getting judged and disciplined by an artist who should have been trying to gain my favor.

I will never know, after that bizarre exchange, if this guy really did want to ask me out – since he didn’t.  Alas, such a disquieting “to-do” because my ring turned.