ELVIS WAS IN THE BUILDING … NO, REALLY …

This is our car dealership. No, really. It is. They sell cars and we’ve bought the last two cars there. But it’s also a pop art museum with some incredibly cool stuff. They added a restored Worcester Dining Car (the original diner, made right here in Worcester County). The owner keeps developing his collection, making this a place to come and just look at stuff, even if you aren’t even thinking about a car.

It also takes the sting out of having to wait while your car is serviced.

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ART IS HUMAN

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Whatever else you can say about humans, we are — as far as I know — the only species that creates art. Any kind of art. For any reason.

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The belief that art is not for everyone is relatively new. The Chinese, as far back as the Song Dynasty, made art for the royal court … but they also created art for peasants and servants.

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Their belief — with which I agree — was that everyone needs art. There is no one so poor, uneducated, or unimportant to not deserve some beauty in their lives.

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Art — not speech, nor the opposable thumb — is what sets us apart from other creatures. Beauty for its own sake is a very human thing.

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Beautiful things soften the edges of our lives. What is beautiful to me may not be your idea of beauty, but that’s unimportant. What is important is that the place you live, the place that nourishes you be a place that feeds your soul, your heart, your eyes. Through color, texture, smell, shape.

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It doesn’t even have to be “official” art. Whatever feeds that piece of you where beauty lives, you need some of that, to see it, touch it, have it with you.

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If you don’t know what you need this Christmas? Buy yourself — or someone you love — something beautiful. Feed a soul this holiday season.

IF I GROW UP, I WILL NOT BE A BALLERINA

BaryshnikovWhen I was a girl, my mother took me to the ballet. Not the classic Nutcracker Suite that mommies take their little girls to see, but the New York City Ballet Company, with Balanchine still at the helm. I left the theater  feeling light as a snowflake, sure that I’d found my future … that all I needed were a few lessons, a pair of those cool ballet slippers and I could leap and twirl on my tippy toes just like the stars at the ballet.

bolshoiI had not accounted for the klutz factor. I was very young and sure that wanting it badly enough would make it happen.

But, I had no talent for dance. I tried everything from ballet, through tap, to jazz and belly dancing — with the same results. I survived the disappointment.

For anyone who likes dance … even if you don’t … check out the  delicious parody of classical ballet from the “Fantasia.” No matter how many times I see it, it always makes me laugh. You have to love hippos in tutus.

If this doesn’t make you laugh, maybe you were replaced by a pod while you slept.

NON-WHITE AMERICA IN NORMAN ROCKWELL’S PAINTINGS – JANE ALLEN PETRICK

NormanRockwell Little RockJane Allen Petrick has written a wonderful book about Norman Rockwell, the artist and his work. It focuses on the “invisible people” in his painting, the non-white children and adults who are his legacy.

For many readers, this book will be an eye-opener — although anyone who visits the Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts or takes a serious look at Rockwell’s body of work can see Norman Rockwell never portrayed a purely white America. This perception of Rockwell’s work is a gross injustice to a man for whom civil rights was a personal crusade.

This country’s non-white population were in Rockwell’s paintings even when he had to sneak them in by a side door,figuratively speaking. Black people, Native Americans and others are anything but missing. Rockwell was passionate about civil rights and integration. It was his life’s cause, near and dear to his heart. Yet somehow, the non-white peoples in his pictures have been overlooked, become invisible via selective vision. They remain unseen because white America does not want to see them, instead choosing to focus on a highly limited vision which fits their prejudices or preconceptions.

Ms. Pettrick tells the story of Rockwell’s journey, his battle to be allowed to paint his America. It is also the story of the children and adults who modeled for him. She sought out these people, talked to them. Heard and recorded their first-hand experiences with the artist.

This is a fascinating story. I loved it from first word to last. HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT is available on Kindle for just $3.49. It’s also available as a paperback.

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From the Author

Whether we love his work or hate it, most of us think of Norman Rockwell as the poster child for an all-white America. I know I did. That is until the uncanny journey I share with you in this book began to unfold.  Then I discovered a surprisingly different truth: Norman Rockwell was into multiculturalism long before the word was even invented.

Working from live models, the famous illustrator was slipping people of color (the term I use for the multi-ethnic group of Chinese and Lebanese, Navajos and African-Americans the artist portrayed) into his illustrations of America from the earliest days of his career. Those people of color are still in those illustrations. They never disappeared. But the reason we don’t know about them is because, up until now, they seem to have been routinely overlooked.

For example, in her book, “Norman Rockwell’s People,” Susan E. Meyer catalogues by name over one hundred and twenty Norman Rockwell models, including two dogs, Bozo and Spot. But not one model of color is named in the book.

Another case in point? “America, Illustrated,” an article written for The New York Times by Deborah Solomon, art critic and journalist In honor of (an) upcoming Independence Day, the entire July 1, 2010 edition of the paper was dedicated to “all things American.”

“America, Illustrated” pointed out that Norman Rockwell’s work was experiencing a resurgence among collectors and museum-goers. Why? Because the illustrator’s vision of America personified “all things American.” Rockwell’s work, according to the article, provided “harmony and freckles for tough times.” As Solomon put it, Norman Rockwell’s America symbolized “America before the fall.” This America was, apparently, all sweetness and light. Solomon simply asserts: “It is true that his (Rockwell’s) work does not acknowledge social hardships or injustice.”

The America illustrated by Norman Rockwell also, apparently, was all white. Seven full-color reproductions of Rockwell’s work augment the multi-page Times’ article. The featured illustration is “Spirit of America” (1929), a 9″ x 6″ blow-up of one of the artist’s more “Dudley Doright”-looking Boy Scouts. None of the illustrations chosen includes a person of color.

This is puzzling. As an art critic, Solomon surely was aware of Norman Rockwell’s civil rights paintings. The most famous of these works, “The Problem We All Live With,” portrays “the little black girl in the white dress” integrating a New Orleans school.

One hundred and seven New York Times readers commented on “America, Illustrated,” and most of them were not happy with the article. Many remarks cited Solomon’s failure to mention “The Problem We All Live With.” One reader bluntly quipped: “The reporter (Solomon) was asleep at the switch.” The other people in Norman Rockwell’s America, people of color, had been strangely overlooked, again.I have dedicated Hidden in Plain Sight: The Other People in Norman Rockwell’s America to those “other people”: individuals who have been without name or face or voice for so long. And this book is dedicated to Norman Rockwell himself, the “hidden” Norman Rockwell, the man who conspired to put those “other people” into the picture in the first place.

WITH GREAT CARE

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: CAREFUL

This week, show us something careful — a photo taken with care, a person being careful, or a task or detail requiring care.

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Across from the dam in the middle of town is a tile mosaic. It was there when we moved here, 15 years ago and no one we have asked knows when it was created. It’s quite lovely. It is precise. Obviously made thoughtfully, carefully.

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It shows a scene of the town back when there were more horses and carriages than cars. Created with loving care.

KNOCK KNOCK WRITING CHALLENGE #3: LEONARD BERGMAN

And The Ladybug asks

Write about your favorite painting. Why do you like it? What’s the story behind it, do you know? And why is it special to you?

I know that they are millions upon millions of great paintings in our world. Many live in museums, while others reside in the private homes of the wealthy. Let’s not forget the millions of piece of art created by unknown artists who may have never shown their work to anyone outside their family circle.

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I am, therefore, going to limit the scope of this answer to paintings I’ve seen personally … and specifically, to paintings I have hanging on the wall of my home.

Back in the days when both Garry and I were working full-time and earning good money, we loved art galleries and art. We bought paintings, photographs and happily hung them on our walls. Of course, my own photographs also hang on my walls, but they hang with oil paintings by many almost famous painters.

Same painting in my office

In this collection, there is one painting I love best. I know it’s not my husband’s favorite, though he likes it well enough, but it is mine.

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It’s a numbered lithograph of a watercolor by Leonard Bergman titled “Jerusalem” which captures a mood, the sunshine, colors, flowers. It is “my” Jerusalem, not necessarily real, but the sense memory of the years I spent there.

Is it a great painting? I think so. In any case, it’s the one I love.

There’s (just) one framed (used) copy available at a ridiculously low price ($25!) at Etsy. Only 325 prints were ever made.