Monday, December 26, 2011

Dysfunctional Family Christmas

"A lovely thing about Christmas is that it's compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together."
~ Garrison Keillor

Did you spend Christmas with your extended family? How was it — a little shredded around the edges? Whether it's drunken uncles, cheek-pulling aunts, whiny children, passive-aggressive in-laws or some other annoyance, we all have our little crosses to bear at family holiday gatherings.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a slightly eccentric but surprisingly functional family; even so, when the extended clan came together for a holiday celebration, wires would start popping out of the hay bale. On Christmas day our house filled with aunts and uncles and cousins, enough to require every available leaf for dining room table plus a card table or two in the adjoining breakfast room. We were a merry mob for the most part, but eventually mom's two older sisters would gather in the kitchen to critique her cooking. The nitpicking began late in the afternoon, after generous quantities of scotch had been consumed by all concerned. Inevitably, one of my aunts would insert herself into the process physically, getting between my mom and the stove, triggering a great crashing and banging of pots. One year a fully cooked 25-pound turkey landed on the floor as I looked on. (I was immediately sworn to secrecy by the adults, who wiped it off and popped it onto the carving board. A useful life lesson.)

What I find fascinating is that many families memorialize their dysfunction in formal photographs. I hope you feel better about your own family after you've had a look at these images from the first two decades of the 1900s.

It's 1912 and today's theme is "living dolls."
Let's all be very quiet and maybe she won't stab us.
In 1914, the family of attorney Raymond Dickey
has itself a grumpy little Christmas.
The Dickeys again a few years later.
I could spend hours pondering who's no longer speaking to whom.
For more dysfunction, see:

"The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together."
~ Erma Bombeck

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Lighting of the Tree

"Thousands of lights were burning on the green branches, and gaily-colored pictures, such as she had seen in the shop-windows, looked down upon her. The little maiden stretched out her hands toward them when — the match went out. The lights of the Christmas tree rose higher and higher, she saw them now as stars in heaven…"
~ Hans Christian Andersen

Recently, the wonderful blog Ephemeral New York told the story of how we came to string electric lights on Christmas trees. In 1882 an employee of Thomas Edison named Edward Johnson created a sensation among the New York society set when he strung crepe-paper-wrapped lights on his tree. Another 35 years passed before teenager Albert Sadacca, whose family owned a lighting company, proposed the first ready-made strings of colored lights. By the 1920s, even the White House had adopted Sadacca's idea.

White House Christmas tree, 1920s
from the archives of the Library of Congress
For most New Yorkers, and for many others as well, the words "Christmas tree" summon images of Rockefeller Center's gigantic fir and annual lighting ceremony. The tradition began in 1931 when workers who were building Rockefeller Center erected a 20-foot tree to celebrate their good fortune of being employed in the Great Depression. You can see a photo of the tree and a crowd of construction workers via the Time magazine link at the end of today's blog. [Note: An earlier version of this post included a photo of the first Rockefeller Center tree. However, since there seems to be some dispute about its fair use, I've removed it.]

Two years later, in 1933, Rockefeller Center made the tree a tradition. Here are a few photos taken over the years, all courtesy of the archives of the Museum of the City of New York.
Rockefeller Center 1934 by the great New York City
photographer Samuel Gottscho
A dramatic shot of the tree in 1945, as seen from Fifth Avenue 
Rockefeller Center, 1948

There's one more tree I want to show you. This was not in Rockefeller Center but in Dayton, Ohio.

This sad tree was in the home of Wilbur and Orville Wright circa 1900. As we celebrate our blessings, let's be grateful that the Wright brothers were so much better at building airplanes than decorating trees.

For more information, see:

"George, a camel, stepped on the foot of a Rockette; six sheep came off the elevator as three kings bearing gifts got on; human Christmas trees bumped into eight maids-a-milking at the water cooler and an elf came down with the flu."

~ William E. Geist

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Ghosts of Christmas Shopping Past

"As we struggle with shopping lists and invitations, compounded by December's bad weather, it is good to be reminded that there are people in our lives who are worth this aggravation, and people to whom we are worth the same." 
~Donald E. Westlake

For the last few months I have been collecting photos of long-gone Christmases and now find myself with far too many for a single post. There's only one solution: a series. Since some of us still have presents to buy — behold Christmas shopping as it once was.

In 1921a festive storefront in Washington, DC, celebrated with trees and flags.
Which lucky people got "talking machines" in 1921?
As the caption says, this was Woolworth's Fifth Avenue window in 1935. Miss you, F.W. Woolworth.

In 1944, Macy's offered children a Snow White Christmas.

"Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas." 
~ Peg Bracken

Thursday, November 24, 2011


The older I get, the more I am thankful for art and poetry. Today, as the U.S. celebrates the Thanksgiving holiday, I offer a poem titled "Vermeer" by 2011 Nobel laureate for poetry Tomas Tranströmer.
The Music Lesson by Jan Vermeer

By Tomas Tranströmer

No protected world...Just behind the wall the noise begins,
the inn
with laughter and bickering, rows of teeth, tears, the din of bells
and the insane brother-in-law, the death-bringer we all must tremble for.

The big explosion and the tramp of rescue arriving late,
the boats preening themselves on the straits, the money creeping down
               in the wrong man's pocket
demands stacked on demands
gaping red flowerheads sweating premonitions of war.

Woman in Blue Reading a Letter by Jan Vermeer
And through the wall into the clear studio
into the second that's allowed to live for centuries.
Pictures that call themselves The Music Lesson
or Woman in Blue Reading a Letter
she's in her eighth month, two hearts kicking inside her.
On the wall behind is a wrinkled map of Terra Incognita.

Breathe calmly...An unknown blue material is nailed to the chairs.
The gold studs flew in with incredible speed
and stopped abruptly
as if they had never been other than stillness.

Ears sing, from depth or height.
It's the pressure from the other side of the wall.
It makes each fact float
and steadies the brush.

It hurts to go through walls, it makes you ill
but is necessary.
The world is one. But walls...
And the wall is part of yourself —
we know or we don't know but it's true for us all
except for small children. No walls for them.

The clear sky has leaned against the wall.
It's like a prayer to the emptiness.
And the emptiness turns its face to us and whispers,
"I am not empty. I am open."

"Vermeer" and many other Tranströmer poems can be found in  the great enigma, new collected poems (c) 1987 Thomas Tranströmer, published by New Directions Books. Kudos to translator by Robin Fulton.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The leaves of 2011

The leaves of autumn are an extravagant gift nature gives to people who live with four seasons.

Two years ago I noticed three interesting leaves on the ground near my apartment and decided to scan them.

Last year,  the leaves were different but equally beautiful, so I scanned them, too, and wrote about them in a post titled "Arts & Crafts: Color by Nature." Now, two years in, I feel like an amateur scientist documenting the environment. What will the leaves look like this year? How do they correlate to the weather? 2011 has been exceptionally wet, with several record-setting rainfalls. Are the leaves somehow a record of this? Beats me, but they sure are beautiful.

The four leaves below came from adjoining branches of the same tree.

Below, more of this year's bounty.

"Winter is an etching, spring a water color, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all."
~ Stanley Horowitz

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The prosody of gooseflesh

Today is the eve of All Hallow's Eve, and because it is a Sunday, it is the day of my neighborhood's annual Halloween parade for tots. Shepherded by their parents, dozens of tiny bumblebees, pumpkins, Thomas the Tank Engines, princesses, Jedi knights, Scooby-Dos and Madeleines will ramble down the street in a long, jaunty row, popping in and out of stores for treats.

But what is there for grown-ups who want a Halloween chill? I suggest this: William Butler Yeats himself reading The Lake Isle of Innisfree in a trembling, conjurer's voice.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree
by W. B. Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ruminating about food and hunger

"There are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread."
~ Mohandas Ghandi

Today is Blog Action Day, when bloggers around the world take on a single topic. Since this is also World Food Day, the topic for 2011 is food.

While there are many ways to think about food, the one that matters most to millions of people right now is the lack of it. As this UNICEF video shows, millions of people in Africa — including some 2 million children — are facing starvation as I write these words.

The video talks about the almost miraculous food paste Plumpy'nut, which can save the life of a starving child as effectively as the right antibiotic can cure a life-threatening infection. You can learn more about Plumpy'nut here.

If Africa seems remote from your concerns, then look no farther than your own country and community. The World Hunger Education Service has a wealth of global hunger statistics on its website.

"Food insecure" is the term the U.S. government uses to describe households where one or more members must reduce their food intake or disrupt their eating patterns because they cannot afford sufficient food. That description applied to 14.5 percent of U.S. households in 2010. You can learn more about it in the publication Household Food Security in the United States in 2010.

In my hometown, the New York City Coalition Against Hunger is "the voice for the more than 1,200 nonprofit soup kitchens and food pantries in New York City and the more than 1.4 million low-income New Yorkers who live in homes that can't afford enough food." Is it ironic that, in the same city where the people who destroyed the economy still get six-figure bonuses, so many people are hungry? Actually, I think it's criminal.

One final word about hunger: "The F Word: Famine Is the Real Obscentity."

"If you can't feed a hundred people, then just feed one."
~ Mother Teresa

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The eye of the beholder

"The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel."
~ Piet Mondrian

A few weeks ago a shrine appeared on  in my neighborhood — one of those collections of toys, candles, photos and stuffed animals that spring up wherever someone has died suddenly or too young. 

The shrine sits on a corner outside a Filipino grocery store that's across the street from a busy Filipino church. On Sundays, while women, children and some of the men attend church services, five or ten older men normally gather by the grocery store to smoke and shoot the breeze. 

At first I didn't pay much attention to the shrine beyond wondering where the smoking men would stand on Sundays. Sidewalk tributes make me feel like a voyeur, a rubbernecker at a traffic accident, and this one was easy to avoid. But one day I passed within a few feet of it and realized this was not what it at first seemed: This is a shrine to the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian. 

"Broadway Boogie Woogie"
Piet Mondrian (1942-43)
Mondrian, a founder of the stripped down, anti-romantic De Stijl movement, is known for his grid-based paintings of perpendicular lines in primary colors. He moved to New York in 1940 and created his celebrated "Broadway Boogie Woogie" here in the two years before his death at age 72 in 1944. So there was a New York connection...but what was up with the shrine? 

The corner the shrine sits on is one block away from MoMA PS1, an exhibition space for "emerging artists"...the sort of artists who might decide to create a shrine to a long-dead artist that simultaneously violates everything the artist stood for and pays tribute to his enduring influence. I should also mention that  Mondrian's "Broadway Boogie Woogie" is part of MoMA's permanent collection — check out a MoMA curator's audio-visual discussion of it here.

I don't know who created this — as far as I can see, it's unsigned — but it was put together with lavish attention to very odd details. For example, this section of the shrine notes the influence of Mondrian on L'Oreal hair products. 

Here you can see that while the candles stick to Mondrian's primary colors, the stuffed animals...not so much. 

Ultimately, I don't know what the shrine's creator thinks of Mondrian. Is this a critique of the severe De Stijl style or is the real target the schmaltzy sentimentality of sad little stuffed animals and signs professing love? As always, it's in the eye of the beholder.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Whatever it is, they're against it

"Censorship reflects a society's lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime."
~ Potter Stewart

After I wrote my previous post about Banned Books Week, I got an email from Dave Rock, the husband of one of my cousins, who reminded me about the Index Librorum Prohibitorum — the Catholic Church's former list of prohibited books. Published from 1559 until it was abolished in 1966, the list included works by some of history's best known scientists, novelists and other authors — Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, John Milton, David Hume, René Descartes and Victor Hugo among them.

When I was very young, the Index was still taken seriously in certain Roman Catholic circles, including my elementary school. Thinking about it fetched up a memory from those days about the time a banned film came to my home town. It was 1958 and the movie was God's Little Acre, starring Robert Ryan, Aldo Ray and Tina Louise. The film was based on Erskine Caldwell's 1933 novel of the same name, for which Caldwell was arrested, tried for obscenity and ultimately exonerated. Its presence at the local movie theater caused outrage, protests and, if I remember correctly, a short-lived boycott.

It all brings to mind the immortal words of Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff in the 1932 movie Horse Feathers.

“The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion.”
~ Henry Steele Commager

Saturday, September 24, 2011

It's Banned Books Week: Open a book, open a mind

"I am opposed to any form of tyranny over the mind of man."
~ Thomas Jefferson

The Boston Public Library's Bates Hall, 1896
Banned Books Week 2011 starts today, September 24. While some of us champion freedom, the intolerant are always on the hunt for new ways to curtail it, never recognizing the absurdity of their efforts. As George Bernard Shaw pointed out, “Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads.”

One of the sponsors of Banned Books Week, the American Library Association (ALA), has a calendar of events including a virtual read-out on YouTube. The ALA's site also includes lists and statistics about the most frequently challenged books and authors. One mind-boggling example: Aldous Huxley's Brave New World — published in 1932 — is one of the ten most frequently challenged books of 2010.

While the desire to censor may not change, circumstances do. Today's prospective book banners, book burners, political demagogues, religious fanatics and simple megalomaniacs will find that, thanks to digital communications, thoughts are harder than ever to control.

“All books can be indecent books, though recent books are bolder.
For filth, I'm glad to say, is in the mind of the beholder.
When correctly viewed, everything is lewd.
I could tell you things about Peter Pan,
And the Wizard of OZ, there's a dirty old man!”
~ Tom Lehrer
New York Public Library reading room

Monday, September 19, 2011

An eye for the absurd

"Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see."
~ Rene Magritte

“La Carte d’Après Nature,” a show at the Matthew Marks Gallery on West 22nd Street (New York City) through October 8th, takes its name from a journal created by the great Belgian Surrealist Rene Magritte.  The New York Times says of the journal: "It took the form of postcards mailed to fellow artists and writers, and included drawings, snippets of poetry and short stories..." Various notes and postcards from the journal are in a display case in an out-of-the-way corner of the gallery entrance area. Two Magritte paintings, "In the Airy Glades" and "The Universe Unmasked," are also in the show. 

My old friend Dawn Willis and I were in the neighborhood to see the Gagosian's new Andy Warhol show (more below). We're both huge fans of Magritte, but the work that stood out for both of us was made by the late Italian photographer Luigi Ghirri. His photography dominates the show — dozens of exquisite images, most of them quite small, most infused with a deadpan absurdist spirit. I'd never heard of him before, but now I can't stop thinking about his work and want to know more about him.

Ghirri often photographed people in front of artificial landscapes. Sometimes the effect was subtle, as in this photo, which is titled "Lucerna." 

And sometimes the effect is not so subtle at all. Behold "Salzberg."

He also photographed landscapes with artificial features, such as this palm tree.

One of my favorite photos is this one, taken through the window of a hat shop in Parma. 

The Internet is disappointingly unhelpful on the subject of Ghirri. I learned from Wikipedia that he was born in Scandiano in 1943 and died in 1992. The program notes for a 2001 exhibition at the Julie Saul Gallery add this: "Ghirri created visually profound images about the nature of representation and seeing. Although he freely acknowledged the influence of American photographers Lee Friedlander, Walker Evans and William Eggleston, as well as Atget, his work possesses a witty and worldly sensibility that is purely his own."

At the Gagosian's West 21st Street gallery, Andy Warhol's silkscreens of Liz Taylor, large and small, are on every wall. Dawn is a major fan and was excited that so many images she hadn't seen before were gathered in one place. A large silver canvas with multiple images of Liz in her National Velvet days was my personal favorite. 

Continuing the Warhol theme and rounding out the day's absurdities, we stopped by the chrome-covered Andy Warhol "monument" at Union Square. With its super-shiny finish, it looks like a sports trophy or hood ornament. Andy would probably have loved it.

"All thought must, directly or indirectly, by way of certain characters, relate ultimately to intuitions, and therefore, with us, to sensibility, because in no other way can an object be given to us."
~ Immanuel Kant

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The whole world blind

I found this postcard in a shop at Jones Beach in the spring of 2002. I take it out and look at it every once in a while. It reminds me to be vigilant, but it has never made me want revenge. Each person is different and all of our feelings are valid, but I simply don't know many people in New York City who wanted revenge. With that in mind, some thoughts for this day...
"He that studieth revenge keepeth his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well." ~ John Milton
" like a rolling stone, which, when a man hath forced up a hill, will return upon him with a greater violence, and break those bones whose sinews gave it motion." ~ Albert Schweitzer 
"An eye for an eye would make the whole world blind." ~ Mohandas Ghandi 
In 2009 CBS Sunday Morning did an interesting report about the varied ways people respond to those who inflict suffering on them. You can see it here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Don't Look Back

One Secret Thing by Sharon Olds is a collection of beautiful, often painful poems. She writes about a childhood spent feeling worthless, terrorized by and terrified of her parents; about becoming a parent; about watching her frightening mother age into a different, more likable character; about growing older herself.

Sharon Olds can also be very funny. Case in point: A little more than halfway through One Secret Thing you'll find this poem, which made me laugh out loud (ruefully and with recognition).

Self Portrait, Rear View
by Sharon Olds

The Valpincon Bather
by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
At first I almost do not believe it, in the hotel
triple mirror, that that is my body, in
back, below the waist, and above
the legs—the thing that doesn’t stop moving
when I stop moving.
And it doesn’t even look like just one thing,
or even one big, double thing
—even the word saddlebags has a
smooth, calfskin feel to it

compared to this compendium
of net string bags, shaking their booty of
cellulite fruits and nuts. Some lumps
look like bonbons translated intact
from chocolate box to buttocks, the curl on top
showing, slightly, through my skin. Once I see what I can
do with this, I do it, high-stepping
to make the rapids of my bottom
and ripple like a world wonder. Slowly,
I believe what I am seeing, a 54-year-old
rear end, once a tight end,
high and mighty, almost a chicken butt,
now exhausted, as if tragic. But this is not
an invasion, my cul-de-sac is not being
used to hatch alien cells, ball peens,
gyroscopes, sacks of marbles. It’s my hoard
of treasure, my good luck, not to be
dead, yet, though when I flutter
the wing of my ass again, and see
in a clutch of eggs, each egg,
on its own, as if shell-less, shudder, I wonder
if anyone has ever died,
looking in a mirror, of horror. I think I will
not even catch a cold from it,
I will go to school to it, to Butt
Boot Camp, to the video store, where I saw,
in the window, my hero, my workout jelly
role model, my apotheosis: Killer Buns.

Monday, June 27, 2011


"Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul."
~ Oscar Wilde

Rene Magritte: "The Invention of Life"
Late last year I developed a strange and enduring form of laryngitis. Although my voice was completely gone for just a few days,  I could only speak in a monotone and was unable to laugh aloud for two or three months afterward.

As the problem dragged on, I realized my flattened voice was flattening my mood. And then it occurred to me — why wouldn't it? Our senses give us feedback all the time. Without a range of vocal expression, I sounded like a joyless zombie and gradually started to feel like one, too.

I started looking for scientific studies on the topic — information about how our senses influence our moods. Nothing I've come across touches on the forced silence of laryngitis, but an article titled "Smile! It Could Make You Happier" in the September 2009 issue of Scientific American had some interesting things to say about the way our facial expressions effect our moods. (You can link to an abstract here.)

Among the findings the article discusses:
  • frowning increases sensitivity to pain
  • people who were given Botox injections to prevent them from frowning were happier
  • when Botox prevented people from smiling, they felt depressed

My point here: Our bodies are trying to tell us things, and we are telling things to our bodies even when we don't realize it. I for one plan to pay more attention.

"Seeing, hearing and feeling are miracles, and each part and tag of me is a miracle."
~ Walt Whitman

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Look Through Any Window II

Smoke shop, the Netherlands, 1917
When I worked in advertising, I heard a thing that made sense to me. A guy who specialized in advertising for chain restaurants said that if you want to raise a store's income by 10%, just give it a coat of paint and clean the windows.

Our local Chinese restaurant got caught up in an endless station renovation that routed people away from its door for about two years. Somehow the business survived — probably via take-out. Now that the subway work is almost complete and the scaffolding has come down, the store's windows are thick with dust. I want to tell Mr. Lee, "Wash your windows! Throw some paint on the walls! Look what this store did with a display about milk!"

Rothschild's, Ithaca, NY, 1917

This is my second post about shop windows. (The first is here.) This time, have a look through some windows from the U.S., the UK, the Netherlands and South Africa. The photos date from the early 1900s through the 1940s. Everything says "Come on in."

A ladies' dress shop, Amsterdam, 1915. Note the absence of today's fierce mannequin faces.

Look at this swoopy thing with its Vogue magazines! It's in Newcastle, England, in the 1940s.

Have Hollywood on your mind? This is the Hollywood Hat Shop, also in Newcastle.

World War II was beginning, but these young American boys
seem to have been mesmerized by all the Chinese Checkers sets.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The best of New York City on $0.00 a day

 "Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time."
~ Thomas Merton

Going to art galleries is one of the best deals in New York; it's free and just about any time you go, something will fill you with wonder. Right now, the galleries in Chelsea have so much wonder on their walls, I hardly know where to begin.

Andre Kertesz: "Bockskay-Ter, Budapest"

"Night" is the name of a moody, noirish photography show featuring the work of four great photographers at the peak of their powers: Robert Doisneau, Ilse Bing, Brassai and Andre Kertesz. The images above and below are two examples. See them all at the Bruce Silverstein Gallery through June 2nd.

Robert Doisneau: "Mademoiselle Anita"

From 1927 to about 1935 Marie-Therese Walter was the love of Pablo Picasso's life as well as his model and muse. Picasso and Marie-Therese: L'amour fou, a selection of the extraordinary work that came from that relationship, just opened at the Gagosian Gallery (April 14 – June 25). The exhibition is a remarkable thing to see for its diversity — paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, even a wall hanging — as well as its intense beauty. In addition to Picasso's work it includes photographs and a few seconds of film of Marie-Therese at her beautiful, glowing and playful best. Here she is in her red beret.

Pablo Picasso: one of several paintings of Marie-Therese in her red beret

If you know Kara Walker for her intricate, kinetic, witty silhouettes portraying black history and life in the U.S., her show at the Sikkema Jenkins gallery (through June 4th) will come as a bracing shock to the system.

Kara Walker: "Louise Beavers"

Titled "Dust Jackets for the Niggerati-and Supporting Dissertations, Drawings submitted ruefully by Dr. Kara E. Walker," it is a sprawling, raw, impassioned series of drawings and prints about dreams deferred, co-opted, sold out and destroyed. The block-printed image above is a "dust jacket" blurb written about the actress Louise Beavers.

Jasper Johns was an established art star when I was a student, and he's still going strong at 81. Patterns, numbers and alphabets continue to inspire him, but he's added some new (to me) elements in his current show at the Matthew Marks Gallery (through July 1). In a room devoted to prints and paintings in the series "Fragment of a Letter" (based on one of many letters written by Vincent Van Gogh to his friend Emile Bernard), he incorporates American sign language into his work. 
Jasper Johns: "Fragment of a Letter
The familiar witch-or-urn optical illusion inspires another series of  images. In the intaglio print below, he combines urns, witches, sign language and what he calls "shrinky dinks." The man is having fun. 
Jasper Johns: "Shrinky Dink 4"

We wandered into the CRG Gallery when we saw Ori Gersht's images through the window. Once inside, what appeared to be paintings turned out to be delicately beautiful photography. The series, "Falling Petals," seems to have been shot in Japan in the height of cherry blossom season. The image below is not my favorite, but it's the only one available online.

Ori Gersht: "Falling Petals"

While Ori Gersht's photography sometimes looks like painting, Mary Henderson tricks the eye the opposite way. She is a skilled hyperrealist whose paintings and watercolors might easily be mistaken for photos — until you realize they reveal more than any photo you're likely to see. "Bathers" is the name and subject of her current show at the Lyons Wier Gallery. The painting below amazed me from its use of light to the strands of hair and the grains of sand on the beach towel. See the gallery website for more.

Mary Henderson: "Back"

"Painting is just another way of keeping a diary."
~ Pablo Picasso