Saturday, October 14, 2017

Ai Wei Wei at the Ringling

"City Beautiful" by Robert Alosa
Bruce, Dorrit and I stopped in at the Ringling during a recent visit to Sarasota. I was interested in seeing the Ringling portion of the Skyways exhibit, a three-part show featuring the art of contemporary Tampa Bay artists. (Portions of the show were also on display at the St. Pete and Tampa Museums of Fine Arts.)  When we asked a guard for directions, we got a funny (both ha-ha and strange) reply.

"You won't have to spend much time there," he said with a shake of his head. "One day I walked by an open door and saw a lot of extension cords hanging from the ceiling. I told them they'd better get that cleaned up because the exhibit was opening soon. It turned out that was part of the show."  We laughed and went on our merry way.

The work in question was "City Beautiful" by Robert Alosa. As promised, there were lots of extension cords, along with some lumber. The wall card explained the artist's intent. The construction feel is a reference to gentrification and all its issues. The boards evoke the planks supporting newly planted palm trees that pepper developments in Florida. Not a work I'd want to have in my living room, but I can get on board with the concept. Bruce was distinctly in the guard's camp. Diplomatic as ever, Dorrit didn't take sides.

Ai Wei Wei's stools reference the treatment
of intellectuals during the Cultural Revolution
Happily, Ai Wei Wei's "Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads" was enjoyed by the entire group. I was introduced to Ai Wei Wei's work a couple of years back when I saw an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. His work is very political, and with good reason. He was a young child in China at the time of the Cultural Revolution. It was a time when people out of favor with the government were forced to wear dunce caps and sit on wooden stools in public areas. Ai remembers his father, a poet, being subjected to this treatment. His family was soon thereafter exiled from their home for 20 years.

Detail from engraving of Zodiac Fountain Clock
I could go on and on about Ai Wei Wei's work, but I'll focus on his Circle of Animals since it's on display at the Ringling through June. The work is a re-envisioning of the Chinese zodiac heads that were part of the 18th c. Fountain Clock found in Beijing's Yuanming Yuang (Garden of Perfect Brightness). Each head spouted water for two hours per day. If you look closely at the picture, you'll see the horse was having its turn, so the picture depicts a time between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

In 1860, during the Second Opium War, the Yuanming Yuang was looted and burned by European troops. The bronze zodiac heads disappeared. Over time, five were located and acquired by the Poly Museum in Beijing. In 2009, two additional heads resurfaced -- at an auction of items from the estate of Yves St. Laurent. Controversy ensued, and the sale of the rat and rabbit heads did not go through despite the auction having been completed.

Ai Wei Wei "Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads"
The Circle of Animals is a commentary by Ai Wei Wei about colonialism. But he likes the fact the work can be appreciated on different levels. "I think it's something that everyone can have some understanding of, including children and people who are not in the art world," he said.

It's worth noting that Ai Wei Wei didn't sculpt the heads himself. As with much of his work, he was responsible for the concept and oversaw its implementation.

Similarly, he didn't create the fences included in the "Fences Make Good Neighbors" exhibit now in New York City. The exhibit includes 300 (yes, 300) different types of fences located throughout the five boroughs. I am thrilled they will still be on display when I visit New York in January. (Note to self: Bring warm clothes so I can comfortably tromp all over the city.)  I'll be sure to report back.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Dinner at Crossroads Hope Academy

Crossroads Hope Academy is a non-profit home and charter school for boys aged 12 - 18 who have had multiple failed placements in the Florida foster care system. Since 2013, Crossroads has taken in more than 100 boys, providing a stable home and school environment as well as therapy and positive role models. Crossroads residents come to the facility with an average of 14 failed foster care placements; one child had had 64 homes in his young life. It's an amazing program. o

Crossroads is located off the beaten track, a good 30 minute drive from downtown Punta Gorda. But Hurricane Irma managed to find it. The residents pulled their mattresses off their beds and bunked down in the cafeteria for three days, venturing out only to take quick showers. It must have been quite frightening, with 130 mile per hour winds whipping around and water making its way into the facility. One shed lost part of its roof; a basketball hoop cemented into the ground was uprooted.

Bruce and Dorrit, like many people in our community, have a soft spot for Crossroads. When they heard about the damage, Bruce gave Executive Director John Davidson a call to see if he could help. An unexpected response came back -- "You can come out and make dinner for the kids one night," John said.

Dorrit in the walk-in frig
And so Bruce and Dorrit found themselves at Crossroads one Sunday night with coolers full of groceries and a tag-along helper.  It was a wonderful experience.

The sheer size of the task was daunting. Enough food was required for 30 people. During their visit to the Crossroads kitchen, Bruce and Dorrit learned that the budget for meals is $2.83 per growing boy. Unhampered by these financial constraints, Dorrit came up with a menu of baked chicken breasts with gravy, baked potatoes, salad, broccoli with cheese and, for dessert,  Klondike bars.

Bruce and Dorrit had planned the afternoon with military precision. Everything that could be prepared in advance had been done, and a timeline had been established for what to do once we were there. Dorrit tasked me with putting the salad together.  It seemed a safe enough proposition.

One of the best parts of the day was the assistance we received from Matthew, a 16 year old resident. We were so impressed with him. He was polite, well-spoken, focused, and helpful. He knew his way around the kitchen and had a better touch than one of us at seasoning the potatoes. (Really, who knew salt came out of its container that fast?)

The only snafu came when a church group arrived at the kitchen door with a meal already cooked and ready to serve to the kids. It was somewhat chaotic for a few minutes, but ultimately not a big deal. The delicious-looking meatloaf and sides were put in the frig for dinner the next evening.

Bruce carefully removing chicken
from the oven
When the meal was ready, the boys were called into the cafeteria. Their place in line was determined based on a behavioral point system. We were happy to see Timmy, the youngest resident at 12 years old, had a place near the front of the line. The kids were respectful and appreciative, and almost everyone came back for seconds. Some boys even wanted more broccoli.

I came away with a greater appreciation for the Crossroads program and why it has gained such support in our community. As an aside, a post-hurricane fundraiser at the Punta Gorda Isles Civic Association raised an astonishing $21,000. Kudos to everyone involved in putting that event together.

To read more about the Crossroads program, click here.  And to watch the inspiring video that Bruce made for Crossroads, click here.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Graybar Hotel by Curtis Dawkins

From description of "Heather"
What's in a name? Or, more on point, does the identity of an author matter?

"Heather" by Thomas Eccleshare was one of my favorite shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year. The play was about a reclusive author who writes a series of Harry Potter-esque books that become wildly successful. The editor's attempts to meet face to face with the author are repeatedly put off. Ultimately, it is revealed that the author is in prison for a crime that involved killing at least one child. The dichotomy between the persona the writer had created and the real backstory was jarring. It also threw a major wrench in the editor's PR plans. The publishing house went from celebration to crisis mode in minutes as it anticipated the backlash once the news got out.

And herein lies the question -- If the stories were that wonderful, does the author's identity really matter?

The use of nom de plumes by writers is a historic practice. Sometimes pseudonyms have been adopted by authors who want to try a different genre. More frequently, however, they've been used by writers who feel their work would be better received under a different name. Women have often published under a pseudonym -- Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin as George Sand, Mary Ann Evans as George Eliot, and all three of the Bronte sisters to name a few. More recently, J.K. Rowling used initials rather than her first name (Joanne) because her editor thought the young male audience she was targeting would be more receptive. (Rowling doesn't have a middle name, so she took the "K" from her grandmother's first name.) And then, of course, there are all sorts of other "cultural" reasons why an author might publish under a name different from the one given to him at birth. Don't get me started on that.

The reason I've been thinking about nom de plumes is I just finished "The Graybar Hotel" by Curtis Dawkins. While the book of short stories was not published under a pseudonym, the author's identity has caused some controversy. The book jacket states as innocuously as possible, "[Dawkins] has been incarcerated since 2004 for a drug-related homicide for which he's serving life without parole."

Some states have enacted laws prohibiting criminals from personally profiting from a nonfiction work that describes their crimes. No matter how you feel about this prohibition, it wouldn't be applicable to "The Graybar Hotel." Dawkins' short stories have nothing to do with his crime. Instead, the collection invites the reader into the life of an inmate in a Michigan prison. And having graduated from Western Michigan University with an MFA in fiction writing, Mr. Dawkins knows how to tell a story.

Our unnamed protagonist's universe isn't populated by the shiv-bearing, gang-raping criminals popularized on television and in the movies. Sure, violence sometimes lurks in his stories, but it seems avoidable if the inmate walks the straight and narrow. Much of our narrator's life involves staving off boredom and loneliness.

Television is a big part of the inmates' lives. In "County," our protagonist talks about the enjoyment of watching "The Price is Right" from his cell in the suicide watch wing. "I looked forward to seeing Bob Barker up there, and hearing Rod Roddy calling people to come on down. For an hour a day I could live in a world full of lights and color, noise and smiling women gracefully highlighting things with the near-touch of their hands.And hope.The hope for a good outcome kept me transfixed."

In "A Human Number," inmates make phone calls--collect--to random numbers in hopes of connecting with someone on the outside. A surprising number of people actually accept these calls. And in "The World Out There," the interior life of a young woman in the stands at a Detroit Indians baseball game is imagined in great detail.

Curtis Dawkins
Each story adds another layer of nuance to the complexity of an inmate's life. Dawkins' writing style suits the subject matter. It's unsentimental but well-crafted. And, not surprisingly, the stories more or less ring true. It's a prime example of a writer writing about what he knows.

But to get back to my original question. Does the identity of an author matter? In this case, the controversy surrounding Dawkins' history is what drew me to "The Graybar Hotel." Without it, I probably never would have heard of the book, much less read it. And knowing that he's written about the life he's leading lends the book a sadder quality than it might have otherwise. And so my answer is a decided "sometimes." I'd be interested in knowing what you think.

To read about Dawkins' life and his crime (included in the NY Times' review of the book), click here. And, in case you're wondering, the proceeds from the sale of "The Graybar Hotel" are being deposited in an education fund for Dawkins' three children.

Friday, September 22, 2017

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

If you read much about hot new books, you've probably seen references to Gabriel Tallent's "My Absolute Darling." This debut novel has been on my radar screen since this year's Book Expo, when it was one of six books featured in the Editor Buzz panel. It's well-deserving of the attention.

Tallent sets the scene in the opening paragraphs. "The old house hunkers on its hill, all peeling white paint, bay windows, and spindled wooden railing overgrown with climbing roses and poison oak...The gravel drive is littered with spent casings caked in verdigris...In the living room, one window is boarded over, sheet metal and half-inch plywood bolted to the frame and covered in rifle targets. The bullet clustering is so tight it looks like someone put a ten gauge right up to them and blew the centers out; the slugs glint in their ragged pits like water at the bottom of wells."

Clearly, this is not a typical home, much less an appropriate place for a widower to be raising his teen-age daughter. But Martin Alveston and his daughter Turtle are not a typical family, and their relationship is not appropriate in any way. Turtle is the center of Martin's world, and he does everything in his power to ensure that he is the center of hers. He abuses her physically, sexually and psychologically. These scenes are graphic and difficult to read, but a crucial part of Turtle's story.

As time passes, Turtle is torn between her desire to break away from Martin and her love for him. She walks out of the house one morning and keeps walking. The wildness of Mendocino, where the book is set, is an environment in which Turtle is wholly comfortable. She contemplates whether she will return to her home as she walks. And then she stumbles upon Jacob and Brett, two local boys hopelessly lost on an outward bound type experience and as unequipped to handle the hardship as Turtle is capable of doing so.

"The boys talk in a way that is alarming and exciting to her--fantastical, gently celebratory, silly...She feels brilliantly included within that province of things she wants, lit up from within by possibility. ...A new world is opening up for her. She thinks, these boys will be there when I go to high school. She thinks, and what would that be like--to have friends there, to have friends like this?"

Turtle's introduction to Jacob and Brett is a turning point as she begins to truly envision a different life for herself. But Martin is not going to let her go easily. In a particularly terrifying scene, Martin burns a souvenir Turtle has kept from her time with the boys. He uses a poker to push around the remains.

"'You are mine,' he says [to Turtle], and swings the fire poker around and strikes her on the arm and she pitches onto her stomach in the mud, her left arm numb, her shoulder broken-feeling, and she tries to rise, gets one hand under herself and heaves up and he plants his boot on the small of her back and drives her to the ground. He raises the poker into the air and she thinks, get away, get away, Turtle, for your life get away, but she is pinned in place by his boot and she thinks, you have to -- you have to, but she cannot move, and he brings the fire poker down onto the back of her thighs, and she bucks, spasms..... 'Mine,' he says."

Author Gabriel Tallent
"My Absolute Darling" is not a book in which the issues are tied up neatly at the end and everyone lives happily ever after. How could it be? But it's powerful and well-crafted and feels honest in a way that's hard to explain. If you can bear the brutality, read it. It's a book you will remember long after you've finished the last page.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Surviving Hurricane Irma

Bruce photographing what used to be their sea wall.
Their dock was still underwater.

Let me preface this post by saying my heart goes out to everyone impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. These devastating storms caused so much damage, and I am thankful my friends, family and community all came out on the other side more or less unscathed.

My personal story of surviving Hurricane Irma is, again thankfully, one of mere inconvenience and embarrassment. (Yes, embarrassment, but we'll get to that.) So consider this post a bit of comic relief.

I didn't live in Punta Gorda in 2004 when the Category 4 Hurricane Charley took an unexpected turn and blew right into town. It caught people unprepared and wreaked havoc. Our downtown was decimated. Many people--including residents of my condo complex--lost their roofs, exposing their homes to the rain and wind. It was a disaster, but Punta Gorda has come back stronger than ever.

This experience explains in part the mass freak out and, then, exodus that took place once Hurricane Irma started bearing down on Florida, despite the fact it was heading for the East Coast. I sat at home bored, watching lots of TV and wishing the storm would just get on with it (ideally after taking a sharp turn out into the Atlantic).

My sister Suzanne lives on the East Coast near Boca Raton. Her family headed to Atlanta. While their home is quite sturdy, they too had experienced a Category 4 hurricane--Wilma--and didn't want to take any chances. (Due to circumstances way too complicated to explain here, Suzanne, Drew and Jakie found themselves with two other families on a chartered jet for the trip up. Jakie was kind of digging the whole flying thing.)

But the fickle Irma took a turn west. On Friday, evacuation in my area of Punta Gorda was recommended due to concerns about storm surge. Still, I sat watching TV (although I did make plans to go to Bruce and Dorrit's on Saturday to weather out the worst of the storm). Most people would have started thinking at this point about what to bring with them if they had to leave their home, but my ostrich imitation remained intact.

When I woke Saturday morning, a mandatory evacuation notice had been issued. Storm surges--which are measured from dry ground--of 9+ feet were predicted for our area. Punta Gorda Isles is a community built on canals, so there's water out my back door. It sounded pretty grim. Susan and Steve had already jumped in their car and started driving north. Bruce and Dorrit decided to go to a local shelter. With the storm now heading for us, I decided to go to Suzanne's empty house. Some neighbors had a key if I couldn't get in the side door.

Artwork by Susan Fraley
I became a whirling dervish as I alternately brought as much furniture as I could to the second story and threw things in my car. This mixed media painting Susan created as a housewarming present came with me along with important documentation and a truly random assortment of clothing and family photos. I locked my door and left, wondering what I would come back to once the storm had passed.

The side door to my sister's house was jammed, so I stopped by Jennifer and Jarrett Cooper's house to pick up the extra key. I'd met the Coopers in passing, but didn't know them well. There was no time to linger as they were battening down their own hatches for a storm wider than the entire state of Florida. I got home and tucked in to watch the storm news.

I woke up in the middle of the night to a tornado warning and a text from Suzanne to fill the upstairs bath tub. This part is important, because I didn't realize power and water are separate systems in most homes. Having grown up with threats of hurricanes in a home with a septic tank, making sure you had enough water to flush your toilets was a big concern. Not so much in Parkland, but it's part of the hurricane ritual, and there is always a chance the water will go out as well.

I went back to sleep and awoke to a dark house. I found a corner of the house protected by impact glass rather than shutters and watched the storm. Periodically, I'd talk to my family, and my mother encouraged me to bring some pots outside to catch more water. Being the obedient daughter, I did just that -- and the front door clicked closed behind me. I frantically tugged at it, but to no avail. Then I tried the side door, but I'd quite inconveniently locked it. It was raining and windy and I was outside. The only good news was that I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt rather than the nightgown I'd been out in earlier.

My only option was to walk the few blocks to the Coopers and, essentially, ask for the kindness of strangers. I appeared at their glass doors looking like a drowned rat and shaking with emotion. They threw their doors open and welcomed me in. I didn't immediately realize they still had power despite a graphic of Irma flashing on their big screen TV. Jennifer hustled me to their room to get me out of my wet clothes. I happily donned her one size too small yoga pants and t-shirt.  This was no time to worry about appearances.

And so began my next 24 hours at what their son Chase promptly dubbed "The Cooper Shelter." I couldn't have found a better place to wait out the storm. Yes, they lost power late that afternoon. But it was wonderful to be with other people rather than worry about what was happening on my own. The Cooper Shelter had previously welcomed in Jennifer's parents, who were refugees from Miami, so I wasn't alone in my concern about water levels. Despite my massive embarrassment at having locked myself out of my sister's house, I felt perfectly comfortable there. It was a human example of the rule of transitivity. The Coopers like my sister, my sister likes me, so the Coopers and I got along just fine. (Hopefully, my perception of their feelings is accurate!)

My heroes -- Jarrett and Grant Cooper
But the Coopers' generosity didn't end there. The next morning, Jarrett, their son Grant and I went back to the Peterson home to find a way in. Happily, only three panels of shutters had to come down before I found an open door. Jarrett also hefted the garage door open so I could get my car out at the appropriate time.  We'd learned overnight that Irma had come ashore at Marco Island and Naples, south of Punta Gorda, so the local storm surge had been minimal.  I later learned my condo development never even lost power. I was thankful beyond belief -- and never happier to step foot back in my house than I was on Tuesday.

So ends my Hurricane Irma saga. My sister gave me a postcard some time back that reads "Putting the whole hideous thing behind me by blogging about it." And so that's what I've done. Sadly, for thousands of others, the recovery process is much more complicated.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Irving Penn: Centennial at the Met

The Tarot Reader (Bridget Tichenor
and Jean Patchett) (1949)
If memory serves, my introduction to Irving Penn's fashion photographs was an exhibit at the New York Public Library in the mid-1990s. Penn's couture photographs are, without question, stunning. Their creativity draws the viewer in, making the photo about more than just the clothes. It's no wonder they've stood the test of time.

But there's much more to Penn's work. The recent Irving Penn: Centennial exhibit at the Met gave viewers a sense of his interests outside the world of couture.

Penn traveled the globe for his work with Vogue. He often extended his time on location to shoot subjects that caught his attention. His Cuzco series of portraits is a prime example. After finishing a 1948 pre-Christmas fashion shoot in Lima, Penn headed for Cuzco, where he rented a studio from a local photographer.

Mother and Posing Daughter, Cuzco (1948)
Residents of nearby villages often traveled to Cuzco during the holiday season to enjoy the festivities and get their annual family portraits taken. Imagine their surprise and, perhaps, concern when a random American photographer greeted them when they entered the studio. (Their concerns were likely assuaged by the fact that this photographer paid them to take their pictures.)

I suspect the portraits were different from those already hanging in the family homes. In her article about the exhibit for the New York Times, Roberta Smith suggested this child's pointing finger was a reference to Goya's painting of The Duchess of Alba. I love that. But what I love even more is the expression on the child's face. Her attitude is more royal than that of the Duchess herself.

Sewer cleaner, New York (1950)
The Cuzco experience led Penn to his Small Trades series of photos from London and New York. Again, this series--Penn's largest--was enabled by a shoot he did for Vogue in Paris. The photos remind me of the old nursery rhyme about the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker as Penn captured tradesman from all walks of life.

Penn's subjects were shot in the manner he favored for his couture and celebrity shots -- in a daylight studio with a neutral backdrop. He captured them dressed as they would be for a day at work with the tools of their trade close at hand. The occupations include fishmonger, tree pruner, knife grinder, and cucumber seller. (That's a niche business if I ever heard of one.)  I chose to share his photo of a sewer cleaner because it's got to be one of the world's most unappreciated professions -- plus his tools are very cool. Interestingly, Vogue published these photos in the pages of its magazine both domestically and abroad.

Tribesman with Nose Disc,
New Guinea (1970)
Vogue was also instrumental in helping Penn achieve his dream of traveling to the Pacific and Africa. From 1967 to 1971, Penn made ten trips to the region with supermodel Lisa Fonssagrives--now Mrs. Irving Penn--by his side. He used a simple tent as his onsite studio.

I would love to know how Penn was able to gain the trust of these people to take their photographs.The exhibit included some wonderful videos of him with his subjects, which included women swathed from head to toe in their burkas.

Penn with Moroccan subjects
Penn said of the experience, "The studio became, for each of us, a sort of neutral area. It was not their home, as I had brought this alien enclosure into their lives, it was not my home, as I had obviously come from elsewhere, from far away. But in this limbo there was for us both the possibility of contact that was a revelation to me and often, I could tell, a moving experience for the subjects themselves, who without words--by only their stance and their concentration--were able to say much that spanned the gulf between our different worlds."

Photographs from Penn's trips to the region are collected in his World without Rooms.

Irving Penn: Centennial was a treat from start to finish. His photographs reveal the beauty in ordinary people. And, of course, the beauty in those supermodels.

If all this talk of Irving Penn has made you crave some great fashion, check out The Collection on Amazon. The show is set in a Parisian fashion house after WWII and features some incredible couture -- and photographs. And from Oct. 18-Jan. 14, the Dali in St. Petersburg will host a Dali & Schiaparelli exhibit. Stay tuned for a report on that show!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Discovering Florine Stettheimer

Family Portrait II (1933)
A surge of excitement ran through me the moment Wendi and I entered the Florine Stettheimer: Painting Poetry exhibit at the Jewish Museum. Her paintings nearly burst off the walls with color and life. Many had a Chagall-like feeling to them with their sense of whimsy. Who was Florine Stettheimer, and why had I never heard of her?

The Stettheimers were a wealthy Jewish family who were contemporaries of the Guggenheims and Morgenthaus in New York. They were intellectuals who traveled the world. Joseph abandoned his wife and five children when the kids were young. But Rosetta had family money of her own, so their luxurious lifestyle was not hindered by his absence.

Detail from Spring Sale at Bendels (1921)
Prior to World War I, the family lived in Europe, where Florine studied painting in the cultural capitals of the Continent. But with the outbreak of the War, Florine, her mother and two of her sisters moved back to New York. Florine and her sisters--who became known as the "Stetties"--moved in the artistic circles of the day. Their home became a salon of sorts for avant garde society. Their guests included Marcel Duchamp and Georgia O'Keeffe.

Florine also wrote poetry that had a tongue-in-cheek quality about it. (Her daring self-portrait styled after Manet's "Olympia" and Titian's "Venus of Urbino" did as well.)

A Model (Nude Self-Portrait) (1915)
Take, for instance, this untitled poem.

Our Parties
Our Picnics
Our Banquets
Our Friends
Have at last a raison d'etre
Seen in color and design
It amuses me
To recreate them
To paint them.

Florine's work as an artist extended to costume and set design. She designed both for an opera entitled Four Saints in Three Acts by Virgil Thomson. Gertrude Stein wrote one of the opera's librettos.

Costume for "Georgette" 
Florine also wrote a ballet inspired by a performance of Debussy's Afternoon of a Faun danced by the Ballet Russes. It was called Revellers of the Four Arts Ball, and one of the ballet's themes was the transience of pleasure. Although the ballet was never produced, the exhibit contained many of Florine's costume designs for the work. They are spectacular.

Now knowing a bit about who Florine Stettheimer was, I still wondered why I'd never heard of her. The exhibit description explained that Florine has frequently been considered "a lightweight feminine artist." But her lack of name recognition might also result from her low-key profile during her lifetime. Florine apparently intended her paintings and poetry be enjoyed primarily by family and friends. In fact, she had expressed a desire to have her work destroyed after her death. Luckily, her sister Ettie, who served as executor, ignored this wish.

For a more scholarly review of the show, read Roberta Smith's article in the New York Times by clicking here. (The article also includes more images of Stettheimer's vibrant artwork.)

Florine Stettheimer: Painting in Poetry will be on display at the Jewish Museum in New York through September 24th. It's an exhibit that you are sure to leave with a smile on your face. 

Ai Wei Wei at the Ringling

"City Beautiful" by Robert Alosa Bruce, Dorrit and I stopped in at the Ringling during a recent visit to Sarasota. I was inter...