Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Out in the World of Public Art and Sculpture: Paris La Defense

It's been at least a decade since visiting this area of La Defense with Pop. walking the long esplanade towards the Grande Arche...which you can see all the way from the Arche de Triomphe at the very top of the Champs Élysées.

Back in the day,  we came to see the public sculpture recently installed here : a Calder Stabile, Takis blinking lights like an airport runway, a Miro (sculpture ! go figure.) None of the work here on the esplanade or in the area of la Defense is site specific to my knowledge.  perhaps the Takis...I don't know. These pieces have much in common with much large scale /city public sculpture. They are like beings parachuted into place. Doing their very best to exist in such overwhelming surroundings.  


The architecture, with the exception of the Grande Arche is unexceptional. No human scale element whatsoever. He very much liked La Grande Arche and the fact that it is slightly turned to one side and not directly facing the long esplanade. He asked what was "in it" ? "Nothing! I replied This is simply one very large and very expensive piece of public sculpture as only the French know how to offer!" He laughed !   


At La Defense the human is either underground, pushed off to one side in tunnels or barricaded in one of these great tours (towers), their surfaces mirrored glass, reflecting, no transparency. They look out but you don't look in. These buildings seem so totally unaware of the humans they contain within or that pass alongside.   

The other thing missing in this environment is the enclosure and enticing visual chaos and titillations of a city. The intricate detail, sounds and layers of visual and sensory information. The human element if you will ! None of that on offer here. 


The balance is very much on the side of the building. 

We talked about the density in La Defense. How it is less felt than say a place like New York City. In New York despite the height of the surrounding buildings, there is still traffic and people walking in great numbers at any hour. Even late at night, when the streets are pretty much empty, traffic lights flashing, the ghost of this density and activity remains.

He said the best sited pieces were those that found the closest building, huddling in its embrace and protection and even reflection/repetition, multiplying their mass by two. 

Nature (trees) too. For the trees, there is strength in number! Using that strategy or getting as close as possible to some sort of edifice whether that be sculpture or building! To add to the indignity, all trees are closely cropped. The french version of the control of nature! ugh!
 
Pop said that spaces on this scale have real difficulty with sculpture and visa versa. Sculpture looks doll sized. Only the sky, clouds, light and weather seem to be able to join these games among giants. 

We talked about how much fun it might have been to fly one of the mile long red lines down through here. How that might have worked, scale wise. An ephemeral piece like that would have been wonderful he thought. Lots of wind 24/7 rushing through here !

Wind, sky, air, light all powerful elements to be used in public sculpture. Invisible until harnessing this life force. This is what I remember him telling me on that day, so many years ago, walking in La Defense. 

- Lissa 







Sunday, November 22, 2015

Tal Friend : Lee Dai-won Painter

Today is the tenth anniversary of the passing of Tals great friend Lee Dai-won. 1921 - 2005

Considered one of Korea's greatest artists, a painter, he was self taught. He used western techniques like pointilisme and impressionism, fauvism but was equally proficient with korean traditional techniques and brushwork.

To confine him to being only a "Korean artist" and not to recognize his international stature and importance outside the borders of his birthplace would be disingenuous at worst, ignorant at best ! 






No less a writer than Pierre Restany wrote of his admiration of Lee Dai-won's work.

"That deep nature of the universe which is the unique theme of his art and which beautifully projects the plenitude of joie de vivre. Such a message does not know any frontier. It is the basic affidavit of a universal emotion."

So how these two fellows, Lee Dai-won and Tal Streeter, came to be such close friends indeed continued such vibrant dialog despite their differing perspectives of art throughout their lives, is testament to their openness and trust in one another.

I think much of Pops attachment to nature came from seeing his friends Lee Dae Won's joyous observation of things close by.

As he got older, Pop too became much more attentive to the comings and goings of the natural world. The smallest little plant in his path was a direct connection to this earth while his writing often headed out far off into sky and stars








Lee Dai-won was no different. His sensitivity to nature and his surroundings were evident in his work from the very start.  

He shows great attention to even the smallest change in nature. Seasons, the sensation of time passing... all are treated with colorful energy !  It's my impression that color was everything to him ! Not a dark melancholic person Lee Dai-won !  Even in the wintertime he finds color !



                                              

The family pear orchard is right outside Lee Daiwon's studio, an exquisite traditional Korean farm house.


























Meticulously restored and filled inside and out with objects of great beauty, Lee Daiwon's studio is a place of "lived in" history of many generations.

The long painting above is a piece Lee Daiwon began just before his passing. Courageous no ? To start such a piece of such grandeur at 80 plus years.    


The two friends had many similar qualities. Lee Daiwon was an inveterate collector too ! I'm sure they goaded each other on in that department ! 

Should I blame Lee Dai-won for those 300 plus moktong (korean carpenters charcoal line drawing tool ) ? Was he as unapologetic about such things as Tal was ?  I hope to compare stories at some point with Lee Daiwon's daughters ! 

Lee Dai-won was someone of happy generous nature. Friendship meant a great deal to him. Pop loved his laughter and would beam w delight when he looked at a photograph of his friend. 


On his friends passing 10 years ago, Lee Daiwon's wife, Lee Hyun Geum, asked Tal to make a memorial to his friend to be placed in somewhere on the farm

"Stairway to the Heavens", installed in 2008 was Tal's offering. 

On the granite base Tal etched the drawing of Lee Dai-won's very first studio.

Rising up through the pear trees via a transparent nearly invisible column of glass, a small stair reaches even higher into the sky and heavens above. 

We recently visited the piece, and Lee Dai-won's studio thanks to our friend, painter Kim Yong-chol, a close friend to both men, indeed a lien to this past friendship. 



Kim Yong-chol carefully tends the wikipedia entry and the facebook page devoted to Lee Dai-won. 

He was also responsible for the restoration of Tal's Endless Smile at HongIk University ! And quite a host with such an understanding spirit during our recent trip to Korea this past October 2015. Taking us out to Paju, meeting the curators out at the MMCA Gwangeon Museum responsible for Tal's Dragon Stair. Ooo and all that delicious eating! I'll share more on that at some point on my cooking and looking paris blog!     


Out in Paju, Lee Daiwon's son in law keeps the studio and farm as if his father in law had just stepped out and would be returning shortly.  A bottle of scotch is there at the entry shared with friends but a moment ago. 

Those Paju Pears were certainly the finest I've ever had. 






-Lissa in Paris. 

      








Dreaming of pears, apples, chestnuts and pumpkins...the things of fall. 
                                                                                   The smell of leaves and friends.

  
Earlier days 2008.

My mother and I send our special thoughts to the Lee girls and their families. We hope that Lee Hyun Geum is comfortable and is able to find peace. We were sorry to have missed seeing her. We have great memories of her too. Her strength and support of her husband was evident to all.    



 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Louise Nevelson : What does it Mean To Be an Artist ?

Forty plus years ago Tal Streeter interviewed the sculptor Louise Nevelson for his MFA thesis. 

He asked Nevelson : 

“What does it mean to be an artist?”

Her reply : 

"I think it is as important as any religion. It’s a different way of saying the same thing. They [priests] say it by allegory and words. We say it in a visual way, which is much more immediate, much more direct. . . . You’re given a gift to fulfill. You did not bargain for happiness; you bargained for something else. You bargained for revelation. You bargained for a closer concept of reality. And you bargained for your own sanity, I think, half the time. You’re really right down with the elements.”


Lissa in Paris 

Having returned from travel with Romig to Korea and Japan...visiting places and people important to her, to Pop. Sampling the generosity of others as they accompany my mother and I through this paradoxical process of simultaneously letting go and drawing closer to Tal Moon and his life's work. Soft rain outside as I write this. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

AMan’sPantsFallingOff: TheSecretsOfFlight

This is from a manuscript "Measuring The Sky" of Pop's written in the fall of 2003. LS 

Kites themselves are uncommonly special, but a vehicle, and like all vehicles, for me, it is the kite journey where kites lead the mind and the soul that make them so special. 

Even the simplest of kites on a short length of string have this ability to carry us deeper into the cosmos. 

A world-wide kite community has discovered this feeling: The universality of the language of kites is similar to that of music; distinctive in each culture, but sharing details in its roots, capable of bridging otherwise impassible chasms of language and cultural differences. 

These kite strings do indeed connect us, bringing us together, stretching around the globe, as one famous kite personality, Domina Jalbert, inventor of the parafoil, described kites, the foundation of a “Brotherhood of the sky.”

This is not about kites specifically, and only incidentally about a man’s pants falling off (though I recognize the gravity of a man’s pants falling off whenever and wherever that might occur). But there! 

We have stumbled upon the falling pants problem, one and the same, the interloper in the mansion of flight: Gravity! How do we escape, in a manner of speaking, if only briefly, gravity? And why was it such a long drawn out process, finally overcoming gravity, uncovering the secrets of flight?

One of Einstein’s useful aphorisms, “Everything is simple: But not too simple,” comes into play here, not just for kites, but the principles underlying everything, including things that fly. 

Once it was figured out for kites, an airplane was not far behind. And then it became possible for humans to flynot quite as freely as birds diving and flitting between the interwoven limbs of trees in the forest …but in their own way, flying very nearly anywhere one might imagine needing to go. 

These basic necessities of human flight, however, the “simple” elements of flight, as we are all well aware, were such a long time in revealing themselves, but once they were revealed, very soon, making up for lost time…human kind was able to walk on the surface of the moon.

Complicated, yet simple: The actual circumstances of flight’s discovery: complicated yet, on reflection, perhaps it too is simple.

I would like to believe it is entirely reasonable to imagine that the underlying principles of flight may have occurred in a manner not so dissimilar from the story that follows: wedged between the common occurrences of everyday life, in autumn when fall leaves live up to their name sake, falling. 

In this brief passage through the sky, the colorful fall leaves becoming one with their moving shadows on the ground; piling up, all a jumble; waiting for a family pet to acknowledge a question put it by its human companion; a person approaching or passing middle-age, pausing pondering the fall leaves; gaining a moment’s respite from the thoughts accompanying an expanding waist line, the embarrassing thoughts—perhaps only plausible and embarrassing in locals and times when pants were a common feature of clothing—of a man’s pants falling off.

In short, it is a fact that we can’t be at all certain where or when the revelations of flight signaled closure on one of the all-time great mysteries, but moving forward, then—postulating the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the common engine underlying the secrets of all flight, from birds, to kites, to airplanes—to one fall day, a day following the day when a man’s pants were in fact observed, stopping just short of falling off.

AMan’sPantsFallingOff

It was never easy for me, as an adult, to own up to the strange malady I came to associate with the autumn season.

Everyone in the Hudson Valley except me it seemed, looked forward to falling happily under autumn’s spell: Here and there among the maple-covered hillsides of the Hudson Valley, a small dab of orange soon to dazzle the eye with autumn’s Joseph Coat colors. People spill out of New York City’s steel and glass canyons, leaving behind city sophistication, willing to put up with countrified ways for the sake of enjoying the brilliant colors of New York’s countryside.

I don’t for a moment dispute autumn beauty. Without a doubt, it is spectacular. Having said this, I’m all the more perplexed to admit that autumn invariably marked the beginning of a depression, a descent for me, sending me “down in the dumps,” as such a malaise is too benignly portrayed. 

While others sprung out of bed ready to enjoy the colder fall weather, I preferred to sleep in, tucking myself further down under warm covers, the bedroom blinds pulled tight against the autumn light.Down under the covers, I reviewed earlier autumns.They hadn’t always been accompanied by this dull lethargy.

At the top of my list from childhood, my “ten, all-time favorite things” was the time spent with neighbors and my mother and father and later my brother, nine years younger, raking leaves into big piles, then setting them on fire. 

The tangy, acidic smell so peculiar to burning leaves was a special part of the treat: wanting to keep the tears and coughing at bay, to prolong the delicious olfactory fragrance. As the early evening light waned and the temperature went down a few degrees, the warmth of the fires drew everyone in close. 
     
Tiny orange sparks rose from the piles, doing a crazy dance, climbing helter-skelter, into the darkening sky. Running around, in an out of dense, gray clouds of smoke, our rakes were poised to stop errant wisps of fire from leaping our fire line. 

We called out through the smoke at each other, excitement in our voices, frightened by little fires that sped toward the bushes planted at the house foundation. Small clouds of moisture appeared and as suddenly disappeared in front of our faces.Our breaths sharing the same cold, tangy air drew us closer together. 

Actually, my love of fall leaf raking and burning memory extended even further back in time: younger still, the rake handle three times my height, I jumped and rolled in the fallen leaves heaped into big piles at intervals across our lawn. As far back as I can remember, the smell of burning leaves immediately turned this early home movie on in my brain.


In the light of my earlier happiest memories, my later adult fall maladies, the turn from joy to depression, caused me some consternation. The problem seemed to emanate from the pit of my stomach...to be continued ! 

Lissa's note: 

At some point the Dream of Flight Family will publish Measuring the Skin its entirety ! Thought you all might enjoy reading just a bit of it this fall 2015 .  Beautiful writing.   
Till then, 
Many Smiles !

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Tal Days. Remembering Our First Trip to Paris

August 1st. Pop's Birthday.

So yes, today I've been thinking about him. He would have been 81.


I've been walking around Paris with Helene N. She is almost sixteen and thinking about making fashion her future path. We were looking into how you research and come up with ideas and directions. Out in the world, bookstores, libraries, museums, collections of this or that, watching people in the street, noticing details of architecture in the street, leaves on a tree, a group of pebbles...stopping every so often to note something down or take a quick snapshot.

Because that was what Pop taught me, worked on with me. A long stream of consciousness, back and forth discussion together or just with ones self. Sleeping on the harder problems. Awaking to the next day's answer.

I made my first trip to Paris with him when I was sixteen ! Back then I was a serious 24/7 dancer but he said I was going to need a fall-back job. Why not fashion he said ? So I started filling notebooks with some kind of "designs", started making and transforming my own clothes. Developing a "look" personal to me. Started thinking about color. Experimenting with plant dyes...hunting for lichens, collecting onion skins from the school cafeteria.

He supported all of this. Even tho it was way outside of his own experience and interest. He looked into this new world with me. And taught me that fashion doesn't exist in a vacuum. It was all part and parcel of any culture. Fashion was influenced by literally everything happening around it. Architecture, theater, music, performance, sculpture, all fodder for fashion's insatiable appetite for the new.

Our trip to Paris was one of the few times when we went somewhere without Mom. Pop had been invited by the Herald Tribune to take part in the first kite festivals in Paris out in the Bois de Vincennes. In those days, you were not allowed to fly kites in Paris proper.

We stayed first in a hotel next to the Madeleine on the Right Bank. Ate delicious baked potatoes stuffed with bechamel and bits of ham at Fauchon "au comptoir' (wasn't the fancy spot it is today) and I had my first mini macaron. Then we moved across the Seine to the Left Bank and stayed in a place on Rue de Seine.

During the two weeks of our trip, I think we had three "normal" meals : one with the lovely lady from the Herald Tribune and her family at La Coupole. I had melt in your mouth lamb and creamed spinach with fresh nutmeg liberally grated in it. Gosh that was good ! Another dinner we had at Jackie M's house and met the most incredible woman there : an elderly Meret Oppenheim all dressed in black like a very large bat. She was someone that I idolized as an artist. And she definitely had her own "look" going. I was VERY impressed

The third dinner Pop and I had venturing into a restaurant on Rue de Seine near the hotel. Catastrophe ! I had no French then...so thinking I recognized the word for "lamb", got "rognons d'agneau". Lamb kidneys ! I'd eat them today with great pleasure but back in those days seeing one on a plate was quite a surprise ! Pop ordered Boeuf Bourguignon and said "I'll take care of dessert !" he ordered an Ile Flottante for two !

So what did we eat ? Pastries ! Five or six times a day. I don't remember having anything like a crepe or a croque monsieur or anything other than those baked potatoes and sweets. A special Tal diet.

Pop's favorites were giant billowing meringues. In fact that is all he ever chose. I, on the other hand tried all manner of chocolate cakes, lemon tartes, chestnut puree anythings, and those incredible macarons. My favorite thing, from a place on rue Moscou was a chocolate genoise with mint chocolate ganache, dark chocolate mirror glacage and one crystallized mint leaf on top...you don't see pastries like that anymore!

     


We walked everywhere. From one end of the city to the other. Pere Lachaise to Cimetiere de Montparnasse. We spent a lot of time in cemeteries. We visited the grave of Brancusi. And the grave stone he made for a young girl. From the Gate of The Kiss in Tirgu Jiu.



We spent hours sitting in the faithfully reconstructed Brancusi's studio at the recently opened Centre Pompidou. The experience I imagine was something like praying in church. yes ! Just sitting there! For hours! Surrounded by multiple versions of Endless Columns and the Birds in Space. Watching the light move around the room(s).    




We ventured into a theater (Theatre de Variete)  without a ticket (something you will all recognize as typical Tal behavior) watching from the peanut gallery unable to follow the plot beyond the idea that a chamber pot was something very funny especially if it as to be found in the living room when guests arrived.

Getting bored with the stage stuff, we went down into the empty rooms of the entr'acte bar. Red velvet and floor to ceiling.mirrors. I danced around for awhile. Felt like something out of Toulouse-Lautrec which we had seen at the creaky floored Jeu de Paume (long before it became a gallery for contemporary work) That was one of the only times I remember Pop looking carefully at any "painting'. The Monet haystacks. He loved those.  

Visiting the Louvre, we were very surprised to see the little etruscan statues that Giacometti's sculpture greatly resembled. Seemed a little too similar...He loved the case after case of the Egyptian shabti. I don't remember us seeing the Mona Lisa or indeed any of the painting. Long discussion in front of the Winged Victory of Samaranth. Pop was certain she was much improved without the arms.    


Hours were also spent in and around, up and down via elevator as well as walking, the Eiffel Tower.














Pop gave me a found treasure from that day which I still have. he swore he found it at the base of the west leg.  

 Ooo did I say it was all very exciting, every day ?

A heady time. Those Pop days in Paris.

- Lissa






           


  












 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Sebastião Salgado, John Berger : "The Sky is the only thing that can be appealed to in certain circumstances."

Many have seen recently "Salt of the Earth", the Wim Wenders documentary on Sebastião Salgado's work of the past twenty years "Genesis", his wife Leila and the renewal of life on their farm in the rainforests of Brazil. Romig sent me something about it today.

Salt of the Earth brings to mind the wonderful BBC documentary made in 2000 for Arena by John Berger called "The Spectre of Hope". Certainly worth a watch. Berger's poetic insight into these images is remarkable.

Berger says looking at Salgado's "Migrations":


"One is face to face with the tragic. And what happens in face of the tragic is that people accept it and cry out against it. Altho it won't change.

They cry out... to the Sky

The Sky is an important part of the work. People that have lost all sense of tragedy look at these pictures and say What a beautiful set ! What beautiful decor! What a well chosen moment ! But it isn't a question of that.

The Sky is the only thing that can be appealed to in certain circumstances.

Who listens to them in the sky ? 

Perhaps God? 

Perhaps the dead. Perhaps even history." 



Sebastião Salgado, John Berger ; BBC Arena "The Spectre of Hope" (2000)

I can't remember what Pop thought about Salgado's work. That escapes memory. I'm sure he would have been moved by the tragedy shown but also bv the positive tale of regeneration possible.

He would have been moved to tears. Of that I am sure. Our Tal Moon.

- L  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Here We Are. April 21, 2015

One year on. Slowly going through Pop's things. Organizing his things. All this as we both are going on with our lives. I've been getting to know some of his friends thanks to Pop's facebook page. People from all over the world with all kinds of interests and connection to Pop. It has been eye opening experience.

Some part of the kite world, some with Indian Circus, some with Manhattan Kansas connections, some from Korea and Hong Ik Arts University in Seoul where Pop's Endless Smile continues its life, beautifully cared and appreciated by the students and administration. Men (yes so far, just men!) that Pop mentored. I have many more brothers than Id previously thought !

Romig is potting, has gotten several physical things worked on this year like eyesight, lungs...

Best of all she has been potting. Whether in Santa Fe or Verbank her work continues at great speed, with enormous creativity. She is a great potter. 


Me? Still in Paris. Still working as a foodstylist.  Food photography has been a pretty volatile job in the past two or three years. Publishing, advertising and food photography have changed radically with the onset of the digital revolution. So am looking at the various paths opening/closing to me with this reality. I 've started a blog about what I do with food and "prop" styling : Cooking and Looking Paris ! it lacks a bit of direction but I'm learning a lot about the digital world and the possibilities in it. I hope Pop would be proud of that. 

It is my intention to publish all of his writing, books that he had prepared for publication on the Indian Circus, Domina Jalbert...there is an enormous amount. and I want to bring The Philosophers Kite, The Art of the Japanese Kite and A Kite Journey Through India, all those into the digital age. 

It's time to use ones inner creativity and to be open to new things/places/lives. Always the big question of how to find the courage or audacity to open new doors and close others. 

This was us in Pop's eye at the Grand Canyon the winter before his stroke. 



As many of you know that have seen me in the past few years, I've put on a a few more pounds. it is starting to go the other way now thank goodness. Thanks to the Pool and finding Contact Improvisation, the inner body, my inner body is feeling better out here in the world.  

David, my brother, once asked me whether that weight was kind of a protection or body armor and I think he might have a point. I used to joke about it and say "Am pregnant with myself !" What a laborious process it is to birth oneself  at 54 or 81 ! 

Losing Pop or the Pop we knew up until his ischemic brain attack four years ago, then finally his last self  has been quite a journey. Much of our early effort went into learning about his physical situation and how to deal with the anosognosia.

We tried to offer him as much of a "life" as he could manage! Calibrating that was so difficult for Mom and I.

I'm still so amazed at how she kept it all going. Keeps it all going! How she organized the everyday stuff and dealt with the realities of life at El Castillo. There were times when I worried that I might be saying goodbye to both my parents ! But that hasn't turned out to be the case.  I pretty much fell apart after his passing but she didn't. She really got herself going. Her energy level seems miraculous. It's hard to keep up with her!

Somehow we survived another year. And are moving on.  

We thank each and everyone of you that has contributed in some way to our rebirth and offering new paths with your friendship. Our family has evolved into such a large one ! What a fine tribe ! 

We couldn't have done it without your help, kindnesses, love and the creativity that you share/shared with us throughout this period. "Next week : New hope ! That's an old Flash Gordon line, I think.

Lissa and Romig