Jen's Blog

Honeymoon Heart Revival at Kingston Festival of the Arts

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

On Saturday, August 24th 2013,  Honeymoon Heart Revival presents a two-woman play  “Dear Johnny” at San Severia Tent as part of the Kingston Festival of the Arts. “Dear Johnny” is a love story and mythological warning tale set in contemporary times. Starring Jillian McManemin and Anna Neidermeyer, “Dear Johnny” paints a dark and cinematic picture of the self-indulgent landscape of aristocracy in New York City. The viewer is witness to a spectacular journey of romance gone truly awry as the naïve protagonist meets a horrible fate at the hands of her lover.

The Honeymoon Heart Revival is a collaborative team, based in NYC, between Anna Neidermeyer and Jillian McManemin. Through “The Honeymoon Heart Revival” Neidermeyer and McManemin seek to use their strengths to create textually rich plays, films, performances, and installations. Together they have participated in shows at Glasslands, CAA, Pratt Institute,  Brooklyn Fireproof, Strange Loop Gallery; Bureau of General Services-Queer Division and Bushwick Open Studios. Recently, both members participated in the making of “The Cruel Tale of The Medicine Man”, a feature film directed by Maria Beatty, written and produced by James Habacker.  “Dear Johnny” is their most recent theater piece that premiered at Dixon Place, NYC June 2013 and will be performed in the Hudson Valley for the first time at the Kingston Festival of the Arts.

About the Kingston Festival of the Arts:. The Kingston Festival of the Arts is an all inclusive city wide celebration of Arts and culture. With the entire City of Kingston as its canvas, it is an invitation  to creative individuals and groups from near and afar to add their unique voice to a day of exploration, fun and play. Kingston Festival of the Arts is produced by opera singer and Festival of the Voice founder,Kerry Henderson and curator Gloria Waslyn.  For more about the Festival please visit: Kingston Festival of the Arts website


Thursday, August 4th, 2011

by Ernst Schoen-René

In what remains my favorite Ibsen play, Peer Gynt (1867), Peer is a
man without a self. He gets on by imitating others—a slave trader, a
great lover, a woodsman, a troll, a married homesteader, an emperor, a
businessman—all of them illusory, and all of them ending in failures.
Toward the end of his life, Peer is confronted by the “Button Molder,”
who carries with him a giant ladle in which he melts men without
selves into the indifferent stuff out of which future men will be
made—much as a contemporary Norwegian wife might have melted down a
metal button in order to make a new one.
The Button Molder challenges Peer to find his essential “self,” but
Peer cannot. And he can no longer escape into his idle dreams. So he
picks up an onion and, reciting the many “selves” he has put on, peels
away its layers, looking for its central kernel. However, an onion
has no central kernel—just as Peer has no true self, and, at the
play’s end, Peer hovers on the edge of disaster.
Ibsen was sick of the stupid, illusion-driven, self-absorbed stuffed
shirts he saw around him in Norway. So he left Norway for Germany and
Italy, and turned to writing “realistic” fourth-wall dramas like A
Doll’s House, Ghosts, An Enemy of the People, and The Wild Duck
(recently on the boards as part of Bard’s SummerScape Festival).
However, his concern with empty selves continued.
The plays leading up to The Wild Duck all deal with
self-illusions–each one from a different angle
In A Doll’s House (1879), probably Ibsen’s best-known play, a woman
walks out on her stuffy, oppressive fool of a husband This was an
unthinkable action at the time, and one that made what Ibsen liked to
refer to as the “upright” members of proper Victorian society so
furious that most theaters refused to stage the play. Even Ibsen was
forced to re-write its ending.
So, in the next play, Ghosts (1881), Ibsen responds to the “upright”
people who attacked A Doll’s House—this time by depicting a woman who
does what such people would have had her do and stays married—only to
discover that her (now dead) husband has been a womanizer, that the
local vicar (her former suitor) is a moral windbag, that her maid is
her husband’s bastard daughter, and that her son has inherited
syphilis from his father (Ibsen thought this was possible) and has
come home a dying, “worm-eaten” (Ibsen’s term) shadow of his former
Syphilis—on a stage, perhaps in front of young women? Not on your
life! And so Ibsen continued to scandalize and to attack those who
wore false fronts and preached social conformity.
Ibsen’s next play, An Enemy of the People (1882), takes a
proto-muckraker not unlike Ibsen, one Doctor Stockmann, a health
officer who tries to tell the citizens of a small provincial town that
the very tourist hot springs on which their livelihood depends are
poisonous. In return, Stockmann’s house is stoned by the “upright”
people of the town, his children are attacked, he is publicly declared
an “enemy of the people,” and—at the last—he learns that his own
prosperity is based on stocks his family owns in the hot springs
Finally, in The Wild Duck (1884), Ibsen takes the realist/reformer
Dr. Stockman and turns him into Gregers Werle, a man who has made
“truth-telling” his own self-illusion, and whose actions destroy all
that is good in the lower-middle-class family to which he attaches
The play is dated, and making it succeed on a contemporary stage is
no easy task. This is partly because the very characters Ibsen (and
others) invented to attack society’s foolishnesses have come down to
our own time as the common stuff of family dramas and sitcoms,
characters such as the out-of-it father, the sensible wife, the
precocious child, the doddering grandparent, the drunken neighbor, the
crazy man down the street, the meddling busybody, and the contented
older couple.
So, while in Ibsen’s day the play was much more nearly a tragedy,
today, it comes at one as if it were a comedy. Indeed, Bard publicity
referred to it as a “comic tragedy.”
Despite the challenges, translator David Eldridge, director Caitriona
McLaughlin, and a fine crew of actors pulled off an absorbing and
effective production, one made all the more impressive when compared
to the poorly received over-modernization of “A Doll’s House”
currently playing in New York.
They also succeeded in finding that middle ground in Ibsen
characterization—someplace between realistically human and satirically
exaggerated. Playing with a Nixonian hunch, Sean Cullen made a fine,
easily led Hjalmar Ekdal; Mary Bacon, a perky, feet-on-the-ground
Gina; Liam Craig, a world-weary philosopher/skeptic Dr. Relling, and
Rachel Cora, an excellent 14-year-old Hedwig. And further praises
could go to practically any other member of the cast—truly an
impressive show.
And finally, one must note Ibsen’s brilliant use of the Ekdal attic,
filled as it is with remnants of the sorts of the forest Grandfather
Ekdal (Peter Malony) used to hunt in—and the unable-to-fly titular
wild duck. This attic represents the Ekdal psyche and, as such, the
illusion of freedom—for people who, like most of us, possess fragile
outer selves and cannot take too much truth. Old Ekdal spends most of
his day there, daughter Hedwig (who is still innocent) visits the wild
duck there, and the illusion-destroying “realist,” Gregers Werlel
(Dashiell Eaves), wants nothing more than to destroy it.
Does this brilliantly realized play have anything to say to today’s
world? I mean, do we have any among us who are boxed in by the
“selves” they have chosen to put on? Of course not. Here, in
21st-century America? Unimaginable!
–Ernst Schoen-René

COMRADE MARX A review by Ernst Schoen-René

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Sid Norinsky’s “Comrade Marx,” which played a few weeks ago as part of Kingston’s ASK Play-Reading series, is a terrific work, the best full-length drama I have witnessed there for at least four years.

It has to do with a little-remembered 1871 meeting of various left-wing groups at an equally little-remembered London pub called Jack Straw’s Castle.  The subject might seem inauspicious, but what happened there (and at other occasions drawn into the play), had world-shaking results.  It also has surprisingly compelling messages for our own time.

Jack Straws Castle

Norinsky focuses equally well on two aspects of the events taking place—first, the local color and characters of those present, and, second, the essential battle taking place between two significant political systems—Anarchism, as represented by the Russian Anarchist Michael Bakunin, and Communism, as represented by the Prussian-born Karl Marx—both of whom are present.

The resolution of this larger conflict, as well as the local color and the engaging characters draw one in.

Jack Straw Castle’s publican (bartender) and his wife, Tommy and Maggie Atkins, are likable British working-class types.  She sings left-wing songs as she bustles about, while he converses with all comers, including a deliveryman for a local brewer, an American reporter (Robert Landor, of the New York World), and a young 20-year-old, who comes from the telephone company and asks if it would be possible to place a telephone pole on the pub’s property.  This latter, it turns out, is none other than a youthful George Bernard Shaw.

Others include Bakunin, Marx, Marx’s youngest daughter, Eleanor, who is an aspiring actress and who will have a stormy affair with Shaw in years to come, George Odger, a British labor leader, Elizabeth Dmitrieff, a survivor of the bloody put-down of the Paris Communes in 1871, and Sergei Nechaev, a young anarchist terrorist—with an itchy trigger finger, and a price on his head.

The tensions among such characters drive the action, and the Battle between Marx and Bukanin slowly takes center stage and plays out in action that is at once tense and politically informative.

There is a distinct difference between Anarchism and Communism as political systems.  Anarchism’s primary thrust is for the breaking down of individual entities—farms, governments, factories—and the re-creating of smaller communes that carry on in respectful harmony with one another.

Marxist Communism, on the other hand, deals with society on a grander basis—arguing for a so-called “dictatorship of the proletariat” that—of necessity—calls for a “leader” who will govern until a utopian society is created.  Bakunin understood what this meant all too well:

“They [the Marxists] maintain that only a dictatorship—their dictatorship, of course—can create the will of the people, while our answer to this is: No dictatorship can have any other aim but that of self-perpetuation, and it can beget only slavery in the people tolerating it; freedom can be created only by freedom, that is, by a universal rebellion on the part of the people and free organization of the toiling masses from the bottom up.  While both social anarchists and Marxists share the same final goal, the creation of a free, egalitarian society without social classes and government, they strongly disagree on how to achieve this goal.

Anarchists believe that the classless, stateless society should be established by the direct action of the masses, culminating in social revolution and refusing any intermediate stage—such as the dictatorship of the proletariat

on the basis that such a dictatorship will become a self-perpetuating fundament.”

For Bakunin, the fundamental difference between the two is that, for the Anarchists, “anarchism or freedom is the aim,” while, for the Communists, “temporary” dictatorship is the means, and so, in order to free the masses, they have first to be enslaved.

Me, I would side with the Anarchists on this one.  Nonetheless, it is Marx who connives—by means of several slippery tricks–to win the battle and get Bakunin thrown out of the major labor organization of the time, the International.  And this is what we see take place in Norinsky’s play.

One is left wondering how Communism won the battle and came to be the leading leftist force of the Twentieth Century.  Personally, I feel Communism’s later success derives from human laziness.  While Anarchism calls for individuals to undertake their own individual struggle for freedom—in shops, in local governments, in smaller collectives—Marxist Communism promises to save the individual all that trouble by turning the movement for change over to a dictatorship.

History and millions of deaths have shown us how well the latter works.  And history has also shown us how easily human laziness combined with simplistic political idealism can lead to enslavement and disaster.  Does that fact not have a good deal to say about our political situation today?

As Montaigne observed, roughly 400 years before our time: “Nothing is so firmly believed as what is least known.”  Look about you and see the ignorant believers that surround you.  Or, find a home for Norinsky’s excellent study of the subject.

Art Collaboration: Ross Bleckner Re-Defines Crystal for Steuben

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011


Art Collaboration: Ross Bleckner Re-Defines Crystal for Steuben


"Ross Bleckner artist with his design collaboration, Interaction"

Artist Ross Bleckner Stands in the Foreground of His Steuben Designer Collaboration Piece, Interaction

There is a time-honored tradition of artists working together with fine craftsmen to create beautiful art. Old Masters such as Peter Paul Rubens partnered with engravers and modern masters such as Pablo Picasso collaborated with top artisans in a variety of media to create ceramics, prints and sculptures. In this spirit, Ross Bleckner has undertaken his first art collaboration in glass with the venerable crystal house Steuben. The confluence of the brilliant crystal glass medium and Mr. Bleckner’s luminous art is a powerful addition to Matisse, Cocteau, Dali, O’Keefe, Noguchi and other 20th century artists whose designs have already been commissioned by Steuben since its inception in 1903.

Ross Bleckner’s work has long dealt with fragility of life, with light, and abstraction through extreme representation. His paintings convey poetry, luminosity and an attention to technique that has earned him the respect as a modern master. Mr. Bleckner’s subject matter shifts from the micro-cellular level to the vast stellar cosmos bridging the gap between large and minute. His message is the experience of the mind grasping what is too large or too small to see and the fragility of human consciousness that is dependent on these unseen forces for its existence. Together with Steuben’s unique prismatic crystal glassmaking that captures, reflects and refracts light and the ironic fragile nature of the crystal’s solid weight, the art collaboration is well suited to Ross Bleckner’s aesthetic preoccupations.

"Forgotten designed by artist Ross Bleckner"

"Forgotten" designed by artist Ross Bleckner

The artist was commissioned by Steuben to create three designer collaboration pieces: a sculpture for Steuben’s permanent museum collection, a limited edition series, and an accessible line of small glass figurines. The main piece is a huge 200lb slab of crystal entitled “Interaction”. This sculpture maps the human DNA in layered glass depicting the building block of life as entrapped molecules floating in a luminous red sea. Ross Bleckner’s crystal glass sculpture “Pharmakinetic”, cast in an edition of 12, is an enlarged molecule of a psychotropic drug imposing in its transparency, capturing and amplifying the surrounding light as its form shifts in a surreal optical interaction with its encompassing glass cube. The Ross Bleckner engraved crystal figurine “Forgotten” is a coffin lid in solid crystal. The small scale (2.25” x 4.75”) belies the immensity of its tragic message ennobled by the seemingly insubstantial glass form.

"Pharmakinetic by Ross Bleckner – the second piece from the artist collaboration with Steuben"

Pharmakinetic- An artist collaboration with Ross Bleckner and Steuben

Artists collaborating with master craftsmen create new opportunities for expression both for the art and for the medium. Because of its heavy nature, crystal forms have size limitations, yet Ross Bleckner pushed the physical constraints of glass with his immense “Interaction”. Instead of working with crystal as a functional art (for example, etching the surface of a plate or vase as artists have traditionally done with glass) Mr. Bleckner has created sculpture whose only purpose is to interact with its environment. The power of Mr. Bleckner’s art overcomes the fragile nature of the glass medium rendering it invincible, while Steuben’s crystal craftsmanship discovers a new facet of modern expression through this art collaboration with Ross Bleckner.


Supporting Wildlife Conservation through Art

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Lion by Clint Matheny

Steuben Holds Silent Auction to Help Endangered Species

African Wildlife Conservation doesn’t seem to have much to do with the public arts or art exhibits. Most art exhibits are well-publicized public events that last for a few weeks and are kicked-off with an opening party attended by friends and art patrons. But there is also another kind of art exhibit that is a bit more ephemeral lasting only 24 hours and the gala opening serves as the closing as well. These one-nighters are silent art auctions for charity and one has to be lucky to find out about the event in order to attend. Generally speaking, the silent auction is not advertised to the public but to a targeted select list of collectors and it isn’t easy to find out where they may be happening. But in the case of a recent show at Steuben on behalf of the  African Wildlife Foundation, the search was worth it! 



Endangered Animals in Africa Protected by Crystal

The theme of the evening was wildlife conservation and protecting endangered species. As makers of the world’s finest crystal and glass, Steuben has a long history of recreating the natural world in crystal and its collaborative relationships with artists such as Kiki Smith, is an appropriate fine arts sponsor for the African Wildlife Foundation Fundraiser. The AWF is dedicated to rebalancing the relationship between mankind and the endangered animals found in the fragile landscape of Africa and the silent auction artists were chosen for the expression of their empathy with the animal world in their art. And the roster was impressive!     

Photography of Wildlife & Original Art

Upon first entering the Steuben gallery, one was confronted by Gina Magid’s large watercolor on paper of a ephemeral tiger and his powerful reflection in the water below. Next, was Hunt Slonem’s vigorous painting of a parrot and a Karen Heagle nude being suggestively visited by a snake rendered in ink wash. The Hilton Brothers (Chris Makos and Paul Solberg) created a visceral sensation with their photo diptych of a massive horse’s chest paired with a fragile stem of eucalyptus. John Huba, Jean DeBartolo and Robin Rice donated magnificent images of endangered elephants and the wildlife photography of Sheila Metzner, Richie Williamson and Clint Metheny were represented by lions in their natural African habitat. Wayne Maser, Marie Havens, Peter Bogardus and William Coupon turned their camera lens towards the people of the endangered African habitat, capturing the fragile harmony of mankind with his environment.     

Gallery at Steuben Glass

Gina Magrid painting on paper hanging in the Steuben Gallery

The artists who donate to a charity fundraiser, such wildlife preservation, offer an opportunity for the buyer to not only purchase their work at a discount (if they are lucky) but also receive a tax-deduction from the IRS. Non-profit organizations depend on the generosity of artists who believe in their causes as an important resource in their fundraising. In exchange, the artists get to donate to causes they find compelling and the union of cause, ethics, and belief creates a powerful event that echoes long after the evening is over. In an interview with Lesley Hauge and Sian Ballen for the New York Social Diary, Hunt Slonem says about animals “They’re here to comfort us….they are here to help us.” And it is imperative that mankind helps endangered animals and contribute to wildlife preservation.     

A good online resource for finding out about upcoming charity events in the New York City area is by checking: 

Additional Wildlife Protection Efforts

In addition to the silent auction to support African Wildlife conservation Steuben has introduced The Big 5 Collection. To support these endangered habitats of these species, from September through December 10% of all proceeds from these designs will benefit the African Wildlife Foundation. Steuben has also begun a social effort to bring awareness to the need to protect the Big 5 on Facebook with a cause campaign. More information regarding theCause to Protect the Big 5 can be found on the Steuben Facebook page at (more…)

Nadja Petrov and “6 of 1 and Half Dozen of the Other”

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

When Fionn Reilly first approached me about a show at 11 Cross Gallery, he mentioned he wanted to do an installation together with Nadja Petrov.  I was immediately intrigued as I hadn’t seen Nadja’s work in a while but her elegant, intricate, and energetic style had always stuck with me.  How would Fionn, with his iconic confrontationalism harmonize with the subtle humming of Nadia’s art? Once I arrived at Ms. Petrov’s, it became clear how it would all come together.

Work in Progress on Nadja Petrov's drawing table

On her drawing table was one of the pieces she was working on for “6 of 1 and Half Dozen of the Other” , the upcoming installation at 11 Cross Gallery with Fionn.  It was not a large drawing but across its fine surface was a series of beautiful ink lines, almost etched into the paper with the kind of precision you would imagine a glass engraver would utilize.  But its the lines themselves that are so amazing- each one having what I like to call a “noun and a verb” – in otherwords, the lines have a particular character and they move in a specific manner.   Like artful traffic, they swerve carefully in their appointed directions and designated velocity until they form an active pattern of a bigger world.  It would be like a weaving except there isn’t a concrete form that is loomed but rather the white of the page itself is carved and suspended, the small irregular negative spaces sparkling like stars or rippling like waves on a windy lake.  I remembered the black and white photographs I had seen earlier in the week at Fionn Reilly’s studio/gallery on 212 (the old Lucky Chocolate’s building)- the abstract textures created by buildings and vegetation, the vibration that comes from restraint and suddenly the vision for “6 of 1 and Half Dozen of Another” was all coming together.  This upcoming show has truly been  created by these two artists- in this instance, at the opening this Sat June 5, 5-8 and during the entire run thru June 27th, I will be merely the enabler!

Nadja Petrov's Studio

As if all of this wasn’t enough, the night before Nadja and Fionn’s opening, 11 Cross Gallery is sponsoring another show at the Emerson Resort about 20 miles away in Mount Tremper.   Not only will this opening showcase area artists but it will be an inauguration for a new tradition of art presentation and exhibition for this luxury hotel.   So it has been like going holiday shopping to visit artist studios and find work to fill the two enormous gallery spaces combined creating about 2000 square feet of space!  Fortunately, Nadja did her part and is loaning me 2 large paintings about the color red and all its harmonies.  I shared with her that my son had recently told me women have evolved to be much more sensitive to variations in the color red than men are.  Scientists supposed women developed this ability as gatherers of berries and this sensitive  knowledge would keep their families from getting sick from fruit that wasn’t ripe enough or berries that could be fatal.  These paintings are richly in tune with this evolutionary predisposition of understanding of red and can be viewed starting this Friday, June 4 (Opening 5-9) thru June 27th at the Emerson Resort on Route 28.

Studio Visit: Claude Carone

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
courtesy John Davis gallery

image courtesy of John Davis Gallery, Hudson NY

I met Claude for the first time at the opening of North of New York: The New York School Generation in the Hudson Valley Region . His father, Nicolas, is in the Kleinert exhibiton as he is an early New York School Abstract Expressionist and is part of the New York School circle that also maintained a studio in the Catskills.  I am always intrigued to see the artwork of painter- families like Orazio and his daughter Artemisia Gentileschi,  Giambattista Tiepolo and his son Domenico, or Sir Terry Frost and his two sons, Adrian and Anthony.  It is a natural progression as painting is in essence an apprenticeship best learned as an immersion experience and what can be more total than a child growing up in a parent’s studio?  But although there may be similiar themes as parents and children live in the same century and share the same temporal cultural vibe, the soul is often very different because of person and experience.

The paintings of Claude Carone, like his father’s, are abstract but the similarity ends there.   While Nicolas seems to embrace the freshness of post-war America (New York City in particular), Claude evokes a timeless Italian classicism.  Looking at his work, I felt the same kind of environmental honing that is only produced by centuries of living in the same place: the continual perfecting of the land by plowing, planting and building only to be torn down again by war or weather and re-asserted in a more precise way again and again.  The result is a perfect balance of what is and what was and a vitality that is charged by the interchangeability between a form and its space.  Some  paintings have a measured pace in the calm breathing of large gently tumbling forms,  and some a more panting excitement as color ricochets off one edge onto another – either way, there is never an awkward imbalance or irritable inconsistency but always a rational resolution between shapes and a comforting energy generated by a true love of pigment.

Claude Carone Studio

Claude Carone's Studio

Claude will be showing in “Another Circle” at the Emerson Resort opening Friday, June 4, 5-9 thru Sunday, June 28th

North of New York: The New York School Generation in the Hudson Valley Region

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

Artists who live in orbit of New York City are drawn, whether they acknowledge it or not, by the energy of the New York School of painting.  Formed by the abstract expressionist generation of the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s, The New York School broke ground in direct painting.  That generation of painters made the brushwork the true subject of a painting which was in direct opposition from the historic need to have mark-making be at the service of an idea.

It was a seismic shift that created the tremors the art culture still rocks from today. Up until now, much has been made of the Hudson River School but not many shows have focused on the New York School and their connection to the Woodstock area. In the exhibit, North of New York: The New York School Generation in the Hudson Valley Region, Curator Mark Kanter is finally tracing the art network  of  New York School artists who also found repose in the Catskills.  Like all remarkable shows, this exhibit must be revisited again and again until it closes on June 13 to fully absorb all the levels that this art presents.  It has given me the idea to present an exhibit of present day area abstract artists and “consider their origins” in the New York School.

To see some excellent reproductions of the show, click here


Fionn Reilly: Image Factory

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

Image Factory

About halfway on the drive west on Rt.212 from Saugerties to Woodstock, there is a small plaza hosting a British Deli, a couture design studio, and a brand new art gallery “The Image Factory”. Photographer Fionn Reilly has taken over a renovated gas station and made not only a home for his work but also revolving exhibits of other fine art photographers.  The space is beautiful with soft natural light, big windows and subtle reminders of the vintage gas station it once was.   Photographs of old, rusting cars glaring out of the woods juxtaposed with the direct gaze of young women make an immediate confrontational encounter: the cars, a memory of the gallery as garage, and the girls, post-modern pin-ups from an old mechanic’s calendar. Fionn is not a voyeur sneaking around his subjects or peeking behind some imaginary curtain, instead he sharply engages the world  in a relentless stare-down. Even though his prints are large, the images are much bigger than their paper and I was surprised to measure one out and find it was  a foot smaller than I though it was.

Old Car

In this age of digital photography, the art of film photography can be under-appreciated but when you look at the surface and patina of these large prints, you can’t help but re-appreciate the superiority of film over digital:  The depth of field, the richness of color, the continuous tone.  And when photography is art, you forget it is a photograph when it seeks you out, slaps your face, challenges you to a visual duel and demands satisfaction.

Fionn Reilly is also having a show at 11 Cross Street Gallery with Nadia Petrov “6 of 1 and half dozen of the other” opening Sat June 5, from 5-8.
Mr. Reilly’s website:

Studio Visit: Robert The

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

I don’t think I have ever met a more enigmatic artist than Robert The.  First of all, he was part of the “Rock &” show, howbeit under a pseudonym.  His participation was shrouded in a conceptual mystery which only became clear at the exhibition opening.  Beforehand, Robert had carefully arranged about 35 peices of Chert (rock that was used by  Native Americans to make arrowheads and the early settlers for flints) gathered from a source near Allen Ginsberg’s home in Cherry Valley.  The jagged shards (“Tradeable Goods” ) were priced at $1,000.00 each and it was clear that where Robert arranged them was where they would stay.  At first, I was a bit confused but the reputation of Mr. The was such that I put my trust in his judgement and hoped for the best.  During the opening, as fellow artist LDDD was reciting a poem to the accompaniment of drums and a digeridoo, Robert slowly walked through the darkness and lay down on the bed of sharp rocks.  I watched him carefully, thinking this would be a 15 minute exercise at most but he remained there for a full hour, took a break, and then resumed his position for most of the evening and well into the night.

Tradeable Goods by Are The

The performance ennobled the sculpture and revealed the thoughtful theory (with a dash of whimsy) which is at the core of Robert’s work.  As a verbal intellectual who is fluid in art history and philosophy, it is easy to worry that Mr. The may encumber and entangle the visual experience of his artwork with the wordiness of ideas but he avoids that by allowing philosophy to stand seperately, side by side to his sculpture and draws independent,  parallel relationships.  Yes, its a bed of rocks AND  a place for repose. Chert is historically used as a component for weapons AND it can suspend the gravity of the human body.  Chert is inert yet this chert was energized near where Ginsberg wrote “Howl”.  In creating this experience, the artist gives these extra dimensions to the reality of his work.  In a way, by lying on a bed of jagged rocks, he spares us the discomfort of having to do so ourselves.  I would venture to say that Mr. The’s motivation is a deep love for the world that inspires him and gives his art the humanistic meaning that we wouldn’t understand without his self-scarifice.

are the rests on Esopus Chirt installation

Naturally, I didn’t know what to expect with a studio visit to Robert’s Kingston factory space.  What does an artist with such a conceptual bent have in their workplace?  How does a studio manifest thoughts and ideas like the ones this artist is sorting out? Well, I should have known that it would be filled with books- “These are my crayons” I am told and it is true.  If not used for their ideas and inspiration, the books are literally used to make sculpture.  I am introduced to a piece in progress that is a commission for the permanent collection of a prominent mid-Western University.  It is a book that is being carved into a lobster.  And the carving isn’t any kind of superficial cookie cutter “cutting and stamping” but a deliberate, precise, razorsharp, proprietory technique developed by Mr. The that calls to mind the rare hand-crafts made obsolete by the advent of mechanics and computer guided machinery.  This lobster configured from a red hard-cover book called “Art of the Masters” evokes an immediate smile for its whimsy but also admiration for its fierceness.  The viewer contemplates the life of a lobster, the absurdity of its form, and the sacrifice of this amazing crustacean so we can have a meal.  The parallel between the beast and the artist is clear and the fact of the creature being made of a book reveals the words and ideas that are the backbone of art.

Booklobster 2010

Book Lobster- Art of the Masters photo: R. The

Other carved work abounds: a scorpian made from an “Art Forum” magazine, the letter “B” from a book about Bad Hair, and guns of every type- perfect replicas of handguns, of shotguns and rifles- made from a variety of texts that present a darker idea of the lethal power of words.  There is a reason why Robert The is in some of the most important collections in the art world: he has put his life on the line for his ideas and the passion shows.  For more work of Mr. The’s, go to: