Welcome to Pine Hill by Keith Miller

Welcome to Pine Hill

After a year of touring and winning countless prizes, including the Grand Jury Prize at the Slamdance Film Festival, I saw Welcome to Pine Hill, written, directed and edited by my former professor, Keith Miller.

If there was one thing I learned from Miller, it was to go with what challenges arose and work through them, to explore new territory. This film, in its creation and its narrative, does exactly that. Miller first met the star of the film, Shanon Harper, through a chance encounter, a scene that opens the film. We then follow Harper through his reformed life as an insurance claims adjuster and his diagnosis of cancer.

Throughout the film there is a beauty in the silence, in what is unsaid, much akin to a Kelly Reichardt film. Miller’s outlook, however, is that of empathy and understanding. He sees Harper as someone dealing with the circumstances, navigating heightened realities, and confronting his death. Harper eventually finds peace and the viewer is left to stew in his mortality.

All in all, from a chance encounter to a full-length film, Miller explores the many paths in life and how we should set aside our differences.

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Ovarian Cancer National Alliance

Ovarian Cancer National Alliance Zumba Class

My friend Alison Devenny, board member of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (OCNA) and founder of its Junior Committee, recently hosted a Zumba workout class to raise awareness about OCNA and its mission to increase public and professional understanding of ovarian cancer and to advocate for more effective diagnostics, treatments, and a cure.

Alison is an intelligent, caring, and driven woman who first got involved with OCNA when friend and mentor, Judy Abrams was looking for a way to increase the involvement of young people with the organization. Knowing that it could be a powerful tool, Alison started the Junior Committee with the charge of bringing on members of the Millennial Generation and having them be an active force within the organization. They started with a small group of young professionals with a passion for philanthropy and now have a group of 30 active members who have planned more than 15 charity events including walks, galas, shopping nights and fitness events in New York City.

Alison DevennyWith the success of the Junior Committee, Alison was asked to join the Board of Directors in 2010 as their youngest member ever. She now has the unique experience of leading the Junior Committee in New York and working as a member of the board focusing on fundraising and advocacy on a national level. Through her work, Alison says she is continually inspired by the passion and grace of the ovarian cancer survivors she meets and the community of leaders and advocates who work on the behalf of women everywhere.

All in all, I am inspired by Alison and the work she does on behalf of OCNA. I invite you to check out the Junior Committee’s website for upcoming events and ways to get involved.

Ovarian Cancer National Alliance:
Based in Washington DC, The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance is a patient-led, umbrella organization uniting ovarian cancer activists, women’s health advocates and health care professionals in the effort to increase public and professional understanding of ovarian cancer and to advocate for more effective diagnostics, treatments and a cure. Key activities include an annual national conference, a public education program targeted to women and primary care physicians, and training programs to help survivors become effective advocates and spokespeople for the disease.

Ovarian Cancer:

  • Ovarian Cancer is the deadliest gynecological cancer. There is no cure and no early detection test. There are symptoms and understanding these symptoms is a powerful tool for women to protect themselves.
  • The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2013, about 22,240 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed and 15,500 women will die of ovarian cancer in the United States.
  • While the 10th most common cancer among women, ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related death among women, and is the deadliest of gynecologic cancers. Mortality rates are slightly higher for Caucasian women than for African-American women.1
  • A woman’s lifetime risk of developing invasive ovarian cancer is 1 in 72.

Symptoms

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)

While most women will experience these symptoms at some point in their lives. Women are encouraged to consult their doctor if they experience any of the above symptoms for a period of more than two weeks.

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Meryl Tankard: The Oracle at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts

Meryl Tankard’s The Oracle starring Paul White is a mastery in the limits of the human form and its relation to the mind.

With its point of departure as Vaslav Nijinsky’s The Rite of Spring with the score by Igor Stravinsky, Australian native, Meryl Tankard presents a multimedia and solo performance that is wildly expressive yet contained. The star, Paul White, is in control of his every movement even as he expresses desire, excitement, confusion, and despair.

The opening reveals a kaleidoscopic view at our protagonist, each angle of the body morphing into another, creating abstract forms and recognizable shapes. Then we find White center stage, repeating the undulating choreography of Nijinsky in only white briefs. He continues through many phases of choreography, with his costuming changing, with interaction to the projection behind him, with interplay with light, and finally in the nude with a white powder trailing him.

White’s body is incredible. Unlike any other male dancer I have seen before. But more than that, he has the ability to flow seamlessly through the choreography, hitting the deepest poses and maneuvering to the next with fluidity. One does not realize how challenging the movement is.

And this must be attributed to Tankard, the former ballerina and Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal dancer. Her choreography and artistic vision weave through time periods, physical limitations, and man’s need to satisfy desire.

All in all, I found myself in admiration of this piece for honoring an historic piece of dance and advancing the the medium through presentation, choreography and dancing.

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How to enjoy and/or have an existential crisis in Istanbul

Sea of Marmara, Island of Buyukada, Istanbul, Turkey

Sea of Marmara, Island of Buyukada, Istanbul, Turkey

This past New Year’s I went to Istanbul, Turkey to visit my friend, Nico. My friend, Erica, also joined in on this trip. The three of us, with our individual variations on the “quarter-life crisis” (plus my horrible cough) managed to explore one of the world’s most fascinating cities. Here is a series of photographs that captures the various moods throughout my week-long trip:

Istanbul, Turkey

Four Cool Cats in Istanbul

Dancing in a Turku bar in Istanbul until 5:30am

Hagia Sophia

Turkish cuisine

Turkish crisis

Galata Bridge, Istanbul, Turkey

How to win at backgammon in Turkey

Galata Tower and a Sea Gull

The Grand Bazaar

Maria Kucinski Istanbul

Istanbul Sunset

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Post-Sandy Reopening of the South Street Seaport Museum and Bowne & Co.

Bowne and Co Custom Print ShopLast night, I attended the reopening of the South Street Seaport Museum and the print shop, Bowne & Co. Founded in 1775, Bowne & Co. is New York’s oldest existing business under the same name and thankfully, it survived Sandy.

Bowne and Co Sandy Recovery

As I mentioned in my post about Sandy, my friend Ali Osborn is the Resident Printer at Bowne & Co. located in the South Street Seaport. The print shop filled with antique equipment was inundated with two feet of salt water. This would have been enough to damage any business, but with the thousands of historic wooden and metal type and the wooden drawers housing prints, it was a disaster.

Bowne and Co Sandy Recovery

So Ali, with the help of Assistant Printer Gideon Finck and other members of the museum staff, and volunteers, worked to recover and restore as much as they could. They had to go through more than 100 drawers, washing and drying off each individual piece of type. Then, they had to hope that the wood wouldn’t bow – otherwise, the type would be useless for printing.

Unknown Roman

Almost three months after the storm, the print shop has reopened. Returning to its normal business of custom letterpress printing orders and creating original, hand-printed cards, posters, and coasters for sale in their shop and at the South Street Seaport Museum.

Bowne and Co

It was wonderful to see the shop restored with new prints lining the walls. Many people came out to show their support of the historic company and even Mayor Mike Bloomberg stopped by, reiterating the importance of this institution in New York City.

Ali Osborn at Bowne and Co

Among the various prints on display, there were posters that said “New York,” a postcard of an art deco the New York City skyline, and a note card with a ship in a bottle. Bias aside, my favorite piece was Ali’s There, There. With delicate humor and smart sensibility, the large text sits atop various maps in this edition.

All in all, it is great to see an organization dedicated to preserving the history of this technology and furthering it as an art form.

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Pink Happens: A Conversation with Joan Snyder

Joan Snyder in her studio with unfinished Proserpina 2012

Joan Snyder in her studio with unfinished Proserpina. 2012.

I am going to preface this post by saying – you just never know. You never really know what’s next and you never know what kinds of people you will encounter in your life.

I found myself on the brink of my birthday feeling sentimental, reflecting on what had happened in the past year and what I was to look forward to in the upcoming year. After my amazing road trip through the Midwest in my Chevy Camaro, I was itching for the next adventure, the next challenge. I found myself thinking, what’s next?

And that’s when I got to know Joan Snyder – a talented artist but also a woman that I could admire and respect. And so, in my never-ending search for life advice, I asked her to answer a few questions for this blog.

At first, I was excited about this interview with Joan. Then, I was nervous that I would sound stupid. Then, when I had thought of questions to ask her, my research answered all those questions. Then, with some advice from a good friend, I decided to look inward and see if there might be an angle of Joan Snyder that had not been covered by the multitude of interviews she has done during her lifetime. I thought I had the answer by asking more reflective questions, but she was way ahead of me. Turns out, Joan has all the answers and all the right questions to see what it is that drives you. And she has the compassion to look after every one. Even me.

From a woman who has it all – what does someone like me do? Here is the conversation that I had with Joan Snyder in her studio in Brooklyn on December 10, 2012.

Pink Happens: A Conversation with Joan Snyder

Maria Kucinski: What did you envision your life to be like?

Joan Snyder: I remember at one point when I was really young, thinking that I wanted to have it all. What “all” meant to me, I don’t know – but I think I wanted to try everything.
I never, as a young woman, thought of myself as being gay, that’s for sure. But that interested me because I did feel a certain attraction to women.
And I didn’t know that I wanted to have a kid. In fact, I aborted my first pregnancy. And then, I really suffered after that and regretted it. So I got pregnant again and then had a miscarriage, it was a late miscarriage and that was very difficult. And then I got pregnant with Molly – so I was basically pregnant for three years in a row. During that time, I never stopped painting.
As far as my art and career, I knew that when I started painting – and I was not a good painter at all in the beginning – I always say it took me 8 years before I made a good painting (Lines And Strokes, 1969)… but I knew that it was something that I was going to be really good at. I just knew that instinctively and it’s not as if I was really good at anything before that.
I’m still very anxious, but I was a really anxious kid and teenager. When I started painting I realized that this could be a language that I would be able to develop and speak. Then something clicked miraculously. And I took it seriously and my work developed over many years. I wasn’t looking for fame or fortune, or anything…but it happened – I have been very lucky. Of course, it came with a lot of very hard work.

MK: How did you get through those tough moments in your life?

JS: Suffering…living with a lot of anxiety…therapy…which oftentimes was not useful. That’s an understatement. I ended up having an affair with my therapist when I was in my 40’s. Crazy. Really crazy. But my therapists often kind of fell for me in ways that were not healthy for me. Over and over…

MK: You say that approaching a painting is like approaching an altar, can you say something about that?

JS: Well, I know that when I was in graduate school, my final thesis stated that my work was my religion. I have made a lot of altar paintings but I can’t say that the metaphor really works today that easily – although every painting is exciting and serious and I feel very devoted to each work. They are more reflections, personal expressions than anything religious.
It’s a language that I am speaking. That is what young artists sometimes don’t understand. It takes many years to develop the language. It is like a baby learning to speak. You have to be able to make mistakes and sound stupid and do ridiculous things but you really are developing a language that hopefully doesn’t exist yet. It’s something new and different. So, for me, that’s what I have been up to over the years, developing and speaking this language.

MK: So with this language, do you know what it is that you ultimately want to say?

JS: Ah, well, it always starts from somewhere and then goes to other places because what I might be thinking in my head as a topic for a painting doesn’t always stick. Because once you put one mark down, or one step, or one note, it’s going to have its own mind and go somewhere else. That doesn’t answer your question. Who knows what they ultimately want to say?
Specifically, with Proserpina, the painting is based on a song that Kate McGarrigle wrote at the end of her life. The song is based on a Roman myth about a daughter who is kidnapped and brought to the underworld with her mother searching for her and threatening all sorts of awful things if Proserpina doesn’t “come home to mama.” I heard this song a few years ago, at a time when my own family was in the midst of a major drama. That song just so spoke to me. I made some sketches at the concert. The lyrics have so much great imagery of fields, the earth, of stones, heat, of mother and mama and come home, you know, it has everything. Then, what further inspired me was meeting Martha Wainwright after I painted Tell My Sister, 2012 – her telling me about her mother, Kate McGarrigle, and hearing stories that related to Tell My Sister and Proserpina.
It’s easy to say what inspires the beginning of the painting, but what happens with the painting is ultimately its own journey. At a certain point, I go on automatic pilot when I am painting because I totally trust myself and my process. That is not to say that I don’t step back, that I’m not cautious. The marks might look haphazard but I am monitoring every drip, every mark.

Joan Snyder Still, 2011 oil, acrylic, paper mache, twigs, glass beads, cheesecloth, silk, burlap, rosebuds on linen 48 x 63 inches

Joan Snyder, Still, 2011. Oil, acrylic, paper mache, twigs, glass beads, cheesecloth, silk, burlap, rosebuds on linen. 48 x 63 inches. Courtesy of the Artist and the Cristin Tierney Gallery.

MK: Looking at your work over the years, and at the new paintings in your studio, can you talk about the color pink in your work?

JS: The color? No. Why?

MK: [Sheepishly] Because I love the color pink…

JS: I think it’s variations on red that I like. I wouldn’t necessarily say I love pink although what happens when I mix certain reds with certain blues and add white then it gets to be pink. But it’s not like I go after pink…pink happens. I guess that’s what you can call the interview.

MK: Well, now I’m heartbroken…but when I look at your work, I often see the limitations of the female body – that physically we are limited by our bodies.

JS: Really? How do you see that in my paintings?

MK: In the recent paintings, I see the struggle of women through the abstract forms. In Still, 2011 for example, I feel that painting. It has the female form. The blood. And the drips.

JS: Well that painting really is about fragility in a lot of ways, that is true. That one went out to the limits in some ways in terms of fragility. It’s funny because I don’t necessarily think of it as the fragility of a woman or a woman’s body. But then I’m mincing words because it is about how delicate it all is. I don’t ever think of dripping reds as blood. I don’t think I have ever thought of blood per se. It’s not where I go in my head. I mean there are forms that are vaginal and sexual and vulnerable and things like that. I just absolutely love the color red, but I don’t say to myself, “I’m gonna drip some blood here.” Never.
So what’s interesting is that what people see and relate to, and identify with when looking at a painting, is often very different than what I might have been thinking or relating to or identifying with when I painted it. That’s why I have often told young artists that you can put anything into a painting, tell any secret, no one will get what you’re putting in anyway. Everyone is going to read it differently. And so my paintings have often been confessional and upfront and diaristic. I have always been quite confessional…
But it is interesting to me that you’re feeling this kind of fragility…

MK: Outside of your art, what are you interested in? What motivates you?

JS: I have been writing a play for seven years.

MK: What is the play about? Why did you want to write a play?

JS: The play is about the exploitation of younger people by older people, about power. It moves between two different time periods. It’s about Carl Jung and his patient, Sabina Spielrein. And it’s about me as a young person and about my psychiatrist, who happened to have been a woman. The cast includes Sabina and Jung and Sabina’s parents and then of course Freud and me and my psychiatrist. It’s about Jung’s behavior, his genius and his anti-Semitic ways, about my doctor who was a holocaust survivor. And finally about Sabina, who became a renowned child psychiatrist herself. She and her two daughters died at the hands of the Nazi’s. It’s filled with subject matter that very much interests me.
Gardening used to be a great passion of mine. But a couple of years ago, we had a family drama which took place in my garden. The Garden of Eden. And nothing has been the same in the garden since. I’m hoping to get back to my garden next year.
One thing I am not ambitious about is my career. The New York art world is not interesting to me. I only go to openings of close friends. I don’t hang out. When I started seeing Maggie, 25 years ago, one of the first things I said to her was how I regretted that I didn’t go to more openings. And Maggie said, “I seriously doubt that on your deathbed, you’re going to say that you regret not having gone to more Leo Castelli openings. She’s right. I am not going to say that.
One day, many, many years ago, Pat Steir was in my studio on Mulberry Street. And I remember saying to her that she was so lucky to be showing in Amsterdam. And she said, “Yes, but you have Molly.” And Molly was my priority. I was a single mother and she was my priority. I met Maggie when Molly was eight years old and Maggie became a serious part of our lives a few years later. Not to say that I haven’t paid attention to my career but my work and my family have always been my priority.
I am really lucky. I mean, really, really lucky to have accomplished all that I have accomplished. I started with nothing. My parents had nothing – they were working class. Everything I earned, I earned on my own.
I have lots of interests but I also spend a lot of time alone quietly. I think that for me, that’s very important because that is when I work – without working.

MK: What piece of advice would you give to someone like me?

JS: I’d have to interview you first to know more about you because I don’t know anything about you, really, Maria. So it would be hard for me to give you advice.
How old are you?

MK: 25.

JS: 25…So, your problem – knowing nothing about you – I know what your problem is, your problem is probably that you’re good at a lot of things, exceptionally good at a lot of things. So it’s hard to figure out where to land. That’s hard. I think I was good at one thing, which was painting. I promise you. That was the lucky thing that happened to me. I wasn’t good at a zillion things or at least I didn’t recognize that I was. I was just anxious more than anything else. Then I started painting. [Pauses, glances at Proserpina] I am happiest when I am in my studio.

_________________________

And I was happy to have the opportunity to speak with Joan Snyder in her studio. The conversation continued about painting, Iyengar yoga, my stupid hip, music, Twitter, smoothies, and life in general. So aside from the disappointing fact that Joan believes pink is really a variation on red, I learned a lot from her and I learned a lot about myself. I look forward to working hard and approaching the next exciting challenge.

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Dancing Around the Bride: Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg and Duchamp at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Walkaround TimeA day trip to Philadelphia to see Dancing Around the Bride: Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg and Duchamp was filled with subversions, underminings, deconstructions, and sincerity.

The exhibition brings together masterworks, collaborations, and homages by these important and influential artists who wanted to challenge the notion of art. They experimented with what is defined as art, how art is created, and how it is experienced.

Throughout the exhibition of over 100 pieces, it is evident the star is Marcel Duchamp. He is the genius who wished to debunk “preexisting ideas about art, which he believed should appeal to the intellect rather than the senses.” He turned the art world on its head with his notion of “readymades” – objects that he found to be art, the most famous being Fountain, 1917. These pieces, as well as other work including drawings, paintings, photographs, scores, and installations tested originality, concept, and taste.

Marcel Duchamp Door 11. Rue Larrey, 1927

Marcel Duchamp, Door 11. Rue Larrey, 1927

The remaining four artists were very much influenced by Duchamp, but also – not knowing all of his entire oeuvre – their thought process in making art in ran parallel in some regards.

In one example, John Cage and Merce Cunningham did not realize that Duchamp had used the idea of “chance” in his artwork. The concept of “chance,” made famous by Cage and Cunningham explored how the outcome of the an artwork was dictated by the unknown. Certain parameters were put in place and the rest was up to chance – whether it was musical notes or silence, or movement or stillness and so on. And so, when Cage found out about Duchamp’s use of chance, realizing that it occurred in the year of his birth – he did not find that to be a coincidence.

In another example, Duchamp’s concept as key, exploring the distinctions between original and replica, object and idea is examined by Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. Rauschenberg created “combines” – sculptures made from nontraditional materials while Johns made paintings that explored what you were looking at as a physical representation.

One of the most interesting aspects of this exhibition is the interplay between the artists. They all influenced or collaborated or co-opted certain aspects of each other’s work. The portraits by Rauschenberg were so interesting and so spot-on in my opinion. I also enjoyed how Johns used the mold from Duchamp’s Étant donnés: 1° la chute d’eau / 2° le gaz d’éclairage in his paintings.

And maybe the most meaningful thing I took away from the exhibition is how sincere these artists were about art. They were dedicated to exploring, experimenting, and pushing the bounds. They did not hold back, they learned from each other and challenged each other. I believe that because of that, their influence is pervasive today.

All in all, I thought the exhibition was a unique opportunity to see spectacular works – shown in conversation with each other – by Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg, and of course, Duchamp.

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