A r t a n d t h e m e a n i n g f u l n e s s o f o u r o w n e x p e r i e n c e s
First Dive. Philip. 1970.
We underestimate art.
A few years ago,
my sisters and I moved Anita into a new place
where she could receive additional care.
During the transition,
we reorganized her belongings for a simpler life.
It was a bittersweet experience.
While looking through her collection of photos,
school report cards ("David would do well if he tried!"),
and assortment of letters,
we also found these cards that Jim had made toward the end of his life.
Jim was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1973
and for nearly 35 years, he endured with the support of Anita.
Until nearly the end,
art-making was a driving force for living.
Peggy and Sylvia. 1997.
Man in Riverhead, NY. 2015.
While waiting at a bus stop,
a woman approached Jim and commented:
"you'd be a nice looking boy if you smiled some."
(Topeka, KS. c.1939.)
Kate in the Yellow House. 1968.
Did I tell you
that one of the best things I learned
while working from Renaissance religious paintings
was that those artists had an excuse
to paint their babies, their children,
and their wives (and sweethearts).
Because they loved them.
Sylvia and Nicky (Rineke Dijkstra) at the Guggenheim NYC. 2012.
Art Object. (?, David, Peggy, Sue, Molly, and Grace Amy. 1952.)
Sarah wearing her strawhat outside the White House. 1973.
Adoration (and Lick) of David. Ithaca, NY. 1960.
Down to the pond. 2000.
Pregnant with Steve,
probably taken just before we left Cambridge,
late summer 1961, when we were staying with the Behrmans on Pemberton Street.
Not sure about date of David's 'study' in the barn--probably finishing his dissertation.
At Pemberton Street,
David was working on text of "Mankind to Marlowe"
before we left for Charlottesville and a whole new family.
David delivered the text to the press
and then we packed up a UHaul and drove (slowly) to 102 Minor Road.
To close the doors on the UHaul,
David and Ned had to take the air out of our bike tires.
Uncle Chuck in his boat on Wellesley Island (and in Amsterdam).
Back when we sat on sidewalks. Ithaca NY. 1987.
Nature and Civilization.
Zeke, a guard, my shadows and Adrian Piper at MoMA.
A good simple photo taken by Mom on a beach in California.
Not much but at least perfect.
Grandpa Keith, Cindy and Anita at Niagara Falls. 1958.
I did remove some of the distracting debris.
Early morning train to airport. Amsterdam, 2015.
A recent recreation of a photo from 1952 of David and Peggy during their college days.
Family Life in the Yellow House. 1964.
In a casual conversation back in graduate school,
a few friends and I considered the pondering quality of the artistic life
and its reliance on supportive institutions.
Soon after, we initiated the One-Hour Gallery
to encourage more spontaneity and our own public presence.
I didn't know John very well
but we liked each other and shared a similar group of friends.
He went on to medical school and now lives in Colorado but that's just information found on the Internet.
Dad had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease over ten years earlier
and the physical symptoms were obvious and increasingly limiting.
The social consequences of the disease were mostly hidden
but already devastating.
The regular dinner dates with friends and colleagues
had gradually dwindled
and in general, people would usually shy away from any inter-action with him.
Certainly, I was aware of this
but at the time I had my own issues.
I was young
and it would be many years later before I could more fully imagine
how emotionally difficult this was for him.
Dad was a kind and quietly inquisitive person,
and easily amused,
but to realize this required patience,
a willingness to allow him the time to manage the physical limitations necessary to communicate.
John sat with my Dad for a long time that afternoon,
sharing a beer and chatting about art.
Cultural Tourism. Barcelona, 2017.
Sylvia ascending Lembert Dome. Tuolomne, 2014.
He offered her a thousand dollars to remarry their son.
Zeke, at the National Gallery in DC, viewing a photograph (Thomas Struth) of a gallery of Velasquez paintings at the Prado. 2016.
Back in 1981,
I worked in DC for Matt McHugh, our NY congressman.
On my first day,
I was taken aside and quietly told that Matt did not like facial hair,
he shaved twice a day.
Apparently I did not get the message
but at the time my life was like my tie,
a bit askew.
Civilization and Nature.
Just the idea of being in a (family) band was enough. 1968.
There are weighted baby dolls
in nursing homes for residents to hold.
The day I saw one resting on Anita's shoulder
I hesitated before approaching her:
does she think she is holding me?
Anita now lives in Princeton, NJ where our sister shared this photo of her.
Family picnic at Lake Pymatuning.
Now, looking back.
But why is it
that I can tell you that the balding man in the foreground is John Coolidge,
scion of Boston nobility and very generous and friendly to us?
He and his wife wanted us to use their Vermont cabin
for our honeymoon
complete with the loan of a car
--in the rain, brakes pull to the right, but in dry weather to the left.
I can tell you that,
but have no memory of why the Coolidges would have paid any attention to us.
Memory is an odd business.
David Tyack's head and ear are to the right
above a hint of his bow tie.
He was my David's friend from Exeter--sang barbershop together.
How do I know his identity,
with his face beyond the photo?
And the tall person greeting me,
I think his name was Jim.
How did we know him? Why was he there?
A person who cared for us, supported us, took time for our wedding.
I could at least remember why.
Yesterday, right before taking this photo,
I was reprimanding myself for not taking one a block earlier of two women in nearly identical outfits.
Whenever I ask Anita about her brother,
her response is brief and solemn: "He was different. He just never really fit in."
Here, Marv is standing next to a woman named Verna
outside his boyhood home in Kansas (1967).
Only recently I learned that Marv's son (my cousin) had died a year earlier in Vietnam.
While visiting the Badlands in 1964
I severely scratched the lenses of my new glasses.
I had found a piece of petrified wood
that resembled my father's camera.
We didn't know Ruby
till Grandma gave us her photographs in 1962.
I have liked to think about her
and her dashing physician husband Pope,
my grandfather's next-oldest sibling.
Pope was born in 1870, Lem born 1874.
We had heard about Pope Brown,
an uncle known to John and his younger sibs.
Of Ruby, only a few details:
Ruby Welch was born 17 Feb 1876.
She lived in Hammond NY,
a village set near but not on the St Lawrence,
on the south bank northeast of Alexandria Bay.
Pope married Ruby in 1896.
He had returned to Potsdam from Philadelphia
with a 3-year MD degree from Penn's 'Medical Department' in 1894.
Two years later, their daughter Alice Welch Brown was born.
After this, Ruby fades from view.
There is a photo somewhere of Pope,
a faded? sun-bleached? snap shot:
Pope on a porch swing,
wearing a doughboy hat and holding an infant.
Was he visiting Lem later in life?
Which of Lem's children plays the infant? Sylvia? Grace?
Then I found on the Internet,
a summary of an interview of Pope, possibly from 1931:
He enlisted in 1917, a 1st Lt in the US Medical Corps, with the 32nd division,
in action at the front and later with the army of Occupation.
He was discharged, at 49, June 1919.
And in 1920, Ruby, age 44, had a son! They named him Gary Brown.
I like to think
that they were genuinely glad to be together again.
A scenic moment. (Sylvia, 1997)
You may have seen these two photos
as reprints from an article in the Chicago Tribune during the holidays
about “new” skates back in the mid-1970s.
after taking the image of us scattered and fallen,
asked us to recreate the start of our race.
Even though entirely staged (note the snow on our legs),
we still are who we are.
With my signature white headband,
I have positioned myself wide
for a clear shot and a chance to win.
Philip stands upright,
wearing a pair of very not-new and too-small skates;
he will have no chance but is alright with that.
Sophie uses her figure skates to full advantage for a quick start,
as well as a significant push off of Kate’s shoulder.
Kate, with head down
and balance already disrupted,
will soon feel even less stable
after Paul (Sophie's brother) has reached down
to her other shoulder for his advantage.
I do believe
that our minds act well beyond consciousness.
How Sylvia's grounded legs
flip the ephemeral flames of the candles.
And how the shadow
from the barrier I removed,
Steve recently shared this from their family trip to Mallorca.
Insight to a painting viewed during a recent visit to the Clark Museum in Williamstown, Mass.
A local parking lot that I often walk by in Ithaca NY.
Rijksmuseum in 2015.
Kate traveled to Instanbul, Turkey in 1981.
The teacher is Miss Banick.
Sue sits in the 1st row, 3rd from the left,
next to her good friend, Margie Daggett.
When we moved to Baltimore in the middle of the year,
Sue cut Margie's head out of the class picture to put in her locket.
Zeke took this photo in Lisbon last year. It reminded me of Gertrude Stein:
"The old people in a new world,
the new people made out of the old,
that is the story I mean to tell,
for that is what really is and what I really know."
Sylvia near El Capitan. 2014.
From a park bench in Central Park a few months ago.
Kara Walker at MoMA (back in June).
Zeke observed Sylvia in the backseat near Zion. 2010.
John loved Anita,
even though she called him Tom,
the name of her previous boyfriend.
John took this photo of us
a few weeks before Mom moved to a new facility for additional care.
Sadly, this is the only photo we have of him.
Sylvia holding a rubber duck. Alicante, Spain. 1998.
Our Stuff in Santa Monica, CA. 1970.
David Hockney at the Met in NYC. 2018.
What is happening here?
If it is Florida,
it was a trip in 1969 to take Helen to see Uncle Hunter
(Bev's sister had married him--a favorite relative when David and Phil were boys).
He was later a widower, retired to Florida, and flirting with Helen,
or she with him,
till he got serious and she dropped him.
Peggy, Sarah and Natasha on Stumpville Road.
Peter with a pile of skipping stones.
Outside entrance to MoMA, NYC.
Sue and I went to public school in Cleveland Heights.
Fleur and Virginia attended one of the two private girls' schools in our area.
We knew Virginia through her mother Florence Gray,
a widow of a horticulturalist
who had written a garden column for one of the Cleveland papers.
The Grays lived across the ravine from our house,
but the distance was deceiving
as it took about as long for us to go there by way of the ravine, the short cut,
as to walk around by the road, the long cut.
The Grays were definitely in Cleveland society.
At one point they rented their charming house,
filled with paintings and photographs from travel,
to the conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, Arturo Rodzinski.
Our connection with the orchestra was a notch down.
The principal of the 2nd Violins was my fiddle teacher,
and his wife was Sue's piano teacher.
Don't think we knew much of Fleur after this period.
Virginia was in college at Radcliffe, possibly a class ahead of me.
There was a general rule,
that one couldn't repaint one's dorm room.
Virginia picked up a vegetable crate from a local grocery,
made an elaborate show in the middle of her room of the partially painted crate,
placed on a newspaper to dry,
a ruse to account for the smell of oil paint
while she skillfully repainted the walls.
Virginia was fastidious,
had excellent taste,
didn't suffer fools,
but I don't think was happy.
Florence was much more outgoing.
She was a good friend of John and Helen,
came to our Cambridge wedding
all the way from Cleveland.
I remember her enjoying meeting David's roommates,
all WW II vets in grad school,
in their unkempt apartment
where they had prepared a lunch for out-of-town guests.
Florence enjoyed the scene thoroughly,
and agreed with Stanley Myers,
who bought old beef on the cheap
from the butcher late on Saturday afternoons,
because it was the better for being that much the more aged.
A view of the trees from The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago.
Jeff wearing jeans. (Orange County, 1968).
Tape. (Philip, 1967).
I recently found a photograph
wedged safely in an old college textbook
shelved in Kate’s childhood bedroom in Hyde Park.
I had thought it was lost forever.
We didn’t take so many photographs back then
to have reminders of our wheres and whens.
We were essentially our own audience.
The photo is of Kate in 1985
and it captures the intimacy of traveling together
with just a hint of the dread
at our approaching separation.
Our plan that summer was to travel to London, Paris, Montpellier, and Nice
and then I would return to Ithaca
and Kate would continue on to study for a semester in Florence.
we stayed at a small hotel near the Luxembourg Garden.
It was a simple place that felt authentic.
In the early morning,
we would awaken to a tap on our door
signaling the delivery of our breakfast of fresh bread and coffee.
David with Kate (and one of the boys). (Charlottesville, 1964)
Maggie appreciating a backyard sculpture. 2012.
Peggy with a visiting boy. 1935.
Sylvia at the Met in NYC. 2006.
Farm Life. 2016.
Cindy. Ithaca, NY. 1960.
Mirror Lake in the Adirondack Mts. 2003.
Before we depart,
I often take a photo of Anita by the front door of her nursing home.
I will show it to her when we return.
We most often drive in the mornings
to a local park and sit in the car and watch people pass by.
The highlight, though,
are the birds.
Anita is amused by even their most ordinary behavior.
Our time together is brief.
When we arrive back just in time for her lunch,
she quickly becomes anxious.
In her mind,
she believes that she has never been here.
She fears that she will be left alone
in the company of strangers.
A homeless man (and JR) in a DC hotel lobby.
Steve with Aunt Bertha and Uncle Chuck on Stumpville Road in 1962.
David and Cindy. (Easter 1963)
Kate and David in Paris. 1985.
Game Show. (08.19.01)
Thinking about the lively enthusiastic young woman
with the camera and her friends
(in the privacy of a bathroom?!)
What would she think
of the flat, gray, dull 4-lane highway
seemingly going nowhere in the ironically named Paris TX.
Would she find it at all beautiful?
Surely the people in the car about to pass
will find the billboard posting as an unexpectedly delightful and different life.
Or maybe that's just me.
Sylvia in Berkeley, CA. 1994.
Zeke in White House on Stumpville Rd.
Mount Rushmore. 1964.