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




Tuolomne. 2014.





He offered her a thousand dollars to remarry their son.





Zeke, at the National Gallery in DC a few years ago, viewing a photograph (Thomas Struth) of a gallery of Velasquez paintings at the Prado.





Back in 1981, I worked in DC for Matt McHugh, our NY congressman. On my first day, I was 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.





Apparently just the idea of being in a band was enough. 1968.





There are weighted baby dolls in nursing homes for residents to hold. The day I saw one resting on mother'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 with us.





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 a 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, before taking this photo, I was reprimanding myself for not taking one a block earlier of two women in nearly identical outfits.










There are photographs I like without fully understanding why. This is one. Marv stands next to a woman named Verna outside his boyhood home in Kansas (1967). Only recently I learned that his son (my cousin) had died a year earlier in Vietnam. Whenever I ask Anita about her brother, her response is brief and solemn: "He was different. He just never really fit in."





This was the trip when I severely scratched the lenses of my new glasses. I had found a piece of petrified wood that resembled my father's camera. (Badlands, 1964)





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 returned to Potsdam from Philadelphia with a 3-year MD degree from Penn's 'Medical Department' in 1894, and set-up his practice. He married Ruby in 1896. Are the paired portraits taken in 1896, when Ruby was 20, Pope 26? Two years later, their daughter Alice Welch Brown was born. After this, Ruby fades from view.

There is another photo 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? Silvia? Grace, the youngest, Kathy Dorman's mother, born 1920? Then I found, on the Internet, a summary of an interview of Pope, possibly from 1931. Pope had enlisted (at 47) 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. In 1920, Ruby had a son! They named him Gary Brown. She was 44 that year. I like to think that they were genuinely glad to be together again.





Moment. (Sylvia, 1997)





You may have seen these two photos as reprints from an article during the holidays about “new” skates in the Chicago Tribune back in the mid-1970s. The photographer, 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 clean 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 the mind acts well beyond our consciousness...how Sylvia's grounded legs flip the ephemeral flames of the candles. And the shadow from the barrier I removed remains.





Steve recently shared this from Mallorca.





Insight to a painting viewed during a recent visit to the Clark Museum in Williamstown, Mass.





A local parking lot in Ithaca NY.





A visit to the Rijksmuseum in 2015.





Kate traveled to Instanbul, Turkey in 1981.





Sue is in the 1st row, 3rd from the left. The teacher is Miss Banick. Sue's good friend sits next to her, 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.





Sylvia near El Capitan. 2014.





From a park bench in Central Park a few months ago.





Kara Walker at MoMA (back in June).





Sylvia near Zion. (Zeke. 2010.)





John loved Anita, even though she called him Tom, the name of her previous boyfriend. John took this photo of us in 2016 at Stewart Park in Ithaca NY a few weeks before Mom moved to a new facility for additional care. Sadly, this is the only photo we have of him.





Sylvia with a rubber duck (likely at Contemporary Museum in Alicante, Spain. 1998.)





Our stuff in Santa Monica, CA. 1970.





David Hockney at the Met in NYC.










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 Natascha at farm 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 was a school friend of Virginia. They both went to one of the two private girls' schools in our area. We knew Virginia through her mother Florence Gray, widow of a horticulturalist who had written a garden column for one of the Cleveland papers. We were on a shingle beach along the Clarion River. I think we made the raft out of logs and a door we had found along the river. The river was so shallow and so full of rocks that the raft was not in danger of going very far.

Clear Creek, a small State Park in PA north of modern Interstate 80, at the longitude of Jamestown NY. Our family went every August for the month--2nd grade up to our marriages, I think. Park was attainable under war conditions: rationed gas, and a 35 mph speed limit. The family had looked up state parks in which one could rent cottages, found PA's Cook Forest, but the brochure did not mention swimming. A near park in which swimming was listed was the smaller less-frequented and to us perfect Clear Creek. A happy error. As it turned out, Cook Forest had swimming.

The Grays lived across the ravine from our house. 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 then 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. (Los Angeles, 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 just enough 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, Nice and then I would return to Ithaca and Kate would continue on to study for a semester in Florence.

In Paris, 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.





Lisbon. (2017).





David with Kate (and one of the boys). (Charlottesville, 1964)





Maggie in backyard at 101 Irving Place. 2012.





Steve in an unknown art gallery.





Peggy with a visiting boy.





Sylvia at the Met in NYC. 2006.





Kate and Ketchup.





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. Our time together is brief. 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. 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.





JR and homeless man 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.





Laura. 2008.





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.