Poets And Painters

Todd Beers cleaning our soffits
Todd Beers cleaning our soffits

A big toad was sitting in the middle of our path when the solstice officially hit at 10:57, just sitting there while we looked at it. I scratched the bumps on its back and it hopped away. We saw a few deer and they too just glanced at us and went about their business. As we cut across the maple grove we found a snake in the grass. I would guess it was three feet long or so and it appeared to be sunning itself. Only when we got too close did it slither away. Time stands still twice a year.

Dave Ripton and Todd Beers double self portrait from 1992
Dave Ripton and Todd Beers double self portrait from 1992

Back at the house, Dave Ripton and Todd Beers were cleaning our soffits. They wrapped our porch in plastic and I got this shot of Todd in action. Both Dave and Todd are poets and painters and Dave is a musician as well. We’ve been friends for years and have performed with both of them. We bought the painting below, a joint effort by the two of them, at Godiva’s on Monroe Avenue. It hung over the fireplace in our house on Hall Street. It was good spending time with them again.

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A Glimpse Of The Future

High Falls from walking bridge in 2023
High Falls from walking bridge in 2023

I am still amazed that the City tore up the eastern half of the old Inner Loop. I never thought it would happen. And I am amazed at how quickly it was redeveloped. That part of the city is enjoyable to walk in again. The other half of the Inner Loop is even more divisive but the talk of demolishing it has died down.

High Falls, the geographic reason Rochester was planted here, is just a short walk from midtown but getting by the wall of highway concrete is so unpleasant most people have given up. Artists are being chased out of their warehouse spaces on East Main as developers see bigger bucks in rehabbed living spaces and there are so many empty industrial buildings, former restaurants and storefronts along and off State Street, right near the falls. I have seen a glimpse of Rochester’s future. In another twenty years this area will be thriving again.

We were in this part of town to approve a print Peter at Editions Printing ran for us. Peter asked if my father was an artist. He said his wife had purchased one of Leo’s paintings from a show at Rochester Contemporary and it is hangs in their living room.

From Editions we walked by Obatala & Shango Religious Goods and picked up a couple of candles, Santa Barbara Africana and Santo Niño de Atocha. The owner of the shop asked if we wanted our candles blessed. I said no at first and then asked, “Does it cost anything?” He said no so I agreed. I was expecting a quick sign of the cross but he put a couple drops of a scented oil at the base of the wick and then sprinkled a few dried herb flakes on it. We continued on, across the bridge, stopped in the Genesee Brewery gift shop and headed back to our car.

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We Are All One

Peter Monacelli "We Are One" poster
Peter Monacelli “We Are One” poster

Pete has sorted out the world from his hospital bed. Four weeks in now, but close to being released, he has turned lemons into lemonade as the adage goes. He has art supplies at his fingertips and stories to tell. He cares about each of the hospital workers, the ones that are in charge of his care, and that opens new channels. They take their breaks in his room or stop by to visit after their shift is down. We have witnessed this and it is really quite remarkable.

He wrote this beautiful poem (above) and asked us print fifty copies so he could give them to his caregivers. As Pete said to us, “Imagine how different the world would be if we all took care of each other.”

Debby Kendrick Project playing without Peter Monacelli on drums
Debby Kendrick Project playing without Peter Monacelli on drums

Pete was hoping to be out in time for his gig with Debbie Kendrick on Friday but it didn’t work out. Peggi and I caught their second set. Debbie dedicated “You Send Me” to Pete. Lamar from Sons of Monk sat in for Pete along with Jahaka Mindstorm on congas. They were great but to my ears the songs didn’t sound as sweet or soulful with Pete on drums.

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Golden Years

Peggi drinking a Mint Julep at the Kentucky Derby on our first date, 1973, the year Secretariat won.
Peggi drinking a Mint Julep at the Kentucky Derby on our first date, 1973, the year Secretariat won.

I guess it wasn’t a traditional first date. In 1973 Steve Hoy suggested we go to the Kentucky Derby, not even a two hour drive from Bloomington. I invited Peggi. We were just getting to know each other. Thankfully we are still getting to know each other. We plan to watch the race tomorrow, just after the Copa del Rey final. We’ll celebrate with a bottle of Spanish Rioja and toast to our golden years.

Secretariat won, setting a record that still stands fifty years later, and went on to win the Triple Crown. NBC just posted restored footage of the race. I suspect they used a version of the AI app that Duane Sherwood is applying to Suicide footage.

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Tabula Rasa

Crystal Z Campbell’s "Lines of Sight" video installation at Memorial Art Gallery
Crystal Z Campbell’s “Lines of Sight” video installation at Memorial Art Gallery

I was going to enter two of my pieces from “Manifestation” in the biennial Finger Lakes Exhibition but I spaced out the deadline. I’m working on pieces for a Little Theatre show in September and enjoying the blank slate mind set.

We stopped by the Finger Lakes show yesterday and found some things we really liked. John Griebsch had a beautiful arial photo of a row of trees. I voted for Bill Keyser’s painting on found metal as my favorite and later wished I had voted for Eric Kunsman‘s black and white photo of two pay phones at the four corners of Webster.

The Gap Band’s “You Dropped A Bomb On Me” is like magnet drawing viewers onto the media space at the MAG but we only had time to duck our heads in and grab this still shot. We made a note to visit Crystal Z Campbell’s “Lines of Sight,”a take on the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, at a later date.

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Readymades

Plastic covered door in Midtown Manhattan 2023
Plastic covered door in Midtown Manhattan 2023

Walking around Manhattan, popping in and out of galleries, digesting rectangular artwork on rectangular walls does something to your senses. It puts them on alert to possibilities. And they are everywhere.

Black doorway in Chelsea 2023
Black doorway in Chelsea 2023
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Big Minimal Concepts

Slide at Memorial Art Gallery talk by Yale's John Hogan on the artwork of Sol LeWitt
Slide at Memorial Art Gallery talk by Yale’s John Hogan on the artwork of Sol LeWitt

John Hogan, a long time Sol LeWitt business partner and friend, spoke at the Memorial Art Gallery last night in conjunction with the recently installed “Wall Drawing #957, Form derived from a cube.” He explained how LeWitt’s thinking evolved as an artist, how he thought of himself as a composer and how he came to the realization that the idea is the art, not the execution.

His first wall drawing was installed at Paul Cooper’s gallery in New York in 1968 as a benefit for the Students Mobilization Committee to End the War in Viet Nam. He sold the concept without a maquette. The buyer received paperwork like the one shown above (the title to Wall Drawing #957) and then hired craftspeople to produce the drawing on a wall as the MAG did.

We have seen many of LeWitt’s drawings over the years and I am always stuck by the way the isometric rendition of the forms plays with my senses. His forms don’t recede to any diminishing point. I came home with action points. Look up “Sol LeWitt – Sentences on Conceptual Art,” “Download Sol LeWitt app from the App Store.”

In this weekend’s NYT in an article entitled “35 Ways Real People Are Using A.I. Right Now” an entry by the artist Amy Goodchild called, “Draw like Sol LeWitt,” she described feeding Sol LetWitt’s instructions to various chatbots. “On a wall surface, any continuous stretch of wall, using a hard pencil, place 50 points at random. The points should be evenly distributed over the area of the wall. All of the points should be connected by straight lines.” With OpenAI’s older model, GPT-3, it was mostly a flop but GPT-4 did OK. Imagine if LeWitt was alive for this.

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Pinocchio Is Not Made Of Wood

Wooden fence behind Abundance CoOp
Wooden fence behind Abundance CoOp

In Netflix’s extras for the new Pinocchio, Guillermo del Toro’s shows us some of the puppets used in the making of his retelling. Many are at different scales to suit the character that Pinocchio is being stop-motion-filmed with, but there are dozens at the same scale, each with a different facial expression. Del Toro says the models were printed so I assume they are plastic. I had a Pinocchio mask when I was young that I wore on Halloween. I loved the Disney version, the trip to the bad boy island especially, and I am almost afraid to watch it again. I’m quite certain del Toro’s is much richer, no matter what your age.

The Colorblind James band, the classic lineup without its leader, performed again at Abilene. There are no new songs in these performances as there was in the heyday, when Chuck was consistently churning out classics, but these songs have a whole lot of life left. They transcend Chuck’s self-described “circus rock” genre. I took that as classic, old world aspirations. Chuck was a troubadour and his poetic lyrics transcend time. His songs, performed by his band, sturdy musicians who have only gotten better over time, continue to touch your soul. Chuck’s songbook is in the most capable hands of his son, Mark. Mark is a better singer than his father. Chuck would love that! He handles the material respectfully and the same sly, wry humor shines. Long live Colorblind!

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FD, MLK, BLM

Frederick Douglas statue in Highland Park, Rochester, NY
Frederick Douglass statue in Highland Park, Rochester, NY

According to Visualising Slavery: Art Across the African Diaspora, this Frederick Douglass monument was the first statue in the United States that memorialized a specific African-American. It was installed in front of the New York Central train station in 1899 but then moved to Highland Park in 1941 for some reason. More curiously, it sat not where it is now but down in the bowl, just off to the left in the picture above. In 2018, on the 200th anniversary of Douglass’s birth, the city commissioned Olivia Kim to construct a series of life sized replicas of the statue. The statues were placed in throughout the city in locations that were important to Douglass’s legacy. A nice idea but the fiberglass replicas look cheap compared to this one. Douglass deserves a fleet of bronze statues.

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Sinkhole

Frank Gannett plot at Mount Hope Cemetery
Frank Gannett plot at Mount Hope Cemetery

Frank Gannet died after a fall in his Sandringham Road home in 1955. He built the mighty Gannett newspaper chain, now USA Today. Rochester’s two newspapers, the Democrat & Chronicle and the Times Union, rolled off the presses in the bottom of the Gannett building on Exchange Boulevard for many years. The editorial offices were upstairs. They moved the offices to a new building in Midtown, left the heat off during the pandemic and the pipes in sprinkler systems broke open. The printing facility was moved to the western suburbs and they recently announced they would be laying off some 700 workers there. What’s left of the paper will be printed in Pennsylvania. We still subscribe. Our carrier delivers the New York Times as well. Our NYT edition is printed in Buffalo so it was understandable that they weren’t able to get the papers here during the recent snowstorm.

This morning, a mild mid-winter day, there were no papers in our box. We called our carrier, Marie, and she had left a message on her phone that informed all that were calling about “missing papers” that she drove into a sinkhole on Titus Avenue. Her car was stuck in the hole and she recorded the message while walking back to her house. We could hear her breathing hard as she walked and her story was heartbreaking, a metaphor for newspapers.

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Evidence

Dodd family at 68 Brookfield Road in Rochester, from left: Tim, John, Paul, Francis in my mom's arms, Mark and Ann
Dodd family at 68 Brookfield Road in Rochester, from left: Tim, John, Paul, Francis in my mom’s arms, Mark and Ann

I’m guessing this photo was taken by my father on Easter Sunday. You can see my mom’s artistry in the clothes she picked out for us and herself. I treasure these old photos because they crystallize the fuzzy memories I carry around in my head. That place, that time, the relationships, the happiness along with the craziness.

My sister, Amy, who was a few year’s off when this photo was taken has the family’s slide collection in her front hall closet. I hung my coat in there last night and saw the stacks of carousels. She selected 600 some slides and we had them scanned so we could all have a copy, the evidence of our childhood. There was a Kodak slide scanner under her tree last night. More revelations are in store. We’re having dinner with Mark (shown above to my left) again tonight. It has been a real joy to to spend time with my siblings at Christmas

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Zen And The Art Of Stacking Wood

Pete and Shelley's wood pile 2008
Pete and Shelley’s wood pile 2008

Pete and Shelley set the standard by which we judge woodpiles. Off the grid in the Adirondacks, they thin their property for heat in the long winter months. Their stacks are worthy of a Chelsea art gallery installation.

Jared's wood pile 2010
Jared’s wood pile 2010

Our neighbor, Jared, a retired chemist for Eastman Kodak, puts wood up not like an artist but like a scientist. We turn to him for advice on all matters practical.

Our woodpile in 2020
Our woodpile in 2020

After two 75 year old oaks came down out back this spring Peggi and I had a record amount of wood, more than in 2020 when the picture above was taken. Instead of walking we’ve been chipping away at the pile each day for the last two weeks. We strap on our Home Depot noise cancelling headphones, cut the trunks and limbs into log length with a chainsaw, fire up the Heathkit splitter we inherited from our former neighbor, Leo and then stack the split logs. This is where it all comes together physics, geometry and risk. We have had only one pile tumble over in twenty years.

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In The Groove

Willow leaves in Durand Eastman Park
Willow leaves in Durand Eastman Park

So autumn lasts forever now. We split wood yesterday. We have a serious amount from the two oaks that came down this spring. With temperatures in the fifties today it was too warm to split we so moved a few face cords onto the porch in preparation for winter’s fury.

We tried a new setup for our Thanksgiving eve gig. Melissa, the cello. player wanted to hear a little more bass. Ken usually plays his double bass in the corner so he can get a big sound without an amp. I set my drums up between him and the piano and the cello was in front of the piano. This time Melissa sat right in front of me. I had to move backward and Ken forward to accommodate the new arrangement and everything felt off.

We took Brad Fox’s stereo amp to the Hi-Fi Lounge for some maintenance. Mark, the owner was talking about the upcoming Record Store Day. I looked at the releases and spotted the the Clear Spot reissue with an album worth of outtakes so I had my neighbor pick me up one of those on Friday. Frying Pan had one of their rare gigs that night, along with Nod, so we made a night of that – after watching two World Cup matches. We have Argentina vs. Mexico in the can and plan to watch that soon and then we’re off for more music, the Debbie Kendrick Project at the Little. We plan to bring the new Clear Spot out to Brad’s and listen to it on his big speakers.

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Big Dose Of History

Sol Lewitt Wall Drawing going up at Memorial Art Gallery
Sol Lewitt Wall Drawing going up at Memorial Art Gallery

Sol Lewitt’s art is more than the final piece. It is the plans, the installation and the temporary display on a wall. One of Sol LeWitt’s iconic “Wall Drawings,” has been generously gifted to MAG and it is being rendered directly on a wall in the Vanden Brul Pavilion by a representative of the LeWitt Estate and an artist from the Rochester community. The installation of “Wall Drawing #957: Form Derived from a Cube” can be seen after the holiday, starting November 26, when the gallery resumes its regular hours.

The new exhibition at MAG, “Striking Power: Iconoclasm in Ancient Egypt,” starts with the definition of “iconoclasm” which literally means “image breaking.” With statues and sculptures from ancient Egypt, all with body parts deliberately broken for religious or political reasons, it made for pretty interesting shows as it packed in a big dose of history.

The Memorial Art Gallery’s buildings sit on ground that formerly belonged to the Haudenosaunee tribe, part of the Seneca Nation. The three-channel video installation in the MAG’s video gallery, “Here you are before the trees” (2020) features his grandmother, Dolli Big John, and focuses on the Indigenous histories of upstate New York and the devastating consequences of the US colonization of Indigenous peoples. Beautiful, sad and powerful, it is an especially moving 12 minutes.

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Passage Of Peace

Teepees near Exit 33 along Interstate 90
Teepees near Exit 33 along Interstate 90

We had parked our car at the Poughkeepsie train station and took a Metro North train into the city. I was driving when we passed these teepees along the New York State Thruway so I couldn’t very well snap a shot. On the way back Peggi was behind the wheel and I was looking down at my iPad when she said, “There are those teepees again.” I fumbled for my camera and got this shot. They looked so beautiful.

When we returned I searched “Teepees Interstate 90” and discovered they are part of an art installation by members of the Oneida Indian Nation called “Passage of Peace,” ten teepees , some on each side of the thruway. The installation is ongoing through the holidays and if you drive by at night you will see them lit in different colors. Two are illuminated in orange, the color used by advocates to raise awareness around the impact of the forcible removal of Native children to attend residential boarding schools.

From their website – “Between 1869 and the late 1970s, hundreds of thousands of Native American children attended boarding schools far from their families and tribal communities. These schools sought to achieve assimilation through denial of Native culture and language.” 

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Slipping Away

Paul at sunset, photo by Peggi Fournier
Paul at sunset, photo by Peggi Fournier

During the flight down Peggi sat next to a talkative little guy with a “Pickleball Getaway” cap on. On our way back the woman sitting next to us asked me if I could open the 16 oz Pepsi bottle she had bought in San Jose. I couldn’t. It was sort of embarrassing. But then again I have a hard time opening those little plastic bags of pretzels that they give you.

We travelled with one small carry-on bag and one of the things that wasn’t in there was our earplugs. We spent a good bit of our days in the water and my left ear plugged up on the third day. As we descended into Newark it popped and I can hear again. I was sort of getting used to not being able to hear but I don’t need to slip away anymore than I already have.

What I think I’ll miss most about our stay in Costa Rica is the early morning dip in the plunge pool. I am in the habit of waking at sunrise, just a few minutes before Peggi, and I would push the button on the coffee maker and slowly slip into the pool, allowing each part of my body to experience the exhilaration. That magic doesn’t happen later in the day, only when you’re not fully awake. Secondly, I will miss the Arugula and Fennel Salad that we ordered three times.

We had no IPAs in CostaRica. I like it when most of the country drinks the same beer. You order a cerveza, you get an Imperial. We had plenty of fresh seafood, often caught the day before. We had fresh fruit every morning. We had time for yoga, everyday. We recharged our batteries. We fell in love with Costa Rica.

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Recharging

Two rocks along the coast in Costa Rica
Two rocks along the coast in Costa Rica

I can’t imagine how boring these last few entries would be to read. Nothing happens here, by design. There are big decisions being made behind the scenes. How long to hold the plank? Which way to walk down the beach in the morning, whether to have coffee before or after and where to take a dip in the ocean without being towed out to sea.

It is our last day here and we finally saw our first boat go by, out just beyond the big waves. I was beginning to think it was too rough even for fishermen. It is pretty fantastic for surfers. Michael Gribbroek has surfed here. Our nephew, Andrew, messaged us to find out if we had surfed yet. We sent him back this link to a story in the Washington Post.

Duane emailed us to to arrange details for our visit to NYC. Peggi and I started singing the Swollen Monkeys song, “On Vacation.” They were label mates of ours in the early Personal Effects days and they performed at our record release in NYC. The party was held on the roof of Danceteria and they played out in the crowd rather than on the stage.

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Black Flag

Peñon, Nicoya pennisula
Peñon, Nicoya pennisula

We set the alarm the past few days to make sure we didn’t miss the sunrise. It’s not as dramatic as the sunsets. We’re on the western coast and the sun sinks into the ocean with a blaze of colors. The sunrises sneak up on you. And the color of the light keeps changing as the golden hour develops so its perfect for photos.

We’ve walked down the beach, in both directions, a couple of times now and our walks are not limited by distance, they are cut short by the intensity of the midday sun. So this morning we were on the beach at 5:30, the only ones on the beach, and we walked two and half mikes to this this big rock, Peñon. and then turned around. The surfers were out dodging the rocks between the black flags at high tide.

Our room came with a jar of Costa Rica’s ”Grano de Oro” and a ”Choreador,” cloth filter drip setup. The coffee, by the pool, tasted especially good when we got back.

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Highlights Magazine

Find four howler monkeys
Find four howler monkeys

Everything comes to you if you wait long enough. We were out front of our place, watching the sunset, the best one yet, when we heard barking coming from somewhere in the direction of next door. It wasn’t barking, it was seven howler monkeys right over our bungalow. They call them “Congos.”

Our necks were sore today from staring up at the monkeys for so long. Telling the waiter we saw monkeys yesterday is like telling someone you saw a squirrel back home. We did see a squirrel today, a giant red one with a long, bushy tail, in the big tree over our place. We laid flat on our backs and watched her build a nest.

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Bread House

Cockatoo
Cockatoo

We find ourselves in another one of those situations where the hospitality workers want to practice their English while Peggi would rather use her Spanish. And I like hearing Peggi speak Spanish. The woman behind a desk was telling us about a “chuttle” and we asked her to repeat it about three times before we realized she was offering us a shuttle. We have somehow latched onto Brian as our server at dinner and when he put the bread on the table he said, “This is the Bread House.” We laughed when he left the table, not at him but just visualizing it.

We’re here in the slow season, the rainy season, so there are very few people around. And it hasn’t rained yet. We can’t think of a really good reason to leave our place. Our waiter this morning, Manuel, recommended Montezuma. “More chill, more relaxed, not as many people.” Another of the workers recommended Montezuma as well and she described it as a “hippie town” with a beautiful beach. I’m wondering if we fit some sort of a profile.

We made a half-hearted attempt at catching up on the news and saw this headline from the Guardian. “Mondrian painting has been hanging upside down for 75 years.”

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