Friday, May 29, 2009

Recipe for a Rainy Thursday


Start the day with a fortifying breakfast in an English country-inn setting at Freeman's. Enjoy smoked trout with horseradish sauce while conversing with a friend about art and life. (90 minutes)

Visit many known art galleries and discover new ones. [Click here for a comprehensive, current list of Lower East Side (LES) art galleries compiled by Left Bank Art Blog.] Talk with the owner of photography gallery, Anastasia Photo, about rents in the neighborhood, the photos of Afghanistan in the current exhibition, and reminisce about time spent in Kabul and the Panshir Valley in spring of 2002. See On Stellar Rays' current exhibition, courtesy of artist Georgia Sagri, who performs the 25-minute-long piece which you become a part of. Be very intrigued and slightly unnerved as you realize that the art is looking at you instead of the other way around. Visit Cuchifritos, an art gallery within the Essex Street Market, and understand that you can look at art, get your hair cut, and buy religious icons, clothing, fish, cheese, and chocolate-covered bacon all under one 70-year-old roof. At Orchard Street Italian leather goods store, Sole, help friend choose a belt that's been marked down along with all shoes and boots in preparation for store's closing in two weeks. Notice how the expensive designer clothing boutiques are interspersed with long-time resident garment shops. Finally, savor a Wildflower - a hibiscus, cucumber, lime, and gin cocktail at Schiller's Liquor Bar, the LES outpost of the Keith McNally empire. (5 1/2 hours)

Stir all of the above, enjoy. Go home tired but energized.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Unbanned from The Strand


I was at The Strand bookstore the other day to - I swear - choose a couple of gifts for family members that I'll be seeing this weekend in Chicago. I was NOT intending to buy anything for myself, but naturally I had to look at all the art books they had on sale over the weekend and of course, I had to skim through all the $1 carts. I am quite proud to say that I resisted the call of extremely seductive $.75 and even $.50 price tags (in addition to countless $1 specials), and left the store only with my intended purchases, i.e. two gift books. Perhaps I am at last cured of my compulsive book-buying habit which caused me to initiate the self-imposed ban in the first place.

To ease the stress caused by my experiment, I went to my local branch of the New York Public Library and chose the following delightful trifecta which I am attempting to read semi-simultaneously: travel writer Rolf Potts' Marco Polo Didn't Go There; Marlene Wagman-Geller's Once Again to Zelda; and Naomi Wolf's Give Me Liberty. Who knows which one will finish first?

I am hoping that I get back from Chicago on Tuesday in time to get to The Strand again, this time to hear David Sedaris discuss his hilarious When You Are Engulfed in Flames , the title of which is taken from a translation found on an emergency procedure card in Sedaris' Tokyo hotel room. Since I've already read that book, there will be no temptation to buy it. Am I playing with fire?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

One Afternoon at The Met



Michelle Obama's speech on Tuesday to celebrate the opening of the renovated American Wing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art could only have been enhanced by the natural light that flooded Charles Engelhard Court and its resident sculptures.

I went with some friends to visit the galleries yesterday and although Michelle was no longer there, the strong light from Central Park was. I found the flow and layout of the period rooms to be smooth. Visitors could make use of computerized screens to learn more about particular objects in the room. John La Farge's stained glass window Peonies Blown in the Wind; the McKim, Mead & White Stair Hall; the 1910 Tiffany sapphire, moonstone, and platinum necklace; the Frank Lloyd Wright Room; the Versailles panorama, and The Luce Center (which contained row upon row of encased objects from the museum's permanent collection) stood out.

There is nothing light about the Francis Bacon retrospective, a comprehensive exhibition consisting of 130 haunting, disturbing works that span the Dublin-born artist's career. It's not a show for the faint of heart; one of my friends chose to leave early. I am drawn to Bacon's violent colors and distorted imagery for the same reason that I am drawn to the exquisite Peonies Blown in the Wind (above right) - both extremes have a visceral effect on me which I embrace equally.

Bacon's life was what you think of when you think of an artist's life - Bohemian, hard-drinking, carousing, illicit, tortured, angst-ridden. And out of all of this, beauty of a different sort, not easily palatable, yet strangely moving.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Around Washington Square Park


I spent yesterday afternoon in and around Washington Square Park, a very pleasant place to be, now that the fountain has been turned on after controversial renovations. People baked like lizards in the sun, and the unsightly construction gates are gone.

Just south of Washington Square South, I had lunch at my favorite Thai place, Rhong Tiam. Then I made my way to Washington Square East to see the exhibition of photographer John Wood's work at Grey Art Gallery. Wood uses a variety of techniques, including collage, cliché verre, solarization, and lithography. Some of the images reminded me a bit of Edward Weston's gelatin silver prints, Cubist-inspired David Hockney collages, and Man Ray's photograms (Rayographs). I think Wood is one of the most experimental, innovative artists working today. It was especially meaningful to see his work in the context of one of the books I am currently reading, Susan Sontag's 1977 On Photography.

I walked over to Washington Square North to look at the buildings which formerly housed such famous residents as Henry James's grandmother, Edith Wharton (née Jones - it is believed that the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses" is a reference to her prestigious Old New York family), Alexander Hamilton, the literary critic Edmund Wilson, and writer John Dos Passos.

Immediately north of Washington Square North, I strolled through another favorite area, the Washington Mews, which were converted from stables and carriage houses that served the aforementioned homes. Famous former residents include artist Edward Hopper and writer Sherwood Anderson.

Heading northwest, I stopped in to The Salmagundi Club , a lovely brownstone at 47 Fifth Avenue, which since 1871 has welcomed painters, sculptors, musicians, and writers such as Theodore Dreiser. Currently, Salmagundi has an exhibition of work by members of the National Association of Women Artists.

Finally, I wanted to see the former gallery site of art dealer Edith Gregor Halpert, whose biography I am also currently reading. The Girl with the Gallery tells the story of Halpert's struggle to promote American Modern artists, her friendships with them, and her relationship with Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. Since 1967, 113 West 13th Street has been home to the Spain Restaurant, but two Art Deco statues in the back room remain as evidence of the Downtown Gallery.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Vogels - A Love Story


Last fall, I completed my dissertation to fulfill the requirements of the Master's degree in Art Business through Sotheby's Institute of Art/The University of Manchester. I chose to write about art advisors and in addition to interviewing many of these professionals, I included chapters on the history of the art advisory field, the psychology of collecting, and profiles of some important art collectors.

I first encountered the art collectors Herb and Dorothy Vogel in a Washington Post article a good friend sent me one year ago. As summer began and I started to write my thesis, I learned more about the Vogels and knew that they would be a part of the final product. For a number of reasons, they stood out from the other art collectors I had been researching. For example, their criteria for buying was that the art had to be affordable and it had to fit into their small, one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. More often than not, the Vogels left the artist's studio with the artwork tucked under their arms, headed for the subway.

So last night, I was excited to see the film Herb and Dorothy, a moving portrayal of the Vogels directed by Megumi Sasaki, at the 92Y TriBeCa. Ms. Sasaki, who was on hand to answer questions at the end of the screening, noted that above all, she wanted to convey the Vogels' love for each other, for the artists who became their friends, and for art.

In 1992, when the Vogels let their work go to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. - a city where they spent their honeymoon and where their passion for art began - several large moving vans were necessary to transport the 4,700 + Minimalist and Conceptual artworks from New York to Washington. Since the museum could only house 1,000 works, the remaining 2,500 or so are bound for museums throughout the country as part of the inspiring project, Fifty Works for Fifty States. Ms. Sasaki is currently working on a short film about this endeavor.

One of the artists interviewed in the film said that "most of us go through the world without seeing anything, but Herb and Dorothy have eyes that see." A curator noted that Herb and Dorothy had an "aesthetic eye, something that is innate and cannot be learned." I think appreciating art requires a combination of both an innate and a learned eye, along with a healthy dose of Vogelesque passion.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I Do Want To Go To Chelsea


In his 1978 song, Elvis Costello was referring to the London neighborhood when he said he didn't want to go to Chelsea (oh no, it does not move me). I usually have similar sentiments with regard to the New York neighborhood of the same name, but today's spectacular weather, the prospect of a fantastic hamburger at The Empire Diner, and of course, the art, compelled me to take the E train to 23nd.

One medium-rare burger, a celebrity sighting (the actor Matthew Modine was being interviewed by a guy with a tape recorder near the counter where I was sitting - they took off on their bicycles after they ate), and 25 galleries later, I can say that I'm glad I went.

With over 500 art galleries, Chelsea is universally acknowledged as a New York art mecca, though the current recession has taken a measured toll on the area. For example, in addition to a number of empty gallery spaces, I noticed that some galleries had posted signs indicating that they would be open by appointment only. In the "Power of Positive Thinking" category, one gallery's mascot on the premises was a black Labrador named Profit. But one of the most interesting things I saw was not in any gallery - it was a series of posters on a wall in front of a construction site. A "Wanted" poster of sorts, it showed a photograph of a young Asian woman and it read "Wanted for Questioning Concerning the Offense of NY Artist." The artist lamented the current economy, said she had tried to get internships, scholarships, fellowships, jobs, all with no success. Despite her appreciation for the Bachelor's and Master's degrees she earned in America, and her valiant efforts to survive in New York, she announced her intention to return to her country of origin.
One of the reasons I tend to avoid Chelsea is the sameness of the dreary, garaged galleries, one much the same as another (except for the art inside), one right next to the other, block after block, ad infinitum. It takes a lot of stamina to withstand the very real possibility of aesthetic overdose. In contrast, an area like the Lower East Side is host to scattered, idiosyncratic galleries that you actually have to hunt for. Interspersed with lots of boutiques, cafes, and restaurants to spice things up, it is one of the great pleasures of exploring this constantly morphing neighborhood.

Today, though, I was sufficiently fueled with carbohydrates, and buoyed by the sunshine and relative quiet of the streets to enjoy my tour of some Chelsea galleries. I talked with many gallerinas and gallerinos, and even some gallery owners (they are usually not to be found on the premises) about the art on the walls. My favorites: Richard Woods at Perry Rubinstein; Donna Sharrett at Pavel Zoubok Gallery; Ahmed Alsoudani at Goff + Rosenthal; Leonard Freed at Bruce Silverstein; Robert Longo at Metro Pictures; Robert Elfgen at Marianne Boesky; Gordon Moore and John Lees at Betty Cuningham; Chuck Close at PaceWildenstein, Mary Mattingly at Robert Mann Gallery; Sophie Calle at Paula Cooper; and Pablo Picasso's Mosqueteros at Gagosian, the pièce de résistance I saved for last.

I had seen plenty of Picassos in Barcelona, Paris, and at New York's MoMA, but it was pleasantly jarring to see so many musketeers en masse with their mismatched, misplaced face and body parts. In Chelsea, it is not unusual to see such sights: unnerving musketeers, a geisha walking down 12th Avenue in full garb, or a woman walking two giant hounds - they were Spinones, Italian bird dogs.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Seasonal Affective Disorder


I got back into town last night in time to watch the the second installment in the new three-part series, Wallander, on PBS. It stars Kenneth Branagh (up until now, not one of my favorite actors), airs on Sundays at 9 pm in New York, and is based on detective novels by Swedish author Henning Mankell. Dark, disturbing, and deserving of at least R.E.M.'s Drive and E-Bow the Letter or any Radiohead song as potential soundtracks, these are violent stories with a sympathetic protagonist in the person of Kurt Wallander (Branagh), a haggard, beaten-down detective in danger of succumbing to the side effects of his job. The cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantel, who worked on Slumdog Millionaire, is responsible here for the eerie, heavily saturated look of the film. My bleak description of Wallander belies the fact that I will miss this series when it ends next week.

Watching this series reminded me of Insomnia - both the 1998 Norwegian version and the 2002 Hollywood version directed by Christopher Nolan. Like Wallander, both Insomnia films are set in sunshine-doused environments (the former in summertime Sweden and the latter two in Norway and Alaska, respectively), which prove to be as destabilizing to the protagonists as being immersed in darkness for the better portion of a 24-hour period.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit friends in Stockholm during the summer months and experienced the delight of not-completely-dark evenings. The same happened last July when I was in Iceland to celebrate my birthday.

As much as my mood is elevated by sunlight and depressed by the weather we've been having in New York lately, I still prefer four relatively distinct seasons. I like variety and would not wish to endure either prolonged daylight or darkness. No matter how dark it gets here, it is always darker somewhere else, and I know that eventually it will get lighter.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Custom of the Country


Edith Wharton said that she took the title of her 1913 novel, The Custom of the Country, from a 1647 play by John Fletcher and Philip Massinger. "Custom," refers to money, in this case, money that is paid by a gentleman for a woman's virginity.

My essay has nothing to do with this topic, nor do I intend to discuss the female protagonist of this or any other Wharton novel - not Lily Bart in The House of Mirth or May Welland Archer in The Age of Innocence.

Instead, I was thinking about the fact that when you live somewhere for an extended period of time - in my case, anywhere from two months to two years - you cannot help but be affected by the customs of that country. In addition to the tangible souvenirs I possess from countries I lived in or traveled to, I've acquired habits and proclivities that remain with me today.

For example, because it made sense, I adopted the custom of eating with a fork in my left hand and a knife in my right from time spent living in London. From Poland, Slovakia, and Lithuania, I developed a great fondness for root vegetables, in addition to a tendency to want to kiss people on the cheeks three times in greeting. Also from Poland, no shaking hands with gloves on and no shaking hands when they cross another pair of shaking hands. And a healthy enjoyment of food, drink, conversation, and family.

From China, I have retained a superstitious belief about the number eight (which sounds like the Chinese word for good fortune) and for the past 15 years, have requested telephone numbers with as many 8's as possible. Like the Chinese, I try to stay away from the number four - it sounds like the Chinese word for death - and am certain to give even numbers of gifts to Chinese friends. Red is a good color, white is bad. I present things like business cards with both hands. As much as possible, I have tried to arrange my living and working spaces according to the principles of feng shui.

From India, I still tend to avoid using my left hand when I can easily use my right. Also from India, odd numbers of things are good, but not in threes. Most importantly, I embrace bright colors and the headiest of spices.

From Argentina, one kiss on the cheek upon greeting. An even greater appreciation of beef, Malbec wine, and the tango. And from Mexico, adding red hot chili peppers to soup to give it something extra.

Some habits are more reflexive rather than conscious. All of them have become a part of the mosaic pattern that characterizes a traveler.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Freaks


The Film Forum is hosting a Tod Browning festival on Monday evenings from May 11-June 8. The pre-1930s (silent) movies feature live piano accompaniment by Steve Sterner, who composed original music for the films. Last night, we were treated to his score while watching The Unholy Three, starring the incomparable Lon Chaney, Sr., aka The Man of a Thousand Faces.

A true double-feature, we also saw Browning's Freaks, a sympathetic look at the lives of circus performers, who in one way or another, do not meet society's expectations about beauty. Two of the "normal" protagonists, who quickly show themselves to be the true monsters, are destroyed or disfigured at the end of the film.

Freaks unnerved me and moved me, in the same way as Katherine Dunn's 1989 novel, Geek Love.

Here is the "disclaimer" which appeared in the opening sequence of Freaks:

For the love of beauty is a deep seated urge which dates back to the beginning of civilization. The revulsion with which we view the abnormal, the malformed and the mutilated is the result of long conditioning by our forefathers. The majority of freaks, themselves, are endowed with normal thoughts and emotions. Their lot is truly a heart- breaking one.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Magic Flute in the Bronx


No, not Die Zauberflaute, but The Magic Flute. Last night, I attended a Bronx Opera production of one of Mozart's most popular operas, performed in English, at CUNY's Lehman College.

The story contains Masonic elements as well as references to the Enlightenment, good and evil, and comedy. Mozart wrote The Magic Flute during the last year of his life while in Prague and it reportedly lifted his spirits. I couldn't help but contrast the lightness of this opera with Requiem, Mozart's final composition, also written while he was ill.

The Magic Flute places great demands on the singers. For instance, The Queen of the Night performs the famous aria, Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen" ("The vengeance of Hell boils in my heart"), which reaches a high F6, rare in opera. At the low end, the part of Sarastro includes a conspicuous F in a few locations. Astrid Marshall and Jorge Ocasio in these two roles were superb. I noted in the program that there are alternate performers for all the roles, so that each singer performs this 3.5 hour opera only once a week.

I thought of other remarkable feats in opera, such as Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez' soaring, joyful aria Ah! Mes Amis, Quel Jour de Fête in Donizetti's La Fille du Régiment, in which he hits 9 high C's. Magnificent. Or German soprano Diane Damrau's debut performance in the lead role of Lucia di Lammarmoor at The Met, which I had the great fortune to see last fall. I got to thinking about how the human body as a musical instrument is pitched a certain way and also how opera singers are truly like Olympic athletes performing at the extremes of human ability.

Then I began to wonder about the challenges posed by translating operas, poems, and literature into other languages while retaining the beauty and magic of the original words. I imagine that poetry and opera especially, with their reliance on rhyming, flow, and melody would prove to be the most difficult. Although the story itself is a bit fanciful, the translation from German to English successfully conveyed the essence and humor of the story of the The Magic Flute, resulting in an enjoyable experience.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Affordable Art Fair is Not an Oxymoron



Last night, a friend and I were invited to attend an opening night reception of The Affordable Art Fair in its new venue at 7 West 34th Street. Over 60 international galleries were represented. In contrast to the International Fine Art Fair which I visited on May 5th, many pieces at the AAF were actually quite affordable, some selling for under $100. The atmosphere was very upbeat, with many art enthusiasts in attendance and a variety of good art. For example, more and more, I've been noticing the trend of younger artists to embrace figurative painting, and there were many excellent examples last night. I'm encouraged by this.
One dealer I spoke to told me that there were plenty of well-heeled collectors present the night before at a private preview. Even though these people may have also purchased artwork at the more upscale International Fine Art Fair earlier in the week, I would be willing to bet that they purchased a few "inexpensive" things at the AAF as well.

I am heading back tomorrow afternoon with some other friends, perhaps to pick up that very affordable print I had my eye on.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The International Fine Art Fair

A friend and I stopped by the Park Avenue Armory to attend the last day of The International Fine Art Fair (IFAF), which was held from May 1 - 5. Founded in 1994, the 2009 IFAF hosted 40 European and American fine art dealers whose drawings, paintings, and sculpture span 700 years. This high-end fair is noted for its vetting procedure in which every work of art is examined for quality and authenticity. Many of the pieces are museum quality, and although prices range up to $10 million, there are also works for under $1,000.

While my friend and I enjoyed much of the art (the highlight of any fair), the atmosphere at IFAF this year could best be described as funereal - from the somber tone and attitude of the fair-goers and the dealers down to even the floral arrangements and background music. I saw only a sprinkling of red dots next to the works of art, indicating that they had been sold.

Perhaps it was because it was the last day of the fair in the late afternoon, perhaps it was the gloomy weather and economy - in any case, the result was a fair that was less than joyful. My friend and I overheard one dealer say to another that he was glad it was finally over. Nevertheless, this bleak sentiment, along with the report from Lee Rosenbaum yesterday about the depressing Sotheby's auction, failed to dampen my enthusiasm; in fact, I am looking forward to the opening of the Affordable Art Fair tomorrow evening, which I predict will be much more lively and successful, perhaps even an example of what viable art fairs will look like in the near future.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Borscht Belt Bingo on the Bowery


One of the best ways I've found to spend a rainy Monday evening is to head down to The Bowery Poetry Club for Monday night bingo, hosted by the "hardest-working middle-aged man" (and drag king) in show business, Murray Hill, and his sidekick Linda Simpson. Once the games get going, no one is safe from the rapier wit and barbs these two direct at each other, the Bowery Poetry Club employees, and of course, the audience.

In what was noted as record time, I won one game of Bingo after just six or seven numbers had been called. Winners are obliged to come up on stage to retrieve their prize (which could end up being rather embarrassing and/or humiliating; in fact, I would be willing to bet that many prizes actually prevent some people from calling out "Bingo!" even if they win) and be subject to the whims of Murray and Linda. Fortunately, my prize was a sort of enormous travel bag donated by the brewery that was one of the sponsors of the event...not bad, considering that some of the other prizes included a glow-in-the-dark angel, an atrocious beach towel, and a pretty terrifying "Chucky"-like doll. The latter was won by one of our table mates, a woman from Wisconsin who was there with all of her friends. They were the hits of the evening.

Once up on stage, Murray asked me what I did for a living and - the temptation to shamelessly promote my writing and my blog taking a back seat to my show biz instinct - I looked around at all the hopeful young unemployed eyes in the audience and said "nothing." I got the laugh.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Adventures of a Modern-Day Flâneur


The life of our city is rich in poetic and marvelous subjects. We are enveloped and steeped as though in an atmosphere of the marvelous; but we do not notice it. -Charles Baudelaire

Baudelaire characterized a flâneur as one who strolls along the city streets, welcoming new experiences and seeking to become a part of the surrounding tableaux. The word takes on its most negative meaning to describe someone who loiters and makes trouble, but this is not the definition I am thinking of.

A friend and I walked briskly along the Hudson River yesterday, taking in the sights and sounds on Riverside Drive and in the park. Not content with our approximately five-mile trek, we took the subway to Brooklyn later in the day to walk around Park Slope, looking for a mint julep and a venue that broadcasted the Kentucky Derby. We successfully located both, observing the quiet charm of this neighborhood, compared to Manhattan's frenzy.

I found myself in Brooklyn again today at The Brooklyn Museum's Gustave Caillebotte exhibition entitled Impressionist Paintings from Paris to the Sea. Influenced by the 19th century Realists Courbet and Manet, and a friend to Monet, Renoir, and Sisley, Caillebotte was also a yachtsman and a boat builder, who at the time of his death in 1894 was the most influential sailor in France. There was even a collection of half models of boats that the artist had done. A friend and I were disappointed that one of Caillebotte's most iconic paintings, the 7' x 9' Paris Street, Rainy Day (1877), was not on view, except for a small reproduction located next to a painting of detailed cobblestone. Of course, we had grown up with access to Paris Street courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago, where the painting has been since 1964. Still, we wondered why it was not included in the Brooklyn show. The influence of the then-new discovery of photography is evident in the subject matter, lighting, and perspective of Caillebotte's paintings. Like Courbet and Manet, he depicted ordinary people going about their daily lives with quiet grace. My favorite is The Floor Scrapers.

In late 2007, I first saw the work of the young Miami artist, Hernan Bas, at The Rubell Family Collection, which is kept in a warehouse formerly used by the DEA. Bas makes films, creates installations, draws, and paints. I was most impressed with his paintings and thought then that he was one of the most beautiful colorists I had seen. The fact that such a young artist chooses to paint says a lot in this age when younger artists tend to gravitate towards video, film, and installations. So I was very happy to see these 38 works of art again at The Brooklyn Museum. The exhibition was curated in much the same way that I had seen it in Miami. The show charts Bas' development through his short, but very distinguished career, with select works from his dozen or so series. I like best the works in the series It's Super Natural and Dandies, Pansies and Prudes. I was compelled to return several times to the exquisite The Great Barrier Wreath. Owning even one of the panels of the three-panel work would make this flâneur smile.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Limits of Control


It's appropriate to view Jim Jarmusch's dream-like film, The Limits of Control, which opened today in New York, as an aggregate of his earlier films, with a dose of many of the director's influences thrown in for good measure. Characters who represent literature, music, film, science, philosophy, and dance interact with the protagonist, played by the serene Ivorian actor Isaach De Bankole, aka The Lone Man, who is a soul mate to Johnny Depp's William Blake character in Dead Man, and who is one version of the director himself.

It's tempting to analyze the film from a Jungian perspective. There are enough dream symbols to also attempt a Freudian analysis. Keys, trains, airplanes, and bleak landscapes getting bleaker occur repeatedly, systematically. Several scenes could have come directly from David Lynch's Mulholland Drive.

The Lone Man carries out his mission with calm deliberation, going from meeting to meeting in Spain, connecting tenuously with various people along the way, and is the recipient of their views on life. He takes it all in with hardly a word, just as in a dream where one is only able to be on the receiving end of all that happens.

If you have ever travelled across time zones, this film will put you in the jet-lagged state of disorientation and sense of alienation that comes from arriving in an unknown country. You feel the urge to explore the unknown while at the same time experiencing an overwhelming temptation to sleep. You wander the streets, observing, hoping to connect with natives, all the while knowing that you are there for a relatively short period of time and can never really hope to make a significant dent in the fabric. This film resonated strongly with me - I have lived in 10 countries and have travelled to over 40, and though I know for sure that I have been profoundly affected by my experiences, I often wonder whether it matters at all that I was there.

The Limits of Control (the film's title comes from a 1975 essay by William S. Burroughs) reinforces the fact that we are alone in the world, but reminds us that we are free to either engage with life or not. Despite the film's bleak, unsettling aftertaste, I felt lighter.

AIRIE

I was in SoHo last night to see a gallery show that featured the work of four artists who are affiliated with AIRIE, Artists in Residence in Everglades, a non-profit organization formed in 2001 after an $8 billion Everglades Restoration Bill was passed. The founder, artist Donna Marxer , wanted other artists and writers to become a part of this development. AIRIE invites qualified professionals to reside and create art in Everglades National Park for one month. The work they produce is nature-inspired and has met with great success. AIRIE welcomes volunteers in any number of areas.

I asked Alan Scott, Everglades National Park District Interpreter and a guest at the opening, what he thought of Susan Orleans' 1998 book The Orchid Thief, and he said that it accurately portrayed the wilderness and beauty of the Everglades. He also said that the book cost him about $1,000, because like many real-life characters in the book, he began to collect orchids, apparently quite an addicting habit that is not easily broken.