Happy Birthday Jackson Pollock

Today is the 103rd birthday of Jackson Pollock.  Some of his art pushes some people’s definitions of art because they do not see it as a representation of anything they recognize.  Fortunately, the definition of art is not if someone can see a red barn on a grassy hill in it.  His art elicits emotions, questions and wonder; it draws the viewer in, blurs the periphery and creates a pure experience.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: Jackson Pollock
OCCUPATION: Painter
BIRTH DATE: January 28, 1912
DEATH DATE: August 11, 1956
PLACE OF BIRTH: Cody, Wyoming
PLACE OF DEATH: East Hampton, New York
FULL NAME: Paul Jackson Pollock

BEST KNOWN FOR: Famous 20th century artist Jackson Pollock revolutionized the world of modern art with his unique abstract painting techniques.

Paul Jackson Pollock was born on January 28, 1912 in Cody, Wyoming. His father, LeRoy Pollock, was a farmer and a government land surveyor, and his mother, Stella May McClure, was a fierce woman with artistic ambitions. The youngest of five brothers, he was a needy child and was often in search of attention that he did not receive.

During his youth, Pollock’s family moved around the West, to Arizona and throughout California. When Pollock was 8, his father, who was an abusive alcoholic, left the family, and Pollock’s older brother, Charles, became like a father to him. Charles was an artist, and was considered to be the best in the family. He had a significant influence on his younger brother’s future ambitions. While the family was living in Los Angeles, Pollock enrolled in the Manual Arts High School, where he learned to draw but had little success expressing himself. He was eventually expelled for starting fights.

In 1930, at age 18, Pollock moved to New York City to live with his brother, Charles. He soon began studying with Charles’s art teacher, representational regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton. Pollock spent much of his time with Benton, often babysitting Benton’s young son, and the Bentons eventually became like the family Pollock felt he never had.

When Pollock’s father died suddenly in 1933, he fell into a deep depression. He got drunk one night and started a fight with Charles’s wife, Elizabeth. During the fight, Pollock threatened her with an ax, and then turned around and sliced through one of his brothe’’s paintings, which had been scheduled for an upcoming exhibition. Pollock was forced to leave Charles’s house, and in 1934, his brother Sanford arrived in New York to help take care of him.

During the Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt started a program called the Public Works of Art Project, one of many intended to jumpstart the economy. Artists such as Pollock were given $24.86 to do 20 hours of work a week. The program resulted in thousands of works of art by Pollock and contemporaries such as José Clemente Orozco, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko.

But despite being busy with work, Pollock could not stop drinking. In 1937, he began receiving psychiatric treatment for alcoholism from a Jungian analyst who fueled his interest in symbolism and Native American art. In 1939, Pollock discovered Pablo Picasso‘s show at the Museum of Modern Art. Picasso’s artistic experimentation encouraged Pollock to push the boundaries of his own work.

“Abstract painting is abstract. It confronts you. There was a reviewer a while back who wrote that my pictures didn’t have any beginning or any end. He didn’t mean it as a compliment, but it was.”

In 1942, Pollock met Lee Krasner, a Jewish contemporary artist and an established painter in her own right, at a party. She later visited Pollock at his studio and was impressed with his art. They soon became romantically involved.

Around this time, Peggy Guggenheim began expressing interest in Pollock’s paintings. During a meeting she had with the painter Pete Norman, he saw some of Pollock’s paintings lying on the floor and commented that Pollock’s art was possibly the most original American art he had seen. Guggenheim immediately put Pollock on contract.

Krasner and Pollock married in October 1945, and with the help of a $2,000 loan from Guggenheim, bought a farmhouse in the Springs area of East Hampton, on Long Island. Guggenheim gave Pollock a stipend to work, and Krasner dedicated her time to helping promote and manage his artwork. Pollock was happy to be in the country again, surrounded by nature, which had a major impact on his projects. He was energized by his new surroundings and by his supportive wife. In 1946, he converted the barn to a private studio, where he continued to develop his “drip” technique, the paint literally flowing off of his tools and onto the canvases that he typically placed on the floor.

In 1947, Guggenheim turned Pollock over to Betty Parsons, who was not able to pay him a stipend but would give him money as his artwork sold.

Pollock’s most famous paintings were made during this “drip period” between 1947 and 1950. He became wildly popular after being featured in a four-page spread, on August 8, 1949, in Life magazine. The article asked of Pollock, “Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?” The Life article changed Pollock’s life overnight. Many other artists resented his fame, and some of his friends suddenly became competitors. As his fame grew, some critics began calling Pollock a fraud, causing even him to question his own work. During this time he would often look to Krasner to determine which paintings were good, unable to make the differentiation himself.

In 1949, Pollock’s show at the Betty Parsons Gallery sold out, and he suddenly became the best-paid avant-garde painter in America. But fame was not good for Pollock, who, as a result of it, became dismissive of other artists, even his former teach and mentor, Thomas Hart Benton. Furthermore, acts of self-promotion made him feel like a phony, and he would sometimes give interviews in which his answers were scripted. When Hans Namuth, a documentary photographer, began producing a film of Pollock working, Pollock found it impossible to “perform” for the camera. Instead, he went back to drinking heavily.

Pollock’s 1950 show at the Parsons gallery did not sell, though many of the paintings included, such as his “Number 4, 1950,” are considered masterpieces today. It was during this time that Pollock began to consider symbolic titles misleading, and instead began using numbers and dates for each work he completed. Pollock’s art also became darker in color. He abandoned the “drip” method, and began painting in black and white, which proved unsuccessful. Depressed and haunted, Pollock would frequently meet his friends at the nearby Cedar Bar, drinking until it closed and getting into violent fights.

Concerned for Pollock’s well-being, Krasner called on Pollock’s mother to help. Her presence helped to stabilize Pollock, and he began to paint again. He completed his masterpiece, “The Deep,” during this period.

But as the demand from collectors for Pollock’s art grew, so too did the pressure he felt, and with it his alcoholism.

Overwhelmed with Pollock’s needs, Krasner was also unable to work. Their marriage became troubled, and Pollock’s health was failing. He started dating other women, and by 1956, he had quit painting, and his marriage was in shambles. Krasner reluctantly left for Paris to give Pollock space.

Just after 10 p.m. on August 11, 1956, Pollock, who had been drinking, crashed his car into a tree less than a mile from his home. Ruth Kligman, his girlfriend at the time, was thrown from the car and survived. Another passenger, Edith Metzger, was killed, and Pollock was thrown 50 feet into the air and into a birch tree. He died immediately.

Krasner returned from France to bury Pollock, and subsequently went into a mourning that would last the rest of her life. Retaining her creativity and productivity, Krasner lived and painted for another 20 years. She also managed the sale of Pollock’s paintings, carefully distributing them to museums. Before her death, Krasner set up the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, which gives grants to young, promising artists. When Krasner died on June 19, 1984, the estate was worth $20 million.

In December 1956, the year after his death, Pollock was given a memorial retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and then another in 1967. His work has continued to be honored on a large scale, with frequent exhibitions at both the MoMA in New York and the Tate in London. He remains one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.

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Happy Birthday Paul Newman

Today is the 90th birthday of Paul Newman.  I think (at least hope) that we all have a similar desire for our life, a sort of State Park approach to humanity and the world:  to leave it better than we found it.  Paul Newman absolutely did.  The work he did on film has made the world a more beautiful place and the work his charities continue to do is a legacy that we will all benefit from for generations.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left it.

NAME: Paul Newman
OCCUPATION: Film Actor, Theater Actor, Television Actor, Race Car Driver, Entrepreneur
BIRTH DATE: January 26, 1925
DEATH DATE: September 26, 2008
EDUCATION: Kenyon College, Yale School of Drama
PLACE OF BIRTH: Cleveland, Ohio
PLACE OF DEATH: Westport, Connecticut

BEST KNOWN FOR: Paul Newman came to be known as one of the finest actors of his time. He also started the Newman’s Own food company, which donates all profits to charity.

Paul Leonard Newman was born on January 26, 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio. Newman grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, with his older brother Arthur and his parents, Arthur and Teresa. His father owned a sporting-goods store and his mother was a homemaker who loved the theatre. Newman got his first taste of acting while doing school plays, but it was not his first love at the time. In high school, he played football and hoped to be a professional athlete.

Graduating high school in 1943, Newman briefly attended college before enlisting in the U.S. Navy Air Corps. He wanted to be a pilot, but he was told that he could never fly a plane as he was colorblind. He ended up serving as a radio operator and spent part of World War II serving in the Pacific.

After leaving the military in 1946, Paul Newman attended Kenyon College in his home state of Ohio. He was on an athletic scholarship and played on the school’s football team. But after getting into some trouble, Newman changed course. “I got thrown in jail and kicked off the football team. Since I was determined not to study very much, I majored in theater the last two years,” he told Interview magazine in 1998.

After finishing college in 1949, Newman did summer stock theater in Wisconsin where he met his first wife, actress Jacqueline Witte. The couple soon married, and Newman continued to act until his father’s death in 1950. He and his wife moved to Ohio to run the family business for a time. Their first child, a son named Scott, was born there. After asking his brother to take over the business, Newman and his family relocated to Connecticut, where he studied at the Yale School of Drama.

Running out of money, Newman left Yale after a year and tried his luck in New York. He studied with Lee Strasberg at the famed Actor’s Studio alongside Marlon Brando, James Dean and Geraldine Page.

Newman made his Broadway debut in William Inge’s Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy Picnic in 1953. During rehearsals he met actress Joanne Woodward, who was serving as an understudy for the production. While they were reportedly attracted to each other, the happily-married Newman did not pursue a romantic relationship with the young actress.

Around this time, Newman and his wife welcomed their second child together, a daughter named Susan. Picnic ran for 14 months, helping Newman support his growing family. He also found work on the then-emerging medium of television.

In 1954, Paul Newman made his film debut in The Silver Chalice for which he received terrible reviews. He had better success on Broadway in the Tony Award-winning The Desperate Hours (1955), in which he played an escaped convict who terrorizes a suburban family. During the run of the hit play, he and his wife added a third child — a daughter named Stephanie — to their family.

A winning turn on television helped pave the way for Newman’s return to Hollywood. Working with director Arthur Penn, he appeared in an episode of Philco Playhouse, “The Death of Billy the Kid,” written by Gore Vidal. Newman teamed up with Penn again for an episode of Playwrights ’56 for a story about a worn-down and battered boxer. Two projects became feature films: Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956) and The Left-Handed Gun (1958).

In Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), Newman again played a boxer. This time he took on the role of real-life prizefighter Rocky Graziano — and demonstrated his considered acting talents to movie-goers and critics alike. His reputation was further magnified with Penn’s The Left-Handed Gun, an adaptation of Gore Vidal’s earlier teleplay about Billy the Kid.

That same year, Paul Newman starred as Brick in the film version of Tennessee Williams‘ play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), opposite Elizabeth Taylor. He gave another strong performance as a hard-drinking former athlete and disinterested husband who struggles against different types of pressures exerted on him by his wife (Taylor) and his overpowering father (Burl Ives). Once dismissed as just another handsome face, Newman showed that he could handle the challenges of such a complex character. He was nominated for his first Academy Award for this role.

The Long Hot Summer (1958) marked the first big-screen pairing of Newman and Joanne Woodward. The two had already become a couple off-screen while he was still married to his first wife, and they wed in 1958 soon after his divorce was finalized. The next year, Newman returned to Broadway to star in the original production of Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth. The production saw Newman acting opposite the great Geraldine Page, and was directed by Elia Kazan.

Newman continued to thrive professionally. He starred in Otto Preminger’s Exodus (1960) about the founding of the state of Israel. The following year, he took on one of his most famous roles. In The Hustler (1961), Newman played Fast Eddie, a slick, small-time pool shark who takes on the legendary Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason). For his work on the film, Paul Newman received his second Academy Award nomination.

Taking on another remarkable part, Newman played the title character — an arrogant, unprincipled cowboy — in Hud (1963). The movie posters for the film described the character as “the man with the barbed wire soul,” and Newman earned critical acclaim and another Academy Award nomination for his work as yet another on-screen antihero.

In Cool Hand Luke (1967), Newman played a rebellious inmate at a southern prison. His convincing and charming portrayal led audiences to cheer on this convict in his battle against prison authorities. No matter how hard they leaned on Luke, he refused to bend to their will. This thoroughly enjoyable and realistic performance led to Paul Newman’s fourth Academy Award nomination.

The next year, Newman stepped behind the cameras to direct his wife in Rachel, Rachel (1968). Woodward starred as an older schoolteacher who dreams of love. A critical success, the film earned four Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Picture.

A lesser-known film from this time helped trigger a new passion for the actor. While working on the car racing film, Winning (1969), Newman went to a professional driving program as part of his preparation for the role. He discovered that he loved racing and started to devote some of his time to the sport.

That same year, Newman starred alongside Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). He played Butch to Redford’s Sundance, and the pairing was a huge success with audiences, bringing in more than $46 million domestically. Recapturing their on-screen camaraderie, Newman and Redford played suave con men in The Sting (1973), another hit at the box office.

During the 1980s Newman continued to amass critical praise for his work. In Sydney Pollack’s Absence of Malice (1981), he played a man victimized by the media. The following year he starred as a down-and-out lawyer as The Verdict (1982). Both films earned Newman Academy Award nominations.

While he was widely considered one of the finest actors of his time, Paul Newman had never won an Academy Award. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to correct this error by giving Newman an honorary award for his contributions to film in 1985. With his trademark sense of humor, Newman said in his acceptance speech that “I am especially grateful that this did not come wrapped in a gift certificate to Forest Lawn [a famous cemetery].”

He returned to the character of Fast Eddie from The Hustler in 1986’s The Color of Money. This time around, his character was no longer the up-and-coming hustler, but a worn-out liquor salesman. He is drawn back in the world of pool by mentoring a young upstart (Tom Cruise). For his work on the film, Paul Newman finally won the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Approaching his seventies, Newman continued to delight audiences with more character-driven roles. He played an aging, but crafty rascal who struggles with renewing a relationship with his estranged son in Nobody’s Fool (1994).

Newman played a crime boss in Road to Perdition (2002), which starred Tom Hanks as a hit man who must protect his son from Newman’s character. This role brought him another Academy Award nomination — this time for Best Supporting Actor.

In his later years, Paul Newman took fewer acting roles, but was still able to deliver impressive performances. He earned an Emmy Award for his nuanced depiction of a lay-about father in the television miniseries Empire Falls (2005), which was adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning Richard Russo novel. The miniseries also provided him the opportunity to work with his wife, Joanne Woodward.

Around this time, Paul Newman scored his first racing victory at a Connecticut track in 1972. He went on to win a national Sports Car Club of America title four years later. In 1977, Newman made the leap and became a professional racer. In 1995, Newman served as part of the winning team at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. With his victory, Newman became the oldest driver to win this 24-hour-long race.

Newman started his own food company in the early 1980s. He started out the business by making bottles of salad dressing to give out as gifts for Christmas one year with his friend, writer A. E. Hotchner. Newman then had an unusual idea as to what to do with the leftovers — he wanted to try selling the dressing to stores. The two went on to found Newman’s Own, whose profits and royalties are used for educational and charitable purposes. The company’s product line now extends from dressings to sauces to snacks to cookies. Since the inception of Newman’s Own, over $250 million has been donated to thousands of charities worldwide.

Newman’s other charitable foundations include the Scott Newman Center, which he founded in 1978, after his only son died of an accidental overdose of alcohol and prescription drugs. The group seeks to stop drug abuse through educational programs. He also established the Hole in the Wall Camps to give children with life-threatening illnesses a memorable, free holiday. In 1988, the first residential summer camp was opened in Ashford, Connecticut. There are now eight camps in the United States, Ireland, the United Kingdom and France. Some of the funds raised by Newman’s Own have gone to support the Hole in the Wall Camps.

Known for his love of race cars, Newman lent his distinctive voice to the 2006 animated film Cars, playing the part of Doc Hudson — a retired racecar. He also served as the narrator for the 2007 documentary The Price of Sugar, which explored the work of Father Christopher Hartley and his efforts to help the workers in the Dominican Republic’s sugar cane fields.

That same year, Newman announced that he was retiring from acting. “I’m not able to work anymore as an actor at the level I would want to,” he said during an appearance on Good Morning America. “You start to lose your memory, your confidence, your invention. So that’s pretty much a closed book for me.”

Newman, however, wasn’t going to leave the business entirely. He was planning on directing Of Mice and Men at the Westport Country Playhouse the following year. But he ended up withdrawing from the production because of health problems, and rumors began to circulate that the great actor was seriously ill. Statements from the actor and his representatives simply said he was “doing nicely” and, reflective of Newman’s sense of humor, being treated “for athlete’s foot and hair loss.”

A private man, Newman chose to keep the true nature of his illness to himself. He succumbed to cancer at his Westport, Connecticut home on September 26, 2008. This is where he and his wife had lived for numerous years to get away from the spotlight and where they chose to raise their three daughters, Nell, Melissa and Clea.

As the news of his death spread, praise and tributes began pouring in. “There is a point where feelings go beyond words. I have lost a real friend. My life — and this country — is better for his being in it,” friend Robert Redford said after learning about Newman’s death.

Paul Newman will be long remembered for his great films, his vibrant lifestyle and his extensive charitable works, and his relationship with Joanne Woodward will always be regarded as one of the most successful and enduring love stories in Hollywood history.

 

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Happy Birthday Edith Warton

Today is the 153rd birthday of the writer who said, “Life is always a tightrope or a feather bed. Give me the tightrope.” She wrote about frustrated love in novels like The House of Mirth (1905), Ethan Frome (1911), and The Age of Innocence (1920), for which she became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize.  The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

 

NAME: Edith Wharton
OCCUPATION: Author
BIRTH DATE: January 24, 1862
DEATH DATE: August 11, 1937
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: St.-Brice-sous-Forêt, France
ORIGINALLY: Edith Newbold Jones

BEST KNOWN FOR: Novelist Edith Wharton was born to an old New York family, but is better known for her books Ethan Frome and The Age of Innocence.

Edith Warton came from a rich and snobbish New York family who lived off the inheritance of their real estate and banking tycoon ancestors, and she spent several years of her early childhood traveling around Europe. When she was 10, her parents re-settled in New York, around 23rd and Park Avenue. She was a teenage bookworm, reading insatiably from her family’s expansive library and feeling alienated and adrift in the New York high-society circles her family moved in. At 23, she married a family friend, a classy, good-looking sportsman named Edward “Teddy” Robbins Wharton, who wasn’t particularly fond of books. He had a tendency for manic spells, extravagant spending sprees, and infidelity. It was a long and miserable marriage.

She met Henry James in Europe and became good friends with him. He encouraged her to write about the New York City she knew so well and disliked. He said, “Don’t pass it by — the immediate, the real, the only, the yours.” And it was Henry James who introduced her to his friend Morton Fullerton, a dashing, promiscuous, intellectual American expat journalist who reported for the London Times from Paris. Edith Wharton fell hard for the man, filled her diary with passages about how their romance and conversation made her feel complete, wrote him pleading letters, and about a year into their affair, when she was in her late 40s, moved full-time to Paris, where he resided. The affair ended in 1911, the year she published Ethan Frome. She once wrote to him:

“Do you know what I was thinking last night, when you asked me, & I couldn’t tell you? — Only that the way you’ve spent your emotional life while I’ve … hoarded mine, is what puts the great gulf between us, & sets us not only on opposite shores, but at hopelessly distant points of our respective shores. Do you see what I mean?”And I’m so afraid that the treasures I long to unpack for you, that have come to me in magic ships from enchanted islands, are only, to you, the old familiar red calico & beads of the clever trader, who has had dealing with every latitude, & knows just what to carry in the hold to please the simple native — I’m so afraid of this, that often & often I stuff my shining treasures back into their box, lest I should see you smiling at them!

“Well! And what if you do? It’s your loss, after all! And if you can’t come into the room without my feeling all over me a ripple of flame, & if, wherever you touch me, a heart beats under your touch, & if, when you hold me, & I don’t speak, it’s because all the words in me seem to have become throbbing pulses, & all my thoughts are a great golden blur — why should I be afraid of your smiling at me, when I can turn the beads & calico back into such beauty —?”

He left her in 1911, and she stayed married to Teddy for a couple more years, though the two lived apart from each other during the last part of their 28-year marriage. She loved living in Paris, and there she mingled with people like André Gide, Jean Cocteau, Theodore Roosevelt, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, whom she once told: “To your generation, I must represent the literary equivalent of tufted furniture and gas chandeliers.” But she wasn’t prim or overly proper, and she famously enjoyed one of Fitzgerald’s scandalous stories, about an American couple in a Paris brothel, which he drunkenly related the first time he met her.

Modernist writers were among her contemporaries, but she didn’t use modernist techniques like stream-of-consciousness in her own writing, and she wasn’t a fan of it in others’. She once said about James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922), “Until the raw ingredients of a pudding make a pudding, I shall never believe that the raw material of sensation and thought can make a work of art without the cook’s intervening.”

She died in Paris at the age of 75. At the time of her death, she was working on a novel called The Buccaneers, about five rich American girls who set out to marry landed British men, so that they can have English feudal titles in their names, like “Duchess.” In her last days, she lay in bed and worked on the novel, and each page that she completed she dropped onto the floor so that it could be collected later, when she was through.
Many of her novels have been made into movies. The House of Mirth, The Glimpses of the Moon, and The Age of Innocence were all adapted into silent films around the 1920s. John Madden directed a version of Ethan Frome in 1993, the same year Martin Scorsese directed a film adaptation of The Age of Innocence. In 2000, Gillian Anderson starred in The House of Mirth, directed by Terence Davies.

Edith Wharton said, “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that receives it.”

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Happy Birthday Jeff Koons

Today is the 60th birthday of the artist Jeff Koons.  He is one of the most important modern artist living today.  The world is a better place because he is in it.

NAME: Jeff Koons
OCCUPATION: Illustrator, Painter, Sculptor
BIRTH DATE: January 21, 1955
EDUCATION: Maryland Institute of Art
PLACE OF BIRTH: York, Pennsylvania

BEST KNOWN FOR: Jeff Koons is a famous contemporary artist whose work is influenced by an eclectic array of sensibilities.

Jeff Koons was born on January 1, 1955, in York, Pennsylvania. After high school, he headed south to Maryland, where he attended the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. While earning his M.F.A. there (1976), he attended a show at the Whitney Museum in New York, an exhibition that would change his life.

“I remember being an art student and going to the Whitney in 1974 to see the exhibition of Jim Nutt, the Chicago imagist,” Koons says. “It was then I transferred to school in Chicago, all because of that show.” So Koons enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, an institution that would grant him an honorary doctorate more than 30 years later (2008).

Koons’ first show was staged in 1980, and he emerged onto the art scene with a style that blended several existing styles—pop, conceptual, craft, appropriation—to create his own unique mode of expression.

An “idea man,” Koons now runs his studio as he would a production office, often using computer-aided design and hiring out the actual construction of his pieces to technicians who can bring to life his ideas with more precision than he himself could.

His work takes on, in usually unconventional ways, such hot-button subjects such as sex, race, gender and fame, and it comes to life in such forms as balloons, bronzed sporting-goods items and inflatable pool toys. His knack for elevating the stature of such items from kitsch objects to high art has made his name synonymous with the art of mass culture.

And the transformation that takes place from Koons’ finding the objects he’ll use and the art he creates with them often gives birth to an unexpected psychological dimension, as shifting color, scale and representation take on new meaning, and the viewer can often find something wholly new in how humans, animals and anthropomorphized objects come to life.

Koons’ exhibits have always elicited inspired responses, a trait that perhaps itself is a marker in his importance as an artist, and since his first show in 1980 his works have been widely exhibited across the globe. In 2014, the Whitney, the museum that gave Koons a huge jolt of artistic inspiration as a student, held a retrospective of his body of work, the first to do so.

Of Koons, the Whitney says, “Throughout his career, he has pioneered new approaches to the readymade, tested the boundaries between advanced art and mass culture, challenged the limits of industrial fabrication, and transformed the relationship of artists to the cult of celebrity and the global market.”

He has also done solo shows at the château de Versailles in France (2008–09), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (2008), the Helsinki City Art Museum (2005), the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art in Oslo (2004) and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli (2003).

Along with high-profile exhibits, Koons’ career has been notable for the wide array of prestigious awards he has received, which span the entire course of his career. Notable among them are the State Department’s Medal of Arts (awarded by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2012) and becoming an honorary member of the Royal Academy, London (2010), and an officer of the French Legion of Honor (2007).

Koons was elected as a Fellow to the American Academy for Arts and Sciences in 2005.

Happy Birthday David Lynch

Today is the 69th birthday of David Lynch.  He is the only living director that I will see anything he does.  He makes films that are so achingly beautiful and moderately disturbing that compel me to watch and re-watch them, every time, I see something new.  The world is a better place because he is in it.

NAME: David Lynch
OCCUPATION: Director
BIRTH DATE: January 20, 1946
PLACE OF BIRTH: Missoula, Montana

BEST KNOWN FOR:  David Lynch is a film director and screenwriter known for his dark, offbeat films, notable Blue Velvet and Eraserhead.

David Keith Lynch (born January 20, 1946) is an American filmmaker, television director, visual artist, musician and occasional actor. Known for his surrealist films, he has developed his own unique cinematic style, which has been dubbed “Lynchian“, and which is characterized by its dream imagery and meticulous sound design. The surreal, and in many cases violent, elements to his films have earned them the reputation that they “disturb, offend or mystify” their audiences.

Born to a middle class family in Missoula, Montana, Lynch spent his childhood traveling around the United States, before going on to study painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, where he first made the transition to producing short films. Deciding to devote himself more fully to this medium, he moved to Los Angeles, where he produced his first motion picture, the surrealist horror Eraserhead (1977). After Eraserhead became a cult classic on the midnight movie circuit, Lynch was employed to direct The Elephant Man (1980), from which he gained mainstream success. Then being employed by the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, he proceeded to make two films: the science-fiction epic Dune (1984), which proved to be a critical and commercial failure, and then a neo-noir crime film, Blue Velvet (1986), which was highly critically acclaimed.

Proceeding to create his own television series with Mark Frost, the highly popular murder mystery Twin Peaks (1990–1992), he also created a cinematic prequel, Fire Walk With Me (1992); a road movie, Wild at Heart (1990) and a family film, The Straight Story (1999), in the same period. Turning further towards surrealist filmmaking, three of his following films worked on “dream logic” non-linear narrative structures, Lost Highway (1997), Mulholland Drive (2001) and Inland Empire (2006). Meanwhile, Lynch proceeded to embrace the internet as a medium, producing several web-based shows, such as the animation Dumbland (2002) and the surreal sitcom Rabbits (2002).

In the course of his career, Lynch has received three Academy Award nominations for Best Director, and a nomination for best screenplay. Lynch has twice won France’s César Award for Best Foreign Film, as well as the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and a Golden Lion award for lifetime achievement at the Venice Film Festival. The French government awarded him the Legion of Honor, the country’s top civilian honor, as a Chevalier in 2002 and then an Officier in 2007, while that same year, The Guardian described Lynch as “the most important director of this era”. Allmovie called him “the Renaissance man of modern American filmmaking”, whilst the success of his films have led to him being labelled “the first popular Surrealist.”

Lynch is an avid coffee drinker and even has his own line of special organic blends available for purchase on his website. Called “David Lynch Signature Cup”, the coffee has been advertised via flyers included with several recent Lynch-related DVD releases, including Inland Empire and the Gold Box edition of Twin Peaks. The possibly self-mocking tag-line for the brand is “It’s all in the beans … and I’m just full of beans.” This is also a quote of a line said by Justin Theroux’s character in Inland Empire.

TELEVISION
Twin Peaks Creator/Director (1990-91)
Twin Peaks FBI Chief Gordon Cole (1990-91)
On the Air Director/Writer/Producer (1992)
Hotel Room Director/Producer (1993)

FILMOGRAPHY AS DIRECTOR
Inland Empire (6-Sep-2006)
Rabbits (2002)
Mulholland Dr. (16-May-2001)
The Straight Story (21-May-1999)
Lost Highway (21-Feb-1997)
Lumière and Company (20-Dec-1995)
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (28-Aug-1992)
Wild at Heart (17-Aug-1990)
Industrial Symphony No. 1: The Dream of the Broken Hearted (1990)
Blue Velvet (19-Sep-1986)
Dune (14-Dec-1984)
The Elephant Man (3-Oct-1980)
Eraserhead (17-Mar-1977)

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (4-Sep-2012) · Himself
Side by Side (Feb-2012) · Himself
Pearl Jam Twenty (10-Sep-2011) · Himself
Great Directors (19-May-2009) · Himself
Lynch (23-Jun-2007) · Himself
Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream (13-May-2005) · Himself
Lumière and Company (20-Dec-1995) · Himself
Nadja (13-Sep-1994)
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (28-Aug-1992)
Zelly and Me (15-Apr-1988)

 

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Happy Birthday Barbara Stanwyck

Today is the 108th birthday of Barbara Stanwyck.  Born Ruby Stevens, reinvented herself into an internationally-known actress, and stayed in the public eye for 60 years.  Absolutely amazing.  The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

NAME: Barbara Stanwyck
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Television Actress, Dancer, Pin-up
BIRTH DATE: July 16, 1907
DEATH DATE: January 20, 1990
PLACE OF BIRTH: Brooklyn, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Santa Monica, California
ORIGINALLY: Ruby Stevens

BEST KNOWN FOR: Barbara Stanwyck was an American actress who had a 60-year career in film and TV. Usually playing strong-willed women, Stanwyck defined the femme fatale.

Film, television and theatre actress Barbara Stanwyck was born Ruby Stevens on July 16, 1907, in Brooklyn, New York. She had a troubled childhood, having become an orphan at the age of 4 after her mother was pushed off of a moving streetcar and killed. Her father failed to cope with the loss of his wife and abandoned his five children.The young Stanwyck—who was raised by her sister, a showgirl—was forced to grow up quickly. She was basically left to fend for herself. At the age of 9, Stanwyck took up smoking. She ended up quitting school five years later. By age 15, she made her way into the entertainment industry after becoming a chorus girl and later made her Broadway debut in 1926 as a cabaret dancer in The Noose. This was shortly after she changed her name to Barbara Stanwyck.
Stanwyck, along with Golden Age actresses like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, helped to redefine the typical role of women in film. Unlike the damsels in distress and happy housewives often shown in films during this era, Stanwyck a wide range of women, all having their own set of motives and ideals. Some examples of her landmark roles were in Ladies They Talk About (1932) and Annie Oakley (1935)—in which she played the titular role.In 1937, Stanwyck’s talent as an actress was recognized on a grander scale as she was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in Stella Dallas(1937). She would come to be nominated three more times for the films Ball of Fire (1941), Double Indemnity (1944) and Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)—each time for best actress in a leading role—however, she never won the award. In addition to the recognition she received from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Double Indemnity, she was lauded by critics for having what’s considered one of her greatest roles as seductress and murderer Phyllis Dietrichson in the popular noir film. She did, however, receive an honorary Oscar in 1982. In total she filmed more than 80 films.
As Stanwyck got older, she began making more appearances in television and fewer on film. In the 1952, she made her first television appearance onThe Jack Benny Program (1932-55). She followed with more steady work on TV in series such as Goodyear Theater (1957-60), Zane Grey Theater (1956-61) and The Barbara Stanwyck Show (1960-61), for which she received a Primetime Emmy Award. One of her most memorable roles on TV was in The Big Valley (1965-69), in which she played the lead role as Victoria Barkley.In the 1980s, Stanwyck made several memorable television appearances. She played Mary Carson in the 1983 hit miniseries The Thorn Birds with Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward. For portrayal of Ward’s strong-willed grandmother, Stanwyck won both a Golden Globe and an Emmy Award. She returned to prime time two years later with a role on Dynasty and then appeared on the popular drama’s spin-off The Colbys.Stanwyck was a reclusive person outside of acting, much different than the outgoing female characters that she so often played. After marrying comedian Fay, the couple adopted a son together, Dion Anthony Fay in 1932, before they got divorced in 1935 after it was reported that he had a drinking problem. She then married actor Robert Taylor in 1939, and the couple stayed together for a little more than a decade before they got divorced in 1951. She lived the rest of her life alone, preferring work as opposed to social interaction, during her later years.

One of her closest friends was her co-star from the series The Big Valley,Linda Evans. Evans said that after her mother passed, Stanwyck stepped in and took on that absent mother role in her life while they were filming. Stanwyck died a pioneering and often overlooked actress in Santa Monica, California, on January 20, 1990, from congestive heart failure. At her request, no funeral or memorial service was held.Stanwyck made the transition from Broadway to the silver screen in the late-1920s, trying her hand at acting in the film Broadway Nights (1927) as a dancer. The following year, she married comedian Frank Fay and in 1929 she took on a part in the film The Locked Door (1929) before she finished her stage run on Broadway and moved to Hollywood to pursue a career in film. Although Stanwyck’s career in film almost ended before it began with two unrecognized film roles under her belt, she managed to convince director Frank Capra to have a role in his film 1930 film Ladies of Leisure. The film garnered Stanwyck the attention that she desired.
Stanwyck’s role as a woman whose priorities revolved around money first and foremost was only the first in a string of performances that showed a progressive, stronger side of women. After her acting chops were put on display, she was signed to a contract with Columbia and appeared in the filmIllicit (1931). She soon followed with several popular films, including Ten Cents a Dance (1931), Night Nurse (1931) and Forbidden (1932), a film that took Stanwyck to Hollywood’s A-list.

S.P.A. v45.0 Launch is Live

Today is the 45th birthday of me. As the numbers grow they mean less and less and I understand them to be less and less important. Am i where I thought I would be 25 years ago or 20 years ago or even five years ago? I guess it depends on how I am measuring I guess it depends on the measurements. If I’m counting up all the outside material things that I thought I should have by this time, probably not. If I measure by type of person I wanted to become I know I’m on the right path do.

I guess the real accomplishment, the one that eclipses all others, is that I am still here. If the negative thoughts of my 20’s could have manifested physical results, I would be dead ten thousand times over. But they can’t and I’m not and I think about all the friends and family that I have that have died too early.

My cousin Erik killing himself saved my life. It took me out of my head, put life in perspective and made me understand that maybe I wasn’t where I wanted to be or who I wanted to be right then, but I was smart and capable enough to become anything I want. My path swerved sharply that day.

The next year, my boss David died in his mid 40s. We spent long days talking about what was important, who was important when you know the end is just around the bend. Love, family, beauty, art. I still have his copy of “The Razor’s Edge” on my book shelf and think about him often.

Everyone’s friend Jared had a seizure in his sleep and died in his early 30s. I could spend the rest of my life trying to influence as many people he did and never be able to balance the score. I think I will try…

I stand on the shoulders of my grandparents and great grandparents before them.  Their bravery and sacrifices have allowed me to be in the position I am in today and for that, I must honor them with being the best person I can be, to continue their work and do what I can to make the world a better place.

I’m not always perfect. I’m never perfect. But through that consistent imperfection I continue to strive to make myself a better person. To be in possession of more compassion and understanding and empathy. I hope I will never stop trying to improve.

I think I don’t spend enough time experiencing the journey because I am too focused on the destination. I will try to recognize my incremental improvements. They are really thousands of little destinations and accomplishments along my path that deserve celebrating.

Have a happy my birthday today. As you know, I dust off my old list of things that are important to me, make changes, and repost them every birthday. Here is the new improved spa V45.0:

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One of my goals today was to get a new profile pic, I have all day to do it, so a new one should pop up sometime today…

“What I Have Learned So Far”

I’ve learned that it’s taking me a long time to become the person I want to be. I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I want to continue to grow and change and progress until I die.  I do not ever want to rest on my laurels, get set in my ways, do something a specific way for no other reason that I have always done it that way.  I want to be routinely evaluating my choices to see if they still match with the person I am and the person I am on my way to becoming.  We can all do that, think about what is important to you and then reflect at the end of the day, as you drift off to sleep, to see if you accomplished it.  It is really less of a score card and more of a reminder for the next day.  Did you possess compassion whenever possible and applicable?  Did you express gratitude to your friends and family for being able to share each other’s life?

I’ve learned that our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become.  The past is nothing we can control and it can color who we are, but we can make the decision to be anything we set our minds to.  Create your identity, do not let it be assigned to you.  The traumas of our childhoods can easily make us into “victims” or “survivors” and we can hide behind that identity for the rest of our lives if we desire.  That trauma happened a long time ago and is over, to continue the trauma is your choice, but it does not give you a free pass to poor behavior.  It is a long struggle to be able to recognize you are worth good things happening to you, once you allow that thought to enter your consciousness, you start to let go of the past.

I’ve learned that we don’t have to change friends if we understand that friends change. Sometimes, our paths run right along each other at the same speed, seeing the same sights.  Then our paths may separate, but that does not erase our history and the reasons why we first became friends.  We all understand that we change, so thinking that our friends shouldn’t is unreasonable.

I’ve learned that money is a horrible way of keeping score.  Money does not make you better or worse than anyone, it is an instrument.  Like any other instrument, it can be used in a million different ways.  The most beautiful concerto can be played on an old piano just as easily as the keys of a Steinway can be smashed with a mallet.  Find something you are passionate about and devote your extra money to it’s promotion.  Make your money work for you as hard as you worked for it.  Keep the circle of energy flowing.

I’ve learned that two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different. “I say tomato, you say tomato. Let’s call the whole thing off. But oh! If we call the whole thing off, then we must part. And oh! If we ever part, then that might break my heart!”  The Gershwins were on to something.  Learning to not be so arrogant that your way is the right and only way will take you far in love and life.  The ability to see things from different perspectives, even if you disagree with those perspectives is a valuable skill.

I’ve learned that you can get by on charm and looks for only so long.  After that, you’d better know something.  This does not always seem true and maybe the length can stretch out for years, but in the end the boys and girls will stop turning their heads when you pass, so you better at least have some good stories of your youth to retell.  There is nothing wrong with physical charm, but giving it any weight and worth as a way to judge yourself or others is a mistake.  It is just a roll of the DNA dice. It does not matter how attractive a person is if they are ugly on the inside.  Everyone has a unique talent or gift in life.  Personally, I have always been drawn to people that have an ability to tell a story, that have a talent of finding humor everywhere, and people that know that life is an ongoing journey of exploration.  It is a physical attraction, an attraction to a glow or fire or something that people possess inside.  Have you ever tried having a conversation with nice biceps and teeth? Exactly.

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t compare yourself to the best others can do. We all have our talents, we all have our accomplishments, and for the most part, they are unique to us. Comparing yourself to the best parts of others will of course cause you to feel inferior.  The exercise in being proud of and happy for your friend’s success is a hard one.  It is hard to remove your jealousy or envy.  When you are able to do it, however, you become a better friend and a better person.  If you still cannot remove yourself from the equation, think about how awesome you are for choosing such talented and successful friends.  We can be happy when our friend’s are successful, no matter what Morrissey says.

I’ve learned that you can keep going long after you can’t.  It applies to running, it applies to life.  It is always darkest before the dawn for a reason, so you appreciate the dawn all the more.  Heartbreak and disappointment are horrible and painful, they can tear you into pieces from which you think you can never reassemble.  You can, and in time, you will.  That ability is one of the most exciting and unique parts of being human: resilience.  Knowing that life right now is hard, but having the memory and perspective that none of it is permanent and situations will change.  “Don’t give up, I know you can make it good.”

I’ve learned that either you control your attitude or it controls you.  Every second of every day, we have the choice on how we are going to behave.  We can fly off the handle at the slightest things or we can choose to not let them ruin our day.  How we react and behave to every day situations is completely in our control.  Our past experiences may point us in a knee-jerk direction, but they have no actual power over us today.  Choose an attitude that would make you proud of the person you are.  If it does not feel natural to behave that way, fake it, eventually, it will become part of you.  I am a strong believer in the school of “Fake it ’till you make it.” I am a result of that philosophy.  I didn’t like something about me or recognized something about me that didn’t work, thought about how I could do it differently, and consciously did it that way going forward.  It did not immediately feel natural, but eventually, it became a part of me.  It is like diet and exercise for your character, it is hard and strenuous, but eventually, it becomes who you are.  Anger is ego, we all know this.  That person that cut you off in traffic did not do it to you because of who you are, they just did it.  It didn’t happen to you, it just happened, don’t take it so personally that it changes your mood.  Don’t hold onto it, that energy is undirected and wasted.

I’ve learned that heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences. The title of “Hero” has been been attributed to so many people in so many ways that it’s meaning has been diluted.  For this, I mean a person whose courage and strength I admire.  Heroes are quite often not popular or even liked at the time, usually because their actions cause discomfort and disruption.  Heroes see how the world can be a better place and do their best to change it.  For the most part, actors, athletes, popular musicians, and politicians are bad choices as personal heroes, there are plenty of examples why.

I’ve learned that it’s not what you have in your life but who you have in your life that counts. Everyone knows this.  Your job and your stuff you love will never give you a ride to the airport or love you back. Your things you have will not bring you love.  That BMW will get you attention that at first may seem a lot like love, but it is probably more like envy. The people you touch in your life may not sit impressively on your mantle or fill up your checking account, but they will hold your hand when you cry and bring you soup when you are sick. In life, the immeasurable out-values all. There are no price tickets attached to love, devotion, friendship, and loyalty.

I’ve learned that no matter how much I care, some people just don’t care back. None of this changes how I should feel.  Zelda Fitzgerald is quoted as saying, “I don’t want to live — I want to love first, and live incidentally.”  I find myself thinking of this quote often and understanding it to mean that we need love to live, that we should approach life as a series of opportunities to love.  Everyone has been on both sides of this coin at one point in life: the lover and the loved.  It sucks and I hate it, but at the same time, there is a real rawness to heartbreak that is the purest of emotions.  That emotion has no ulterior motives, no hidden agendas that it hopes by creating one, another will follow.  It is pure loss, pure ache, and purely human. No matter how horrible it is, you feel so alive and wonderful knowing that you possess such capacity for feeling.

I’ve learned that you should always leave loved ones with loving words.  It may be the last time you see them.  Bring everyone you meet a gift.  This obviously does not mean a physical item wrapped with a bow, it could be a compliment, a touch, a smile.  Do not leave things unsaid for fear of over exposing your heart.  Your heart functions best when exposed raw to the air, it expands and produces more than ever imaginable.  This applies too even if you were thinking about someone during the day, send them a text or email to tell them.  Keep communications open, don’t let too much time pass.

Move.  Motivate.  Moisturize.  Do your best to create and maintain healthy habits.  I know that when I am not physically active (running, lifting weights) I feel depressed.  My body feels depressed and out of sorts when I miss more than a couple days at the gym.  It’s because it’s my body’s habit to be active, to experience an elevated heart rate, to stretch and push the boundaries of my musculature.  I feel so much better having gone to the gym.  That does not mean that I am always super-excited about going to the gym.  My motivation for keeping a regular gym habit is elevated energy/mood, stress management, strength as I age, and vanity.  Do not underestimate the power of vanity, when harnessed for good, it can accomplish a lot.  Moisturizing falls under the Gym/Motivate/Vanity tab and plays a part in taking care of yourself.  I hope that I can live at least another 50 years (who knows what science will have done by then?) and I want those 50 years to be healthy active ones.  It is my job to keep myself in the best shape I can.

**New for SPA v45.0**

Stop Worrying.  Stop Caring.  The bottom line is you need to live your life.  All those judge-y haters don’t pay your bills and in five years you probably won’t even remember their names.  Keep moving in the right direction.
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