NO GREAT WOMEN ARTISTS? MEET ALICE NEEL AT THE ADULT SCHOOL

Knock! Knock!

"Who's there?"

"It's the FBI!"

"Oh, my goodness! Come right in.  I've never painted an FBI agent!  Will you pose for me...in the nude?"  So goes the story that became legend about Alice Neel, one of the great American painters of the 20th century and a pioneer among women artists.

Art historian Janet Mandel will be telling more next week in her class, "Alice Neel: Portraits, Politics, and Power," at the South Orange-Maplewood Adult School (May 17, Black Box Theatre, Columbia High School).

There's plenty to tell.  "Alice had a lot of skeletons in her closet.  She was stalked by the FBI for years because she was a Communist," Janet explains.  Not an active Party member, however; "she felt her art expressed her politics."

Consider her politically 'incorrect' subjects.  Neel is rightly called a "painter of people" (not including FBI agents in the nude -- "They left her alone after that," Janet reports.) 

Living in poverty in Harlem for some 25 years, Alice was the original 'People' magazine,  as Janet describes her range of subjects. Waifs and poets (Allen Ginsberg), artists (Andy Warhol).  other friends and Harlem neighbors came in to sit for portraits she painted "without sermon or sentimentality," as one critic wrote of an Alice Neel exhibit in l951.  "At times, an element of foreboding, akin to that in the work of Munch, creeps into her work, and there are portraits that are almost vivisections."

Neel ”vivisected" the critics, too, painting such well-knowns as Meyer Shapiro, the Columbia University professor whose lectures drew the contemporary crowd, including Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, and George Segal. 

Another sitter was acclaimed art critic Linda Nochlin, whose l971 essay, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” is generally considered the first major work of feminist art history.  But Alice Neel was no feminist, Janet hastens to add. "In fact, she said she didn't even like women very much."

Typically Alice.  "She took no prisoners.  She would be right at home in the world of 2018," Janet believes. "She'd be out there today, protesting Donald Trump and defending Michelle Wolf's speech (at the White House Correspondents' Dinner).

"Alice took her own path. When Abstract Expressionism came in vogue, she kept right on painting her way.  'Artistic suicide,' a critic of the time said. So she was poor most of her life.  She didn't start making money until the l970s" (after her portrait of feminist Kate Millett was on a Time magazine cover.  Neel later painted FDR for another Time cover, drew commissions for the likes of Mayor Ed Koch, and appeared twice on the Johnny Carson Show).

Alice Neel died at 84 in l984.  But her reputation continues to build, Janet points out. Today's U-Tube fans can still catch the Beat classic film "Pull My Daisy," featuring Alice with the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Karouac, and Larry Rivers.  And fans with moderately deep pockets can own actually own an Alice Neel master painting, Janet reports.  And sighs slightly, "For just $1 or 2 million."

###

 

SMARTEN UP @ The Adult School

For News-Record, May 9, 2018

Rose Bennett Gilbert

MEET 'JACK THE DRIPPER' POLLOCK ON ADULT SCHOOL TOUR

PKHouse_back_captioned.jpg
Jackson&Lee1949_captioned.jpg

Take off your shoes and step into the world of mega-artist Jackson Pollock on May 16, when SOMAS (South Orange-Maplewood Adult School) leads a tour to The Springs, far out on Long Island's fabled East End.

His was a turbulent, paint-splattered world, inhabited by emerging talents who would soon rewrite the history of art in a startling, new vocabulary of cacophonous color and
abstract forms. Unlike most artists before them, these painters were not interested in the visual world; the idea was to use abstractions to convey strong emotions and expressive content.

Bingo!  Abstract Expressionism was born.  A radically new concept, Abstract Expressionism has been called  the "first authentically American avant-garde," and Pollock was chief among its innovators, along with his artist wife, Lee Krasner and Willem de Kooning, Larry Rivers and others who made New York the Art Capital of the World in the mid-20th century.  

A lot of  the action happened among Manhattan ex-pats in the quiet little village of The Springs, where Pollock and Krasner had moved in 1945. They were looking for cheap living, luminous light, and space enough to make really large works of art.
They found it all in a humble little farmhouse on five acres overlooking Accabonack Harbor.  Built in the l9th century, the house had no heating or plumbing, but it was affordable, thanks to a $2000 loan from famed art collector Peggy Guggenheim. 

Now restored to its mid-century self, the Pollock-Krasner House & Study Center will be the first stop on the Adult School's tour, which includes two other Pollock-related sites. One, The Springs Tavern, for a two-course lunch.  Dating to l934 and known as Jungle Pete's in Pollock's  time, the tavern has been refreshed by the current owners but looks much the same as when he famously bicycled there nearly every night to hold court with the locals and other artists, musicians, and philosophers of the day. 

 It was one of three Hamptons watering holes that attracted the likes of Truman Capote, John Steinbeck, Marty Feldman, Jack Kerouac, Kurt Vonnegut, and a young Bob Dylan.  It was also the setting for John Updike's novel, "Seek My Face," a roman a clef about the Pollack-Krasner relationship. And it was from the tavern that an over-imbibed Pollack drove that August night in l956 when he was killed in a car crash at age 44.

A second optional stop -- time-permitting, says Adult School assistant director Liz Herring -- could be at nearby Green River Cemetery, where Pollock is buried under a 50-ton glacial erratic boulder.  In a graveyard originally intended for  the simple folk of The Springs, Pollock rests in the company of other such artists as Lee Krasner, Stuart Davis and Ad Reinhardt, and notables like Pulitzer Prize writer Jean Stafford and French chef  Pierre Franey (whose grave has been planted in parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme).

Again, time permitting, another tour option will be a stroll around East Hampton itself -- the chic "other side of the hedgerows" from Jackson's haunt in working-man's Springs.  Then the tour will take off to Palmer Vineyards for an al fresco, four-flight wine tasting with charcuterie.  

Deadline to register for the tour is April 24.

Meanwhile, back to the Pollock-Krasner Museum: we weren't kidding about "stepping into Jackson Pollock's world" --  the museum provides visitors with padded slippers so you can walk over a floor actually painted by "Jack the Dripper," who famously flung, dripped, and swirled paint on canvases laid on the floor.  

Shedding one's shoes makes the museum feel "like it's a holy place," one visitor has observed.  For many international visitors, it's truly that, reports Theresa Davis, assistant director of the museum.  A surprising 75 percent of the museum's visitors come from abroad, she says.  "Especially the French.  They are so taken with the American West." Born in Cody, Wyoming, in l912 and raised in Arizona and California, Pollock was a
true son of the Wild West, and his wild, wild art clearly confirms it.

SMARTEN UP @ THE ADULT SCHOOL
Special to THE NEWS-RECORD
April 19, 2018
Rose Bennett Gilbert

PLANNING A BIG EVENT? START WITH PLAN A...(BUT DON'T FORGET B, C & D!)

SMARTEN UP @ THE ADULT SCHOOL
News-Record March 8, 2018
Rose Bennett Gilbert

 
 

Mothers-of-the-bride, avert your eyes!  This column is not for the faint of heart.  It's about "How to Become an Event Planner," a new class launching Mar. 15 at the South Orange-Maplewood Adult School.

Professional planner Tasheea Nicholson, owner of Socialbfly Events, will be sharing start-to-finish tips on how to master the business of successfully planning and producing any large event, from a wedding to a big birthday, from a baby shower to a funeral, and all life's important occasions in between.

Wait! On second thought, maybe this column should be required reading, not just for wannabe event planning professionals but also for anyone who finds her- or himself charged with throwing a big party.  After nearly a decade in the business, not counting extracurricular projects in high school and college (Villanova), and internships in sports marketing with the Philadelphia Eagles, Tasheea's best advice boils down to a four-part plan:

1.  Plan A.  Detail all the step-by-steps leading up to Event Day.  This is Plan A, the orderly procedure leading to the event you envision.  Caveat follows.

2.  Allow adequate lead time.  For a small local wedding, Tasheea advises nine-months-to-a-year, proportionately more for a larger wedding that requires travel arrangements. "The sooner you plan, the better your chance of getting the venue and the amenities you want," she points out.  Also be warned: last-minute arrangements often incur unexpected up-charges.

For other events, her ideal time-table allows three months to plan a 50th birthday; six months for a graduation party.  "With so many graduations happening all at once, get in early to avoid overlap."

3.  Set a realistic budget and guest list.  "Decide what is realistic for you.  If you know you will have, say, $1,200 for a birthday party, shop for vendors who will work within your budget.  And be prepared to winnow down your wish- and guest list.  I tell my clients to put a $ sign over each name on their guest list.  When they know how much they will be paying per head, it's easier to trim the list."

4.  The Caveat:  Always have a Plan B, C -- and D. "While you're working on Plan A, be thinking Plan B...and beyond," Tasheea advises.  Being an event planner sounds glamorous.  It isn't! she warns. Her chosen profession requires split-second timing -- "You even need a time line for the cake to be delivered."  

Also essential: nerves of steel!  Consider the wedding she planned between families so fractious the local sheriff had to be called into the reception.  "My job was to keep the bride from knowing what was happening!"

Or the time the temperature hit l01 outside and even worse inside the church, where "the groom and groomsmen were up to their necks in formal wear," Tasheea recalls.  From the back of the church, she "saw groomsman Number Six start to sway.  Then Number Four hits the floor.  Next, the groom goes down!"

Amid the panic in the church, she called 911, the EMTs sped in, and the wedding went on "with everyone sitting down," she reports.

"People have told me I'm crazy to take on other people's stress, but this business makes me be creative. I get to work with colors, with music, and lights..."  Tasheea says.  Not to mention happy endings.

 Tasheea Nicholson

Tasheea Nicholson

###

RATHER DIE THAN SPEAK IN PUBLIC?

SMARTEN UP @ THE ADULT SCHOOL (REVISED)
NEWS-RECORD Thursday, February 22, 2018
From Rose Bennett Gilbert

RATHER DIE THAN SPEAK IN PUBLIC?


What do human beings fear more than death itself?  Not dentists.  Not snakes or spiders or taxes.  What terrifies a whopping majority of us -- 74 percent, according to a 2013 survey of society's most pervasive fears -- is speech anxiety, aka speaking in public.  

Emily Zacharias is out to change all that.  Actor, director, performance coach to other
professional actors, writers, and clergy, Emily will be helping the shy and silent
find their voice and use it effectively in her classes, "Enjoy Speaking: Learn to Communicate With Confidence," beginning Feb. 27 at the South Orange-Maplewood Adult School.  On Apr. 21, she's teaching "A Public Speaking Intensive," limited to five
students who want to further enhance their communication skills. 

Emily emphasizes the verb, communicate.  "Communication is not performance. 
Communication is connection with the other.  Lose the burden of performance.

Her classes are "designed to circumvent the pressure of our performance-oriented culture," Emily explains.  "They are highly effective for anyone who needs to speak with groups of three or more --  sales associates, architects, township administrators, retirees, anyone interested in personal growth who wants free rein of their own expression."

Emily's first class begins with students sitting in a circle --  "Communication is a circle with everyone involved" -- and proceeds through six sessions involving verbal exercises ("a safe playground"),  poetry readings ("so people can fall in love with the sound of their own voice"), and learning how to be what Emily calls "active listeners."

"Communication is a shared experience between active speaker and active listener,"
reminds Emily, who offers five everyday exercises to strengthen communication skills:

1.    Read a newspaper article aloud.  Clarify the story points and examine your own feelings about them;
2.   Go to the website Poem-A-Day.  Choose a poem and read aloud.  Enjoy the sound     of your own voice;
3.   Surprise a colleague, friend or family member with an honest question of interest
       to you both, then give them your full attention as they answer;
4.   Make an impromptu toast (imaginary wine glass) to colleagues, family, or         friends.  Celebrate the experience of being in their presence.  Initiate fun, an      original viewpoint and style;
5.  Improvise a short speech about what you ate at your favorite meal.  Push the outrage.             Engage the imagination.  Stretch your expressive self.

To enhance your skills as an active listener, Emily advises:

•    Be intent on listening.  Keep eye contact with the speaker;
•    Find interest in what you are hearing. Show respect for the speaker;
•    Remember, you don't disappear when you stop talking.


"Realize that communication is not about you: it is always about the other.   In class, with exercise and trust, we lose the burden of self-consciousness. This is the key to feeling free and learning to enjoy the process."
                                                             
                                                            ###

 

 IT'S OKAY TO TALK IN CLASS   Actor, Teacher Emily Zacharias

IT'S OKAY TO TALK IN CLASS

Actor, Teacher Emily Zacharias

 

 

HOME STAGER TELLS HOW TO SELL YOURS, FAST & GAINFULLY

SMARTEN UP @ THE ADULT SCHOOL
by Rose Bennett Gilbert, Trustee

SPECIAL TO THE NEWS-RECORD
November 9, 2017

Maplewoodian Leah Gomberg really knows how to make a house a home.  In the past year alone, she's done it some 150 times...all over town and South Orange, and in surrounding communities, too.

Not that she ever lives in those houses herself.  Leah is a home stager, owner of Sweet Life By Design, a successful, l1-year-old business in a thriving industry that didn't even exist until the l990s or so (when a Washington-state realtor named Barb Schwartz started redecorating to help her clients sell their homes and launched a new business model that now has  millions of followers, world-wide).

Leah joined their ranks big-time soon after she and her family moved in 1996 from Greenwich Village to a l917 house on Highland Ave.  In those old-tech days, she recalls, the local realtor had scant marketing tools, little more than photos of houses available for viewing by prospective buyers.  That took a lot of time and effort, Leah recalls. "I saw eight houses in one day! Some empty.  Some attractive.  Some disgusting!"

Today, potential buyers can easily preview their options on line, Leah points out. And she makes sure they like what they see...which does not include weary wall-to-wall carpets,  cracked plaster, crowded closets, or frumpy front doors.  Such turn-offs signal that a house has not been well cared for, she warns.  "It's 'Nope!' at first glance!"

That's just the beginning of the professional tips and how-tos Leah will share Nov. 14 in her popular class Home Staging 101 at the South Orange-Maplewood Adult School.
High on her check-list:

Make it Q-Tip clean.  No one wants to buy old dirt! 

  • Paint it fresh -- she'll suggest the right colors, usually a warm neutral like gray or greige.  "White white is too stark, not cozy."  
  • Do strategic decluttering  "Get rid of little things like toys and too many decorative objects, and make spare room in the closets.  You need to show how spacious and organized a house is."
  • Let in the light.  Replace heavy draperies with sheers.  "People respond to light." 
  • Banish that old wall-to-wall carpet. "People would rather see a wood floor in not-great shape.  Wall-to-wall is not only dated; it makes a buyer wonder what it's hiding."
  • Repair obvious eyesores.  "Experienced homeowners realize that all houses settle over time, and walls often crack.  But young buyers see those cracks and think something's really wrong with the house."
  • Enhance curb appeal.  Fix up the front door.  Keep the yard neat.  Wash the windows.

What about the furniture itself?  Leah has a local warehouse full of answers, dozens of sofas, chairs, rugs, lamps, and decorative accessories, plus a staff to rotate them in and out of houses as needed.  Sometimes she simply rearranges the homeowners' things to make the space look more enticing.  Other times the house is totally empty and begs for furnishings to help a buyer see it as "home."  Leah can do over an entire house in a few hours, she says.

"I've had a lot of experience with old houses."  With old-house sellers and buyers, too, Leah points out.  "Moving is really stressful. It helps that I have a master's degree in social work.  People worry about bringing in a home stager.  They think that they'll be judged.  We help them understand that the way you live and the way you sell a house are not the same thing."

Her ultimate advice:  "Make your house a product."  The bottom line, as she quotes the International Association of Home Staging Professionals:  " Staged homes spend 88 percent less time on the market, and sell for 17 percent more than unstaged homes."

###

How to Foil Stage Fright? Improvise!

SPECIAL TO THE NEWS-RECORD
Rose Bennett Gilbert, Trustee

Thursday, September 28, 2017
SMARTEN UP @ THE ADULT SCHOOL

Tongue-tied at cocktail parties? Fraught with stage fright about speaking in public?

Meet two Maplewoodians who can cure all that and promise you'll have great fun in the process. Actors Lulu French and Brad Barton will share their Rx in classes at the South Orange-Maplewood Adult School, starting October 3rd. Their prescription: learn to practice improv, aka improvisational acting. Or, as defined by 17-year improv veteran and teacher Lulu French:

"Improv is a theatrical art form where one gets on stage and discovers what they are doing at the moment. There's no preplanning, no script."

No fear either, she says. And no long years of training required: "The trick lies in listening, really hearing what the other person is saying (on stage or at that cocktail party), and immediately responding," Lulu explains. "Listening and making eye contact. It's like joking with a friend: she says something and you respond. It ebbs and flows. There's no agenda. No one is in control."

Which can feel a little creepy at first, admits Brad, Lulu's early partner on the improv stage and now in life (they met at Gotham City Improv, moved to Maplewood in 2010 and have two sons, 12-year-old Scott and toddler Charlie).

Also an accomplished performer who has appeared on gigs like Late Night With Conan O'Brien, MTV, One Life to Live, and Comedy Central, Brad says he first came to improv "looking for something fun" when he had a day job "I wasn't too thrilled with."

Discovering improv, Brad reports, "Unlocks a door. I've had students go from saying, 'I don't know how you guys do that' to being the guys up on the stage, doing it."

Lulu likens the improv process to playing sports. "Sports are improvised, too, but there is also some structure to the games." Ditto for the way she teaches improv: "We start in a circle and play games that warm up our bodies, our brains, and let us connect with each other. "Improv takes so much brain power," Lulu declares. "Concentrating is hard. You have to be so aware of what's going on. There's no time to think of what you're going to say next.

"Actually, I don't like speaking in public," she confides. "But I love to improvise because I'm not speaking for myself; I'm immersed in a character." Improv is also a lot of fun, both teachers emphasize. "It requires some silliness," Brad adds. "You get to leave the day behind."

How does that work when both halves of a couple are playing at being someone else?

The answer: they rarely perform together these days. "When we were still young and crazy and living in Manhattan," Brad recalls, "we performed together at least once a week. But then, the children...."

At least one of those children is following his parents' footsteps to the improv stage: Scott, a Maplewood Middle Schooler, is now in his third year of studying with his mother. And Charlie? "He's a two-year-old," Brad reports. "And a terrible listener."
###

'GOTCHA' IN ANY LANGUAGE

News-Record
Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015
SMARTEN UP
@ The South Orange-Maplewood Adult School

I know the precise moment when it hit me, this deep longing to speak Italian. It was in Milan, teeming with rain on that Wednesday last month, as we were feeling our way through city streets also teeming with Vespas, vehicles, and fearless pedestrians. We rounded a blind corner and suddenly the enormous, ethereal Duomo Cathedral of Milan appeared in our rain-streaked windshield.

A Gothic confection reaching heavenward since the turn of the l4th century, an impossibly delicate, lacy wedding cake made of brilliant white Candoglia marble, the Duomo towers over its own block-square cobblestone piazza -- across which we were now blithely bumping in
our rented Audi. And only us. Not another car in sight. For good reason. "ZTL," the small sign up front would have warned us, had we noticed it through the pouring rain. ZTL, we've since learned, means "Zona Traffico Limitato," not too difficult to translate; just difficult to see in the first place.

Later, consulting a guide book for hindsight, we learned that ZTL is "the worst and most common infraction committed by foreigners. ZTL means limited traffic zone. Replace the word
limited with restricted and you begin to get the picture. ZTLs are present in most historical city centers throughout Italy. Unlike the highways where everything is clearly marked, you have to look for ZTL signs. The sign is a red letter O on a white background, much like a do not enter sign. They are usually small and placed at intersections above or near traffic lights where you may turn in another direction to avoid crossing that ZTL checkpoint." 

No see, no turn. So on we blundered, in thrall to Milan's astonishing architectural treasure, bouncing across the vast -- and sacrosanct -- piazza, oblivious to the astonished Milanese waving at us from the shelter of the adjacent arcade.

Our reaction: 1. "Duh! Can we really be such Innocents Abroad!" And 2. "Shall we all take Italian classes when we get home?" The answer to both questions: The South Orange-Maplewood Adult School. We flew into Newark on a Friday and by Tuesday evening were soaking up the melodious flow of a Romance language that totally lives up to the name. Professor Fil Secci, our teacher, is a native speaker, hailing from a small town not far from Naples. So we're learning the tongue straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak. Equally enriching: we're learning about the Italian way of life, the culture and customs and attitudes that add up to La Dolce Vita for some 60-million Italian speakers.

Beginner Italian runs for l0 classes this fall. And come spring, there's Continuing Italian and Italian Conversation conducted entirely in Italian. No more staining after subtitles in old Fellini movies. No more ordering the wrong thing at Libretti's in Orange.

But there is more to come, we've also learned from the guidebook. "Once you have crossed the TZL, even for a second, it’s too late. Your picture was automatically taken. Your license plate
was crosschecked against a database of sanctioned vehicles and you will be fined. ZTL cameras are only aimed at those entering restricted zones. At this point you might as well fully
enjoy your crime and cruise around the restricted zone for the rest of your vacation."

Gotcha! snapshots are not exclusive to TZLs, as award-winning New Jersey photojournalist Jim DelGiudice will prove next Wednesday, Oct. 21, when he delivers the autumn Eva Samo Lecture honoring the Adult School's consultant and 50-year supporter. An adjunct assistant professor at County College of Morris and a frequent lecturer at Drew and Columbia Universities, DelGiudice's talk is called "Gotcha! Snapshots that Changed History."

He defines snapshots as "moments captured on camera purely by luck" that often become iconic images, "not only transcending a moment in time, but becoming the memory of that moment," DelGiudice says.

Examples he cites include the photos of the Hindenburg exploding; of the fireman raising the flag in the ruins of the World trade Center on September 11; of Monica Lewinsky hugging Bill Clinton in a receiving line.

He'll also examine photos that changed history by accident: one of Abe Lincoln's tousled hair that helped him gain the presidency; another of candidate Gary Hart on a yacht that lost it for him.

You can catch the prof's intriguing "Gotcha" show and tell at the Columbia High School library, 7:30-9 p.m. for $18 (student rate, $5). Tickets available at the door, or click on somadultschool.org.

Meanwhile, we "Innocents Abroad" will still be waiting for our "Gotcha" photo, coming any day now from Italy with love.
-- Columnist Rose Bennett Gilbert is a syndicated journalist (CREATORS.com) and a passionate trustee of the South Orange-Maplewood Adult School.
###