Arts History Update for mid December 2015

30 Nov

Arts History Update for mid December 2015 by David Cummins

Rescuing Eden: Preserving America’s Historic Gardens (The Monacelli Press 2015) 224 pages, photography by Curtice Taylor, text by Caroline Seebohm in hardcover $50 publisher $33.82 Twenty-eight visit-worthy gardens include:

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site garden

Cornish NH,

William Paca House and Garden, Annapolis MD

Florence Griswold Museum and Gardens, Old Lyme CT home of Old Lyme Art Colony that developed American Impressionism art

Historic Deepwood Estate and Gardens, Salem OR

Yew Dell Botanical Gardens, Crestwood KY

Pearl Fryer Topiary Garden, Bishopville SC

Each garden has been specially photographed by noted landscape and garden photographer Curtice Taylor, and introduced with authoritative and engaging text from design historian Caroline Seebohm, encouraging readers to appreciate the landscapes that serve not only as windows on American history, but living, flourishing pleasure grounds for botanists, horticulturalists, and nature lovers throughout the United States.

One of the joys of crossing the pond [Atlantic Ocean] is to wander through gardens in Europe. The City of London England has many such spaces. Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, The London Square: Gardens in the Midst of Town (Yale University Press 2012) 334 pages with great illustrations. Texas Tech Library OVERSZ SB466.G75 L645. $59.18 hardcover at Most of these gardens are available to the public free, some with modest admission prices, some by appointment only, and some take a bit of sleuthing to even locate them. Of course many historic and wonderful gardens no longer exist as they gave way to real estate development in this metropolis. This book is within the series The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.

Victoria Summerly, Great Gardens of London (Frances Lincoln 2015) photographs by Marianna Majerus and Hugo Rittson Thomas, 208 pages $34.36 hardcover at

London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust publishes a periodical The London Gardener, or The Gardener’s Intelligencer The Trust offices are located at Duck Island Cottage in St James’ Park.

Regent’s Park, Kew Gardens, Rectory Garden of St Anne’s, Limehouse, and others are in this list

Texas Gardens

Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park, Dallas Texas

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden 8525 Garland Road

Fort Worth Botanic Garden 3220 Botanic Garden Boulevard

Clark Gardens Botanical Park between Weatherford and Mineral Wells address 567 Maddux Road Weatherford

The Earle-Harrison House and Pape Gardens at 1901 North 5th Street Waco Texas

Amarillo Botanical Gardens 1410 Streit Drive

Lubbock Memorial Arboretum and Botanical Garden at K.N. Clapp Park, 93 acres at 4111 University Avenue, Lubbock first tree planted in 1962, a 501(c)(3) entity created in 1964. Includes Hodges Rose Garden, Perennial Garden, Sensory Garden, Wildflower Garden, and Memorial Gardens.

Horticultural Gardens and Greenhouse operated by Texas Tech University Department of Plant & Soil Science at 1204 Hartford Avenue north of United Supermarket Arena off Main Street northwest of Student Recreation Center. The gardens are open to the public daily from dawn to dusk.

A garden is a place you venture into with hope, energy, excitement, enchantment and the greatest of expectations. We return because we are so satisfied.


Writing can never fully do justice to visual art, but writers seem compelled to try including Flaubert, Braque, Proust, Degas, Henry James, John Updike and others. Include Julian Barnes on that list. Julian Barnes, Keeping an Eye Open: Essays on Art (Alfred A. Knopf 2015)

“An extraordinary collection– hawk-eyed and understanding– from the Booker Prize-winning, best-selling author of The Sense of an Ending and Levels of Life. As Julian Barnes explains: “Flaubert believed that…great paintings required no words of explanation. Braque thought the ideal state would be reached when we said nothing at all in front of a painting … But it is a rare picture that stuns, or argues, us into silence. And if one does, it is only a short time before we want to explain and understand the very silence into which we have been plunged.” This is the exact dynamic that informs his new book. Barnes, in his 1989 novel A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, had a chapter on Gericault’s The Raft of the Medusa, and since then he has written about many great masters of nineteenth- and twentieth-century art, including Delacroix, Manet, Fantin-Latour, Cezanne, Degas, Redon, Bonnard, Vuillard, Vallotton, Braque, Magritte, Oldenburg, Howard Hodgkin, and Lucian Freud. The seventeen essays gathered here are adroit, insightful and, above all, a true pleasure to read ”

288 pages

—————————- Poet and visual artist Ashraf Fayadh has been in jail in Saudi Arabia for two years and is now sentenced to death by beheading for apostasy or abandoning the Islamic faith. Fayadh is a Palestinian currently [before the arrest in August 2013] living in Saudi Arabia where he was born 35 years ago. Sharia law was applied to his alleged blasphemous remarks made orally and in poetry. An earlier judgment was four years in prison and 800 lashes [permanent injury], but upon appeal he was ordered to be put to death. Human rights and cultural institutions are protesting these harsh punishments regardless of whether he did or did not say something offensive. Before the arrest he had curated an art exhibit titled Mostly Visible in Jeddah Saudi Arabia, a port city on the Red Sea west of Mecca, that went up February 25-March 25, 2013

Books, whether they be novels, non-fiction, poetry or other genres, were “edge tools” as the Victorian English called them, like knives and other weapons, and were habitually subject to state control by authoritarian regimes. They were heavily censored and punishments were severe. More significantly, reading when done well is an act of self-definition. It helps us define ourselves. It is a solitary vice. One reads and dreams, alone. The state doesn’t know what’s happening or how or when or by whom, but it knows who caused that, and it knows the harmful consequences to its authority, so it punishes the author and publisher severely. The poet and artist Fayadh has been in prison for two years three months and is now told that he will lose his head to the knife.


Coney Island Christmas (2012) by Donald Margulies is a play Coney Island Christmas introduces us to Shirley Abramowitz, a young Jewish girl who (much to her immigrant parents’ exasperation) is cast as Jesus in the school’s Christmas pageant. As Shirley, now much older, recounts the memorable story to her great-granddaughter, the play captures a timeless and universal tale of what it means to be an American during the holidays. based on a short story The Loudest Voice by Grace Paley Taking a cue from “The Princess Bride,” great grandma Shirley (Angela Paton) tells little Clara (Grace Kaufman) all about her Depression childhood in southern Brooklyn, back when every grocery shelf displayed Wheaties and Shredded Wheat; every radio played Jack Benny and FDR; and Native Americans were called Indians whenever the first Thanksgiving was retold. Young Shirley (Isabella Acres) is blessed with a loving grocer papa (Arye Gross) and stiff-necked, demanding mama (Annabelle Gurwitch). Think Tevye and Golde, and you’ve nailed them.

Conflict brews when drama teacher Mr. Hilton (John Sloan) casts Shirley as Jesus in the Nativity story over parental objections (“a shonda for the goyim”). But if you expect Mama Abramowitz won’t have a change of heart and the show won’t go on, you probably thought George Bailey was going to end up in jail for embezzlement. No, on the 1935 boardwalk under the shade of the Cyclone roller coaster, with detailed facade by Takeshi Kata, it’s very much a wonderful life. Neighbors are nosy but lovable (“Oy vey”) and all ethnicities coexist without clashing


Margulies is a playwright and professor of English and Theater Studies at Yale University. He was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Trump Village, a Coney Island housing project built by Donald Trump’s father. Margulies’ play Dinner With Friends won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2000. He also wrote the play Brooklyn Boy.

Lubbock Community Theater presents Coney Island Christmas December 4-6 and 11-13, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2:00 pm $15 adults, children under 12 $10 at 4230 Boston Avenue Lubbock. J.T. and Margaret Talkington Foundation and Helen DeVitt Jones Foundation sponsor the production. Alan Winner directs.

This is social realism theater and a fine example is the recently concluded debut performance of Nicola Wilson’s Plaques and Tangles (2015) at Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, Royal Court Theatre, London England. The play is about a younger woman/wife without Alzheimer’s Disease and the older same woman/wife with early onset Alzheimer’s. But of course she isn’t the same, not at all, and the family deals with her both as she is and how she was, at the same time. The title of the play is derived from the medical profession as it describes the process of cell death in the brain. Plaques are clumps of sticky protein fragments that may block transmission between cells. Tangles are twisted protein fibrils that grow in dying cells and purse a destructive journey through the brain. The blockages and strangulations that take place in the Alzheimer’s brain have their obvious analogue in the outside world, no more poignantly than in the family.

The disorienting and distancing effect of Alzheimer’s is depicted on stage and the audience reacts with a protective withdrawal from the scene, realizes what it is doing, and is mesmerized. At one point the four characters young and older husband and wife are all on stage together in a dramatic depiction of conflated time experienced by a patient but not by the rest of us, until now.

Nicola Wilson


Poets & Writers Live in Austin Texas on January 9, 2016 from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm at Blanton Museum of Art, 200 East Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard $75 until December 6 $125 per person thereafter. Celebrated authors editors and agents will be on panels with some individual presentation events


The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles MOCA replaced the controversial director Jeffrey Deitch in early 2014 with Philippe Vergne and his new exhibits are rare, extremely hip and chic, and worth noticing. He obviously is well-connected to the latest in quality contemporary art artists and gets them into one or the other of the three locations: The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA at 152 North Central Avenue in the Little Tokyo district, MOCA Grand Avenue at 250 South Grand Avenue near West 2nd Street, or MOCA Pacific Design Center at 8687 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood.

Paris France born Vergne’s wife is the Los Angeles born gallerist Sylvia Chivaratanond who is co-curator of the exhibit The Art of Our Time that went up August 15 – April 30, 2016 Vergne had previously been at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis as chief curator and deputy director.

The Art of Our Time at MOCA Grand Avenue looks quite intriguing.

At The Geffen Contemporary Matthew Barney, River of Fundament 2014 is on view to January 18, 2016 and it is more than intriguing.

Lest you wonder if this museum is too edgy for your taste, or perhaps just a recent invention of upscale coffee shop chatter, its own collection pieces that are currently on view to the public include:

Andy Warhol, Telephone 1961

Jasper Johns, Map 1962

Cy Twombly, Untitled 1967

Mark Rothko, Black on Dark Sienna on Purple 1960, Dark Over Light Earth/Violet and Yellow on Rose 1954, Purple Brown 1957, No. 301 1959

Jackson Pollock, Number 3 1948

and other certifiable master works of modern art.


Body of Art (Phaidon Press Limited 2015) 440 pages $39 hardcover at publisher and at Texas Tech Library OVERSZ N7625.5 B62 (2015) explores, inter alia, performance art that uses the human body as a medium. The book demonstrates versatility, emotional impact, and sheer strangeness about the use of the human body. Some of the static and art performances transgress reasonable limits of safety, sanity and decency, all in the name or prism of aesthetics. Don’t let children near this tome.


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