Kerry James Marshall: Depicting the world as he sees it

Currently "On Display" in an exhibit that's traveling the nation: the works of an artist who wants us to view the world with new eyes. Alex Wagner is our guide:  Kerry James Marshall is changing the face of American art. "My introduction to art history was like everybody else's," said Marshall. "You see an art history book that has works by Rembrandt and Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Yes, these things are great. But I don't see a reflection of myself in any of these things I'm looking at." So for decades now, Marshall has been working on that reflection. His figures aren't just black; they are jet black -- bold, proud, undeniably black. And he wants to fill museums with them. "That body of work has to reach a critical mass so that it's no longer an exception to see things like that in a museum," he said. "You can't have one picture of a black person or two pictures of a black person. You've got to have a lot of them." His trademark style has catapulted him into the stratosphere of the art world: 72 of his paintings were displayed earlier this year a New York's Metropolitan Museum. That exhibit, a retrospective, originated in Chicago, and is now at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. When asked where she thinks Marshall fits into the canon, curator Helen Molesworth replied, "Firmly inside of it. The pictures are very much of our moment. They're of our time. And I do think that museums historically are incredibly white places. "And so to walk into an art exhibition in which the figures are all black, it's really revelatory." Born 62 years ago in Birmingham, Ala., Kerry James Marshall was eight years old when the KKK bombed a Baptist church, killing four girls. He would go on to live in Los Angeles during the Watts riots, and later Harlem, and now Chicago's South Side. "All those things had an impact on shaping the person that I am," he told Wagner. "It's sort of inescapable. But those are a small fraction of the kind of experience you have on Continue Reading

Museum: Michelangelo exhibition makes ‘most attended’ list

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art says its recently concluded Michelangelo exhibit is the 10th-most visited exhibition in the museum's history. "Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer" ended Monday after drawing 702,516 visitors over its three-month residency. The New York Times reports it surpassed attendance for the 2011 exhibition "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty," which drew 661,609 visitors. However, the Michelangelo exhibit did not come close to surpassing the attendance records set by the museum's top two exhibits. "Treasures of Tutankhamun," a five month-exhibition of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh's artifacts in the 1970s, and Leonardo Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" broke the million visitor mark. ——— Information from: The New York Times, Continue Reading

Readers sound off on Charging Bull, Bill O’Reilly and naval strategy

Separating the bull and the girl Staten Island: I am a collector of Arturo Di Modica’s beautiful work and a family friend of many years. The message he’s trying to convey is far more compelling than the media suggests, and I believe it needs to be articulated. Let’s be clear: In this day and age, we all believe in equality and women’s rights. We can all chastise not only Wall Street but mainstream corporate America for the underrepresentation of female stakeholders and board members. The message of “Fearless Girl” — financial firms need stronger female representation — is well taken. However, strategically placing that message as a challenge to Di Modica’s bull turns a positive message into a negative one. “Charging Bull” is one of the most visited tourist attractions in all of New York City. Millions upon millions of tourists and locals alike, visit the sculpture to touch its testicles for good luck. It’s a feel-good place that brings smiles to many faces. I know what Di Modica’s message, conveyed through the charging bull, is — because I have talked to him about it. It’s about hope, freedom, courage, strength and power. Not just about the stock market, but about the greatest city in the world, New York. This is a place like none other that accepts and embraces people of all backgrounds and gives them an opportunity to do better, to rise from otherwise poor or oppressed backgrounds, to dig their hooves into the ground, conjure up all their strength, and move forward full speed ahead, conquering all obstacles in their way. Then along came the “Fearless Girl,” defeating his purpose. The general public seems to applaud this provocation. I think they would feel differently if the girl had been placed in close vicinity to the Lincoln Memorial, or the Washington Monument, or the Liberty Bell. If that were the case, she would be considered Continue Reading

De Blasio meets with mayor of Rome while on vacation in Italy

ROME — Hizzoner and family are on their Roman holiday. A khaki-clad Mayor de Blasio arrived in Rome Sunday to begin his eight-day family vacation, a day later than scheduled following the death of a Staten Island man in police custody last week. De Blasio, First Lady Chirlane McCray, and their kids Dante and Chiara — sporting a new hairdo — landed at the Leonardo da Vinci airport shortly before 11 a.m. local time after flying coach on an overnight flight from Kennedy Airport. The relaxed mayor, who often speaks proudly of his Italian heritage, came out of customs pushing a roller suitcase and greeted reporters waiting for him at the terminal with a hearty “buongiorno!” He was supposed to arrive Saturday but delayed the trip after the death of Eric Garner. The cause of his death is still under investigation, but an officer put the 43-year-old father in a chokehold, which is prohibited under NYPD policy. De Blasio said it was important to tend to the matter in New York before leaving for the multicity tour. “I spoke to a variety of community leaders, elected officials, clergy from Staten Island and around the city to get a sense of what people were feeling, what they thought we should do going forward,” he said. “I thought it was very important to consult them.” The vacation will provide some much-needed family time, he said. “Time with family is crucial and precious in life, and for the last couple of years that’s been hard to come by,” he said. On Monday, his first full day in Italy, he will meet with Italian government officials, as well as the Vatican’s secretary of state. His office tried to work out a meeting with Pope Francis, but the Catholic leader’s schedule couldn’t fit him in. De Blasio also took time out Sunday to visit with Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino, a surgeon-turned-politician who took Continue Reading

Tuscany region of Italy is the perfect destination for food and wine lovers

It’s no secret that Italians take their food and wine seriously. But in Tuscany, the passion runs much deeper than just producing perfect samples of gelato, risotto and Chianti. The region in central Italy boasts a whole resort built around an olive oil theme, an entire town devoted to knife production, and a natural spring that the Medici family once drank from that’s now the source of a premium bottled water. While Florence is a highlight of any Tuscan trip, build time around touring the culturally rich capital city for day trips and overnight excursions. A good start is the Villa Campestri Olive Oil Resort. Just 22 miles northeast of the city of Florence, it’s super-relaxing and a great base for taking off to other area attractions like the wineries of the Chianti Rufina area, 4 miles from the hotel. Gorgeous views of the Mugello Valley and the Chianti Rufina area are only part of Villa Campestri’s charm. With its own olive grove onsite, it’s the first olive oil resort in the world. Guests can take part in olive oil tastings, get an olive oil massage and dine in a restaurant where almost everything is made or served with extra-virgin olive oil produced on the property. A must-try on the menu is the olive oil gelato, packed with flavor and topped with chocolate flakes and strawberries. Olive oil beauty treatments here include the “Jet Lag Recovery Massage” ($110). Treatments can take place in a variety of settings, including inside a private bamboo-enclosed circle outside, not far from the olive groves. During the warmer months, a pool set between hills lets guests swim with a view. The 25 guest rooms are in a restored Renaissance house that’s 492 yards above sea level. Should you grow tired of taking in the scenery, Villa Campestri offers a variety of activities including painting courses, guided bike tours, truffle hunts and cooking courses. For Continue Reading

Shrewsbury artist creates abstractions with metalpoint

Robyn Ellenbogen is an artist of perpetual curiosity and altruism, two attributes that reflect her interest in science and medicine.The Shrewsbury resident specializes in abstract metalpoint, an experimental medium that often leads to spontaneous moments of inspiration. She creates designs and patterns using a conventional metallic stylus, much like a pencil. Silver, copper, platinum, gold, brass, aluminum and lead: All types of metal qualify for this role. She also uses eccentric pieces of antique metal, such as old salt and pepper shakers, thimbles, pieces of jewelry and belt buckles. ABSTRACT: Asbury artist experiments with scientific themes Historically, metalpoint was used all across Europe prior to the invention of graphite pencils in the 16th century. Many maestros of the Renaissance era — including Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo — used the medium for quick sketching and figurative experimentation.Ellenbogen uses the medium in a different way. She combines her curved line work with painting and elements of collage to create complex, colorful mixed-media studies that resemble intricate networks of cellular life. Many of the works are circular in shape but asymmetrical in design. Streaks and swirls of color radiate boldly against dark backgrounds, revealing microcosmic worlds of detailed coexistence.From an early age, the artist was exposed to medical phenomena through a family member in the field.“When I was a kid, I had a beloved uncle who was a surgeon,” she said. “He used to torment me with pictures of things that were from his surgical experience. I was horrified but incredibly fascinated at the same time. He afforded me opportunities to look through a microscope in his office whenever I would visit.” GALLERIES: Asbury art exhibition celebrates the year in public art It is through these early interactions with medical technology that she established an interest, which later developed into an art Continue Reading

Readers sound off on Joe Biden, Italian pride and bikes

The Joe show at the big debate Breezy Point: Was Joe Biden trying to imitate a grinning idiot or a laughing hyena? Either way, he was nothing short of disrespectful, arrogant and rude. When a discussion about serious matters concerning the very future of this country becomes a forum for a burlesque clown, it’s time for all Americans, regardless of political affiliation, to be very concerned. Joseph Leahy Forest Hills: Joe Biden lied about the administration's failure to protect our embassy in Libya and our current relationship with Israel, among other matters. But he showed off his beautiful teeth, the better to lie through them. Leon Greenfield Bronx: At Thursday night’s debate, Vice President Joe Biden lifted the Obama/Biden train back on track after the prior week’s unexpected derailment. Ukachi Uwadinobi No class Richmond Hill: I was not at all impressed with Joe Biden’s impulse control during his debate with Paul Ryan. Any administration whose second-in-command aggressively overcompensates for his boss’ proven record of failure is hardly commendable — or credible. What made Biden’s demeanor even worse was how rude, disrespectful and immature he portrayed himself (replete with goofy grinning, laughter and eye-rolling) while Ryan had the floor. Adele DeLeva Shameless Selden, L.I.: Joe Biden was arrogant and disrespectful in the debate. He should be ashamed of himself and apologize to his young Republican opponent. Carol Donegan Send him packing Yonkers: At first, I was amused by some of Joe Biden’s antics during the debate. After giving it more thought, I find Biden’s behavior disturbing. His rudeness and his snickering exhibited a picture of an unstable character. What’s scary is that he has been, and wants to continue to be, a proverbial heartbeat away from being President. Tom Byrne Not funny Oceanside, L.I.: During his debate, Joe Biden was smirking, laughing and Continue Reading

Prince William & Kate Middleton’s wedding sparks London fever: Your guide to city across the pond

Thanks to a couple of photo-ready royal lovebirds, eyes across the world are focused on one city: London. But there are plenty of reasons to visit besides Kate and William's imminent wedding. Brits have recently swamped Manhattan on shopping trips, lured here by favorable pound-dollar exchange rates. Now, the advantage has flipped. It's been a decade or so since the dollar was worth this much in Britain — $1.50-$1.60 to the pound. Add to that a slew of hotel openings, like the renovation of the iconic Savoy (, where modern cocktails were first popularized in Europe at the swanky American Bar. There's also a brand-new W hotel ( that just debuted on Leicester Square. Plus, London is undergoing radical upgrades in preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games. Go this year, and you'll avoid the crowds but still enjoy a spiffed-up city. Here's a 10-part tip sheet for London. 1. DAY-TRIPPING: The NYC-London air route is one of the busiest in the world, so fares are competitive (around $750 including taxes). Check for flights that land at London's second airport, Gatwick (LGW), which isn't as swanky as Heathrow (LHR) but is equally handy. And if the red-eye prices are high, look for the morning departures. Operated by a few airlines like American and British Airways, these leave NYC at 8 or 9 a.m. and arrive in time for late dinner in the U.K. Business types rarely opt for them, so fares can be cheaper. Check (where real people trawl for deals that are emailed free to subscribers) and 2. THE TUBE IS YOUR OYSTER: Don't pay cash when traveling on the tube (London's subway) or the big red buses. Cash fares are more than double what locals pay, equipped as they are with Oyster cards ( Any tube station sells these stored-value swipe cards for a deposit of just 3 pounds; load them up at a ticket machine and fares are automatically deducted every time you ride (unlike in NYC, remember to tap Continue Reading

Michael Jackson finally laid to rest in burial at Forest Lawn Memorial Park

Exactly 10 weeks after his death, Michael Jackson was laid to eternal rest Thursday night in a crypt fit for a king. Jackson's brother and his two sons all wore black suits and red ties and sported purple arm bands embroidered with gold crowns as they filled the front rows. The singer's brothers also wore sequin gloves on their left hands and carried the coffin to his crypt at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Calif. Gladys Knight performed at the service, which started over an hour late and was attended by a small coterie of family and friends. She sang "His Eye is on the Sparrow" and directed the faithful by singing the Lord's Prayer when they were committing the body. Among the celebrities at the service were singer Stevie Wonder and legendary actress Elizabeth Taylor, who was dressed in black and arrived in a wheelchair. The King of Pop's first wife, Lisa Marie Presley, actor Macaulay Culkin and Barry Bonds, the disgraced Major League Baseball home-run king, also attended the burial. The mourners filled more than 200 white chairs set up outside the Great Mausoleum, where Jackson was interred. Two color photos of Jackson sat on easels in front of the crowd. Jackson's three young children poured their hearts out in personal letters that were placed in their father's gold-plated coffin along with one of his signature gloves. They placed a crown on top of a bed of flowers on the casket. The Rev. Al Sharpton said it was a "personal honor" to be invited to the service."I talked about how it's harder traveling east to west because you face a headwind," Sharpton said. "Michael, coming from Gary, Indiana, always had to battle headwinds, face some accusation. But he landed well. I told the children they crowned their father for all eternity."Jackson died June 25 at his rented Beverly Hills mansion from an overdose of sedatives allegedly administered by his doctor. His death has been ruled a homicide by the Los Continue Reading

Vast left-wing conspiracy for southpaw Barack Obama

Lefties are backing Barack Obama - his fellow southpaws, that is.A group of left-handed Democrats has formed Lefties for Obama to raise money and get out the vote for the Illinois senator's White House bid. Their votes might not make a difference - approximately 10%-14% of the population push rather than pull their pens across the page. But if the right-handed majority sees Sen. Obama's left-handedness as a benefit, it could be the edge in his campaign against Sen. Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Albert Einstein, Michelangelo, Charlie Chaplin, Pablo Picasso and Babe Ruth were all lefties, as is Dr. James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA, and Paul McCartney. Leftie Jimi Hendrix famously played his guitar upside down, and Leonardo da Vinci wrote backward, with a mirror. Comic genius Jon Stewart is a leftie. And left-handed, too. Some scientists believe that left-handed people think differently, perhaps because their thought processes are guided by the right half of the brain. Researchers have found that left-handed people are better able to see "the big picture" and to multitask. Left-handed people are often more creative, and excel at art, music, mathematics and other abstract tasks. Asked if this sounds like a description of his boss, Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor told us: "In terms of seeing 'the big picture,' having a vision, having foresight, I'd say that's a fair assessment. He opposed the Iraq War before it began. In that instance, he had a vision of the future. If you read [his October 2002] speech, he predicted a lot of the problems, like sectarian violence." Only seven Presidents have been left-handed: James Garfield, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan (though he wrote with his right hand), George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Should enough lefties, righties and the ambidextrous pull enough levers for Obama and he secures his party's nomination, they will have to change the scissors and the can openers in the White House. Sen. Continue Reading