It’s the newly re-discovered Van Gogh.
Had my second eldest nephew not been passing through LA, I might have missed the Herb Ritts: LA Style exhibit at the Getty Center. Until yesterday, I had barely been aware of the gay photographer’s work in fashion, familiar with his images largely from the postcards and coffee table books I saw at gay bookstores, including primarily his images of nude men.
And save for a handful, few impressed me. His photographs of the male body (at least the ones I had seen) tended to focus on the muscle. The men themselves lacked sensuality, seemed instead cold, intimidating, unapproachable, lacking tenderness, devoid of emotion.
Yesterday, I was blown away by his work, mostly his images of clothed female celebrities, but was also impressed by a handful of his male nudes, the vulnerable Stefano and the intense, Pete and Yuri, the first photograph showing a man appearing vulnerable, longing for human touch, the second, depicting two dancers positioned almost as if in a circle, the one supporting the other, perhaps providing the touch, the support, for which Stefano longed.
The most eye-catching of his images (to me at least) were those of unnamed dancers or models, their rounded and otherwise curved dresses almost flowing out of their still, almost linear forms. In Corp et Ames 2, a dancer seems fixed in time as her dress arcs in an almost-perfect semi-circle. Versace Veiled Dress showed a black cape of some sort emerging as wings from the form of a woman, her body silhouetted by her black form-fitting catsuit. And that contrasted against a white, desert landscape.
For those of you who don’t know, I grew up in Chester County, Pennsylvania.Â Home of Longwood Gardens, Valley Forge, the Mushroom Capital of the World (Kennett Square), and for any of us who went to public school in the county — the Brandywine River Museum.
The Museum was THE PLACE for school field trips once a year.Â It is such a gem in Southeastern Pennsylvania that I am sure most of its residents, as I did, take it for granted.Â We used to groanÂ when we knew the Brandywine River Museum was our “day away from school” destination, instead of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia — or some other “cool” place.Â
In reality,Â the BRM was the place that introduced me to art.Â Real art.Â Paintings of naked women art.Â Â You know, classy stuff.Â Stuff a kid from my background would most likely not appreciate, and perhaps snicker at, at that age.Â Timeless pieces of art and beauty created by man.
One of the reasons the BRM was started in 1971 was to honor and hold the collections of the Wyeth family, who made their home in Chester County.Â Â Yesterday, one of the most famous American contemporary artists, Andrew Wyeth, passed away.
AndrewÂ Wyeth was as famous as famous is in Chester County.Â Â His father, N.C. Wyeth, was known around the world as a painter and illustrator.Â Andrew learned his craft in his father’s workshop.
As a kid growing up in Chester County, the Wyeth family’s importance in the art world was embedded into our studently consciousness.Â AndÂ Andrew was mysterious.Â It was rumored he came in with the crowd somtimes at the Brandywine River Museum, but no one ever remembers actually seeing him.Â He was like our version of the Wizard of Oz.Â Really important, all-encompassing, never seen but through his work.
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy honored Andrew Wyeth by giving him the President Medal of Freedom — the first time it had ever been given to an artist.Â Â Amazing.
I just wanted to acknowledge this morning the passing of this great American artist and patriot.Â And thank him for opening the world of art to a lot of stupid kids who appreciate him a lot more as they got older.
I’m in San Francisco now for my baby sister’s wedding. Every time, I come to this city I am struck by the natural beauty of the city as well as the architectural beauty of many of its buildings and the charm of its streets. I was delighted this time, as on a previous trip up here, to meet with some blog readers, talking about blogging, politics and sexuality.
And I’ve had time to spend with my family, having a heart-to-heart with my sister, playing tag with a niece and nephew in Golden Gate Park, getting a rush when I finally found a bank with Oklahoma quarters so I can distribute the latest state quarter to my parents’ progeny.
I spent the afternoon with Mom, going to two wonderful museums, the Legion of Honor and the DeYoung, fortunately one could go to both on the same ticket. I wanted to see the former to view their antiquities collection (small) as well as their Renaissance and Impressionist sections.
And while I enjoyed many works in those sections, I have to say that I was blown away by the Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life, 1990â€”2005 exhibition. I’m often skeptical about whether photography is art. Well, this exhibition made a mockery of my skepticism. Some of the pictures really moved me. (To be sure, others left me cold.)
If I was not so eager to get to bed, I might try to review the exhibit, but will only comment on one picture of Queen Elizabeth II, wearing a blue cape-like overcoat with storm clouds in the background. I thought it looked liked a Romantic painting featuring Napoleon. My mother thought the Queen looked like George Washington.
While Leibovitz politics (or what I’ve heard of them) may turn the stomachs of some readers of this blog, her art (for yes, some of her pictures are art) rises above politics. And the show is well worth a visit. As is so much in this town.
Because someone hijacked our original site on blogspot, I will repost (below the jump) a piece I did on San Francisco when I visited my sister and mother here in December 2004: (more…)