Friday, September 16, 2011

New York, New York

Beginning and Ending of Trip
Just back from a week in New York City. We went there primarily for art but of course I took advantage of the fact that macarons are everywhere and did some scientific research on taste. Prices ranged from $1.95 to $3.00 per cookie, and texture and flavors varied considerably. They all looked pretty but I would not purchase any of them a second time. On the other hand, the cappuccino pictured above at the Espresso Bar on 6th Avenue near 57th Street was definitely something to repeat.

New York Moments
The weather was beautiful, the moon sublime, and the city familiar and strange at the same time. We noticed so many wonderful new buildings, and visited some classics, like the Chrysler Building above right. We made pilgrimages to some art supply stores, resisting temptation until we got to Kremer Pigments, middle left above. It wasn't just the seductive shelves of color, but the kindness of the two people working there that convinced us to make purchases. I found the current bible of natural dyes there (Dominique Cardon's Natural Dyes) and snapped it up (okay, Amazon would have been less but this place had character).

We went to museums and galleries (I will post about some later) and were amazed at the crowds viewing art. I remember turning to Mark and asking, "Do all these people really love art?" He reminded me of the high entry fees for entering the museums, so clearly they must have some commitment to be there. In the past I could always find an area of the MET that was quiet and off the beaten path--the crowds staying in the current blockbuster, the art lovers wandering into the corners--but this trip every room of the MET (and we probably entered most of them) was crowded.

The city seems much cleaner and upscale in all the neighborhoods than before. We went north, south, east and west and it was very rare to see someone asking for money. The one street dwelling that I saw had an Ikea chair like one I used to own. Of course I am older than when I last visited New York (it has been almost 11 years), but the population of the city also seemed much younger and wealthier than I remembered. I was a resident of the city at 21, so I know about "owning" the city, about posturing and attitude, but we did it on a shoestring. Even today I feel hailing a taxi is an outrageous way to spend money. The 7 Day Metro Cards that we purchased made the buses and subway extremely easy to use.

This trip was really a "grant" from two wonderful friends who went to Portugal and invited us to stay in their apartment. We missed seeing them (luckily had dinner with one of them the last night) but we were able to spend time with some other friends.
David Reisman and Mark (above bottom right) studied art together at University of Kansas in the late '70s--and they are both still making art. Going to Chelsea galleries with him was lots of fun. 

Egyptian Order at the MET
When I got home I noticed that Mary Early had posted an interesting article on Facebook about organizing things and it reminded me of these images I took at the MET in the Egyptian area. Aren't the stacks of linen wonderful?

Just a note to say that the exhibition I am in with Pat Adams, at BigTown Gallery, has been extended until October 23, 2011. Things are getting back to normal in Rochester, Vermont with many of the roads accessible now, but that town has been badly hurt and if anyone wants to contribute to helping this town that truly has a heart, you can make a donation. Click HERE for a link. New York Times mentions Anni Mackay, owner of BigTown Gallery, as one of the town heroes.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

After the Storm

Opening of Pat Adams and Bhakti Ziek exhibition at BigTown Gallery, Rochester, VT

Hard to believe that a week ago I was at the opening of my show with Pat Adams at BigTown Gallery in Rochester, VT. We knew the storm was on its way, but the evening was clear and calm and lots of people showed up to make the opening very festive. At 4pm there was an informal talk between Anni MacKay, Pat Adams, myself, and the audience and then there was the whirlwind of conversations and greetings that happens at openings. It was a really great evening, and as we left, Anni said she was heading out to pick her vegetables before the rain started.

We had 24 hours of rain, nothing seemed particularly severe, and I woke Monday morning to a clear blue sky day and fresh crisp air cleansed by the rain. We had electricity and when calls started to come in asking if we were alright, I was a bit puzzled. The news up here didn't mention Vermont, but apparently the rest of the country knew that Vermont was a mess. Then at 10am our electric and phone went out. Rumors flew about causes and length of time--I really didn't like the prediction of three weeks before it would be fixed. A small stream turned into a river and took out a substation and most of Randolph was without electricity for 2.5 days. Minor inconveniences (we got charcoal and pulled out our weber grill and I bought these 14 hour candles and found that reading by candlelight is not much fun) compared to many places in the state, and to some other people in Randolph who did have serious problems.

Rochester was one of the 13 (or more?) towns that were cut off from the world. Bridges were destroyed, the road over the mountain that we had taken the night before had become a river bed and washed away the road and some houses. Once we got power back we started looking at everything we could find online hoping to get some info on our friends at BigTown. Finally we saw a photo and could identify Anni and Dunne, so at least we knew they were okay. And yesterday we got a call saying everyone there was okay, and would it be acceptable if they extended the show until October 23rd! Seems a bit selfish to be thinking about my show in the midst of all the mud and cleanup and suffering, but I admit I was happy to hear that people will have extra time to see this show. Pat's paintings and my weavings share the space in very compatible harmony and at times seem to be talking to each other.
 So what did I do as soon as the electricity came on? I baked Macarons! I have made them before following a Martha Stewart recipe and I thought they were delicious and perfect, but what did I know? Recently I bought a new cookbook (Sugarbaby by Gesine Bullock-Prado). The cover picture of spun sugar spoke to my heart and then I realized this was the Gesine who had a pastry shop in Montpelier when we first moved here who made magnificent sweets, so of course I had to buy the book. So I followed her recipe and they were a total failure. Because I had eaten at her shop, I knew it was me, not the recipe--so I went on line and found this great video of her making macarons. And I watched it several times, maybe more than that, and then I tried again. The pink cookies shown above show that I still had problems--but they tasted great. 

So then I went back to the internet (this was all pre-storm pre-opening--a good way to focus my energy at stage fright time). And I discovered the most incredible blog by a woman clearly more obsessed than me. Not So Humble Pie has 8 posts on macarons--really a thesis on these cookies. So I tried again--and you can see the perfect little feet and nice flat shell of the yellow ones (though the color seemed to bake out). These not only looked great, they tasted sublime. All these macarons were done using the Italian Meringue method. I don't have a picture of the ones I made once the electricity came on--I used one of the Not So Humble Pie recipes for French Meringue Macaron. They looked okay (but again my coloring, blue this time, baked away), and tasted fine, but they were kind of hallow inside. Another words, I haven't figured it out yet and will have to bake some more.

Linen for Kelly's Curtains
Lucky for me I was already working on a project on my Macomber loom (no electricity needed) when we lost power, so I could keep working during the days. You can see the 18 yards of linen competing with the woodpile for size above. I really am afraid to cut and sew it myself (we all have our expertise) but will do it so Kelly can have her curtains.