Holiday greetings and best wishes for 2003!

The end of the second palindromic year of our lives is drawing to a close. Well, most of our lives. The next one is 2112 and I’m not sure I’ll make it, but I hope we do collectively. A few months ago, my niece Kim Ellis McKay and her husband Brian had twin girls, so I’ve got three grand nephews/nieces. It’s hard, in a time of war mongering, to think peaceful thoughts but I do wish you all peace and joy in the coming year.

The first part of my 2002 was quite French. It started with ALA Midwinter in New Orleans. Daniel, Scott and I stayed at the Biscuit Palace, a converted biscuit factory in the French Quarter with the appropriate semitropical decay. I did a couple presentations and saw lots of the usual suspects, ate good food and drank chicoried coffee, and breathed in the wonderful atmosphere.

A few days after ALA, I flew to Paris for a week of art. It was my first extensive visit to the Louvre and it was wonderful. The January crowds are thin and I had Bosch’s “Ship of fools” and a whole room of Van Dyck portraits to myself. Even Mona Lisa had no queue. My hotel was a modest one a few blocks from the museum. The weather was warmer than usual but fairly gray. The middle day was bright and I took off for Chartres and its magnificent gothic cathedral. Climbing up into the tower was delightful. Jo Schaffer from Cortland (who winters in Paris) was a kind guide to several small museums and, one evening, we visited friends of hers who live across the street from the house/studio where Giacometti lived. We even visited the week-old Palais de Tokyo and its contemporary exhibition. Another highlight was a late afternoon visit to the Buttes Chaumont, a park rather like something Olmsted might have done (e.g. rustic furniture, orchestrated views, bridges, meandering paths).

The French theme continued with the joint conference of ARLIS/NA and VRA in Saint Louis. While the French is a bit more obscure there, the conference hotel was in the converted train station and the old waiting room made for a splendid central space. On the last day, I visited the cathedral with its richly decorated mosaic interior (a fine reminder of Ravenna the previous October) and the Pulitzer Foundation which is gracefully situated in a building by Tadao Ando.

After the conference, Daniel and I drove up to Iowa City to see Harlan and Steven. We had a lovely visit with them, going off to Cedar Rapids to see some Amana stuff and a bank designed by Louis Sullivan. We then drove to Chicago for the flight home, stopping at the John Deere headquarters building designed by Eero Saarinen, perhaps the finest Cor-Ten steel building I’ve ever seen.

Between Paris and Saint Louis, I went to Philadelphia for College Art. Tee and I chaired a panel which went well. After the panel, we were sitting around talking until it was just me and several women. We walked everybody back to their hotels and then decided that it was a bit strange that I left to walk to my hotel alone. Old ways die hard, even for radical feminists. No, I wouldn’t let them walk me home!

Tee Corinne is my co-editor for the Queer Caucus for Art newsletter which continues to be one of the most satisfying of my professional tasks. It’s partly because of working of Tee but also because I love scouring the galleries and publications for fodder for the newsletter.

In late April, I flew to Charlotte via Chicago to see my Dad and Ethel. They have been snowbirding between Alfred and her home in the South Carolina suburbs of Charlotte. We had a nice visit and I finally got to the Mint Museum.

May brought a trip to San Diego. I was invited to join the participants in an art imaging project based at UCSD. I also got to visit with Paul and Donnie and saw some of downtown San Diego. Don’t tell anyone but I actually rode the city bus from La Jolla all the way downtown. The downtown branch of the Museum of Contemporary Art had a show by Adi Nes, a favorite photographer, but was closed on Wednesdays!?!? I found a pretty good used bookstore as compensation and meandered in the shopping center designed by the Jerde Partnership -- one of the flamboyant and playful downtown malls which have tried to bring folks back to center cities, at least for shopping and entertainment.

ALA Annual was in Atlanta in late June. Atlanta was generous with us, with the high temperature being only in the 80s. We stayed at a Days Inn across from the moorish Fox Theatre. The hotel was fairly close to the High Museum of Art and I got to see a whole bunch of Cornellians, past and present, at a reception in honor of their receiving the “Excellence in Academic Libraries Award” for 2002.

My father’s sister-in-law Ahvagene Bond Clarke died on July 1st and I joined many cousins and other family in Erie for a memorial gathering, and again in October for a graveside gathering in Alfred. A hard but cleansing rain fell in the cemetery, and we retreated to the Oglesbees in Wellsville. My dad came through New York City on the way to Alfred and we went to “My old lady” with Sian Phillips (she was Livia in “I, Claudius” on Masterpiece Theatre); it was particularly interesting to see it with my father since it addressed family intergenerational relationships.

Later in July, I took the train to Washington to see Sherry and Woody Kelley as well as the Larry Rivers show at the Corcoran and other art stuff. We spent about four hours near Wilmington when the train hit something that knocked out our electricity. I don’t often want a cell phone but it would have been nice to let Sherry know I would be much later than expected.

2002 also brought a couple trips to Boston, one in August for a bunch of art and one in October to help Bill Connor celebrate his 40th birthday. We’ve known each other since before his 21st when he worked at the fine arts library at Cornell. He helped me avoid the obvious on my 50th when we stayed overnight in Providence and then went out to Provincetown on Cape Cod.

In November, I added a couple states to my charm bracelet (that’s better than notches in a gun). The Mountain West Chapter meeting of ARLIS was being held in Cody, Wyoming. I had done some interlibrary loans with the Buffalo Bill Historical Center when I was at the Carter and the librarian there Frances Clymer is a good friend. When I expressed interest, she put me on the program. I missed the connection on the way out and spent the night at an airport hotel in Salt Lake City. The latter certainly didn’t sate my travel needs in Utah. I had an extra afternoon in Cody and drove up the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway into Montana. There was already quite a bit of snow on the road to Cooke City. I still need charms for Idaho, North Dakota, and Alaska.

The last couple years I have spent Thanksgiving in New York City. Christie and Janet have had a long tradition of doing an expedition and then having dinner. The expedition is to some remote section of the city. This year we went to Staten Island -- ferry and then the S.I. subway (you didn’t know it had its own subway?). We stopped in Stapleton where we found an art deco theater, Dutch revival church, Carrere and Hastings public library branch, etc. Supper was in a nice restaurant in the West Village. Christie, Janet and I have begun to plan for a trip next fall to western Tuscany. Janet’s family comes from Lucca which is near Pisa.

Short trips during the year included a weekend in Providence to see the Warhol and others as collectors show, and pass a lovely evening with Deb Kruse and a day in Jersey City even though cousins Dave Clarke and Max Oglesbee couldn’t join me. Summer evenings are often nicely concluded by watching the sun set over the Hudson River.

I had several nice visits from out-of-towners, including Susan Billingsley and Carlos (Fort Worth), Rachel Stuhlman (Rochester), Diane Hillmann (Ithaca), and Charles and Don (Syracuse), along with regulars like Christie and Bill. It is always fun to share time with dear friends in this dear city.

As usual, I did a lot of gallery hopping and museum visiting. There was a big show of works by Thomas Eakins at the Met, accompanied by several lectures and a symposium on “The forbidden Eakins.” The gallery district in western Chelsea has grown so vigorously that it’s almost sidewalk gridlock on a nice Saturday afternoon. Fortunately, there are lots of neighborhoods with significant art venues. Special art highlights: studio visit at Lot/Ek (architects), panel discussion with Tom Burr and John Waters at the Whitney, Gerhard Richter show at MoMA (especially the visit with Deb Kruse), Michael Mazur prints from Dante’s Inferno, Renaissance tapestries show at the Met (wow!), open studios in East Williamsburg, Le Corbusier show at Bard Graduate Center, Hananiah Hariri show at Susan Teller Gallery, Matthew Buckingham’s piece on Samuel Johnson and his dictionary at P.S. 1, Matthias Vriens photos at The Project, Spanish treasures at Cathedral of St. John the Divine, “Moving pictures” at the Guggenheim, and Betye Saar at Michael Rosenfield Gallery.

Two recent plays -- “Sylvia or who is the goat?” by Edward Albee and “Far away” by Caryl Churchill (a dystopic view of civilization) -- have intriguingly addressed the condition of man. Over Thanksgiving, I went to “Frankie and Johnny in the clair de lune” with Christie and Janet. That morning, I had played a CD -- Barbara Bonney singing Mozart -- which especially fit my mood; the play was also about the power of music.

As the magazines pile up (one stack fell over in the middle of the night last night!!), I’ve been reading lots of books and enjoying most of them, remembering less of them. Our bookclub assignment for early January is the Pinsky translation of Dante’s Inferno. Some of the particularly compelling books during 2002 were Bel canto by Ann Patchett, Outlaw representation by Richard Meyer, The book on the bookshelf by Henry Petroski (though it might have made a better long essay than a WHOLE book), The sea, the sea by Iris Murdoch, My name is Red by Orhan Pamuk, The bonesetter’s daughter by Amy Tan (especially in contrast to The keys of the kingdom by A.J. Cronin, one of our bookclub selections), The corrections by Jonathan Franzen (let’s see? did I like it or not?), and Fixer Chao by Han Ong. I am now reading Rough music by Patrick Gale. The protagonist is a 50ish gay man who is relatively happy in his solo state. [How could I have forgotten to mention: White teeth by Zadie Smith, The wind done gone by Alice Randall, Preserving the world's great cities by Anthony Tung, The perfect house by Witold Rybczynski, and that I finished In search of lost time by Marcel Proust?]

What else does the new year promise? ARLIS will be in Baltimore, a city I haven’t been to recently. ALA Midwinter will be in Philadelphia. College Art is in New York City. VRA will be in Houston. With luck, I’ll get up to Fort Worth to see the new buildings of the Amon Carter and Modern museums. Johnson did the expansion of the Carter and Tadao Ando did the Modern.

I hope your holidays are splendid and that you find peace, health and joy in 2003.

Sherman Clarke
14 Washington Place #6J
New York, NY 10003