2004: gone but not forgotten

Another year over, half a decade, more or less, of the 21st century. The year started just after a December 2003 trip to Burgundy and its Romanesque churches. 2004 ended with a quick trip to see the Burgundy show in Cleveland, adjunct to a week in upstate New York with family in Queensbury, Cambridge, Alfred and Branchport. What a delight to see the sculptures and manuscripts of the 15th-century dukes, as well as many old “friends” in the museum from grad school days: St Jerome and the lion, and two standing saints, by Tilmann Riemenschneider; Bouts’s “Annunciation,” Inness landscapes, manuscripts, the organ court. I stayed with Hildegard von Bingen Beagle and her master Sara Jane Pearman whom I’ve known since grad school (1968).

January brought a trip to San Diego for the Midwinter conference of the American Library Association. Downtown San Diego proved to be a fine conference location, with convention center, hotels, and food in comfortable proximity, and of course the weather was fine for walking. Any fear of a car-dependent environment dissipated quickly. And the cafe at the YMCA provided a fine and inexpensive breakfast. We became regulars and the homeless man stationed outside recognized that I had a different tie on one day.

Spring is always my busiest conference season, and the conference sites seem to travel together. College Art Association was in Seattle in February and Visual Resources Association was in Portland, Oregon in March. Both conferences were full of interesting programs (and some dull ones too) and provided a chance to see folks I don’t see otherwise. My guesthouse in Seattle was a little too cute but I enjoyed talking to a filmmaker from Grand Rapids who was also in town for CAA. Before the VRA meeting, I drove down to southern Oregon to see Tee Corinne (my co-editor on the Queer Caucus for Art newsletter) and her partner Beverly Brown. We had a fine visit at their comfortable and rambling house in the country. The trip back to Portland was up the coast and I spent one night in Yachats, with the full moon over the waves in the morning. At Powells Book Store in Portland, I was able to find both Beverly’s book on timber workers and Calmette’s history of Burgundy in English.

After three conference trips to the West Coast, the Art Libraries Society conference was in New York City in April so it was a different kind of traveling. I bought a weekly transit pass and tried to balance my conferring with the daily business of life and office. Again, lots of interacting with friends and colleagues. Emily Roth and I coordinated a suite of Monday-Night activities in various neighborhoods around the City. The group I co-led walked across the Brooklyn Bridge as the sun set. It was quite spectacular but then we found too long a line at Grimaldi’s pizzeria and dispersed to several Brooklyn Heights restaurants. I also helped coordinate a panel on “The queer art world,” co-led with Janis Ekdahl a tour of galleries in Chelsea, and led the Cataloging Problems Discussion Group (something I’ve been doing since the 1970s).

The BIBCO (google it, if you care) Operations Committee met in Washington in early May. I stayed for the weekend at Sherry and Woody Kelley’s apartment at the Watergate. When Sherry and I were having dinner at the restaurant in her building, her face got all agitated and she said “Condi.” Indeed, we were about to have dinner within a few tables of Condoleezza Rice. She was seated just two tables away but totally in the corner, out of sight. Saturday brought some wonderful art moments.

Some time ago, I met Nancy Goeschel at Sharon Chickanzeff’s apartment. Nancy rents a large apartment in Venice every May-June. Sharon has been a guest several times and Nancy made a sweeping “you all are welcome” statement at the party at Sharon’s. Well, she most generously meant it and I joined Sharon for a week in Venice in early June. The apartment is on the Grand Canal near the Rialto Bridge. My previous experience in Venice had been as a day-tripper from Vicenza (which I don’t regret since Vicenza is Palladio’s hometown) but it was lovely to be in Venice in the evening as well as during the day. We did the full complement of seeing and eating. One evening, Sharon and I were returning from supper under a full moon. I couldn’t resist walking over to St Mark’s Plaza for the view. Sharon returned home. It had rained earlier in the evening and there was some “acqua alta” (high water) in the plaza. Rounding the bend to look at Santa Maria della Salute, my feet swooped out from under me and I fell, breaking my left arm. I was right near a water taxi stand so there were cellphones at hand. An ambulance was called. So, now I can say I’ve ridden in a water ambulance, had my arm cast in “gesso” at the Ospedale municipale di Venezia (partly housed in the Scuola grande di San Marco), walked home on the quiet streets of Venice from the hospital with Sharon under the full moon at 2:30 in the morning, and flown a transatlantic flight with a casted arm. It would be wrong to say it was fun but it couldn’t have happened more easily and beautifully. With my arm in a cast, I didn’t get as far afield as I might have but I did get out to Torcello and climbed the tower, saw lots of churches and palazzi, ate plenty of fegato veneziana and polenta (the theme food for the trip), and left some things undone for the next time. (A fuller travelogue can be read at artcataloging.net under miscellany.)

With my arm still in a cast, I went to the ALA annual conference in Orlando. Daniel Starr helped me to and from the airport but we did it by subway and bus at both ends. Again, we roomed with Scott Wicks and had a good time ... once you got used to International Drive and the spread-out venues of the conference. Our hotel was a half-hour walk from the convention center but at least there were sidewalks. Some of the other hotels were beyond sidewalks and easy walking.

The cast came off about July 4th and typing two-handed returned. A great relief. I went to physical therapy the rest of the summer and now seem to have about the same use of the arm. I do rather dread the slippery ice of winter which hasn’t come to NYC yet.

The galleries pretty much close down in August and, this year, I actually did some excursions out of the city on the weekends. One weekend I went to Beacon to see the Agnes Martin show at Dia. Another was spent in Alfred with family and friends (my father is spending most of his time in South Carolina so I didn’t see him). The next weekend, I took a day trip out to Cherry Grove on Fire Island to see the shows at Paul Sharpe and Barbara Ann Levy galleries. Hurricane Charley was charging up the coast toward Long Island so I didn’t stay late. The last weekend plus a couple days was spent in Chicago, doing some training for RLIN21 at the University of Chicago and the Art Institute of Chicago. While in Chicago, I reconnected with Cliff Bishop who worked at Cornell in the 1980s. And I had a lovely breakfast with Anne Champagne in the West Loop, as well as drinks near the new Gehry pavilion on Michigan Avenue. Sunday was spent in Oak Park with the Frank Lloyd Wright buildings. I sometimes play a game with myself at museums: which painting would you take home? This time at the Art Institute, it was the “Mater dolorosa” by Dirk Bouts.

The year had its normal complements of art, theater, music, dance, performance, and reading. Some of the highlights are listed below. During 2004, I had dinner with Rachel Stuhlman (Eastman House) and her folks several times at a restaurant near their home on the Upper West Side. Very good macaroni and cheese; almost too much, even for me. Lots of meals and a shared subscription to New York Theatre Workshop with Mac (Robert McDonald) too. I spent Thanksgiving with Christie Stephenson and Janet and Virginia, first we visited the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and then we ate on hot hot Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn. There were many sunsets to be seen from the Hudson River waterfront and elsewhere. I helped monitor the “Eyes wide open” exhibit sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee during the Republican National Convention.

Some of the books I enjoyed over the last year or so: Passionate sage (biography of John Adams) by Joseph Ellis, Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, American woman by Susan Choi, American pastoral by Philip Roth, Guns, germs and steel by Jared Diamond, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, As meat loves salt by Maria McCann, The book of salt by Monique Truong, Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, The world of Venice by Jan Morris, Gaudí by Gijs van Hensbergen, The adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon, A lost lady by Willa Cather, Indivisible by four by Arnold Steinhardt of the Guarneri Quartet, The master by Colm Toíbín.

There were many hours spent with art but some of the highlights were: Thelma Golden interviewing Glenn Ligon who couldn’t be there at the New Museum; Byzantine show at the Met; films by T.J. Wilcox at Whitney Biennial (seen again in Chicago); Emily Jacir errands (Biennial and elsewhere); Caravaggio “Supper at Emmaus” (National Gallery) in Lombard show at Met; Christopher Dresser show at Cooper-Hewitt; Ed Ruscha photos at Whitney; Janet Cardiff walk in Central Park; David Bunn details of catalog cards at Brooke Alexander; “The First Imaginary Forum of Mental Sculpture” at the Sculpture Center while seated on Rita McBride’s amphitheater; “InterseXions” conference sponsored by Queer Caucus for Art and CUNY Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies; “Bob the Roman” (Robert Adam) at NYSID; the new MoMA building; works on paper by Joan Snyder at Alexandre Gallery.

Among the plays, performances, etc.: “A passage to India” and Pina Bausch at BAM, “The normal heart” (Kramer) at the Public Theater, “La cage aux folles” revival on Broadway, “The Baltimore waltz” (Vogel) at Signature which will be one of the occupants of the cultural center on the World Trade Center site, Larry Kramer speaking at Cooper Union.

May the new year bring us all more peace and justice than seems possible.

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

... go to Sherman's miscellany ...