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How does one summarize a year like 2005? Tsunami, Katrina and its aftermath for the people of the Gulf Coast, continued war in Iraq, one’s own little crises. Still, one has hopes for more peace and well-being in the new year. What else would make sense? Despair is so ... desperate. Having just spent a lovely evening with my friend Daniel Starr on his birthday, eating crêpes at a little bar/resto near campus, life seems pretty ok right now. And I wish you all peace and health in the new year in spite of all the terror and horror, and because of the wonder, that seems to be around us.

My 2004 ended and 2005 began with a nice Christmas and New Year’s trip to visit family in upstate New York and to run over to Cleveland to see the Burgundy show and Sara Jane Pearman who has since retired. What a delight it was to see the Burgundian treasures as well as all of the works I remember so well from grad school days at Case Western in Cleveland.

Spring, as usual, was a cacophony of conferences: American Library Association in Boston in January; College Art in Atlanta in February; Visual Resources Association in Miami Beach in March; Art Libraries Society in Houston in April; cataloging meetings in Washington in May; a regional ARLIS meeting in Toronto, also in May; ALA again in Chicago in June; the visual resources Summer Education Institute in Durham in July. Each of the conferences brought a mix of stimulating sessions and seeing friends and colleagues, with art and architecture on the side. Boston in January was vigorously wintry with significant snow and bitter cold. After that, it was the season of southern cities; why is it that conferences seem to go in bunches? A couple years ago, it was all West Coast. Who cares? Atlanta, Miami Beach, and Houston are each interesting cities and quite different. Toronto and Chicago are favorite destinations.

In addition to the conferences, I was invited to participate in a planning meeting for the Women Artists Archives National Database at Rutgers. What a mountaintop experience!

After the SEI in early July in Durham, I rented a car and visited my father and his wife in the South Carolina exurbs of Charlotte. It was great to spend some time with them though I’ll never prefer the exurbs as a living environment.

After all of the spring stuff, I thought summer would bring relief and relaxation. I guess I’d exhausted myself and spent some time in rather a pit of despond. I’ve pretty well climbed out of that by now. New York City and its art and cultural opportunities continue to inspire and thrill. And I have many good friends here to keep me going.

I went upstate a couple times during the summer to visit family but didn’t spend a week or two upstate as I had hoped to do this year. No trips to Ithaca, either. Bill Connor and I exchanged several visits between Boston/Cambridge and New York City, doing about as much gallery hopping and other stuff as a body could do.

My bookclub also sustains me. I have missed reading some of the books by the time we discussed them though some did get read after the discussion. I get lots of other books read. This year, some of the favorites were The devil and the White City by Erik Larson (just finished), Beloved Emma by Fiona Fraser (started in Vienna where the Hapsburgs were in power and with whom Emma, Lady Hamilton cavorted), The song of the lark by Willa Cather (a bookclub selection), The working poor by David Shipler, February house by Sherill Tippins, On a grander scale by Lisa Jardine (bio of Christopher Wren, architect), Palladian days by Sally Gable (about a couple that bought a Palladian villa), Savage beauty by Nancy Milford (bio of Edna St Vincent Millay), 1968 by Mark Kurlansky, The line of beauty by Alan Hollinghurst, and The genius in the design by Jake Morrissey (on Borromini and Bernini). An ARLIS conference panel on women collectors (including Marjorie Meriwether Post) led to perusing a book on Post City, Texas where C.W. Post was a neotraditional planner before his time; he also built Postumville near Battle Creek. Postum was my mother’s favorite drink for a time. Fond memories of New Orleans led my bookclub to select A confederary of dunces by John Kennedy Toole for one of our fall books. My favorite book of the year may have been The secret life of bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Sometimes I think I read too much, too quickly, because I don’t retain as much as I’d like from my reading. But it’s my TV and one hardly remembers all of what one sees there!

I try to get to the galleries at least once or twice a month. When I moved to NYC ten years ago, there were a small handful of galleries in West Chelsea; there are now several hundred. That has certainly changed the way you approach a visit there. It used to be that you could just kind of go visit galleries; now it’s more that one selects a handful of shows and goes to those and whatever fills in between the selected shows. Still, it is often the “mortar” between the “bricks” that make the day. Among the art stuff that especially thrilled this year were the Martha Rosler show at Gorney Bravin Lee, “The Gates” in Central Park by Christo & Jeanne-Claude, “Mapping sitting” at the Grey Art Gallery (on the Arab Image Foundation in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East), “Log cabin” (LGBT at Artists Space), supper at Paul Sharpe Contemporary Art with his artists, an installation by Mark Beard at the master’s house at Jonathan Edwards College at Yale (with a side trip to the Yale Center for British Art where they have a Walter Sickert painting of the hospital where my broken arm was set in June 2004), “USS Mall” by David Opdyke at the “Greater NY” show at P.S. 1, seeing Philip Johnson’s School of Architecture at the University of Houston with Daniel after we’d spent a couple days in Galveston, Elaine Sturtevant at the List Art Center at MIT; “Sleeping with the enemy” by Gil & Moti at Jack the Pelican; Deb Kruse’s show in Providence; drawing exquisite corpses with Sharon Chickanzeff and others; visiting Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia for the Cardiff/Miller installation and finding the other works too; Smithson’s “Floating island” realized and following it one night from Chelsea down to the Battery; and Reed Massengill’s selection of male self-portraits at Clamp Art. In October, I went on several bus trips to see the “fake estates” of Gordon Matta-Clark in Queens. One of those trips included a side excursion to see the Queens Giant, the tallest tree in NYC in a small patch of old growth near the intersection of two expressways. The show of Van Gogh drawings at the Met brought Geurt Imanse over from Amsterdam to deliver a drawing; I spent a lovely evening with Geurt and Janis Ekdahl. The end of the year brought a show of portraits by Hans Memling at the Frick Collection. The art catalogers were lucky enough to get a “private” viewing today before we had our regular meeting. After my first visit to see the Memlings a couple weeks ago, I went to the Met where there are another six or seven Memlings.

Just before Thanksgiving, I spent a week in Vienna. I’d never been but it’s like living Art History 101 with great paintings and buildings. Loos houses, a “Last temptation” by Bosch, Correggios and Parmigianinos, the Lower and Upper Belvederes, the Postsparkasse building by Otto Wagner and the Secession with its Beethoven frieze by Klimt, fluffy flakes of snow, the great abbey of Melk, and the Hundertwasser House. You can read more on artcataloging.net under miscellany.

Wait! There’s the music, dance and theater, but I’m running out of space, and probably out of your patience. Carnegie Hall, BAM, Joyce, Danspace. A concert of Russian music at the Musikverein in Vienna.

The coming year promises to be hectic at work. At NYU, we are migrating to a new library system (VTLS Virtua) with implementation scheduled for early June. I have the usual round of conferences with ALA Midwinter in San Antonio, College Art in Boston, VRA in Baltimore, ARLIS/NA in Banff, and ALA Annual in New Orleans. At least, we hope that it will be possible to meet in New Orleans by June.

May your 2006 be full of wonder with plenty of peace and well-being.

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