'tis the season
December 2010

Dear friends and family,

A whole year in Alfred and the time passes just as fast when you're not going to an office regularly. Everybody says that, and it's true. I've been doing a mix of freelance and itinerant jobs, and enjoying it. I've done several dozen records for incunabula on microfilm for the Morgan Library related to Bosch's "Garden of earthly delights," a couple boxes of small exhibition catalogs for MoMA, several thousand images for ARTstor (mostly non-western art), and spent three weeks at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. And I added Sunday reference duty at the Scholes Library of Ceramics here in Alfred. There was an article in the Times a while ago about Laptopistan, that coffee-house world where freelancers go to be with others, a social setting even if they're not working for the same outfit. That's also true: the interaction with colleagues and "customers" can give discipline. I've enjoyed being at the reference desk and working with the students and other Scholes staff and faculty.

2010 brought the usual compliment of professional conferences which I haven't been able to stop going to. ALA Midwinter was in Boston in January and I went up afterwards to Maine to see Christie Stephenson (Janet Linde came along). Lots of snow to view but no nasty weather to fight. We did road trips in the region around the Blue Hill peninsula. College Art met in Chicago in February and that allowed a visit to the new wing of the Art Institute, designed by Renzo Piano. March brought the Visual Resources Association conference in Atlanta with a nice walking tour of Portman architecture and the sighting of a vaguely palladian villa just East of downtown. The ARLIS/Western New York chapter meetings this year were held in Buffalo and Utica: both strongly architectural with Frank Lloyd Wright in Buffalo and Philip Johnson in Utica (50th anniversary of the Munson-Williams-Proctor building). The ARLIS/NA conference was also in Boston: no problem, familiarity bred knowledge of restaurants, the T (transit), and byways. Before the conference, I went up to Manchester to visit the Currier Museum and see Frank Lloyd Wright's Zimmerman House. In June, Diana Mitrano lent me her apartment in Brooklyn for a week or so while she was in Hong Kong and I went on from there to Washington for ALA Annual.

The June trip to NYC was one of a handful. Each allowed me to get in some gallery and museum viewing, friend visiting, and NYC walking and absorbing. Special exhibition visits were to see the Hours of Catherine of Cleves at the Morgan Library, the Belles Heures and the Dijon mourners at the Met, and the NY Art Book Fair in November.

There were shorter trips around the New York State, including Ithaca, Rochester, Corning, and Buffalo, as well as family gatherings in Branchport and Herkimer. From Herkimer, we did a day trip to Cooperstown which was great. Hyde Hall, at the North end of Otsego Lake, is one of the finest Palladian houses in the U.S. It also "forced" me to read The Clarks of Cooperstown by Nicholas Fox Weber which I'd been meaning to do for several years. I discovered a great church in Bath by Jacob Wrey Mould who worked with Vaux in Central Park. The church has a Tiffany interior. My brother Doug and I went on a house tour of a country house nearby, built in the style of Benjamin Henry Latrobe. That's the Villa Belvidere near Angelica.

The routine in Alfred is pretty good. I've been going to most of the Thursday midday Bergren Forums: topics range from French Revolution finances to Costa Rican natural life to contemporary abstract painting to quarks to Indonesian music. Wednesday noon brings a silent peace vigil. When school is in session, there are plenty of artist talks including Studio Visit with the week's visiting artist on Wednesday mornings.

I joined the Village Planning Board as an alternate member late in 2009 and it has been interesting to watch vilage politics at play. There's also been the Alfred Alive Initiative which took off after a disastrous fire in the business block late in 2009. There's a sub-group on sustainability and programming as well as economic development.

A new obsession has been scanning photos from my European trips. The scans are adequate for memory if not glorious. It's always amusing to see which photos get traffic on my Flickr photostream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/56294332@N00/

Social networking has made a lot of difference for me up here. Facebook allows me to keep up, perhaps vicariously, with all my NYC and other friends and colleagues as well as learn about folks and activities in this area, e.g., birthday band reunion last weekend, holiday gatherings, lectures and programs.

The year has brought plenty of reading, including The help by Kathleen Stockett, The elegance of the hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, Exploding the myth of modern architecture by Malcolm Millais (this was real interesting, a diatribe against modernism), and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (she was a favorite author of Chris Huemer, who died sadly late in the year). I'm reading Babel Tower by A.S. Byatt now and enjoying it.

Films this year were mostly brought via Netflix so it's been older films, some good, some not so good, of course.

Well, I promised myself I'd only do a single leaf this year so it's about time to stop. I do some blogging at http://shermaniablog.blogspot.com/ as well as collecting Shermaniana at http://shermaniac.tumblr.com/ or you can catch me on Facebook to find out more about the daily life of a freelance and itinerant, kind of retired, art cataloger. The coming year's conferences will be in San Diego, NYC, Minneapolis, and New Orleans. Sounds good to me.

May your holiday season be delightful and may the new year bring you health, peace, and happiness.

Sherman Clarke
33 South Main Street
Alfred, NY 14802

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