Inside an igloo that served as a base for dissenters at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), which wrapped up on January 29 in Davos, Switzerland.
(Photo: Johannes Simon / Getty Images)
The buzz on More Room in a Broken Heart, Stephen Davis’ unauthorized biography of pop-music staple of the ’70s and ’80s, Carly Simon, was pretty bleak, but as a longtime fan of Simon and first husband James Taylor, I felt compelled to take a look at this first attempt to explore her life in book-length form.
Alas, I should have heeded before jumping. More Room (subtitled The True Adventures of Carly Simon) is one of the lazier nonfiction efforts I’ve encountered in a while, with Davis brazenly structuring the book around previously published material, without notes or bibliography, nor acknowledgments or attributions, beyond just a “thanks to the great journalists who covered the Carly Simon story in the past.” You can add pedestrian writing and factual errors to the mix, and the only original content comes via the author’s analysis of the Simon song library – album by album – and this is none too incisive, either.
A shame actually, because I was looking forward to a more deserving examination of Simon’s life and work, for myself and many others who remember the glory years of the artist responsible for such defining standards of the singer/songwriter era as “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard it Should Be,” “Anticipation,” and of course, “You’re So Vain.” In her personal life, Simon shared a stormy, creative, and utterly fascinating relationship with the iconic troubadour James Taylor (their marriage lasted 11 years), and her childhood background as the daughter of publishing magnate Richard Simon (of Simon & Schuster) provides even more color to an already riveting life story. (It’s not every kid who has memories of Rodgers and Hammerstein coming over to the house to play the piano.) Continue reading
With the start of the award-season accolades for Meryl Streep, which began Sunday night at the Golden Globes (this time for The Iron Lady), I’m reminded of how often this crown jewel amongst American actresses has been passed over for performances that her peers could only dream of aspiring to. The 2010 Academy Awards were the lowest case in point, when Sandra Bullock bested Streep and her flawless interpretation of Julia Child in Julie & Julia. Could anyone else, much less Bullock, have crafted such a memorable take on that idiosyncratic icon of the American kitchen? (Bullock’s role in The Blind Side could have been played by a younger Streep in her sleep.)
Likewise, it wasn’t until last month that the Kennedy Center finally made Streep an honoree at its year-end gala, despite previously bestowing it on others less obviously deserving (Steve Martin and Dolly Parton, to name but two).
And in another example of “overlooking the Streep,” one remembers that despite a record 17 nominations, 2012 will mark almost 30 years since Streep’s last Best-Actress Oscar (for 1982′s Sophie’s Choice) and that, incredibly, Hilary Swank (and Jodie Foster and Sally Field, for that matter) actually hold more Best-Actress statuettes (two) than their far more luminous colleague.
And while I’m on a roll, let’s not forget just a few of the films for which Streep did not win the Oscar (regretful trivia): Silkwood, Out of Africa, The Bridges of Madison County, and more recently, Doubt and The Devil Wears Prada. Continue reading
In a sort of crisscross of creative convergence, two luminaries who were at the forefront of the revolution in American art that was to be known as Abstract Expressionism are again connected in time.
Helen Frankenthaler, whose soak-stained technique later developed into what was called the “Color Field” movement, passed away at age 83 in late December — and this month marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jackson Pollock, he of the much-imitated “drip-style,” and of whom Frankenthaler was a disciple.
You can guess I’m taken by the work of these two innovators, whose “painting from above” approach may seem quaint now, but which qualified as a quantum leap in art at the mid-20th century.
Frankenthaler’s method of dropping paint (diluted with turpentine) directly unto unprimed canvas, literally allowing the colors to “soak” unto the surface, seems simple enough, but the results were anything but. Her first major work, Mountains and Sea, is reminiscent of a watercolor, though actually created in oil. Her colleague, Morris Louis, once described Frankenthaler as “a bridge between Pollock and what was possible.” As critics assemble a final assessment of her legacy, one is left with her own words: “There are no rules. Let the picture lead you where it must go.”
If Frankenthaler embodied the lyrical aspects of Abstract Expressionism, Pollock exemplified its explosive side. “Jack the Dripper,” as he was dubbed by Time magazine, defied painterly convention in the extreme, with works that remain spellbindingly labyrinthical, as complex as any I can think of.
A fascinating article published last year in Physics Today talks about how Pollock employed elements of fluid dynamics in his pieces, long before analysis by physicists — though a hint could be taken from the artist himself when he declared, “I can control the flow of paint; there is no accident.” (Art and science combine once more.)
The 2012 Pollock centennial will be commemorated with retrospectives around the country and abroad (Japan will feature Pollock in a major exhibition for the first time). And no doubt that Frankenthaler’s passing will generate renewed interest in her work.
Apropos attention for two titans at the heart and soul of modern American art.
In one of several similarly themed images taken in the early 2000s, New York City-based photographer Bill Jacobson captures some of the moodiness and uncertainty that often accompanies the start of a new year.