Turner, Moonlight, a Study at Millbank, exhibited 1797.

Turner at the Tate

A penny for the old guy. The original London Eye wasn’t a Ferris wheel on the Thames but J.M.W. Turner, whose visual genius and all-encompassing vision engulfed everything in its path. Until the electroshock treatment applied by Francis Bacon, generations of British painters were subsumed by him. Paying obeisance to the great man is both a duty and a delight when visiting Tate Britain, and now the Turner galleries have been completely rehung for the first time since the mid-Nineties.

Les arbres rectilignes, mid-February. Photo © 2012 Alan Miller.

Some Paris Parks (English Version)

Writing about parks is more fun than writing about buildings. Parks are unpredictable, not so harnessed to the auteur system as buildings. The designer of a park is never so powerful as nature, who always has her say at the drawing board. Many building are most beautiful on the day they are finished but a brand new park, as Ronald Reagan said of the USA, has its best days ahead of it. Depending on how well they are built, buildings deteriorate or age while parks grow like living creatures from one day to the next and across the seasons. I would bet that many city-dwellers’ happiest memories take place in parks. They seem to be the most, and perhaps the last, mirthful places left in today’s cities. Rather than the ritualized coffee-drinking and passeggiate of the piazza, parks encourage an amplitude of movement and feeling. Down at the park a runner might push himself to exhaustion, a picnicker might scrub time watching an ant abscond with a crumb. Beyond their ecological benefits, parks are essential to our own well-being, our dignity even. In a park, as in a library, everyone is rich.

Les arbres rectilignes, mid-February. Photo © 2012 Alan Miller.

Quelques parcs parisiens (version française)

Les parcs m’intéressent plus que les bâtiments. Les parcs sont imprévisibles, ils évitent la politique des auteurs qui entravent l’architecture. L’auteur d’un parc n’est jamais plus puissant que la nature qui a toujours son mot à dire à travers les ans et les saisons. Les parcs viellissent un peu comme les êtres vivants. Un bâtiment est souvent plus beau le jour de son achèvement alors que un parc flambant neuf a ses meilleures années à venir, comme Ronald Reagan a dit à propos des États-Unis. Je ne seriais pas surpris si la plupart des meilleurs souvenirs des citoyens se passent dans les parcs. Ils semblent quelquefois les plus joyeux endroits de nos villes—et peut-être les derniers. Les parcs encouragent une ampleur de sentiment qu’on ne retrouve que rarement dans les rues. Dans le parc un coureur peut pousser son corps au maximum lorsque un pique-niqueur passe la journée en regardant les fourmis volant les miettes de pain. Dans le parc, tout le monde est riche.

Joanna Gabler’s Transcapes at the Milne Public Library, Williamstown, until early December

Joanna Gabler will be exhibiting her most recent works in the David and Joyce Milne Public Library in Williamstown during the month of November.

Joanna Gabler is a painter, photographer and digital artist who has lived and worked in Williamstown over the past 9 years and exhibits online as well as locally, in New York, and in Warsaw, including her most recent exhibition of Orchid Mandalas in Warsaw University Botanical Garden this past September.

As an avid walker and photographer she became totally immersed in the beauty and splendor of the Nature in Berkshires and spends many happy hours walking in the woods and taking pictures. The result comes as a several thousands of photographs in her archive and a new way of working on her art, which she developed.

She describes it as painting with photography and calls her images “transcapes,” or transfigured landscapes.

Why I am a NiMBY*

Three times in the past month, The Sydney Morning Herald, the city’s broadsheet of record by default, has published a particularly irritating kind of article on urban density. To paraphrase Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia (1999), this is not just a matter of chance. These articles, by the paper’s two resident economists and sole architecture critic, represent a disturbing and powerful tendency to treat cities as economic entities, blobs on a map rather than physical spaces. They don’t realize that you can’t extrude spreadsheets into skyscrapers. Help! The Borg economists are eating Sydney.

Photography and Place at the Art Gallery of NSW

The Australian landscape seems to require photography. The question of who, how, where, how often and why thankfully remains open, at least among the eighteen photographers included in Photography and Place at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Australia, so conflicted about cities, is one of the most urbanized societies on earth, a situation which makes the looming question of the landscape all the more urgent. Wilderness will aways dominate the continent, never allowing settlements to be interspersed as they are in the United States or Europe. The land provokes sentimentality, poetry and bitterness. In the heart of the cities which cling to the coastal fringe, it can seem another universe until a dust storm, fire, flood or the daily violence of the sunlight reminds us of nature’s nonnegotiable and indifferent presence.

Lucy MacGillis, paintings, at the Hoadley Gallery, Lenox, Ravello Series, July 9 – Aug. 4

Lucy MacGillis grew up not far from Melville’s famous prospect of Mt. Greylock, surrounded by the rolling expanses, hills, and wooded slopes of the Berkshires. Since 2000 she has lived and worked in a small Umbrian town, Monte Castello di Vibio, not far from Todi, painting landscapes and familiar objects around her studio and the simple house where she lives. The distant views and the rooms of the house alike are filled with the clear, warm light of Umbria. As she explained to me, showing me photographs as illustrations, her point of departure is this all-encompassing light and its subtle changes through the course of the day and the seasons. Wherever she goes from there, she is guided by her eye. This visual experience, she says, slows down her painting, reflecting the slow, tranquil life in the town.

The Hudson River Valley Photographed, Two Views: Greg Miller and Stan Lichens

You will find absolutely no scarcity of books about the Hudson River these days: guide books, history books, ecological books, picture books. My purpose here is to discuss two examples of the last category, Scenic Hudson’s panoramic Rizzoli volume with photographs by Greg Miller and Stanley Lichens’ intimate book of hand-colored black and white photographs. These are by no means the only photographic collections of the Hudson on the market, but they have come to my attention in their own ways, and they illustrate two radically different modes of seeing this familiar, but, as Henry James said, “perpetually interesting” river—especially interesting today, as its hard-won cleanup progresses, restoring somewhat the Hudson that James, and even earlier, proto-industrial visitors knew, if still a far cry from the Hudson of Washington Irving.

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