Saturday, August 13, 2011


John Cullum was the King in the musical, "The King and I," at Jones Beach, while I was making a comeback, out of town in South Africa and South America.

I was performing Mahler's Fifth Symphony, a 70 minute solo, "breaking it in" the way that Broadway shows are worked on out of town before opening in New York. And testing myself -- dancing full out, after major surgeries, and hours and hours of physical therapy that I needed after my back was broken in an automobile accident.

Though the tour was under U.S. State Department auspices, it was a low budget tour. I traveled alone, dealing with passport, visa, and stage management problems as they occurred.

The problems were nightmarish.

Without John Cullum's participation, it's amazing that I ever got back to the U.S.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


It's time for annual checkup so I made an appointment and am planning what to discuss with my doctor.

I've written about going to the doctor. Click and you can see what I said in Going to the Doc 3/30/2009.

(Résumé: I broke my back and severed my intestine, but everything's been repaired, and I know a lot about physical therapy, diet, and intestinal things.)

Mike, the doctor I see for checkups, blood tests and prescriptions, is sort of a medical collaborator buddy -- he keeps track of my "short bowel syndrome," and I keep track of how he's doing with exercises, his weight, his staying in shape.

Also, I keep track of the health of my husband, my son, quite a few of our friends, our maid, our lawyer, our accountant, and many of my former dancer/employees -- their ailments, medications, weight, aches and pains, and staying in shape routines, because over the years, I have certainly learned great deal about those things from books, research, as well as personal experience.

I remember details, (almost weirdly). I probably have a photographic memory -- that's how I impressed John Cullum -- we met during a bridge game. I'd never played before but I remembered all the cards that had been played.

Actually, I wanted to be a dancer OR a doctor when I was a child. I fixed and nursed baby birds, hovered over plants, dogs, cats, turtles, hamsters, and goldfish, and became an expert at keeping things alive. And that instinct to be a nurse-doc has grown with me, as a mother, and the artistic director of my dance company. Dancers were constantly straining, spraining, and injuring themselves.

Nowadays, just about everyone I know is concerned (a little and a lot), about cancer, heart, and all the various osteo-arthritic this or that. All the brain-washing TV ads declare "Tell your doc" about any aches and pains that you never had before.

You can't. Doctors are expensive and busy, and if you bravely and honestly proceed and try and do that -- explaining new aches and pains gets the doctor scheduling umpteen tests. If you minimize everything and ramble on blithely about little discomforts and concerns -- yuck -- you sound like a complaining hypochondriac.

The fact is, I understand the numbers on my own blood tests, and blood pressure, and know my weight, height, approximate caloric intake, and of course the names, amounts of all medications and side effects. And similarly, I retain what's been said by my relatives and friends about all these current things and past issues.

Be it a sprain, strain, neck, back, knee, finger, stomach -- even a peristaltic pain, or a possible broken bone -- my doctor self can help you figure out what to do, and whether or not you need to see your real MD.

Sure, I'm anxious about seeing Mike. Will I get bad news about anything? Will I get permission to go on eating, sleeping, living, as I'm doing now?

Dr. Em -- my best, most reliable, primary doc -- is saying "probably yes."

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


I am uneasy about "The Ten Most Important Artists of Today."

They are the "enormously talented stars," according to Newsweek critic, Blake Gopnik, who is choosing the creators, "who could be the next Leonardo, Rembrandt or Picasso."

Who is this Gopnik guy? He writes about art and design for Newsweek and The Daily Beast. Previously, (for 10 years), he was chief art critic for the Washington Post. He has a doctorate in art history from Oxford University.

After reading what Gopnik said about these artists, I went roving on Google, to see their work in various galleries.

Artur Zmijewski makes videos -- a dying woman interviewed in bed talks about her pain, a deaf choir grunts out a Bach cantata. The photo Zmijewski titled "Eye For an Eye, " is nude amputees clutching other amputees so that together they look like a complete person. ("It's an orgy" was my first thought, until I counted the limbs.) Zmijewski's art has been shown at MOMA in New York City.

Award-winning artist, Gillian Wearing, photographs and videos herself in rubber masks that she casts from other people's faces. She says her art is about people opening up, saying things they've never said before. Gopnik says she is redefining portraiture. The trio of photos, all of Gillian, is called "Secrets and Lies." I'm thinking, gee, is this art -- a woman taking pictures of herself?

My large, old, reliable dictionary says art is: "1. The expression or application of creative skill and imagination, especially through a visual medium such as painting or sculpture; 2. (the arts): various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature, and dance.

Okay, video, portraiture, even CD's are "art" -- anything, everything concerned with human creativity, social life, even scientific/technical stuff can be "art" and appreciated for beauty or emotional power.

This is a clip of from Christian Marclay's video, "The Clock." It's a 24- hour montage -- clips about time and time keeping, with contrapuntal music and thousands of synchronized clock shots. Gopnik reports that in New York people stood in line for hours to see it; the Whitney Museum has already had a Marclay retrospective. (Would I go see it? No.)

Marjetica Potrc's art is building "better worlds" -- dry toilets for Latin American slums, an unbreakable water jug for Africa. Her "Hybrid House" is on display at MIT. She deeply, passionately believes art can make the world a better place. (Hmm. What she's creating seems to be practical, good business ventures.)

Tacita Dean tells stories, using stock film and projectors. Her "Banewal" is 63 minutes of a solar eclipse, watched by cows in Cornwall, England. Her first American retrospective is planned for the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum. ( I think it would put me to sleep, but maybe American critics will love it.)

Sophie Calle's art documented 107 women responding to a letter of rejection Sophie got -- faces and reactions of older and younger females as they read, a sharpshooter blowing a hole in the letter, and a parrot tearing the letter to shreds. Yay for Sophie -- she's expressing a universal anguish visually, though I'm not sure it says what I'd feel as I flushed the letter down the toilet.

Francis Alys is "one of our best artists" Gopnik says, as he describes Alys' interactive commentaries on our existence -- photos, videos -- one of Alys himself, pushing a huge block of ice through Mexico City (where he lives), till the melting block of ice became an ice cube which he kicked through the street.

Jeff Wall created and photographed Destroyed Room. that's gotten world wide acclaim. (Click and enlarge the picture and you'll see a profoundly messy mess.)

Jeff Koons, mixes classic art and porn. I liked Koon's rendition of Michael Jackson and a chimp, in gold and porcelain. Koon is currently working on a Venus he's twisted from balloons, and enlarging into a towering marble.

Damien Hirst made a diamond studded platinum skull -- put a $100 million price on it, and jokes about laughing all the way to the bank, though his art leaves most of us (definitely me) bewildered.

Here's a photo of him and a crew, who were showing a buyer Hirst's huge dead shark., It's been sold for $8 million.

Whewy, wow, holy Minorka! I don't get it -- maybe you will, and I'll learn to love it. Maybe what's happening in art is what was happening in modern dance when I first started choreographing. The guys, who got raves were doing dances with no movement, in dead silence, so when I wrote my first play "One Fine Morning," for a parking lot, it was chock full of experimental, far-out, theatrical gimmicks. I broke the rules again, with my first novel, "46th Street Binge," using actual headlines about the Liz Taylor-Burton romance to motivate a young would-be bomber.

Avant garde stuff, rule-breaking is/was what young artists do. The 10 artists are reaching in new directions to say what no one else has said before, because that is what art is -- all those things that these guys are relentlessly doing.

We need to know the names of who's doing what in the arts, and yes, I need to know the names in politics, world events, as well as what celebrities are doing, because that's blogging, my art, where I'm sort of relentlessly trying to express everything that's going on the world.

Hey ho, if you are a would-be rich, famous, rule-breaking artist, click this link to the New York Times, July 13, article on rich, famous Hirst and his *$8 million dollar dead fish.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Hot summer days have always inspired John Cullum and Em to go down the road.

Vacations weren't planned, we'd just get in the car with a few toilet articles in a shopping bag, and hit the highway. Everything was spur of the moment. It was fun, not knowing where we'd end up -- Connecticut, upstate New York, New Jersey, or maybe somewhere in Long Island.

Our chariot was a four-door Plymouth with more than 200,000 miles on it, that we'd bought for $100. Aside from the fact that it ate oil, the Blue Beatle required none of the special attentions you gave to a car you bought for real money.

Click, and come with us on one of our adventures.