No Comments »

December 10th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Art, Photography, Design; Personal History, Family, Friends, Education, Travels; Philip Turner's Books & Writing; Urban Life & New York City

Appreciating Ruth Gruber’s Lifetime of Humanitarian Activism and Photojournalism, at the JCC til Feb 25

Ruth at JCC, Dec 9, 2014Kyle, Ewan, and I had a great time last night at the opening reception for an exhibit of Ruth Gruber’s photojournalism at the JCC. This is essentially the same exhibit that was mounted in 2012 at the International Center of Photography, the year that Ruth was awarded the ICP’s Infinity Award. If you’re unfamiliar with Ruth’s work, this show is a great way to begin. If you’re not in NYC to go see it, this link will lead you to many of the images. If you’re not familiar with her remarkable career, here’s a primer:

Born in 1911 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Ruth was always precocious. She received her B.A. from NYU at age sixteen; an M.A. in German language and literature from the University of Wisconsin at eighteen; and at twenty was offered a fellowship to participate in an exchange program at the University of Cologne. Early in her studies there, in 1931, she was asked by a professor if she would consider reading the work of Virginia Woolf, and writing a doctoral thesis about her. I’ve imagined that Ruth’s professors must have realized they had this bright female student in their midst, a reader of English and German who could tackle the Englishwoman’s books and write about them, and when might they again have such an opportunity, especially with the inter-war years—which they turned out to be—increasingly fraught? Ruth demurred—she had not yet read Woolf’s work, she could afford to be in Cologne only one year, her parents would not let her stay longer, the work would surely take more than a year—but soon, though she hadn’t read any of Woolf’s books when the professors asked her, she said, “I’ll try.” Taping up a picture of Woolf in her room, she undertook to read all of Woolf’s books then published, pondering their meaning and the significance of Woolf’s creative enterprise.

Despite the notoriety that her youthful doctorate brought her (she was heralded in the NY Times as the “World’s Youngest Ph.D.”), the Depression was in full swing and Ruth found little work upon her return to the States. She continued traveling and trying her hand at journalism and photography. In 1935, she was delighted when the thesis on Woolf was published as a book in Germany by the Tauchnitz Press, which had a list of English-language titles, including Woolf’s The Waves. Ruth sent a copy of her thesis to Woolf in London, thus beginning a lengthy correspondence between the two women that culminated in Ruth paying a visit to Woolf at her Bloomsbury home in 1936 or ’37. For more on this period of Ruth’s life, including the meeting between the two women, you can also read my post, Virginia Woolf and Ruth Gruber, Driven to Create as Women her on this blog.

After her experiences in Germany, she won a Fulbright scholarship, which included attending a rally at which Hitler spoke, where the foreign students were seated very near him, she devoted an extended period of independent study to the examination of “women under democracy, fascism, and communism.” She became the first Western journalist to tour the Soviet Arctic, and in 1937 published her second book, I Went to the Soviet Arctic, which she parlayed in to a new career as a public lecturer. In 1940, Ruth continued her association with the peoples of the polar regions when she became a member of the FDR administration, under Interior Secretary Harold Ickes who named her his special field representative for the territory of Alaska. She is doubtless one of the Roosevelt administration’s eldest surviving staffers. She worked for the government off and on during and immediately after WWII, leaving at times to work as a foreign correspondent for the New York Post and the Herald Tribune. In 1944, Ickes assigned Ruth a mission she urged him to give her, that of escorting nearly 1,000 WWII survivors from Naples, Italy, on the Henry Gibbins, a ship that also carried wounded American troops back to the US. In 1947, she was working as a foreign correspondent when she covered the fate of the Exodus ship, and chased its thousands of stateless passengers all over the Mediterranean and central Europe the summer of that year.

To read more about Ruth Gruber’s lifetime of humanitarian activism I recommend any of the six books I published with her, five of which are currently available in new editions from Open Road Integrated Media, whose executives Jane Friedman and Philip Rappaport were also on hand at the JCC. The titles I published with Ruth are 1) Exodus 1947: The Ship that Launched a Nation, Introduction by Eleanor Roosevelt biographer Blanche Wiesen Cook; 2) Haven: The Dramatic Story of 1,000 WWII Refugees and How They Came to America, which was adapted for a TV movie in 2000 (Foreword by Dava Sobel, author of Longitude, and Ruth’s niece); 3) Raquela: A Woman of Israel, winner of the Jewish Book Award in 1978 (Introduction by novelist Faye Kellerman); 4) Ahead of Time: My Early Years as a Foreign Correspondent (also the title of a documentary on Ruth), Introduction by Vanity Fair writer Marie Brenner; 5) Inside of Time: My Journey from Alaska to Israel: My Journey from Alaska to Israel; and 6) Virginia Woolf: The Will to Create as a Woman.

I have written about Ruth several times on this blog, posts that are all illustrated with photographs by Ruth or of her: 1) Ruth Gruber’s Photojournalism at Soho Photography; 2) My Friend Ruth Gruber, Pioneering Photojournalist; 3) Virginia Woolf and Ruth Gruber, Driven to Create as Women; 4) Celebrating Photojournalist & Author Ruth Gruber’s 102nd Birthday With Her; and 5) Marking Photojournalist Ruth Gruber’s 103rd Birthday. Below are photos I took at last night’s reception, and photos I’ve taken of her book jackets.

Tags: , , , , ,

3 Comments »

November 16th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Art, Film, TV, Photography, Fine Printing & Design; Urban Life & New York City

Katherine Bradford, “Shelf Paintings” at Arts + Leisure, till Dec 14

Katherine Bradford, "Shelf Paintings" catalogKyle and I had lots of fun amid the lively crowd that gathered at Arts + Leisure gallery for the opening of  “Shelf Paintings,” an exhibit of new work by one of our favorite painters, Katherine Bradford. These are colorful object paintings that employ dimensionality with a shelf projecting out at the bottom, with other structural elements arrayed in them. Kyle and I had earlier seen Bradford’s 2012 exhibit at Edward Thorp Gallery, which was also full of terrific paintings. Kyle wrote about that show for the Left Bank Art blog and over the past couple years we have continued to find her work irresistible and enjoyable, not missing a chance to see her work. Below are pictures from last night’s reception at the very convivial Arts & Leisure, located along Lexington Avenue at 101st St, on Carnegie Hill, on the southern edge of El Barrio. It was a pleasure meeting and making many old and new friends, including Shari Mendelson, Rick Briggs, JJ Manford, Elisa Soliven, and David Rich; Donald Cameron and Nick Lawrence of Arts & Leisure; and of course, Katherine Bradford herself, who inscribed a copy of the full-color catalog for Kyle. If you like what you see here of Bradford’s work, go to Arts & Leisure where the exhibit will be up until Dec 14. Also, you can read Kyle’s essay on the 2012 exhibit, and the informative release/essay posted on Arts & Leisure’s site, accompanying “Shelf Paintings.”

Tags: , ,

No Comments »

November 10th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Urban Life & New York City

The Sound of a Poet’s Voice

Dylan ThomasDylan Thomas, Collected PoemsI was fortunate to attend an event remembering Dylan Thomas on the 61st anniversary of his death, November 9, hosted by my friend Peter Schulman and New Directions, Thomas’s longtime publisher. Pictures, reportage, and links at my Storify post.

Tags: , , ,

No Comments »

October 23rd, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Personal History, Family, Friends, Education, Travels; Urban Life & New York City

Flashing Back to a Moment When I Encountered a Near Namesake of Mine

Walking with my good friend Karl Petrovich in the NYC nabe of Soho almost thirty years ago, I spied this handsome panel truck that had a version of my name painted on it, only I spell my first name with just one ‘l’ and my middle initial is ‘S,’ not ‘C.’ It was an odd doppelganger moment—evidence of someone like me, but not me. Karl had a camera, and we snapped a pic of me in front of the truck, emblazoned with this PCT’s architectural practice, with outposts in NYC and strangely, in far away Tulsa. It was a memorable, weird, modern moment, pre-Internet. As a grace note, here also is a picture I took of my pal Karl, sadly now deceased. We were classmates at Franconia College in the 1970s.PCT and PSTKarl Petrovich

Tags: , ,

No Comments »

October 21st, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Bicycling; Urban Life & New York City

A Gorgeous Day Along the Hudson

Tags:

No Comments »

October 15th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Bicycling; Urban Life & New York City

Creating Safer Streets in New York City

WEA new lanes, looking southAs a New Yorker who walks, bikes, and occasionally gets around in the city by taxi, I have been alarmed by the dangers on our streets and the numerous fatal encounters among pedestrians, bikers and cars. In August, I attended a public meeting held by NYC Council Member Helen Rosenthal, announcing potential changes to the local streets, designed by the Dept of Transportation to minimize these dangers, and “calm” vehicular traffic, as the planners put it. In the weeks since that meeting, West End Avenue has been freshly paved, and now new lane markers have been painted, which I hope will fundamentally alter the traffic flow, and improve the safety of all local residents. Please examine the screenshots below to see for yourself, or all the photos and charts via this link, which reveal the new design in its entirety. A key part of the plan boils down to dividing the 60-foot wide avenue differently than it’s been configured for many years. Rather than the avenue being divided in to six lanes each ten feet wide (with two of those lanes reserved for parking, and four lanes reserved for northbound and southbound traffic), the plan (view PDF here) will see the parking lanes on each side of the avenue widened to thirteen feet, the traffic lanes widened to eleven feet, and the creation of a center turning lane to allow for safer turns on to the neighborhood’s side streets. At some intersections, no turns from or on to side streets will be permitted.href=”http://philipsturner.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/SaferStreets-WEA.jpg”>New pedestrian islands on West End Ave

Now that the new lanes have been painted, I hope the city will quickly put in place public education and new signage, to make clear to drivers, pedestrians, and bikers how the new configuration is supposed to work. I am concerned that in the short term, the new markings will befuddle many people, leading to dangerous impatience and confusion. If you are an upper west sider, and want to know more about the efforts of Council Member Rosenthal and the DoT to improve safety, you may visit Rosenthal’s website, where you can submit your own suggestions. At Rosenthal’s site, you can also join her email list, to receive the many communications they forward from the DoT.

WEA redesignWEA redesign II

Tags: ,

No Comments »

October 13th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Bicycling; Books & Writing; Urban Life & New York City

Autumn and the Little Red Lighthouse Festival 2014, an Ideal Combination

Brisk winds and the aftermath of a rainy Friday night didn’t dampen the fun at the 22nd annual Little Red Lighthouse Festival this past Saturday, held on the grounds under the George Washington Bridge, aka the great gray bridge, near the Little Red Lighthouse, the last beacon light to shine in Manhattan. I have written about the landmark several times in recent years, including after I attended last year’s fall festival. The Parks Dept opens the lighthouse to visitors on these occasions, allowing New Yorkers to fully appreciate this splendid example of maritime architecture. After I toured the lighthouse last year, I wrote about its history and the children’s book that improbably helped to keep it standing on the shore of the Hudson: LRLH books

“If you’ve never had a close-up view of [the George Washington Bridge and the Little Red Lighthouse] and aren’t certain where they are or how to see them for yourself, we’re talking about upper Manhattan on the island’s west side roughly level with what would be West 178th Street and the Hudson River. I get there on my bike, pedaling on good pavement alongside the river most of the way from my neighborhood around West 100th Street and Riverside Drive. The area can also be reached from Washington Heights, near 181st Street, and in both cases it’s accessible to walkers as well as cyclists. The forty-foot tall lighthouse–whose exterior is dotted with porthole windows and decked out in bright red enameled paint with a white cone and clear glass at the top–sits below the lower deck of the bridge, close to the monumental steel foot of the span’s eastern arch. According to a NYC Parks Dept web page, the two structures became most indelibly linked in the public imagination in the early 1940s, and even earlier in the city’s maritime history. Here’s a lightly edited version of the Parks Dept. article:

‘In the early 20th century, barge captains carrying goods up and down the Hudson demanded a brighter beacon. The [lighthouse] had been erected on Sandy Hook, New Jersey in 1880, where it used a 1,000 pound fog signal and flashing red light to guide ships through the night. It became obsolete and was dismantled [but not destroyed or discarded] in 1917. In 1921, the U.S. Coast Guard reconstructed this lighthouse on Jeffrey’s Hook [future site of the George Washington Bridge] in an attempt to improve navigational aids on the Hudson River. Run by a part-time keeper and furnished with a battery-powered lamp and a fog bell, the lighthouse, then known as Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse [the name since the early 1800s for the shelf of Manhattan schist that juts out in to the river right there], was an important guide to river travelers for ten years. The George Washington Bridge opened in 1931, and the brighter lights of the bridge again made the lighthouse obsolete. In 1948, the Coast Guard decommissioned the lighthouse, and its lamp was extinguished.

‘The Coast Guard planned to auction off the lighthouse, but an outpouring of support for the beacon helped save it. The outcry from the public was prompted by the children’s book, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, written by Hildegarde Swift and Lynd Ward in 1942. In the popular book, the Little Red Lighthouse is happy and content until a great bridge is built over it. In the end, the lighthouse learns that it still has an important job to do and that there is still a place in the world for an old lighthouse. The classic tale captured the imaginations of children and adults, many of whom wrote letters and sent money to help save the icon from the auction block.’

The Parks’ web page adds that in 1951 the Coast Guard gave the lighthouse and grounds to the City, and in 1979 the Little Red Lighthouse was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places. Refurbishments took place in 1986, when on the 65th anniversary the concrete foundation was restored, and in 2000 when it was repainted, true to its original shade of red.

In a real sense, the persistence of the lighthouse on the Manhattan shoreline is a product of one of the first episodes of “historic preservation” in the modern history of New York City. Too often, the city and posterity have been the loser in those battles, such as what occurred in 1963, when–unaccountably to current-day New Yorkers–the old Penn Station was torn down.”

I will add that it’s a great time for parks and historic sites in New York City, with such projects as the ongoing restoration of High Bridge, the footbridge that’s connected the Bronx and Manhattan since 1842, though it’s been derelict and off-limits to hikers for many years. Also heartening was the news last week that more than $130 million will be spent to upgrade and renovate thirty-five NYC parks that have historically been neglected, even while better known parks, like Central Park and Prospect Park, garner lots of resources.

I didn’t enter the Little Red Lighthouse on Saturday, as the line was long and I was glad to let others see it for the first time. I was just happy to walk the grounds and stop at the booths of several upper Manhattan organizations and businesses. Among these was the NYC Parks Dept, which sent several urban rangers to staff an information table; Summer on the Hudson, @summeronthehudson on Twitter, whose director Zhen Heinemann was on hand making sure everything ran smoothly; Word Up Books, “a completely volunteer run community bookshop,  and arts space in Washington Heights,” on Amsterdam Ave at 165th Street, near the Morris-Jumel Mansion, the oldest wooden structure in Manhattan, built in 1765; graphic artist Norman Ibarra, who was selling a handsome poster he’s designed, printed on quality paper, that shows the seven lighthouses along the Hudson River, upstate from Athens and Saugerties south toward Manhattan and Jersey City; the National Lighthouse Museum, near the Staten Island Ferry terminal, whose representatives told me about the hoped-for restoration of the Old Orchard Beach lighthouse, wrecked during Hurricane Sandy; and Anthi’s Greek Specialities, a food vendor that was selling tasty spinach pie and baklava. Along with the above Facebook post I sent out that afternoon, I took lots of pictures during the festivities. Here are the best of them.

Tags: , , , ,

No Comments »

September 20th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Art, Film, TV, Photography, Fine Printing & Design; Personal History, Family, Friends, Education, Travels; Urban Life & New York City

Carving Space w/Esme Boyce Dance in “Dark and Pretty Flat”

Esme Boyce DanceHad an enjoyable time last night at “Dark and Pretty Flat,” a dance performance and multimedia presentation put on by Esmé Boyce Dance. The series of eight linked pieces flowed seamlessly from one to the next against a rolling video backdrop, of wooded roadsides and watery depths; atmospheric guitar playing, both live and looped; and spoken word poetry. The four dancers, in costumes that bore a wood grain texture in gray and peach hues, were sometimes on the floor all together, in pairs, or solo. Carving space with their articulate arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, and toes, they supplely shifted their weight in to rolls across the floor and shoulder tucks that brought them in to very near proximity with their own torsos, or those of fellow dancers. It was a world premiere, with all the pieces choreographed by Esmé Boyce. Beside directing her eponymous company, she collaborates with the Satellite Collective and is a member of Janis Brenner & Dancers. Other collaborators were: video artist Cody Boyce, Esmé’s brother, music and poetry; actor Ted Levine, reader; architectural designer Chat Travieso, set designer; artist Sue Julien, the two Boyce’s mother, costume designer—she chose the wood grain fabric, and cut the costumes as supplely as the dancers moved.

The performance was at a lower east side combined theater and bar venue Dixon Place, a new one to me. Entering at 161A Chrystie St, between Rivington and Delancey, you walk in on a narrow bar, while small tables, chairs and sofas and a tiny stage are in the back. In that rear area is a stairway down to the basement where there’s a large theater, with upwards of 50 seats in banked rows. As a New Yorker for nearly thirty years, it still fascinates me to discover spaces like this, caverns tucked away beneath the rumbling streets and subways, renovated and built out for creative endeavors. The establishment has a great vibe, whether upstairs or down. It was particularly nice to see Kit Boyce, friend of many years, husband of Sue Julien, father to Esmé and Cody, friends who I first met in Chicago, in the years I regularly went there to visit Franconia College classmate Robert Henry Adams.

After the dances, the full house walked back up the stairs for an instant after party in the bar and seating area. Bouquets were presented to the dancers—Esmé’s mates were Giulla Carotenuto, Kit McDaniel, and Christopher Ralph—and toasts were offered all ’round. I hadn’t been to a dance performance in years, and I found it an aesthetic pleasure to see movement, color, fabric, sound, and light all played to such intriguing effect. There’s one more performance of “Dark and Pretty Flat” tonight. I recommend it highly, or take yourself out to some dance soon.Dark and Pretty Flat

Tags: ,