Nina Pops, Cassata!


Nina Pops’ exhibition Cassata opened last night in a beautiful space in Leverkusen, across the Rhein from Cologne.


Pictures of the exhibition can be seen here:

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The Evening of August 25




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Ecologist at Work: Ben Abbott

In the French countryside just south and west of Mont Saint-Michel my son Ben and his colleagues at the University of Rennes are monitoring and evaluating a set of streams running through agricultural land. Last week I had the pleasure of working as Ben’s Assistant principal de recherche for one 12-hour day.

ben bridge ben syringe   ben samples

Did I mention he is a good cook too. Here is the Breton galette he made for me the evening I arrived:


And I did a little barbed-wire research on the side.

bw with hay

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Nina Pops at Work

nina fiber glass

nina zarko masks

nina sanding

nina tools

Pictures from Nina’s studio in Köln as she prepares for a major exhibition at the Bayer exhibition space.

Aluminum protected by an adhesive layer she strips off in the end. Oil, pigment (a whole kilogram followed by another kilo), fiberglass bought at the “Bauhaus” / “Home Depot” to fill craters, orbital sander, scalpel to cut the multiple layers of pigment and paint — all very much in the spirit of the other “Bauhaus” in Weimar and Dessau that championed industrial craft(wo)manship.

The yellow work on the wall will hang with the eventually white one she is working on on the table.

nina green alu nina wall nina yellow alu close nina hall nina sitting


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A Footnote

In Berlin’s Gemäldegallerie Botticelli’s Venus confronted me with her full body.


My pedestrian eyes dropped to her feet, to the roll of fat just above her left ankle, to the toes slightly bent with the weight, to the impression her big toes make in the block of what must be stone that crosses the painting at the bottom. The left foot casts the only shadow, an incipient blackness that connects the fleshy woman to the blackness behind her.


My gaze rose to include her legs:


I adopted her pose, weight primarily on the ball of my left foot, left heel touching but not heavily, right foot mostly balancing.

I compared her in my mind to Botticelli’s Birth of Venus:

Botticelli Birth of Venus

I prefer, I thought, the simpler form that emphasizes its verticality against the black background—the lines of the stone base as the horizontal antithesis.

The vertical form is composed of circles: the head, the eyes and eyebrows, the flowing and curving hair, the sloping shoulders, the breasts, the navel, the stomach, the left forearm, the hands, the thighs, the knees, the calves, the heel, the rounded top of the left foot, the left instep, the toenails.

The vertical line moves upward from the ball of the left foot through the hidden vulva to the left eye.

It is a painting of contrasts: vertical and horizontal, line and circles, golden hair that separates into individual hairs until it finally dissolves into the black, hair both bound and unbound, braided and free flowing, civilized and wild, creamy flesh against the black, this-worldly and other-worldly.

After decades of work on the metaphor of standing, I see the feet first and last. Homo erectus.

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Moving at the Speed of Love: Alex Caldiero’s New Book “Some Love”

photo from the Signature Books website

photo of Alex Caldiero from the Signature Books website

It’s a prickly book, this new exploration of love and language by Alex Caldiero. The dedication to Alex’s wife—”for Setenay, some love”—ought to raise some questions at home, questions that find many satisfying answers in the edifying and eviscerating and life affirming and despairing and enlightening and surprising and playful poems.

Jason Francis designed the beautiful book, small enough to fit nicely in a reader’s hand and fat enough to include lots of poetry. Red and blue are the dominant colors of print (oxygenated and non-oxygenated blood) and creamy white paper alternates at intervals with blue and red pages. IMG_6654

Like all true love stories, this is a tragedy. Like all true love stories, this is a comedy. Like all true love stories, this is a book about language. Like all true love stories, this is an exploration of sex. Like all true love stories, this is a love story.

The epigraphs for Parts One and Four lay out two of the many possibilities: “Your eyes are beautiful—they match.” Bob Hope in Road to Utopia . . . and “If you think we’re together, you’re a poor judge of distance.” Mae West in Belle of the Nineties

A couple of poems as examples of the wit (in both senses: humor and wisdom) of the book: you are so much on my mind/you have thoughts of your own there and Her mouth on/my mouth— in old age I’ll smile and/not know why

Love is complex and frustrating: Because I was so sure/of the meaning of the word,/I didnt look it up,/but maybe I should have/because the one I heard/was not the one she spoke.


at cards/or love,/I lose at/both so/I stay home/for dinner

Love is satisfying and promising:

In Tongues

When my tongue/meets your tongue/it wants to play tag,/it wants to play hide-and-seek. Then fatigued,/it would lie down/in its own most bed/alone to dream in flavors.

Love is heartbreaking. Table for Two with One Chair, for instance, ends with a request: It’d be helpful/if you would return/my heart to my body.

Love moves at the speed of love in Italian as well as in English. Lovers keep telling and retelling their stories . . . della velocita of love.

Love opens up new worlds: How careful/should I be/with emotions that would unscramble/every letter in my alphabet?/Perhaps then I could learn another language.

This book unscrambles every letter in my alphabet, and for that I’m grateful.

[thanks to Tim Abbott for the title “Moving at the Speed of Love”]

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Marriage Equality

The Supreme Court decision today comes almost exactly 24 years after my brother John died of causes related to AIDS. I’ll lift a glass tonight to John and to all the people who have worked over so many years to make a society in which we are all equal under the law.

Yesterday the New York Times posted a short documentary film titled

Elder: A Love Story

The story took place in Italy in 1974. Tom Clark, a Mormon missionary in Italy only a couple of years after John served there, fell in love with a young Italian man. He shot lots of film of the two of them and as I watched I found myself in the world I had imagined from John’s letters and from this single photo:

johnandmichelIt is a story — a set of stories — to be celebrated today.

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The Moon of Alabama . . . I Mean . . . of Utah



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Peter Handke’s The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez in Chicago

Directed by Zeliko Djukic, Theatre Y’s US and English-language premiere of Handke’s play opened last night in Chicago.

Click HERE for Theatre Y’s page.

And HERE for a youtube discussion of the play.

Two photos from the production, courtesy of Theatre Y by way of Michael Roloff, who translated the play (with a bit of assistance from me):

aranjuez 3 aranjuez 2

The Man: “And time turns into one body and one soul, every A & O pants for eternity.”

The Woman: “That’s what it was, and so it is. — Pants! And snaps!”

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Once In A Blue Moon: Collections

For almost 6 months now, our dog Blue has been bringing things home from our daily walks. Here his collections:



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