Art and design projects. With stories about the people, places and experiences that have shaped my

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sierra Leone, West Africa, 1974

Freetown in Blue

Tinguilinta in Red


I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leone, West Africa, in 1974. About 200 of us came over on a flight from Philadelphia. We stayed in the capitol, Freetown, to take language lessons and wait for our specific assignments. Sometimes - following in Graham Green's footsteps - we would go to the City Hotel for a beer. He wrote his first novel, The Heart of the Matter, in Freetown during WWII.

Fifteen year old prostitutes from Liberia would sit on the front porch of the City Hotel waiting for customers. Russian sailors stood at the bar having a drink. Uzi machine guns on their backs.

After Freetown we went inland to Bo for further instruction. We met a number of German families also living in a compound nearby. Everybody there kept a pet mongoose to keep the deadly 'two step' snakes (green mambas) at bay. Spitting cobras were common too.

The Abu Construction Company was rebuilding the road system in the entire country. The Chinese were rebuilding the rail lines. The United States provided the Peace Corps Volunteers. I traveled to Kenema by bus as I was supposed to eventually be posted at the Kenema Technical Institute. That town has lately been in the news as a center for Ebola treatment. 

Now, for the first time in forty years, I am printing the black and white negatives of photos taken there . They are the subjects for new paintings on paper. I took these photographs with a Topcon Super-D 35mm film camera. It had a fixed 50mm 1.4 lens. That used to be considered a 'normal' lens; closest to the view you see with your eye. In those days I used Kodak Tri-X 400 ASA film. The film was developed in a lab in Africa. Negatives have been stored in a box ever since.

 19" x 13" paintings:

Boy Under Grapefruit Tree

Bundu Dance

City Hotel


Boy Under Grapefruit Tree


City Hotel

Boys Rolling Tires in Green, Kenema, studio view.

A '60s postcard of Freetown. That's the City Hotel in the middle, behind the Texaco sign.

11" x 8 1/2" Paintings:

City Hotel, Freetown

Woodworking Class, Kenema

Launch to Tinguilinta at Anchor

'Head,' painted wood, H. 15", 2014.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Art with no politics, no hatred.

This morning Bartley and I were talking over coffee about how artists use unpleasant subjects and images in order to get attention; painter Jenny Saville; the new Met Opera performance of 'Death of Klinghoffer,' etc. My answer to her was that sometimes the most powerful, touching and courageous art demonstrates restraint; is not at all bombastic. She replied, "Honey, I wish you would post that." I said OK.
Here are representations of fall colors expressed in two ways. They are photos I took of four Canada Geese landing in a pond at dusk. And an ancient dance in a very poor West African town. Simple statements. With actual and implied references to landscape. Nothing about butchery or killing diseases. No politics, no hatred.
As I'm typing this I just received an e-mail from a friend in London: "...yes, the world is going mad……… p.s. the art world runs on greed."

Canada geese landing in water; bold horizontal landscape elements.
Sharon, CT, 21 October 2014.

A Bundu ceremonial dance in Kenema, Sierra Leone, 1974.
Painting on paper with photo, 19" x 13", 2014

Additional Paintings on Paper

'Brown and Gold Summer Field'

'St. John's, Hong Kong'

'Vermont Landscape'

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

'Distilled,' A Group Show in New York, September, 2014

'Distilled' is open through 25 October 2014

A very high-quality show in New York at 
Bernard Jacobson,17 East 71st Street.
212-879-1100 Open Tues - Sat  10 to 6

Small paintings by: Robert Motherwell, Sam Francis, Helen Frankenthaler, Larry Bell, Marc Vaux, William Tillyer, Christian de Boschnek, Vicky Colombet, Nicola Ginzel, Eric Holtzman, Kazimira Rachfal, John Scofield

L-R: John Scofield and Diana Erdos, curator and gallery
director at the Bernard Jacobson Gallery, NYC. 

Two small paintings on view at the Bernard Jacobson Gallery to 26 July.

The private viewing room in the rear of the gallery.

'A Murder of Crows'   John Scofield

'Landscape in Mars Yellow'    John Scofield

Bernard Jacobson Gallery

17 East 71st Street
New York, NY 10021

diana (at)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Furniture: 40 Years of Designing and Building

'Equestrian Bench' Carved mahogany with pigmented glaze finish.

My first juried group show was titled, "Things." It was in 1972 at the Brockton Art Center in Massachusetts. Jack Lenor Larsen was the sole juror. Two of my pieces were accepted. These were two tables that are shown below (see arrows). The one on the plinth in maple and rosewood is called 'On Point.' On the floor is a cherry table with a lamp as part of a carved 'landscape' underneath. As you can see the exhibition had a distinct 'crafts' tone. Well, Jack Larsen was on the board of The American Craft Museum, what is now called the Museum of Art and Design, in New York for many years. 

My first juried group exhibition."Things," Brockton Art Center, MA 1972.

This is my 'Colored Chair' in Robert Motherwell's Greenwich, CT living room. He had an apartment above the painting, collage and printmaking studios. That's the couch on which we watched Jimmy Carter win the election in '76. This chair is now in the Lewis collection, Richmond, VA. Photo taken in 1985.
My mahogany and pear-wood 'Chest of Drawer' end-table with a Joseph Cornell 'box' on top. That's one of Bob Motherwell's abstract paintings hung on the rear wall in ocher and black. Two African masks are on the upper-right.
A detail of the chest / table shown above.

'Black Mesa Clock'    Height: 2M
This clock contains a classic American hand-made bell-strike movement. The bell was made in a small British factory that has been making the same bells for hundreds of years. The dial was made of bisque-fired porcelain especially for this piece.

Rear of clock showing Jack Lenor Larsen stretched fabric.
When the bell chimes the hour, it will continue to ring for a full minute after it is struck. Most tall case clocks muffle the tone. The rear fabric panel allows the sound to be more easily transmitted into the room. Jack Larsen personally helped me select this fabric design from his extensive line.

Detail of clock with key for doors.
To wind the movement or inspect the lower weights, the key is turned to open the upper or lower front doors.

'Greek Mountain Table'
A small end table that has four small 'bird cage' columns supporting the top. The base was stuccoed by hand with a tinted mix.

'Lysistrata Table'
A small writing table named after the principal character in a comedy written by Aristophanes. Carved and painted maple legs are connected by means of an iron apron. The top is in figured 'birds's eye' maple.

'Flag Back Chair'
A painted wood and metal chair prototype. It is intended to have a formed leather seat and back. A hidden spring mechanism in the back allows it to recline.

'Landscape Chest'
This chest has twenty drawers and over one hundred dovetail joints.

'I Miss You' table, twin towers street side.
A few days after 9/11 a gold Mylar balloon landed in the David Austen rose bush outside of my Amenia, NY studio. I picked it out of the thorns and examined it. It bore the hand written legend, "I Miss You." Some time soon afterward a Roman Catholic nun, Sister Mary Lanning, said to me, "Oh yes, we released hundreds of those balloons in Harlem." I decided to make a commemorative table in honor of Sister Lanning's efforts to promote healing and reconciliation.

'I Miss You' table, river side.

'3 Sided Glass Top Table with 4 Legs'
Carved and painted maple, forged iron, glass.

'Carved Mahogany Bench'    Shown in Robert Motherwell's collage studio 1970s.
This bench has a cabinet with colored glass and a small drawer built into it.

'Thalassia Coat Rack'
Painted oak with a metal pan on the base to collect water from dripping coats and boots.

'My Wooden Herculaneum'
Another small table based on the double bird cage theme.

'My Wooden Herculaneum'

'Night Sky Table'
A dining table that seats eight. Hundreds of stars are painted on the top in the manner of the Milky Way.

'Night Sky Table'

'Exhibition with Paintings Studies'
The 'Equestrian Bench' and '3 Sided Glass Top Table..' were exhibited in NYC at the Franklin Parrasch Gallery in 1990. I often use very large paintings on paper to finalize these designs as shown above. L-R: 'Her Moods' (after a poem by W.H. Auden), the 'Bruno Chair' (my son's middle name).

'S. Maria Novella Humidor'
A humidor with a cast bronze base and painted mahogany box. S. Maria Novella is my favorite building in Florence. The Gothic arches with alternating green and white are taken from the facade of the church.

'S. Maria Novella Humidor'
Shown with the top open.

'3 Shadows Table'
Carved and painted maple, forged iron, glass.

'Ribbon Table'
Forged iron and glass.

'Folding Music Stand'
Designed in 1971. This stand is often used as an easel to display framed art. The Folding Music Stand design is in the permanent collections at MoMA and at The Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego.

Forged iron picnic table with free-edge spruce board top.