Category Archives: The Arts

Newburyport Sculpture and Art

peaceoffering_sculThe photo to the left is a sculpture by Michael Alfano, “Peace Offering,” that is currently in the Somerby’s Landing Sculpture Park in Newburyport, MA. If the ticket booth is moved by the Newburyport Waterfront Trust to the Somerby’s Landing Sculpture Park, this is location where it would go (we hope this does not happen).

This is the corner of the sculpture park where so many people come and sit, talk, wonder, gaze at the mighty Merrimac River, as well as watch their children play in the incredibly sculptural and climbable tree at that corner, which is pictured in the previous post.

To quote from the Sculpture Park’s website: “On exhibit for another year is a nearly six foot wide resin bench, “Peace Offering” by Michael Alfano that graces one corner of the park. The dove conveys the hope for peace, its tail transforms into a hawk, representing hostility. The dove’s wings become open hands, which might be ours, in an asking, a weighing, or an offering pose. Or they might belong to a larger force that welcomes two people to sit down and discuss their differences. This sculpture represents some of the many aspects of attaining peace. It is a expression of Michael’s Soka Gakkai Buddhist practice, with the intention of contributing to peace and culture.

Following this year’s extended stay at Somerby’s Landing Sculpture Park, “Peace Offering” will be purchased for installation on the Clipper City Rail Trail.”

(Just as a note–for those people complaining about the money that has been given to the Clipper City Rail Trail, instead of going to a myriad of other things that Newburyport desperately needs, grant money for the Clipper City Rail Trail for things like “art,” etc. comes from a completely separate gene pool than money allocated for the myriad of other needed stuff.)

I’d hate to think that moving the ticket booth to that reasonably “sacred” space would be anything than the slightest and most passing notion by the Newburyport Waterfront Trust, one that would pass as fast as a sea breeze whisking past Somerby’s Landing Sculpture Park in Newburyport, MA.

(The photo of the sculpture by Michael Alfano, “Peace Offering” is copyrighted by Artfluence, and is used with permission.)

Newburyport Original Art

I’ve written a lot about why original art work is so important to people’s daily lives and our culture at large (disclaimer: I am an artist). Original art enlivens an environment and enriches lives. A more crass reason is that the very wealthy may often buy original art because it is a “status symbol,” it indicates that whoever it may be, has “class.”

To steal from myself: Having a Ferrari (yes, I know, tough to have such an item in a lousy economic times) may be a status symbol, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person has “class.”

“Having art is unique in imparting to others that you are of value. Art is something that people pass on from generation to generation. Art defines civilizations. Art tells people that you are not only educated, but also that you appreciate history and beauty. It is why when the early American tycoons built their fortunes, they went out and bought art, because it gave them “class.” Thank goodness they did, because today we can see Van Goghs, Monets, Renoirs in the great art museums all over the world.” (Quoting from myself.)

In Newburyport, MA we have original art on our waterfront at the Newburyport’s Sculpture Park at Somerby’s Landing near the Black Cow restaurant. Ergo, this makes us “classy.”

There is some chit chat, that hopefully would go nowhere, that the little ticket booth (which again I love right where it is) could be put in the sculpture park.

My recollection is that when the sculpture park was being discussed, one of the absolute musts (and quite rightly so) was that it would not block the view of the water. The little ticket booth would ironically block the view to the water (much less destroying the actual sculpture park).. a demonstration.

motes_sculptureThis sculpture by Robert Motes, “An Imagined Place” (which is now a permanent installation at Somerby’s Landing Sculpture Park, made possible in 2006 by the generous donation of the Newburyport Art Association) has a window with a “view” that is Newburyport’s waterfront– the corner of the sculpture park where the ticket booth would go. So if the ticket booth went there, the window would be looking at the side of the ticket booth.

At the moment the “view” from the window is of the granite corner where all kinds of folks come to sit under the shade of the delightful tree that is pictured, to read, to contemplate, to talk to one another, or to watch their children climb on that delightful tree and listen to their laughter as they enjoy this unique experience. That’s pretty much gone if the ticket booth goes in that particular community space.

And that’s only one example. And again, it is this blogger’s hope that it is merely chit chat that the ticket booth could be moved to this gem like community space, that is part of a jeweled environment in Newburyport, MA.

(The photo of the sculpture by Robert Motes, “An Imagined Place” is copyrighted by Artfluence, and is used with permission.)

Newburyport’s Sculpture Park

Elk sculptureOne of my favorite walks in my beloved hometown of Newburyport, MA is to walk to downtown Newburyport, go to Market Square, cross Merrimac Street at the Firehouse Center for the Arts, walk down the grassy area towards the board walk that runs along the mouth of the mighty Merrimac River.

There I take a left and walk around the indent of the boardwalk, go past the ticket booth, which I love (such sentiment of enjoying the ticket booth on Newburyport’s boardwalk I gather is now a sentiment of abomination, maybe something on that later, but I still love it, for a myriad of reasons) to the little gem, right before the restaurant, the Black Cow–Newburyport’s Sculpture Park, or more correctly, Somerby’s Landing Sculpture Park, Newburyport, Massachusetts.

A picture framer (disclaimer: I am an artist) once told me that a good frame on a painting was like jewelry on a beautiful woman. And I have the same sentiment about Newburyport’s Sculpture Park–jewelry on a beautiful woman.

I remember going to Newburyport Sculpture Park’s “inauguration” in 2003. The City of Newburyport and the Newburyport Waterfront Trust had such pride and such delight at creating this gem on an already jeweled setting. And low and behold it has managed to have its own curator all these years with a roughly yearly exhibition, for all and sundry to enjoy, 24/7, 365 days out of the year, for those who are blessed to find and enjoy it.

And one of the things that I found out years ago, was that way back when, one of the kids that hung out on Inn Street, when so many people were worried about the kids on Inn Street, would go down to the sculpture park for inspiration, because she loved art, and here was art in Newburyport, MA. She later went on to work on Christo’s blockbuster exhibition, in New York City’s Central Park, The Gates–not bad for inspiration, as inspiration goes.

And now I hear about a whole lot of local political taffy–the Newburyport’s sculpture park is slightly being considered as a destination for the poor ticket booth by the Newburyport Waterfront Trust (email discussion can be read here). This blogger hopes that this might only be conjecture on the part of the current Newburyport Waterfront Trust, and this gem in the middle of the jewels that they are in trust of, will remain in its gem-like and inspiring state.

(The photo of the sculpture by Wendy Klemperer, “Elk” is copyrighted by Artfluence, and is used with permission. “Elk” is a now a permanent installation at Somerby’s Landing Sculpture Park. Funding was raised in 2005 by Jesse Vining (age 7) to purchase the Elk sculpture for the general public. Thanks for principal donations goes to the Lilliput Foundation, Five Cents Savings Bank, Institution for Savings, Newburyport Rotary Club, Hall & Moskow, the Newburyport Elks Lodge, and many other individuals, friends and family, children and adults.)

What if you Burp

My son tells me that security is impossible. That I should prepare for the very, very worst.

“My son is in the play, ” I tell them (them being security). Open sesame, no problemo.

My son tells me that my experience is an anomaly. That it will not happen again.

Apparently proud mothers are deemed a low security risk, because they (security) continue to open the security gate, no questions asked. They even smile–this can be unusual in New York City.

In the “talk back” after the play, one of the audience members asks, “What do you do when you burp?”

The question, which could have been awkward, is deftly handled by the young Shakespearean troop. A burp or even a sneeze would not be a distraction, but could be seen as part of the plot by the audience and the actors would move ever forward (sort of like proud mothers breezing through security gates).

And I suppose that would be true of the burps and sneezes in life. My own life burps and sneezes are noticed hardly, if at all, by the outside world. It is only in my own little brain that they have the possibility of becoming anything of consequence.

However, as I watch and follow the new president, from my home town of Newburyport, MA and elsewhere, as I’ve never watched or followed any president before, I realize that every burp, sneeze etc. appears to have major significance to at least someone and can be open to the possibilities of multiple burp, sneeze interpretations, i.e. distractions. Often, it seems, so much so, that a larger picture could be obscured by burp and sneezing stories (mostly, it seems to me by Republicans and media outlets in need of a story line). And I wonder if pride in one’s country could often be mucked up due to constant conjectures as to whether or not a political digestive tablet or a Kleenex might be necessary, making it difficult for everyone to get on with the plot, or of solving the gigantic Shakespearean size problems that lie before us.

Hope, Faith and New England Winters

My son says to me as he hears more and more people that he knows being laid off, “Mom, people now know what it’s like to be an artist.”

When folks ask me how I’m doing in these times I say, “Being an artist really helps me a lot in times like this.”

And what I mean by that is as an artist I never take for granted good financial times. My habit has been to sock it away, because there are always rainy days in the arts and hurricanes happen, and I guess now we even get the occasional typhoon.

I also know that the process of painting has taught me a lot about life’s lessons. Life’s different paths for me have never been straight and narrow, they have always been circuitous, uncertain, just like painting. Without an ongoing hope and faith, being an artist is almost impossible, and I have found that hope and faith becomes essential for living circuitous pathways.

And living in Newburyport, New England has helped me understand that creatively there can be no spring without a dormant winter. And I am no longer afraid of life’s winters because I know that life, like the seasons, is cyclical, and that spring always happens, no matter how long or how harsh winter may be.

And certainly right now, globally and as a country we are experiencing one of those long harsh Newburyport, New England winters, one that starts sometime in November and lets up sometime in April. But even in February, on the side of the street where the sun is warmest, early signs of spring begin to show. At the very top of high trees, a reddish hue becomes visible, and the buds on bushes and trees plump up. All signs of hope. All signs of spring.

So in an atmosphere of hopelessness, anxiety and often fear, I remind myself, that even in these times, spring and then the long hot summer will, as it always does, arrive once again.

Newburyport Stories

I open the present my son gives me for Christmas, a book. A skull with a cigarette on the front cover. My face obviously gives my skepticism away.

“No, Mom, really, he’s on the New York Times best seller list, I promise.”

I feel slightly better when I find out that the skull was painted by my favorite painter, Vincent Van Gogh. To say the least, I am still skeptical.

My son to reassure me, sits me down and reads the first short essay/story. It’s about germs. I’m still not won over.

But after all, this is my own beloved son, and I want to make at least some attempt to appreciate his thought out present to moi. So I plunk myself down in the comfiest chair I can find, and proceed to read the skull book. By the fourth essay/story, I am howling with laughter, and offer to read my son some of the stuff in his now much appreciated present. He declines.

The 8th essay/story is about a New York City woman, who could have been any number of characters that I’ve known so well. And I begin to wonder that maybe these stories have a lot less fiction in them than I first supposed.

And having struggled with, in what fashion to continue the Newburyport Blog, an idea begins to form. Stories, maybe fiction, maybe true, centered around my beloved New England seacoast city of Newburyport, MA, my stories, but hopefully somewhat universal as well as local.

What woman, Newburyport or elsewhere, hasn’t stood in front of the mirror and wondered about “midriff bulge.” Another version of, “Am I fat?”

What one of us, while considering the problem of “midriff bulge,” hasn’t also considered a personal financial fate in these lousy economic times.

Instead of “preaching” about historic preservation, and preserving the historic quality of this wonderful historic town, an experience of what it is like to live in an historic place, day after day, and how that adds to an unquantifiable quality of life.

Instead of talking about how upset I am about specific “restoration” and building projects, why not talk about historic preservation and boob jobs, hoping that people will start rating planning and historic preservation projects as a “double D boob job” as the worst, to a “braless wonder,” at their very best.

In December 2008 I find I am weary of pissing off my fellow Newburyport citizens, living under a constant risk of being sued or being threaten of being sued, and this appears to be a possible solution.

After trying to find every possible book by the skull guy, I finally Google him. And I find that, yes David Sedaris has not only been around for quite a long time, and I am very late to the David Sedaris planet, but also even that he has been on David Letterman a lot, no less, much less a visit to one of my favorites, Jon Stewart. From here on in, I vow to myself, I will trust my son’s taste in literature, even if the cover contains a picture of a skull.

Artists Creating Jobs

One of the things that really gets me about the new stimulus package, that better get passed, the Republicans better not screw this one up, is the outrage about giving money to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

This isn’t just outrage by Republicans, but on places like CNN too. “Can you believe this? This is really the last straw–money for the NEA.”

Excuse me.

Artists help the economy in all sorts of ways, and unfortunately, very few of them get to reap the rewards, and get lots of scorn, apparently when Mr. Bush’s bushwhacking of the NEA and the arts in general, is now beginning to be realized as not such a good idea.

Take Newburyport, MA for example. In the late 1970′s and early 1980′s when Newburyport was making a comeback, downtown Newburyport had been rescued and restored, but the rest of the town needed a little sprucing up.

Who moves in? Who “discovers” Newburyport, MA? A lot of artists among other folks, that’s who. From writers, to visual artists etc. They added to the vitality of the town, helped make it an attraction for tourists, new restaurants and shops etc. And now Newburyport, MA is too expensive for most artists to live in. An old, old story.

Artists have a nose for what is the next “in” place. Soho and Chelsea in New York City are two other examples. Artists moved in, and then so did expensive stores, real estate went through the roof, lots of property taxes and jobs at all the new restaurants and shops. And can most artists afford to live in those places either? Rarely.

Do artists get credit for job creating, real estate creating. Apparently not by this United States Congress, because it looks like help/funding for the NEA is going to be axed from the hopefully will be passed stimulus bill.

Photoshop Frames for Frogs

As most of you already know, but probably most of you don’t really care, George Cushing of Frog Pond, the political consultant to the Newburyport Blog, is pissed at me because he thinks the “new look” makes him look yucky.

I’m a sucker for frogs who feel sorry for themselves, and actually George has a point, he could look better. Also, in exploring my inner geek, I’m also falling in love with Photoshop all over again. So, I decided (not just for George, but also for my paintings that are on the World Wide Web) to see what I could come up with Photoshop frame-wise, to make him look just a little spiffier.

Placating frogs. Yup, that’s what we do over here at the Newburyport Blog.

Painting and Newburyport Snow Removal

I find that I clear the snow out of my driveway the way I paint. I find this both weird, but at the same time, strangely reassuring.

When it didn’t snow in Newburyport, MA, what seems like every three to four days, and only snowed now and then, or some Newburyport winters not even at all, I never even noticed a pattern of snow driveway removal by moi.

Now when it snows in Newburyport, MA, I’m starting to go into auto pilot.

First I talk to the snow, “What you again?” “What is it this time? A few cute snowflakes mixed it with a dash of drizzly icy rain?” I might say to the stuff that’s falling or already landed.

It’s the first thing I do when I walk into my Newburyport studio in the morning. I talk to my paintings. “How are we do’n today?” “You look a whole lot better than you did last night.” That sort of thing.

The next thing I do is tackle the big snow picture. No details here. Only unlike painting, with snow, I have help. I have count’em, two neighbors with snow-blowers. God bless them.

So, I always hope that my Newburyport neighbors will actually tackle the big snow picture, before I get out there with my trusty shovel.

And then comes the details, just like in painting. I clean up the edges of the driveway, clear a path to the fire hydrant, make sure there is a nifty clearing to the storage shed. Oh, yes, and make sure the top of the car has no snow.

I learned the hard way, during one Newburyport winter from hell, the snow on the top of my car turned to ice, because I figured, who cares it can stay. But it fell forward in a block and dented my hood. Showed me. Now that snow is the first to go. Not going to make that mistake again.

And then the roof-rake. I’m starting to get real obsessive here, just like with my Newburyport paintings. I’ve offered my neighbor the use of my trusty roof-rake, but, their tool of choice is definitely the very efficient snow-blower. And who could possibly blame them.

And then the driveway and I have a major chat. “I want to see pavement,” I say, “No ice, no white stuff, no trampled snow. I want my mail person to have a nice stroll to the mail box, when they deliver the mail. Hear me?” I say this very quietly, so my neighbors don’t hear me talking to my Newburyport driveway.

And then, yes, I get out the dainty, but slightly beaten up broom at the end, just the way I end up using tiny little #000 brushes on my paintings. But I’m not painting gorgeous pictures containing green stuff and warm weather, I’m longing for green stuff and warm weather instead.

Rhododendron Weather Predicting Qualities

I don’t need to turn on the weather channel or peer at my web weather channel bookmark setting on my computer, to know in the morning when it’s New England cold outside.

When I wake up and my hands feel all crinkly and dry, I know it’s one of two thing. A) I’ve developed some mysterious fatal disease over the last 8 hours, or B) the humidity in the house has dropped because it’s freezing outside.

Since so far it has never been A) I usually figure it must be B).

After a few sips of coffee, I shuffle into my studio (where I’m also trying to madly expand Mary Baker Art by obsessively designing websites to be sent out into the world via the World Wide Web) and peer out my window at my trusty outdoor thermometer. And sure enough, it’s B), the wretched thing reads below 10 degrees, and it’s freezing outside.

I also learned to tell whether it was cold outside, without looking at an outdoor thermometer, by my Dad. As a young girl, by father would take me to the dinning room window, point at the loan rhododendron in the small yard next door, and point out that the leaves on the loan rhododendron were not perky, but shriveled and pointing straight down to the ground. Ergo, my father would point out, it was freezing outside and I better “bundle up.” Sure enough he was always right.

I’ve always been fond of rhododendrons. Maybe it’s the vast array of rhododendrons at Maudslay State Park here in Newburyport, that at one point were subjects of lots of paintings by me. Or, it could be the fond memories of my father’s rhododendron weather science predictions. Or it could be multi-determined.

I’ve planted all sorts of rhododendrons in my small Newburyport garden, and I peer at them on winter mornings, trying to guess the New England temperature, before I shuffle in and peer at my trusty outdoor weather thermometer. My rhododendrons, weather predicting wise, are always right on the money.

However, I’ve noticed that rhododendrons, landscaping wise, in Newburyport, Massachusetts, appear to be going out of fashion.

As I keep squeezing yet one more rhododendron plant in my now rhododendron filled small garden, I notice that huge, literally century old, magnificent and stately rhododendron plants are being hacked out of century old High Street magnificent gardens, not to mention lesser century old rhododendrons in “lesser” Newburyport destinations.

So, either I’m out of touch with new landscaping designs (which is highly probable), or the owners of the dwelling in which these gorgeous rhododendrons are being hacked down, don’t know about their weather predicting qualities. Or maybe they do know about their weather predicting qualities, but figure since they now live in the 21st century, they can watch the weather channel instead.

Newburyport Perpetual Winter

I’m still here you know.

I meet someone in the grocery store. Their face lights up with relief, huge hug, “You haven’t left,” they say. “You didn’t go to Minnesota.”

It’s nice to see their face light up.

Endomorphins from huge hugs are always appreciated.

But the “Minnesota” thing has me stumped. Maybe in the midst of yet another New England winter from hell, I might, might consider, possibly a stint in much warmer place like North Carolina, for instance. But Minnesota? As I recall from my vast readings of Laura Ingalls Wilder, winters in Minnesota are far worse than in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

I meet someone in CVS shortly after my very nice encounter in the grocery store. “You’re still here? We thought you’d left.” No, “How nice to see you.” Certainly no lighting up of any face. No, just a good old “Newburyport Yankee,” “You’re still here?”

Ah, what a relief. The “dichotomy” that is Newburyport appears to be very much around. The “dichotomy” that I’ve written about on the Newburyport Blog for now 3 years (good grief), poked at, mused over, tried to explain, is still very much part of the community in which I live. I find myself oddly relieved by this.

I like these “tough old birds.”

“Tough old bird,” was a “saying” that my Mother used to use. This was way before feminism was even quaintly fashionable. No one in their right mind would refer to any female these days as a “tough old bird.”

Where have I been? Obsessing over the sucky, let’s face it, yes, it’s beyond sucky, economy. Wondering (vast understatement) if anyone in their right mind would buy gorgeous paintings (I’m an artist), when even the very rich are losing their houses (or at least some of their houses).

So I’ve been designing “web stuff.” (Hopefully more on this later.) Thinking that it could be a good idea to expand “Mary Baker Art” to “web stuff.” I’ve been contemplating that websites could be works of art, launched into the universe by the World Wide Web, aka the Internet.

Yes, and what better project, I say to myself, than to design websites, during a sucky New England winter, that feels like something out of Narnia when that witch was in charge. It feels sometimes, like a frozen, perpetual “Ground Hog Day.”

One of my neighbors looks at me quizzically as I brush my front steps of snow (lots of snow) with a dainty, somewhat beat-up, broom. I tell them that it gives me hope that in the not too distant future, I will be complaining about wretchedly long hot summers (this is actually true).

They shrug (it’s a good thing that I’m an artist, I can pretty much get away with this kind of nonsense) and look at me as if I’m nuts.

Search Engine Marketing and the Newburyport Blog

Again I thought I would share with the readers of the Newburyport Blog who have businesses and websites, about how the Newburyport Blog has managed to come up high or 1st on Google for any number of “key” words.

One of the keys, seems to be that Google likes to know in the title, what the content is going to be about.

So if the content is how to market your business for search engines, and how the Newburyport Blog actually pops up on Googe, it could be a good idea to have “Search Engine Marketing and the Newburyport Blog” as your title.

And the other thing that I’ve found is, that it helps to use the “key” words that are in the title, in the content as well. Not ridiculously so (this apparently would be called “keyword stuffing,” bad idea), but it appears to be giving another clue to the Google search engine, exactly what your content would be about. Writing content to market your product on the one hand, but also keeping in mind how search engines would find your business and your subject matter as well.

And as for marketing stuff, I might as well be utterly blatant, and use the Newburyport Blog to market my art work. The Sherry French Gallery, a very prestigious gallery for realistic art work in New York City, is putting me in their 3rd group show since September, which is a tremendous an honor.

The show is called “Flowers in February,” it runs from January 30th thru February 23rd, 2008. And the painting of the “Rhododendrons and Fence” below is one of the four paintings that will be in the show at the Sherry French Gallery.

rhod_tb_270.jpg

The Rhododendrons in the painting were in bloom on one of my walks through the beautiful and historic South End of Newburyport. I ended up painting flowers that are all over my neighborhood in Newburyport, MA.

You can check it out as well at Mary Baker Art.

Old South, First Presbyterian Church

I came across this print of Old South, First Presbyterian Church on the Library of Congress online archives. I’d never seen this print before and I thought it was pretty amazing.

LCon-Old-South.jpg

Courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-10021 (b&w film copy neg.)
N.W. view of the First Presbyterian Church, Newburyport, Mass

This is the entire page, and here is more of a detailed image without the writing.

LCon-Old-South-detail.jpg

Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Prints and Photographs Division
Detail, First Presbyterian Church, Newburyport, Mass

I also love the drawing of the original steeple, which was severely damaged by the hurricane of 1938, and in 1949 it was removed and capped with a 105-foot-tall cupola. (The New York Times, May 13, 2006)

LCon-Old-South-steeple.jpg

Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Prints and Photographs Division
Detail, steeple
First Presbyterian Church, Newburyport, Mass

The church hopes eventually to fully restore the steeple to its original shape. Please press here to read an earlier entry about Old South Church, and to see the comparison of what the steeple of Old South Church looks like today.

And I also love the street scene to the right of the church. The two houses in the picture, I believe still exist. As I remember it, the first house was where the famous preacher, George Whitefield lived (I have not confirmed this) when he was pastor of Old South, First Presbyterian Church in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

LCon-Old-South-street.jpg

Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Prints and Photographs Division
Detail, street scene
First Presbyterian Church, Newburyport, Mass

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Editors Note: This is a correction and clarification from an astute reader of the Newburyport Blog:

“Mary, I don’t believe George Whitefield was ever the pastor of Old South. I don’t think he ever stayed in one place long enough to become a pastor. He was a real roving evangelist.

The first house behind the church was the birthplace of William Lloyd Garrison. There is a plaque denoting that on the house.

George Whitefield was staying with the pastor in the parsonage when he died, because he was to be the guest preacher in the church the next day. The story goes that his fans surrounded the house the night before and demanded that he talk to them, so he preached from the house steps for something like six hours. He was already sick, and he didn’t survive the night.”

Holiday Photographs

Ben Laing was an early contributor to the Newburyport Blog and has always been wonderfully supportive. And I appreciate that so much. Among other things Ben is currently a photographer for the Newburyport Daily News.

Ben took a wonderful photograph which he graciously allowed the Newburyport Blog to use, and I’ve been trying to figure out how best to utilize it all this time.

With all the rain in Newburyport last night and all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, this photograph of Market Square in downtown Newburyport seems incredibly appropriate.

Night_nbpt_Laing.jpg
Benjamin Laing © 2006
Streaks
Image courtesy of Benjamin Laing Photography

Ben also took this wonderful photograph of the Firehouse Center for the Arts. Although it has been used before on the Newburyport Blog, it is also seems wonderfully appropriate for this holiday season.

firehouse-laing.jpg
Benjamin Laing © 2006
Christmas at the Firehouse
Image courtesy of Benjamin Laing Photography

Many thanks to Ben Laing and Benjamin Laing Photography.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Confessions of a Painter

Bear with me here. “Confessions of a Painter” doesn’t sound like it would have much to do with Newburyport, MA, but I’ll get around to that, I promise.

Discloser: I happen to be a painter.

Discloser: I have this “love-hate” relationship with PhotoShop.

PhotoShop (and similar commuter software applications) changed painting (Ok, that’s my opinion).

When I first discovered PhotoShop I was absolutely fascinated by it. I still am. Things that would literally take me years to do as a painter, could almost be done instantaneously in PhotoShop.

Someone, anyone could take a digital photograph, manipulate it in PhotoShop to look like a painting, print it on a canvas and sell it for a fraction of the price that I would sell my paintings for. And it would take a fraction of the time.

This in is the discouraged part of my “love-hate” relationship with PhotoShop.

And what is lost in this way of doing things, is the understanding and gradual knowledge that comes from the long and often tedious process and the creative journey of bringing a painting into existence. As well as the feeling of “power” and “intensity” that a painting transmits compared to something that is more like a “print.”

PhotoShop could also give a sense of “instant gratification.”

It feels as if “short sound bites,” “instant gratification” could become a way of life; as well as a possible identification with pop icons, or “interchangeable entities” that large corporations often provide, instead of longing for a “deeper” culture.

A hotel room in California could be identical to one in Massachusetts. Why bother to go to a different “culture” if so much of the culture could be interchangeable.

And that is why I think it is so important to take long hard looks at what is, could, might happen to Newburyport, MA. That we stay a distinct “community,” with a distinct sense of place, with a distinct “local” ambiance. That we don’t become yet one more bland, interchangeable, faceless place to be in America.

We have so much to offer in Newburyport, MA. And we are in a vortex of change, just like so many other communities in the USA. And we have choices that we can make. And I so desperately do not want to lose that sense of community that is here, that makes Newburyport such a wonderful place to visit, live, work and play.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Single-Issue Elections and Politics

I have an old friend Frank Schaeffer (the same Frank Schaeffer who, with Jerry Klima and others, helped stop the Casino at Salisbury Beach–see earlier entry) who has just written a book.

The book, is about many things, and one of the things it is about is how only focusing on one issue in an election can really mess things up.

The book is called “Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back.” (The original subtitle was “How I Helped Found the Religious Right and Ruin America”… I loved that one, but I guess it didn’t make it.)

I’ve known Frank and his wife Genie for 35 years (this dates me big time). And one of the things I like so much about Frank’s writing is his sense of humor, self-deprecation and his wonderful and often moving off-beat view of the world.

Reading the book, I had forgotten how involved Frank had been in national politics, which probably explains why he is so amazing when he gets involved in local politics. (In fact, Frank was my original political mentor in the fight to save High Street. Please press here to read that post.)

To quote from Frank Schaeffer’s book:

“…single-issue politics deforms the process and derails common sense. It facilitates the election of leaders just because they are “correct on “my issue.”

Frank is talking about national stuff, but for me, the same principal could most definitely apply on the local level.

I worry that the upcoming Newburyport elections (November 6, 2007) could for some, be “single-issue politics.” The most obvious issue that comes to mind is how a candidate stands on an override for the Newburyport Schools.

One of my concerns, is that one of the reasons that there was such a low turnout for the primary for Mayor of Newburyport, MA, was that possibly the folks that came out for the election for the spring Override for the Newburyport Schools who were for the override, might NOT have voted in the mayoral primary race. Because all the candidates said that they would not be for another spring override (i.e. it could be a none-issue).

And when it comes to the Newburyport City Council race, it appears that often the bottom line is– would or would you not be for an override in Newburyport, MA.

Single-issue elections negate the reality that running a municipality is a very complicated and interwoven proposition.

And it also appears to me that it could be a selfish way to engage in the political process. “I only vote if the issue happens to affect my life. Otherwise, I’m not interested.” (Disclaimer… Obviously this does not apply to all voters.)

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Ignorance is Bliss when Schmoozing About the Newburyport Blog

I feel like a dope.

When the New York art gallery expressed an interest in my artwork (see earlier entry) I thought it would be a good idea to be real upfront about being the editor of the Newburyport Blog.

(It’s amazing how attached I’ve become to this silly thing.)

Not too many artists are “connected” to a local, community, political “blog” with a large readership. How does one explain this? It is weirdly difficult.

At the art opening, this Saturday, September 8, 2007, in NYC, the gallery director (I do not know if she has read the blog or not) pointed out a gentleman who is a political cartoonist with a major newspaper.

I, in my schmooziness, schmoozed on over to the gentleman in question, and brazenly introduced myself as a political blogger. His wife turned out to be a fellow artist.

This, in retrospect, demonstrated incredible “chutzpah” on my part (vast understatement).

I chattered on (apparently I can be prone to chattering on) about the Newburyport Blog with the political cartoonist and his wife (who turned out to be lovely, lovely people.)

Their first question was, had I ever had “death threats” (no, thank goodness, may that NEVER, ever happen). They recommended, if threatened late at night, to get dressed, so if one is actual killed, one at least looks good when found.

We did talk about the, my, “being sued” thing. (See entries under “Publishing.”) This pales in comparison to the “death threat” thing.

I promised when I got home that I would “Google” the gentleman, and of course I did, being the curious human being that I am.

The “death threat” thing should have been a tip off to moi as to the distinguishedness of the political cartoonist that I was cluelessly chattering, schmoozing with. Good grief.

Turns out to be a “Pulitzer Prize” winner and recently received the “Herblock Prize.” This apparently (my Googling) is a huge award and the “Herblock Lecture” was delivered by Senator Barack Obama (more Googling) in 2005.

And I, chit chatting merrily about the Newburyport Blog. Geesh.

So if this distinguished gentleman (and believe you me there is absolutely no irony with that one) does “Google” the Newburyport Blog… “Hi.”

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Municipal Information and Coupon Ads

Ok, I’ve been away.

In fact, at the moment, I feel totally out of it.

And seeing my paintings hang in a major New York gallery turned out to be way more than “nice.”

Marsh5_1_blog.jpg
(painting hanging in New York gallery… see previous post)

And so far, I haven’t been able to get any “read” yet on the mayoral debate that I missed (how shocking) last Thursday night, September 6, 2007.

I hate to say it, but my guess is that a good 87% of Newburyport, MA didn’t know that the debate was even on, or if they did, they didn’t much care.

(Is this “cynical” of moi? How awful.)

I sat next to a woman on an early bus ride into Boston.

I’m taking it that the she was from Newburyport, because she had a copy of the Newburyport Daily News. The woman opened up the Daily News and proceeded to read the coupon ads with great intent and interest.

I was fascinated by this. I never read the coupon ads. I always chuck them.

She did eventually turn from the intent reading of the coupon ads and skimmed the front page of the Newburyport Daily News.

I, her seat-mate, then asked her who she was going to vote for mayor of Newburyport, MA.

The answer was something to the effect of, “I have no idea.”

This is my guess.

The woman who I sat next to, and most of Newburyport, MA, if asked to, could not name the 5 candidates running for the corner office.

If they have noticed the signs out around Newburyport, MA, they might know a name, but have no clue about anything that mayoral “name” might be about.

If presented with the name “Moak,” they might say something like, “Yeh, that sounds familiar.” If asked to name the Newburyport City Councilors who already exist, my guess would be a response like, “We have city councilors?”

My point being that most of the electorate, unless it an issue that directly effects their lives or their pocket books, has “no clue.”

So my question is, how do those of us who are hooked on politics get people’s attention, aside from suggesting that their taxes get raised and plunking “inappropriate” building projects in their backyards?

The coupon ad thing had me thinking. Maybe that’s where to put pertinent municipal information, next to the great super-duper price of hamburger or maybe discounted socks.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Art and Blogging

People think what I do for my “day job,” being an artist is wildly exciting. Well, actually, it’s not.

And one of the reasons I enjoy blogging the Newburyport Blog is that in those long hours of sitting by myself putting down one brush stroke at a time, the happenings in Newburyport, MA give me something to think about.

And when I get “stuck” and don’t know what to paint next, I sit down and work on a post for the Newburyport Blog. And usually after working on the post for a while, I look at whatever wayward painting is giving me “trouble” at the time, and go, “Ok, I know what to do with you now.”

(If you think I talk to birdbaths (see earlier entry), just imagine the conversations I have with my own actual creations.)

So, in its own way, the Newburyport Blog has become part of my creative process. Which has been a surprise and is pretty “cool.”

And a nice thing happen to moi (as an artist, not the blogger).

A New York City realist gallery contacted me and they have taken a few of my paintings and will include them in a couple of group shows this year.

This happened a few of weeks ago.

The Gallery is:
The Sherry French Gallery
601 West 26th Street
NYC, NY 10001
212-646-8867

The first show called “Mainly Maine, Landscape Paintings from Maine and Beyond,” opened September 5th and goes through September 29, 2007.

marsh_4.jpg
Marsh 4
Mary Baker © 2007
Oil on Paper
6″ x 20″

Getting contacted by a New York gallery is nice. And seeing the artwork hanging in the heart of “Chelsea,” that has now become the heart of the art world in NYC, is nice too.

Mary Baker (professional artist’s name) Eaton
Newburyport