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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Water seeking its level

Following the earlier Back Steps and Wood, the next of Leighton’s digital works expands on the aesthetics he was developing for this media, while the subject remained the same – the magical realm of childhood, and of the growing consciousness therein.  Water seeking its level, seen from one aspect, is again as simple as the earlier two works – a young boy stands in a rushing stream, the water dazzling, the rush of sound immersing us in some mystical world of impressionist’s color.  The back yard has moved to a park in southern France (though we don’t know this and little beyond the not-Iowa colors at the stream’s bottom suggests it, and the title note “St. Pons”).  Leighton swiftly orients us with his musician’s use of sound: we hear a rush of water, of a few steps into it  – audibly instantly recognizable, though the imagery which comes next is a swirl of abstraction which the sound “describes” and gives us our bearing.   A fluid passage of color quickly delineates the essential elements – a young boy’s leg, his touseled blonde hair, the boy’s feet standing as the water distorts them and the stream’s floor into a dazzle of color, a hand thrusting down, grabbing beneath the water and then holding a small stone, his small voice saying, “Daddy, look.”  

Daddy has indeed been looking, and looking deeply – not only at the little scene before him, but at the tools he is using to depict it.  Here a flourish of rich muted reds, modulated by the optical warping of water, blonde flesh and hair, are shown, but by the artist’s intervention with how he uses the camera and editing techniques he transforms the mundane into the cosmic in the most gentle and unpretentious of manners  (though using no corny “effects” menu items – all is done  organically directly with the image itself, in a manner more akin to a graphic artist’s multiple printing of the same basic image – say, see a series of woodcuts of Munch’s Madonna, or lithographs by Helen Frankenthaler).  The image caresses his son, the nape of his neck, his arm and leg, and embraces him in what is transparently a parent’s love.   Daddy is looking passionately.

And listening.  The water rushes by, the child’s hand is immersed in it, and his small voice comments how cold it is; the hand makes the water leap, and then clenches, the water stopped, and with it the sound.  Gentle hints of water drips, and in the subdued quiet slowly sound of liquid rushing builds, presaging a cut to the lip of a small waterfall, presented in almost pure abstraction but instantly identifiable.   And then slowly this crisp rush of water dissolves into a muted image not so readily understood – debris settling to the bottom of a lake?  Or….  it is snow, falling gently to the branches of a tree.  Water, in its varying forms, seeking its level.

Water seeking its level is a cinematic poem of a disarming simplicity of “content” which expands out to suggest the whole of a life,  our whole universe.  It is awash in love and stunningly beautiful.  Technically it is simply masterful in all aspects from its seemingly casual camera work, to its hidden and dazzling editing of both image and sound.  In five minutes it compacts, with a complete lack of pretentiousness or ponderousness, a whole poetics of life – its beginning, its future, its meaning.

Never once saying so, or pointing to the metaphoric possibilities of its primal source in water, Leighton’s film is drenched with the pathos of love, of our being here, of a parent’s deepest feelings and sensibilities for his child.   This is what makes this small five minute cinematic poem so rich, along with its truly masterful aesthetic and technical control.   He does not say so except in purely poetic terms, but within this joyous work there is the acknowledgement of Heraclitus’ wisdom:

πάντα χωρεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει” καὶ “δὶς ἐς τὸν αὐτὸν ποταμὸν οὐκ ἂν ἐμβαίης”
Panta chōrei kai ouden menei … kai … dis es ton auton potamon ouk an embaies
“Everything changes and nothing remains still …. and … you cannot step twice into the same stream”

Hendrik ter Brugghen, Heraclitus

With Evaporation Leighton extends this theme, in which vapor and fog collude invisibly to suggest the ephemerality of childhood and youth, and by implication, life itself.   Here a young boy, who in this brief film becomes a young man, is seen looking out a window toward the sea, then near a harbor, walking on a pier, then gazing from the rails of a small ship.  A rush of liquid abstractly rushes over a fall, the shifting fractals of waves move mysteriously, a boat sets out from the mouth of a river into the hazy infinity beyond.   The boy looks pensively from the deck of a boat, the water rushing swiftly by.  And we return to the window which looks out upon the sea, now empty.


In a second passage we find the boy in a field, with grasses lit by the sun, on a pathway glistening with wetness.  He hesitates, turning to look towards the camera, and then turns to go forward.   Our gaze is directed to the swaying, wave-like motion of the grasses, from which emerges, in another time and seemingly place, a glimpse of a grown boy, seen intermittently, walking away.  His image at first is lost in the blurred shifting of foliage, and then we see him, clearly older, and, with a painful poignancy, receding to the distance, taking off upon his own life.  It is a father’s poetic farewell to his son, who now is on the path of his life, receding from the parental embrace, lighting out to his fate.   With Evaporation Leighton Pierce gracefully acknowledges this parting, and the film is a gesture of pure love, lovingly crafted, and a profound gift to both his son, and to us.

In a culture besotted with celebrity and bombast, where artists are advised, whether directly, or by the insistence of the clamor of the world around them, that to be heard they must make a grand splash with aggression and transgression, Leighton Pierce – like Nathaniel Dorsky – offers instead a counter-current of beauty and love of the world expressed in the greatest gentility.


So early it’s still almost dark out.
I’m near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought.

When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.

They wear caps and sweaters,
and one boy has a bag over his shoulder.
They are so happy
they aren’t saying anything, these boys.

I think if they could, they would take
each other’s arm.
It’s early in the morning,
and they are doing this thing together.

They come on, slowly.
The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water.

Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition, even love,
doesn’t enter into this.

Happiness. It comes on
unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,
any early morning talk about it.

                                      Raymond Carver

[I am happy to relate that after 20 some years at the University of Iowa, Leighton is taking over the reins of the Media and Film Department of Pratt Institute in NYC.  I hope being in the vortex of America’s creative navel he’ll finally get the attention long overdue to him.  I hope to hell one of the major museums finally gives him the space to put up some of his extraordinary installation works.]

[Series to be continued as time permits.]

Lightening over Madrid

5.31        yes yes yes
Last night was fun in that we had a dramatic thunder and lightening storm for many hours.  I kept my glass door open to the little balcony and a big towel on the floor so I could enjoy the energy of it all.   So much fun, lying in the semi-dark. This morning was almost a little chilly.  One could have worn a pull-over but not really.  I took a walk in a new (for me) section of Madrid a few major avenues over from my normal routes as I was going to another important museum which the internet Miss Informed of it being open on Monday…   The Academy.    The avenue it is on is so grand and noble that I am glad I was forced into seeing the city. The buildings along it, and on other smaller circular squares nearby are so wonderfully and childishly imaginative that you cannot stop smiling upon coming upon them.  The day was perfect as the sky was dark and low but the a strong fill light was coming in under the heavy cover.  This made everything seen, seen at its best.  The buildings have facades which contour with the public space they face. Some curved beautifully or wedged or sometimes forming a series of curved shapes one after the other.  The real joy is the over the top sense of grandiosity and power.  When are they from?…  The 1920’s or so?  They are designed like a kid let loose in a soda fountain and allowed to pile on all the ingredients gravity could bear.  Huge, and I mean huge, chariots pulled by sets of four horses, riding on top of huge gold orbs that are resting on wedding cake columns and presenting angels, winged naked woman, puti two stories high, parapets medieval or more English ornate gothic flamboyance, etc, etc…  So many of them and so crazy with grandeur.   I guess a lot of them are banks or other government facilities. There seems to be no over riding style that I can name, only how many things can one pile up to the point right before falling over. Very very charming, at least to me.

The morning was a  battle between rain and sun with sun sparkling showers, dark pouring moments,  and glistening cobbles.  I took shelter under a long, long canopy of fully mature sycamores that went on for blocks interspersed with public fountains, statues, etc.  These trees in late May are so deeply green and the barks so alive with the multitudes of grays and and browns and yellows.  They so transmute the light into healthy air, nutrition for themselves, and a deep psychic peace for the creatures that move through and under them.  A zone of  green aura’d air and light.   Then the rain took the day, or I should say, the hour, as now it is quite hot and sunny,  and I went into the modern museum again.

They have a wonderful collection of French poetry/artist books and seem to specialize in surrealism and cubism.  There are also rooms of  Spanish contemporaries we know so much less of.  God, I wish I could be hired to patrol museums and give tickets, if not jail sentences, to curators.  They need to be policed!!  Don’t they know the unpleasantness of threesomes in bed?   Perhaps they are from another more prudent age.  I mean, does every room of paintings have to be  overwhelmed with audio from either audio sculptures (I prefer the ball game) or sound tracks from early surrealist films dvd’d onto white walls in the wrong ratios in broad daylight.   Think of Miro with Tristan blaring and you get the picture. That in itself should be a 4,000 euro fine.  But, I have fun complaining, as actually the museum is wonderful and full of spaciously presented things and the crowd of  all nations, a respectful and fun to look at joy.  None of that DIN which dominates the Modern in NY.  Guards who actually ask people to speak more quietly, can you believe that… and they do.

I have learned so much about painting this trip…  so much… from all periods…   but always the same thing:  there are those that show and then there are those that are… I have put my money on the ares….

Well I am back in my hotel room taking a rest.  I know people here are waiting for night time as so many walk and talk the entire night through till dawn hits the sky.  I had heard about it, but so nice to experience.   Well, tomorrow at 8pm is my first show.

Love,  Nick

I share Nathaniel’s amazement and amusement at the outsized grandiosity of the ornamentation decorating – if that’s what one can consider things so huge – the buildings in the center of Madrid.  Rather wacky, but strangely, despite the melange of styles piled on top of each other on such a scale, enjoyable and fun.  Makes you smile.  They in their fashion seem to have been doing “post-modern” about a hundred and more years ago.

May 31  a PS to yesterday

Dear Folks,

I finally (the fifth night of being here) fell asleep through the night.  It was the same in Rotterdam, four almost sleepless nights before I was able to move the arms of my clock into a relatively synchronous position.  This morning I have awoken at 7am.  The internet which seems to go off about 10pm every night has not yet gone on… at least the hotel guest connection.  (Ahh, I see it now goes on at 8am)   I notice that across the street from me there are some working offices, and at least there, people seem to work till 10pm and then, I imagine go home or out for diner.  There are so many cafes here…  tables spread out onto wide sidewalks and plazas everywhere and many, many of the city streets given over to pedestrians.  Most of them seem full all day long.  Are people just waiting for the night?   It seems that way. (Please excuse my complete out sidedness of all this).

Upon waking at seven (finally the streets are quiet…  the vampire tradition of running for cover with the first dawn of the sun seems quite real here) I wanted to say a sentence or two more about the work I saw at the Reina Sofia, the modern art museum I spoke of yesterday.   Oddly enough, their collection of early 20th century art was most touching to me in their coverage of the Paris scene and people who painted or wrote poetry there, and especially those whose social relationship seemed to be painting/poetry.  As I mentioned, their collection displayed of little books of poetry illustrated by painters was so moving.  Of course, we in SF are so fortunate to have experienced this often at our Legion of Honor.

But besides this there is a very nice room of Miro and other mixed rooms of Picabia and Schwitters etc.  They have many rooms completely full with paintings by Dali.  There are one or two that are really excellent and truly successful as “dream” landscape.  These seem in the spirit of Yves Tanguey.  One,  I liked so much, but I cannot remember the name of,  from the early 30’s….  perhaps when the internet goes on I can find it.  It is kind of painting that inspired Kate Sage (the wife of  Tanguey…excuse my early morning memory and spelling skills)…    a large abstract shape, rising into a gorgeously painted sky of the strangest of mixed colors.  The perspective goes way, way back to some blue mountains with some populace and in the semi-foreground before the large shape is the most subtle depiction of a small rock on the smooth surface of the earth its  most touchingly subtle shadow. This one painting for me made it with two other whole rooms of more showy works which again where “showing (off)” rather than being.  It is interesting that paradoxically, to genuinely include yourself you have to be completely absent (I mean so that there is space to see all there is including self) and to include the self by including the self it pop all potential for depth and transmutation.  I know these things maybe self-evident, but it is the main theme I am experiencing in seeing all these glorious paintings here in Madrid.

I am ashamed to say that I did not check out the two or three floors of contemporary work….    black and white photos of spray painted grave stones and other such politically poignant knee jerking.  I know this is not good on my part as in Cinema…  if one never saw any experimental film but only knew the more classic cannon, I would say one was missing something very vital (overwhelmed of course by hideous works in those areas).    Well enough of me, me, me for the moment…  I guess being here alone and without my Bolex has put my excess energy into writing these emails.  Perhaps in the future I should travel with my camera and not my macbook.

Love to you,  Nath


6.01  rolling on

dear friends and lovers….    The film curator from the Reina Sofia came to the show and seemed blown away and tonight the curator from the Madrid Cinematheque will come…  so maybe there is a chance of return…      show was DEEPLY appreciated by the audience. I only wish the projection was a little better…   book selling really well and talk of a Spanish translation…  went to the Academy museum yesterday and saw more Goya….     this place is just too much for painting…   no time to write as I have to bathe and meet someone in the lobby here at the hotel.

love to you  from the hot blue days of spain  n.

more of you can take it… be well

Dear Friends,

Today I went to the Thyssen Museum here. They seemed to have started collecting in the 1980’s and have spent more money than the entire populace of the USA just on paintings.  I wonder who their buyer was. Now, finally, I am truly humbled.  Just when I thought I was getting some sense of what Madrid had to offer in terms of painting, I go to this museum opposite the Prado and come upon more paintings than I ever seen in my life.  From Duccio, Piero della Francesca, Memling, Breugles (real ones)  etc. through all the Dutch painters we know so well, there must be 6 Jacob von R’s, to the entire 19th and 20th century of French painting, including pre-Paris van Goghs and gorgeous impressionists, through to the Americans of Gorky, Rothko, Pollack,  even Clifford Still, boxes by Cornell, great box-like collages by Schwitters, and amazing  Hopper of a sail boat passing a sea-gulled sand bar off Wellfleet to all the Russian avant-gardists, to the cubists (and I must step gladly on my own tongue to say they have some Gris to make Picasso kneel) and Mondrian and great Klee’s on and on and on and on…..   three floors, all wall painted a salmon pink (you truly do start to go mad), room after room after room after room after room and this not one of my usual exaggerations.  I think more paintings than exist in NYC all together, just in this one place which sits in the shadow of the Prado….  I mean one would have to spend two weeks here to take it in without sublime-rectangle-syndrome causing an unmovable scar from the psyche.

What is so sweet here, which have not mentioned at all are the school groups touring all the museums of have been to.  So often one sees 20 or so 4 or 5 years olds sitting on the floor, raising their hands and being coached on by the most loving for female teachers.  It is so touching you could cry.  And then, of course, their are the adolescents going crazy with lack of concentration, but the woman who lecture to them are so alive and humorous and intelligent.  I saw a group get won over to a Rothko and Mondrian by one these super loving guides to beauty.  The small kids, though, are to die for.  I have only seen this in France, but here there seems to be more love in the whole thing, rather than learning the manners of vanity.  Oh well…..   the Spanish seem to have true sense of the value of culture.Tonight is my second show.  There will be a TV interview of a half  hour or less before hand for the government public station that will be broadcast next week.  And what is amusing, an interview before that from the right wing newspaper and then tomorrow from the left wing paper.  I have been told by most hosts that it is better for the arts in Spain when the right wing is in charge because they do not meddle with the arts. (I am prepared to talk of the nobility of montage).   When the left gets in they begin to tell the arts organizations what to do, ie. show more Swedish films as we have many tourists from there…. they are obviously better capitalists. ( I am prepared to speak to them of the lack of hierarchy in my montage). So if I have enough energy for all this, I hope to do a good job.   And I hope I can improve the projection a little.  I will also see how many more books I can sell…  I may hit thirty here in Madrid alone (and there is more talk of a Spanish translation).  And as I mentioned the curators from the Reina Sofia and Madrid Cinematheque will be present…  the former deeply loved the work last night).

The day is crisp and clear.  I do not know if I can look at another painting.  The street and many many promenades are quite walkable and there is a place to sit down and have something every 20 feet, so  survival is possible. Tomorrow at four I fly to A Coruna and then train to Santiago..  and have three shows.

Love to you (before I drop),  Nathaniel

Juan Gris greets Nathaniel

[More letters to follow.]

I hope these little informal glimpses into the sensibility of an artist like Nathaniel are as delightful and informative to some readers as they are to me.    As his friend it has of course a different caste for me, but I think his spirit, which is lovely, spills out clearly from these words, and I am happy he agreed to let me put them here.

Nathaniel in Rembrandt Laughing, 1987Nathaniel’s feet and miso soup

Francesco Goya, tapestry cartoon, Prado

Following his very successful sell-out screenings at the Rotterdam film festival(*), my friend Nathaniel Dorsky received an invitation to go to Spain, for some screenings in Madrid and La Coruña.  He’d never been to Madrid or Spain before so I wrote him some thoughts about things to see – paintings, the Church of San Antonio da Florida with the lovely Goya frescoes on the dome interior, the Goya tapestry cartoons at the Prado.   I like Madrid a lot, and assured Nick he’d likely find it as wonderful as I do.   He went last week, and shaking the jet-lag, went off into the city and in turn sent me some letters, which I found delightful – expressive of the almost child-like joy of his wanderings in museums and streets, the tasty jamon iberica, the architectural treats.   The letters were such a pleasure for me I thought others might find them similarly joyful, even if one doesn’t know him, and asked him if I could publish them here.   He thought about it a little and accepted.

Madrid facades and street life

5.28   your tumbling tumbled weed
Well about Madrid…  I arrived in the middle afternoon, a driver and all,  and then my hostess, Beatiz, led me around a little after a lunch (the only vegetables here are green house tomatoes, little  pickles, iceberg lettuce and canned string beans…  but more to come…)  I walked in the super lovely huge park, dark and dense with  Chestnut trees and lovely earthen alleys, charm, charm, charm…    and then went to the modern museum (all the museums are open till 9pm everyday…   well that is still two hours before diner time ) (I eat  breakfast and a late lunch, only) where they have just great Picassos and Juan Gris etc.  Today I went to the Prado.  Bigger in a  sense of the actual paintings than the Louvre.  Boy, do I not enjoy painting from the 1600’s.  And now I know another reason why…   I hate the gesture of the frozen moment in time which this century held so dear, it so terribly dull, egoic, and sickening. Beforehand, then it is good, and the 1700′s become heavenly, especially at the Prado where the Goya collection is almost worth walking here from SF.  He, not unlike Picasso, can paint in any style required and they are all very very touching and beautiful and generous to the  eye and the heart and the profound sense of the cosmic and the  color, so right and so healing.
Also the Bosch collection includes the HUGE  Garden of Earthly Delights Triptych along many other of his paintings and  paintings  from that period, including an amazingly avant garde Van der Weyden Descent from the Cross which took care of the 1600’s in one fell  swoop.

Now I am home resting and the hot day has cracked and it is pouring  with bursts of yellow lightening.  My hotel doors to the tiny balcony are open and cool airs wafts across my sweaty self.

And I also loved on the very top floor all the Goya “cartoons” for tapestries if I can trust my non existent Spanish… and there are also three large circular allegorical paintings (one of two woman spinning yarn)  that I found SO touching both as human depiction and color rendition….  wow…   and I went back this evening and re saw with MUCH less people the Bosch’s ..  that earthly delights MUST be seen in the real….    wow…  and came upon, that goodness, the very large Annunciation of Fra Angelico which I found deeply moving….   the shadowed exterior of the banishment from Eden and the columned portico illuminated by purity of the angel’s golden wings and and golden rays of light….

Yes, tomorrow San Antonio da Florida  n.


Today I went to the train station that has an iron and glass roof, not quite as pretty as the stations we love in Paris, but it is filled with tropical trees of all sorts, so it is like being in a dream that is one half the glass houses in Jardens des Plantes and one half Gare du Nord.  The train was super modern, a kind of TJV with reserved
seats and I took it for on half hour to a Toledo.  There is a very famous Cathedral there with many great paintings in it. The glass to me looks like it is from the 1400’s. They have a Caravaggio I actually loved… which is genuinely quite unusual for me. His paintings are usually not so sympathetic, but rather more demonstrative. It is a terribly sexy depiction of a young Saint ?? (who has a lamb and a staff, a body to end all bodies and hung out in the desert as a teenager?) OH, The Baptist, of course. This painting does not suffer from the frozen-moment-syndrome and actually allows one to enter and it brings forth presence… of course
it is rather “body”.  [Later, I received an email from a friend, Vivian, who informed me that a friend of hers who is an expert art historian told her that the painting is in question as to whether it is painted by Caravaggio. Now is not that interesting?] 

The not Caravaggio in Toledo [Just as Toledo Ohio is not…]

There were many El Greco’s also but gosh the 1600’s are missing my psyche right now and also a dark Goya which was hard to appreciate.  Then I visited  the Jewish section of town which had two synagogues from also that period of time in a more Islamic style.  I walked back to the train station from high on the hill and crossed over a beautifully constructed stone bridge arching high over the river surrounding the town built by the Romans.  From the bridge you could see another they built.  They are so sturdy and graceful and practical and must be almost 2,000 years old.  No upgrades…  working perfectly.
A thunder and lightening storm began just as I reached the station which has all sorts of Islamic architecture with colored glass windows in  that style.  They have many benches out on the platform under the cover of an open roof, so one could enjoy the cooling down pour as dry as could be.  Now I am back home in my room.  I think tomorrow I will  go back to the Prado, as looking at paintings is the thing I by far enjoy the most here, especially the deepening discovery of Goya.  They have almost 200 paintings by him in many many different styles as we have discussed. The Prado is closed on Monday, so I think I will save that day for going to San Antonio da Florida to see his frescoes.

OH!  Spain must of just won a football game as everyone out my open window is suddenly screaming as the evening comes in.

I am quite alone here and it is almost too much.  The Spanish culture is a new one to me that I appreciate the way one might appreciate New York, but I have no real feeling for it or its language.  I am simply HERE walking around.  It is not France and it is not Italy and the Christianity is just TOO haunted by the immeasurable amount of pain, murder, and torture that has gone down under its name to shake loose of that for me.
I have been warned that only 20 people may show up for my shows as ag film has no presence here and certainly no following.  But being here has been a truly great inspiration in terms of painting.

Your meat-filled Jew boy,  Nathaniel

5.29        as we speak
Dear Jon, Thanks for the fill in’s. Those demonstrations for more jobs (in the huge square) are two blocks from “my” hotel. They seem to be working, as more police seemed to be employed than ever….. ahh, the political process in action.

AND:   my new film is at the neg cutter and the title is being shot and sent to her and then she will send the a and b’s on to my lab in  Colorado.  It is 27 minutes long and could be titled:  The Return        or it could be titled:   Broken Moon      Any suggestions.  I worked at it as hard as I could to perfection (not biting of lower lip) from pre-breakfast till 11 pm ever since we last saw each other in Rotterdam.  There are three shots from that wintry place, all shot on that Saturday (you were already in Amsterdam) the was extremely windy. Perhaps you remember.  It is 80% fuji neg and 20% eastman neg, a very rich and varied and workable cocktail of failing emulsions.  (our river trips footage a hair too descriptive for the film’s need).

Today I will either go back to the Prado or to San Antonio….   this Goya love is just too interesting and can only be quenched in this city   (someone just walking by playing ” Tequila” on a trumpet).   My hostess wants me to take a train to Cordoba…  a little expensive…   to see a little more of southern Moorish Spain and its architecture…   not sure if I want to be stuck for the day in such a place… they all seem SO tourist-tamed… ultimately depressing… how many sword, cross and helmet shops can you see without wondering about all that happened because of that nice Jewish boy who could see through everything except self-deification (a major sin, to say THE LEAST in the good old testament days). But then, the deification could be the results of
Spin Doctor John, and have little to do with who knows what really happened.

Well, be well……     and thanks for the football info…       nick

Foto by Jon in Madrid summer 2010

Barcelona had just beat Manchester United, 3-1, for the Champion’s League Cup, the World Series/Super Bowl of European Soccer.

5.29    lip flap from afar
Dear Jon,

I spent the morning at San Antonio de la Florida where Goya did the ceiling frescos….   such a beautiful and subtle sense of color.  I have never seen dome and ceiling painting so brushy and in such subdued but deeply beautiful colors.  Perhaps there are some online as everything seems to be these days.  Then I went over to the Prado again as my day pass continues to work. This time I began with Goya and looked at everything again.  Then I went to the 1400’s and so deeply loved the Fra Angelico Annunciation which is quite large. After looking at it for awhile in detail I went back to a seat in front of it and sat there for an hour, falling asleep and awaking again and again…  every time I popped back into the room there was a different configuration of people looking at it wearing different color clothes and many times, no one.  It made a very wonderful  personal film with the refrain of the painting mixed with quick dreams.  Then I went and looked at the other great work from the same century, and I mean Great!  They have a Dirk Bouts four views of the Virgin’s life which is extraordinarily beautiful…  the one of The Visitation is definitely one of the greatest paintings I have ever seen from that period…  the colors, the composition, the poetry…   a major major masterpiece sitting right there, hardly noticed.  I then went and looked at  Bosch’s Earthly Delight triptych again and for great good fortune no one was there (as usually there is a crowd of folks) and I think I eventually saw almost every detail which takes about a half hour to do.  There is always some new super charming thing to discover.  And then to straighten myself out again I went in the next room to look again at two David’s from that century of a Madonna and Child….  both of the very very highest order.

Then after two salads in the cafe (the only green thing to eat I have seen here since arriving)  I decided to look at all the paintings I had not liked the first day just to see them as this museum has more great work on a high level than any place I have ever been…  more than the National Gallery in London, I feel.  And that was interesting and could enjoy them more because I had been so healed by what I had already experienced.  I cannot even name all the great geniuses from the 1600’s that are there in great number and great quality.

The lovely park I spoke of before is up a hill behind the Prado and I walked up there and bought some water and strolled under the dark green canopy highlighted by the evening sun, sat around a little and listened to the doves as the day began to cool slightly and walked home and am now resting.

Love,  Nathaniel

PS: Sitting in front of The Annunciation I began to enjoy the title:   The Return     more because it is an announcement of an event, that event being the montage to follow, rather than a name as such.  And also I seemed very uninspired in my attempts to improve it…  but I  am OPEN….

Goya fresco, dome of San Antonio da FloridaVan der Weyden’s Deposition

Reading these letters I was transported from somewhat soulless (at least for me) Seoul, to the vibrant world of Madrid, and prompted to go once again to the museums, to walk the streets, to go out in the late night social whirl of cafes and talk.   Getting these two I begged Nathaniel to keep up his missives, which I find joyful and revealing, and also remind me of him – one of my very favorite people.  Knowing his films, one can glimpse the intense visual and spiritual acuity he brings to the paintings he speaks about, which makes me want to go see them myself, again.    After writing this last one, his screenings were on tap.  I told him I thought likely the forewarning of an audience of only 20 was not going to happen as I have found for myself lively and full audiences and I thought he’d do OK.   He’d been surprised in Rotterdam so perhaps Madrid would provide another.  (See this for words on Nick’s Rotterdam shows.)  More letters later.

Dirk Bouts’ The VisitationFrom Nathaniel’s The Visitation




While being far from any expert on Caravaggio, I have seen very many and unlike Nathaniel I am, I guess, a “fan”.   In Rome some years ago I saw a large exhibition, I think it was in the Scuderia del Quirinale (former horse stables of the grand palazzo where Italy’s titular President lives), of Caravaggio and his school.  I think I might have seen this one there.  I recall seeing some, which like this one, had slack or miscalculated proportions – to me the torso here is missing some structural form, and the arm on the left is too short in the shoulder to elbow part, and the one on left is too thick.   Also the leaves are rather unlike the foliage I have seen in other Caravaggio’s.  And the light, while chiaroscuro, is not, as nearly always done with the master, used for drama.   So I bet against this being by Caravaggio, though I imagine in the dark setting of the church there, maybe it looked passable.   And it raises for me the curious matter of what if a painting by an artist you really like, happens to be not by that artist?  One of my most favorite Vermeer paintings, Girl with a Red Hat, certainly has a lot of circumstantial evidence suggesting it is not by Johannes.  And while it is one of my favorite of Vermeers, I would have to say that evidence decisively says it is not his.

Alleged Caravaggio St John the Baptist

[Note: if you double-click on many of the painting images you can see them bigger – check the Bosch that way.]