THE PERFECT CLEAR

Frances McDormand by Brigitte Lacombe

Artwork by Kaari Upson | NeueJournal Issue 1

Brigitte Lacombe and actress Frances McDormand disrobe for a naked swim in a mountain lake.

 

It’s an hour’s walk along a coastal cliff to a spring-fed mountain lake that is ringed by pines and always full. Full of water the color and texture of khaki velvet. It seems imperative to disrobe and be baptized in its clear, mirrored surface. To float, face up and bottom down, no matter the temperature. This photograph was taken in the daylight hours; but to float there on a night lit by a full moon is a gift beyond imagining. I believe that this is the best representation of me that has ever been taken by an eye at a camera.

 

Photography: Brigitte Lacombe for NeueJournal

Brotherhood

Ron Arad and Atar Arad explore creative origins

Scan 20

Born to artist parents in Tel Aviv, brothers Ron Arad and Atar Arad explore the creative origins that would one day shape their accomplished futures.

 

 

RON ARAD: I’m in our parents’ empty apartment in Tel Aviv, surrounded by Esther’s mountains of paintings, drawings, and only some of Grisha’s sculptures. All through our upbringing, I was hungry for a real cause to rebel against. I remember being jealous of my friend who had a completely independent life from his parents.

 

ATAR ARAD: We were lucky to have parents who gave us freedom. At one point I decided to go and study history at university. After two months I missed practicing my violin. I just did whatever I wanted. And when I switched to viola, for the first time Grisha said, “I’m not sure I like it.” I said to him, “I didn’t tell you that I am switching to viola because I need your approval. I am just telling you.” Later, when I won prizes and competitions, he said, “Oh, you were right.”

 

RA: Our family was very good at creating myths. I survived all my life getting away with things. I still need the approval, the applause, and the compliments—but mainly it’s getting away with things. Not doing things the way I was expected to do it. Was I a rebel?

 

AA: No, you were not, although our mother always thought of you as a rebel. It’s funny you say that because I was thinking lately—I find myself becoming more and more unconventional. I really despise thinking, “I have to do that because other people do it.” When I’m teaching, I hate doing scales, even though everyone does it. Actually I wrote an article about why you should not do it and how damaging it is.

 

RA: There was a period in my childhood when I was forced to read a certain amount, maybe an hour a day. And I remember I did everything but read. I used to ask myself how I could know what was in the book without reading it.

 

AA: I was a reader. We were very different.

 

RA: You were the good boy.

 

AA: But now you are the good boy.

 

RA: When our parents were young, our father was the promise. He was the big talent. He was the cultured one, and mother came, more or less, from a slum. Everyone told her that if she ended up with him, that was the end of her career. She would always be in his shadow. The opposite happened. Grisha had a crisis and decided to stop making art. After that you would think he’d be bitter about her career, but he was her biggest support. He made all her frames. He stretched all her canvases. He took the photographs. It was almost too much. I thought at some point he was strangling her.

 

AA: Just before Esther died, she came to the terrace, sat down, and said to me, “I really think your father was so talented, and we didn’t acknowledge it enough. No, not we—I didn’t credit his talent enough.” And then she said, “But artists are self-centered.” I thought that was so unusual because usually mother would not admit that she had made a mistake. The next day she passed away.

 

RA: They started working together in their old age. At the beginning, she demanded, “Not like this. Like that.” But the strangest thing is that he went on “working with her” after she passed away, still signing the work in both their names.

 

AA: I look at you and all the things that you have done. You have never changed. Even in your room when you were young, you were the same. You had a pen- chant for objects, and in this way you have developed but have never changed your character. I remember in your first apartment in London, you poked a hole through the wall.

 

RA: I remember. Don’t talk about that. There’s no story there. I just cut a hole between the bedroom and the living room in the rented flat.

 

AA: You wanted to put a TV in this hole so that you could watch during the day from one room, and then turn the TV around to be able to watch it from your bed. I was shocked when I saw you making this hole. I asked you, “Are you crazy? What is the landlord going to say?” And I remember what you said like it was yesterday. “First of all, the landlord never comes here. Secondly, if he sees it, he will raise the rent because the apartment is better now.”

 

RA: Ha,okay.

 

AA: Do you know there’s a landscape hanging in the computer room with Esther’s caption underneath?

 

RA: Do you mean the one where she says that for her, drawing nature is like being an interpreter of a piece of music? She says something like, The artist reads from the score of God. Again, the combination of music and visual art was always there in the house. I remember I went to a Picasso exhibition in Paris. The paintings were in chronological order; room after room of portraits. The last one was called “auto portrait,” but there was only a line with a little squiggle. When I looked at it, I saw that it was Picasso there, contained within the squiggle. Later, I made a connection between Shostakovich’s last piece and the auto portrait. There are not many notes in Shostakovich’s piece, just essentials, but it is the composer. I think, in the end, art is art. Whatever you do, whether you are an architect, or designer, or painter, or composer, basically it comes down to the same thing: to create. I hate when people say: Where does your talent come from? Are you from an artistic family? It is my least favorite question. I think people are allowed to have talent even if no one in the family has talent.

Cuba: Where to Go Next

The Other Side of Paradise

unnamed-1

With the recent historic ease in travel restrictions for Americans and warming of diplomatic relations like a perfectly chilled mojito in the sun, now is the time to go to Cuba, an island that has captivated our imaginations  — and remained an ever-elusive line on our bucket lists — for years. But what really has changed? How can we get there and what should we see and do?

 

To answer these questions, I e-mailed former classmate and friend of mine, Julia Cooke, author of one of the best new books on Cuba, The Other Side of Paradise: Life in the New Cuba, and her Brooklyn/Havana–based friend Hannah Berkeley Cohen, whose website Cuba Rising exists to promote “two unrelated facets of the same obsession with Cuba”: travel consulting – she leads custom tours to Cuba ranging from LGBT life to real estate – and photography, mostly of Cuban youth. Collectively, these two young women have been traveling to Cuba for over 17 years – and thus, I knew, must have the secrets any savvy, cosmopolitan traveller would pine for before their first trip to this soulful, communist enclave 90 miles south of the US.

 

Erin Levi: What should we expect when we go to Cuba?

 

Julia Cooke: Exuberance, spontaneity, creativity, sass, in every way: people move through the city in unexpected ways, solve problems with astounding creativity, and there’s a vitality to the arts these days that is really exciting. It’s an unpredictable time, which is exciting.

 

Hannah Berkeley Cohen: The familiar rhetoric of the Cuban neurosurgeon, who, on his nights off, transforms into a taxi driver, earning double his monthly salary in one night, is no longer a mystery to the outside world. Tourists come to Cuba wanting to talk with said taxi driver/neurosurgeon, hear his story of struggle and survival, and offer their help. Yet at the end of their ride in his 1952 Chevy, they ask for a photo with him in front of the car, as they are dropped off at a state-run, air-conditioned, marble-staircase-adorned hotel, able to escape any realities that their cab driver returns home to nightly.

 

Cuba is a mind-fuck of ironies and questions leading to dead ends. Tourists come, hoping to discover an unseen, virgin paradise, yet included in the preconceived package they’re yearning to bring home, are photos of crumbling buildings and snapshots of children running shoeless around Central Havana. The more time one spends in this place, the more questions one knows to ask, recognizing all along, of course, that said questions just lead to more ambiguous questions that no Cuban will know the answer to either.

 

Perhaps this is why Cuba has so many estranged lovers. She is the island of mystery, the island of intrigue. At distinct points in her life, she captivated the lust of the Americans, Soviets, and Venezuelans, but no one ever really stuck around to see what happened the morning after.

With the recent historic ease in travel restrictions for Americans and warming of diplomatic relations (thanks, Obama!) like a perfectly chilled mojito in the sun, now is the time to go to Cuba, an island that has captivated our imaginations  -- and remained an ever-elusive line on our bucket lists -- for years. But what really has changed? How can we get there and what should we see and do?     To answer these questions, I e-mailed former classmate and friend of mine, Julia Cooke, author of one of the best new books on Cuba, The Other Side of Paradise: Life in the New Cuba, and her Brooklyn/Havana–based friend Hannah Berkeley Cohen, whose website Cuba Rising exists to promote “two unrelated facets of the same obsession with Cuba”: travel consulting – she leads custom tours to Cuba ranging from LGBT life to real estate – and photography, mostly of Cuban youth. Collectively, these two young women have been traveling to Cuba for over 17 years – and thus, I knew, must have the secrets any savvy, cosmopolitan traveller would pine for before their first (legal) trip to this soulful, communist enclave 90 miles south of the US.     What should we expect when we go to Cuba?  Julia: Exuberance, spontaneity, creativity, sass, in every way: people move through the city in unexpected ways, solve problems with astounding creativity, and there’s a vitality to the arts these days that is really exciting. It’s an unpredictable time, which is exciting.     Hannah: The familiar rhetoric of the Cuban neurosurgeon, who, on his nights off, transforms into a taxi driver, earning double his monthly salary in one night, is no longer a mystery to the outside world. Tourists come to Cuba wanting to talk with said taxi driver/neurosurgeon, hear his story of struggle and survival, and offer their help. Yet at the end of their ride in his 1952 Chevy, they ask for a photo with him in front of the car, as they are dropped off at a state-run, air-conditioned, marble-staircase-adorned hotel, able to escape any realities that their cab driver returns home to nightly.     Cuba is a mind-fuck of ironies and questions leading to dead ends. Tourists come, hoping to discover an unseen, virgin paradise, yet included in the preconceived package they’re yearning to bring home, are photos of crumbling buildings and snapshots of small black children running shoeless around Central Havana. The more time one spends in this place, the more questions one knows to ask, recognizing all along, of course, that said questions just lead to more ambiguous questions that no Cuban will know the answer to either.     Perhaps this is why Cuba has so many estranged lovers. She is the island of mystery, the island of intrigue. At distinct points in her life, she captivated the lust of the Americans, Soviets, and Venezuelans, but no one ever really stuck around to see what happened the morning after.  NeueJournal_HannahBerkeleyCohen_CubaWheretoGoNext  How can we get there?  Hannah: There is now one direct flight a week from NYC to HAV, at the low price of just under $900. Americans traveling under a general license can also travel via Tampa or Miami, where combined, there are probably about a dozen flights daily. This is what Cuban-Americans have been doing for years.     Although restrictions have eased, Americans still need a license to travel to Cuba. Can you explain what you offer travelers as a licensed travel consultant?  Hannah: Now […] any American can go under any of the twelve categories that now fall under the guise of the general license (check out the State Deparment’s FAQs re: Cuba). […] The people who travel with me to Cuba get a highly customized, intensive 7-13 days of “ask me anything and we’ll try to find the answer”.  I create and lead all of my tours, [which] are highly customized and small, as in 1-6 people total. […] People who contact me about coming to Cuba already have in mind what they want to focus on [from youth culture to real estate]. It’s up to me to connect them with the people and places that interest them the most, with the end hope that it will lead to a meaningful relationship between Cuban and American.     [Note: as of today this pdf is all jumbled: http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_faqs_new.pdf]     What is the cost to travel to Cuba? Are there options for budget to big spenders?  Hannah: My trips start at $4800, with travel costs included from Miami. There are options for much bigger spenders, especially if they’re interested in purchasing art, renting a mansion with a pool and 24-hour cooks, etc. The Fund for Reconciliation and Development has some cheaper options, as well as Cuba Educational Travel, though you’ll be traveling with a larger group and your trip won’t be as customized.     Any favorite hotels?  Julia: I often stay in Havana at Casa Lilly. Lilly is warm and knowledgeable, and her style is great, too.  NeueJournal_HannahBerkeleyCohen_CubaWheretoGoNext  Hannah: We [Hannah and her travelers] stay in gorgeous homes or high-rise apartments with great ocean views. I avoid hotels as much as possible.     Any up-and-coming areas of Havana or favorite neighborhoods?  Julia: I will be spectacularly unoriginal if I say that I love Vedado — everyone loves central, buzzy Vedado, and I am no exception. But if I could live anywhere, it’d be in Nuevo Vedado, which is a bit more secluded in a hill above Vedado. It’s got a lot of phenomenal examples of tropical modern architecture, including my dream house, which I saw eight years ago on an architecture tour of Havana, wrote about years ago, and have not been able to get out of my head since.  NeueJournal_HannahBerkeleyCohen_CubaWheretoGoNext  Cuban cuisine doesn't have the best reputation. Please tell me there’s some good food on the island to be had!  Julia: There are so many amazing restaurants in Havana since the loosened restrictions of the last few years have spurred many hundreds to open. The old ones are La Guarida, La Esperanza, and (new when I lived there, now more of a standby) Atelier. El Cocinero is newer, Ivan Justo, Le Chansonnier, and the patio at La Galeria.     Cuba Absolutely has really good restaurant, bar, and nightlife recommendations in general. They also have a downloadable What's On guide in PDF, which can be downloaded here in the States and consulted while in internet-slim Cuba.     What are some of your favorite spots?  Julia: Patio at Hotel Nacional for coffee/writing; breakfast isn’t as much of a thing in Cuba, so I’d recommend eating at casas; for music or dancing, locals (and I) love the Café Teatro Bertolt Brecht, or the Café Jazz Miramar, or whatever club is hot (five years ago, it was El Túnel, which I hear is still good); for tourist/local people watching while dancing, the Casa de la Musica Miramar.     What's your perfect day in Havana?  Julia: A calm morning of writing, preferably outdoors; my old apartment had a patio that I loved to sit on to write, read, and drink coffee in the mornings. Most Cuban apartments and homes (Lilly’s is no exception) have amazing outdoor spaces. Head downtown, see some of the galleries or museums or visit some artist friends’ studios or visit with old friends, a nice lunch of pulpo (octopus) somewhere in there, a dip in one of the saltwater pools at the hotels in Miramar, and then, in the evening, dinner and music or dance or an open mic situation of some sort. There’s always a lot going on at night in Havana, which is lovely.     How is the art scene?  Julia: For art, try Factoría Habana or the Servando Galería de Arte. The National Museum of Fine Arts’ modern art building has some fantastic art, too, and is well worth a swing through. There is amazing contemporary art in Havana: Lázaro Saavedra, Alejandro Campins, Sandra Ceballos, Michel Pérez “Pollo” (full disclosure, I wrote an intro to a new book of his work), Los Carpinteros, and so many more.     Speaking of artists, Hannah, how did you integrate yourself with Cuban youth to be able to take such intimate portraits? Where are your photographs displayed?  Hannah: I didn’t come to Cuba initially to make photographs or to delve into the glorious mind-boggle that is tourism. I didn’t come wanting to “become one with the Cubans” or anything of the like. It was slowly a combination of time and trust that allowed me to organically begin documenting the lives of people around me. Without trusting relationships with your subjects, it’s impossible to see anyone’s reality. My photographs are displayed currently online, at CubaRising.org. Ideally, when I return to NYC this summer, I can quench the thirst of an art gallery that wants to put on a Cuba show, but that’s still in the works, since Internet here in Havana is as slow as ever. Maybe Neuehouse has some interest…? (Ha!) [Maureen: feel free to include or remove the last sentence!]  NeueJournal_HannahBerkeleyCohen_CubaWheretoGoNext  What should we read, listen to, and watch?  Julia: Books: Alejo Carpintier, Jorge Mañach, Leonardo Padura. I’ve been meaning to read Wendy Guerra’s Todos Se Van for a while now; I hear she’s amazing, too. Movies, I like the classics, Gutiérrez Alea, Solás, and of course Fernando Perez. Music, too much to list, and I am leaving a lot out, but Roberto Fonseca, Ibeyi, X Alfonso, Haydee Milanés, Los Aldeanos, any of the work Gilles Peterson does with local musicians.     Hannah: If you are a first-time traveler to Cuba, I don’t see any harm in reading a tour book, though I would rely much more on your own curiosity to lead you down the path to adventure. I’d ABSOLUTELY recommend reading the three following books: Marc Frank’s Cuba Revelations, Julia Cooke’s Life in the New Cuba: The Other Side of Paradise, and Ann Louis Bardach’s Without Fidel. As far as movies are concerned, I love Suite Habana, but it is perhaps a bit dated, and only focuses on one socio-economic class in Cuba, though it’s a grand majority of the population.     Tourist traps to avoid?  Julia: Much of Old Havana. It’s gorgeous, and wonderful to walk around, but can also be an onslaught of hustlers.     Any souvenirs you always bring back with you?  Julia: Geometric necklaces from the tourist markets, rum.     When are you going there next?  Hannah: I’m here now!     Julia: In May; I can’t wait.  NeueJournal_HannahBerkeleyCohen_CubaWheretoGoNext

 

EL: How can we get there?

 

HC: There is now one direct flight a week from NYC to HAV, at the low price of just under $900. Americans traveling under a general license can also travel via Tampa or Miami, where combined, there are probably about a dozen flights daily. This is what Cuban-Americans have been doing for years.

 

EL: Although restrictions have eased, Americans still need a license to travel to Cuba. Can you explain what you offer travelers as a licensed travel consultant?

 

HC: Now, any American can go under any of the twelve categories that now fall under the guise of the general license.The people who travel with me to Cuba get a highly customized, intensive 7-13 days of “ask me anything and we’ll try to find the answer”.  I create and lead all of my tours, [which] are highly customized and small, as in 1-6 people total.  People who contact me about coming to Cuba already have in mind what they want to focus on [from youth culture to real estate]. It’s up to me to connect them with the people and places that interest them the most, with the end hope that it will lead to a meaningful relationship between Cuban and American.

 

EL: Any favorite hotels?

 

JC: I often stay in Havana at Casa Lilly. Lilly is warm and knowledgeable, and her style is great, too.

IMG_0446

 

HC: We stay in gorgeous homes or high-rise apartments with great ocean views. I avoid hotels as much as possible.

 

EL: Any up-and-coming areas of Havana or favorite neighborhoods?

 

JC: I will be spectacularly unoriginal if I say that I love Vedado — everyone loves central, buzzy Vedado, and I am no exception. But if I could live anywhere, it’d be in Nuevo Vedado, which is a bit more secluded on a hill above Vedado. It’s got a lot of phenomenal examples of tropical modern architecture, including my dream house, which I saw eight years ago on an architecture tour of Havana, wrote about years ago, and have not been able to get out of my head since.

NeueJournal_HannahBerkeleyCohen_CubaWheretoGoNext

 

EL: Cuban cuisine doesn’t have the best reputation. Please tell me there’s some good food on the island to be had!

 

JC: There are so many amazing restaurants in Havana since the loosened restrictions of the last few years.The old ones are La Guarida, La Esperanza, and Atelier. El Cocinero is newer, Ivan Justo, Le Chansonnier, and the patio at La Galeria.

 

EL: What are some of your favorite spots?

 

JC: Patio at Hotel Nacional for coffee/writing; breakfast isn’t as much of a thing in Cuba, so I’d recommend eating at casas; for music or dancing, locals (and I) love the Café Teatro Bertolt Brecht, or the Café Jazz Miramar, or whatever club is hot (five years ago, it was El Túnel, which I hear is still good); for tourist/local people watching while dancing, the Casa de la Musica Miramar.

 

EL: What’s your perfect day in Havana?

 

JC: A calm morning of writing, preferably outdoors; my old apartment had a patio that I loved to sit on to write, read, and drink coffee in the mornings. Most Cuban apartments and homes (Lilly’s is no exception) have amazing outdoor spaces. Head downtown, see some of the galleries or museums or visit some artist friends’ studios or visit with old friends, a nice lunch of pulpo (octopus) somewhere in there, a dip in one of the saltwater pools at the hotels in Miramar, and then, in the evening, dinner and music or dance or an open mic situation of some sort. There’s always a lot going on at night in Havana, which is lovely.

NeueJournal_HannahBerkeleyCohen_CubaWheretoGoNext

 

 

EL: How is the art scene?

 

JC: For art, try Factoría Habana or the Servando Galería de Arte. The National Museum of Fine Arts’ modern art building has some fantastic art, too, and is well worth a swing through. There is amazing contemporary art in Havana: Lázaro Saavedra, Alejandro Campins, Sandra Ceballos, Michel Pérez “Pollo,” Los Carpinteros, and so many more.

 

EL: Speaking of artists, Hannah, how did you integrate yourself with Cuban youth to be able to take such intimate portraits? Where are your photographs displayed?

 

HC: I didn’t come to Cuba initially to make photographs or to delve into the glorious mind-boggle that is tourism. It was slowly a combination of time and trust that allowed me to organically begin documenting the lives of people around me. Without trusting relationships with your subjects, it’s impossible to see anyone’s reality.

 

EL: What should we read, listen to, and watch?

 

JC: Books: Alejo Carpintier, Jorge Mañach, Leonardo Padura. I’ve been meaning to read Wendy Guerra’s Todos Se Van for a while now; I hear she’s amazing, too. Movies, I like the classics, Gutiérrez Alea, Solás, and of course Fernando Perez. Music, too much to list, and I am leaving a lot out, but Roberto Fonseca, Ibeyi, X Alfonso, Haydee Milanés, Los Aldeanos, any of the work Gilles Peterson does with local musicians.

 

HC: I’d recommend reading the three following books: Marc Frank’s Cuba Revelations, Julia Cooke’s Life in the New Cuba: The Other Side of Paradise, and Ann Louis Bardach’s Without Fidel. As far as movies are concerned, I love Suite Habana, but it is perhaps a bit dated, and only focuses on one socio-economic class in Cuba, though it’s a grand majority of the population.

 

EL: Tourist traps to avoid?

 

JC: Much of Old Havana. It’s gorgeous, and wonderful to walk around, but can also be an onslaught of hustlers.

 

EL: When are you going there next?

 

HC: I’m here now!

 

JC: In May — I can’t wait.

 

 

Photography: courtesy of Hannah Berkeley Cohen for NeueJournal

Cooking with the Pollocks

a journey into America’s culinary and creative heritage

Photo © Robyn Lea_Paint Pigments Saved from the WPA projec-2

Australian photographer, writer and director Robyn Lea’s new book DINNER WITH JACKSON POLLOCK -­‐ Recipes, Art & Nature (Assouline, 2015) took her on a journey deep into America’s culinary and creative heritage. After finding the unpublished, handwritten recipes of Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner in their former home in Springs, Long Island, Robyn began developing a different perspective of Pollock, the man, beyond the one-sided perspective of the iconic artist. Jackson’s niece, Francesca Pollock became a key supporter of the project, and the friendship that developed between Francesca and Robyn has been a wonderful byproduct of this delicious project. Here they discuss some of their favorite subjects.

 

Robyn Lea: Francesca, I am thrilled that Dinner with Jackson Pollock is being launched almost simultaneously with the first globally significant museum exhibition of your father Charles Pollock’s work at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. It is fitting that Charles’s work will sit alongside his youngest brother Jackson’s at the museum for the first time and that their brother Sanford’s work will also be included.

 

I hope the exhibition and the book will encourage more discourse about the Pollock brothers including Charles’s influence on Jackson, which was so important, both artistically and in other ways. I have this happy vision of people cooking the Johnny Cake recipe from the book that Charles and Jackson shared on their road trips across America, and drizzling these tasty morsels with maple syrup. Then, with a full and happy stomach I imagine them talking about some of the lesser-­‐known aspects of this industrious and talented family.

 

Francesca Pollock: Yes the simultaneity with which all this is happening is astonishing! My father used to say that he was not of his time…I guess maybe his time has come. It is an exciting moment and, in a couple of weeks, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, which is a beautiful museum, will be the home for all this excitement: the Charles Pollock Retrospective, a Jackson Pollock exhibition centered around the masterpiece Mural and your book launch.

 

Robyn Lea: After researching and tasting all the recipes from Jackson and Lee’s collection I have grown very attached to them. I was initially surprised to learn that Jackson was a baker and that his apple pie had won the first prize at the local fair on a number of occasions. In Springs, Jackson and Lee lived in tune with the rhythms of nature, and Pollock loved to fish, forage, plant and clam, while Lee poached and pickled any oversupply of produce. There is something deeply personal about these handwritten recipes, they have so much character and give us clues to Jackson’s domestic life, as well as show the influence of his family. They are both simple and powerful. From the Syrian picnic that Jackson shared with his friend Roger Wilcox on the Montauk beach, to the Blueberry Blintzes recipe that was scrawled by Lee on an envelope in red pencil, every dish has a story. I know why I am attached to these dishes, which I have shared with friends at many wonderful dinner parties at home. What do they mean to you?

Photo © Robyn Lea_Blueberry Blintzes. Props styling - Shan

Blueberry Blintzes
 

Francesca Pollock: On a personal level, your book is like a gift! But what is important to me is the way you went into this project without preconceived ideas about what you were going to find. That is precisely why your book draws a new portrait of the man and the artist. Interestingly enough a very important work by Jackson Pollock, Alchemy, which is at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, has just been restored in Florence, Italy. What they discovered is groundbreaking. First, and this will amuse you, they discovered that the painting had not been painted on canvas but rather on tablecloth and then stretched on a loom belonging to Stella, his mother. Then they discovered that, contrary to common belief, Pollock had painted this work using a grid. It was a sort of composition, not simply an unconscious projection. All these discoveries are only possible if one has open eyes, and no preconceptions. So I am grateful to you for that!

 

Robyn Lea: I think the grid composition of his paintings reinforces the idea that Jackson approached his work with precision and discipline. In the same way that he was with his baking which is a science that requires absolute precision, patience and planning. You are a baker or you are not. And that he was a baker says a lot about his approach to other aspects of his life.

Photo © Robyn Lea_Jackson's Prize Winning Apple Pie. Props

Jackson’s Prize-Winning Apple Pie.
 

I loved all your informative emails during the course of this project, laden with important information and thoughtful insights about the Pollock family. I feel like you are my pen pal. Sadly letter writing has almost disappeared but your weekly and sometimes daily emails remind me of the beauty of honest exchanges and how meaningful this sharing is. But despite the fact we communicate via email, I think we both have a passion for primary source material and respect for the power of letters and handwritten documents to provide deep understanding of a subject. It is these documents -­‐ these handwritten recipes, that brought us together, and your guidance has been invaluable.

Photo © Robyn Lea Recipe_Jackson's_Bread recipe, detail

Detail of one of Jackson’s handwritten bread recipes.
 

Francesca Pollock: We really had a coup de foudre. I was immediately taken by the way you discovered these recipes. I myself had discovered family letters in similar circumstances and published a selection of those letters (Jackson Pollock & Family, American Letters, Polity Press, 2010). So I was touched when we met and you told me about the project. Then I helped you find grandma Pollock’s recipe album. Everyone in the family remembered it or had heard about it but no one knew where it was. Finally, I heard it was with Charles’s granddaughter Jacqueline in California and you went there to photograph it.

 

Robyn Lea: Meeting Jacqueline in California and photographing Stella Pollock’s handwritten recipe book added another layer of understanding to my book project. I am so grateful that you found it and that Jacqueline opened her home to me so I could go and photograph it. She also seems to have the Pollock gene for culinary and creative talent, and cooked that day the most magnificent lunch, and afterwards showed me her equally magnificent drawings. Stella’s cookbook is absolutely loaded with important information, and includes notes she wrote to herself such as “Raw Food and Dynamic Breath Control for Health, Success, and Happiness,” which was underlined as a heading inside the first page of the book. The following four pages detail a juice fast diet that included doses of black cherry juice, grape juice and sauerkraut juice.

 

Stella’s recipe book also has almost 100 recipes for cakes, puddings, candy, frosting, sweet sauces, creams, pies, tortes, and cookies, and she was known for using large quantities of butter and eggs even during the Depression and wartime rationing. Favorites included Delicious Cream Fudge, Frozen Apple Snow, A Perfect Shortcake, Cranberry Fluff, Apple Eggnog Pie, Rhubarb Wine, Lady Baltimore, Italian Chocolate Pudding and Heavenly Hash.

Photo © Robyn Lea_Breads_Section_Cross-Country Johnny Cake

Cross Country Johnny Cakes

Dinner with Jackson Pollock is to me a collection of not only Jackson and Lee’s recipes, but also heirloom recipes from Stella Pollock and other members of your family such as Arloie McCoy. It is also a visual story, documenting the evocative natural beauty of the tiny East Hampton hamlet of Springs, and the beachscapes and landscapes that surrounded Pollock and Krasner’s home.

 

Francesca Pollock: I think it says it all. The words that come to mind are style, beauty, simplicity, modesty, humility and generosity. I see all that in these recipes and also in the accompanying photographs. You manage to capture it all. The other reason I feel this book is important is that over the years my uncle has become a myth and one has somehow forgotten that he was also a man.

 

This book portrays him not only as the artist/genius he was but also as a human being who loved to cook and enjoy the simple pleasures of life.

Photo © Robyn Lea_Pollock and Krasner's kitchen_Springs Lo-2

Jackson and Lee’s kitchen, Springs, Long Island

Robyn Lea: You provided me with various quotes for Dinner with Jackson Pollock including one from your father Charles who described his own father, LeRoy, as a ‘craftsman on the soil’. It seems clear that LeRoy’s adoration for nature influenced both Pollock brothers, and their subsequent connection with nature helped feed their inner creative terrain.

 

Francesca Pollock: Of course it did. Both parents were strong influences on their boys. One sees that clearly in the letters we published. The boys admired their parents and it was reciprocal. Can you imagine what it must have been like in the 1920s to have your eldest son, Charles, announce that he wants to become an artist? And then a second son and then a third one! They were tolerant and proud. Anything their boys wanted to do was good for them. I remember this advice LeRoy wrote in a letter to Jackson, who was 16 at the time: “The secret of success is concentrating interest in life, interest in sports and good times, interest in your studies, interest in your fellow students, interest in the small things of nature, insects, birds, flowers, leaves, etc.”. How beautiful is that?

 

Robyn Lea: LeRoy’s advice to Jackson still resonates today, perhaps more than ever. A deep respect for, and delight in the form, colors and bounty of nature is a great way to find a simple peace in our often crazy city lives. Nature can also be a powerful source of inspiration, as it was for Jackson. He found nature very healing, and loved working the soil in his vegetable garden in Springs, then showing off the color of his eggplants to his friends, or gifting produce to fellow food lovers. There is no doubt that this passion was ignited in Jackson from his father’s love of nature and good ingredients. There is a wonderful photo in the book of two-year-old Jackson holding a slice of the watermelon that had won LeRoy first prize at the local fair. The whole family is gathered for the photo. It is a proud moment and very endearing. In another historic photo Jackson sits next to his own vegetable garden on the grass in Springs, very comfortable and connected with the land he loved so much.

 

Francesca Pollock: I guess, in the end, this is all about transmission. My father used to say “Let’s keep the record straight,” I guess that is what he was talking about. So now that that work is done, all I can say is “Bon Appetit!”

Photo © Robyn Lea_Painting shoes and stool_Pollock Studio

Shoes and paint detail in the studio
Credits:
Food preparation: Chef Kira Jacobs
Props Styling: Shane Klein

The Great Wide Open

A Love Letter to Wilderness

The Great Wide Open is a celebration of the outdoors; a love letter to leaving your desk behind and venturing into the wilderness. Featuring locations from around the world, the book highlights not only stunning photographs, but the stories behind them as told by the adventurers. You can buy the book at Gestalten here.


1
By Julian Blalowas, from The Great Wide Open, Copyright Gestalten 2015
2
By Sophie and Charley Radcliffe, from The Great Wide Open, Copyright Gestalten 2015
3
By Kilian Schonberger, from The Great Wide Open, Copyright Gestalten 2015
4
By Kilian Schonberger, from The Great Wide Open, Copyright Gestalten 2015
5
By James Bowden, from The Great Wide Open, Copyright Gestalten 2015
6
By Joel Bear, from The Great Wide Open, Copyright Gestalten 2015
7
By Chris Burkard, from The Great Wide Open, Copyright Gestalten 2015
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By Chris Burkard, from The Great Wide Open, Copyright Gestalten 2015
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By Sarah Martinet, from The Great Wide Open, Copyright Gestalten 2015