Sunday, January 26, 2020

An Abundant Life - Life On Earth

I've written in these pages before about Eileen Kaminsky and the Artist Residency Program that is part of the Eileen S. Kaminsky Family Foundation, which is also known as ESKFF, at Mana Contemporary, and I've also written about some of the Artists who I have met since I first met Eileen. When I was visiting ESKFF last fall before a dinner Eileen was hosting with the Artists and some invited guests, the Director of ESKFF, Gina Maffei, was taking a count of who would need a ride and what cars were available to bring everyone to the restaurant. Someone suggested that one of the Artists named Dylan had a car, and Gina said in her lovely and matter of fact way that the last time she had seen Dylan's car there was a box of dirt in the back seat and she didn't know if there would be room for more than possibly one other person. And then Dylan came in, and Gina asked if the box of dirt was in the car, and that was enough for me. I had to get to know who this Artist was and just what was happening with the box of dirt. When we got to the dinner, Dylan was sitting diagonally across from me, and I got a chance to hear more about the dirt and Dylan's story.

Let me take a moment here to explain why I was so intrigued by this dirt. I don't really know exactly why myself, but ever since I was a child I've loved dirt. Over the years as I've gotten into learning about youth and community development I've discovered that there are microorganisms in dirt that can help calm people down, relieve anxiety and help with a myriad of physical and emotional as well as psychological issues. Even dirt that is not the healthiest garden variety has healthy qualities for us to be around, and though I didn't know that as a child, I happily played in gardens and dug under fall leaves for the first shoots of spring and never minded when my older brother asked me to dig worms for his variety of pets like his turtles, or for the birds that sometimes fell out of their nests far too young and needed to be fed until they could learn to fly. As an adult I've continued my love of gardening, and I always have dirt around the house. Dirt just feels good to have around for some reason, and so when I heard about Dylan and the dirt I wanted to find out what was being created with it.

For a number of years I lived in SoHo near where the Artist Walter De Maria has an installation called The New York Earth Room that was commissioned and is maintained by Dia Art Foundation and which is a permanent room full of dirt in what is now, and was by the time I was living down the block, one of the highest per square inch real estate areas in the country if not the world. And one of the first exhibits I saw that completely took my breath away was of Arnulf Rainer's soot and earth covered white christening dresses in a smaller gallery setting outside of the usual New York City museums. I'll never forget that show as long as I live - it takes my breath away just to think of it now. So dirt is not only something that is wonderfully healthy to play in as a child and as an adult, but it is powerful as a medium for an Artist.

A recent graduate from Adelphi University with a Bachelors in Fine Arts, Dylan Coppola has a wider range of work than those pieces that incorporate the dirt, but for me those are very powerful, and through the work that I saw at ESKFF I saw reflected a way to express something about the natural world and what we are doing as humans by leaving trash in it, mucking around in it and generally misusing this life-giving substance. In addition to the pieces that were created with dirt, there were other pieces that incorporated leaves, fabric, and other every day found objects, covered in paint and layered over to create something that was entirely different and yet still familiar. Dylan sent me a few photographs of the finished pieces, and they are extraordinarily captivating. I could look at these works over long periods of time and still see something new every moment. The pieces are beautiful, unique, and they tell a story, one that has a history as old as the hills and is as new as each passing moment. Dirt, leaves and the natural world are alive, and though we may think we are the only organisms that think and breathe, being around these substances helps us to take the much needed step of thinking again.

Dylan Coppola
At Mana Contemporary

Works In Progress At ESKFF

Completed Work
Photographs Courtesy Of Dylan Coppola

Continental Drift

Legacy 1

Legacy 2

Legacy 3

Mitosis I

Mitosis II

Mitosis III

Mitosis IV

Mitosis V


Jannie Susan

Sunday, January 19, 2020

An Abundant Life - Work Of Art

A few months ago Jerome Pumphrey, an Artist, Writer, Designer and Illustrator who I had been following on Instagram, posted that he and his brother Jarrett would be publishing a children's book in January of 2020. I am a writer and an avid reader and have been all my life, and though my days of reading children's books might seemingly be over, I still love them when they are good ones, and I had a feeling that this one would be something special because the artwork I had seen on Jerome's Instagram posts was spectacular. When he posted that there would be pre-orders available through BookPeople, I put in my order immediately, and as part of their thank you to their customers, over time all kinds of added perks became available, including lovely hand signed limited edition prints, a very sweet pin, and a beautiful canvas bag. During the months that followed, he and his brother posted regularly about the book and its progression, until one day last week it arrived in my mail and I was able to finally see it in hard cover, and as I had thought, it's stunning in every way.

Both Jarrett and Jerome are members of SCBWI, the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Jarrett Pumphrey is a Storyteller, Writer, Artist and Illustrator, who has served as Creative Director for multiple technology companies and was the Co-Founder and CEO of a startup in the high-tech world of clear removable orthodontics. Jerome Pumphrey is an Artist, Designer, Illustrator and Writer who studied graphic design at the Art Institute of Austin and has worked as a technical writer, freelance graphic designer, and illustrator, and he is currently a graphic designer at The Walt Disney Company. Together they formed a company The Pumphrey Brothers, and "The Old Truck" is their second co-authored book. A tale about a family of farmers over the generations, it follows the life of the family's truck as it follows the family on their own hardworking but also joy-filled life. In its seeming simplicity, it goes deeply to the core of important messages and life lessons - hard work, perseverance, caring for one another and caring for the environment around us, and being grateful for the things we have and the time we share with others.

There's so much that is so lovely in this book. The strong women the brothers were influenced by growing up and the messages they shared are at the heart of this story, and it is their legacy of persistence and working hard to make dreams come true, often in the face of adversity, that gives the story its driving force. Add to that the inspiration of a common sight the brothers see in Texas of old trucks set out to pasture and overgrown, and they began to wonder what the experience of a truck might have been if it had the experience of watching a young girl on a farm growing up with big dreams. The illustrations in "The Old Truck" were created by using over 250 individual hand-cut stamps. The brothers use a combination of traditional and digital media in their creative work, and the traditional highly skilled process of making the stamps can be seen in short videos on their website. Each page is a work of art and the overall story is a masterpiece of life-giving, deeply moving and inspiring words and images, simple enough to reach into a child's mind and powerful enough to awaken the heart of an adult.

"The Old Truck" is a book to be treasured, read and re-read in the way that I have always read great books, from the time I was a child first learning to read to this day, deeply enjoying each word, each moment and each image while taking in the whole and letting it resonate and take root. This is a book for anyone to enjoy, young or old, at the start of life or nearing the later part of it, because The Old Truck could be any one of us as we travel on our own journeys and live our lives.

"The Old Truck"
Written And Illustrated
By Jarret Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey

Book Cover Illustration
Photograph Courtesy of Jerome Pumphrey

Jarrett Pumphrey
Photograph Credit Eric Pumphrey
Photograph Courtesy of Jerome Pumphrey

Jerome Pumphrey
Photograph Credit Jarrett Pumphrey
Photograph Courtesy of Jerome Pumphrey

Selected Illustrations
Photographs Courtesy of The Pumphrey Brothers Website

"The Old Truck"
At Home

Jarrett And Jerome Pumphrey
Photograph Courtesy Of The Pumphrey Brothers Website


Jannie Susan

Sunday, January 12, 2020

An Abundant Life - A Gentleman And A Scholar

I met Joel Liscio a few years ago when I was writing a blog about the Founders and creators of Misunderstood Whiskey, JD Recobs and Chris Buglisi. I had been following him on Instagram because somehow or other through mutual friends we had connected, but I only knew him as a Sommelier. When I was writing about Misunderstood Whiskey and the makers told me that there were several Bartenders and Mixologists around town who were making very fun and deliciously inventive creations with their whiskey, I set out to track as many of them as possible down so that I could add those people and their cocktails to the post. One of the first places I tried was Bin 14 where I had already met with JD and Chris when we sat down for our first official meeting for the blog and they had invited me to try an Old Fashioned, and after they told me that Joel was also creating something by infusing the whiskey with bacon fat, I had to go in again to meet with him. I also had lunch that day because I was planning to write about Bin 14 and the wonderful Chef and Owner Anthony Pino. While I was enjoying the meal and watching Joel create his Mixologist's masterpiece, we started talking about my history of working with Artists and I found out that Joel was an Artist as well. We kept in touch, and when I began to focus on writing the blog post about Bin 14 I was able to go in to watch and learn from Joel several times as he wore the hat of the wonderful and talented Sommelier he is. And then I attended an art show he was a part of and then another, and finally I was able to connect him into a group show I was curating where we were also serving fine wines so I could help bring both sides of his wonderfully talented personality together. In the meantime I had also introduced him to other Artists, and he had introduced me to some also, and we had many conversations about wine and about art so that whenever I am thinking of an event where I have either one of those things, I always get in touch with Joel to see if he can be a part of it.

Joel is passionate about wine and about art and he studies both with an energy that is almost seemingly impossible because he is also a father and a husband and a Manager at Bin 14. I remember one very late night into early morning when he saw that I was online and he sent me a text asking, "Do you ever sleep?" and though I know I do, I often wonder if he does. That made me laugh then and it still does now, and his sense of humor is another thing that I like and admire about Joel so much. Although he takes his work and his family responsibilities and his studies about art and wine very seriously, he also knows how to laugh and is able to make people feel comfortable not only when he is behind the bar, but when he is discussing wine at upscale events and tastings and pairings or discussing art at a gallery. And that is something that is important to me - there are many people who have knowledge, but to be able to share it with others without being condescending and to be able to share it so that people enjoy learning and want to learn more is a gift and a skill and a blessing. In my book Joel Liscio is the one I'd call any day, to share art and wine and a great conversation, to learn and discover and to plan an event, and to enjoy the art of fine wine and the art life with.

Joel Liscio
At Bin 14
1314 Washington Street
Hoboken, New Jersey

Sabering A Champagne Bottle
At A Bubbles Tasting Event

Sharing Knowledge From Pinot Camp
During A Wine Pairing Lunch

At An Art Opening
At Spesh Barbershop
With Founder Steven Torres
932 Washington Street
Hoboken, New Jersey

Selected Work

Always The Finest Wine Choices

And A Bottle Of Misunderstood Whiskey
Ready For The Holidays

At An Opening At 313 Gallery
313 Third Street
Jersey City, New Jersey 

Creating A Mixology Masterpiece
With Misunderstood Whiskey
At Bin 14


With The Artist And Founder Of 660 Studios John Fathom
At 660 Studios
660 Grand Street
Jersey City, New Jersey


Jannie Susan