Sunday, September 29, 2019

An Abundant Life - The Hero's Journey

The first time I met Arthur Kwon Lee we were sitting together at a dinner for the celebration after the closing exhibition for a group of Artists from the Eileen S. Kaminsky Family Foundation, or ESKFF, Residency Program. I am always willing to travel to see Artists' work when I can, and I also know that the Residents in the ESKFF program are hard working and talented visionaries, so as we talked I offered to go to visit Arthur in his studio which it turns out is in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. So on a day a few weeks after the closing celebration I found myself on the L Train connecting to the G train and taking a trip that I hadn't taken in several years. I found Arthur's studio easily, and I was impressed by the lightness and airy quality of the building and his own space, as the apartment of friends I had visited in Greenpoint years ago had been much smaller and darker, and though comfortable, it had the feeling of being a bit dusty and musty as so many old apartments can be when the buildings have not been renovated and have been lived in by countless families living in small cramped and airless rooms. But Arthur's studio was the opposite of that, with sunlight streaming through the modern windows and newly installed bright wood floors. It was a space I could live in happily, and except for the absence of a kitchen it felt almost home-like, with a fresh and clean comfortable feeling that lent itself easily to an afternoon visit that stretched into an early evening.

Arthur moved to the New York City area from Washington, DC where he had a considerable amount of acclaim and fame, selling artwork regularly and creating murals, exhibiting at prestigious galleries such as The Corcoran Gallery of Art, and working on a variety of projects and commissions after graduating from George Washington University. It is not an easy thing to move to New York at any age, because New York is the City that can make or break a career and a life. It takes great courage to take the step out of a comfort zone where we have been happily and successfully living to take the risk that all or nothing might happen. But Arthur was trained in Martial Arts, and he has studied not only the history and physicality of it, but he is a researcher of its philosophy along with that of Karl Jung and Joseph Campbell. As we spoke that afternoon I found myself seeing deeper layers of meaning in his paintings and thinking about a conversation I'd had with someone recently about Joseph Campbell and his life and work. When I mentioned that to Arthur he pointed to one of the paintings and said that it was Campbell's Hero's Journey that was depicted in the figures on the canvas, and all of the pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place. Here was a young man who was diligent, hard working, and precise about his his work, and yet there was also a passion for excellence and meaning under his calm countenance. There was a kind of excitement combined with intensity that was overlaid with patience and maturity, and as we spoke and he told me about some of his experiences to date, I started to understand how it was possible for someone to both lose themselves in their work and yet stay focused on the road ahead.

When I went to Arthur's website, I saw this quote by the Japanese swordsman, artist, philosopher and ronin, Miyamoto Musashi, "Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world." It seemed perfectly fitting for the Arthur I had come to know whose own modern day travels seemed in some ways to reflect another Arthur, the King who as a young man had gone on a quest for his own truth. There is a depth to Arthur Kwon Lee that is visible in the layers of paint and color and imagery on the canvases he paints, but his vision is not tied to his own expressions of self. Because of his focus on the world around him, the work that Arthur Kwon Lee creates takes on meanings that speak to the archetypal journey of us all.

Arthur Kwon Lee
In His Studio In Greenpoint
Brooklyn, New York


Jannie Susan

Sunday, September 22, 2019

An Abundant Life - Craftsmanship

Visiting the workshop of Josseph Genuardi, Master Tailor and Owner of Genuardi Tailor is a adventure in style and classic design. In some ways it is also a travel in time because in these days of fast fashion and overnight trends that change by the hour it is rare to find someone who takes the time to create a product that is long lasting both in quality and in style and that is designed to last for generations.

When I was younger, I used to wear my grandfather's Harris Tweed winter coat. He was a Furrier in the Manhattan times of luxury and style during the early part of the 20th Century, and every suit he owned and every piece he made was made to last forever. I gave up that coat a few years ago to a friend because another friend had convinced me that I should start wearing things that were more feminine, but I still miss that coat on cold winter days when the wet and chill go through you because complete with a mohair lining that zipped out there was nothing that could keep me warmer and dryer and still looking dressed for success. I've always been a fan of wearing men's clothing - I'm tall with long legs and the cut of men's clothing was traditionally much more comfortable for me. But trends in recent years have created styles in men's dressing that have changed the way that clothing is created and worn so now it's often difficult for me to find a perfect fit. Discovering Genuardi Tailor has opened up a new world for me because there is something very special happening in Joseph Genuardi's workshop.

A Graduate with Honors from Carnegie Mellon University, he pursued his interest in fashion by apprenticing with the internationally acclaimed Master Tailor Joseph Centofanti, learning the arts of hand sewing, fitting, pressing, pattern drafting and cutting. Because of his diligence and dedication, while with Centofanti he progressed to the position of Tailor, then Cutter, Fitter and Manager, moving to New York in 2011 to become Head Tailor at Martin Greenfield Clothiers, one of the most highly esteemed made-to-measure clothing makers in the world. While at Martin Greenfield, Joseph Genuardi was Tailor to President Barak Obama, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, President Donald Trump, and numerous TV and film actors including Robert De Niro, Johnny Depp, James Spader and Steve Buscemi, as well as many star athletes. He has been featured on National Public Radio, in the Philadelphia Enquirer and the Times Herald, and in other print and web publications, and was also featured in the documentary film, "Men of the Cloth," a documentary of Italian Master Tailors.

When I met with him the other day I was reminded of my favorite Beatrix Potter story from childhood, "The Tailor of Gloucester," because of the intricate work that he does. In that story the Tailor is so well respected that he is asked to make a suit for the marriage of the Mayor of Gloucester, but something goes awry as can happen and he becomes too ill to finish it. It is an important commission that could change his life forever for the better, and there are some mice in his workshop who respect him for his kindness and hard work and they go to work to complete the embroidery, the hand sewing and seaming, and make such a perfect garment that the tailor's reputation is even greater than before. This is the kind of painstaking work that Joseph Genuardi does, and this is the feeling in his workshop - there is a timeless quality as well as a feeling of old world craftsmanship melding with the haute couture styles of today. With each design he creates there is a love for attention to detail and individual style of the customer that makes each piece a masterpiece that will last for generations. This is bespoke tailoring at its finest, with the true love of fabric and a history of the craft lending knowledge to a very personal vision of excellence.

Joseph Genuardi, Master Tailor
Genuardi Tailor
300 Observer Highway
Hoboken, New Jersey



Jannie Susan

Sunday, September 15, 2019

An Abundant Life - International Connections

The lovely Manesha Lakhiani invited me to an opening reception at Seizan Gallery in Chelsea recently. She had met the owner, Seiko Yamada, while she was traveling on business in the Philippines, right before the New York Gallery had opened, and when it was time for their one year anniversary celebration Manesha invited me to join her there. I have worked with Artists of all kinds for many years, and I have lived in New York City even longer, and I've attended so many gallery shows of different kinds that if I tried to count them all it would be impossible. But one thing that never changes is my love for beautiful spaces and beautiful work, and I've found over the years that the design of the spaces and the choices of work reflect the spirit of the Gallery Owners and Curators who inhabit them. I'm not in any way a snob about art or design - I can be inspired in an abandoned and crumbling pier as much as in a pristine penthouse loft, and I've discovered that it's the Owner, Director and Curator who can give the space a feeling that makes us want to stay and that opens the art up to a longer examination and reflection for the viewer.

Seizan Gallery is the kind of gallery that gives a visitor such a feeling of peace and beauty that it would be possible to stay there for hours. Even on the night of the opening party and celebration for the first year anniversary and expansion of the gallery space I had a glimpse of the feeling of what it must be like during an average day. I wanted to sit and contemplate the art, daydream and be inspired, and the feeling in the gallery is such a powerfully beautiful one that I could have done that even with all the ebb and flow of people coming and going and talking and walking throughout the rooms during the opening.

The gallery was started in Tokyo where there is still the first branch of it, at a time when it was very rare for a woman to own a gallery, never mind start one in her own home as Seiko Yamada did at the time. She has since moved it to Ginza, the most fashionable and integral area to view art in Tokyo, and over time decided to start a new location in New York. Her New York Director, Sayaka Toyoma, is as lovely and intelligent as she is, and both are well versed in the art world and market as well as having the aesthetic sensibility necessary to curate, choose and hang shows well. Together they work between the two worlds of Tokyo and New York, discussing and comparing and discerning the work that will be best suited to the art lovers, buyers and investors in each market.

When I sat down to talk with Sayaka Toyoma, we had such an interesting and inspiring conversation that I felt as if I'd taken a course in contemporary art. I learned so much from her in the time we shared together because her wealth of knowledge and interest in her subject is so detailed and important in her pursuit of excellence. It was refreshing to have a conversation like that, as refreshing as the chilled green tea that had been offered to me by the lovely and knowledgeable Gallery Assistant Hope Steiner on my arrival. And as the afternoon turned more golden and the light drifted through the windows from the street above, I found myself being immersed in the still and vibrant beauty of the work all around me. With the utilization of techniques speaking of years of diligent training and practice, each piece contains so much life and history. Over time the gallery will be offering classes and hands on learning experiences in the techniques that some of the Artists practice. This is a beautiful way that light and life is passed from one generation to the next and from one country to another. This is the way of progress, of finding the conversation between the art and the viewer, from one Artist to the next. It is the way of growing and learning that is most enjoyable and beneficial, because as we experience the joy of creativity our minds open up to new possibilities.

Seizan Gallery
521 West 26th Street
New York, New York

Owner Seiko Yamada
Photograph Courtesy Of Seizan Gallery
Photograph Credit Robert Wade

A Few Images From The Current Exhibition
Motohide Takami: Fires On Another Shore
Photographs Courtesy Of Seizan Gallery
Photograph Credit Adam Reich

A Lovely Floral Arrangement
Created By The Gallery Owner Seiko Yamada
Who Is Also A Practitioner Of The Art Of Ikebana


Jannie Susan

Sunday, September 8, 2019

An Abundant Life - Designers Dream

Robert Arpin is one of those designers whose work not only surprises and delights, but it makes you think, it brings you into another world and it gives you something deeper to think about somewhere between a vision and a dream. I met Robert at a gallery show of a friend in Manhattan, and when I was introduced to him, I told him I'd be happy to visit his studio for a possible blog post. The first time I saw his work was a few weeks later, and I knew that I would like what I saw because I had liked Robert when I met him, but I had thought his work would be more along the lines of something that was similar to things I had seen before. Instead I found myself excited and amazed by his originality and the artistic eye behind each piece. His work is exquisite and it tells stories. There are worlds within worlds and images layered over images, concentric lines and planes and geometry, a mathematician's dream and pure beauty for any eye that beholds it.

Robert has been designing for twenty years, and he has won the acclaim of people within the design world and outside of it, being awarded and lauded and published and having been given the encouragement of some very well known people in the industry. And he is always creating and thinking, revising and refurbishing, coming up with new designs and better ways of creating the pieces, different types of materials and upholstery, and new stories to tell. These are pieces that work as three dimensional art, on their own individually, and in groups and installations that have a conversation and enliven a space with their stories.

A strong part of Robert's design aesthetic has to do with using sustainable materials that are easy to locally source and that could also be reclaimed, recycled or made out of inexpensive and durable wood such as plywood. He has been using Marimekko fabric in his renditions because he loves the juxtaposition of the fabric with his designs, and the designs of those fabrics compliment his work perfectly. But he is also open to using other fabrics and we have even discussed the possibility of his working with Artists whose work could be transferred onto fabric. Robert's creativity and vision are always moving in new directions, refining and adding to the experience of his work so that the viewer and the maker become a part of the story he is telling.

Robert's work is so extraordinary that it evokes archetypal myths and legends while being comfortable and functional as well as having the integrity of a museum piece. It is remarkable to find someone whose designs are so inspired while also being well thought out and planned. There are designers and pieces that fit into one or the other of the many categories but it is extremely rare to find someone who is able to cross through and encompass every aspect of great design. His work is functional, beautiful, sustainable, logical, inspiring and worthy of standing alone as an art piece or group installation. Visiting Robert's world is pure joy, and his pieces can transform a space and a home, and in the process begin to help us tell new stories.

The Extraordinary World
Of Robert Arpin
Photographs Courtesy Of Robert Arpin

A Selection Of Individual Pieces

That Tell Stories Within Collections
And Installations


Jannie Susan