September 11, 2009


She is going to be the model for my next Runway painting. I don't know her name. But I do know she is quite lovely and wearing a stunning dress by Alexander Wang. Her photo was taken by Mat Szwajkos/Getty Images.

My original plan was to pair her with the little girl running naked after being burned in a napalm attack on her village in the Vietnam War.

This iconic picture was taken in 1972 by Nick Ut, a young Vietnamese photographer working for the Associated Press. It won the Pulitzer Prize.

It is so painful to look at these children, all from the same family, that I don't know if I can bear to paint them.

While the U.S. soldiers in Ut's photo appear indifferent to the children's plight, moments later Americans came to her aid. The humanitarian act was captured by a British cameraman, Alan Downes, in the photo below. The black censure band reflects the practice of the time.

The girl, Kim Phuc, not only lived but married, raised a family, settled in Canada and was named a good-will ambassador for the United Nations.

Here she is with her infant son Thomas, her back horribly disfigured by the napalm burns. The photo was taken in a 1995 by Anne Bayin.

Instead of Ut's photo I may borrow from the shot below of one of the militias that complicated things in Iraq.

It is probably appropriate to turn to the Iraq image since this is the eighth anniversary of Al Qaeda's 9/11 attack on the United States.

George Bush convinced Congress to allow him to go to war with Iraq because Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11 and because Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Both reasons turned out to be false.

More than 4,300 service personnel and countless thousands of Iraqis have died in that war, and it isn't over. Meanwhile, we're committing thousands more troops to Afghanistan, a war that I think will become an albatross around President Obama's neck - and ours.

September 9, 2009

Family gathering

Family. What a wonderful, terrible, complicated invention. It is with us for life, whether we like it or not. And it assumes greater importance as we age.

Families work when the wiring hasn't gotten impossibly twisted, and sometimes, I guess, even when it has. For this crew the wiring is still intact and they get along famously.

I shot this at the home of Cookie and David Bates during a long Labor Day weekend. Cookie is at the left and David's in the doorway. She and Babbie are sisters. Pete, looking on, is their big brother. (Their sister Carol couldn't make it.)

This was the fifth year in a row we've spent three days with the Bates at their home on Lake Ontario near the Canadian boarder.

While we were there I finished Richard Russo's new novel, That Old Cape Magic, where the protagonist makes peace with his parents posthumously. Better late than never.

We ate at the house. We ate outdoors on a shaded terrace at Sacket Harbor where our waitress looked like Edie Sedgwick, the Andy Warhol star. From Alexandria Bay, we took a boat tour on the Saint Lawrence and saw dozens of the Thousand Islands.

My ears got sunburned and still hurt.

And we talked for hours. Two evenings they played cards. Me, I dealt with Russo while they dealt the cards. The only card game I like is War. Try to get adults to play that with you.

Below, in sequence, are Pete, his wife Zoe, and Babbie. (Cookie isn't here because I didn't get a good shot of her. David ditto but his picture was in my September 7 post.) The last photo is the view of Ontario from the Bates living room. It's a pretty spectacular place to live.

September 7, 2009

Into the sunset

Babbie and David, her brother-in-law, prepare to embark on the first jetski ride of her life.
They navigate the lake's rocky bottom
They're getting closer, now wearing the life preservers they had forgotten and had to go back for.
They ride off into the sunset, David at the helm, Babbie holding on. He's an old jetski hand. She loved the ride.

Me, I was a landlubber and clung close to shore.