A morning with the Medici

Listen to the episode

Today, Mari and Maria’s Big Adventure. Two art buddies go to NYC for a press preview of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s latest blockbuster exhibition, “The Medici: Portraits and Politics, 1512-1570.” It opened to the general public yesterday and will run till Oct. 11. I urge you to take it in if you can, as it really has something for everybody. History buffs will enjoy the high drama – the powerful Medici banking dynasty turned Florence from a Republic to effectively a monarchy, complete with Popes, and used art to cement its power. Art aficionados will be awestruck by the portraits – in paint, in bronze, in marble, on medals, lent from repositories all over the world – works by such heavy hitters as Raphael, Pontormo, Cellini, Bronzino and more.

Not only was it well worth the trip but you know what else?, it just felt good to be in a museum again! I was lucky that my friend Mari Firkatian was available to join me, as she is not only an artist, but teaches history , including the Renaissance, at the University of Hartford’s Hillyer College. Also, she and I have traveled to Italy – specifically Tuscany – on an art trip. So suffice it to say, this exhibit spoke our language. Join us as we travel to the Met for a richly rewarding walk through room after room of The Medici in portraits and politics.

Listen to the audio of co-curator Keith Christiansen’s presentation to the press in a very echo-y room!

We took MetroNorth from New Haven to Grand Central Station.
It’s NYC. Had to have a bagel — with a shmear!
Outdoor air conditioning on a humid day
The obligatory banner

Met director Max Hollein greets the press and launches the exhibit…
… along with Keith Christiansen, the John Pope-Hennessy Chairman of the Department of European Paintings, who co-curated the exhibit with guest curator Carlo Falciani, Professor of Art History at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence.
Two busts of Cosimo de Medici by Benvenuto Cellini greet visitors at the entrance to the show
Unfinished portrait of Michelangelo by Daniele da Volterra
Helpful Medici genealogy and timeline
A poet, too, Bronzino hailed the noble onion in verse.
Interviewing co-curator Christiansen before Bronzino’s portrait of the poet Laura Battiferri, below, lent from the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence and cleaned for the exhibition. It’s the work Christiansen was most determined to show.

Shown in profile like the portrait of Dante — both with prominent noses — to her left in the exhibit.

Having bid arrivederci to the Medici, Mari and I took in other Met wonders.
This room of Tell Halaf reliefs from the Ottoman Empire, 10-9 c BC, was especially affecting.
Is one ever too old to appreciate cute boys?
Back at Grand Central, we gathered picnic fixin’s for the train ride home. A great day in the big city!


Be sure to tune in next time, July 11, for a visit with abstract artist Power Boothe!

The Pandemic and Matt Best –It wasn’t all bad

Listen to the episode

ART IN THE TIME OF COVID — For Hartford painter Matt Best, shown above in self-portraits highlighting the tattoos he says were prompted by the pandemic, the crisis has had a marked effect on his art He feels freer to follow his instincts and not paint in a reliable style. He also believes society as a whole will benefit, that “everything’s going to be restructured in a better way.”

The tiers of a wedding cake suggest the kind of hierarchies that don’t work anymore. “The rules have been rewritten.”.

Older “structural” works, a depiction of Matt’s anxiety, above;

Newer, featuring Madonna and Marilyn Monroe, below. In a long-ago dream, Marilyn told Matt, “You don’t need me anymore.”


I waited until I was in my 40s to get my first tattoo.

My tattoos are a physical reminder that I have changed on the inside. Years of therapy and living through a pandemic was liberating. I wanted my first tattoo as literal mark on my skin to remind me that something new has happened. It was meant as a reminder that I am free. I don’t need to hold on to old ideas that don’t work, I’m free of the past. I’m free to recreate myself.

My first tattoo was of a poppy (my favorite flower). In 2019 I went to the Netherlands with my sister and I found a large mound of dirt in the countryside that was covered in hundreds of poppies. I spent time drawing those poppies, filling many pages my sketchbook. I made one drawing in particular that when I looked at it later I thought, “this would be a great tattoo.” But I didn’t do it.

2020, the pandemic. Getting a tattoo fell by the wayside because it wasn’t possible. The idea was still there but like so many other things that year, it went dormant.

Summer 2020, things are opening up a bit. A former student finds me on Instagram and he has become a tattoo artist. This gets me thinking about the tattoo idea again. I still don’t do anything until I mention my tattoo idea to a friend and by coincidence that day my former student posts a photo of a tattoo he did of a flower. I decided screw it and contacted him immediately. I had my first tattoo on my left arm a few weeks later. He executed my drawing beautifully.

As many people warned me, tattoos are addictive. A month later I got two more poppies on the same arm.

In 2021 I added more poppies to my forearm. My idea is to recreate that small mountain of poppies on my arm. My poppy arm reminds me of times before the pandemic when I was lucky enough to travel and see beautiful poppies blowing in the wind. My arm looks like my sketchbook now.

A friend told me my right arm is boring so I added a larger tattoo of three lady slippers to my right arm this year. Every spring my partner Paul and I go on a lady slipper “hunt.” This tattoo is a representation of the two of us (the third flower being our cat). For me this tattoo represents spring, it’s a celebration of my second vaccine dose (I got the tattoo on the two weeks past my second vaccination date), and a reminder that things grow and change.