Portrait of the Artist as a Young Birder: View the Photos as You Listen

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Today, a celebration of spring. We’re being treated to a screenshot by screenshot portrait of the artist as a young birder. Jenny Kroik is a freelance painter,  illustrator, conservationist, and, most recently, a fundraiser for humanitarian aid to Ukraine whose work appears in The New Yorker. She was the recent guest of the CT Audubon Society, which allowed us to record Jenny’s episode of its Young, Gifted and Wild About Birds Zoom webinar, in which Jenny traces her development as a birder through her art. She opens up her ever-handy sketchbook for us and tells anecdotes from her birding life, near and far, observing the several the ways art making is not that much different from birdwatching. She answers questions about her painting techniques as she treats us to a demo. It’s a fun hour with a lively guide who – probably like you – loves art and Nature. Find Jenny @jkroik and jennykroik.com.

Patrick Comins, exec dir of the CT Audubon Society, starting the webinar over Zoom.
Jenny Kroik, artist and birder
Jenny’s first New Yorker cover, based on a shopper at NYC’s Strand Bookstore
Two subsequent covers
People watching and bird watching have a lot in common
Birding during the pandemic
A friend turned Jenny onto birding
Jenny’s first birding trip, Cape May, NJ
Jenny’s caption says it all
Can anybody guess what bird this is? (Answer at end)
Jenny tries to capture animals’ attitudes
Fluffed up in a rainy Fort Tryon Park in NYC. Can you guess what this is? (Answer at end)
Capturing movement, “trying to get good at terns”
Having fallen in love with birds at NYC’s Museum of Natural History, got the urge to travel

A Red-Winged Blackbird, singing

So many sparrows! Jenny imagines a new one.
The famous Barred Owl who lived in Central Park
In real life
Sketching on site to memorize shapes and habitats
Jenny uses a brush pen and a few colors when working outdoors; she keeps a few Sharpies on her at all times
Noticing details around her subject, whether sketching birds or people
From a trip to Boston. She drew in the hotel afterward.
From a Cape May trip. Can you find the mistake? (Answer at end.)
Jenny’s mom
Jenny’s dad
Jenny’s pal, Jen, who introduced Jenny to NYC’s Wild Bird Fund
Rita is the director. @wildbirdfund
Jenny’s work in the gallery there; a bird pooped on one of the works, which Jenny took as a sign of its approval
Jenny’s workspace
Some of Jenny’s “Future Birds” for The New Yorker
Can anyone guess this bird from a few lines?
Yes, a Short-Eared Owl
Jenny’s take on the Bernie meme
A glimpse at Jenny’s phone
An owl Jenny visits in NY’s Inwood Park. She makes up whimsical poems to soothe herself when she walks in scary parks.
A view of Jenny’s desk as she starts a demo

A sketch of a Snowy Egret in NJ. Jenny starts with a penline to keep from getting too obsessed with details

Jenny chooses a Mistle Thrush to draw
She doesn’t sell paintings she makes from other people’s photos, such as those on eBird, only those from ones she made herself.
Often, she’ll neglect to leave enough room for the tail, so she simply attaches a piece of paper.
She often uses gouache, an opaque watercolor that she can layer additional coats onto.

Waiting for the paint to dry, she starts another one.

She paints on hot press watercolor paper, which is smoother than cold press. This is the start of a widgeon.

Birding and making art both require patience.
She adds “all the supernice details” after the paint’s dried. Also, the background.

Thank you!

[Answers to questions, top to bottom: Longtail Duck, Baltimore Oriole, Coot, Short-Eared Owl]

Outermost Artists Living and Working on Cape Cod

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OMG. Painting and Cape Cod. I hope I never have to choose between them, both are such soul food for me. Today I’m honored that my guests are two Cape Cod painters whose work I’ve been following for some years,  Peter Hocking and Helen Grimm. Each lives in Truro and is represented by the Four Eleven Gallery on Commercial Street in Provincetown, a gallery which, as you’ll hear, has deep roots in the town’s storied history of supporting art and artists. Both Peter and Helen paint landscapes – in Helen’s case, also seascapes and what she calls shellscapes; when you visit the openstudioradio.org blog, you’ll understand. In our conversation, we got deep into the dunes, as it were, about what it’s like to live on the Cape in all seasons, about why they don’t paint people,  and about just what it is that inspires them about the Cape. Talk about soul food. You’re going to totally love these two.






Visions of Christ in Art

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Today, the face of Jesus. Author and previous radio show guest Bob Hudson has written a new book –  one which won a rave review in the New Yorker, by the way. The book, Seeing Jesus: Visionary Encounters from the First Century to the Present, considers one of the most depicted subjects in art: the face of Jesus. Here on Open Studio, we’re most interested in those visions that resulted in works of art. With another of my favorite radio guests, medievalist art historian Fran Altvater, we take up the face of Jesus in art.

Read the The New Yorker review.

Seeing Jesus author Bob Hudson and University of Hartford art historian Fran Altvater consider the imagined and envisioned Christ.


Clockwise from upper left: Aaron Douglas’s The Crucifixion; Andrea Mantegna’s The Dead Christ; Hildegard of Bingen’s vision of the Trinity; St. John of the Cross’s sketch of the Crucifixion; William Blake’s Christ Nailed to the Cross: The Third Hour; Maria Rubio with the Jesus tortilla

Life After Art School: An Update

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Listen to last year’s episode

One year later, how are those art school grads I interviewed doing? Well, bottom line: art isn’t easy. Since graduation, each of our five artists have surfed some steep ups and downs – the ups including one new baby, one nearly completed teaching certification, one sidestreet into musicmaking, a string of creative jobs, some exhibited or about to be exhibited work, and one domestic situation that has the artist so content, she wishes she had some strife to paint about. As for the downs , those include bouts of the blues bordering on depression, creative dry spells, dictatorial corporate bosses, lack of studio space, financial hardship, a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with social media, but  what’re ya gonna do, it’s here to stay, and finally, precious little time for serious art making. Speaking of time, the five artists’ day jobs had them so busy, I couldn’t corral all of them into one conversation. I had to do them in three batches! We’ll hear first from that future teacher, Caroline Hehir, the happiest of the lot. Then from Lori Fogg together with Ethan Newman, who turned out to have a lot of complaints in common. And finally, Trae Brooks with Julian Allen, who offered some perspective and encouraging words. You can find photos of the five artists and their recent work at the openstudioradio,org blog, along with a link to last year’s interview. If you’re like me, you’ll appreciate how determined they young artists are to stay true to themselves. Below is a sampling of work the artists provided:







Again, we ask: Is There Life After Art School?

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Today: An encore episode of Open Studio. Last January, I interviewed five artists about whether there is life after art school. I’m rerunning that show now so that, when I check in with them again for the Feb. 13th episode, you’ll have a sense of what’s changed. In our first Zoom chat, artist Lori Fogg, who’d suggested the episode,  wondered – given that she was in so much student debt – whether the American Dream forever will be inaccessible to her. The full freight of tuition, room, board, and other fees at Hartford Art School hovers around $60,000. When Lori contemplated her future, she started to rethink what she thought she wants. She asked herself, is the American Dream even really her dream or just an idea she’s been sold? Among all five artists’ other questions were: should they continue to paint out of their personal histories, or choose more marketable subjects? Is Instagram all it’s cracked up to be or32222 are the old-timey methods of finding community better? What does it mean to be an artist apart from competing for blue-chip gallery representation and eventual fame? What do they do when they’re creatively stuck? These are just some of the topics our alums will plumb in this freeform conversation. Not all of the featured alums knew one another when we recorded the episode, and yet, as you’ll hear, in the brief space of our hour together, they formed a lovely bond. I’m sure you’ll agree: the kids will be all right.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those of you who contributed to WESU’s successful fall/winter pledge drive. It was a nail biter but we got there. If you helped, I place my palms together and bow in gratitude. You understand how this crazy set-up works: that it’s you who put the community in community radio. Thank you for getting that. With its mission to air music and views that are rarely heard anywhere else, WESU is a healthy antidote to commercial media and needed now more than ever. Again, thank you.

 Finally, I’d like to raise a belated toast to your health and happiness in this long-anticipated fresh New Year. Please, let’s continue to take care of ourselves and one another by wearing masks, washing our hands frequently, and social distancing. Here’s to life – and vaccinations!

As life continues to unfold in its crazy way, I intend to paint, go for long walks, vent with friends, and remind myself that better days are coming. Keep breathing, folks. Together, we’ll get through this.

Back after this message with our encore broadcast of a visit with artists Julian Allen, Trae Brooks, Lori Fogg, Caroline Hehir, and Ethan Newman.









NEXT SHOW, FEB. 13 We check back in with our five artists!

Creative freedom and wisdom accompany…

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Today, in our first episode of 2022, a reminder that it’s never too late to start something new, including art-making! My two guests, Nancy Jensen, 76, and Rosemary Molloy, 83, tell how, though their interest in art was thwarted in their youth, that interest has lately been bearing fruit in their senior years as they draw, paint, make collages, and generally express themselves creatively however they darn well please! I know you’ll find them as inspiring as I did. And speaking of inspirations, I’d like to thank those of you who donated to WESU’s recent pledge drive. We made our goal with dollars to spare! Clearly you get it – that it’s listeners like you who put the community in community radio! If you didn’t get around to giving and want to show the station some love for creating a space for this kind of unusual programming, you still can. Just go to wesufm.org/pledge. Thanks! Now let’s hear my Zoom chat with Nan and Ro, whose artwork can be seen below.

Rosemary Molloy’s art

Nancy Jensen’s art

Films too good to watch only once

Because film is a visual art, Open Studio celebrates watching – or actually, rewatching — movies – or even just favorite parts of movies – on DVD or by streaming. My go-to film expert Richard Alleva, a semi-retired movie reviewer for Commonweal magazine, has a list of 30 films he likes to revisit periodically. And now, you might think, as a film critic of a certain age, he’d be all pure and principled about the superiority of viewing movies on big screens, with audiences, at a theater. And he says he does look forward to resuming moviegoing if and when Covid eases up. But in the meantime, he’s come to embrace Amazon and Netflix for making available an endless cavalcade of films, whether or not they were box office hits. Richard shares with us today four favorite classics from that list of 30: A silent film, The General, made by and starring Buster Keaton; Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny & Alexander; Jean Renoir’s A Day in the Country; and Francois Truffault’s Shoot the Piano Player. I’d never seen any of these before, but having seen them, I know I’m going to follow Richard’s lead and watch them, in whole or in part, again.

Richard Alleva: 30 Movies in my DVD Collection and Why I keep Watching Them Over and Over

Alice in Wonderland: Not the Disney version but the Jonathan Miller adaptation for the BBC. Mainly for adults but older kids may enjoy it. Its summer-breathing visuals and Ravi Shanker sitar score are narcotic, so you dream along with Alice.

Andrei Rublev: Did director Andrei Tarkovsky travel back to 15th century Russia with a movie camera? If not, how did this film come to be? It’s theme: how the soul survives in the midst of barbarity.

Au Hazard Balthazar: Robert Bresson’s masterpiece shows the perversity and self-destructiveness of human love through the eyes of an abused donkey. This should have been a ludicrous failure yet somehow becomes a spiritual experience.

Beauty and the Beast: Once again, not the Disney version but the Jean Cocteau retelling from which Disney cribbed. Solemn magic.

Beetlejuice: Tim Burton captures the essence of Halloween: scariness without viciousness, joyous grotesquerie. Thanks to this film, Wynona Ryder can be a child forever, Alec Baldwin will always be wearing that Land’s End flannel shirt, and Michael Keaton will continue to turn himself inside out.

The Black Stallion: The first hour’s island scenes are the greatest piece of silent-movie cinema done in the sound era (Chaplin’s City Lights excepted). The second hour, almost equally good, is a child’s daydream rendered believable.

Capturing the Friedmans: The greatest family tragedy captured on film and (alas) it’s not fiction. This documentary’s story keeps exfoliating with each scene and when it’s over it keeps expanding in your mind.

Chimes at Midnight: Orson Welles’s greatest movie since Citizen Kane. Adapting Shakespeare’s Henry IV plays, Welles mourns the death of Merrie Olde England.

Citizen Kane: Among a thousand other reasons to see it, it’s the greatest bio-pic ever made. But it also explains why there can never be a true bio-pic. No trespassing.

The Conformist: Bernardo Bertolucci’s take on Italian Fascism is so deliciously decadent that, had he seen it, it might have convinced Mussolini to give up power, put on a tutu and take ballet lessons with Dominique Sanda.

A Day in the Country: The greatest movie under one hour. Jean Renoir’s adaptation of Guy De Maupassant.

The Dead: John Huston’s adaptation captures everything memorable in the James Joyce story and adds some stuff that should have been in it.

The Dekalog: A unique achievement by the great Polish filmmaker, Krzysztof Kieslowski. Ten short films, one for each of the ten commandments. If you’re not going to read Dante’s Divine Comedy any time soon, see this instead.

The Earrings of Madam De_: Max Ophuls’ take on romantic love. As Pauline Kael wrote, “Perhaps the darting, swirling, tracking camerawork…is an expression of the evanescence of all beauty – it must be swooped down on, followed. It will quickly disappear.”

8 1/2: Fellini’s semi-autobiographical masterpiece. Composed from a thousand shots, it’s so fluid that it seems to be one, ongoing, unedited shot.  The most ordinary things, doused in Fellini magic, flit by your eyes as you try to take it all in.

Excalibur: John Boorman’s take on the Arthurian legends will survive even Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Fanny and Alexander: The triple-decker nineteenth century novel may have had its day but Ingmar Bergman brings it back to life. This is David Copperfield rewritten by August Strindberg. Must be seen in its original 5-hour TV version as preserved by the Criterion Collection.

The General: Behind Confederate lines some Union spies steal a train from its seemingly hapless engineer, but the engineer pursues, relentlessly and comically, on foot, on handcart, and on what’s left of another train. Based on a true story, but this great Buster Keaton silent comedy has nothing to do with the real Civil War, slavery, states’ rights or even history itself. It is a profound ballet about what the human body can do in motion when it’s both aided and thwarted by machinery. Paradoxically, the photography of this apolitical farce gives us a more authentic -looking 19th century America than any serious film does.

Groundhog Day: Haven’t I seen this movie many times before? Yes, and I will see it yet again. And again. And…

High and Low: Akira Kurosawa’s epic police procedural. Cops with the souls of samurai vs. a criminal out of Dostoyevsky. The greatest closing scene in movie history.

The Magic Flute: Ingmar Bergman’s production, not the recent Kenneth Branagh atrocity. Mozart’s fairy tale opera done with Mozartian grace.

The Magnificent Ambersons: An American aristocratic family is reduced to poverty and anonymity as the world of the 19th Century turns into the industrial 20th. This great Orson Welles film shows how the fall was inevitable and heartbreaking, and, in the process reveals why the very idea of aristocracy in democratic America is absurd, yet never dies.

Much Ado About Nothing: The Kenneth Branagh version. Has the greatest movie Shakespearean performance by an actress: Emma Thompson’s Beatrice.

Memories of Underdevelopment: The Cuban Revolution seen through the eyes of a Cuban aristocrat who sees his world collapsing around him. Tomas Alea’s film is too compassionate for Marxists and too critical of capitalism to be free-world propaganda. Therefore, perfect for anybody with a heart.

Nomadland: Having lost her husband to death and her house to sub-prime mortgage, a woman takes to living on the road inside an RV. This Chloe Zhao experiment in blending documentary and fiction is a total success and perhaps creates a whole new genre of moviemaking. Frances McDormand’s performance is for the ages.

Night of the Hunter: Hansel and Gretel set in the Depression-era South, but this time the witch is Robert Mitchum.

Nobody’s Fool: Paul Newman’s penultimate movie and his greatest performance as a man whose instinct for treating people right can’t be thwarted by his own cussedness.

North by Northwest: The greatest piece of mindless entertainment ever made. An espionage thriller in which comedy is inextricably blended with the thrills. Our laughter closely follows our screams and vice-versa.

One-Eyed Jacks: The only film directed by Marlon Brando. A western utterly conventional in its plot but utterly unconventional in its treatment.

Out of the Past: Greatest film noir ever made. Robert Mitchum’s innocent girlfriend tells him that that his onetime femme fatale lover can’t be all bad. Mitchum: “She comes close.”

The Passion of Joan of Arc:  Carl Dreyer’s 1928 film is a silent symphony of faces as Joan confronts her judges.

Persona: The deepest dive into a character’s psychology ever taken by a filmmaker. Ingmar Bergman’s greatest film.

Richard III: Laurence Olivier’s royal psychopath is the greatest Shakespearean film performance by a male actor.

Shadow of a Doubt: Alfred Hitchcock thought this his best work and maybe he was right. Written by Thornton Wilder, it’s like the evil sibling of Our Town.

Shoot the Piano Player: Trying to detach himself from the human race after a terrible personal tragedy, a pianist finds himself sucked back into life by his capacity for love and compassion. Director Francois Truffaut mixes gangster movie stuff with slapstick and lyricism. “Whatever Truffaut touches seems to leap to life – even a gangster thriller is transformed into the human comedy.” – Pauline Kael

Il Sorpasso (aka The Easy Life): Maybe the greatest “road movie” ever taken. Vittorio Gassman’s performance gives us the ultimate Latin macho male in all his ludicrous and unforgiveable glory.

Topsy Turvy: The greatest life-in-the-theater movie (yes, better than All About Eve). Director-writer Mike Leigh shows us how Gilbert & Sullivan’s Mikado was created and, a bonus, gives us great chunks of the operetta as well.

Vampyr: It doesn’t matter what time of day or night you see this horror movie; while you watch it, it’s always and unnervingly three o’clock in the morning and you’re having a nightmare. Directed by Carl Dreyer, who preys upon our subconscious.

Clockwise from upper left, four of Richard’s favorites: A Day in the Country, Fanny & Alexander, The General, Shoot the Piano Player.

Clockwise from top left, four of my favorites except for The Godfather Part 2: All the President’s Men, My Dinner with Andre, The Godfather Part 2, The Sting, The Natural

Have you donated to WESU-FM’s Fall/Winter pledge drive yet? Please support community radio by going to wesufm.org/pledge and giving what you can. There are way-cool thank-you gifts!

Happy New Year! Our first show of 2022, on Jan. 9, will focus on late-blooming artists!

Young, gifted and black — 3 art school students on how it’s going

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Clockwise from top: Thomas Harlee, Rochelle Robinson, and Gavin Saunders are Hartford Art School students who exemplify the Nina Simone song “Young, Gifted, and Black” and whose work sometimes touches on racial themes. We talked via Zoom about their experience so far and their hopes for the future.
Thomas, a sophomore, and a selection of his work:
Gavin, a sophomore, and a selection of his work:
Rochelle, a first-year student, and a selection of her work:
All three credit the help of Hartford Art School Prof Jeremiah Patterson, who comments at the end of the episode He is a fan of theirs: “They all love to draw,” says Jeremiah, “and if you love to draw, “you’re an immediate buddy.”

Lot’s ‘particular toes,’ etc — a close look at the Artemesia Gentileschi show at the Wadsworth Atheneum

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Today, I tour the Artemesia Gentilleschi exhibit at the Wadsworth Atheneaum in Hartford with my go-to art historian colleague and friend Fran Altvater. Amnesia Genti-who? you ask, and that’s kind of the point. Artemesia was one of a number of women artists, who, though they were successful and even celebrated, and painting royalty in the courts of their time, which in Artemesia’s case was the Baroque period, they are far from household names today. The Wadsworth exhibit, titled “By Her Hand: Artemesia Gentlieschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500-1800,” intends to rectify that. The exhibit will be up through January 9 and then it goes to the Detroit Institute of Arts, its collaborating museum, where it will hang from Feb. 6 to May 29.

‘By Her Hand: Artemesia Gentileschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500-1800’ is up at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford through January 9.
Follow along as art historian Fran Altvater, associate dean of the University of Hartford’s Hillyer College, shares her insights about the exhibit, including in a post-mortem at Pepe’s pizza in West Hartford
  1. Artemesia’s self portraits: two as Saint Catherine of Alexandria and Self-Portrait as a Lute Player

2. Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy by Artemesia Gentileschi

3. Lot and His Daughters by Artemesia Gentileschi

4. Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes by Artemesia Gentileschi

5. Judith with the Head of Holofernes by Fede Galizia

6. Portia Wounding Her Thigh by Elisabetta Sirani

7. Cleopatra by Ginevra Cantofoli

8. The Christ Child as depicted in Elisabetta Sirani’s Madonna & Child; Sofonisba Anguissola’s Holy Family with Sts. Anne and John the Baptist; Lavinia Fontana’s Holy Family with Saint Catherine of Alexandria

9. David and Bathsheba by Artemesia Gentileschi

10. Hedgehog in a Landscape by Giovanna Garzoni

‘Just me and the wreck’ — a deep dive into the art of breath-hold diver Kenny Martin

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Today, we talk with Kenny Martin, a teacher and artist who lives on the edge. Not only do his high school students wield blowtorches to do metalwork, but Kenny’s hobby is undersea diving – while holding his breath. An exhibit of his drawings based on his breath holding free dives is up now at Real Art Ways in Hartford. Oh, and Kenny’s also been a boxer, and most recently founded a Fight Club for teens; he’s convincing in making it sound therapeutic. Back when Kenny taught elementary school, he had his students bury tuna carcasses, a lesson in composting. So do I need to tell you Kenny’s an interesting guy? He says he also gives a great haircut.  This is the interview that convinced me I need to have more people from Brooklyn in my life. And btw, where else are you going to find conversations like this but on WESU? Please, during this fall/winter pledge drive, do your part to support community radio by going to wesufm.org/pledge and giving what you can. Or I’ll have Kenny punch you in the nose.

Upper left, Ken with the first of his breath-hold-dive drawings, done from memory for artist Peter Waite’s “Monster Drawing” class in Wesleyan’s Graduate Liberal Study Program several years ago.

Below, two views of the art cart Ken, then a K-5 teacher, created when he lost his classroom. It was paid for in part with crowd-funding.