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Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Paltz Photographer Captures Art and Regional Flavor


The image of the Hudson Valley landscape has a long tradition in visual art. Thomas Cole, one of the early transplanted artists to the area, captured what historians have called “the essence of nature” in three of his most famous landscapes, completed circa 1825: A View of Fort Putnam, Lake with Dead Trees, & Kaaterskill Upper Fall Catskill Mountain. In the midst of the Romantic thrust that had been imported from Europe before the democratic project overtook art of the United States in a tidal wave of Realism, painters like Cole found refuge in the Hudson Valley. This mountainous region, situated between New York City and Albany, was a reminder of sorts that new beginnings were possible.

Contemporary photo artist Steve Jordan carries on this tradition. His Summer Field, Ridge (above) updates the scenery of the Valley landscape by releasing the representation of Nature (with a capital N) from the confines of the pristine, in order to depict a populated landscape, terrain that has been tilled & worked by humans. In relation to Jordan’s work as a whole, this particular image is exceptional, since most of the rest indeed excludes any human presence from his hyper-realistic landscapes, thus portraying Nature as that untouched secret-keeper who only speaks in the most remote environs that are devoid of any sign of civilization, thereby limiting the artistic expression thereof to some form of revelation. Such is the Romantic formula for the production of art: Nature speaks when no one else is listening. But here, fortunately, Jordan thematically surpasses that long exhausted trend & says something else & something more.

The image before us delivers the crispness of ante meridiem light that illuminates the fog which  in turn baths the Walkill Valley & the distant bluffs with its nebulous corpulence, beckoning our gaze while we inhale the heady aroma of the recently tilled field under our nose, as if some hard labor had been carried out just before the first solar vectors of the morning broke over the horizon. The small red barn, stationed in the right third of the middle ground, links the distant summits in the left-third of the background to the field in the fore, imbuing the landscape with a human presence: The Work of Man.

Since the presence of human labor in Jordan’s photo art is largely outweighed by the hyper-realistic representation of Nature as a refuge from the disenchanted lifestyle offered by the modern city, his art is more popular than populist. However, it would be erroneous to classify Jordan’s work as an updated version of popular Romantic art & just leave it at that. This tech-savvy artist offers his potential buyers the opportunity to select the medium on which his images will be printed. His web site allows viewers to purchase a copy of an image on “non-tradition media such as watercolor paper or canvass”. Several months ago, I stopped by his gallery & took in those images printed on canvass, catching a whiff of the mossy trunks high up in the mountains, feeling the moisture of those streams, the jaggedness of the cliffs that jut from the Shawangunks in the most breathtaking examples of tectonic faulting.

As I stood there lost in Jordan’s canvass, deeply moved by a mysterious & intimate feeling of communion with Nature, I suddenly heard a foreign exclamation slice through the silence: “What an amazing painting!” Only after a matter of five minutes or so did I realize that I was the only one in the gallery & that those words had come out of my own mouth. What had provoked me to say that!? I felt deceived, & thus I felt that I understood Steve Jordan’s art on a deeper level. This hyper-realistic image had convinced me that what I saw hanging on the wall was not a photograph, but a more-than-real painting of the landscape, if not the landscape itself. I felt ‘the essence of nature’ with all its terrestrial aroma, its avian prattle & light inflating the fog envelope my being like the smoke of a pagan ritual.

But, what was hanging in a frame before me was not a painting of the landscape, much less the landscape itself; it was a photograph that surreptitiously acquired a painterly quality due to the medium on which it had been printed. Steve Jordan comes off as a sharp businessman, & this leads me to believe that he prints photographs on canvass because it is lucrative. Therefore, I can’t help but wonder why someone would prefer to view a photograph printed on canvass...   What pleasure is to be had by deceiving oneself into believing that a photograph is a painting? In this age when hyper-realistic visual imager bombards us from all directions, have we come to believe that a photograph is more representative of reality than painting? Why would we prefer to look at a photograph the way we look at a painting? I sit here gnawing on these questions, as I recall that visit to his gallery several months back. From time to time, I look out the window at the Shawangunks in order to verify that those mountains are still where I last left them & that on Jordan’s canvass what looks back at me is not a painting, but a photograph.

Joseph Mulligan
New Paltz, New York

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

World's Best Pencil - The Blackwing Arrives at Barner

For many years artists and people needing a high quality pencil sought out the Blackwing Pencil.
For purchasing information click here
Manufactured by Eberhard Faber the pencil was known for it's unique characteristics.   A very soft touch on the paper which resulted in nearly no effort expended to use it, and related, a very quick approach to writing and drawing.

Eberhard Faber stopped manufacturing the pencils some years ago.   Some enterprising people have been selling them in the after-market for as much as $35.00 (or more) a pencil.  People who find them are happy to pay it.

Purchase the World Class Blackwing 602 here!We're glad to be one of the first shops to carry the newly reintroduced Blackwing.   A California company purchased the name, always provided the wood, and found the unique leads that made the Blackwing what it became known for.

Take one for a spin---you wouldn't believe what a difference a pencil can make!


Monday, June 20, 2011

Was Killing Bin Laden Worth It?


Does anyone else keep getting the eerie feeling that generations to come may look back on the times we're living in now and feel aghast? Crippled by insomnia, I stay up all night thinking that I hear someone laughing in the next room. Osama Bin Laden is dead. Shot in the eye by a U.S. Navy Seal. When president Obama declared this on live television, a seismic shock rippled across the borders of the world. In the United States the assassination was celebrated with exuberant joy. As the dust has settled over the past month and a half, there is now a need to ask if this act was really cause for celebration. I think it was not. Let me explain why, and we'll see if you agree.

A day after the news broke, Robert Fisk wrote an article in The Independent ("Was he Betrayed?...", 3 May 2011) where he pointed out that, at the time of his death, Bin Laden's political influence was, for all intensive purposes, null and void: “the mass revolutions in the Arab world over the past four months mean that al-Qa'ida was already politically dead." Osama Bin Laden, the most wanted man in the United States, was “a middle-aged nonentity, a political failure outstripped by history – by the millions of Arabs demanding freedom and democracy in the Middle East."

On the day this Osama Doe was finally put to death (a day we all were expecting to come eventually), "the world went mad," says Fisk: "The Americans were drunk with joy. David Cameron thought it ‘a massive step forward’. India described it as a ‘victorious milestone’. ‘A resounding triumph,’ Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu boasted. But after 3,000 Americans dead on 9/11, countless more in the Middle East, up to half a million Muslims dead in Iraq and Afghanistan and 10 years trying to find Bin Laden, pray let us have no more ‘resounding triumphs.’" Even though they are difficult to formulate and their responses, disconcerting, it is crucial I think to raise questions at times like these: Could the reaction to Bin Laden's death possess a richer meaning than the decision to do the deed? Why was America so drunk with joy to hear that Bin Laden had been killed? Are we sure that we haven't just guillotined a cadaver? What was the price of killing this enemy?

My suspicion is that the United States was in dire need of something to rally around as a nation, in order to at least momentarily remember what it feels like to reconcile differences and feel united again. Obama was likely keen to this, and his timing, convenient, as he gears up for the 2012 elections. But, there is something more to this atmosphere of celebration, something that Dan Carlin recently brought to our attention in an episode of Common Sense titled “Pyrrhic Schadenfreude” (2 May 2011). As CNN was transmitting images of a crowd chanting in front of the White House, Carlin was thinking to himself, "While it was understandable that people would be jubilant, I wasn't not sure that these people in the crowd who were so jubilant understood exactly what this guy had done to us. I'm not sure it's a triumph sort of period. It's sort of like a pyrrhic victory."

Perhaps Bin Laden had become a non-entity in the context of geopolitics, but in the context of U.S foreign and domestic policy, his legacy lives on, not in the sense that his cronies are embedded in the U.S. strategizing their next terrorist plot, but in the sense that his actions have affected and continue to affect the way we look at ourselves, at each other, at the world (not to mention all that we are willing to sacrifice in the name of combating the threat that his legacy poses). Carlin offers a precise metaphor for the U.S. reaction to the death of Bin Laden: "He came and stabbed us in the back and gave us a potentially mortal wound, where we could bleed to death very easily. We turned around and killed him and then we laughed in his face. I'm not so sure he would be upset with the results. I think this guy got exactly what he wanted, every step of the way... And we're living with the ramifications and I don't think they're positive, and people are chanting USA! USA!... It's almost like they don't know how bad the wound is that's bleeding from our back" (ibid.).

And Fisk, who had personally interviewed Bin Laden several times, corroborates Carlin's suspicion: "In the years after 2001," Fisk sent Bin Laden "a list of 12 questions, the first of which was obvious: what kind of victory could he claim when his actions resulted in the US occupation of two Muslim countries? There was no reply for weeks. Then one weekend, waiting to give a lecture in Saint Louis in the US, I was told that Al Jazeera had produced a new audiotape from Bin Laden. And one by one – without mentioning me – he answered my 12 questions. And yes, he wanted the Americans to come to the Muslim world – so he could destroy them” (Fisk, ibid.).

It is a strange queston to ask, but it needs to be asked: If the U.S. government has played right into Bin Laden's hand, then what is there to celebrate? Does anyone think Bin Laden did not wish to be a martyr? The U.S. is overextended economically, fighting long and discombobulated wars, and the Judicial branch has had to "reinterpret" the constitution (this interpretation, of course, being classified) in order to sustain the legality of Executive branch's so-called 'security measures'. Perhaps it is hyperbole to say that the US has been destroyed (as Bin Laden had wanted), but the integrity of our constitutional rights seems less and less important to government officials and citizens alike.

What's more, certain processes of destruction do not happen in the blink of an eye (like the 9/11 attacks), but are long, drawn out and sometimes hard to notice. The destruction of a building brought down by a wrecking ball is fast, loud, tremendous, dramatic. The destruction of a building that has fallen into decay (because it lacks maintenance or prohibits maintenance) is much less likely to appear as a threat at all, since from the outside the building continues to project the appearance of stability and security, even while it's rotting at its core, in its foundation.

The videos that Bin Laden produced over the years are likely to haunt us through the decades to come. In those videos, as Carlin recalls, "one thing he said was that the attacks would have an effect all out of proportion to the damage done, because they were directed at a country that hadn't seen war on its soil in 100 years. He had talked about how, if you blow up a building in a country that's used to having bombs explode, it's not that big of a deal; if you do it in a tranquil, peaceful place that hasn't known war, the place is likely to freak out. The place freaked out" (ibid.). Now, a month and a half after Bin Laden's death and the fiestas patrias that followed it, the nation is, if not still freaking out, then at least zombified to the matter.

To imagine where the U.S. would be as a country, had the 9/11 attacks not taken place, had the U.S. military not sent ground troops to Iraq or Afghanistan, is to envision a world without Bin Laden. It is an tantalizing dream, but it is only a dream, our reality is here, in this crisis that is painful to accept as our own. Bin Laden has impacted U.S. foreign and domestic policy more dramatically than any individual legislator in the United States, and this impact, as the prognosis suggests, is shocking. "We're dealing with amazing amounts of security, when judged by pre-9/11 standards: who's responsible for that? That's that knife-wound in the back, folks, continuing to bleed long after we've cut Osama's head off. You want to pick it up and laugh at it? It might laugh back" (Carlin, ibid.).

Does anyone else find it hard to understand why we would celebrate the death of the single most wanted terrorist? Is it not within us to celebrate an achievement in international politics that guarantees everyone the possibility of a better coexistence without the threat of terrorism? The jubilance in response Bin Laden's death is a clear indicator that what is being celebrated here is something ephemeral, dislocated from the origins of the problem. Did the capture of Abimael Guzman put an end to terrorism? Will the death of Bin Laden guarantee a terror-free world? It's not very likely, as long as we continue to skirt the central problem: How can we coexist in a peaceful and civilized way, recognizing that we are part of both the problem and the solution? I hope that one day we can celebrate great peace accords between many people, instead of the death of one individual. Between now and then, let peaceful reflection be our guide.

By Joseph Mulligan

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lake Minnewaska Brochures during Deco Age - Masterpieces

Lake Minnewaska, which is now a beautiful state park near us in New Paltz was home to two large resort Hotels.   Cliff House and Windmere.

These Hotels were owned by the Smiley Family which continues to own the nearby Mohonk Mountain House.  The Smiley's had developed a strong reputation for quality service and the hotels were probably at their peak during this period.

Their promotional brochures reflect the era, and give one the sense of what the Hotels were like, and certainly created the impression that this vacation was a very stylish thing to enjoy!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hudson Valley in the Civil War - Flags, History, Letters Home

We've been carrying the Hudson River Valley Review, a region study publication of Marist College.   Each issue is devoted to a different theme regarding the Hudson Valley.   This one, the Civil War.

Journal. New. Journal theme is the HRV in the Civil War. Illustrated with color images and maps. 

Articles include

  • The Civil War and the Transformation of the Hudson River Valley (Mark James Morreale) 
  • With Victory Perched upon their Eagles; Civil War Flags from the Sew York State Battle Flag Collection (Christopher Morton) 
  • All is Excitement and Anxiety Here; A New York Family's Experience of the Civil War (Diane Shewchuk) 
  • The West Point Education of the "Christian General"-Oliver Otis Howard 1850-1861 (Jonathan Howard Lawler) 
  • Rally 'round the flag ; - Frederic Edwin Church and the Civil War (Kevin Avery)
  • Letters Home - Carrie Niles' Correspondence with New York's Volunteers (Gail Goldsmith) 
  • A Labor of Love and Patriotism: - The Artistic and Historic Legacy of Albany; 's general Philip H. Sheridan Memorial (Valerie A. Balnit)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Summer Mystery Collection P.D. James 1st Edition

A Great collection of P. D. James Adam Dagliesh Mysteries.   Set includes 5 hardcover books in dust jackets.   Each book is in excellent condition as are the dust jackets.

A set of books.   Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Peace Corp Volunteer who Started A Library for African Children Remembered

Sharon Brown served as a peace corp volunteer and started the first library in an Ugandan village.   Tragically she died about 2 years ago.  Her family has memorialized her through the endowment of a literary prize at Miller Place High School on Long Island, where she was a student, and where the family lives.  After the Peace Corp Sharon remained in Africa and served as the librarian at the International School of Kenya.

I had the pleasure of meeting her brother today at the shop when he was purchasing copies of The Great Gatsby.   

It was Sharon's favorite book, and she would read it every summer.  He recalled a typical summer scene finding him singing from the roof of the family house,  Alice Cooper's -- "Schools Out Forever,"  while Sharon would be sitting quietly with one of many books that she planned on reading that summer.

In addition to the scholarship that the family endows, they also provide a copy of The Great Gatsby.

Sharon was a customer of Barner Books.   She stopped at the shop frequently and would bring home bags of books at the end of the school year.  She planned on reading them over the summer.  

We are honored that Sharon's brother saw our shop as being a place of importance in her life.  He made the trip today in her memory to purchase copies of The Great Gatsby.  I am sure that there are plenty of copies of "The Great Gatsby" on Long Island (after all the story is set there), but he wanted those copies to come from here.

Sharon and her young child died in a tragic accident in her beloved Africa.  Her legacy of love, care, and service, will be beautifully memorialized through the family's gift.

Her brother stopped here, and shared this story.   We are deeply touched to have been a part of Sharon's wonderful literary and beautiful life.  The Great Gatsby will be forever changed in my mind now that I know about Sharon and her family.

1765 8 Volume Set Shakespeare's Plays Sam Johnson Notes

The Plays of William Shakespeare, in Eight Volumes
with the Corrections and Illustrations of Various Commentators
 to which are added Notes by Sam. Johnson

Publication Date:  1765

Printed for:  J. And R. Tonson, C. Corbet, H. Woodfall, J. Rivington, R. Baldwin et al

Condition:  8 Volume Set

Very Good condition in calfskin bindings.   The bindings have been secured and attended to, resulting in this set being shelf/display ready and in outstanding collectible condition.

The books are clean, unmarked and with minimal tanning.  Quite remarkable for their age.   The binding on Volume I is somewhat darker than the binding on the others.

Rare Find and collectible.  The first printing of this series, of which this we believe is one, was limited to 1000 copies.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Hudson River School Redux as I-90 Art Form 21st Century

The Art of Questioning Perception

I cannot begin to recall how many times I’ve crossed New York State on I-90. From Batavia, where I grew up, to Albany where I studied, or passing Erie & to the Iron City of Pittsburgh, my last home before moving to the Hudson Valley. But, it is wrong to say that I “crossed” the state on this road, since this is one of those highways that unfolds before a traveler, magnetically pulling bodies forth like an undertow & opening up into ever wider expanses. Where I-90 passes Albany, the earth rests quietly in a patch of flatlands that span the triangular gap between the rising Catskills to the south, the Berkshires to the east & the Adirondacks to the north. Space there, in this sense, opens in a westward direction.

For the past five years, Luke Williamson has painted the I-90 landscape in a series that delivers the unraveling feeling a traveler of those parts will know in his bones as he pushes west past Schenectady, Utica, Syracuse, & into the Genesee Valley, my own stomping ground & gateway to the Great Lakes. This upstate / central / western region is an elongated glacial depression defined by a southeastern jet-stream that acts as a constant reminder of the ancient ice’s slow & atrocious trajectory. Straying from the traditional flock of Hudson Valley painters, Williamson has refrained from plucking that pristine chord to play the natural-ized Music of the Spheres; although, his technical dexterity in other landscapes, namely those on his website, does show his decision to work through rather than around the tradition.

What sets Williamson’s painting apart is the way it highlights the very modality in which it represents a landscape. It surpasses the notion of the landscape as secret-keeper, an object-in-itself, in order to explore the relationship between the landscape & the perception that opens up toward it. It is at once self-reflective & critical of visual art in the new millennium. I must add, the fact that this article on Williamson’s painting is being distributed via RSS & contains digital reproductions of his oil on canvass reinforces the relevance of his argument & makes these words the perfect target for his critique.

The closer we look at the clouds in Williamson’s painting, the more we notice that they are pixelated & from those nebulous bodies disintegrate into nearly abstract shapes. At their apogee, they are nothing more than chromatic quadrilaterals. Such is the sky in the eyes of this artist: bricks of color. This pixelated atmosphere denies the viewer the luxury of forgetting that what lies before us is a representation of the landscape & not the landscape itself. It is as much about the landscape as it is about the painter’s perception of it. Williamson’s painting says to me, “Do you remember this field?” I say “Yes, I remember.” Again, it asks, “Do you see what I’m talking about”. Again, I reply, “Yes, I see”. Then, in a dry voice, it poses one final question: “What did you do to see it?”

As we zoom in & focus on the center of the painting, the highway serves an an easy metaphor for life. The old trope of “the road of life” is refreshing at times like these when artists expend so much effort trying to create something new & shocking, instead of striking that human tone that reminds us that the problems of our day – as opposed to their solutions – are distributed equally across demographics. This is why existence here is depicted as lateral movement. Glowing brighter than the tumultuous & present clouds overhead, the horizon points to the future we reach for each time we remember where we have come from. The pixelation of the clouds that emerge between the viewer & the horizon (that future, that ever present & ever absent imminence) gestures at the complexity demanded by looking at the future & at a painted landscape in an age dominated by hyper-realistic imagery.

Williamson’s painting puts in question the tools we use to look at art &, in this sense, his work goes beyond, say, the photography of Steve Jordan, because while the latter seeks to present a more-than-real image of the landscape, the former presents a slightly abstract landscape all the while asking what place photography has in our perception of reality. As a response to that contemporary propensity to liken a realistic visual representation of reality to the realism of photography, Williamson’s 90 West fragments its subject matter into the most basic, chromatic, geometrical shapes. Between the present & the future cubes of light linger. Between the viewer & the work of art stands the medium in defiance. “This is not a landscape,” says Williamson’s painting in a subdued voice, “it is how a landscape is perceived.”

Joseph Mulligan
New Paltz, New York


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Antique Carmen Accordion Squeeze Box Art Deco Era

Beautiful Accordion by CARMEN


This accordion belonged to a gentleman who lives near our shop in New Paltz.  He's in his seventies and got this accordion as a gift about 65 years ago.  It was used when he received it.   We therefore estimate the age to be somewhere around 75 years old.

The accordion has been well cared for and we had a musician test it.

It is in good working condition with the exception of one sticking key. 

He indicated that this is a sweet and sultry sounding accordion, and probably built as a higher end learner's instrument.

It has a bar at the keyboard that is used to change reed tones.

The straps are after-market.

The instrument has:
  • 24 White Keys
  • 17 Black Keys
  • 120 Buttons (20 Rows of 6)

It is 18 1/2" Wide, 18" Long and 7"Deep.

The bellows all seem fine.

The face/grill of the accordion has some tape that seems to be holding down a couple of decorative pieces.

Velvet lined box, leather edges in very good condition, handle still present.

This is a beaut!   Great accordion for the collector, learner, or musician.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bee Hive Pendant Vintage Love and Friendship Necklace

We just ran across some very interesting Pendant Necklaces.

They were put out by the Odd Fellows, a now nearly defunct Fraternal Organization.   The front of the Pendant is a bee hive with several of the organizations symbols on it, the rear has more information including the famous three Three Letters of the Odd Fellows: 
  • L=Love
  • F=Friendship
  • T=Truth
It's a charming pendant.   We've left the original braided cord on it which could easily be replaced by any other necklace, or even converted into a pin.   We've also cleaned the pendant.   I suspect it is made out of aluminum.

It's a beautiful and fun item, with a message.