More than meets the eye: Chutney Kitchen is tasty, healthy

    Clean decor matches cleaned up take on Indian food, mild but tasty

    Two young Indian-Americans bring healthy to Indian quick food

    Fine tea, Naked smoothies add to full soda cabinet

    Chutney Kitchen is open from 10 am till 11pm to serve tasty meals to office workers, shoppers and theater goers as well as Hells Kitchen locals

    One of the funkiest neighborhoods in Manhattan is Hell’s Kitchen, the fantasy stage for Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. Nowadays its main drag, 52nd Street, is home to dozens of little hole in the wall bars and restaurants, some like Totto Ramen with crowds outside in the early evening.

    A notable, more mainstream addition is Chutney Kitchen, on the East side of Eighth Avenue at 51/52nd Street, which opened seven weeks ago to help expand a tiny niche – Indian fast food, upgraded from oily to healthy, clean, nutritious and mildly spiced, to suit less adventurous tastes.

    She left a hedge fund for what she wanted to do – with her childhood NJ friend as partner, serve up a healthy, light version of her family food

    Here two young friends from New Jersey, hedge fund alumnus Silu Sao, and her long time friend from sixth grade, Pankaj Amin, have upgraded economical Indian food to suit the current New York taste for healthy ingredients, but have retained a number of spicy sauces to add the Indian flavor without simmering the beef, chicken or pork in an oily sauce. The result is a fast food option worth ordering take out or sitting down for if you are in the neighborhood, or going to the theater district nearby.

    Amid decor that is all bright light and hard surface plastic those in line can choose from ten kitchen specials or put together their own “base” and “fill”, and add their choice of flavored sauces, chutney and salad dressings from the wall menus.

    Chutney Kitchen offers a healthy low key version of Indian fast food, palatable to the newbie

    Good ingredients with a touch of spicy sauce, such as “date” or “cilantro”, result in fast food worth eating, two continents away from burgers and submarines, or the sandwiches of Pret A Manger or worse, those found at Starbucks, where only the egg salad is bearable. For those with an experienced palate who seek the strong kick of intense Vindaloo, there is a bottle of that to have flourished over your basics too. All these sauces, from mild Coconut cashew to yogurt and spicy mirchi chutneys to lemon cumin and spicy mango salad dressings, are mixed by the slim hands of co-founder Silu.

    The container ingredients look modest but are both tasty and nutritious

    The array of small stainless receptacles in front of the counter from which the ingredients of your chosen mix are spooned may seem too reminiscent of tired buffets in delis, and the plastic squeeze bottles containing the sauces may seem too industrial, but the bowl full of rice, flatbread roti or naan filled with shredded pork or steak or cubed chicken or lentils flavored with turmeric, cumin, ginger, garlic, chilies, onions and streaked with one or two of ten different toppings will score high in taste and nutrition, according to our sampling last night.

    Servers will fill your cardboard bowl in front of you according to your choices

    For those holdouts who may miss that eternal standby of fast food in Manhattan, French fries, there are fries dusted with Masala. However, there is no goat and lamb, too heavy to fit into Silu’s modern approach. Also, you may have to speak up when ordering over the big glass plate partition protecting the serving containers. The clean, hard surface decor creates a din when the place is even half full.

    Although Silu is hoping that customers will move to healthier beverage choices, just like Burger King, you can still get your traditional accompaniment to Indian food, Coke

    There is scarlet Iced Rose Hibiscus Tea and Iced Honey Green tea as well as Naked Mango Smoothie to make up for the fact that the huge refrigerated cabinet is full of sodas, which Silu Sao says are still demanded by “the market” she is trying to tempt into the milder and healthier Indian food she is offering.

    P1320117Open daily 11 am to 10 pm. Prices from $7.95 (Pan seared potatoes) to 9.95 (shredded steak) for main “fills” or kitchen specials, teas and drinks $2.75 to $3.50. Fries $2.50 Naan $2.50. 856 8th Ave, New York, NY 10019 (212) 247-6200 Wheelchair Friendly, Accepts Credit Cards

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ultimate Umm…mami! At Vermilion, Business Decor, Indo-Latin Savory Meld

World Bank Beauty’s Masterful Integration of India, Brazil and Beyond

Citadel of Fusion Achieves Peak of Savory Nourishment

Destination For Spicy Meat Mavens, Though May Need Patience

Ex World Bank Economist Rohini Dey meets the challenge of organizing two restaurants in two different cities - Chicago and New York - to offer something uniquely different

Ex World Bank Economist Rohini Dey meets the challenge of organizing two restaurants in two different cities – Chicago and New York – to offer something uniquely different

You can be sure that unusually interesting taste sensations will arrive on your plate from the kitchen of At Vermilion, whose tall ceilings and open interior space can be seen lighting up the corner of Lexington at 46 Street.

The combination of Indian and Latin American influences is the imaginative idea of a restaurateur from an unlikely background. Rohini Dey is a tall and slender, soft faced Indian beauty who likes to dress in Oscar length gowns when she visits from Chicago to oversee this, her second restaurant. In another life, she was a McKinsey consultant who moved to the World Bank and married an economist. Then, in a sharp break from her comfortable office bound existence, she found her bliss.

Dey left the abstract paperwork and regular paycheck of high level economics far behind to take on one of the most demanding entrepreneurial roles in the US. Nowadays she is running At Vermilion, her high level restaurant in the Big Apple, as well as the original Vermilion she founded earlier in Chicago.

Not surprisingly given the high level jobs Rohini left for her passion, the decor at At Vermilion is well arranged business modern softened with comfortable shapes and lighting and spacious enough for relaxed dining and for parties and functions

With passion as fuel

Running a restaurant is a highly demanding feat well known for its flow chart tangles and insoluble personnel problems, magnified in New York City by incessant bureaucratic demands, zooming rents, and extreme competition, with 23,705 permits for bars, cafes and restaurants in July, a jump from 18,606 back in 2008.

But this is what Rohini without hesitation calls her “passion”, one she has pursued for ten years. She opened her first Vermilion in Chicago, and then launched its New York sister in 2008, just in time for the economic collapse.

Armed with a bunch of plaudits from major media she kept At Vermilion going through the downturn and recently decided to add impetus with a relaunch. On Wednesday the press were invited to come and taste the result.

Having a strong liking for the spicy side of food we made sure to attend, with the results as far as we are concerned quite remarkable.

How to transform the mundane into a peak of fusion: Vermilion’s menu offers a range of choices almost impossible to choose at one sitting, given the novelty of its attractions and the inspired compatibility of its combinations

The second half of the menu reveals one of the few possible flaws in an otherwise appetizing lineup, and that is not a complaint about the quality or taste of the offerings.  But given the likelihood that diners will feast on a substantial main course following a quite filling starter, the heavy style of the desserts that lean towards the Indian side of the Vermilion fusion may need relief with a few more of the lighter touches such as the mango flan and the coconut mouse (sic)

The second half of the menu reveals one of the few possible flaws in an otherwise appetizing lineup, and that is not a complaint about the quality or taste of the offerings. But given the likelihood that diners will feast on a substantial main course following a quite filling starter, the heavy style of the desserts that lean towards the Indian side of the Vermilion fusion may need relief with a few more of the lighter touches such as the mango flan and the coconut “mouse” (sic)

It is hard to think of any among the 16,000 full service eateries in New York that we would return to with more eagerness to sample more of the menu items that we missed, a list we tried for two hours to make as short as possible.

Meat eaters paradise
As a guilty carnivore our choices were heavy on the meat eating side which is especially well served with imaginative spice and sauce combinations, an approach which benefits from the fact that with meat you can go all out with such additions without fear of overdoing it. We tasted enough to be sure that on the fish side the same excitement will be found.

A cast iron soup bowl and wooden platters enhance the earthbound tastiness of many offerings on the menu, min this case the cauliflower soup panchporan bengali five spice cream blend (slightly pinker in reality)

One Rohini inspiration is to serve up morsels such as ribs or strip steaks or soups on cast iron platters bedded with wooden palettes, which add a welcome iron and wooden touch of earthiness to frame the dark results of barbecued or grilled meat.

Mysore lamb chops, with pickled onion and mango mint chutney are dark and succulent, blacked but not burnt, lightly minted, tender rare and with no greasy feel whatsoever

But it is the impact of actually taking the morsel you cut off into the mouth which will start fireworks in your neurological system.
Tastings of two restaurant week menu items - bottom right, grilled beef anticucho peruvian street, garlic cumin tones; bottom left, pani puri street Indian chaat, flour shells, potato, chili mint water; and latin indian petiscos: bottom right, alcapurria puerto rican croquette, chicken kabab, chipotle mango;  top left, tamarind pork bun bifanas, portuguese classic, tamarind pork dip (bacony, very tasty)

Tastings of two restaurant week menu items – bottom right, grilled beef anticucho peruvian street, garlic cumin tones; bottom left, pani puri street Indian chaat, flour shells, potato, chili mint water; and latin indian petiscos: bottom right, alcapurria puerto rican croquette, chicken kabab, chipotle mango; top left, tamarind pork bun bifanas, portuguese classic, tamarind pork dip (bacony, very tasty)

We’re talking of not only the taste of the saucy spices added but the way in which they enhance the power packed protein hit of the meat. The savory flavors add a dimension of suffused heart warming nourishment which ordinary Indian tandoori baked chicken, for example, just doesn’t possess.

On the left, tandoori skirt steak, seared churrasco, indian marinade, plantain chips, chorizo kale, jicarna roll, raita, on the right, blackened tamarind ribs indian-latin chili-tamarind glaze, with quinoa salad and tapioca crisps (dry when we got it, but quickly remedied)

The dishes offer a double punch of flavor enhancement and boosted nourishment which add up to meat eaters nirvana. Of course, then there is the problem of choosing wine – solved quite easily by selecting one of the two red wines offered by the glass.

A nice range of signature herb and spice cocktails are on the drinks menu, such as Fresh line pear with green chili vodka, or pani puri margarita tequila

or a good red Chilean?

or a good red Chilean?

Red wine is no problem at Vermilion with two easy choices in wine by the glass – the slightly sharper but soon blossoming Araucano, Carmenere Valle De Colchagua from Chile, or the mellower but equally rounded Tilia Malbec Mendoza Argentina.

See her on Restaurant Confidential soon

As it happened there was also a Restaurant Confidential crew from CBS shooting an upcoming episode featuring Rohini and her performance art. They recognize that this worldly Indian beauty is juggling as many roles as a writer and producer for the stage.

A CBS crew tries to listen in on Rohini Dey’s management and culinary secrets as she briefs her barman, possibly on which of the excellent red wines to serve as a fine complement to her unique dishes

For Dey writes her own script and gathers a cast and crew to stage a production she designs in its entirety – the physical space and decor, the cooks and other cast, the raw materials, and in consultation with the accomplished chefs, the finished menu. The result of her stagecraft deserves to be an explosive hit, according to our taste.

Bottom line we’d say that At Vermilion should be a first choice for all adventurous foodies in search of a savory spice haven – or should we say heaven? – amid comfortable and spacious modern decor. If they read Yelp, however, they should bear in mind that Rohini has rebooted the service side after a long list of indignant reviews there over the past few years, and that it should be vastly improved under the hand of her current manager, the impressive Varcian Virgo, whose Jamaican heritage may have made him amiable in humor but whose disciplined bearing suggests he has everything entirely under control (not to mention that the wild swings from good to bad at Yelp suggest that some reviews are the work of rivals).

Varcian Virgo is the general manager whose good humor may have roots in his Jamaican background but whose straight backed bearing reflects the discipline with which he approaches his role


If the wholesale staff upgrade proves out, and service for the anonymous guests matches the quality, interest and prices of the food and wine, the reincarnation of At Vermilion deserves to be as full of enthusiasts for its taste sensations as its menu is packed with variations on the Indo-Latin theme.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Oil Paint: Piers Secunda Captures Birth of Industry

British Artist Silkscreens 19C Photos in Crude Oil

Reality Artworks are Material Mementos of Great Strikes

Bonus: Extraordinary Feat of Carving 13 Nested Spheres from One Paint Block

Piers Secunda explains how he incorporated the actual crude oil from historic wells into his silk screened photographs of the rigs and wells which changed the world

Artists like painting in oil paint, but how about crude oil – as paint? At an opening on Jan 29 Thu, the big night in Chelsea, at David Krut Projects Gallery at 526 West 26 Street #816 (Tel 255 3094), Jessica Carlisle and Krut introduced British artist, Piers Secunda, 38, and his “Archived Oil”.

The show is an extension of Secunda’s unusual path of exploration in art, one of using the medium itself to make the message. Known for using hardened paint in 3d to form variegated and colorful sculptures, his latest inspiration since 2008 is to use crude oil itself to evoke fleeting historical moments in oil exploration and signal their vast impact on world culture.

Messy and primitive work in the days of wildcat discovery in Canada and the US, but black gold will richly reward their efforts

The unusual artworks are faded 19th Century and early 20 Century photographs silk screened with crude oil and varnish to make resonant images of the early days of the oil industry, using the specific crude oils from the fields and wells which the artwork depicts. Secunda’s work involves extensive tracking down of the primary material, often on eBay.

As mementos of drilling strikes which have changed the world, the artworks tell the story of the oil age in its own medium, bringing home a sense of how the material which replaced whale oil to light rooms has invaded every corner of our world on land and lately, in vast gyres of plastic garbage, the sea. But Secunda, whose art is apolitical, does not emphasize the dark side. “I try very hard not to take a political position. I am not equipped to do so. My aim is to make a visual record.”

The birth of the oil industry goes back to primitive 19th Century scenes, but silkscreened in the oil they found, they gain new presence in the eye of the beholder

Piers’ work will be on display through Sat February 28, 2015, with hours from Tues to Sat, 10-6pm, attended by Miranda Leighfield and Meghan Allynn Johnson. It is in line with his remarkable previous work making colorful sculptures purely out of hardened paint, casting the component parts and then using industrial fixtures also carved from paint to hold them together. That fifteen years of work extended through abstract “paintings” in various forms and shapes to carved models of a Chinese Wrench and a Clamp formed out of industrial floor paint (see photo below and Piers Secunda).

Secunda turns over the block of paint on which he silkscreened his image of Spindletop 1912 with varnish mixed into the very crude that gushed from the Texas wells in the legendary field

Secunda as an artist reasons that crude oil plays a fundamental role in every aspect of 21st century living and is the main component of the world’s most used material, plastic. If crude oil is the world’s ultimate facilitator, he says, it must therefore be a contender as the ultimate artist’s material. “To me, it’s the texture of the twentieth century. Why not deploy it?”

An earlier work was carved “with slightly Buddhist patience”, says Secunda, from hardened industrial floor paint into a series of 13 hollow balls, one contained within the next, a feat which took Secunda two years to complete the first time (now in an edition of 10, with two artists proofs. “I got a lot better!”) The work is done by lining up a hole in each sphere so that his tools can reach to the core, where the last ball is the “size of a garden pea.” Carving the ones six or more layers down is “incredibly hard because you can’t really keep them all in place. The slightest movement of your hand shuffles the layers and they move. I tried to complete it on an aeroplane. I had three hours and I couldn’t do it.”

His photoworks range from Baku in Azerbaijan, and Spindletop in Texas, to scenes of California, and Colorado. After finding an image of Saudi Arabia’s first successful oil well, Dammam Number 7, Secunda searched for two years for oil from that specific well in order to silkscreen the photograph. The resulting crude oil print tells the story of a moment which had a seismic effect on global economics – the instant the well blew, in 1937, after 13 years of struggle by desperate wildcat prospectors running out of cash and hope on the desert’s sandy griddle.

Funding the world’s greatest prize: Nobel Oil Wells, 1897, 2013: Azerbaijani crude oil and varnish on industrial floor paint with cast paint nuts and bolts 51 x 39 x 6cm

In case anyone might think this a gimmick designed to sell to the walls of executives in the oil industry, the artist confirmed that he had never been offered any money from oil companies. On the contrary he had found his inspiration in “looking for a material which could be made to work like a paint but which would bring geopolitics into the work simply by its presence. Up till then the work I had been making was about the developing of an abstract painting practice and very introverted in its focus. I felt it was too busy ignoring the activities of world outside the studio, for my liking.”

Politics Silent, Though Inherent

The result is finer than the oil industry probably deserves, in fact, given its impact on the environment, notably the vast circles of plastic trash in the ocean, of which there are now eight in the world. But Secunda does not intend any specific environmental comment. He is purely an artist in his preoccupation, which is actually a combination of performance art and painting given the strenuous efforts he has to make to locate the right crude for a particular picture. He finds dealers on eBay, in one case using oil contained in anniversary paperweights from the major oil company who made the big strike.

An artist, not a critic: “I have felt for a long time that the most significant thing an artist can do, is to make a record or statement about the time in which they are alive. These works, like the more severe works that I have made, record fleeting moments of potent human activity which have affected or altered the direction of modern history.”

Secunda himself explains: “I had just started reading Daniel Yergin’s ‘The Prize’ when I thought of painting with crude oil, so bought some specimen samples on ebay and started experimenting. Very quickly it became clear that crude oil could be fixed and it flowed very effectively from a paint brush. The current works grew out of shards and sheets of poured floor paint, which I painted and spattered with oil. I produced these to generate material for assemblages, which was my direction at the time. The individual fragments looked really good on their own, so I started to mount them on the wall and think more about imagery that was appropriate to them.

“The first oil I laid my hands on came from a place called ‘Oil Creek’ in Pennsylvania. When I researched it, I learned that it was the source of the first oil rush. As a further experiment I tried to print some images of Oil Creek and in the process taught myself how to make silkscreen prints. Since crude oil is the primary material of our age, and since we’re in the midst of the petro chemical age, which largely defines and enables most human activity, why not use it to record what we’re doing?”

Worthy of the office or home walls of the well paid oil executive, perhaps, though possibly too flattering of the industry given its ability to choke the world’s oceans

His initial inspiration to merge crude oil with early photos was fueled by his discovery that the invention of kerosene (paraffin) from puddles of crude occurred about the same time as usable photography, most effectively in southern Poland, where Ignacy Lukasiewicz began distilling lamp oil in 1852. “These oil prints started with oil from, and then imagery of the early days of the oil industry, so I’ve covered some of the visuals which relate to it but the subject matter is rolling slowly forwards in time and away from this. These works are starting to gradually build up into an visual archive of the oil age. It just grew that way.

Secund’s clamp – built out of industrial floor paint: Portrait of a Clamp 2010 Edition of 10 with 2 Artists Proofs 3x17x8 cm

The core of his approach: “I have felt for a long time that the most significant thing an artist can do, is to make a record or statement about the time in which they are alive. These works, like the more severe works that I have made, record fleeting moments of potent human activity which have affected or altered the direction of modern history.”

The hook for me with crude oil is that if it’s the ultimate facilitator of our world, it must be a contender as the ultimate artists material.

The hook for me with crude oil is that if it’s the ultimate facilitator of our world, it must be a contender as the ultimate artists material.

The result is work which resonates deeply and more loudly than a photograph, but which to our eye retains decorative value for the walls of the home and offices of those in the industry who should be especially interested in buying his works. Were some expected at the opening? we asked him before the crowd arrived. “Email invitations have been sent out far an wide, so it’s inevitable of course that some oil people will click with the works and may come to see them, but the work hasn’t been made for their benefit. If some come to the opening, that’s their call, I suppose.”

But, he emphasized again, there was no environmental angle for him. “I’ve never taken a political position in any of the work I’ve made. The presence of crude oil in itself is political, because oil is inseparable from politics and environmental issues, but the works don’t take a political or an environmental position. They just record.”

Piers Secunda, 38 (his distinguished name sounds like a painter from the Italian Renaissance, but in fact it is derived from a Polish border town now obliterated by war) lives and works in London and New York. He studied painting at the Chelsea College of Art. His recent exhibitions include ‘War Stories’ at the William Holman Gallery, New York, 2014, a group show curated by Anthony Haden-Guest which included Secunda’s bullet hole works, where slabs of imitation wall are pock marked with the exact reliefs of bullet holes he collected from scenes of violent events in the Middle East, including a Taliban attack on a Kabul guesthouse for Indian doctors. His book of crude oil works will be published by Endeavour in London and Getty Images.

More photos at Photocalendar Talk In New York

Video by Piers Secunda about Archived Oil

Video of Piers Secunda – Painting of A Puzzle Ball

Video of Piers Secunda’s Taliban bullet hole paintings

British Artist Presents Archived Oil in New York

ART0 Piers Secunda Paints the Oil Industry @ David Krut Gallery

Jessica Carlisle on Piers Secunda

Piers Secunda on Facebook

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smith, Case, Falkner, Jones: Angst and Revelation at Vica Miller Poetry Salon

Electric reading of inner truths in Art of Rage

Surviving America: personal testimony, public exposure

Hostess has own polished saga of female ambition

Literary salons with tea and cucumber sandwiches in the front drawing room may have vanished from the earth, but in 21st Century Manhattan Vica Miller is hosting Vica Miller Literary Salons, a lively popup version in art galleries around town. The latest was her annual poetry session on Thu (Jan 22 2014).

Vica Miller not only produces bimonthly literary salons in galleries but also shoots the events with a large sports Canon – when she is not in the office or working on her second novel, The Shadow of a Blue Doll.

Four poets stripped naked – in literary terms, of course, not literally – in an unusually electrifying verse session, where three of the four well known young writers were gay, and two were black. But even the short pretty heterosexual professor was utterly unguarded about private moments.

The unvarnished truth: Susana H. Case author of 4 Rms w Vu (Mayapple 2014), a collection in four parts – Bedroom-for the Second Husband. Family Room – For the Children, the Parents, Storage Room – For the First Husband, the Lovers, and Dying Room, for the Gone, the Diminished. Some have found her volume sad, but she doesn’t feel it so.

Author, producer, promoter

But who is Vica Miller? A lithe, camera toting mother of two who transplanted from her native Saint Petersburg over twenty years ago, and has blossomed since, teaching new media at Hunter after a Masters in interactive media art from Tisch, publishing short stories and last year a book, Inga’s Zigzags (Ladno 2014), all the while running communications for DataArt, a global tech consultancy.

Soon after she arrived in Manhattan Vica found herself at one of George Plimpton’s celebrated parties and offered him a look at some pages she had written. Plimpton pronounced her ”a writer” and she was on her way to becoming a star in New York’s literary firmament. Her Inga’s Zigzags is a polished account of a Russian woman who returns to Moscow after a decade in New York, but whose bid to start her own business there is stalled by an extended lesbian love trio with two smart magazine publishers.

As fellow Russian emigrant painter Shura Skaya holds her Canon, Salon hostess Vica signs a copy of her recent novel Inga’s Zigzags, a well polished novel about a dynamic and attractive alter ego who aims to conquer Moscow but gets trapped in a love affair with two other smart women

Since 2009 Vica has passed on the torch of Plimpton’s encouragement to other authors by mounting readings in art galleries around town, and the latest was last week (Thu Jan 22 2015) at the Susan Eley Gallery on West 90th.

How not to avert your eyes

Four leading lights among younger poets each took the stage in the brownstone gallery against a backdrop of marble statuary and digital art devoted to the naked female form. (Digital paintings by Gary Kaleda and Sculptures by Lilian R. Engel, see earlier post)

Jayson Smith listens against a backdrop of variations on the theme of female form at the Susan Eley Gallery on West 90th

Naked, it turned out, was the motif of the evening, despite the title The Art of Rage under which it was advertised. All four writers blew off the burqa of face saving restraint that normally shrouds our true experience even from ourselves, articulating the joys and pain of their lives stripped of conventional screens of privacy and fear of ridicule or embarrassment. In other words, the proper role of poets.

Very little was shielded by metaphor or discreet innuendo, especially in Saeed Jones’s searing accounts of his boyhood and adolescence. This was confessional literature, in which the audience is plunged into the experience and trials of the author like lobsters dropped into boiling water. Saeed drew graphic pictures of a father outside in a field burning his son’s “sissy” clothes or a black boy bent over to shine shoes with his spittle, for example.

But the audience was sympathetic. The phrase “surviving America’ at one point drew a murmur of fellow feeling. Like addicts given their jolt of emotional heroin, the audience of young Russian women and other attentive regulars clearly got a kick out of the vintage mix of literacy and vivid truth. Questions were lively when each bard sat down.

Three thoughtful witnesses to gay truths and other experiences surviving America; From left, Jayson Smith, Adam Falkner, and Saeed Jones

In order, we heard:
Jayson Smith, choreographer and staff at Union Station magazine, 2014 Pushcart Prize Nominee, reading new poetry;

Click for bio of Jayson Smith

Susana H. Case
, professor of photography and sociology at the New York Institute of Technology, reading from her latest book, 4 Rms w Vu (Mayapple Press, 2014), a collection which “denies no part of this experience we call living”, as one reviewer put it.
Click for bio of Susana H. Case

- Adam Falkner, Dialogue Arts Project founder and director, teacher at Vassar and Columbia, reading new poetry.

Click for bio of Adam Falkner

Saeed Jones, editor of Buzzfeed LGBT, reading from Prelude to Bruise (Coffee House Press, 2014);

Click for bio of Saeed Jones

All wielded mean word power and, the men, fairly high wattage delivery, though Saeed Jones seemed to us especially to alight on each word individually with clarity and sufficient force to give it its proper due, as a wholly committed poet, to ensure listeners get its full value.

Jayson Smith explains that

Jayson Smith explains that “so often in American culture rage equals black rage, and it’s immediately about the spectacle of rage, and my God you’re so angry, and it ceases to be about the why, and the interiority disappears, and it becomes about what everyone else feels.”

Jayson Smith said the title, The Art of Rage, made him a little nervous “about my work standing up to such a tangible emotion. Rage is such an immediate thing right? Something you have at first before you deal with what caused it.” His interest, he said, was the deeper internal effect of rage on the spirit. ”So often in American culture rage equals black rage, and it’s immediately about the spectacle of rage, and my God you’re so angry, and it ceases to be about the why, and the interiority disappears, and it becomes about what everyone else feels.”

He declaimed: “Ars Poetica: Say family. Say gorge. Say gab. Say grace blessed. Say hunger as condition of no….. Say I am. Say I was. Say I without blood in the mouth. Say mouth…. …. Say grace. Say less, Say. Say.’

His tumbling text, skilful yet heartfelt, played with words like bagatelle balls, parsing confused emotions until they dropped into the right hole.

Jayson Smith’s tumbling text, skilful while heartfelt, played with words like bagatelle balls, parsing confused emotions until they fell into the right hole.

After reading there were questions, as always at the Vica Miller Salon. “Loneliness and being a black man, two themes I see,” said Vica. “Which is the most important?”

“Yes,” said Jayson,” they are intertwined. Black is the one thing that is put upon a person, instead of agented. It’s very much the dividing thing. But I’d say they are of equal importance.”

Vica: ”Well as a white woman I will tell you, loneliness can be big, too! Is your choreography dealing with the same emotion? “ “Yes, I am dealing with it all the time. Whether I am walking down the street or within my work.”

Vica: “So is there hope? Can we all get along? Your poetry is like a Russian writer’s, very dramatic, everyone dies. Is yours in that spirit – is there hope or is this is what it is, let it all hang out, and it dies and then it’s just sadness.?”

“I am not sure. I think my poetry is a very personal very private moment ”, said Jayson “it’s about the prevailing moment, what I am seeing, I definitely think there is hope. There’s absolutely hope. It’s a question of what the work is doing for the world, and also what the world is doing for the work. My poems are definitely not the encyclopedia on happiness.”

A woman said “I thought there was a lovely intimacy to your work. You challenge the reader to enter the poem. You invite the reader to enter the poem. I really appreciate that.”

Susana H. Case is willing to explore sex and death unsparingly, including navigating the tricky territory of describing moments in past marriages and love affairs while the present partner is in the room.

Susan H. Case read next, an event anticipated with special interest by those who have read her latest book, 4Rm w Vu, notable for its fearless grappling with the small domestic threats and conflicts usually screened off in her guarded academic social circles, we imagine.
A good example is Why The Dreamer Misjudges, a verse about one of her early experiences:

Click for text of Why The Dreamer Misjudges
Case admitted she was, like Jayson Smith, intimidated by the title The Art of Rage (“Raging love!” exclaimed Vica, “Just think of raging love!”) “My book is about love, sex, marriage, death and a little rock and roll.”
Case is married (in the old sense, as in a union between opposite sexes) for the second time, however, so she has found at least one rage poem in her new book, 4 Rm with Vu. This has four partitions: Bedroom – For the Second Husband, Family Room – for Children and Parents, Storage Room – for the First Husband and the Lovers, and the Dying Room for the Gone and the Diminished.

She starts with “Dark Matter”

Click for text of Dark Matter

The title that caused all the trouble: not all the poets felt it fitted their style

Except for the last line, that certainly seemed fodder for retrospective rage, we thought. But Susana has, however, found one poem which fits into The Art of Rage: “And now Let’s Revisit Sex and Death!” she says to laughter. (That is the title).
Click for text of Let’s Revisit Sex and Death

Her third choice suggested that she had run out of rage, however. It was Springing Abbie Hoffman from Jail, from her Dying Room section for the Gone, the Diminished. The sadly prosaic account is of inviting a subdued Abbie Hoffman to come from jail to talk to her night class in sociology (he was allowed brief sorties during the day) and the students being somewhat baffled, not knowing why he was a celebrity, taking him for a drink to cheer him up, and how they finally got a smile (by reminding him what fun he had organizing a mass meditation to levitate the Pentagon).

Click for Springing Abbie Hoffman From Jail
Last, Case returned to an unflinching look at what life has left for us as we grow old. She dolefully declaims Incantation on the theme that the protagonist expects joy but realized soon enough that we’re not all going to last forever – “A prescription for the way I’d like life to unfold.”
Click for text of Incantation

If you find that a somewhat depressing vision, Case did allow that some have found her collection sad, but said she herself doesn’t feel it. Perhaps her toughminded willingness to note the unpleasant aspects of even the comfortable life is armed by the very emotional denial which she evades as a poet. Or possibly any story of life’s penalties is highlighted by comfort, that opiate of the bourgeoisie, which usually stifles poetic sensibilities.

At least Case plays back the grimy details of emotional existence amid the big city clamor, which is surely why the emotionally starved attend poetry readings. Certainly her reading added to our interest in seeing her Manual of Practical Sexual Advice (Kattywompus Press), which she said, when we mentioned it, that she was sorry she did not bring with her.

Laura Madeline Wiseman (blog): How did your new chapbook, Manual of Practical Sexual Advice (Kattywompus Press, 2012) begin?

I was cleaning out my parents’ home after they died and found a well-thumbed sex manual from the 1940s in the drawer of a bedroom table. My parents were from that generation of Americans who believed in relying upon manuals for everything. Dr. Spock wrote their household bible on child care. Anyway, I took the manual home, forgot about it, and found it again years later when clearing out my own furniture. This time I decided to read it and it got me speculating about my parents’ sexual life, in particular, that of my mother. The doctor who wrote the 1940s manual was well-meaning, but constrained by notions of gender and female sexuality in the mid-century. His portrait of what was expected for a “normal” sex life was not pretty. I decided to channel him and to also respond to him. In a way, that chapbook is a conversation between a sexual advice “expert” of the mid-twentieth century and a modern woman.

Click for Susana Case Q/A
Now Adam Falkner up at bat.

Adam Falkner reads his new new “love poem” to his father, My Father is a Mansion, with jazz like spontaneity in his arrangement of phrases

“Now I have many hats but for a long time I taught high school English, and a lot of my writing comes from that stage, “ Falkner said. And on The Art of Rage, he said that “the thing I am most angry about in the world I think is about the way rage manifests itself in not very subtle ways. “

Falkner’s first poem is War in Baltimore.
“She asked if I had heard of the
war in Baltimore. And I said No…..
She tried to fill her mouth with
a few different sounds.
Tested each one out….”
He speaks with energy, adding life to the verse.
”Her eyes became Christmas morning.
Mista Falkner. Do you think that we could go there?”

Click for The War In Baltimore

Then a brand new poem: My Grandma Calls Me Barack. An unvarnished take on the miserable domestic tragedy overcoming so many in old age now, as sensitive but ruthless in detail as Susana Case:

Click for My Grandma Calls me Barack

And another, which in its twisting path momentarily gives the impression that he is saying he is not gay, when of course he is, and daydreams accordingly:

Click for Straight Poem

Finally, Adam recites his current hit, a “love poem” to his father, with jazz like spontaneity: My Father is a Mansion.

Click for My Father is a Mansion
It turns out that Adam varies his text in different readings with jazz like spontaneity. He will shuffle or repeat the phrases that make up his poem as he goes along, in a kind of musical improvisation. Compare the above with his fine YouTube video of the same text, Adam Falkner with Shawn Randall on piano at The Firehouse Space, Brooklyn, NY Sep 13 2014. Video by Sam Teichman, and you will hear him ring the changes.
Click for Adam Falkner Q/A

Fourth and finally, the energetic climax of the evening: Saeed Jones, whose work has been called “beautiful and unsparing”, now reads from his debut collection Prelude to Bruise, “a dark night of the soul presented as the finest of evening gowns” (Publishers Weekly). Neither of these descriptions fits the dynamism and almost Shakespearean creativity of his work.

“This has been a refuge, “ he says gratefully, “a refuge. A physical space to have this conversation.”

He explains his interest in the various usages of the word Boy as a means to provide his collection with a narrative structure, a theme, a Leitmotif.

“Prelude to Bruise is a poetry collection that has a narrative built into it. A narrative that came out of my life. It came out of the need to write the next poem. A narrative made it easier over the five or six years of the book. The narrative was about the different facets of the word boy in the culture. Fathers and sons. Masculinity. Sexuality. Racial epithet. Boy as an object of sexual fetish. And in art, of course.”

Saeed Jones reads from his new book, Prelude to a Bruise, which is widely admired

His first poem is Boy In A Whalebone Corset, about Boy on the outskirts of a Southern town beaten by his father when he discovers him wearing lingerie and burns all his ‘sissy’ clothing outside in the field as he watches from the window. Once again, though, this is invention. Saeed, like Case, warns against taking his many verses about Boy as a literal record. “His life is not my life.”
Click for text of Boy In A Whalebone Corset
His reading is a revelation. There is more energy in his words than the other three poets, though they were all good readers. In exemplary style, Saeed Jones pronounces all his rich words clearly, well paced, forcefully, as if he had chosen each one individually and with long attention, as he surely has. He emphasizes particular syllables with a natural, musical cadence, and oratorical impetus, as, we feel, every poet should! Even more than Falkner or Jayson Smith, he firmly caresses his words, as fully embodying ideas in themselves, rather than simply pursuing a line of thought. A free associating bard, he lingers on each carefully wrought sound as if the words were his own unique children.

Saeed doesn’t have any difficulty find items that fit the Art of Rage. In fact, it becomes clear that the title in his honor, and the other poets here were shoehorned into it! Here comes the second. “One way that rage manifests in Prelude to Bruise is that Boy if you believe it he runs away but he doesn’t very much look into the looking glass for that interiority. So when he runs away his father hunts him with a rifle.”

Click for text of After the First Shot
There is appreciative silence in the room as the great last lines echo in the mind: ”To answer your rifles last question, if you ever find me, I won’t be there.”
Like the others, Saeed says he is not interested in the bursting out of rage and its momentary exhibition. “One of the things that happens with rage is that I am not as interested in the moment of rage as I am interested in rage as something that you seep into our bodies. Like mercury, when you’re living with it over time, it begins to mingle with you.”
Click for text of Drag
Then, the title track of his collection:

Click for text of Prelude to a Bruise
Saeed Jones: “The book is about me as much as it’s not. I feel that my appearance in the book is a bit of a trickster. Sometimes the only real thing is the location. But one thing I learned, you know, was that when you are so busy focusing on surviving, which we are all chosen to do as American citizens, it can become overlooked that we are living alongside people who are doing the same thing. So this is a poem about that. Body and Kentucky Bourbon.”
Click for text of Body and Kentucky Bourbon
Finally, more rage: Interestingly, Saeed Jones, in contrast to Adam Falkner becoming like his mother, says: “I am becoming my father. We look very similar. He disappeared literally ten years ago. I walked into a room afterwards and an older relative started saying his name and I saw her eyes shining with tears. She thought I was him.” The moment led to the scene in Hour Between Dog & Wolf, since it got him to thinking of the things sons inherit. “My father and I have the same first name. I go by my middle name for a reason.”
Click for text of Hour Between Dog and Wolf
These frame busting bursts of creativity by Saeed Jones are clearly the high point of the evening.

After loud applause and a moment of silence, Vica leads a Q/A session which raises many key points about Saeed Jones’ methods, predicament as a black LGBT poet, his politics, or lack of them, and how not to say You sound so angry! In a small phrase, finally, he inadvertently reveals what may be the secret of his method.

Click for text of Saeed Jones Q/A
Vica Miller wraps up with a conclusion spurred by the evening: : “Michael Cunningham (a Pulitzer author she hosted earlier at her salon) said in his Q/A here that he didn’t want to be pigeon holed as a gay writer, but as a writer. The rest doesn’t matter – whether you’re gay, straight, black, white, male or female. It’s all about good writing. I completely agree. I don’t believe in categories. Russian-American writers, or Jewish writers, or writers of color, and so on.

“He also said that in the literary world, just like any other world, everything is still catered to a white straight man. And if you lack even one of those attributes – white, male or straight – you have additional obstacles to overcome. You’re the Other. For them everybody else is the Other. The problem for all of us is to get the others to be seen as just people.”

The audience broke up and created a storm of conversation for close to another hour.

The highy charged Saeed Jones amuses admirers after his triumphant climax to the evening reading from his new Prelude to Bruise collection.

In the after party all get a chance to talk to the poets. Here Diana Bruk, a Nabokov scholar who edits viral content at Hearst, congratulates Saeed Jones on his art

Jayson Smith reassures a responsive listener that all is well

Networking is fun between like minds

Saeed Jones amuses the owner of the Gallery, Susan Eley

Click for Next Up at Vica Miller Literary Salon

Saeed amusing his fellow poets even more (photo by Vica Miller)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Susan Eley: Engel and Kaleda Explore Female Form

‘Humanity in Pixels and Stone':  Marble, Digital Imbued with Life

West Side Art Crowd Packs Brownstone Gallery In Early Freeze

Numerical Chemistry by Gary Kaleda: a highpoint of the artist’s talent in transforming digital work with flesh and blood warmth (2011, duraflex silver halide print, face mounted on plexiglass,edition of 10, 48 X 38.4 in)

Two artistic responses to the form and fantasy of the female torso, that eternal preoccupation of humanity, share space this month at the well established brownstone gallery of Susan Eley in her new show, Humanity in Pixels and Stone.  Both displays are richly rewarding in classical ways.

Lilian R. Engel’s monumental torso has the stable harmony of proportion which marks all her work, this one in black marble (Tendu, 2011, marble 22x13x10 in)

A second view of Lilian R. Engel’s Tendu (2011, marble, 22 X 13 X 10 in

The intriguing show kicked off with a packed reception on Thursday January 8th, and will run through Thursday February 19 (open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 11am-5pm or by appointment, at 46 West 90th Street, 2nd floor, New York, NY 10024, between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue, as well as on the Web at Susan Eley Fine Art and 1stdibs; tel 917.952.7641 or email:

Nothing like an Upper West Side gallery reception to guarantee down-to-earth intelligent conversation, thoughtful, informative and mildly opinionated

Gallery founder and owner since 2006, Susan Eley is surrounded by guests who also typify the potential the future holds in releasing the entire female half of the world from cultural bondage

Mingling with one of the art world’s more interesting crowds – thoughtfully talkative Upper West Siders armed with funky coats and hats against the freezing weather outside, many long rooted in the fertile soil of New York City intellectual creativity – we admired the exquisite balance and softness of proportion of the abstract forms shaped in smoothed white, pink and black marble by Lilian R. Engel. Her works seemed to have an almost Zen-like repose, evoking respect for as well as appreciation of the female forms which inspired them. Engel is on the staff of the Art Students League as a graphic designer, and sculpts there as well as her own Long Island City studio.

Lilian R. Engel’s white, pink and marble sculptures spring from the female body as a central muse, but take on a life of their own in abstract harmony polished to a smooth sheen by an artist informed by time at Pietrasanta in her journey from Rhode Island to the Art Students League (Seated Figure, marble, 19in h x 13in w)

Marble meets digital in mankind’s oldest fascination

Torsos of the female variety were also the current preoccupation of lanky digital artist Gary Kaleda, present in Pee Wee spiked hair and a red track suit, with his equally tall partner, communications director Susannah Maurer at his side in a very upbeat foliage patterned dress.

Artist Gary Kaleda and Susannah Maurer, who is an expert on corporate and art world communications, and an inspiration for his work

Was Susannah the model he had in mind for his not-so-much pixilated as brush-like photoportraits of divinely fleshy female forms in mostly active, speeding poses? “Oh yes, all of them ” he assured us.   Though in a burst of artistic honesty immediately following this diplomatic statement he added, “Well, I do have some other subjects of fantasy too!”

Behind her back: Is it possible that Gary Kaleda’s mental model for his warm blooded digital images are sometimes not inspired by his long time partner, the much admired Susannah Maurer, of whom a woman friend says, “she has a wonderful face, you can’t stop looking at her! Particle Pageant (2011 duraflex silver halide print, edition of 10, 60 X 43.5 in) “

Kaleda is that exceptional, perhaps unique digital artist that has expanded his attention to include the flesh and blood of real life.  “What I liked about his work is it retains a warmth and humanity,” said Susan Eley, the gallery owner, “which a lot of digital work doesn’t.”

Gary Kaleda’s fantasy women: flesh and blood warm, not digitally chilly (Crimson Me (2010, duraflex silver halide print, edition of 10 28 X 35 in)

Gary’s girl: Not necessarily the one he lives with, which is an artist’s prerogative (2009, duraflex silver halide print, edition of 10, like all Kaleda’s works, 37 X 30 in)

Kaleda starts with a virtual model, which he develops with digital tools and techniques, but he doesn’t stop there.

Gary Kaleda sits in front of one of his obviously virtual models, at the beginning of a process whereby he gives her real life in art on the wall.

“My figures are not from real people,” Kaleda explained. ” I have a virtual photoshoot, as it were, rendering a 3d model, but then I’m interested in imparting my feelings onto it. I’m part of this world and I try to grasp our connection with it, and get beyond the cold, hard, mechanical aspect.”  Susannah is fully supportive, because, as she says, ” A lot of digital work is empty for me. Inaccessible – it doesn’t move me!”

Susannah Maurer takes a pause in chatting with John Eley, the CEO of Golden Source, a financial software company, who as husband of the gallery owner earns credits for doing the heavy lifting involved in some of Susan’s shows

Susan Eley, founder and boss of the gallery since 2006, gives full credit to her husband for being strong enough and willing to carry heavy art objects up the fairly steep steps and stairs of the 90th Street brownstone to the second floor exhibition space.

One thing digital with which Gary Kaleda has enhanced his works recently, however, is the addition of a tiny mark, a QR Code, which allows smart phones to display text and potentially go to text and images on the Web, even video, and offer all the curatorial information about the image they might be interested in.

Aha! A QR Code on Kaleda’s work. His smartphone can read it as an ordinary label of the work but also with a link to the Web it could potentially play a video of Gary explaining his image (Pink Celebration 1 (2012), Duraflex silver halide print, face mounted on plexiglass, 41.25 x 30 inches, edition 1/10).

A quieter side of woman’s form

In hand-in-hand harmony with Kaleda’s high energy, even red hot variations on the parallel topic of the human body the smaller scale but still Henry Moore-like abstract statuary by Lilian Engel on pedestals around the gallery matched his emotional dynamism with some boldly assertive standing pieces.  But most of her seven polished tactile temptations lay in calm repose, their smoothly varied contours making for a quiet aesthetic that suggested some of these in fact very heavy objects were light enough to float off their stands.

Different views of the core focus of so much art through the ages from the Venus of Willendorf through the Venus de Milo and the Venus of Botticelli to the Venuses of the Upper West Side, 2015 (Lilian Engel, Seated Figure, marble, 19in h x 13in w)

Engel, who works as graphic designer director at the Art Students League while not carving and polishing marble (and more lately wood, under her mentor Seiji Saito, a Noguchi disciple) in one of its studios or her own, said that she had pursued figurative clay sculpture so long in her early career that if her focus is now on the torso, “I guess I was a student so long it’s just in me.”  Torsos, she added, “are the most exciting part of the figure, because there is so much motion in them. I think of bodies in motion, and I want to get the stone into movement, out of its confined space. Often, it becomes a back and forth play.”

Lilian Engel details her modus operandi to a group of attentive admirers (Recline, pink marble, abstract 10in h x 12in w)

A closer look at the exquisitely formed white marble form she is discussing, one of her remarkably successful takes on the basic female reclining form (Recline, pink marble, abstract
10in h x 12in w)

Explaining to a small group gathered round one of her works in creamy white marble, she said she sometimes skipped making a model in clay first, but “if it’s a big piece of marble  I don’t like to take chances.  My process is usually an intuitive one.”   With her was her man Brad Whitermore, a wood craftsman and also a sculptor, who she met in the corridors of the Art Student League in a cloud of marble dust from a teaching studio there, when he was working next door in wood.   They went to the Whitney Biennial, then for walks in the park, and ended up living together, though with separate studios now in Long Island City.

As Lilian holds court around one of her sculptures, her partner Brad Whitermore laughs admiringly while basking in the kudos he earned by carrying her very heavy marble works up the steep steps and stairs of the Eley brownstone gallery on a wintry day.

Images on his iPhone Brad showed us confirmed how much they had in common, since two were of torsos in exceptionally fine classical style.  “I like torsos, yes” he said. “The classical department of the Met is one of my favorite spots, a point of departure for lines I am interested in.”

Whitermore was able in the 21st Century manner to show us his own fine account of the female form inspired by the Greek models he has often visited at the Metropolitan Museum

Also present were:

Carole Eisner, the artist (and mother of the gallery owner) whose giant sculptures are seen outdoors in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York, including a monumental one below the tramway to Roosevelt Island at  59St and 2nd Avenue last year.

Carol Eisner Bridge • 2014 Painted, Welded Steel | 48″ h x 83″ w x 45″ d

Allison Chernow, director of external affairs at the Bronx Museum, with her daughter Dorothea Trufelman, still a Skidmore student, who is planning to visit Cuba in May to photograph life there for an NYU Tisch program project.

Allison Chernow of the Bronx Museum of Art talks to Susan Eley, framing her daughter Dorothea Trufelman of Skidmore who plans a May trip to Cuba to photograph the island’s longtime evasion of modern commerce before its purity gets washed away by an influx of exploiters

Naomi Campbell the artist, instructor in the contemporary figure in watercolor at the Art Student’s League, whose solo exhibition was last summer

Christopher Priore, a very active artist in a splendid sweater which suggests exactly that, as well as the ski slopes.

Christopher Priore who paints on thick vinyl, he says, and has a video up on YouTube titled Rapunzel’s Village.

Next up at Susan Eley:

The celebrated author of A Manual of Practical Sexual Advice holds up her latest book of poems, from which she will read Thu Jan 22

The celebrated author of A Manual of Practical Sexual Advice holds up her latest book of poems, from which she will read Thu Jan 22

Poetry, Wine, Art, and Conversation:Vica Miller Poetry Salon: Saeed Jones, reading from ; Susana H. Case, reading from 4 Rms w Vu, new book of poems (Mayapple Press, 2014); Jayson Smith, reading new poetry; Adam Falkner, reading new poetry. Thursday, January 22, 2015, from 6:30 to 8:30 PM (reading 7 PM sharp). Free. RSVP essential by Jan 15. @vica_miller
Click for bios of the poets and the series

Digital Collection Talk by Michael Spalter, Chairman of the Board of the Rhode Island School of Design, on his large collection of early digital art amassed with his wife, artist, author, educator Anne Morgan Spalter. Thursday Jan 29 6.30pm Talk 7pm prompt, then Q & A, refreshments. Seating limited RSVP 917=952-7641 )

More pictures at Photocalendar, currently 94 before adding and weeding.
Note: All images here on Talk can be expanded colossally if clicked.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment