On Tuesday, I caught a train into New York to meet up with a few friends. Our destination: the art exhibition, Life After Black: The Visual Journals of Barron Storey at the Society of Illustrators.
There were two large rooms on the first floor and in the basement, filled with Storey's original sketchbooks. Most of the time at art exhibitions, artist sketchbooks are behind plexiglass or the pages are photographed for display; they are certainly not available for visitors to pick up and peruse through by hand. Barron Storey's sketchbooks - and there were so many! - were open and available to anyone visiting the exhibition. I still can't get over that. That's generous of him.
Storey's sketchbooks were filled with ink and paint sketches and thoughts that I found to be quite dark and dramatic.
His sense of humour was also quite dark...but had me grinning, nonetheless.
I also have to tell you about the Society of Illustrators which I think is an unknown gem in New York - well, at least not as well known as the larger galleries in the city.
The Society of Illustrators was founded on February 1, 1901, by a group of nine artists and one advising businessman. According to the Society, "The first monthly dinners were attended by such prominent illustrators as Howard Pyle, Maxfield Parrish, N.C.Wyeth, Charles Dana Gibson, Frederic Remington, James Montgomery Flagg, Howard Chandler Christy and special guests like Mark Twain and Gloria Swanson."
There's certainly a feeling of entering a club when visiting the Society of Illustrators, rather than entering an upscale gallery like the MoMA. I think that is part of its charm. On the third floor is a beautiful cafe open only to the Society's members. Ah well. Still, it's pretty cool to see original illustrations for the WWI and WWII Red Cross and from housewife magazines of the 1930's and 40's hanging on the walls on the other floors. I thought this illustration in an evening's programme was terrific:
What really caught my eyes were the old photographs hanging on the second floor, by by the restrooms and kitchen.
Way back when, the Society used to hold costume galas. The theme of this one is the circus. Not all the revelers are in focus which I think adds nostalgia and magic when imagining the going-ons during that night. Do you see the couple smooching? Do you see the giant holding the two children (or little adults)? There's a woman in the back of the room who is looking for someone (a clown, a fire-eater, a lion tamer?) and so she missed being photographed. Oh dear. That poor trapeze artist, axe juggler, or knife thrower's assistant.
I don't know if the Society of Illustrators hosts costume galas anymore but they do have Sketch Nights. An evening of sketching live models while listening to live jazz music sounds like the perfect date to me!