Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lenore Fiore-Mills: Master Storyteller in Wax and Dye

Sometimes in life, you sit back and realize that you're lucky to know certain people. For me, one of those people is Lenore Fiore-Mills. Last September, I had the pleasure of attending her solo exhibition “Celebration and Ceremony”at the Pleiades Gallery in Manhattan's Chelsea District. As a lover of folk art, color and works that make me want to peruse every inch of them, I was in artistic heaven when I first walked in and saw her magical works in Batik. Seldom do you see Batik art in galleries, and especially work of this caliber. She truly is a master storyteller in wax and dye!

It's a thrill to possess art like the variety that Mills creates in a collection, so imagine my excitement, the week before last, when I received a tube in the mail containing an 11" x 14" Batik piece, inspired by Mill's larger work "Smoking Dragon." It's a fantastic new addition to my New Mexico apartment, and it will always hold a prominent place in my home, wherever I roam.

Batik is one of the oldest art forms in the world, with its roots going back to approximately 206 BC-24 AD in China. Traditionally, Batik artists utilize a special wax-dipped knife with which they paint designs and patterns on cloth. When the wax dries, it cracks, and during the dyeing process, the dye enters the cracks creating lines. The signature Batik patterns are revealed on the cloth once the wax boils away. To create what she calls “harmonious compositions,” Mills uses material as her canvas on which she first does a pencil drawing. She then alternates layers of wax and dye to completion. The wax is applied with fine brushes and the fabric is submerged in dye.

For more than 40 years, Lenore Mills has been honing her craft and finding inspiration in a variety of subjects that find their way into her work such as her fascination with festivals, ceremonies and street scenes ranging from the Giglio in Williamsburg, to the Black Cowboys at the Manumission Day commemoration, to St. Augustine's on the Lower East Side. Though her earlier works were much simpler, Mill’s Batik has grown-up, taking on more intricate elements.

In addition to her showing at Pleiades Gallery, Lenore Mill’s works have been seen at DaVinci Art Alliance in Philadelphia, the Artspace in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, as well as New York City’s L'Atelier Gallery and Framing and the Photo District Gallery, in addition to the Dutot Museum, Delaware Water Gap. Her works are sought worldwide, Mills' Batiks are held by collectors in the United States, Japan, and Brazil.

For more information, contact Lenore Fiore Mills at 570-947-7942 or Please see for sample paintings and more information.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Downturn Decor on a Dime (a.k.a. The Economy May Be Dead, But Your Taste is Alive and Well)

($5 thrift store oil painting, 16" x 20", framed)

Art is everywhere...if you know where to look! So, the economy stinks. You've had to give up the weekly or daily shopping trip to the mall because the purse strings have all but worn down to mere threads. The rent or the mortgage or car payment, food, clothes for the kids have taken priority over anything that resembles fun, beauty and anything that aethestically floats your boat. Art and decor are way at the bottom of the list--seemingly never to return, at least for a couple of years.

Well, I recently moved into a new apartment--unemployed no less! And while I'm trying to be frugal and pay for the necessities without breaking the bank, why should all fun go to the wayside? In my ridiculous fanaticism to do as the Southwesterners do and create a region-friendly abode, I have scoured the city (Albuquerque, New Mexico) looking for the best deals on art, indigenous arts, as well home decor.

Since the economy is tough and tourism is down, many merchants, especially antique dealers, are offering deep discounts just to move their inventory, which is overloading display cases all over the country. Albuquerque, not only has some of the best thrift store shopping and antiquing that I have ever experienced, but the prices are well below most cities, including Santa Fe, just one hour to the north, even in a good economy!

Here are some recent deals I found while browsing antique stores,flea markets, thrift shops and going directly to the artist.

Mata Ortiz is quickly becoming one of the most sought out types of pottery by collectors. And, it's no surprise, since these artisans, who hail from a very small town in Mexico, follow in the footsteps of master potter Juan Quezada to create delicate, intricate gorgeous pieces of art in a variety of shapes and sizes. This pot is made by well-known potter Paty Rodriguez. While it would command upwards of $150 in a gallery, this antique mall find, which measures about 3" inches tall cost me a mere $32, marked down 25% (cash only!)from its original price of $42. That's almost $120 profit!

Thank goodness for the Internet! Google and other search engines has made up privy to so much information about all the goodies out there to be had--even if dealers, oftentimes, haven't done the research themselves! I love knowing something they don't, because it always yields a treasure and at bargain prices. Take, for instance, this marvelous pot by Annette and Christine Ortega of the Santa Clara tribe of Northern New Mexico. While I couldn't find much information about Christine, I did manage to find some information about Annette.

I recognized that this contemporary pot possessed typical traits characteristic of traditional Santa Clara pottery (i.e., the finely polished red clay exterior with the carved iconography on the front and rear sides of the pot). I used this knowledge to Google her name and the term "Santa Clara potter" to find that this pot, which cost me $17.50 at an antique mall, 30% of the regular price of $25 ( already well below gallery value), might actually command $55 or more on the retail market! This is very exciting and the piece would appeal to pottery collectors, in general, since it has a more contemporary feel.

This lovely pot, covered in a traditional Santa Domingo white slip, was purchased directly from Cochiti tribe artisan Guadalupe Ortiz, husband to the late famed Cochiti potter Seferina Ortiz, and father to Virgil Ortiz, whose work has been featured on the cover of Collector's Guide. I stumbled upon his home on the Cochiti reservation last month on my way up to Santa Fe. A normally quiet and private fellow, we chatted about his wife and both of their art. In addition to walking away with the experience of conversing with this master, I left with this treasure signed by Guadalupe himself for about $20. Known more for animal figurines than pots, this would likely fetch upwards of $100 in a gallery, though I would never part with it! You can never go wrong by contacting artists directly. Times are tough, and if they want to make a sale, most artists will generally work with you to make sure you go home with something you love and feel good about buying. Ebay and Etsy are also great sources for buying the best in affordable art direct from the artist.

While not everyone appreciates Native American pottery, or wants to spend $20 for any piece of pottery, many deals are to be had by hitting Goodwill, the Salvation Army or any local thrift store. This lovely, handmade pot was purchased at a homeless shelter thrift store, as part of a lot that included a nice teapot. I bought both pieces for $0.75! The piece is even signed, and while it may not command hundreds of dollars on the retail market, it will bring invaluable joy and beauty to my home. Thrift stores are a great place for the pottery fanatic to find some beautiful pieces-whether coffee cups, pots, or bowls on the cheap. What a way to satisfy the shopping bug without the guilt.

When I saw this carefully painted round cedar box at the local Goodwill, I said "What the heck. It's only $2!" And, I bought it. An artist friend seems to think it might be Pennsylvania Dutch folk art, but no matter. I like it, regardless of its value.

Antique stores definitely yield the best in art, like this wonderful 4" x 6" New Mexico-themed oil on wood painting from 1947 by "Y. Kojima," for which I paid a mere $10, and this whimsical sheep painting on an old piece of wood ($4.95), but collectors can also harvest some great artistic finds at thrift stores and flea markets as well.

I recently purchased this nice painting in a vintage gilded gesso frame for $10 at the Albuquerque Flea Market. The frame alone, though damaged a bit, would command much more than that on Ebay or in an antique store.

This colorful folk art pressing by Mexican artist Kiki Suarez was sitting on a blanket with a bunch of inexpensive posters and prints at the Albuquerque Flea Market. Numbered and signed by the artist, who is losing her eyesight, I paid $3 for the piece entitled "Los refugiados" (The refugees). The gentleman who was selling it said "I'm asking $5, but make me an offer." So, I did! I'm not certain of its value, but who cares. It's a beautiful and emotional piece that captures the uncertainty of the immigrant experience in the United States.

So, overall, I spent about $100 on all of these pieces of art. Not bad, huh? Again, it's all about taking the time to educate yourself about where the best bargains can be had and then putting in the time to scope out the locations for yourself. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither will your art collection! Happy collecting.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

As the Years Turn...

This post is a little self-indulgent, but I'm feeling old since I'm going to be 40 in November. Perhaps, you might even think this little pictorial of Paul through the years is entertaining. I was cleaning out some boxes of photos and thought I should have fun with them. As you can see, my weight has been like Oprah's--Up! Down! Up! Down!











(Me and Bernadette Peters 1988)

(Me and Trevor Nunn "Les Miz" B'way Director 1988)

(College 1991)

(College graduation 1993)

(Tony Awards 1999)




(Hard at work at Harry Potter Place in SoHo for the national launch of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2007)

(May 2009)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Thought for a Weary Week Well Underway

Transition. It's a word that all too many of us are using more and more these days. The world is definitely changing and people are totally conflicted, not knowing why and how to deal with the shift.

My thoughts shift to the 4 year-old child that was found buried in an Albuquerque park a couple of weeks ago. How could a mother do this to her child, especially when there are so many adults out there who desperately want to have children and can't? It's appalling that she began to strangle him, and then in a moment of remorse stopped, only to resume, finally killing the boy. How bad could life be that someone would cross that line? Now that they have caught the mother of that sweet, little boy, how will her life transition? How will her family and friends cope with the tragedy?

This past weekend, I sorted through four boxes of photos that my parents brought me during my move--four boxes containing almost forty years of memories. It was time to transition into a new place, space, and frame of mind by keeping the important ones and purging some of the older photos that perhaps, in ten years, may not seem so important. I'm happy to hold on to many (in the case I'm in the mood to reminisce). Now, I only have two boxes of photos. Streamlining is good...transitioning feels good.

Many of these photos, which you, too, can view exclusively at Uncle Paulie's World, were a chronological pictorial of my life from high school to my early years in New York City (Boy was it good to throw away the pics of the ex-boyfriends and the flings that flung--Enough to ask myself the question "What was I thinking?" Oh well. You live. You learn, right?.) Though relieved to be rid of the clutter, I was overcome with great emotion last night--the shakes, the endless crying, the regret. Though this week, I'm still a little raw emotionally, I ask myself 'Why all those things?" Assuredly, it's because I'm in transition--the world's in transition. Everyone I know has a life in transition. And, there's nothing we can do about it, dog gone it! The World is telling us it's time to make some changes...or else! It's kind of like an unexpected earthquake. You know they happen, but the day-to-day makes you lose perspective. We fall into the cracks, only to awake to an overwhelming shaking that makes us realize how small we are in the scheme of things. Hopefully, we can hang on by our fingernails without falling, pull ourselves back up to solid ground before the chasm closes forcing us down into the limbo of the abyss. Luckily, unless our dresser falls on us, we have the chance to get back out there and do something! That's what I'm doing today--getting back out there. Boy, are my bootstraps starting to fray!

The Bare Bones of Southwest Folk Art

Gearing up for Dia de los muertes (Day of the Dead) art fairs this summer and fall, I have jumped into the spirit of the Southwest and its Latino flair with my new series of skeletons. I expect that the more I create, the more colorful and flamboyant they will get. Here are some pics of my prototypes. Don't let them scare you!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Queer at Folk: Doin' the ABQ Art Circuit

New Mexico has so much great art, and the quality is just as high as that of the people making it. I have found other artists here to be helpful and supportive, in addition to being supertalented!

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to do my first folk art festival thanks to Kenny Chavez, who is a local ABQ folk art icon. Kenny Chavez's Annual Cinco de Mayo Folk Art & Musical Festival took place at La Parada Mercantile on Albuquerque's Antique Mile.

I finally have some of my masks on the walls of a gallery in Old Town. If you are in the Albuquerque area check-out Desert Intarsia. They have wonderful jewelry by Brian and Stacey Maggard, as well as pottery, paintings, and now masks! I’m including some pics of Brian’s spectacular museum-quality stone intarsia jewelry as well as shots of my work available there right on the Plaza.

Here is a brief video of Kenny Chavez’s Annual Cinco de Mayo Folk Art & Music Festival this past Saturday. It was a lot of fun. I made some new friends and didn’t get too soaked in the “monsoon” that followed at about 4 p.m., bringing things down a notch. Enjoy the sites—really beautiful!