Saturday, May 9, 2020

Past Present

In Rochester, New York - Interstate 490
is my usual route home....

After moving into my new home in Fairport, New York, and sorting through boxes of papers, I have come to the conclusion that I must begin to document the route I took to get here.  I am not talking about the roads ( Interstate 490 ) that I take to get to my house.  I am thinking about the places I grew up in and my family, friends and acquaintances that I miss, now in this new era of the pandemic.

WATCH OUT!!....Paul Singer paints a mural for the Bronx Zoo

Growing up in a family of artists, my inclination was to watch what father, mother, and big brother did to use their skills to the best of their ability, and then see how I might create something interesting as well.  I always wanted to go in my own direction, from the time I was a little kid - and my bicycle was a tool that could take me there.  For me it was more than just good exercise, it was my way to observe the world.  What I saw down the road, became the subject matter for my art.  I used my bike to do my job as a newspaper delivery boy but also I went far and wide to scope out themes for my paintings and drawings.

I was born in New York City in 1950 at Women's Hospital on West 33rd Street, and for years I spent my childhood either in New Hyde Park, or Jericho on Long Island.  By the early 1960s my father, Arthur Singer, spent his days illustrating books and magazines with his accurate images of birds and animals.  My mom was a painter who helped organize a Long Island art club.  Both of my parents taught me a lot about art and I also learned from my brother Paul ( above ) who painted in the style  first of Utrillo, and then Winslow Homer.  He also collected antiques - armor and boat models...

Frank Blair introduces Arthur Singer on the TODAY Show on NBC

In the early 1960s, I was home and I had the chance to watch my father on TV.  He had just published a major book project ( Birds of the World ) and the folks at NBC's TODAY Show introduced Arthur Singer to a national audience.  Frank Blair interviewed Arthur in this very rare experience - certainly you didn't see bird painters often on TV.  My dad was about 45 years old at the time and his career was gaining momentum.

Arthur and Alan Singer paint the State Birds and Flowers
for the U.S. Postal Service, 1982

Since Arthur worked at home, the family had the chance to see the whole process unfold.  Mornings were often spent outdoors photographing birds, followed by hours of research and drawing for his page layouts.  Later in life I had the great good fortune working with my dad on several projects, most notably the Birds and Flowers stamps, for the U.S. Postal Service.

In  recent years, my brother Paul and I have documented the artwork my father created in our book about his career, published by RIT Press.  Our book is titled: "Arthur Singer, The Wildlife Art of An American Master", and it is filled with details of his working life starting before World War ll and running up until he passed in 1990.

Here my brother Paul and I sign copies of our book at The University Gallery on the campus of RIT here in Rochester, New York.

Alan and Paul Singer author a book about their father - Arthur Singer
and happily sign copies at R.I.T.

Sunday, April 26, 2020


"Who On Earth"
oil on linen by
Alan Singer

To my readers: HELLO!  If you are still out there!!  It seems that it is time to restructure, time to think about what we are doing in the present to prepare for the future.  The pandemic sweeping across our country is changing the parameters daily.  I don't even go into the store now to do our daily grocery shopping and that is the least of it.  I do count myself among the lucky ones, my wife and I are healthy and are moving into our new home.  I have been working on a painting in my studio when I can.  It is a circle and it is both abstract and a representation at the same time.  This is a painted quilt - a grid of squares; oil paint in vibrant colors.

Now that I have time to contemplate our situation and I am off from teaching this semester, I found a focus by reading an article published by Jerry Saltz ( who wrote the book that I just finished called: "How To Be An Artist" - that I mentioned in my last post ).  His new article is titled: "The Last Days of the Art World...and Perhaps the First Days of a New One...( life after the coronavirus will be very different ).  You can go on the web to find his new article....

The New York Times also had a cover story about artists and their plans when everything they had to look forward to goes...POOF!  Our culture has now gone into a virtual lockdown and how do you recover from that?  Galleries go dark, and the only way to meet collectors or customers is online.

This all hits home for me as I was on schedule to give a talk about my art at The Memorial Art Gallery which is now closed because of COVID-19.  Also this spring my schedule included a solo show at the Multi-Cultural Community Center which has been postponed indefinitely, so I know the kind of disruption our new reality can have.

Art by Alan Singer on view at Elmwood Avenue

We have a show of artwork spread over three floors of our home on Elmwood Avenue, and we had a plan to preview this art, and then the virus crisis hit.  You can take a look at the way we have spread artwork around the house if you follow this link, and the house is now for sale.  Here is a link you can follow: 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Reading List

"How To Be An Artist"
by Jerry Saltz
published by Riverhead Books

Due to the pandemic, I read that the initial release of this publication that was scheduled for Strand Books in New York City had to be scuttled, probably at the last moment ( sorry for Jerry Saltz! ).
I built my library  by visiting Strand Books and had I been able to, I would have loved to see how they launch a publication like this...

The author, Jerry Saltz, and his new book

So this virus crisis should allow for a lot of reading, and I can say that I enjoyed this little guide of 125 pages, mostly at the end of a very long day, unpacking all the art books I had purchased over the years in the new home we have acquired recently.  Moving is not for the faint of heart, needless to say!

Reading "How To Be An Artist" causes me to think back to what I was doing when I was younger ( I am about to turn seventy! ) and did I follow a path that Jerry Saltz lays out in his text that is broken down into several steps and 63 easy to read,  instructive chapters - some with exercises that you can do on your own schedule!  I think early in life,  I was introduced to the life of an artist through my family, as both of my parents practiced their art at our home, and I have an older brother who also followed in their steps, so art is in the genetic make-up of the Singer Family!

This is not necessarily a "How To Paint" book, more of a Self-Help Guide for the Aspiring Artist...
and it has a personal twist, especially because  the author wanted to be an artist from a young age, and has ended up being an art critic, and someone who is worth reading in this day and age.  I did find his quick little chapters a little glib at times, but I appreciate his honesty, especially in the beginning where he did share his doubts and frustrations with the reader.  One thing that must be dealt with is the amount of time that one needs to spend - alone in a work environment that is conducive to making art.  This might be pretty difficult if you are part of a big, gregarious family, or if you don't have the requisite patience to see how things turn out.

Also on my reading list for this unusual period pf time, I have completed a very finely detailed book on the art of Romare Bearden that I mentioned in my last post written by Mary Schmidt Campbell  ( see below ).

"An American Odyssey" by Mary Schmidt Campbell

From the photo on the cover to the last pages, I learned so much from reading this book.  I grew to be a fan of Romare Bearden's artwork while he was still alive, and I could relate to his struggle, and I could applaud his success.  The author takes us into the milieu of pre- and post World War ll to inform us about what life was like for an aspiring African American artist.  Along the way I had met Romare Bearden and got to shake his hand.  I realize that this is a momentary gesture, but it meant a lot to me, and that is the kind of thing that I hope people will go out and do.  Follow the work of an artist, and by chance approach the person if you can at an opening and ENGAGE!

Readers of this book will learn that it is not necessarily a straight path to greatness, and there were many roadblocks for the African American artist in mid-20th Century America!  I can count myself very fortunate to have studied the art and creative impulse guided by some of our talented folks like Roy DeCarava, and William T. Williams to name a few.  I knew even at the time I was a student,  that an African American artist might have a hard time just showing up, being part of the scene so to speak.  I am glad to see - that though it has taken most of my lifetime - things are getting better!
And anyway, I have to get back to unpacking and arranging my books, see you later.....

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Changing Lanes

3021 Elmwood Avenue
Rochester, NY

Hello readers  it has been a while since my last post early in the year and a LOT has happened since.

Of course there is the world-wide news of the Corona virus which has everyone in an unprecedented state of mind!  Closer to home - my home to be exact - we have been moving from the one you see above.  The neighborhood is in Brighton, and the area is called Twelve Corners, and we have lived in this house for over 26 years!  

My office in Brighton

Here is the room in which I have composed my blog posts, and much more over the past ten years.

It has been a pleasure to be in this house, which helped my family by being so effective as a dwelling with easy access to everywhere in the Rochester area.  But now is our time to move on, and we are starting a new chapter in a new place in Fairport!

Since moving, I have not been able to write about the art shows like I usually do.  I have not been able to spend time in my studio working on my art.  Packing and moving a house is an exhausting experience which doesn't get any easier as you get older!  I also had an artistic inventory to move out of my attic, taking into account a portion of over thirty years of paintings and drawings and prints, along with my own collection of art by other people.....

I do intend to get back to my writing, and my first intent is to say something about books that I have read as a form of relaxation after packing many,many boxes in order to make our move.  I had a wonderful encounter with the artist Romare Bearden years ago in New York City, so I have been very fortunate to have been reading a survey of his life and career which has been recently published.
Here is a picture of the cover of this new compendium by Mary Schmidt Campbell, below:

"An American Odyssey"
Mary Schmidt Campbell
about the life and art of Romare Bearden

Over the years when I was a student, I would go to the Cordier & Ekstrom Gallery in New York City to see the art of Romare Bearden, and finally had a chance to meet him and talk briefly with him at an opening for one of his last shows in that gallery.  In the new book above, I could read about his back story and the history of his development which is considerable.  I can even recall that Romare Bearden  an ardent maker of collage,  used some of my father's art that had been produced as an advertisement, and I mentioned that to him, and he just smiled!

In any case I want to spend more time with this book, and dig into it a bit more in my next post to this blog.  Thanks for reading, I will get back into the swing of things!  Stay healthy, stay safe!

Sunday, January 26, 2020

New Birds and Flowers

Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra
50 Years with Garth Fagan Dance

In Rochester this week we celebrate Garth Fagan and a remarkable milestone  presenting fifty years with his Dance Company.  Above you might see him in his green cap surrounded by throngs of well-wishers who have come out to see his troupe perform in the Eastman Theatre.  Here was an opportunity to see the magic of music and dance on a prestigious stage and it was so fabulous!

Jeff Tyzik was the conductor for the orchestra and they had just the right jazzy, snazzy performance to augment what the dancers were doing upfront.

I really appreciated the inclusion of Duke Ellington's composition ( Take the A Train ) and the story of how influential Ellington's music had on Garth Fagan as he developed his repertoire. I also admired the DANCECOLLAGEFORROMIE - which was the last dance of the evening, in honor of the visual art of Romare Bearden.  If you want to know more about Romare Bearden, check out the book by Mary Schmidt Campbell that was just profiled in The New York Review of Books.  Bearden is a seminal artist working in mid-20th century in New York City, and I am honored to say that I had a chance to meet him and shake his ( enormous ) hand!

Garth Fagan with his energetic choreography brought to life the collage artwork that Bearden specialized in.  Collage is also an art form that you will find in a new show that has opened at The Mercer Gallery on the campus of Monroe Community College.  This is a two person exhibition called: "All About Birds and Flowers" featuring the artwork of Kurt Feuerherm and Judy Feuerherm, and collage and drawing are the highlights that steal the show.

Judy Feuerherm flowers on Yellow...

It should be noted at the outset that Kurt Feuerherm has recently passed away ( 1925-2019 ) and this show was scheduled many months ago when he was still with us.  Kurt was a real presence in this town and he has many friends and collectors of his artwork.  Kurt had a real sense of humor which you don't often find in the visual arts.

Drawing and collage by Kurt Feuerherm

The show at the Mercer Gallery has a fine selection of works, some of which are on view in a set of small vitrines that feature sketchbooks and journals in one corner and small colorful sculptures in another.

Journals and Sketchbook by Kurt Feuerherm

"All About Birds and Flowers" will amuse you and also stimulate you to think about the subjects in new ways.  The images made by these two artists are graphic, colorful translations into a new language - something that keeps the roots but gives a whole new feeling to visual expression that verges on abstraction.  If images of birds can carry across an emotion - Kurt's drawings certainly do that.  In the collage work from Judy Feuerherm she re-invents a botanical art that has at its core a kind of abstract expressionist verve.

Artwork by Judy Feuerherm

This two person show will be on view thru February 14th, 2020, so catch it if you can!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

20 20 Vision

Begin a New Year at Breakfast 2020

Taking some time to go down memory lane before I get into the fast paced artworld of 2020, first I take a moment for breakfast and map out my week.  It is a new decade, but last year's headlines linger in the morning paper as read on and  munch on my toast.  We are moving from Brighton in the neighborhood of  Rochester east to the town of Fairport 20 minutes away.

Snow Steps 

I visited  the park across the street from The Lamberton Conservatory in Highland Park and found this wonderful scene of steps that lead you up into a blue sky.  Nice to take a break from packing and moving.  Mostly I have been sorting thru a large inventory of artwork.  Some of the art is by my father, Arthur Singer.  In recent years we have had the chance to show his paintings to a rather large audience around the country, but there is so much that hasn't been shown yet as he produced a few thousand images in his life.

Gouache by Arthur Singer
from one of his 20 published books

Then there are the family photos and things that  we collect.  And I inherited images that my father had including a moody photograph of the jazz composer Duke Ellington made years ago by Bob Parent  ( see below ).  My father was a life-long friend of the Duke, and jazz was always a part of our life because of this connection which was established in the early years of the 20th century.

Duke Ellington by Bob Parent circa 1960

I am taking an inventory of my paintings and prints as well and finding a way to safely package them for the movers later in the spring.  I am planning on catching some of the new gallery shows soon and return to writing about the local artists in our area.  Also in the plans will be my own gallery showing which will take place in the spring at the Multi-Cultural Community Center ( MUCCC ) and also a talk I will be giving at the Memorial Art Gallery early in April.

Moving artwork is a delicate matter for me as I have prints like the one below ( The Importance of Light ) which I made recently that may be included in one of my shows to come.  I am sure that this will be a busy year - right now I am grateful for the time off from my teaching responsibilities at Rochester Institute of Technology.  I will be back at it soon enough.  but for the moment I have to find some plastic bags and banker's boxes to fill up,  so excuse me!

The Importance of Light
monotype by Alan Singer

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Wall Therapy: A Prelude and Thank You

Downtown Rochester
Wall Mural

Thank you in advance for taking the time to read my posts to this blog.  I enjoy writing about what I see on my travels both near and far.  I am presently on the move - but this time it is my own house that will change - as we are moving from Brighton to Fairport!

What brought me here in the first place was an offer of a teaching position at Rochester Institute of Technology, and I said yes! and packed up my family and moved upstate from Brooklyn, New York.
What a change!  You could actually get somewhere if you drove around town in Rochester... 

I came to teach, and it is actually the joy I get from working with the younger folks who have self-selected to become artists.  I have had some wonderful experiences, and one of them was a project my students and I got involved with and that was painting murals - way before Wall/Therapy arrived here to make it into the big-time!

R.I.T. students of Illustration painting our CASA Mural
circa 1992

We had the help of all the students in my illustration class, but most of all we  had the winning design by a fellow in the class named Robert E. Lee!  During the warm and  then cold winter months we enlarged on Robert's drawings and went to work with the blessing of CASA ( Court Appointed Special Advocates ) who gave a voice to children caught up in court battles.  They had found a wall for us in the Downtown Rochester Parking Garage, just below the court buildings.

Getting the details right.. R.I.T. Illustration students
circa 1992

Services were donated by a local billboard company with the management of Robert Whiteside, blowing up the original drawings to the wall size we needed.  This kind of work needs a lot of painting people to succeed!  Luckily we have very fine students who really care about what they are doing, and how they make their mark!

Students paint a portrait of a time when....

So I ran across these old photos now taken almost 30 years ago, and since we are embarking on a new decade, I thought I would share a moment of this experience with you.  The mural is still there, and I wonder what the students who painted it would think about their work now?  I  find it remarkable, for the group effort and also for the organization that it represents.  We try to help each other, and it is in that spirit that I say welcome to 2020, and hope that we can all get along, and learn from our experience....