The Never Ending Journey of the Independent Artist, My Latest on the HuffPo
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The Never Ending Journey of the Independent Artist, My Latest on the HuffPo

I am an independent artist, married to an independent artist, with friends who are, yes, independent artists. This piece on the Huffington Post reflects what I’ve learned.

In part, the article says:

What I experienced was that the big traditional publishing companies had gotten mired in the quicksand of conventional thinking and groupthink. They had forgotten the importance of nurturing a midlist author through a few books to build a readership. They overlooked the appeal of richness and diversity in a book list and so refused to invest in truly original, unorthodox projects.

Worst of all, they had taken the selection of books away from people who love books—editors—and turned it over to people desperately searching for a business school algorithm to make every book a bestseller out of the starting gate—the marketing department.

Not that some wonderful books don’t sneak past the eyes of the marketing department. But, increasingly, legacy publishers emulate corporate Hollywood studios: turning out branded, franchise entertainment, mindless drivel that appeals to the horny, nerdy teenager in us all.

The great books and movies that make it past gatekeepers usually do so because they are spearheaded by someone passionate about the project. These projects come from the creative heart and soul of a dedicated individual. They require perseverance and vision in order to unfold in the world.

With no luck but bad luck with the legacy publishers, I embarked on my own passion process. I founded Parvati Press. I started independently publishing my own books and recently other authors.

 I’m fortunate to have two strong-minded individualists in my life as models for my journey: my husband Sabin Howard, and my friend dancer Lori Belilove, Founder and Artistic Director of the Isadora Duncan Dance Company and Foundation.

Catch the whole article here on the HuffPo.

Though I did realize this morning that there is one thing I forgot to mention explicitly in the post: the pleasure inherent in this path. It’s just fun to think ‘outside the box’ and to operate outside the confines of corporate mentality. It’s scary, yes, because it’s insecure. But it is ever so delicious.


independent artist


Sabin Howard Interview: Dialogues on the Drawing Book 2
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Sabin Howard Interview: Dialogues on the Drawing Book 2

Sabin Howard Interview: Dialogues on the Drawing Book 2 is the second in a series of podcast/Youtube presentations.

My husband master sculptor Sabin Howard is working on a drawing book. This book will be entitled “Drawing: The Foundation of Art.” It’s really about the importance and value of drawing in the creation of art, and how drawing is a skill based on seeing.

This is an interesting interview, because it begins and ends with the personal, human viewpoint of the artist. In our first interview, Sabin discussed two elements in the making of art: the conceptual and the perceptual. In this dialogue, he explains the kind of art he is talking about: timeless art. He also talks about how he arrived at this kind of art, and mentions an awakening he experienced at the Medici Tombs in Florence when he was 14. He saw Michelangelo’s sculptures set into the architecture of the tomb and it elevated him.

Sabin relates the story of how he decided to become an artist. It happened one day, after he’d dropped out of college and was working in a woodworking shop in Philly. He spent a few days sweeping wood shavings and sanding wood and he realized that he wasn’t using his brain. He went to tell his boss that it wasn’t working out for him and he quit. He walked out of the shop and phoned his father–collect. When his dad picked up, Sabin said, “I’m going to go to art school.”

His dad asked, “How long is this going to last?” Then his dad hung up.

I don’t blame his dad, Sabin can be pretty frustrating. The irony is, of course, that art has lasted a lifetime–and since Sabin sculpts in clay and casts in bronze, his sculptures will last for millennia.

So take a listen or a look at the interview. And check out my podcast channel on iTunes, because the Dialogue will go live on it.

Listen here:
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Or watch on youtube:

Sabin Howard Dialogues

Sabin Howard Interview about His Drawing Book
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Sabin Howard Interview about His Drawing Book

My husband Sabin Howard is a master sculptor. He’s currently working on a book called Drawing: The Foundation of Art. The drawing book is a kind of follow-up to our book The Art of Life, which was a photo-rich survey of figurative sculpture through the ages, from the very earliest times through the Renaissance and the Neo-classical periods until his work now.

Sabin is an exceptional draughtsman. With awe–because I know I could never do what he does–I watch him draw. He sits at our dining room table and focuses so fiercely that he doesn’t hear the rowdy dogs and rambunctious kid, the cell phone ringing and the front door banging open. He pours himself into his vision and his skilled hands with such intensity that it all fades away from him.

He knows what he’s doing, too. One of the things I find so fascinating about my husband is that he’s extraordinarily articulate about his work. Also about art in general. He tends to be quiet and soft-spoken until he launches into a discourse about art, both its history and its theory.

We talk about art all the time, and I think that’s one of the best things about being married to Sabin: our conversations about art. It’s these very conversations that led to our book The Art of Life, because he was speaking one day about his approach to sculpture and I said, “Sabin, people need know what you’re up to. It’s important.”

So now Sabin Howard is up to a book on drawing. The book is about how drawing is the basis of visual art. He has a lot of cool stuff to say about that, and I cajoled him into doing an interview with me for my iTunes podcast channel. He talks about the perceptual and the conceptual parts of doing art, and about the three great masters whom art students should study: Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael.

Listen here to the Sabin Howard interview or on my podcast channel.
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OR watch on Youtube

Latest HuffPo Piece: Ongoing Chicanery with the Gehry Memorial
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Latest HuffPo Piece: Ongoing Chicanery with the Gehry Memorial

Ongoing Chicanery with the Gehry Memorial

The editorial board of the New York Times is at it again, opining in high-falutin’ ways that show for the millionth time just how much this newspaper wants to set policy, rather than report it objectively.

This time the Editorial Board is commenting on the ghastly Gehry design which is supposed to honor our plain-spoken 34th president Dwight Eisenhower, but instead just serves to memorialize an aging architect’s vanity.

The august editorial board pronounced that Gehry’s “innovative and modernistic design plan…predictably raised the hackles of neo-classicists,” as if only neo-classicists would object to the appalling spectacle of a monstrous woven 80’-high metal curtain with two attached columns and two detached columns that look like smokestacks. It’s a sly piece of spin doctoring crafted to jam this dreadful design down the throats of the American people. It is a marketing sleight-of-hand to relegate criticism of these plans to the category of “raising the hackles of neo-classicists.”

After all, neo-classicists don’t matter, so no one should care what that insignificant group thinks. No worries, the New York Times will tell you who does matter.

But it’s not just benighted neo-classicists who are appalled by Gehry’s design. These ugly tapestries have been widely said to evoke concentration camps, not a great and humble leader who loved his country and his family—who surely would have wanted his family’s voices to be heard regarding his memorial.

At least in this press release Rocco Siciliano, Chairman of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, isn’t openly sneering at the Eisenhowers. Instead, there’s a dismissive throwaway line, “Critics continue to object, including members of the Eisenhower family.”

At this point, I will repeat the disclaimer I included in my post last year, “The Problem with the Frank Gehry Memorial”: I am the wife of sculptor Sabin Howard, who was courted by Frank Gehry for the Eisenhower Memorial, told the sculpture gig was his and he would begin working on the project next week, and then suddenly dropped.

But this is the least of the ugly business surrounding this memorial project. There’s the misrepresentation in the editorial piece that the lengthy opposition to Gehry’s design is typical of the process for memorials in Washington. In fact, this is not true, and is another example of spin doctoring to achieve an objective.

Fifteen years of objections is not typical. The Vietnam memorial, for example, shows another way—a better way. An open design competition was held beginning in December, 1980. Maya Lin’s breathtakingly gorgeous Memorial Wall won.

Yes, there was controversy. The Three Soldiers sculpture was added because of the controversy, and ground was broken in March, 1982. Lin’s design, in its stunning and elegant simplicity, shocked many people. It still took less than two years to break ground.

It also required far less than the more than $42,000,000 that has already vanished into the maw of the Gehry design, according to the website, with almost nothing to show for it. Is this $42,000,000 taxpayer money or privately raised money? There is so much obfuscation about the money that it’s hard to tell—and I made some phone calls to that end.

Indeed, the bigger question here concerns finances, which the New York Times editorial saw fit to overlook. How has this money been spent? Where has it all gone? Don’t the American people deserve an accounting? If it’s taxpayer money, then we have the right to demand one. If it’s privately raised money, since the memorial is a public project, We the People have a stake.

Instead of discussing the specific details of financing, including the vanished $42,000,000 and the estimated additional $140,000,000 required to build Gehry’s design, the Times editorial quotes Representative Darrell Issa as saying, “We can’t go back to square one. We have an obligation after fifteen years to get this thing going.” Note: the editorial makes careful mention of Issa’s status as a “senior Republican.” After all, approving of a Republican means the New York Times isn’t biased on this issue.

I personally think we have an obligation to create a beautiful memorial that will serve both the memory of a beloved president and the American people, something with the grandeur of the Lincoln Memorial or the Vietnam Memorial. Note that both of those monuments are about their subjects, not about their architects.

But time is an issue for the Gehry Memorial because Gehry himself is so very elderly.

If there is never going to be an open competition for the Eisenhower Memorial, and if, in fact, Gehry’s self-aggrandizing design is going to be inflicted as a fait accompli on this nation, then at least show us where the money has all gone. Don’t just sweep it under the rug. Eight figures worth of cash has disappeared. Give us a line-by-line accounting of that money.

I’m not saying that anyone absconded with the money. Nor am I suggesting that it’s lined anyone’s pockets to keep a bad plan rolling. It is, however, most interesting that in September the Gehry Memorial was reported to be on life support, and then suddenly in mid-October the plan was passed, a done deal, with the Commission refusing to address any aesthetic concerns. Huh? Was that money well-spent?

If no one else will say that the emperor has no clothes, then I will. Gehry’s design is hideous and will be an eyesore in this nation’s capitol. Refusing to address the legitimate, ongoing aesthetic concerns, and refusing to inquire into possible financial mismanagement of memorial funds, is a way of pulling the wool over the eyes of the American public, the very people who are supposed to benefit from the memorial, and who are putting up 80% of the funds for it.

I suggest that a fair and open competition would best serve the integrity of President Eisenhower’s memory, and that it is most likely to yield us a design that is both innovative and beautiful. To Representative Issa, and to everyone else, including those who connive to ignore the aesthetic concerns, I say: It is time to start over. Scrap this terminally ugly, expensive project. If that’s not possible, then create an Eisenhower sculpture, a sculpture of President Eisenhower, that will be a fitting tribute to the statesman and to the country he served with such distinction. Iron smokestacks and giant metal drapery won’t do it.

Latest HuffPo Piece

Copyright: sborisov / 123RF Stock Photo


Hear this post as a podcast at the Traci L. Slatton podcast channel


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Gehry Memorial Delays & Expense: I said it last year in the HuffPo
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Gehry Memorial Delays & Expense: I said it last year in the HuffPo

Do you notice how it’s called the “Gehry” Memorial, not the “Eisenhower Memorial”?

That’s because this ugly, outrageously expensive, inappropriate memorial is a tribute to Frank Gehry’s ego, not to the revered former President and statesman. Ike is nowhere to be found in this ghastly monument to an aging architect’s vanity.

The New York Times is pronouncing on the Gehry Memorial, reporting that it’s being called a “five-star folly.”

I would like to point out that I wrote words to the same effect more than a year ago, in my Huffington Post piece about the memorial. I also wrote of the atrocious way Gehry treated my husband Sabin Howard.

Regarding the spiraling expense of the piece, I wrote:

Nor was the announcement written to give hard facts that allow people to know the truth. For example, what wasn’t said is how much Gehry’s design will cost: at least $142 million of taxpayer money, according to sources.

But the Times  quotes from a 58 page report stating that Gehry & Co. have pocketed over $10,000,000 for the memorial. What’s there to show for the sum of money? Where can I get a gig like that, where I can siphon off eight figures and produce almost nothing, or at most a few little macquettes? Nice work if you can get it!

I applaud Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah who has introduced a bill to appoint a new commission.

Review: Sigmar Polke at the MOMA
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Review: Sigmar Polke at the MOMA

I saw a lot of art in Italy. The Accademia in Venice, the Uffizi in Florence, the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, the Canova Gipsoteca in Possagno, and a thousand Tintoretto/Tiepolo/Giovanni Bellini-graced churches in Venice. Then I came home to NYC and went to the MOMA with my museum buddy Ying.

The Exhibition Guide for the Sigmar Polke show was filled with the kind of pretentious art-speak that gives art historians a bad name because it distances viewers from art. For example, it describes Polke, a German artist who lived from 1941-2010, as having a “promiscuous intelligence.”

Ying and I had a conversation about that diction, “promiscuous intelligence.” Why couldn’t the writer just say Polke was interested in many subjects? Or something equally direct and to the point. It would be nice if artspeak didn’t try to call attention to itself, but rather served the art it references.

I should note that Ying is even more educated than I am, and has a few advanced degrees. She’s also one of the most dauntingly engaged readers I know. If she’s taking exception to word choice, her opinion matters.

My husband Sabin Howard the master sculptor has a lot to say about the vanity, self-importance, and general silliness of most art historians. He believes that great art should stand on its own, without need for the conceits and airs of PhD’s who are trying to justify their scholarly degrees.

Indeed, no one needs to explain the immensity and gorgeousness of Giotto’s frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel–they deliver themselves directly to your heart.

Sabin would have been skeptical of Polke, who worked in many mediums: painting, photography, film, sculpture, drawing, print-making, television, performance, and stained glass.

Sabin Howard is about mastery, uplift, perfection. Polke was about experimentation, curiosity, irreverence. Sabin operates from an admirable, even enviable, inner certainty. Polke was questing.

I enjoyed the show, though I did roll my eyes at Potato House, a wooden lattice with potatoes nailed into it that was supposed to evoke pedestrian objects in German life: the garden shed and the potato.

But I do like the wit and boundless curiosity with which the prolific Polke approached his art, and what do you call it if not art? In this I disagree with my husband, who would call it entertainment.

Maybe it isn’t the eternal high art of Michelangelo or Botticelli, but it’s valuable and important, partly as a cultural document–Polke grew up in post-war Germany, and that carries its own weight, a particular gravity. But Polke’s works offer more than cultural and historical reverence. His works attempt to change the viewer’s consciousness, to provoke questions and a kind of delicious uncertainty akin to Buddhist beginner’s mind. In that, it often succeeds.

Though I must agree with Ying who commented, “I like it, it’s very intellectual. But will I be thinking about it in two weeks? Will I be thinking about it in two hours?”

An insightful question, perhaps the salient question. I’m still thinking about Giotto’s frescoes and Botticelli’s Primavera.

Worth seeing, and do go to the Painting and Sculpture I floor, where are housed some stunning Kandinskys.

Sigmar Polke at the MOMA