Chelsea Gallery Walk

Saturday in Chelsea...walking around, visiting galleries, having coffee with a friend.  I love Tara Donovan's large installations, and felt transported to see her extraordinary latest, Untitled (Mylar) 2011 at the Pace Gallery.  Tara's installation is dark, reflective, organic--it reminds me of stars, spores, a coral reef.  Walking in and out of Chelsea galleries is like spending the day in a dream--losing oneself in beauty, meaning, no-meaning, space... Tara Donovan press release:

NEW YORK, NY. The Pace Gallery presents Untitled (Mylar), 2011, a sprawling single large-scale installation on view for the first time at 545 West 22nd Street from March 4 through April 9, 2011.

In Donovan’s new installation, sheets of Mylar grow into towering organic structures of varying heights rising up to approximately 11 feet tall. As with the artist’s pin drawings on view at 510 West 25th Street, light plays a pivotal role in the work as it catches the folds of Mylar and radiates off its undulating metallic surfaces. The installation relates to Untitled (Mylar), 2010, recently acquired by the Indianapolis Museum of Art for their permanent collection, and is the first of its kind to be shown in New York City. Tara Donovan: Untitled (Mylar), 2011 marks the first major solo-exhibition devoted to Donovan’s large-scale installation or sculptural work in New York City since Donovan at the Met at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in November of 2007, which was extended for nearly a full year by popular demand. The museum show was the fourth in a series dedicated to solo exhibitions of contemporary artists.

From March 16 through June 6, 2011, Donovan will headline Artist File 2011: The NACT Annual Show of Contemporary Art at the National Arts Center Tokyo with two large-scale installations. The group exhibition will be the artist’s first show in Japan.

Tara Donovan (b. 1969, Flushing, New York) received the prestigious MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Award in 2008. The artist holds a B.F.A. from the Corcoran College of Art and Design, Washington, D.C. (1991) and an M.F.A. in sculpture from Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond (1999). The exhibitions at The Pace Gallery follow a three year travelling retrospective devoted to the artist, organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston 2008–2009, which traveled to the Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, Cincinnati; Des Moines Art Center; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego through 2010. The retrospective was accompanied by the first monograph on the artist, which was published by The Monacelli Press.

Tara Donovan’s work is held in numerous important public and private collections, including Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Brooklyn Museum of Art; Dallas Museum of Art; Indianapolis Museum of Art; The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Milwaukee Art Museum; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; St. Louis Art Museum; Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others.

Tara Donovan lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She has been represented by The Pace Gallery since 2005.


I love this, on the desk at the Pace Gallery: LOVE ART & HELP JAPAN


Driving snow, wind howling up the Hudson River, thunder and jagged lightning, an epic storm. Torn: stay inside, write and be cozy, watch sheets of snow blow past the windows, river unseeable though the whiteout?  Or bundle up and go outside, coat-hat-scarf-gloves-boots, and feel the blizzard?

Both, as it turned out.   Last night, ice in the wind, blinding and stinging; hearing the wind roar was like standing in a kettle drum.  Cabs inching along.  A toboggan track in deep snow, leading down West 23rd St to the subway station.  And today a snow day, streets empty of cars, side streets unplowed with taxis and even a bus abandoned to the drifts.  i wanted to build a snow fort, and came upon the one above, occupied by neighborhood kids.

Click link to see some photos I took of the blizzard and the day after.  Stay warm...

Ten Ways It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Christmas

Ten ways it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas: 1) The tree sellers are back in Chelsea.  They were my inspiration for Silver Bells, a Holiday Tale.  From the first page: "Everyone knew the best Christmas trees came from the north, where the stars hung low in the sky. It was said that starlight lodged in the branches, the northern lights charged the needles with magic."

2) Pandora has a Classical Christmas station as well as good old Christmas radio with at least twelve versions (and counting) of Baby, it's Cold Outside.  My mother's favorite song was Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.  "Through the years we all will be together..."  I miss her and am feeling nostalgic.

3) Yesterday I brought home a tiny boxwood tree and decorated it with white lights.  While Maggie looks very sweet and Christmassy here, the photo was taken ten seconds before she began chewing on the leaves.  Maisie has taken to batting the ornaments around.  Only Mae-Mae keeps her distance (SO FAR.)

4) The days are getting shorter.  I know about SAD and send love and support to those who suffer from it.  But I love this time of year leading up to the solstice, when darkness covers the earth and drives us inward, to consider our lives, and to draw together--to actively need each other, as a way to chase the shadows...  The stars are bright in the sky, and I dream of going far north to see the aurora borealis.

5) I attended the New York City Ballet's Nutcracker for the first time in many years with the young, beautiful, and graceful Nyasha.  Here we are with Ashley, one of the Snowflakes.

Lincoln Center is always magical, perhaps most so in winter.

6) The lobby of my apartment building is beautiful and festive, and emil and jose (shown here) and the rest of the staff are as always kind, generous, and wonderful.

7a) Festivus.  Our family will celebrate soon in Newport, RI.  Twigg plays an integral role in this holiday.  To keep the spirit alive, we have a festivus pole here in NYC.  It's actually a hollow tree with an owl's roost hole, transported from the Maine woods to my apartment, but I wrapped it with colored lights, et voila.  (That's Maggie, of course, on the sofa.)

7b) I made a pomander ball for the first time in forever.  My grandmother always had one hanging in her closet, usually made by one of my sisters, Rosemary and Maureen.  We had this set-up in the bedroom we shared (or sometimes the basement)--Santa's workshop, and my sisters were the best at making presents for the family.  For a pomander ball you take an orange, a bunch of whole cloves, and some pretty red and green plaid ribbon.  Create swirly patterns by sticking the cloves into the orange.  Or you can cover the whole thing, or make stars or whatever you like.  It smells good but, yikes, my fingers sting.

8.The Empire Diner is no more, and Dan's Chelsea Guitars has moved into smaller quarters a few feet down in the Hotel Chelsea.  The neighborhood is changing, and that makes me sad.  I miss the Diner, one of my favorite neighborhood places, and all the people who worked there.  Renate, I'm thinking of you...

9)  My fingers sting from the pomander ball, but also from playing my baby Martin guitar, on which I'm attempting to write a song, or maybe more like a story set to music.  It involves snow, stars, the tallest spruce in the world, a very wayward cat, and snowflake fairies.  It will be a huge hit on Pandora next year.  There are a lot of C and E Minor chords.

10) I'm giving away Silver Bells--novel and DVD--on my Facebook fan page.  If you haven't already, please friend me, then "like" the fan page to win.  We have lots of fun and giveaways on's a bit more interactive than this site.

If you are on Facebook, I'll be asking about your top ten reasons and hoping you'll let me know.  I'm so appreciative of my readers and all visitors to this site.  I hope that you are enjoying the season as much as I am, and if  you have cats (or dogs) they limit their love and attention for your holiday decorations to the occasional walk-by or curious gaze.

* The painting of of Santa in his magical swan sleigh is by William Holbrook Beard, ca. 1862.   It's on display at Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art.  When I lived in Providence, the image graced my Christmas cards.  Now, saving trees, this serves as my Christmas card to all of you.

Coming soon

Coming soon, How to Write a Novel video.  I'll tell you all my secrets!

[Update: video is up!  Aspiring writers and others, please click above to watch.]

The shoot lasted all day.  Once darkness fell, Mike O'Gorman, the director, (pictured below) set up lights with red and blue gels.  The effect was quite magical.  A night shoot was essential because dreaming is such an important part of writing.  I fall asleep and take my characters with me.  Dreams mix everything together, answers are revealed, and story falls into place.  I wake up, write down what I've learned, and go back to sleep.

Here are a few stills from the How to Write a Novel shoot.  Notice Maggie sleeping next to me...  There's one of Mike taking 5, and one of my wonderful video-online team at the wrap party at the Red Cat.  From left--my assistant (and Mike's fiance) Jessie Cantrell, Ted O'Gorman, me, Mike O'G, and Hallie Clarke.

City at night

At the end of West 23rd Street, sunset over Hoboken; the sky turns topaz, the Hudson River deep violet.  Horns blast, and boats leave Chelsea Piers, their lights twinkling.  It's Thursday night, and people are out.  The Half King's sidewalk cafe is packed.   Tenth Avenue is a combination of restaurants and shadows.  Taxi garages ("flats fixed!") and shuttered storefronts.  A "checks cashed here" place closed for the night, streetlight reflected in bulletproof glass, next door to a brightly lit bodega.

Clement Clark Moore Park, small and square, is dark; tall trees sway in the summer breeze, leaves whispering when the traffic light is red, the street momentarily quiet.  1840s Brownstones line the side streets.  The High Line, a park by day, goes back to being a ghostly abandoned elevated railway bed by night.  I remember being young, a different Luanne Rice.

It's August, no gallery openings.  Usually Thursday nights are party time in Chelsea, but there's a sense that all the art people have gone to Montauk, Martha's Vineyard, or an olive orchard in Tuscany.

The cafes are lively, the temperature lovely.  A constant breeze blows off the river, up from the harbor and the ocean beyond.  Manhattan is surrounded by water.  I could walk to Battery Park and back, loving the city and feeling my place in it.

Portrait of the Writer as a Young Chelsea Girl

Portrait of the Writer as a Young Chelsea Girl by Luanne Rice

When I first moved to New York City, I lived on Tenth Avenue just north of Fourteenth Street, over a speakeasy that used to be frequented by the Irish mob.  My mentor, a writer at The New Yorker, had helped me find a room in an SRO.  He’d told me that all writers had to live in New York, preferably in squalor, and since I had basically no money but many dreams, I was on board with that.  Chelsea was the Wild West then—gunshots were a common way to be awakened at two in the morning.  I got so I would dial “911” in my sleep.

My mentor suggested I live as stable a life as possible, writing all the time and not falling into the temptations of drink, parties, and a messy love life.  Soon I married, and moved to an actual apartment in the same neighborhood.  My then-husband was a young lawyer.  We had no money, but big dreams.  I published my first short stories and wrote my first novel in New York—Angels All Over Town.

Throughout this time, the Empire Diner was my café.  I went there for coffee every morning, and until it closed last spring, continued to do so over the last twenty-plus years.  Back then Paulina Porizkova and Elle Macpherson were roommates, and I would see them at the next table.  There were lots of clubs in the neighborhood, and half the diner would be filled with people just waking up, half with people on their way home.

But the part of Chelsea I’ve always loved best has been the seminary block.  West 20th St. between Ninth and Tenth Avenues.  Built on land owned by Clement Clark Moore (author of “A Visit From St. Nicholas,”) it seems very alive with ghosts.  I’ve always felt them there, and I wrote about them in Silver Bells.

Back when I first lived here, West 20th St. was home to two of my favorite writers—Ann Beattie and Laurie Colwin.  It was like a literary mecca for me—to walk down the street on the off-chance of seeing them.  Which I often did…

In spite of his admonition to not become distracted by the literary life, my mentor used to take me to lunch at the Algonquin, where we would sit one banquette away from Mr. Shawn, and to the theater, and opening night parties, and literary soirees.  Once I sat at a table with him, Norman Mailer, John Updike, William Styron, and George Plimpton.  Then I came home to write and try not to feel daunted.

I’ve been a writer my whole life, and I still live in Chelsea.  What a solitary time it was when I first lived here—my husband worked all the time, and I hardly ever saw him.  I just wrote.  My friends were artists, writers, and musicians.  Eventually I did fall prey to all I'd been warned against, and certain things fell apart, and others seemed to come together.   My husband and I divorced.  Hearts were broken and broken again.  I became a wild child, which was inconvenient because by then I was in my thirties.  Chelsea saw me through.

Galleries took over, and the streets became not so gritty.  New places opened.  I found an apartment with two views: a sliver of the Hudson River to the west, and the historic district of Chelsea to the east.  Directly across the street is an old warehouse that sports billboards advertising self-storage with messages such as the one I'm looking at right now: "Material Possessions Won't Make You Happy or Maybe They Will."  Most days I have lunch or at least coffee at the Half King, a café owned by Sebastian Junger and Scott Anderson.  There is a sidewalk terrace, back garden, and black leather couches under slanting ceilings.  On Monday nights there is a wonderful reading series.

After a more recent divorce than the first one, I went into Dan’s Chelsea Guitars and bought an acoustic guitar.  I began to take lessons from Mark Lonergan, a great guitarist who lives in the building next to the Hotel Chelsea.  He’s taught me a lot, but I don’t practice enough.  Even so, I write songs and have formed a band with two women from the neighborhood.  They’re both really good: Dianne plays bass, and Ali plays keyboards.  We’re all in the arts and do so much work from home, we call ourselves “House Arrest.”

Chelsea has been home for so long, it hurts to see the major changes occurring.  Fancy new buildings going up.  Where are all the young writers, musicians, artists, actors supposed to live if all the cheap apartments get torn down so “luxury high-rises” can go up in their place?

It confuses me, but I have faith in young writers.  I found my own inspiring patch of squalor here in New York City, and I trust that they will, too.  They’ll find their way to a Chelsea all their own.

A Summer's Note

I’m writing this in a beach house with doors open to the sea, listening to the waves and feeling the salt air. A pod of pilot whales swam by a little while ago; I watched their glossy black backs lift just before then sounded, and felt strong love for them and all creatures in our beautiful oceans

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Silver Bells

On a quaint, snowy Chelsea street, librarian Catherine Tierney and a widowed Christmas tree seller from Nova Scotia will rediscover the magic of the season where they least expect it: in a chance encounter that leads to a holiday surprise of love and hope powerful enough to last a lifetime.

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