Tuesday, March 31, 2009

jenna's graduation (ok, we're going back a few years!)

Speaking of Jenna, this piece of artwork was her college graduation present from me.   I told her, if I'm doing my job right, it's an investment in her future!  This one is called "Shadow Chase" by Ned Wert, measuring 22" x 28", acrylic on woven canvas.  When I found it at Ned's studio that fall on a visit, I knew she'd love the colors.  When I read the title, I knew it was for her.  She had emerged from her own year and a half of shadow chasing that year, more lovely, beautiful, and confident than ever.  I'll never forget the smile she had that day - I think only the one on her wedding day outshone it!

chicken noodle soup

I promised this to my daughter Jenna a week ago - sorry! This recipe has evolved over the years, just by experimenting, but I must admit enriching the broth with the pureed vegetables came from my favorite Moosewood cookbook.

In a large stock pot, bring four quarts of water to a boil, with the following:

1-2 whole chicken breasts, depending on how large they are - with bones and skin you get a richer broth, but have a bit more work to do.

1 large carrot, cut into about 1-2" pieces
1 stalk of celery, cut into 1-2" pieces
1/2 medium sized onion, quartered
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbs. salt
cracked pepper to taste.

Bring all to a boil, then simmer for several hours - all day is good!

About a half hour before eating, remove the meat and drain the broth through a sieve. Put the broth back in the stockpot and puree the drained vegetables in a food processor, then add back to the broth. Bring to a boil.

Add about 8 ounces old-fashioned, medium-sized soup noodles and boil until softened. The homemade, Lancaster County variety of noodles are the best.

While the noodles are cooking, cut of the chicken into bite sized pieces. If you cooked chicken with bones and skin, this is where the extra work comes in, but it's worth it. Pull the chicken from the bones, and discard the skin and bones. By now, the noodles should be soft, and you can add the chicken back into the soup. Add a small bag of frozen corn and simmer until the corn is cooked. It's ready to eat, and especially good with homemade french bread.

The above version of soup is the kind my kids like best. For myself, I prefer adding a 6 oz. bag of Barilla Tortellini instead of noodles, and freshly sliced baby spinach at the end.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

robert heilman's commission

Stopped out in Scheafferstown at Bob Heilman's studio this afternoon with my client.  Three large oil paintings had been commissioned, and we were coming to see the progress, as the paintings are about 50% complete.  Originally the paintings had been specified a bit larger in size, but the budget brought the work to a size that allowed for enough ceiling height to accommodate the work in the studio, so as not to require a rental space to accomplish the job.

Bob had provided sketches early on for approval, and the transition to a much larger size - larger than he traditionally works - was remarkably accurate and beautifully done.  Three paintings, each of a different hole on this particular golf course, had their challenges - two of the three being 60" x 30" vertical landscapes.  The meticulous layering of paint, one transluscent layer upon another, achieved glorious, rich, late afternoon skies, and emphasized the shadow play on the green.  A mix of grasses, trees and curvelinear land forms brace the horizon line just below center.  For more about Bob and his work, click here

Sunday, March 15, 2009

a visit to ned's house

Across the Allegheny mountains on the turnpike, then heading north on route 56 from the Bedford exit, the land stretched before us, mostly brown and barren, the hope of spring occasionally showing itself, three and a half hours later, arriving at Ned's door.  He greeted us with a big hug, the smell of dinner wafting thru the door, and invited us in by the fire for a glass of wine.  After chatting a bit, we settled at his big oak table in the kitchen, every detail tended to with care, as is his ever-caring, comfortable manner.  Dinner of chicken breast wrapped in prosciutto, fresh spring salad with grated Parmesan, and a french baguette was served by candlelight, bright orange tulips sitting sentry at the head of the table.  Despite being fully sated, I couldn't turn down the offer of dessert, which was deliciously simple and a most fitting end to the meal - fresh, chilled green grapes with a sour cream and cinnamon drizzle on top
Blossom Kent Series, number 1, 41" x 50" oil on canvas, 1970
We spent the next day reviewing new and old work, and choreographing the exhibition for the end of April at Lynden Gallery.  With a catalogue in the works, I took every opportunity to learn more about where this gentle man has been, and what has influenced his work over the years.  The language of his work hasn't changed, I noted, seeing an older work he completed one summer at Kent State in 1970, under the tutelage of modern masters, Jack Tworkov and Alex Katz.  The expressionistic abstraction of his work simply gathering a bold confidence as the decades rolled by.   We headed home, our small Saab packed to the brim with new paintings, my journal several pages full of dates, notes and comments, research books on Diebenkorn, Tworkov and Katz , and a prized stack of slide pages, 4" thick - images of work from 1967 to 1993.

Set the date aside - NED WERT well-seasoned, Friday, April 24th from 5:00 to 8:00 pm, at the Lynden Gallery.  For more about Ned, click here

my brother is building an electric car

Questioning Internal Combustion: Subverting the Empire by Going Electric

Brandon Hollinger

The standard method of automobile propulsion would appear unchallenged, unparalleled and unquestioned looking back over the course of a century. I haven't been one to theorize about conspiracies and sinister corporate or government plots...until recently.

In 1832, decades before the internal combustion engine (ICE), the first fully-electric vehicle was built.  These silent, zero-emission vehicles delivered abundant torque at any speed, thus eliminating the need for a complex drivetrain and transmission. The gas car eventually prevailed, due to its lower weight and better range. In 1996, electric cars re-emerged[1].  California's notorious air pollution prompted the state to pass legislation demanding that some vehicles sold in its borders be zero-emission.  

Serious advances in technology over the past century enabled GM, Ford, Toyota and Honda to produce thousands of electric vehicles (EVs), although they fought it every step of the way. GM's "EV-1," for example, was capable of 110 to 160 miles per charge, 80 miles per hour, zero-to-sixty miles per hour in eight seconds and had the lowest drag coefficient [2] of any mass-produced vehicle. By 2002, with the help of G.W. Bush's White House, the automakers sued California regarding the new emissions regulation and won. All electric vehicles with the exception of a few hundred Toyota Rav4 EVs were taken back from the lessees, crushed and shredded. To finalize the fate of this innovative technology, GM sold controlling shares of its best battery patents to Chevron/Texaco.  

After I learned about this "backwards into the future"[3] attitude, a little of my own research quickly shed light on an entire global community of people converting their old gas cars into 100% electric vehicles. I have joined this group of change advocates that now numbers well over 10,000. 

Following months of research and with no prior automotive experience, I purchased an old rust-free Saab on eBay three months ago, intent on converting it to electric. Over the month of January I completely removed the ICE and everything ICE-related, i.e. gas lines, gas tank, exhaust system, muffler, etc. Also, a nine-inch, 170-pound DC electric motor is now mated with the existing transmission. 

With my impressive torque and excessive RPMs , I'm planning to use second and third gears exclusively-- and without a clutch. That's gone, too! With the battery configuration I've chosen, partially due to budget, I am hoping for a 40 to 60 mile range (upgradeable!) and highway speeds.

Ninety percent of people in the U.S. drive fewer than 25 miles per day, as do I. The car will be

charged using a regular household 110-volt outlet.  My future plans would include installing photovoltaic (solar) panels on the roof of my house which would allow me to drive solely on the power of the sun. 

Electric motors are many times more efficient than the ICE. A typical gas engine is only 18% efficient, with the majority of its energy given off in the form of waste heat. And for every gallon of gas burned, 19 pounds of CO2 are emitted into the atmosphere.  These figures are staggering to me.  

There are numerous ways to generate electricity, some of which are very clean and all of which are domestic. Unlike dreams of running a car on hydrogen, the infrastructure for running a car on electricity is already here now--in every house[4], garage, street lamp and parking meter. A lengthy study by the U.S. Department of Energy suggests that with nighttime use, the existing grid could charge 84% of the country's cars, pick-ups and SUVs (198 million vehicles) while reducing our oil demand by 6.5 million barrels per day.  

The likely path for electric vehicles today would include a generation or two of “Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles” (PHEV) or “Extended Range Electric Vehicles” (EREV). Picture a Prius with a plug. This version would include an electric vehicle with allelectric drive that could be charged at home.  It would be driven on battery power first until depleted. Then a small, efficient on-board gas engine would kick in and generate power for the electric motor. Most large automakers now have both EVs and PHEVs in the works. Because of the lack of need for maintenance, replacement parts and oil products, and the extremely long lifespan of an electric motor, the industry would make substantially less money on these cars in the long term. For this reason I believe Detroit would never make this step without enormous consumer or government pressure. 

Our nation's dependence on foreign oil is impractical, no matter how much we pay at the pump.  It is dirty and finite. Barack Obama said that by 2012, half of all cars purchased by the federal government will be plug-in hybrids or completely powered by electricity. With the car of the future available now, Detroit needs to rise to the occasion.


[1] from the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car?

[2] lower drag means more aerodynamic

[3] Ralph Nader

[4] non-Amish


Thursday, March 12, 2009

auction results

The Habitat for Humanity Auction was a huge success- the highlight of the evening was the introduction of Heather Roberts whose new home will be built from these proceeds.  Currently living in a one-bedroom apartment with seven children, she will be the Women Build/Artist Build homeowner for 2009.  According to Director, Eve Gurian-Wachhaus, when the house is complete, it will be sold to her for $72/square foot, with a 0% interest mortgage.  She will pay less than 30% of her monthly gross income back to Habitat for both principle and escrow, which will cover her taxes and home owners insurance.  Heather is juggling children and two jobs, and working to accumulate her required 350 volunteer, sweat equity hours with Habitat.  
Kudos to Lynden Gallery artists Jim Bright, Gary Butson, Susan Davitti Darling, Paul Flury, Milt Friedly, Janet Hammond, Robert Heilman, Bob Patierno, Florence Putterman, Lou Schellenberg, Peter Sculthorpe, Annie Strickler, Brad Stroman, Ned Wert, and Mark Workman, all of whom offered up work for the auction.  Six of the 14 pieces we took were purchased, at higher prices than the auction has seen before, raising over $5000 in bids for Habitat.  Truth be told, if I'd have been allowed to bring more, I'm sure none of my stable of artists would have turned down support of this event.  It's humbling to have taken part in this....

Later this year, we're all going to don hammers, battery operated drills and paint brushes to work alongside Heather building her house.  We'll put together a work crew of artists, and would love to have our patrons and collectors join us!  Stay tuned for details.... and a heartfelt thank you.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Habitat for Humanity Art Auction

Art Auction?  Anyone who knows me is aware of how I feel about Art Auctions in general, and I typically discourage my Artists from participating, preferring instead to support the cause with framing or gift certificates.  The HABITAT FOR HUMANITY of the Greater Harrisburg Area Art Auction, however, had several key considerations in place allowing me to encourage Artist participation without hesitation.  
  • the Auction is juried - over 120 pieces were entered, only about 65 were accepted
  • the Artist will receive 25% of the final purchase price of their work
  • the Artist can set the minimum bid - in this case 5-10% under retail, so their work's market value is not compromised in any way
  • the funds from the Auction will directly support a local housing project 
  • the Artists will have an opportunity to further donate to the project later this year when we organize a work day or two at the site
  • the Gallery has an opportunity to give back to the community in a relevant, thoughtful way
This event is superbly well run, by Habitat for Humanity Director, Eve Wacchaus, a long time, well-connected friend and fellow supporter of the Arts.  The Auction has raised over $65,000 since it's conception four years ago, funding the rehabilitation of four Central Allison Hill residences in the city of Harrisburg, now home to families who would otherwise be living in poverty.  The Simm's family, last year's recipient of the Auction funds, moved into their newly renovated home in December.  

Friday, March 6, 2009

hints on the Hitz bread

I had the privilege of sitting next to Lucy Hitz Maghan last night at our kids swim banquet, and shared with her my struggle to bake bread that tasted as good as her dad's.  She explained he makes the yeast, water, and flour sponge, and let's it sit overnight.  Then adds in the rest of the ingredients, kneads it, and lets it rise.  Then, repeats the kneading and rising another two times, which she suggests accounts for the necessary glutenation that produces the texture that has alluded me....  will try this next time!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

the creative individual....

"The creative individual is the more spacious person, the person out beyond whom the future lies.  the artist will not for all time endure alongside man.  When the artist, the more mobile, the deeper of the two, becomes ripe and strong enough to engender his own kind, when he lives what now he dreams, the man will wither away and little by little, die out.  The artist is the eternity that juts into our days."
From my ever-present bedside copy of Rainer Maria Rilke's "Diaries of a Young Poet"

Sunday, March 1, 2009

sourdough experiment number two

For the sponge, stir together in large crock, then cover:
1 cup starter
1 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
1 1/2 cup occident flour

I covered the bowl with two cotton towels and tucked it in the oven.  My oven has a pilot light, so it stays a nice constant warm, perfect for starters and homemade yogurt.  I managed to resist the urge to make the bread a day early - the sponge was begun on Friday afternoon, stirred down on Saturday afternoon, and Sunday afternoon, I began the Sourdough Oatmeal Bread.

Stir the following ingredients into the sponge:
1 cup hot water (120-130 degrees, and yes, I use my candy thermometer to check!)
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk
2 tablespoons of honey

Sprinkle one tablespoons yeast on top, then stir in the following:
1 cup oatmeal - I use steel cut natural oats, not the quick kind
1 tbs. sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup occident flour

Stir in additional occident flour with a wooden spoon, about 2 more cups, until the dough becomes "shaggy mass" that separates from the bowl.  Dump the dough on a floured surface and begin kneading.  I find the dough goes from sticky and unworkable to smooth and yielding rather quickly, so resist the urge to add too much to flour too fast.  

Knead with all your heart and soul, like it really matters ('cause it does) for a full 10 minutes.  The dough will become more elastic and smooth with a few slams to the counter top occasionally - and there is a lot of satisfaction hearing the sound of the dough noisily slamming the counter top!  Baking bread is a great stress reliever!

Let the dough rest under a towel for 10 minutes.  Knead for 30 seconds, long enough to squeeze out any air bubbles.  Form the dough into to balls, slightly flattened, and score top with an "x".  Place on a towel sprinkled with cornmeal, and cover with another towel in a warm place with no draft.  (I put mine on the cupboard by the stove in front of Grandma Stella's picture to work it's magic.)

In about an hour and a half or so, it should be ready to bake in a steamy oven, as described in sourdough experiment number one.  Will report on the success....

OK - let's just say, in painterly language, it's not resolved.  Good, but not quite what I'm after!