JANET LAING, Untitled, 2015, Oil on canvas 18

JANET LAING, Untitled, 2015, Oil on canvas 18″ x 18″ (round)   Photo: Bianca Sforni
Courtesy of 137ac

Artist Statement


 “I have been painting for 13 years—ever since I first got sober at 49, and began art therapy groups. Painting is healing and therapeutic for me, it frees my mind of clutter so I can concentrate on what is in front of me. 

I love art because it is such a great tool for self-expression. Both singing and painting are my fortes because through these vehicles I find my inner voice. 

There is something magical about capturing a sound, a color, and the vibrancy of telling a story. It also makes me only too aware of how I must evolve, stretching beyond my comfort zone, taking some risks so that my personal truth can come to light. 

Lately I have been painting in oil on canvas and giving myself themes: People and Pets; Kissing Couples; and Waterfalls.”

TIME HAS A WAY OF BEING FEMALE     I was born in Los Angeles in 1952 and raised in a working class family attending schools in Covina and West Covina.  I knew I wanted to be a professional singer by the age of eight, but was never encouraged in this or any other art form.  In my twenties I did a lot of different jobs, but mostly worked as a legal secretary because my typing was fast.  When I found out my mother died at 38 from Huntington’s Disease, and  I had a 50/50 chance of inheriting the gene, I decided I better work at what I love, singing.

That is when I moved to New York City and sang with the Funktionaries. Later I formed my own female band, Wanda and The Way It Is.  I sang, wrote songs and breezed past my late thirties and forties without getting HD but my two brothers were not so lucky. They both passed away. Me, I was living the fast, wild and wooly lifestyle of an entertainer. It didn’t take long before I was a full-fledged alcoholic.

Recovery brought me to my knees and then my senses were awakened in art, music and writing. I became prolific in all three and recaptured my long lost soul.  My spirit had been pushed down all my life because it was impractical to be an artist. Now I am thriving in all art’s glory. Thanks to Annatina Miescher, founder of 137ac, I have a studio with supplies to paint in and get to work with like-minded people who love to paint. Our collective is innovative and challenging and we are blessed to have each other to inspire. My band, Wanda and The Way It Is, has come full circle as well.


“When we look at the blue sky for the first time, that is to say not merely see it, but look at it and experience it and for the first time have a sense that we live in the center of a physical poetry, a geography that would be intolerable except for the non-geography that exists there — few people realize that they are looking at the world of their own thoughts and the world of their own feelings.

On that occasion, the blue sky is a particular of life that we have thought of often, even though unconsciously, and that we have felt intensely in those crystallizations of freshness that we no more remember than we remember this or that gust of wind in spring or autumn.” (Wallace Stevens)


JANET LAING, Swimmers, 2014, oil on canvas  24

JANET LAING, Swimmers, 2014, oil on canvas 24″ x 18″       Photo: Bianca Sforni
Courtesy of 137ac



What’s in front of her, in front of us all, is the most malleable scene. Only the mood, and the way we step into the new day will tell if the beach, or the towers downtown are easy or impossible to reach. Los Angeles is in my mind, the place where Jane Laing came from and where I live; a non geographical spreading of trees houses water and sky so expanded and intertwined with different languages and communities that nobody thinks of human nature as something interesting. Human nature is just a drop in the water.

So I’m not sure what disconnected Janet from her nature nailing her fast fingers to a typewriter except the idea maybe that humans are good when they make money and compete with machines. A very diffused feeling around parents of young people of her generation, also in Europe, a sort of after war syndrome. “Tears are not the chorus. Food is not the chorus. Money is not the chorus. What is the chorus. … Anyway there is the question of identity.” (Gertrude Stein) And that also has to do with the cat.

Jane built her living space despite the broken glass around her, perhaps a broken sky. Her cat recognizes her. In the end she became an artist.

Her painted stories are songs of separation: she paints a life pushed down to earth, rocks or asphalt. There is no open sky, no sky at all. Buildings and roads as brown as dirt. They are scenes of movement. Flatness liberates them from realism. Painted life is not reproduced life. It’s her dream of a living place charged with physical energy: human bodies float rather than swim in the ocean because the water does the work after swallowing green and blue and azure and pale blue and she can tell the humans “you know? I don’t care. I’m the strong one.”

JANET LAING, Waterfall, 2014 (?)  oil on canvas Courtesy of 137ac

JANET LAING, Waterfall, 2014,  oil on canvas
Courtesy of 137ac

The painter as well found her voice as if crystals of freshness exploded in her mind, as if she had seen the sky melting in waterfalls so the rocks can wear a liquid dress that constantly changes, at the same time sounding like an orchestra for the invisible birds hidden in the green. Of course, somewhere, there is always a cat.

JANET LAING, Caramela and the Birds, 2014, Oil on canvas  18

JANET LAING, Caramela and the Birds, 2014, Oil on canvas 18″ x 20″
Courtesy of 137ac

Her painted cats are bodies of tense muscles, concentrated: “Shall I jump from the window? mmm… Maybe the birds are too distant.” But a crazy desire spreads from the eye in yellow, follows the birds, becomes a yellow stream from a window… and the azure surrounding the cat like a river, whatever, why should words count?

JANE LAING, Portrait of Jonathan, 2013, Oil on canvas, 18

JANE LAING, Portrait of Jonathan, 2013, Oil on canvas, 18″ x 24″
Courtesy of 137ac

That’s why I love Jane Laing’s portraits. They are silent. Although they happen to be in a particular place, the person’s outline is surrounded by a white halo, maybe a reflection of her/his/whose mind which travels elsewhere, and doesn’t stay inside.

JANET LAING, bicker chicks, 2013, Oil on canvas, 23.5

JANET LAING, bicker chicks, 2013, Oil on canvas, 23.5″ x 31″
Courtesy of 137ac

Let’s go, let’s go girls, springtime is calling. Musicians are ready. “Azure, the afternoon is too azure and too long for me. I might take the train and come to see you. But, the train of my desires and the one of my thoughts go in opposite directions.” What about a lemon ice-cream? “Azzurro, il pomeriggio è troppo azzurro e lungo per me. Quasi quasi prendo il treno e vengo da te. Ma il treno dei desideri e dei pensieri all’incontrario van.” From Azzurro, a song by Paolo Conte.


— The Sharing Project —


By Joel Tauber

I went to school with my son Zeke one day when he was almost 2 years old, and I remember being surprised by the number of skirmishes that erupted when multiple boys claimed ownership of the same balls. Even though the balls were communal and meant to be shared by everyone in the school, Zeke and his friends wanted to possess the balls themselves.

Sharing a ball is not an easy thing to do or to teach. The act of playing catch requires relinquishing possession, repeatedly. What is mine and thine, as philosopher Win-chiat Lee says, is blurry when one shares, and it’s blurry when one plays catch. 

Zeke’s teachers didn’t force them to play catch, but they did encourage them to take turns. They didn’t allow anyone to hoard or steal. They enforced and taught their vision of the kind of sharing that was appropriate for the kids in their class. 

There’s tremendous variation in different classrooms about the values that are being taught, and there’s a long history of ambivalence in our country about whether values should even be taught in our schools. 

However, it’s clear that values have always been taught, since they are embedded in everything that we say and do. Education scholar Joe Milner describes how the McGuffey Readers, which were used as early as 1836 in so many of our public schools to teach our kids to read, explicitly promote values like cooperation and sharing. 

Sometimes we seem to be teaching opposing ideologies. On the one hand, as Robert Dreeben explains, the very structure of our schools teaches kids that they are one among many. On the other hand, we often tell children that they are special and unique individuals. 

It’s certainly possible to celebrate the individual and the group at the same time, but it’s a precarious balancing act. If we promote individualism too much, then we are at risk of encouraging selfishness. If we want to teach our kids to share, then we have to value the Other at least as much as we value the Individual

Jeffrey Faullin, principal of Brunson Elementary School in Winston-Salem North Carolina, believes that while we may be teaching our kids to share in certain ways, a hidden curriculum teaches the opposite. 

Corporate advertisement preaches that individual consumption and accumulation are the keys to happiness. The American Dream promises this vision of happiness to all of us, as long as we are able to beat the competition. Then our schools present a structure for this competition to take place. 

When I was in elementary school, I must not have understood that school was the ticket to the American Dream. I kept getting kicked out of class, and I would have failed all of my exams if my friends hadn’t shared their exam answers with me. 

This (problematic) kind of sharing soon stopped. My classmates and I realized that only some of us would make it into honors classes and only one of us would become valedictorian. Many would not be accepted into the most exclusive colleges. So, we strove to differentiate ourselves from our peers. We continued to share notes with each other and we worked together on group projects, but our individual agendas became our dominant preoccupations. We competed more and shared less. 

On the basketball court, we faced similarly confusing dilemmas about sharing and competition. I was the starting point guard, and it was my job to share the ball with my teammates and steal the ball from the opposing team. We won more games when we played selflessly and made the extra pass, as long as we didn’t forget to be ruthless competitors towards the other team. 

Thankfully, I’m more able to deconstruct all of these mixed messages about sharing than I was when I was a kid, but now I’m overwhelmed by the enormity of trying to teach Zeke to share when he is bombarded by at least as many contradictory ideologies as I was. 

Joel Tauber, "SHARE" (photo direction: Joel Tauber, shot by Kristi Chan) from the art installation and movie, "The Sharing Project"

Joel Tauber, “SHARE” (photo direction: Joel Tauber, shot by Kristi Chan) from the art installation and movie, “The Sharing Project”

 Joel Tauber is an artist and filmmaker who teaches experimental film and orchestrates the video art program at Wake Forest University. His current undertaking – “The Sharing Project” – is both a sculptural video installation and a feature film.





March 15 birthday of artist Giuliano Nannipieri from Livorno (Italy)

About thirty years ago, in the department of Philosophy of the University of Pisa, I was teaching seminars as a researcher and Nannipieri was one of my students, as loud and intolerant as those who, being the first in their family to have eaten the bread of wisdom, their mind like an echo from a shelf of books, feel inevitable demanding like barking dogs. I could tell because I was one of them in my early days of desperate drunkness with knowledge. History, philosophy, art, are big words. As life goes on, they soften. And life and art point their fingers toward a vast physical universe made for us to float in wonder.

I soon discovered he was an artist, but I hadn’t foreseen he would have become my guide through the fields of art. More than a teacher: I could read his mind and he could read mine often better than myself. Giuliano since then has never ceased to be part of my life. There is between us an extremely rare friendship based on perfect trust, understanding and also imperfect acceptance, when things get harsch. “Can I help you?” I thought many times, when the call of death seemed close to his ears.”You can only wait,” he told me indirectly. But this year he grew new branches and leaves. The day of his birthday, he performed his resurrection with an act of giving to his city. The gift was a precious olive tree, at least one hundred years old.

Waiting for the pictures of the real tree and of the collective performance, I introduce here a modest drawing, and two images of a ceramic artpiece Giuliano Nannipieri  made in the nineteen eighties: already a plant, a person, a hybrid voice. (Rosanna Albertini)


Our resurrection -l’arbre donné(e)

(inclusive transition/translation on the grass-sur l’herbe)

The artist (everyone) must spend, give, pay to exist, and not make money, to be grateful, instead, toward those who listen to him and observe, pay for their attention… “the person who only musts or wants to observe should be paid…” (g.n.)

We are here together to invoke, to evoke the end of the market, of distinct roles… of disciplines… the end of money, of separation… here as an artist ( but also not artist, not maestr*, candidate… tree… ) I associate myself to a tree (that I bought and gave as a gift rescuing him from a destiny of decorative object in a garden) and along with the olive tree, such an ancient vegetable person, we associate ourselves to the other plants, the small animals of the grass, the vegetable gardens,  the stones,  children, and all the other vegetable animal persons… -beyond species, beyond genres, social classes, categories, rules- and let’s dance – paint-eat together- and water? We breath, Transform, include, we are transient obstacles to resist cement, market, beyond capitalism, to preserve this green space of inclusive actions and meetings

WE INVITE YOU TO INCLUSIVE TRANSITION ON MARCH 15 AT THE URBAN GARDENS OF GOITO STREET at 12.30 pm because we already have enough concrete… AND WE WISH A GREEN PLANET INCLUSIVE with no slavery whatsoever 

a hug and a summersault

giuliano nannipieri da Livorno

Our resurrection – l’arbre donné (e)

 (inclusive transition/translation on the grass-sur l’herbe)

L’artista (chiunque)deve spendere, donare, pagare per esistere, non guadagnare, essere piuttosto grato a chi ascolta e osserva, pagare per la sua attenzione… “chi dovesse o volesse solo osservare dovrebbe essere pagato”… (g.n.)

Insieme invochiamo, evochiamo la fine del mercato, della distinzione dei ruoli… delle discipline… del denaro, della separazione… qui come artista (ma anche non artista, non maestr*, aspirante…tree… ) mi alleo ad un olivo (che ho comprato e donato sottraendolo ad un destino da oggetto decorativo in villa) e con l’olivo, con questa antica persona vegetale, ci alleiamo alle altre piante, ai piccoli animali del prato, degli orti, alle pietre, a* bambin*, alle altre tutte persone vegetali, animali… -oltre le specie, oltre i generi, contro le classi, le categorie, i ruoli- e danziamo-dipingiamo-pranziamo-innaffiamo? respiriamo, Trasformiamo, insieme includiamo, transitiamo per resistere alla cementificazione, al mercato, per superare il capitale, per conservare questo spazio verde di inclusione e di incontro

VI INVITIAMO AL TRANSITO IN INCLUSIONE IL GIORNO 15 MARZO 2015 AGLI ORTI URBANI DI VIA GOITO ore 12.30 perchè di cemento ce n’è già abbastanza… DESIDERIAMO UN PIANETA VERDE INCLUSIVO senza nessuna forma di schiavitù

un abbraccio e una capriola

giuliano nannipieri da Livorno

P1040241 P1040240 (The sculpted person-plant sits on a page of the last text I read to my students in Pisa: Le temps et l’autre, by Emmanuel Lévinas. RA)


The sun moved on me. It wasn’t supposed to do that. And now it is making the U-Haul shell cast a shadow directly in the area I was going to take a picture.


JULIE SHAFER, Conquest of the Vertical; 600 miles from Eureka!  2012 Silver gelatin pinhole negative, 68 x 42 Courtesy of the artist

JULIE SHAFER, Conquest of the Vertical; 600 miles from Eureka! 2012
Silver gelatin pinhole negative, 68″x 42″
Courtesy of the artist

I don’t want a shadow in my picture. I can’t have a shadow in my picture. I’ve already let a lot of the control I insist on having slide saying, “This is part of the process.” But letting my own shadow show up in these pictures was very clearly not something I should “go with,” because it’s “part of the process.” I had been riding the razor’s edge of rolling with what happens, and fucking up. This was a fuck up.

The chemistry is already mixed and in the troughs. I am running scarily low on chemistry, and there are still three more days of shooting after today.

I have four rounds of shooting, and I need equal amounts of liquid for each day. Chemistry A is a 1:9 ratio and there are 24.7 oz of fluid left. The trough holding chemistry A needs 5 inches of fluid. How many gallons is 5 inches of fluid? Will I have enough chemistry for four days of shooting? I think it’s 4 gallons, maybe 7. No I don’t have enough for four days.

How many oz in a gallon? I know there are 33.8 oz in a liter, how many liters are in a gallon?

If chemistry A is now mixed at a 1:19 ratio to try and make it last longer, how many more minutes will I have to develop my photographs? I develop for 6 rounds of rolling the photo, flipping it 180 degress from the y-axis, through the x and z-axis, and landing back on the y-axis, and then re-rolling. 19 is more than double 9, so I think I should do 12 rounds of rolling.

Shit Shafer, what are we gonna do?” My lips move but no sound comes out. My left hand forms a gun and points at various spots in the air. My right hand is counting- starting with my thumb. My eyes transfixed on the ground.

Marya sits on a bucket.

Option A: Dump the chemistry into dirty buckets. Break down the darkroom. Drive 15 miles, 90 degrees due North. Set back up and commence working. Lose three hours, potentially contaminate the chemistry, but at least there won’t be a shadow cast in the image.

Option B: Keep the darkroom in tact. Slowly drive the U-Haul forward onto the road, turn the wheels as far left as possible. Let gravity pull the truck backward and maybe there won’t be too much chemistry lost as the wheels transition from asphalt to sand. Lose maybe 30 minutes, potentially contaminate all the chemistry, and potentially lose a lot of chemistry as it sloshes out of the half-pipe shaped troughs holding it.

Option C: Fuck it all. Pack up and call it a day. Lose a whole day. Lose a day’s worth of chemistry. (“Tuh-RUST Mee! Mooohr than Enuf chemistry. Chuckle chuckle. In fact you might even be buying too much! Eyebrows arched – Highly – I don’t care if you wanna buy too much – I mean I don’t work on commission or anything, so it’s not like there’s even something in it for me if you buy more — I just hate to see my customers spending more money than they need to. What you are buying here will last for daaayyyyyzzz.”)

One mixed solution of fix lasted roughly 4 hours.

Option D: Leave the U-Haul where it is, and move the camera instead. Walk the camera 30 yards into the sand, take an exposure, walk the camera back into the darkroom. Potentially cause a major light-leak into the camera and ruin exposure, at which point consider referring back to Options A, B or C.

“On the count of three we’re gonna pick it up, and not stop until until we get to the ripple in the sand over there.”

“Ok. Got it.”

“One. Two.”

“Wait! Which ripple?”

“The one that’s like right next to the mound that’s got a little shadow on it.”

“All the mounds have shadows on them.”

“Three o’clock there is a stick. Follow the stick to the left and you’ll see a mound…”

“Let’s just walk straight and when we get tired we’ll say so.”

“Ok, yeah, that’s a good idea.”

We can’t see each other. I wonder what we look like from the road. A floating box that looks like a coffin gliding slowly across the desert floor. We can only lift the camera about 6 inches off the ground. We don’t have room to take a full step, so it’s left-right-left-right-left-right. Each foot advancing about 3 inches at a time.

She said stop, but her voice hit the box wall right in front of her, bounced back and was evaporated by a wind gust. She dropped her side, I tripped, I didn’t let go of the handles on my side of the box. The camera landed on me, and I was face to face with my plywood camera sarcophagus.

I don’t know how long I laid there, but it was long enough for an army of ants to have conquered the mountain range of my body. Where are they going? What is this they’re carrying? How long have they been carrying their bounty? Do they have any concept of how far they’ve traveled, or how much further they have to go? Or is it just one foot in front of the other?


Gold_in them_hills



Life is a mystery and Art “the necessary angel”


Among artists: Richard Lau’s portrait painted by Janet Laing in 2013

ART AND LIFE — By Richard Lau. “I make art because it is a lot of fun. It allows me to freely explore thoughts and feelings. When I paint, I live in my special world of magic and mythology. For me, the creative process has no rules or boundaries. I just do it. It makes me happy. It makes me smile. Sometimes, it makes me laugh.

I really feel at ease within myself when I ‘get into’ what I’m creating. I’m transported to another world. (Kinda like reading a great book you can’t put down.) I’m comforted by a feeling of inner calm and relief. Now I can watch the painting and help it grow. I currently reside with my pet cat and parakeet. My present cat and two other cats I had were rescues I adopted from an animal rescue organization I volunteered with for over ten years.

When I was first contacted by Dr. Miescher about joining an artist group I was ecstatic. This was during the 2012 winter holiday season and I thought it was the best Christmas present I had ever received. The timing was perfect since I wasn’t doing anything to relieve my idleness. My enrollment in 137ac reunited me with many artist friends. It has been liberating for me to work at our studio. I can choose to work in solitude and privacy when desired but the opportunity is always available if I need the emotional benefits of engaging with my fellow artists. It helps me to avoid unhealthy over-isolation. Involvement with 137ac has given me a new direction in life. I feel more alive and vital being part of something outside of myself. Painting helps me to get in touch with my emotions.

Some of my favorite artists include: Hieronymous Bosch, Frans Hals, Albrecht Durer, Vermeer, Bernini, Degas, Juan Miro, Max Ernst, Paul Klee, Max Beckman, George Grosz, Edward Munch, Modigliani, Gustav Klimt, Francisco Goya, James Ensor.”


Richard Lau was born in New York City in 1957; he lived his entire life there, and attended NYC public schools. He attended Bronx High School of Science and Columbia University, majoring in architecture. He is still very interested in the sciences and humanities, particularly psychology and Buddhism. Richard has suffered from chronic depression since 1978. Lau has a reverence for nature and an abiding fascination with forms and patterns in the natural world (one of his childhood toys was a microscope). He also enjoys hiking and bird watching. A self taught photographer and painter, he has been taking pictures for the past forty years. As a child, he enjoyed drawing and watercolor painting. Watercolor is still one of his favorite mediums.

The artist dives into a mysterious element through which is able to grasp the real world better than anybody else; the same mysterious element, though, cuts him [her] off from the world implacably, worse than the thicker wall.” (Arthur Schnitzler)

RICHARD LAU, Meditation, 2014, Oil on Canvas, 26" x 31" Courtesy of 137ac

RICHARD LAU, Meditation, 2014, Oil on Canvas, 26″ x 31″
Courtesy of 137ac



There are the facts of life, and words swirl around them as if an artist’s life could be explained like a stream of water from the source. It doesn’t. There are words and words, also: the ones trying to reflect what’s real about mountains, cars and birds and subway trains, and the ones that eat the bug of uncertainty.

These are light like falling petals, often forgetting which flower they belonged to. They only want to float on the paintings, and grasp the voices, the whispers diluted in colors. Quiet, they are invisible daughters of reading and mothers of new images to be imagined.

The parable of green, a special green almost turquoise, is the leitmotif of some of Richard’s paintings and drawings; bright and cold, this color gives access to an invisible state of mind that brings unexpected visual fruits, a banquet of feelings. Meditation is a story, a still life, a poem of animal souls merged into the canvas. Red, white, yellow and some blue are let free to float in a world without weight. The white soul of the cat on the floor, white like the lips of the two masks (Untitled) that contain and release a scream of terror, is there for the unspeakable story we can’t tell until we meet her, it’s the color of death. In this painting, white is a spot of sweetness shared by the pink figure on the left, and reinforced by the fact that the white soul is still dreaming, what else? A fish! The turquoise green around her head, embracing her shape with a delicate green line, gives to lady cat, and to us, a shiver of tenderness.

RICHARD LAU, Untitled, 2013, Oil on canvas paper, 12" x 9" Courtesy of 137ac

RICHARD LAU, Untitled, 2013, Oil on canvas paper, 12″ x 9″ Photo: Bianca Sforni
Courtesy of 137ac

RICHARD LAU, Untitled, 2012, Acrylic on paper, 24" x 18" Courtesy of 137ac

RICHARD LAU, Untitled, 2012, Acrylic on paper, 24″ x 18″
Courtesy of 137ac

A different story appears when blue and yellow are violently separate, and do not become green, that particular peaceful color. The human head is on fire, the face is a mask that covers unspeakable fears.

A different story again when the white only brings up mystery with no fear, or maybe the power of silence. When I look at Shadows, I see them motionless in front of the friendly silences of the moon (per amica silentia lunae by William Butler Yeats), immersed in silence for the painted time.

RICHARD LAU, Dark Shadows, 2014-2015, Oil on canvas, 20" x 13" Courtesy of 137ac

RICHARD LAU, Dark Shadows, 2014-2015, Oil on canvas, 20″ x 13″ Photo: Bianca Sforni
Courtesy of 137ac

RICHARD LAU, Bumpster, 2015, Oil on canvas, 28" x 30" Courtesy of 137ac

RICHARD LAU, Bumpster, 2015, Oil on canvas, 28″ x 30″
Courtesy of 137ac

But in the end, I’m sure that Richard Lau truly loves his painting when his mind looks for a steady place to hang all the possible noisy feelings. It’s an explosion of undefined things, a rain of broken forms stuck in the sky, incapable of finding the ground, and still it’s life. It is drama and it is joy. How many secrets we don’t want to disclose. Others, our human nature knows them better than our mind. Shall we ask for answers?

My Lord, Infinity asked: how can I appear to humans without petrifying them with fear? The Lord disguised her in the blue of the sky. What about me? asked Eternity, how can I reveal myself to humans without pushing them to annihilate themselves with terror? The Lord told her: I want to give humans an instant in which they will understand you. And he created Love.” (Arthur Schnitzler)

The portrait of Richard Lau painted by Janet Laing, another artist of the 137ac collective, is extremely insightful: she placed his bust in a stream of green, softening the image’s horizontal cut, and painted a necklace of green around his neck. Janet gave me the key.


1939-1945   BICYCLE – TRAIN – WAR

ALBERTO ALBERTINI  (from Milan, Italy)

A few bars of a musical score synthesize the changing states of mind of an adolescent: the second movement of Brahms’ concert for piano and orchestra. The piano begins unfolding a group of notes that run straight away, and overlap as if throwing their energy into the air, like the youth’s desires, wishes, and dreams; but they immediately fall on themselves, a quick deception replaces the enthusiasm which is brought down by awareness. What a nostalgia, in a few bars the meaning of life. Did Brahms realize that?












By this time I was ripe with a fully developed ability to take pictures, develop and print them. And I was dangerously attracted by experiments, so much so that I used to tell myself: I’ll die trying a new kind of noose. Luckily we were also short of good rope. I tried to use chemical products for soaking and developing films with minimal granulation. That’s why my negatives aren’t uniform! At least I studied chemistry, physics and electronics applied to filmmaking. Entirely on my own.

These activities happened from ’39 to ’45. From the beginning, as it’s well known, the war’s violence was evident. Tension was growing from the war in Africa to the Spanish war with the fascists’ intervention; “military culture” had entered the schools where we were taught how to use the anti-gas masks. Then the pact with Hitler. When the war really started with the violent invasion of Poland, it was a strong shock also for us adolescents. At the war’s beginning the regime imposed daylight savings time to delay an hour the use of electric lights. So the evening was coming late. In July and August the village was quite hot despite the mountains all around. Thanks to thickness of bushes and trees, warm humidity, silence and lack of lights we were immersed in a sensual atmosphere, we delayed going back home. If the war was far, the blackout forced us to think about it. No light from the the windows, the few cars had their eyes covered except for only one cut to let out a glimpse of light. From the top of the hill, instead, we could see the Swiss side of the lake [Lake Lugano] where everything was fully lit.

But the village was only a part of our life, the train to school was the place for meeting other students of other villages. Some groups of friends started on the train and then continued in each village. I was in one of them, a few kilometers from home. Events did progress over time. Constant and common was the bicycle, more and more necessary to move from one to another, place for public transportations had disappeared. Oddly, the autarky was heavier during the first years of war. Materials were shoddy: screws and bolts were made with ‘zama,’ an alloy of aluminum and zinc. It was enough to tighten a little bit, and the bolt was broken. Rubber was completely missing, and tires were shattered. Cut by ice during the winter. Our attempts at fixing them were desperate, with inner supports or bandages.










Apparently, the thread between events ran on two rails: events and human connections, and the imagination triggered by them. In any case the bicycle was needed, jolting on the bandaged wheels, to visit friends. In 1943 trains were allowed to travel only during the night, in the day time they were under fire from machine guns. One day at noon we heard an airplanes’ roar, explosions more and more intense. After a while, a dark cloud raised over Induno Olona. Bombs had fallen on the Macchi (today Aermacchi, a factory) and we saw the dust from the debris blown by the wind.

The Bicycle had become the only locomotion tool. After the bombs I went to Milan, I don’t remember exactly when. In a couple of photos you can see workers trying to liberate the railroad from a locomotive thrown out of rails! I took the pictures paying attention not to be seen, with my Kodac Retina hidden in my pocket.



Immediately after the end of the war people were back in the streets of Milano, and they were already on strike.

Per Diego e Francesco

1939-1945  Bicicletta – Treno – Guerra

Di Alberto Albertini.  Esiste un parallelo musicale che in poche battute sintetizza gli stati d’animo dell’adolescenza. Il secondo movimento del concerto per pianoforte e orchestra di Brahms. Inizia con il pianoforte che srotola un gruppo di note che subito si rincorrono, si accavallano come per prendere la spinta e lanciarsi nell’aria, come i desideri, le aspirazioni, i sogni della gioventù, ma poi subito ricadono su se stesse, l’entusiasmo subito deluso, si ridimensiona nella consapevolezza della realtà. Quanta nostalgia, il senso della vita in poche battute. Brahms se ne sarà accorto?

Ormai ero maturo per fare fotografie, svilupparle e stamparle. Avevo una tendenza perniciosa alla sperimentazione, tanto che dicevo: morirò nello sperimentare un nuovo tipo di nodo scorsoio. Fortunatamente scarseggiava anche la buona corda. Sperimentavo prodotti chimici per bagni di sviluppo fotografico tesi alla minima granulazione. Per questo i miei negativi non sono uniformi! Però studiai chimica, fisica ed elettronica applicata alla cinematografia.

Queste cose accadevano dal ’39 al ’45. Come si sa, già dall’inizio la violenza della guerra fu evidente. Il clima era teso: prima la guerra d’Africa, la guerra di Spagna con l’intervento dei fascisti, a scuola avevano introdotto “cultura militare” e l’insegnamento all’uso delle maschere antigas. Il patto con Hitler. Quando la guerra cominciò davvero con l’invasione violenta della Polonia, lo shock fu forte anche per noi adolescenti. Con l’inizio della guerra il regime introdusse l’ora legale cosicché si ritardava di un’ora l’accensione delle luci. Dunque la sera calava tardi e benché il paese fosse tra i monti, in luglio e agosto era assai caldo. La folta vegetazione, la calda umidità, il silenzio e la mancanza di illuminazione ci immergevano in un’atmosfera sensuale che ci faceva indugiare prima di rientrare a casa. La guerra era lontana ma l’oscuramento in qualche modo ce la ricordava. Niente luce dalle finestre, le macchine, quelle poche, con i fanali coperti e una sola fessura per lasciar trapelare un filo di luce. Dall’alto della collina invece potevamo vedere la sponda svizzera del lago, e là, tutto era illuminato.

Non c’era solo la vita del paese, il viaggio in treno per andare a scuola ci metteva in contatto con altri studenti, degli altri paesi, delle altre fermate. C’erano le compagnie che si formavano in treno e che poi si consolidavano in ciascun paese. Io ne frequentavo una, a qualche kilometro da casa.

Gli eventi avevano una progressione nel tempo. Elemento comune e costante era la bicicletta, sempre più necessario mezzo di spostamento in relazione alla scomparsa dei servizi pubblici. Curiosamente l’autarchia gravò più sui primi anni di guerra. I materiali erano scadenti, viti e bulloni erano di zama, lega di alluminio e zinco. Era sufficiente stringere un po’ il bullone che si spaccava. Mancava totalmente la gomma e le coperture si sfasciavano. Le croste di ghiaccio durante l’inverno le tagliavano. Noi cercavamo di ripararle mettendo dei rinforzi interni o, in casi disperati, fasciandole.

Il filo che legava gli avvenimenti sembrava correre su due binari: gli avvenimenti e i rapporti umani, e l’immaginazione che ne scaturiva. Occorreva comunque la bicicletta, che sobbalzava a causa delle ruote fasciate, per andare a trovare gli amici. Nel 1943 i treni viaggiavano solo di notte perché di giorno erano oggetto di mitragliamenti. Un giorno a mezzogiorno sentimmo un rombo di aerei che a un certo punto si intensificò. Dopo un po’ di tempo vedemmo un nube scura verso Induno Olona. Era stata bombardata la Macchi (oggi Aermacchi) e quella era la polvere delle macerie sollevata dal vento. L’unico mezzo di locomozione era diventata la bicicletta. Non ricordo esattamente quando, poco dopo il bombardamento andai a Milano. In due foto si vedono i lavoratori che cercano di liberare la ferrovia da una locomotiva sbalzata dai binari! Feci le fotografie avendo cura di non essere osservato con la Kodac Retina che tenevo nascosta in tasca.


137ac  — PAULA ISAAC

Her statements

November 2014 — Art is what you make of it. It is sexuality, immaturity, advancement, it is a definition of how much you study life and your own feelings, of how you manage your life or self-esteem. For me, it is love of yourself and I am gonna say no more.

January 2015 — All the old masters were the greatest painters of a time men wanted to see themselves as being beautiful. Then Norman Rockwell came along at a time men wanted to feel good about who they were. This artist is my hero. He painted a human life America wanted, and needed to lift American spirit. I paint more informal than he did. I am telling a tale that is more contemporary. My travels are real stories and his was more storytelling.

PAULA ISAAC, Self Portrait, 2014, Oil on canvas, 28" x 22" Courtesy of 137ac

PAULA ISAAC, Self Portrait, 2014, Oil on canvas, 28″ x 22″
Courtesy of 137ac


Paula’s bio by Paula

I, Paula, am a go getter shy woman born in Trinidad in 1960, a twin in the middle of ten children. Trinidad let me memories of colors. Since age three I drew and made paper dolls and their clothes. I was a quiet child. Dad loved to make masks for the carnival in Trinidad. I would be a plumber if I had listened to him.

When I was 8, we joined my two older sisters in Queen, New York. I saw snow for the first time that year. I went to the High School of Arts and Design; wanting to be a cartoonist, I wanted to draw at least. Then I moved on to FIT, fashion illustration, remember the paper doll dresses? But there was no drawing real people.

At age 22 I decided to be a real artist and got part time work to pay my supplies. At 27 I married Bill and became the mom of Letitia at 32, Bill died of cancer when she was only 5. My time as a mom went by so fast, occasionally I could sell a painting for us to go to a movie or theater. Then I joined the Arts Student League to get my hands back in the arts: survival for my mind. In 2014 I was invited to join 137ac, so I took a chance.


by Rosanna Albertini

What comes and go, on the flat land of a canvas, is bodies and time. How they want to be there is the artist’s discovery. A woman sits and looks out of her confinement. Each eye shaped by a different state of mind. The same happens in Woman V by Willem De Kooning. And same stillness. The canvas is where she belongs, fluids and feelings so compressed within they pierce her skin to bleed out. The figure at odds with light perhaps because she can be hit — light, life, pressure of reality. Instead she wants to stay, stay like a brick needs to be in a wall. A visitor asks Paula if the painted woman is a self-portrait. “Oh that,” she answers after thinking a moment, “ that’s my spirit.” It’s Paula’s blue period, brown and blue. It doesn’t really matter the kind of scene that is painted, it’s not a collection of figures in different postures. Objects are absent, humans fill the stage. If they sit, they just sit on their own presence: a woman smokes and sits, it is maybe three times the same woman as in a film sequence. She doesn’t look out of the painting.

PAULA ISAAC, Her, Herer, Herest, 2015, Oil on canvas, 28" x 35" Courtesy of 137ac

PAULA ISAAC, Her, Herer, Herest, 2015, Oil on canvas, 28″ x 35″
Courtesy of 137ac


The subject of the painting, like the subject of poetry, is “the life that is lived in the scene that it composes; and so reality is not that external scene but the life that is lived in it. Reality is things as they are […] It is a jungle in itself. As in the case of a jungle, everything that makes it up is pretty much of one color.” (Wallace Stevens)

The blue of the lake, the blue of the sky in Paula’s work. Not only the figures’ body, their mind wears blue, the scene works in blue, moves through time creating distance without perspective. A prominent point has replaced the vanishing optical illusion. Here’s now. I follow the fantasy that Paula thinks blue letting the brush be liquid and flexible. Erasing as well as selecting.

In the studio a catalogue of a Filippo de Pisis exhibition is open on the table. In and out of her paintings, the artist, maybe, can’t really separate them from her life, the internal scene has become a picture of her being in the world. Paula wouldn’t stop reading De Pisis’ painted thoughts, how he painted what remains in his mind of a city, a beach or a bunch of flowers. As she unfolds the Italian painter’s thread I can see hers, and I would cry with pleasure. My inner painting.