Archives for posts with tag: octogenarians

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Image: Henrymiller.info

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Cecilia Gimenez, 81, still doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about — and has no idea why news outlets around the world are criticizing her handiwork. (The arbiters of taste don’t like the way she restored a 19th century fresco of  Christ on the wall of her church in Borja, Spain.) But she knows her work is excellent — no matter what the elitists say.

After all, didn’t an early critic call Henri Matisse‘s work, “A pot of paint thrown in the face of the public”? Didn’t the art world call Picasso‘s cubist paintings “devilish and insane”? Didn’t they call Dali‘s surrealist works “deranged”? Cecilia feels that these examples — and many more  she won’t bother to cite — prove that the art elite don’t know the real thing when they see it.

But there was one art critic who understood — Clement Greenberg, who said: “All profoundly original art appears ugly at first.” So there!

Despite all the media attention, Cecilia found time to apply her craft to an Andy Warhol masterwork — his portrait of Marilyn Monroe (below). (For the uninitiated, Cecilia Gimenez’s version is on the right.) When asked why she had selected this particular painting for her next effort, Cecilia responded that she’s long been an admirer of the American icon and for years has modeled her hairstyle on the deceased blonde’s locks.

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During the final four years of his life, Henry Miller wrote more than 1,500 love letters (over 4,000 pages!) to his muse, a beautiful Native American actress named Brenda Venus. Originally published by Morrow in 1986 — six years after Miller’s death — the voluminous correspondence was edited into an approximately 200-page book, with commentary by Venus. When it came out, the book received rave reviews, including a sensitive, insightful analysis by Noel Young in the L.A. Times (2/2/1986). Here is an excerpt:

Henry Miller’s death in 1980 brought an end to one of the most extraordinary romances ever conceived, coming as it did from the impassioned mind of a man nearly 90, admittedly a physical ruin, and the good graces of a young actress, aptly named Brenda Venus, in the prime of her life. For Miller, it was love at first sight, kindling an ardor that kept him alive for four more years. He did what he did best — he wrote; and he laid it all on the line in more than 1,000 letters from which this volume is drawn.

An ordinary man, blind in one eye and partially paralyzed, might have taken to bed and wasted away, but not Henry Miller. Instead, he fell hopelessly, shamelessly in love and spilled it out in letters to his dear Brenda, wallowing in a euphoria that lasted to his end. He worked himself into a lather, at least on paper, and lived for those Thursday nights when she appeared at his door, took him by his arm and drove him to dinner at his favorite Japanese restaurant in the Hollywood Hills. One stormy night, to spare him hobbling through the puddles in the parking lot, she simply picked him up and carried him upstairs to the entrance. He accepted this with aplomb and a jaunty smile.”

Dear, Dear Brenda by Henry Miller (with text by Brenda Venus, edited by Gerald S. Sindell with an introduction by Lawrence Durell) is available at Amazon.com here.

Find out more about the fascinating Brenda Venus at her website, brendavenus.com.

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In October 1979, Barbara Kraft interviewed her friend Henry Miller about his life and art — in what turned out to be his last long interview. (Miller passed away in June 1980 at age 88.) The dialogue was published in the Spring 1981 issue of the Michigan Quarterly Review. Read “A Conversation with Henry Miller” here.

Kraft is the author of the recently published ebook Anais Nin: The Final Days, available here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A former reporter for Time, Washington Post, People, USA Today, and Architectural Digest, Barbara Kraft is author of The Restless Spirit: Journal of a Gemini, with a preface by Anaïs Nin.  Kraft’s work has appeared in Hudson Review, Michigan Quarterly, and Columbia Magazine, and among the many radio programs she has hosted and produced is Transforming OC, a two-part KCRW documentary on the 2006 opening of the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa. Kraft lives and writes in Los Angeles.