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Family Summer Trip to Greece and Turkey

One of the most popular ways to see the Turkish Coast is by cruising on their traditional sailboats called, Gulets.  We spent a week with my in-laws and my own family on a beautiful gulet and visited many Greek Islands and Turkish coastal villages.  The water was turquoise blue and calm; we had plenty of time to go cannoing, wake boarding, and swimming between our destinations.  I have to say that the highlight was visiting two towns in particular–Symi and Rhodes.  Symi seems to be the Greek counterpart to Positano, the famous Italian village off the Amalfi Coast.  Rhodes had a great deal of history and archeological sights, which was interesting for the whole family.  We found out that the mideval wall surrounding the city is the best preserved in all of Europe!

Athens was also lots of fun, aside from the Acropolis, another must-see attraction is visiting the Gazi neighborhood, it is like what Soho used to be 20 years ago–lots of restaurants and bars and people watching.

As for Istanbul, this was not our first time visiting the city, and we were there for only a day. But the restaurant, Sunset in Uluz was simply magnificent. Tables have the view of the Bosphoreous and the bridge that connects Asia and Europe!  Having dinner there, with the full moon that showed right a red hot sun, was the perfect way to cap off our trip.

In a few weeks we will go back to S. of France and Corsica, so stay tuned for other travel updates.

One more book event before the summer

A dear friend of mine, Karen Winnick, hosted a beautiful luncheon for me to talk about my book. It was a perfect California Sun shinny day and Karen, true to her good taste, hosted a lovely lunch with English tea and finger sandwiches and home made desserts. As I told friends at the event, Karen truly made me feel like a princess.  Among the guests were other authors and artists, which made for a lively discussion.  My heartfelt thanks to Karen and impeccable hospitality.

Here are some pictures of the day!

At the Cutting Edge of Art

David, my husband, says that when I am on a mission, there is no stopping me.  Well, he knows me best! Do you think after taking a red eye from Los Angeles and having a couple of meetings right after I land, I would go to my hotel room to rest? Are you kidding? I went straight to MOMA, where I was looking forward to seeing 2 exhibits in particular: Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photography and Marina Abromovic’s performance art.

As an avid photographer and a big admirer of Bresson’s work (I once gave a first edition of his photography book to a dear friend of mine), I was just thrilled to see the range of his photographic work displayed at the museum.  His portraits and the pictures taken when traveling throughout China, Mexico, Spain, Morocco, and even Iran was just breathtaking. His eye is impeccable and his sense of timing is just right. He managed to capture the essence of the moment, and the prevailing feeling of the situation in such a masterly way. No wonder he is called the best photographer of the century.  Here is a little article my friend, Patricia Zohn wrote about this exhibition in the Huffington Post.

Abromovic’s performance art is other-worldly. If one doesn’t understand what this grand artist is aiming for, one would think it is masochistic and  at times even pornographic. Be ready to see nudity and lots of it in this show. I think Abromovic is a remarkable artist, pushing the boundaries of courage, conceptual art, while having the viewers be participants in the art.  The funniest moment for me was when I was getting ready to go through this entrance to a hall, where a nude man and woman were standing by.  There is no other way to get into the exhibition hall but to squeeze past these two naked people, which was the entire point. I was 5 feet away from the man and woman when my phone rang! My friend asked me if she had called at a bad time. I paused and said, “Well, I am looking at two naked people right now. Can I call you back?” Of course, we were both hysterically laughing at this awkward moment. And of course, I explained to her that I was at the MOMA exhibit!  Here is an article and some clips of the Abromovic exhibition:

I guarantee you, it is an experience.

My third art stop was visiting Leyla Taghinia Milani Heller’s Gallery.  When I was in NY in August, I got a chance to visit the Chelsea Museum’s Iranian Art exhibit that was curated by her. I also read a glowing article in the New York Times about Leyla and her gallery. So of course, I went to the gallery in the summer. But this time, I was lucky to catch her in town, as she is often traveling for art fairs.  She is no doubt one of the most important dealers in Iranian Contemporary Art, and her gallery was showing an exhibit of Shoja Azari’s work.

I have been a fan of Shoja’s work and he is getting a lot of press on this new exhibit.  Here is the NY Times Article on Shoja and his latest work:

There is no substitute to having an artist himself explain his work. I was fortunate that Shoja was at hand in the gallery.  Shoja talked about each piece at length, explaining the roots of his work and his inspiration in his characteristically friendly and warm manner.  What strikes the viewer is his straightforward iconoclastic gesture, the replacement of the the face of ordinary women for the image of saints in Shi’i iconography. This video instillation projected onto the icons makes these faces actually come alive and make subtle motions.  As I told Shoja myself, “I can’t take my eyes off these images. The faces truly come alive.”  There is a deeper philosophical and political undertone to his art, which in reality creates a dialogue for Iran’s tradition of using sacred iconography and for the current political involvement of women in the country. These images surely stayed with me long after I left the gallery, which proves that he has found of wellspring of powerful images to construct his form of expression around.

Books & More Books On My Mind

My week started by taking the red eye at midnight out of LAX. I got into NY early morning, ready to take on the day.  Monday I joined the Jewish Book Network in presenting a 2 minute pitch of my book along with another 50 authors. Our audience included organization leaders, who are looking for interesting books, authors, and topics to present to their respective communities.  As an author, I really enjoy watching authors present their material and see what kinds of topics they are writing about.  The Network runs a tight ship, and they managed to get everybody present their books within the time constraint.  Believe it or not, one does get a good overall impression of the books and the author’s speaking ability.  After the presentation, we got a chance to talk and mingle with other authors and organizational leaders. My overall impression of the event was that it was stimulating and I was so impressed by the quality of speakers and books.

The next day I went off to the Book Expo 2010 at the Javitz Center.  I remember the first time I attended the book expo a couple of years ago. At the time I had just finished my book, and I was looking for a publisher. Now, I was attending with a tag reading, “published author”, which delighted me to no end. I attended a few seminars about building on-line readership, etc… I guess what I got out of these seminars that authors need to write away on facebook, their web sites, and tweet! So, here I am this week, opening my twitter account!  On everyone’s mind was digital books and publishing and there were many booths in the expo dedicated to this new venture in publishing. To think 2 years ago, there was no talk about this at the conference.

If you haven’t ever gone to the book expo–let me tell you, it is not wise to wear heals, which I did anyway! Big mistake. I walked for 3 hours straight, going to different booths and seeing the new seletion of  books due to be out for the coming year.  I even stopped by Assouline’s booth and said hello to my friends and colleagues.

Just to keep you in the loop, I am now really serious about writing another book. So I know this coming year, I will be spending more time doing research, reading, and writing.

New York Musings

The best way to make the best of any full book schedule, is to squeeze in some fun with friends.  On Tuesday, I was to speak at the JCC in Manhattan about my book and also the history of Jews in Iran.  I really enjoyed meeting so many interesting people at the talk and a very interesting dialogue ensued after my talk.  What is always so special to me is to see people who have read my book show to one of these talks.  It is a way of connecting with my readers and to putting a face with the names of people who write to me on my web site.  I was lucky to meet a few of such people at the JCC event.

Right after the evening tlk, I met with my good friends Sherly and Abbey and we went off the Pastis at the meat packing district.  At 10 pm on a Tuesday night, the place was packed and there were lots of people walking in the streets. We caught up with one another over drinks and dinner and helped ourselves to 3 deserts! If you guys don’t know, I would rather skip a meal and go straight to desert, which I am forcing myself to do less often!

Well this brings me to another extraordinary desert place that I ran into the next day–LADY M Confections.  Seriously, it is a jewel of a pastry shop tucked in 43-42 10th Street.  The Eclair was divine. Once I started talking to the owner and chef, Ken Romaniszyn, I had to try their mille crepe cake–one of their signature cakes.  It was delicate layers and layers (I don’t know, perhaps 20) of crepe and cream heaven.  It was worth skipping a meal for!  If this place was in LA, I would be in serious trouble. I still wanted to try their green tea mouse cake and Ken’s other creations. But hopefully next time!

Well I still hope he opens a shop here in Los Angeles.

My Philadelphia Visit to the Barnes Foundation

One of the highlights of my stay in NY was my quick visit to Philadelphia’s Barnes Foundation. (It was only an hour train ride out of Manhattan’s express line and a quick 25 minute taxi ride to the Foundation).   I had recently watched the documentary—The Art of the Steal—which I highly recommend to art lovers.  Without giving too much of the plot away, Barnes Foundation’s spectacular art collection will be moved to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in a year.  I felt that it was my last chance to this world renown collection the way Albert Barnes had wanted his viewers to see it—in his home in the middle of a suburb, with modern masterpieces all stacked up on the walls of the various rooms.

It is nothing short of unbelievable! The Barnes Foundation houses one of the finest collections of French Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and early Modern paintings in the WORLD, including an extraordinary number of masterpieces by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (181), Paul Cézanne (69), and Henri Matisse (59). The collection also includes important works by Pablo Picasso (46), Chaim Soutine (21), Henri Rousseau (18), Amedeo Modigliani (16), Edgar Degas (11), Vincent van Gogh (7), Georges Seurat (6), Edouard Manet (4), and Claude Monet (4).  You can just imagine my overwhelming reaction to seeing the most beautiful works of art in one room—even on one wall! And the mastermind of this collection was one man’s exemplary vision—Albert Barnes.

What is so fascinating about the arrangement of the “wall ensembles” is that it is in keeping with Barnes’ idea of illustrating the visual, spatial, color traditions of various artists and times on one wall.  The paintings don’t have titles or any writings below them since Barnes felt that it would distract the viewer from seeing the art directly.  The effect is the viewers directly perceiving the shapes and forms without curatorial analysis.

Barnes was a true genius and collector. At a time when African Art was deemed as primitive and not so attractive, he collected vigorously and has arranged the sculptures in conjunction with Picasso’s and Modigliani’s works to show the apparent similarities in line and form.  It was hard to pull myself away and leave this exhibit for my afternoon appointment in NY, but for all of you who visit Philadelphia, NY, or Washington, this is a must see destination.