Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Tale of Two Cities and a Disputed Patch of Coastal Massachusetts

They say a young person will fall hopelessly in love with the first major city they live in. That might explain why, as much as I adore New York, my favorite city in the whole wide world remains London. From Hamstead Heath to Ladywell, from Raven's Court to Hackney (we have friends in those places), crisscrossing the city on the Tube or double-decker buses is a breathtaking trip through time, passing ancient churches and futuristic skyscrapers. Even as ridiculously expensive as it has all become, walking along Charing Cross Road toward Tottenham Court Road, past the smaller streets with the books shops and nightclubs of my misspent youth, taking in the aroma of the kebab shops, the laughter spilling out from the pubs, and the Babelish cacophony of virtually every language on earth all within earshot at once, I can relax and want to dance at the same time. Londoners who don't know me might consider this presumptuous, but upon my arrivals my friends there greet me with "Welcome Home."

Which is partly why we're thrilled to be heading back in a few weeks for the Year 07 Art Projects (taking place at County Hall [seen above], see details here), and scheduling in as many dinners and pub crawls as humanly possible in between the important work of presenting signature installations by a few of our artists (yes, this part's a sales pitch...no rest for the wicked) including the highly acclaimed, 40-foot-long facial bar graph otherwise known as What Does an Artist Look Like (Every Photograph of an Artist to Appear in The New Yorker, 1999-2001) by Jennifer Dalton and the piece that encouraged nearly a hundred curators (seriously) to head to Central Asia when it debuted at the Venice Biennale in 2005, Trans Siberian Amazons by Gulnara Kasmalieva and Muratbek Djumaliev. We're also bringing some fabulous new work by Rory Donaldson (see this image of a canal in Venice). Please do stop by if you're in town for the art festivities.

Speaking of Venice, though, that's the other city in the world I just can't get enough of. Last time Bambino and I were there it was boiling hot, and we staggered from piazza to piazza nearly drowning ourselves in the public fountains just to cool off. Winding our way through the labyrinth of streets we would continually come around a corner and just gasp at what we saw. At each new doorway or window or crumbling wall, so gorgeous in nearly every detail, the thought would cross my mind that "someone really should paint that," just to be chased out by the realization that very likely someone already has. And the Venetians are rather proud of that, I'd say, and rightly so.

Which brings me to the disputed patch of coastal Massachusetts. It's a patch that someone once painted as well. Edward Hopper, no less. And similar to the way the Venetians react when someone dares suggest they add or subtract something from their city that has been immortalized in art history, the residents of South Truro are up in arms about plans to alter the landscape that Hopper immortalized in his painting "Hills, South Truro" (seen below).



The New York Times has the story:
Walking the beaches and dunes of South Truro, it is easy to see how the artist Edward Hopper and countless others were captivated by the scenery, a sweeping expanse of sand and sunlight bouncing off Cape Cod Bay.

Now some worry that the view from Hopper’s small whitewashed home is in jeopardy, as well as the home itself. The parcel has become the subject of controversy, with some residents trying to protect what they see as a piece of American artistic history and others defending the right of a property owner to build what he wishes on his land.

In May, Donald and Andrea Kline bought 9.3 acres next to Hopper’s house for $6.75 million. They plan to build a house that, with a garage and a pool, is expected to be about 6,500 square feet, according to a sewer application.

Expansive houses dot the dunes here. But the Klines’ proposal has angered some residents who say it will sit atop a ridge directly in the “Hopper Landscape,” a swath of land visible from a large, north-facing window that allowed into Hopper’s home the light he found so captivating. Hopper first came to Truro in 1930 and spent every summer here until his death in 1967. Mr. Kline says the home would be to the right of the Hopper Landscape.

Joan Holt, a Truro resident, opposes construction of the house. “It’s a place that has great historical and artistic significance,” Ms. Holt said. “Our roots here on the lower cape are with two kinds of people, fishing people and artistic people.”
Like the Venetians, the Truro residents understand the value of their artistic roots. Once that landscape is altered, part of what captured the artist's imagination
about that place is lost to us forever.

I realize that Mr. Kline has rights in this as well, and that, as some have pointed out, the folks so keen on preserving that landscape could have purchased it in order to protect it themselves (Party of Davos advocates, line up to the right please). But I see nothing wrong with the other residents appealing, heartily, to his better self via the legal means they have to do so. I hope he weighs what's to be gained versus what's to be lost in making his decision.

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17 Comments:

Blogger Mark said...

This should have been handled thru a land presevation fund years ago if not before the property was offered for sale.

9/20/2007 09:21:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9/20/2007 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

As someone noted, and it's fair to point out, the article ends with the following:

Carol Troyen, curator of a Hopper exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston that closed in August, said, “Most of what he painted in Truro were houses, houses on the dunes, houses nestled in little valleys, and the light striking them.” She added: “Very few pure landscapes came out of his Truro experience. He was a painter of architecture and light.”

It's still fair to suggest, though, that had another building been there when Hopper painted the "Hills" he might have composed it very differently (who's to say), and it's view from the vantage point he chose that folks are arguing should remain available to future generations.

Again, Mr. Kline has the right to do as he wishes, but the other residents have the right to voice their opinions and try to persuade him.

9/20/2007 10:44:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

I have no particular opinion about the specific house these people are building, but I'm assuming Truro has zoning laws and that the proposed building complies with them.

I think it's a big mistake to try to keep the world from changing just for nostalgic reasons. A losing battle. Artists have created representations of many places over the years. Does that mean that all of them should then be frozen in time from the moment they're painted? The Dorian Gray school of landscape painting? If someone really loves the views that Hopper painted, they should look at his paintings.

9/20/2007 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I see your point David, and in general agree, but I think, again, it's fair of the townspeople to appeal to the landowner on the the grounds that what makes that area special in someways to them is, as the local put it, their artistic roots.

If he disagrees and builds his house any way, that's his right, and the authorities should protect that right.

That doesn't mean the other locals have to like it though.

I guess I'm a bit sensitive about this issue at the moment because there's a similar controversy in my neighborhood. Trump is trying to build a 45-story monstrosity near my home and there are nearly daily protests. Yes, he bought the plot of land it's going to be on, but he didn't buy all the surrounding land it will cast shadows across or putrify the views from. It will be an overbearing presence and total eyesore in an otherwise lovely part of town, and he should understand it's not welcome by his neighbors. It's our right to voice our opinions on how his building will affect our lives, no?

9/20/2007 12:16:00 PM  
Blogger Molly Stevens said...

There's probably a difference between Trump and this dude's house on the cape.

Change happens. What kind is the only thing we can control. And unfortunatly, often we can't.

9/20/2007 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger Molly Stevens said...

Reminds me of JoAnn Verburg's project re-photographing landscapes (among other artist projects)

9/20/2007 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Yes, I would assume there is a difference. I brought Trump up only to provide insight into why I'm perhaps more sensitive about this issue than might make sense otherwise.

9/20/2007 12:53:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

It's our right to voice our opinions on how his building will affect our lives, no?

Absolutely! And it it's the right of the Truro residents as well. I'm certainly not arguing in favor of unfettered growth, nor siding with landowners who create monstrosities that adversely affect their neighbors. It's how LA got so ugly :)

I just think there's a big difference between protecting the quality of life of an area's residents and preserving a view that appears in a painting. If the Klines are building a house that blocks their neighbors' views, casts their homes into shadows, or even makes the neighborhood look unattractive (that one's pretty subjective), then of course it's a whole different issue. But it doesn't sound like that's what's going on.

9/20/2007 01:04:00 PM  
Anonymous There's Always Arson said...

How far do you have to go?

9/20/2007 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

I feel the need to chime in her being Ed mentioned Trump, I live down the street from his latest monstrosity 111 Central Park North, It's a definite eyesore, although I have to say it's not intrusive, it did however level a historic dance hall, which previously had national landmark status, as well as the entire block actually, it obviously got changed somehow, the point I'm lumbering towards is that of "The Ugly American" it's an attitude of privilege americans take that they can do whatever they want without considering how it affects people around them, back to trump my biggest beef about the building is it displaced my favorite deli, run by an arab family I would talk to, the younger cousins and whenever any terror threat level was elevated, they would be tense about being harassed, but that's a different story, the real problem is when these condo's start to be occupied by upperclass whites mostly I presume that can afford their 1.5 million dollar starting price, well there goes the neighborhood, and I mean the halfwayhouse/welfare hotel on the other side of lenox ave, there's a county jail down the street that is rumored to already be sold, and the African American Museum is starting construction on the corner of fifth ave and 110th st., lower level museum, upper levels condos, the point is I don't think development is bad, it actually is a good thing, let the yuppies buy new condo's so their not paying a million dollars for what used to be a slum, IMO the problem is bad development, development by people who aren't part of the community and never will be, development with one objective maximize profits, greatest sq. foot to dollar ratio, all the problems that compromised the world trade center and instead of creating a suitable memorial (and I mean that as whatever occupies that site in it's entirety will be a memorial)all that got created was a lot of resentment and a guaranteed profit for Silverstein, and though I have no proof I would say a lot of sweetheart deals and politicians pockets lined ( but that could just be my cynicism ) and no doubt Mr. Kline would be building a house that gets the most sq. ft. per dollar, and the status luxury items, pool, tennis court (which will most likely be unused )built in an architectural style that isn't in tune with the surrounding houses or landscape ( all strictly conjecture ), but with 9.3 acres of land to build on, I'm sure Mr. Kline can find a place to build the house outside of the paintings landscape as proposed, but back to "The Ugly American", with the past history as the article states that Mr. Kline has, having had construction plans bee stopped at another cape location, is he someone that can be reasoned with or is just out to get what he wants regardless of how it affects the community, or even to spite the community? IMO, no Mr. Kline doesn't have the right to go against the community, if what he wants to do is build himself a home for his family he can make his proposals to the the proper community boards and comities and like all construction once it is approved then he can do what he wants, I don't know the local politics, but it should be interesting to see this play out. It's a funny kind of gray line because so much great art and architecture comes when the artist refuses to compromise, but the difference is motive, the artist is usually trying to realize a vision greater than themselves or the community, let's say advance the community, and the vision usual eventually wins over public opinion, take the WTC, it leveled neighborhoods, displaced businesses, and definitely was a pet project of Rockefellers (they were dubbed David and Nelson) but they were a challenge to the technology of the time and raised as a "next step", so to speak. Initially considered eyesores, out dated, overbearing, they eventually did win us over (I still occasionally stand outside Washington Square Park on fifth ave and squint my eyes to focus on how they were framed by the arch. ahh nostalgia). So what ever Mr. Klines motives are I think should play a role in this, but I'm sure that if someone started a fund to create a preserve on the land and raised say ten million dollars and offered it to Mr. Kline he would become sympathetic.

9/20/2007 06:07:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Having spent a week in Truro in late August, I read about the issue in the Provincetown Banner.

However this situation ends up, let's applaud Joan Holt and her Truro neighbors for making a big enough deal about this issue that the Times would cover it.

9/20/2007 08:52:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

Excellent point Joanne!

let's applaud Joan Holt and her Truro neighbors

Hazah!

9/20/2007 09:37:00 PM  
Blogger David Cauchi said...

Not only was the 'Party of Davos' line extremely good but the link was very interesting as well.

The same thing with property is happening in NZ as well. We don't have Trump, but cheap, badly made apartment buildings are all over the place, and there seems no end in sight. They get sold to absentee property investors who want to make a quick buck off international students. Insta-slum.

Overseas investors have bought up most of our coastal land, often restricting public access to beaches etc. Young Nick's Head, the first bit of NZ spotted from Captain Cook's Endeavour, has recently been sold and is getting some huge ugly private house plonked on top of it.

It all is part and parcel of the economic revolution that happened in the 80s, and the massive growth in income inequality that was the result. In the US, it was called Reaganomics. In the UK, it was called Thatcherism. And what was possibly the most extreme version was in NZ called Rogernomics.

9/20/2007 10:19:00 PM  
Blogger zichi said...

Hampstead Heath not Hamstead Heath, typo probably, silly probably but Hampstead people prefer the correct spelling I suppose just like Nu Yorkers. You can delete once you have read. Enjoy your London trip.

9/21/2007 02:54:00 AM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

Actually zichi maybe New Yokers would be a better pun, both referencing the typo and mocking the accent...;)

9/21/2007 03:41:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Thanks for the correction zichi (I knew that looked wrong, but was in to much of a hurry to look it up).

"there's always arson." That's clearly a criminal and to my mind immoral way to resolve it. Kline is entitled to do what he's legally allowed to on his property. If no one wishes him "good morning" at the supermarket, that's the social price he'll pay for ignorning the feelings of his neighbors. But that's the extend of response I could endorse if his final decision were to build anyway.

9/21/2007 08:19:00 AM  

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