Over the holidays, I visited Corning, NY – – famous for its glass museum, the largest collection of historical and art glass in the world.
But the town also has another excellent art museum, the Rockwell.
It’s not on the scale of the glass museum (where the gift shop alone is literally seven times bigger than my house) but it’s well worth visiting.
A lot of the art relates to the American West.
Frederic Remington, one of the most famous artists of the American West, was a New Yorker. He grew up in the “North Country” near the St. Lawrence river, so he knew a thing or two about cold weather, and that came to mind looking at these cavalrymen huddled around a fire in the snow.
His scenes and sculptures of the West were created in his studio in New Rochelle, about ten miles from Irvington, where Albert Bierstadt had his studio.
They have a big (I guess the only way he did things) landscape by Bierstadt, nearly 6′ x 10′, in place of pride on the top floor.
I suppose these formal landscapes in the “Hudson River School” style have been out-of-fashion for a long time, but personally I love them.
The collection is housed in a former city hall, a big brick-and-stone pile, done in a stalwart Richardson Romanesque style, almost medieval-looking.
It was built in 1893 so a contemporary of some of the paintings it contains.
There’s a rooftop terrace, which is where I took this cellphone picture of the slate roof.
I was thinking about the saying “clean slate,” to start off the new year.
I know the expression refers to chalk & blackboards, students’ handheld slates (and 19th c. bar tabs!) but these roof shingles are made of the same stuff after all.
Some of the other expressions that are almost-synonyms, like “square one,” seem like they’re usually used in a more negative sense, like “here we go again, having to start all over.” “Breaking new ground,” speaking as someone who’s dug up sod and a few stumps, is just plain backbreaking.
“When one door closes, another opens” can be very true. I grew up in a drafty old house built in the 1860’s, and that kinda stuff happened, until we got storm doors and better weatherstripping installed.
I remember some teachers were fond of using tabula rasa, but they always seemed to say “blank slate” when they were looking straight at me. With the emphasis on blank, as I looked back at them blankly. So I never much liked that. And it seems a bit fancy and pretentious.
When I looked it up, the dictionary has rāsa as “scraped, erased,” and of course the Romans were using wax tablets, not slate. (I guess in a pinch, they could toss incriminating evidence onto the nearest brazier or flaming martyr.)
And speaking of Roman gladiatorial-related stuff, Webster’s tells us “start from scratch” meant “show up for a confrontation,” like “step up to the plate” and they also see an origin in sports – – a line in the sand – – for a race, cricket, boxing, etc. So that all sounds horribly athletic and combative, so let’s skip it.
“Reboot,” which the Help Desk people probably say in their sleep, is kinda nice – – at least you have the mental image of applying the sole of your boot to the soulless stubborn computer.
But I like best “clean slate,” “fresh start” and “new leaf,” they’re positive sounding, aren’t they.
And “Start afresh” just has a nice sound to it.
So that’s all, no profound thoughts, just Cheers, here’s to a fresh new year.
35 thoughts on “Clean slate for the new year”
I’m still recovering from a nasty bout of shingles, so I’ll stay off the slate metaphor and stick with the new leaf imagery!
oh gosh, I hope you’re kidding, I know shingles is a miserable experience.
Yes, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Still feeling the after-effects, months down the road.
Sorry, Denzil, I know people who’ve been through that and it’s tough.
Thanks Robert, but I’ve been through worse. One day I’ll tell you about my brain operation!
Even if you once looked blankly at your teacher, you’ve come a long way, baby, in filling in the blanks about various phrases with meanings related to a blank slate. Perhaps someday you’ll unearth a tabula non rasa, as did your fellow upstate New Yorker Joseph Smith. And if you ever visit Texas, you can stare appreciatively rather than blankly at the Blanco River.
The last time we visited upstate New York, in 2019, we spent several hours at the Corning Museum of Glass. The Rockwell is on the list I prepared of potential places to visit but I don’t think we made it there after spending so much time at the glass museum.
Thanks, Steve, Happy 2023 to you, too!
The Southern Tier has been less than prosperous for a lot of years, so it’s great to visit a place with a thriving downtown. Corning has really made itself into a “destination.” We also visited Jamestown, which once was chockablock with furniture manufacturers but has lost 1/3 of its population since the 40’s-’50’s peak. Lucille Ball was from there, and they now have a tourist draw = a great museum of comedy, including a floor (with plenty of warning signs) about “off-color” humor by Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, et al. – exploring censorship, freedom of speech, etc.
It’s sad that in too many cases the Southern Tier has become the Southern Tear. Maybe you’ll do a post about the comedy museum.
I like the Hudson River School artists too. The Hudson River area is still real nice. Lots of smallish towns, the Catskill Mountains, the river.
I like the Hudson Valley, too, Neil and still have a lot of places there I want to visit. I just read that the state is fixing up Olana, an amazing old mansion built by an oldtime artist, Frederic Church, that’s near Hudson, NY. Which has a lot of great places to eat (although kind of pricey) and nice old buildings.
That’s great, the prints and the riff on that phrasing. Love the pairing of the post title with that first photo especially. We have a Bierstadt copy in our entryway leading upstairs, I like how the morning light hits it because it mimics the light he’s going for in the painting. Always that filtered, dramatic light seeping through the clouds it seems. And the pink champagne effect on everything. I’m with you on tabula Rosa, down on that: and me, blank too. Here’s to the clean slate and the new leaf, HT to Janus, he/she of nimble necks as it were.
Thanks, Bill and haha I like the Janus of the Nimble Neck idea. That’s cool you’ve got the Bierstadt placed to catch the morning light.
If I lived a little closer, I would put the Rockwell museum on my list to visit.
Yes, that would be a long trip. I’ve got a long mental list of things I’d like to see in B.C., Vancouver area and the Rockies, Lake Louise, etc.
Interesting post. I enjoyed seeing the art from the museum.And if you looked “blankly ” at your teacher I say you have got over that.Nothing “blank” about this post.
Thank you Anne. Corning isn’t a very large place so it’s surprising that they would have two really good art museums there
I’m with you on those large landscapes, Robert. I think they’re…brilliant (I was going to say great, but you’d just say yeah, huge.). Happy New Clean Slate to you, too.
Something kept niggling at me, and I finally realized what it was. Instead of ‘clean slate,’ I like thinking of the new year as a palimpsest. The Oxford says it’s “a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing, but of which traces remain, or something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.” That’s so true of a new year; the traces of the old still remain.
As much as I love the Hudson school, I really was taken by “Yakima Indian with Shadow,” and that last Wyeth piece of the couple in the prairie schooner. That seems so familiar; I’m almost certain I’ve seen that used as a book cover, but I can’t find it right now. Maybe another illustrator simply used the painting as a reference.
I’d love to visit your area sometime. It’s not likely, but I’m sure not taking it off the list!
Hi Linda – Yes, I like your palimpsest idea, as much as we might sometimes want a completely blank canvas or a new page, etc. the old patterns are going to come through, even if they seem invisible at first, erased or painted over. We’d like a spotless record and a clean slate but I guess we’d know it was a leopard without its spots. I’m sorry I didn’t photograph the museum tag for that N.C. Wyeth, I’ve always loved his stuff but don’t know what magazine or book used that wagon scene. Been wanting to go to the Brandywine Museum (eastern PA) to see more of N.C./Andrew/Jamie Wyeth paintings, it was mostly closed for renovations the last time I was out that way. And I hope you get to explore the area!
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While you’re starting the year with a clean slate, it seems you’re bringing in the old as well as the new. And why not? It’s better to build new things on a good foundation.
I don’t know much about painting, but my impression of the Hudson River school is kind of a Caravaggio does landscapes thing – I think they call the style chiaroscuro. I could be off base, but whatever it is, I like it.
Thanks, Dave, I liked Linda’s suggestion of a “palimpsest” (had to look up the spelling on that!) where they used to scrape the writing off Old parchments and reuse them. I’ve seen articles about using modern scanning techniques so they can read the original writing.
Thanks for all that interesting information, Robert!
Sure Pit! 😃
I like all the good feelings here, Robert, it’s like a balm for the soul. The paintings are, too. I like the way you mused about the art, the building it’s in, the slice of slate roof you saw, and that expression. You’re very good at pulling things together like that. 🙂 A belated Happy New Year to you!
Thanks, Lynn, Happy New Year to you!
In the early days of computing, before hard drives were invented, they had not yet solved the problem of storing things in memory when the computer was turned off. If you turned off the computer, it “forgot” everything and you had to reprogram it every time.. Then some genius worked out what was called a bootstrap program. The idea was that the computer would reprogram itself instead of the user having to put the program in manually. This allowed the computer to “pull itself up by its own bootstraps.” There’s still a program that does that when a computer is turned on. It loads the programs that need to be loaded for the computer to operate. We still boot up computers to this day. I used to work for Texas Instruments, and their answer to this problem was a cartridge that contained the program you needed to load. That was back in the days when a kilobyte was considered a whopping great amount.
Very interesting, thank you!
Google Arts and Culture has a section with hundreds of paintings from the Hudson River School:
When I was working on my history degree, one of my favorite courses was called “Nature in American History” — where we studied how the Hudson River School painters (some of whom were also photographers) and the explorers they accompanied influenced public land policy through paintings, drawings, and photographs. The book “Wilderness and the American Mind” by Roderick Nash is one of the best single volumes on the period and how public lands like Yellowstone and the Adirondack Park might not exist as we know them but for the impact of these (and other) artists and explorers.
Thanks, Dale, I’ll see if I can find a copy of that book, sounds great!
Thanks for posting that link, Dale. I’m a big fan of The Hudson River School and will spend some time enjoying each artist’s work on the site. Another fine book regarding the school is “American Paradise: The World of The Hudson River School”.
It’s a nice collection! Enjoy! I will check out the book, thanks.
Happy 2023, Robert.
The Hudson River School are my favorite artists and Bierstadt is the tops. We have one of his paintings, of Yosemite and of course not an original, over our sofa. When we visited the National Museum of Art in D.C. many years ago they had a HUGE painting of his, Lake Lucerne if my memory is working, that I have yet to see anywhere on the internet. He did like things on the large size.
The place where I work is just having the old roof on the old original store (we built a new one 30 years ago elsewhere on the property) most of which is slate. I thought slate lasts forever but apparently it does “thin” over the years.