Sunday, September 11, 2022

Honoring Those Who Perished on 9/11/01 and after; Michael Richards Remembered

Remembering Michael Rolando Richards, 
Who Perished on September 11, 2001 
in the World Trade Center Attack

The Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian, 1999

Michael Richards (August 2, 1963 - September 11, 2001)

It is a very sad week. We lost a formidable monarch, Queen Elizabeth II and ended an era in history.  Today we remember the victims of 9/11 - those who perished on that day and those who died from exposure to the toxic air and ash in the aftermath.  I will honor the memory of Queen Elizabeth II in another post. Today, we honor those we lost 21 years ago today.  Here is an updated version of a post from September 11, 2013:

Sculptor Michael Rolando Richards died in the attack on September 11, 2001. At the time, he was enjoying a fellowship with World Views, an artist-in-residence program sponsored by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. He had been hard at work on his project, The Tuskegee Airmen, dedicated to the memory of the African-American air force who were segregated during World War II.

Michael Richards (American, 1963-2001). Free Fall, 1997.
 Fiberglass and resin with iron oxide. 72 x 24 x 19 in. (182.9 x 61 x 48.3 cm). 
Contemporary Art. Anonymous gift in honor of Michael Richards. 
Image courtesy Brooklyn Museum
Michael had attended an opening at the Grey Art Gallery on September 10, 2001 and then decided to head for his WTC studio on the 92nd floor in Manhattan to work.  Living in Rosedale, Queens at the time, he skipped the long commute home in favor of staying overnight in order to continue working into the wee hours of the morning. When the planes struck at 8:45 a.m., he might have been getting ready to go to work at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, where he was a freelance preparator.

Winged, 1999

That Richards was killed by an airplane piercing the body of a tall, trim tower seems eerily coincidental and almost mystical. Richards' well-known sculpture Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian,1999, features the artist's own tall, trim body as the full-length male figure standing straight and lifted off the floor by a slender pole. The gold resin body, clad in a military uniform, bears numerous small airplanes driven into the torso, their noses piercing the surface like the arrows buried into St. Sebastian's flesh as he became a martyr to his Christian faith.

Michael Richards Retrospective on Governor's Island, Summer 2016

Michael Richards' faith was in humankind. He truly believed that our better angels would prevail - even in the face of political turmoil, bigotry, racism and injustice.  Curator Jorge Daniel Veneciano, who organized Richards' exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1996, pointed out that the artist's reference to flight worked on two levels: the flight away from repression and the flight toward redemption.
In Free Fall, his 1997 sculpture of a male figure carrying a parachute pack on his back, the artist seems to speak of that dual experience. Here a Tuskegee Airman prepares for flight, focused on the mission and his survival. He willingly accepts the risk while he relies on his experience, skill and a parachute (a metaphor for community of support?) to see him through. And yet, there is exhaustion in these faces and bodies.  Their patriotism may take them physically into the skies, but their souls remain grounded in despair. When will tolerance replace hatred and war?
Michael Richards, Are You Down?, Franconia Sculpture Park, 2000

Richards' life hardly touched Tuskegee, Alabama. Born in Brooklyn on August 2, 1963 to a Costa Rican mother and Jamaican father, Michael Richards lived in Kingston, Jamaica during his childhood. He graduated with honors from Excelsior High School and then returned to New York to pursue his undergraduate degree at Queens College, which he completed with distinction in 1985. He went on to earn a Master's Degree in Arts from New York University in 1991. While at NYU, Richards worked as a preparator at the university's Grey Art Gallery.
In 1993, Richards participated in the highly-coveted Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, followed by an Artists-in-the-Marketplace Program at the Bronx Museum of the Arts in 1994.
From 1995 to 1996, he participated in the Artist-in-Residence program at the Studio Museum of Harlem and The Space Program, run by The Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
In 2000, Richards received the Franconia Sculpture Park/Jerome Fellowship. Today, his project for the part Are You Down? is on display in this Minnesota park and has become the Michael Richards Memorial. It consists of three airmen (cast from Richards' body) sitting in a circle surrounding a target, facing outward. Originally created in fiberglass, Franconia hopes to raise enough money to cast the work in bronze in order to preserve the work in perpetuity.  A film about the project can be found here
The Tuskegee Airmen series highlights a squadron of African-American pilots in World War II--formally called the 332nd Fighter Group in the U.S. Army Air Corps--who were segregated from the other Army units. Despite this racist slight, the squadron excelled in its service to this country. Some sources have said that no airmen lost their lives on a mission during the war. This assertion has been challenged since 2006. However, in Richards' day, the reputation of the Tuskegee Airmen remained almost mythic--as Richards' works tend to be.
The name Tuskegee also brings up the association with the notorious syphilis experiment conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service from 1932 to 1972. Infecting African-American sharecroppers, the scientists wanted to observe this horribly destructive disease. Another example of racism in the United States, this experiment withheld penicillin (which became available in 1929) from its subjects. During the course of this experiment the wives and children of the subjects were infected, too.
Clearly, Tuskegee resonated with Michael Richards for a number reasons.
At the time of his death, Richards was working on Fallen Angel, a life-size piece based on his own torso that was meant to be positioned on the floor. Wings were attached to the back with one wing broken off and left on the floor. Today it serves as a metaphor for the artist’s life and death.
Executive Director of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council in 2001, Liz Thompson noted that "He was so promising. He was on a tear." So true.
Today, we remember him for all that he was and all that he was meant to be. And we mourn the loss of a great artist and equally wonderful friend. A memorial was held at the Studio Museum of Harlem on September 23, 2001.   

Click on this link to see photos of "Art You Down?," a retrospective, North Miami Museum of Contemporary Art, April 21 - October 10, 2021.  Videos about Michael Richards and a curators' tour are also on this website page. Please scroll down to find this recordings.

Other Exhibitions:
  • Governor's Island, Summer 2016
  • Grey Art Gallery, New York University , New York
  • Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
  • Aldrich Contemporary Museum, Ridgefield, CT
  • Studio Museum of Harlem, New York
  • Bronx Museum of Arts, New York
  • Miami Art Center, Miami, Florida
  • Franconia Sculpture Park, Franconia, Minnesota
  • Socrates Sculpture Park, Long Island City, New York
  • North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC
  • Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL
  • The Debeyard Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Artists' Space, New York
We still miss you, Michael.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Last Call - Winslow Homer, at the Met through Sunday, July 31st.


Winslow Homer, Snap the Whip, 1872
Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH

Winslow Homer: Crosscurrents
Metropolitan Museum of Art
April 11-July 31, 2022

Winslow Homer, Nor'Easter, Maine, 1895 
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dear Friends,

If you have time, please visit the Winslow Homer exhibition this weekend before it closes on Sunday.  Fridays and Saturdays are late nights for the Met and very comfortable indeed - I highly recommend spending summer evenings at the Met.

Winslow Homer, Gulf Stream, 1899, reworked in 1901 or 1906?
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Winslow Homer in the Met Collection, Spring 1982

Hoping you are all well and enjoying!
Warm wishes,

Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, PhD
New York Arts Exchange, LLC

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Happy Father's Day, Happy Juneteenth, Happy Summer Celebrations!


Cbabi Bayoc, "Never Letting Go," Day 111 of 365 Days of Dad

Happy Father's Day

Happy Juneteenth

Stonehenge, The Heel Stone

Happy Summer Solstice

Happy Graduation

Happy Wedding Celebrations

Happy Anniversary

Celebrate ! 


Love and hugs,

Beth and the New York Arts Exchange

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Mother's Day 2022

Henry Ossawa Tanner, Portrait of the Artist's Mother Sarah, 1897
Philadelphia Museum of Art

To all our mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers 
and aunties - 

And to all the wonderful mothers who gave us great artists like Henry Ossawa Tanner - 

Thank you so much for all your love and support!

Beth and the New York Arts Exchange


Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Celebrating International Jazz Day - April 29-30, 2022


Please join me on Friday, April 29th and Saturday, April 30th

 to celebration

International Jazz Day 

with the Skipp Pearson Jazz Foundation

Live and Virtual Events - Register Here

Friday, April 29, 2022 at 12:00 PM - Saturday, April 30, 2022 at 10:00 PM (EDT)

Park Avenue Plaza
55 East 52nd Street
New York, NY 10055

View Map

Looking forward to seeing you there - 

Best wishes to the Skipp Pearson Jazz Foundation 

for these exciting and educational events 

 - Beth

Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.

Director and owner

New York Arts Exchange, LLC 

Friday, April 15, 2022

Happy Passover, Easter and Ramadan 2022

Édouard Manet, Lilacs in a Glass, 1883

Wishing you a very happy




May there be peace and love throughout the world - 

Beth and the New York Arts Exchange


Wednesday, February 23, 2022

An Interview with award-winning translator Sandra Smith in print and on Zoom


Dear Friends,

It is a thrill and an honor to interview the gifted translator Sandra Smith, whose work you might know from reading the best-seller Suite Française (Knopf, 2006) by Irène Némirovsky. Our conversation in print for the online magazine Bonjour Paris was published last week.  And our conversation in person, focusing on Smith's last three translations will take place on Zoom next Tuesday.  You can register with our host the Federation of Alliances Françaises by clicking this link. 
I hope to see you then - 
Bien à vous,

Tuesday, March 1, 2022
4pm PST / 5pm MST / 6pm CST / 7pm EST
Federation of Alliances Françaises USA
In English

Join us for a conversation with Sandra Smith, award-winning translator of French literature, as she discusses the artistry and challenges involved in translating with Beth S. Gersh-Nešić. Their discussions will focus specifically on three significant works: The Prodigal Child, by Irène Némirovsky, In the Shadows of Paris: The Nazi Concentration Camp That Dimmed the City of Light , by Anne Sinclair and Inseparable, by Simone de Beauvoir.

Sandra Smith has translated twelve of Irène Némirovsky’s novels, including the international sensation Suite Française, into English. She has also translated works by Albert Camus, Guy de Maupassant, and Simone de Beauvoir, among many others and is the recipient of numerous awards including the National Jewish Book Award and the PEN Translation Prize.

Beth Susan Gersh-Nešić, Ph.D. is an art historian and the director of the New York Arts Exchange, an arts education service. Her translation and annotation of André Salmon’s first two books on art were published as André Salmon on French Modern Art (Cambridge University Press, 2005), and her most recent book is a translation of Salmon expert Dr. Jacqueline Gojard’s Pablo Picasso and André Salmon: The Painter, the Poet and the Portraits (Za Mir Press, 2019).  She contributes to the online magazine Bonjour Paris and teaches art history at Mercy College.   

Irène Némirovsky was born in Kiev, Ukraine, in 1903 into a wealthy Jewish family and was raised in a life of privilege in Europe. After fleeing Russia during the Revolution, she immersed herself in the company of thinkers, artists, musicians, and other cultural elites as part of the Parisian literati of her time. Sixty-two years after her death, in 2004, the never-before-published Suite Française brought international acclaim to this gifted writer, whose life was tragically lost in the Holocaust. The Prodigal Child can also be found at the following booksellers: AmazonBarnes &

Anne Sinclair was born in New York City and moved to France with her family as a young girl. There she rose to fame, in part due to her family’s vast collection of paintings by Picasso, Braque, Matisse, and Léger, which she would become heir to, but also because her prominence as a highly regarded broadcast journalist led to her serving as the model for statues of Marianne, the national emblem of France, symbolizing liberty. From 1984 to 1997 she hosted 7 sur 7, France’s most popular Sunday evening news show, similar to CBS’s 60 Minutes; during that time, she interviewed many world figures, including Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev, Shimon Peres, and Prince Charles. She is the author of numerous bestsellers in France. In the Shadows of Paris, which was recently recognized as a top-four finalist for the National Jewish Book Award, can also be found at the following booksellers: AmazonBarnes &

Simone de Beauvoir was a French author and philosopher. She wrote novels, monographs on philosophy, political and social issues, essays, biographies, and an autobiography. She is now best known for her metaphysical novels, including She Came to Stay and The Mandarins, and for her 1949 treatise The Second Sex, a detailed analysis of women’s oppression and a foundational tract of contemporary feminism.

This event will be on Zoom and is free for all Alliance Française members, AATF members, and invited guests of the presenter or publicist. Non-members or persons who have no AF chapter nearby can purchase tickets ($10). Please click here to register.