September 2023

A 15-Year Quest

Philip Gerstein



"With furious winds whipping my golden

Tail, with blue skies above, and nostrils flared

Earth gives gives gives beneath my hooves."

~JoAnne McFarland, "Identifying the Body"


Some artworks have a long story & a storied history. Some artworks take a long time to find their destined place. I know some of them will; others, scattered to the winds, shall know oblivion, dis/integration, like most anything born or made... .

I remember painting it, what turned out to be my largest finished canvas. It then waited some 15 years until its time arrived. Rediscovered, unpredictable, it filled a vital need to find its fated destination.

I do remember painting it. It arrived at the tail end of my 'grey background' series. I mixed brown and black to make heavy determinate strokes. Oil stick on top of acrylic, fat over lean; composition open, yet bound on 3 sides; push-pull,  push-pull, rebalance... . Some desperation towards the end, until the oil stick strokes settled in, with balanced asymmetry.

"Ysabel's Table Dance" 54 x 63 in. (137 x 160 cm). Oil stick & acrylic on canvas.

Its title, "Ysabel's Table Dance", was borrowed from Charlie Mingus' tune -- the one from his favorite studio album, "Tijuana Moods", ca.1958. It featured castañets, for added authenticity, and a higher female voice driving the tune, and it is pretty irresistible.

"Ysabel's Table Dance" was the centerpiece of my first Chelsea NYC show, in 2015. It was written about, reproduced, instantly liked.  Then again it

...waited until early this year, to find that perfect spot. It was picked for a bare, beckoning wall in a new high-end apartment complex, with a view of the sea, on Boston's North Shore. It is to grace the building's Library Room. Having worked for decades as a librarian, I suppose this was indeed inevitable. A perfect spot, and a painting that seems to have been made
for it... .

"Ysabel's Table Dance", installed (photo ©Susan Berstler)

The Opening for both the new building and its art treasures is scheduled for early this Fall; I really look forward to it!


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Born and raised in Moscow, Russia, Philip Gerstein began exhibiting his work in the 1980's, while pursuing a PhD in Art History at Harvard University. He studied painting at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Japanese calligraphy with Toshu Ogawa. Gerstein exhibits in NYC, Provincetown MA, and extensively in the Boston area, as well as organizing and curating painting and photography shows. For his paintings – extensively reviewed and widely collected see For his other work in Scene4, check the Archives

©2023 Philip Gerstein
©2023 Publication Scene4 Magazine




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