Monday, May 31, 2010

Religious Murals

Our Lady of Grace

Patron Saint of the Dominican Republic

Elton Street, at Fulton

East New York

Here, again, is a sign of what I've said before about the ubiquity of Dominican symbols in the neighborhood of East New York. Above, La Virgen de Alta Gracia, a uniquely Dominican presence, lends her weight to the character of the neighborhood. Rendered, evidently, by an unschooled painter, the figure, nevertheless, reaches any Dominican viewer with instant messages of a familiar culture, and old memories of home.

Elton Street, at Fulton
East New York

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dog in the Water

Dog in the Water
Oil pastel
10 1/4" X 9"

Here's an image I just made as a birthday present to my daughter. It was fun to do, since oil pastel seems to have become a favorite medium of mine over recent years. I also like to find this sort of country-like subject right in my city, one of the largest in the world. Right in the middle of that there's Prospect Park, where the bucolic finds expression. I prefer to contemplate the pleasant things in life.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


My sister, Dulce Macarrulla, wrote a book of stories recounting her recollections from her many trips to far away places (published by the Banco Central de la Rep├║blica Dominicana, 2001.) Sadly, we lost her to liver cancer in August of 2008. Below is my translation of one selection from her book.


By Dulce Macarrulla. Translation by Manuel Macarrulla.

Butch was the most unpleasant dog I had ever known.

He had a face just like his owner’s: wrinkled, ugly, and with a killer’s aura. He was the compound’s lord and master and no one dared cross him for fear not only of what he would do, but his owner’s reaction. The latter was the company director, and he acted (at least in this respect) just like his dog. He gave strict orders that no one may own chickens or cats, since they would certainly be destroyed by the hostile boxer. We were all very careful about both the dog and the master.

A friend gave our children an adorable little white dog with honey colored spots, whom they called Spotty, and who brought them much joy. He shared their excursions and adventures. He was sweet and kind. But Spotty now had to remain indoors constantly for fear of a run in with Butch, who had fallen in love with our terrace, and on which he would spend long hours taking some air, huffing, and fulfilling his role as lord and master of all.

The name “Butch” was derived from the English word “butcher.” I’d never seen a more suitable name. He was huge and ornery. We were so afraid of him! When he got near the terrace we would all leave whatever we were doing and we’d scurry into the house, same as Spotty, with our tails between our legs. But one day he surprised us and before we realized it he was among us. With an agility out of keeping with his corpulence he grabbed Spotty, putting his little head entirely in his huge mouth, and started to shake him from side to side, and I still don’t understand how he didn’t break his neck.

The children’s screams drowned out the little dog’s screams, and those of the maid. They all stayed against the wall letting loose such screeches that they made me grit my teeth. There was, in me, such a rush of adrenalin that without knowing how I went at the huge dog, and, grabbing the choke collar, which his owner had put there wisely, I picked him straight up and kept him aloft who knows how many minutes. The pressure on the neck made him open his huge mouth. Spotty dashed for it, followed by the row of kids, who scurried into the house, where they gave him first aid and all the love he needed. I stayed there, with the huge dog dangling from one had, not knowing what to do or how to do it.

A thousand things went through my mind: “If I hold him up for a long time I’m going to kill him; if I kill him, Henry’s going to lose his job; if I let him go, he’ll grab me and tear me to pieces....” This was my most prominent thought.

How was I able to pick up an animal weighing around 200 lb. with only one hand? You have to take into account my small size. Where did I get the strength? Maybe my children’s terror; maybe the injustice that such a huge dog would mistreat one so sweet and little. To this day I’ve never known exactly how I did it, or why.

“Let him go, ma'am, let him go!” said a distant voice, as in a dream. It was the maid who counseled me from inside the house.

And I did.

I remained rigid. The huge dog fell to the ground in a lump, lying on his side with his four legs straight and stiff. He didn’t move. He didn’t breathe. His open eyes were bloodshot. They seemed fixed on infinity. Inert.

I kept looking at him with spooked eyes, mute, trembling. And suddenly something made me move and I went into the house where I started to make absurd turns about the place. I walked quickly from the dining room to one bedroom, went through the shared bathroom and went out through the other bedroom, while I repeated in a loud and pressured voice, “I didn’t want to kill him; I didn’t want to kill him; I didn’t want to kill him...” In one of those turns I looked toward the dresser mirror and recognized the image of a hysterical woman, which shook me and made me come to.

I ran out to the terrace with the servant, and, from a safe distance, we turned the hose on the dog. With feelings of relief, mixed with fear, we saw him slowly revive and get up to stumble toward his house.

Did his owner ever find out? I don’t know. Did he learn a lesson? I don’t know that either. I only know that Spotty ran like a deranged character when he heard him nearby, even if he was a mile away, and he’d get in the house like a bullet and hide under some piece of furniture.

But I’ll tell you one thing, the terrace belonged to us from that moment on.

Monday, May 10, 2010

East New York: The Light Under the El

How many of you remember Joseph Von Sternberg's films? I do, though I haven't seen one in many years. I vaguely remember that Marlene Dietrich was in those films. To me, the light was the star. Sternberg's light made every earthly setting into some etherial Middle Eastern fantasy.

As I walked under The El, recently, on East New York's Fulton Street, I found myself seeing Joseph Von Sternberg's lighting before my eyes.

Joseph Von Sternberg's Light
Digital Photograph
May, 2010

Dominican Flag
Digital photograph
May, 2010

My compatriots in East New York are very fond of their flag. This one is of a type I'd never seen before; the central shield overlaps the red and blue fields, rather than remain neatly ensconced within the center of the white cross, as in the traditional design.

Fulton Street Under the El
Digital Photograph
May, 2010

Saturday, May 1, 2010

East New York Maniquins

These days I see a lot of East New York, since I work there. I'm getting to know to what extent the area is another Washington Heights, full of Dominicans. You see Dominican symbols and culture to an amazing degree there. And, being an artist who likes to take photographs, I've thought of capturing images from the neighborhood more than once. The other day, something cried out immediately to be photographed. I could no longer hold back. Here it is.

East New York Maniquins I
Digital photograph
April 2010

I took out my camera and began considering my vantage point, the scope of the image, and whether I should stand in the middle of the street to achieve the proper distance from the subject. I snapped the shutter and experienced the bliss of creativity.

Surprisingly, out came the proprietor of the store in front of which this motif was set. She was a Dominican woman speaking fairly good English. She demanded to know whether she could do something for me. Her tone had the sound of an inquiry aimed at protecting her property from some intruder's vandalism.

I began marshalling my excuses and explanations: I'm an artist and sometime photographer, interested only in capturing aesthetically pleasing or interesting images of my environment. I'm not any sort of City inspector, or Immigration official gathering information in order to bust your establishment. If that failed to sway her, I could fall back on my status as her compatriot; her soul mate, of sorts.

East New York Maniquins II
By Manuel Macarrulla
Digital photograph
April 2010

In the nanosecond that I contemplated these options I didn't look at her. I snapped the shutter four times. I waved her off without concern. "Nothing, thanks." I got in my car, and drove away.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

F - Bomb

I know that now we'll be hearing plenty about Joe Biden's "F-bomb." Let's compare this inadvertently-on-tape "gaff" to another.

Biden: "This is F------ big!"

Reagan: "My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've just signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in 5 minutes."

Which one has the potential to burry us under many megatons of humor?

Goat Song # 4: Tie a Yellow Ribbon
Manuel Macarrulla, 1991
Oil on linen
96" X 48"

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Self-Portrait, 2007

Self Portrait
Mixed media
11" X 8 1/2"

I made this self portrait as a demonstration piece in 2007, when I was teaching portraiture to a class of 5th graders. I intended to illustrate the use of diagramatical lines in the planning of the drawing. These I made on white paper, in red-brown conte crayon. The descriptive drawing lines are layed in black marker on a clear acetate sheet affixed to the paper.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Self-Portrait at 18

Self-Portrait at 18
12" X 9"

No matter what I learned about drawing later, or, how much I've grown since then, this is still my very favorite self-portrait. I'll probably never beat it for sheer character. It's the perfect record of my adolescent sentiments.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Cool Association

Bridge of the 3 Springs (detail)

I was thinking of the aesthetic hideousness I find in 3D movies, mentioned previously, and I recalled seeing small sections of some of those movies without the glasses. I just put my finger on what I liked about seeing those bits: they’re cool. In fact, those fuzzy, floating veils of color remind me of Paul Cezanne watercolors (without the glimpses of white paper), which I consider a high point of aesthetic beauty.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


When seeing a dance performance, I think sitting up high is ideal, to facilitate a greater appreciation of the depth of the stage. But, when I think of the essence of film, which is a series of images, I dislike the whole notion of 3D. The picture plane is king, for me. I like my pictures flat. This although such realism in dimentionality is vastly impressive. Thankfully, once I started watching Avatar the content took over, and I promptly forgot about the trick. Avatar is very beautiful for the thoroughness of imagination the film makers applied to it. It is full of very evocatively realized vegetation, exotic animal life, and, of course, a moving story, and action.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Two From the Archives

Every now and then I look back over old pictures and ask myself, "Which ones still look good to me." I was doing that, in recent days, and found a number of old friends. Here's a couple of them.

3 nidos (3 Nests)
Manuel Macarrulla, 2006
Oil pastels
9" X 12"

Gato (Cat)
Manuel Macarrulla, 2007
Corlored pencils
9" X 12"