Written by Robert Grabowski Saturday, 08 June 2013 00:00
The final 2013 lecture in the John A. Gable series was somewhat different from past lectures. The May 16 lecture showcased Xiomaro’s (pronounced SEE-oh-MAH-ro) wonderful and inspiring “How I love Sagamore Hill” photo collection. Commissioned by Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, and displayed in collaboration with the Oyster Bay Historical Society at the Koenig Center, “How I love Sagamore Hill”, derives from Theodore Roosevelt’s well-known quote to his wife Edith on the day before his death.
During February 2012, Xiomaro was given unfettered access to Sagamore Hill as the home was being emptied of its contents to accommodate a $7 million renovation project. Each photo was introduced by a written narrative created by Xiomaro to introduce and highlight the life of the 26th president, while illustrating the importance of his home.
Delving through the home with his Nikon D200 camera, Xiomaro was on a mission to reveal the spirit of Sagamore Hill, and ultimately of TR and his family, while employing an artistic approach. Even though Sagamore Hill may have appeared to be relatively sparse at the time, the house revealed complex detail in its overall design, and a creative integration between the structure and remaining artifacts. You could sense that the furnishings sat patiently around his camera in no rush, waiting to tell their own story. Taking 144 photos over a seven-day period, Xiomaro made the Roosevelts’ home “pop” with life.
The Gable attendees saw 20 photos as a sampling of this creativity. Xiomaro’s curiosity sought out the servant quarters, and included “Cooks Bed Room.” This photo revealed a small and confined space with geometric design and personality within the sparse furnishing of a bed. Xiomaro was able to capture life at Sagamore Hill, which included more than just the Roosevelts. Life there wasn’t always filled with dignitaries or powerful men of politics. A family lived there with varied complexions, and Xiomaro strove to capture this detail in a unique way. Some of the servants were seasonal immigrants hired by the Roosevelts to help with the laundry and household duties.
Others stayed for 30 years and would have become more involved with the family. Walking through these spaces, Xiomaro’s photos brought to life what Sagamore Hill may have been like when TR was there, and certainly during the time he was away being Teddy Roosevelt.
Seeing the “North Room” or the “Library”, relatively barren from the days when TR worked there, indicates a more intimate and domestic nature to the home. In an eerie way, you can imagine one of TR’s children sitting on his lap in those rooms, telling Daddy about their day playing in the fields with Jack, or another family dog. At the same time, you can see the watchful eye of “Colonel Roosevelt”, painted by Fedor Encke, with all of its gold, amber and ruddiness of face, holding court and watching over the North Room.
Without abundant furnishings, Sagamore Hill jumps out at you through Xiomaro’s eyes with dramatic color, texture and intricate wood and molding detail, highlighting the beauty of the home and lives of the Roosevelts. Such detail could never be witnessed behind stanchions and velvet ropes. A photo of “TR’s Shower”, displaying four porcelain controls, enables one to realize the humanity of TR. Larger than life in everything that he did, from politician, writer and president; here he is depicted as an ordinary man in his home.
The artistic view of the last original “Wall Papering” in the North Room, perhaps this writer’s favorite, for its color and revealing patterns, show two different peacock forms, trying to hide in the detail. We can’t leave out the “Green Globe” from the School Room, for its significance either. Here, you can not only visualize the surface bumps on the globe, but actually feel them through the photo. Wear and tear created by real-life finger turning, perhaps while viewing Cuba, Panama or Europe, enables the viewer to see TR at work, managing foreign policy.
The “TR” initialed in a bookshelf on the third floor Gun Room symbolizes the love of books that Roosevelt possessed. Reading a book a day, this representation reveals the love of words that TR carried in his heart. You can hear TR speak out from his autobiography, “…at Sagamore Hill we love a great many things such as birds, trees, rifles and books, and all things beautiful… and of course, children, hard work and the joy of life. We love books, but children are better than books.” That quote explaining his loves radiates from the simple shot. Xiomaro further captures this feeling with his “Little Room and Alice’s Room”, “Door Locked” photo. One of the Roosevelt children, probably Quentin, scrawled these words with paint across the door, proclaiming his desire to keep his hideaway private from his sisters. These two words on the fine wood door commands intruders to stay out of his private world, and brings the six Roosevelt children alive, perhaps, running down the hallway, with child-like, playful laughter.
Xiomaro explained, “It is interesting to create images as a way to examine people and explore what is important to them. The meaning behind such images with the external elements, such as texture, patterns and color, can be arranged to conjure up elusive subjects like a person’s spirit or sense of the place they inhabit. So much of the Roosevelt family’s personality is revealed by the house.” A separate visit was made a few days later to the Oyster Bay Historical Society to experience the photos in all of their beauty and detail, which was essential to writing this piece.
A true modern day renaissance man, Xiomaro is a musician, attorney by day, and passionate artist all the time. He is as interesting to speak with as his work is to view. Tom Ross, superintendent of Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, previously stated he first came across his work when Xiomaro was commissioned to take photos Weir Farm in Wilton, CT, home of J. Alden Weir, a 19th-century American impressionist painter. “Weir Was Here-Secret Rooms, Doors and Windows” became the output of that assignment when Xiomaro was selected as An-Artist-In-Residence during March 2011. Those photos as well as the Sagamore Hill collection can be viewed on his website, xiomaro.com. It is strongly suggested to visit the Oyster Bay Historical Society’s Koenig Center at 20 Summit Street before How I Love Sagamore Hill departs on June 9.
Visit the exhibition to witness a remarkable vision of TR and Sagamore Hill. Exhibit hours are Tuesday-Friday, between 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The weekends offer exhibition hours of 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturdays and 1-4 p.m. on Sundays. A special thank you must be given to Philip Blocklyn of the OBHS for his insightful commentary and fantastic job of selecting wonderful speakers for the 2013 John A. Gable lecture series.
Xiomaro will begin his next project of capturing the spirit of William Floyd’s Fire Island home. Please visit Xiomaro.com for some fantastic and inspiring American culture and excellent artwork. “How I love Sagamore Hill” should not be missed.
Thursday, 02 October 2014 00:00
With a general discontent about the view-blocking pedestrian railings recently installed along West Shore Road, the discussion at the Oyster Bay Civic Association meeting on Sept. 18 focused on the possibility of having the road designated as a scenic highway.
This concept was suggested by Gregory Druhak of Centre Island, a regular traveler along West Shore Road, who said, “I believe this is the most scenic drive on Long Island west of the Hamptons, perhaps on all of Long Island itself, and it is not being treated as such. I feel we are being given the Lefferts Boulevard [down by JFK airport] expressway extension instead. For all you can see, it might as well be the Belt Parkway below the fence instead of Oyster Bay. This is wrong.”
Saturday, 27 September 2014 00:00
This year you can expect to see the Freedom Schooner Amistad, Connecticut’s flagship, tied up on the Western Waterfront Pier at the Oyster Festival on Oct. 18 and 19. The ship is a Baltimore Clipper that is 129 feet in length and weighs 96 tons. Its home port is New Haven, Conn.
The tall ship visits ports worldwide, as an ambassador for friendship. It serves as a floating classroom, icon and monument to many souls that were broken or lost as the result of the transatlantic slave trade.
The original Amistad, which means friendship in Spanish, was made famous in 1839 when 53 African captives (men, women and children) transported from Havana revolted against their captors. The captives gained control of the ship under the leadership of Sengbe Pieh, later known as Joseph Cinque, who commanded the ship’s navigator to return them to Sierra Leone. Instead, the ship headed north, landing in Long Island, and was taken into custody by the United States Navy.
Thursday, 25 September 2014 00:00
Football season is here and the Oyster Bay-Bayville Generals held their opening day games on Sept. 14. Here are the results:
5 & 6 Peanuts:
The Peanuts opened the season vs. the Seaford Broncos and came out on the losing end of a hard fought game. The Lil Generals opened the game on offense and quarterback Rodney Hill, Jr. marched the offense down the field and completed the drive with a touchdown pass to Francesco Allocca. Yes, the Peanuts have a potent air attack with Hill Jr. going two for two for 26 yards. The defense played strong with Allocca leading the team in tackles with help on the defensive line from first-year players Dean Wolfe and Anthony Pelchuck.
Thursday, 18 September 2014 00:00
Former football coach and NFL player Bill Curry recently brought a wealth of experience, knowledge and history to a wide audience of student-athletes and coaches at Hofstra University for a lesson on diversity, tolerance and respect in high school athletics.
Director of the NYS PHSAA Sportsmanship Committee and Manhasset High School Athletic Director Jim Amen Jr. established the summit and invited Curry as keynote speaker.
Amen Jr. and Section VIII Executive Director Nina Van Erk introduced Curry to a crowd representing more than 37 local high schools.