STAR CODES

Pasatiempo - - Mixed Media - www.roan­rob­bins.com Heather Roan-Rob­bins

The hol­i­day daze brings more glit­ter and less ef­fi­ciency as Mer­cury turns ret­ro­grade now through Dec. 30. Re­lax and en­joy the lights, re­con­nect with old friends, and fin­ish old busi­ness be­fore the year ends.

We’ll see an in­crease in odd mis­un­der­stand­ings and mis­placed items but also some luck wo­ven into the mi­nor mishaps over the next few weeks. Though the store might not have what we came for, we may see a long-lost ac­quain­tance while we’re look­ing. If we haven’t mailed pack­ages or made travel plans, it’s best to wait un­til next week to do so. If we feel ten­sion brew­ing, let’s check for mis­un­der­stand­ings first.

Through this next week we may ex­pe­ri­ence a Venu­sian co­nun­drum about re­la­tion­ships, love, money, or our sense of value. Work through it gen­tly. With Venus in Scor­pio and Mars in Capri­corn, we en­joy emo­tional steadi­ness. A snarly cyn­i­cism may oc­ca­sion­ally sur­face, but we don’t have to in­dulge it. Venus and Mars in such in­tro­spec­tive, de­ter­mined signs might make the hol­i­days more in­ti­mate and less glit­tery; we might pre­fer to talk with a few peo­ple rather than skip about un­der the mistle­toe. We can get snarly when things go wrong or if our heart hooks on past thorns, but we can also build trust with good mem­o­ries.

This week­end, we dive into the sea­sonal magic be­cause not much else gets done as Mer­cury ret­ro­grades un­der a Pisces moon. Mon­day, a con­junc­tion be­tween Mer­cury, Mars, and Pluto in Capri­corn de­mands that we make de­ci­sions and act, but we may not have the in­for­ma­tion needed to do it right. Tough de­ci­sions are on the ta­ble about how we work and han­dle re­sources. Pare down, but don’t overdo it. Midweek, an Aries moon builds up mo­men­tum, but we need to en­sure we’re headed in the right di­rec­tion first.

Fri­day, Dec. 10: The world slows down, and mis­un­der­stand­ings pick up; we mean well but can trip as Mer­cury ret­ro­grades. Take op­por­tu­ni­ties to weave con­nec­tions in the af­ter­noon’s pos­i­tive vibes. Tonight, the sub­con­scious churns, and peo­ple are dis­tracted.

Satur­day, Dec. 11: Give the psy­che room to roam this spacey morn­ing as the moon con­juncts Nep­tune and then en­ters Pisces. Af­ter­noon is ten­der on the in­side but cre­ative on the out­side; some ob­ject from the past can trig­ger a me­mory flood. Evening is dreamy but ac­tive; deep feel­ings may be present.

Sun­day, Dec. 12: The morn­ing is sweet and con­nected; the af­ter­noon is in­ef­fi­cient but con­tem­pla­tive. We may feel old this evening but ap­pre­ci­ate tra­di­tion as the moon chal­lenges Saturn. Don’t ar­gue about pro­ce­dure; peo­ple have their own method­olo­gies. The week will go eas­ier if we rest tonight.

Mon­day, Dec. 13: Get ori­ented to the week’s is­sues this morn­ing un­der a pos­i­tive moon-Jupiter con­junc­tion; stay steady this af­ter­noon as an in­tense Mars, Mer­cury, and Pluto con­junc­tion in Capri­corn re­quires de­ci­sions. Take tough news se­ri­ously but skep­ti­cally. Watch sharp edges, rough mo­tors, or a ten­dency to cut off more than we need.

Tues­day, Dec. 14: Don’t get in­volved in other peo­ple’s storms as the moon en­ters Aries and squares the Capri­corn lineup. A break­down or break­through is pos­si­ble; pro­ceed with care. Watch out for edgy, chip-on-the-shoul­der en­ergy.

Wed­nes­day, Dec. 15: We’re called to ma­tu­rity even if we don’t feel like it. It’s a cleanup and fol­low-through day. If we lis­ten to the spon­ta­neous needs of our soul, we won’t be so re­sis­tant later.

Thurs­day, Dec. 16: Last-minute ex­pen­di­tures spill from gen­eros­ity; it’s a ma­te­ri­ally thought­ful day with some con­flicts of in­ter­est as the sun squares Jupiter. Make your point this af­ter­noon as the moon trines Pluto and Mer­cury; use metaphor and il­lus­tra­tion rather than re­peat­ing in­for­ma­tion.

An Ob­ject of Beauty: A Novel by Steve Martin, Grand Cen­tral Pub­lish­ing, 295 pages It’s com­monly re­ferred to as “the art world” — a phrase that en­com­passes the cre­ation and trade of se­lect ob­jects deemed wor­thy of pos­ses­sion and envy ei­ther for the pas­sions they stir or the pock­ets they line. “Art world” in­sin­u­ates that art and those who ben­e­fit from it pro­fes­sion­ally (crit­ics, col­lec­tors, pub­lic art in­sti­tu­tions, deal­ers, len­ders, auc­tion­eers, artists, etc.) travel in an or­bit sep­a­rate from ev­ery­thing else, hurtling through space and time with ei­ther the bless­ing or curse of spe­cial clas­si­fi­ca­tion — one that is com­monly self-gen­er­ated.

In co­me­dian/ac­tor/author/mu­si­cian Steve Martin’s de­but full-length novel, An Ob­ject of Beauty, the art world and the larger world it de­pends on col­lide, their po­lar­i­ties jos­tled and tilted to re­veal just how frag­ile and in­ter­twined they are. Set pri­mar­ily in New York City and span­ning the early 1990s to the present, Martin’s story an­thro­po­mor­phizes the grow­ing pains and fi­nan­cial ag­o­nies and ec­stasies of the art mar­ket dur­ing that pe­riod in the form of small-town gal Lacey Yea­ger, a beau­ti­ful, sex­u­ally aware, and ma­nip­u­la­tive young woman whose de­ter­mi­na­tion to suc­ceed in the Big Ap­ple over­rides her abil­ity to sep­a­rate am­bi­tion from self­ish­ness and cru­elty. “When she left a room,” writes Martin’s nar­ra­tor, Daniel Franks, a free­lance arts writer and awk­ward friend to Lacey, “there was a moment of de­fla­tion while we all re­turned to nor­mal life. It was ap­par­ent to ev­ery­one that Lacey was headed some­where, though her path of­ten left blood in the wa­ter.”

Af­ter cut­ting her teeth in the back rooms of Sotheby’s on the Up­per East Side, prep­ping 19th­cen­tury paint­ings for auc­tion, Lacey grad­u­ates to co-bro­ker­ing the sale of mod­ernist works for a big-time dealer, adding in­ter­na­tional travel and a tryst with an emas­cu­lated yet debonair French col­lec­tor named Pa­trice Claire (among other men) to her art-world reper­toire.

Lacey per­ceives the women she works with at Sotheby’s (and all women, re­ally) as ei­ther nui­sances or threats. “When some­one less ca­pa­ble is ahead of me,” she says, “I am not pleased. It makes me in­sane.” The an­noy­ing women are usu­ally man­age­able through the ap­pli­ca­tion of su­pe­rior fashion sense. But to neu­tral­ize the ones who ac­tu­ally stand be­tween her and suc­cess, Lacey im­merses her­self in her work to be­come in­dis­pens­able to the New York art scene’s elite. Soon she re­al­izes that “she was now able to put her­self in­side a col­lec­tor’s head, know that she was treat­ing a blessed ill­ness, and de­ter­mine the ap­pro­pri­ate bed­side man­ner.”

As trends in art buy­ing and mar­ket­ing change — “this was the first time in con­ven­tional art his­tory where no sin­gle move­ment dom­i­nated … di­ver­sity bounced around like spilled mar­bles on con­crete” — so do Lacey’s per­sonal at­tach­ments, pro­fes­sional loy­al­ties, and Man­hat­tan ad­dresses. Her am­bi­tions lead her to the Chelsea neigh­bor­hood on Man­hat­tan’s West Side right be­fore a dealer-friendly es­ca­la­tion in mar­ket prices for works by Andy Warhol. Lacey has a 1965 paint­ing from Warhol’s Flow­ers se­ries hang­ing in her apart­ment. How she came to pos­sess and profit from it and other valu­able paint­ings is at the root of Martin’s dev­il­ish story, which is il­lus­trated with more than 20 prints of works by painters — some es­o­teric, oth­ers widely cel­e­brated — in­clud­ing Mil­ton Avery, Pablo Pi­casso, and Willem de Koon­ing.

Pin­ing to open a con­tem­po­rary-art gallery in Chelsea af­ter be­ing fired by Sotheby’s un­der sus­pi­cious cir­cum­stances, Lacey dips into her arse­nal of sex­ual per­sua­sion and de­cep­tion to se­cure her place among con­tem­po­rary-art-world roy­alty. Be­ing a de­scen­dant of painter Max­field Parrish’s one­time muse Kitty Owen doesn’t hurt her chances, fi­nan­cially or so­cially. It at­tracts un­wanted at­ten­tion, though: the FBI is watch­ing her. But it’s watch­ing with bed­room eyes, so few of her bad deeds go pun­ished.

Martin, an avid art col­lec­tor (he once owned pop artist Roy Licht­en­stein’s “Ohhh … Al­right ...” paint­ing, which sold in Novem­ber at Christie’s in New York for more than $42 mil­lion), syn­chronously skew­ers and hon­ors the con­tem­po­rary-art scene. His back­ground as a col­lec­tor lends the story cred­i­bil­ity, but it also hin­ders the book’s flow. Pas­sages of di­a­logue are in­ter­rupted by long-winded ru­mi­na­tions on art, pre­sented through Frank’s frus­trat­ingly pas­sive tone. Of Avery, for ex­am­ple, Frank says, “His pic­tures were al­ways po­lite, but they were po­lite in the way that a man with a gun might be po­lite: there was plenty to back up his request for at­ten­tion.” While such ob­ser­va­tions may be il­lu­mi­nat­ing for read­ers un­fa­mil­iar with the work of Avery and oth­ers, Martin sac­ri­fices his usu­ally fluid and ac­ces­si­ble writ­ing style for the sake of un­nec­es­sar­ily de­tailed art-world in­tel­lec­tu­al­ism. And un­like Bret Eas­ton El­lis’ winks at New York City din­ing cul­ture in his novel Amer­i­can Psy­cho, Martin’s res­tau­rant fetishes have no real bear­ing on the story or its themes here. On the up­side, Ob­ject is a de­cent primer on where to dine out in New York City — 10 to 20 years ago.

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