Archive | December, 2014

For Shelly

27 Dec







Shelly Powell, George’s much younger cousin, passed away this morning, after a courageous, tenacious battle against stomach cancer.  She fought so hard and defied all the doctor’s expectations for a year. She was only 55, a great hiker, a vegetarian, she worked out, she had a spiritual practice, and was beloved by an enormous circle of friends. This is not at all fair, but, as a friend of mine says, “Mother Nature doesn’t give a damn.” And cancer doesn’t care.  Her partner Mark and her great friend Jan were with her at the end, and we had been able to see her last week at her “celebration of life” party. We are heartbroken, but she is no longer in pain.

I share for her A.D. Hope’s poem on the death of his wife.

The Death of the Bird

Once more the cooling year kindles her heart;
With a warm passage to the summer station
Love pricks the course in lights across the chart.

Year after year a speck on the map, divided
By a whole hemisphere, summons her to come;
Season after season, sure and safely guided,
Going away she is also coming home.

And being home, memory becomes a passion
With which she feeds her brood and straws her nest,
Aware of ghosts that haunt the heart’s possession
And exiled love mourning within the breast.

The sands are green with a mirage of valleys;
The palm-tree casts a shadow not its own;
Down the long architrave of temple or palace
Blows a cool air from moorland scarps of stone.

And day by day the whisper of love grows stronger;
That delicate voice, more urgent with despair,
Custom and fear constraining her no longer,
Drives her at last on the waste leagues of air.

A vanishing speck in those inane dominions,
Single and frail, uncertain of her place,
Alone in the bright host of her companions,
Lost in the blue unfriendliness of space,

She feels it close now, the appointed season:
The invisible thread is broken as she flies;
Suddenly, without warning, without reason,
The guiding spark of instinct winks and dies.

Try as she will, the trackless world delivers
No way, the wilderness of light no sign,
The immense and complex map of hills and rivers
Mocks her small wisdom with its vast design.

And darkness rises from the eastern valleys,
And the winds buffet her with their hungry breath,
And the great earth, with neither grief nor malice,
Receives the tiny burden of her death.



9 Dec


photo 1

Thankfully, our holiday letter will report on what has been a happy and exciting year! Let’s do it chronologically:
At the beginning of the year, George was still working at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, and I was still working as Librarian (part-time) at LACMA in the Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies. The Center was in the final stages of preparing for a BIG show on German Expressionism and France. Because the staff was so overworked, I was asked to be a curator for a small exhibition in the Rifkind Gallery on the Expressionist Book (it is still on view until the end of January, and I’ve written a blog about it:
In March, I traveled to New York to present a paper based on my chapter on the German magazine Der Querschnitt that appeared in an OUP volume last year; the paper was at a session of the American Comparative Literature Association held at NYU. George was able to join me –on 17 March it was our 40th anniversary!– we stayed in Soho and had a glorious time going to museums and walking along Highline Park. Also saw my old college friend Mary Lou Edmondson and visited Gabi Birkner and her babies in Brooklyn. I was by far the oldest presenter in my session, and was even asked by one of the participants if he could do an oral history of me, since I had lived in Vienna in the distant period that he was studying! Talk about feeling historically old… (In case you’re interested, most of my articles can be found on
George & I then took the train up to a FREEZING Cambridge, to meet with our Austrian friend Wolfgang Petritsch, newly retired from the diplomatic corps and then a Fellow at the Kennedy School’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard. Wonderful conversations. After not having seen each other in decades, we learned that Wolfi would be in LA in April to talk at USC, so we would be able to meet again in one month.

This event led to another happy occasion: we were invited to a dinner in Wolfi’s honor at the Austrian Consul General’s residence, for which he requested that we contact his old flame and my old friend Celine, whom I hadn’t seen in about 25 years. Happily, we were all reunited at the dinner, and met the lovely new Consul General, too: here we all are, with Wolfi on the right end, and the Consul General Ulrike Ritzinger between Celine and her husband Robert.

R. Burk, U. Ritzinger, C. Simon, E. Esau, G. Boeck, W. Petritsch


Also in April, George entertained a group of Brownies by showing them his beehive and talking to them about how bees make honey (the Brownies included friend Anna Rodriguez’s daughter Natalie). The girls were more concerned about what George looked like in his bee suit than they were of the bees in the hive. George loved it! He also continues to make his little notebooks, and is making progress.g&brownies&bees_apr2014










In June, big things began to happen: first came the grand opening of the LACMA show that the Rifkind people–myself included–had been working on for so many years, “Expressionism in Germany and France: From Van Gogh to Kandinsky.” A grand event, and a fabulous show. Here’s George in the show, admiring a Franz Marc. (The photo at the top of this letter shows us in the Rifkind Center before the opening.)




The summer brought more excitement: I was invited to give a keynote address at a conference in Brisbane, Australia! A paid trip! My friend and colleague Prue Ahrens did a magnificent job in organizing “Broken Images: A symposium on early American photography in the Asia Pacific, 1850 – 1950”, and obtained Terra Foundation funding to bring in international speakers. Great fun to see all my old Aussie pals and to meet new ones (and my first trip to Brisbane!). G. was then able to join me in Sydney, and we visited all our friends (thanks Andrew & Noelle!) (and the birds!) and sought out old favorite places driving all the way down the NSW South Coast to Melbourne (where we met with Kris Nielsen who came from Adelaide to see us–after 25 years! And Roger Moloney, too.). We must send thanks to all our wonderful friends who made the trip possible by housing and feeding us: Bruce & Diane Swalwell, Chiaki & Colin, Maggie Brady, and Tonia Liosatos and her lovely kids Angus and Annabelle! That’s the happy couple at 1080 Beach, Mystery Bay, NSW.mysterybay_1080beach








When we returned home, I took a week to help install the Expressionist Book exhibition, and then I RETIRED from LACMA! retirementparty_librarygroupMy colleagues kindly gave me a lovely goodbye party, with presents and goodies. I really was touched, and thank all of you! It took a little while to adjust to an “idle” mode, having never been in such a state in my entire adult life, but I’m now getting the hang of it. I’m taking a drawing class, swimming therapy, and I’m in two book clubs. Soon I’m going to start volunteering, and working on new book projects. Now I can’t wait until George can retire, too (next July), and we can travel and visit and do all kinds of fun things while we’re still able enough to do them!
With the happy surprise of an invitation to Karie Reinertson’s wedding in Asheville, NC, I decided to use it as an excuse to go visit my sorely missed children Max & Dottie, who are still in Chapel Hill. (Dottie has finished nursing school and is now working in the UNC hospital–well done, Dottie!) We all drove up to Asheville through the beautiful North Carolina countryside. ee&maxinnc_sept2014The wedding was a sweet outdoors affair, and the next day was Max’s birthday; we were able to celebrate by eating our way across the state! Max is now starting the job search, so next year they may be living somewhere else (hopefully closer!).






Other happy events and welcome visitors:

–in January, G’s former Australian colleague Maggie Brady came for a few days en route to anthropology in New Mexico
–in February, Australian friend Chiaki stayed with us at the start of a long study trip on her Bernard Leach-Japanese ceramics project. We had a lovely dinner arranged by the phenomenal impresaria Dale Gluckman, at which Chiaki was able to meet with famous people who had known Leach. She was thrilled.
–my high school friend Robyn Weydert Edgerton & her sister Lynn came in May–we hadn’t seen each other in nearly 40 years! What fun….
–our old friends the Lessers arrived from Colorado Springs for a weekend in May–we never get to see them enough!
–George Shotzbarger and his daughter Jeannie drove from Philadelphia in June so that we could all go to a Dodgers game together (the Ds won)
Well, if you’ve read this far, we applaud you! We send our warmest greetings to all of you, and hope that you will be surrounded with friends and family for the holidays, and that the New Year is a good one!
If any of you would like to RENT OUR HOUSE next autumn, and enjoy our wonderful California weather–we’re on our way to Vienna for a long stay! It would involve taking care of our low-maintenance cats, but they’re not difficult; here they are, sending their greetings, too:








So enough! Thanks for reading!
Be in touch! Erika & George, 450 N. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, CA 91101, 626 744 0208 (home), E. cell 626 644 2389, G. cell 626 394 5445,, Website:, Blog: