Zorthian & Yale

NUDE for Zorbacchus!




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NUDE for Zorbacchus

Zorthian & Yale
An Erotic Art Historic Salon

Dr. Susan Block's Speakeasy Gallery

Alma Cielo (Yale '95) plays to wake the Nymphs of Zorbacchus, dozing before "5F," one of several erotic masterworks by Col. Jirayr H. Zorthian currently being exhibited at Dr. Susan Block's Speakeasy Gallery. Curator: Kim Mendoza Photo: Eban Lehrer

YALE IN LA dubs Zorthian & Yale "FANTASTIC"

Watch "ZORTHIAN: Art & Times"

One balmy Spring Saturday night, I invited fellow members of the Yale Club of Southern California, as well as friends and family of Colonel Jirayr H. Zorthian, plus a few friends of my own, to a very special "ZORTHIAN & YALE" Erotic Art Historic Salon here at the Speakeasy Gallery of Erotic Art.

Yalies, including Yale Club of So. Cal. President Kevin Winston (Yale '94), & friends look at Zorthian art (including "Erotica," "The Awakening," "Love in '67" & "Red Coat,") at the Speakeasy Gallery, & Alma Cielo (Yale '95) shows Dr. Susan Block (Yale '77) how to make a wreath. ... Photos: Alex Saglimbeni, Lydia Teez, Eban Lehrer & Big D

One of the great artists of our times, Colonel Jirayr H. Zorthian (Yale, '36), was also one of Yale University's most fascinating alumni. Yale, contrary to current lore, is not just a powerbroker's training ground for the Bushes, the Kerrys and the rest of Skull & Bones. America's second oldest university has also produced some extraordinary artists. Think Samuel F. B. Morse (Yale, 1810), an artist whose most famous creation was the telegraph. And think Colonel Jirayr H. Zorthian: painter, sculptor, rancher, rider, lover, husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, American military man, Armenian community leader, survivor of genocide, connoisseur of beauty--especially the female nude—and daily practitioner of general joie de vivre. “The purpose of life is living,” Colonel Zorthian often said. And live he did—always to the fullest--until the age of 92.

Dr. Susan Block, Dabney Zorthian, Alan Zorthian, John Burton, Jennifer Patton, Sara Streeter, Fernando and Lisa Ann Davis tell Tales of Zorthian at the "ZORTHIAN & YALE" Erotic Art Historic Salon at Dr. Suzy's Speakeasy Gallery.
Photos: Alex Saglimbeni, Lydia Teez, Eban Lehrer & Big D

Built like a hobbit and “larger-than-life," Zorthian attributed his robust longevity to fine art, red wine and being surrounded--at least once a year--by a bevy of graceful artist's models wearing nothing but wreaths on their heads.

Ah, the nymphs! Such divine feminine pulchritude to usher in the Spring as Spring should be, beautiful and free.

Yalies, Nymphs, Satyrs and friends line up to go to the new BlockStudios Movie Theater, where they watch the new BlockFilms promotional short "ZORTHIAN: Art & Times" .. Photos: Lydia Teez

The nymphs, satyrs and revelers of his famous Primavera parties crowned him with flowers and called him "Zorbacchus," king of the bon vivants in the magical Altadena Hills. Though Zorthian the man has gone, the spirit of "Zorbacchus" is alive in those hills, as well as in our gallery, especially on that very special night.

The Nymphs of Zorbacchus rise to dance before the erotic art of Colonel Jirayr H. Zorthian at Dr. Susan BlockSpeakeasy Gallery, featuring violinist Alma Cielo (Yale '95), and models Jennifer Patton, Sara Streeter, Lisa Ann Davis and Monica Himmel Photos: Alex Saglimbeni, Lydia Teez, Eban Lehrer & Big D

Over 100 Yalies and Zorthian family, friends, fans and artist models filled the Speakeasy Gallery with chattering anticipation. Some had been here before for a show, but not yet for such a *serious* event. Many had never been here before; some were giddy, others gingerly taking in the voluptuous pleasures of the Womb Room, the Bar and Gallery. Some, having just attended "A Day in LA with Yale" with Yale President Richard Levin over at the Wilshire Grand before coming to our salon, seemed to be grappling with the contrast in Yale events.

Back in the Commissary, Alma Cielo (Yale, '95) conducted a wreath-making seminar in the kitchen, as some volunteers wove fresh flowers with wire and ribbon, and others prepared stuffed grape leaves, spanikopita and various Armenian delicacies, courtesy of Dabney Zorthian, the artist's widow and beloved co-conspirator who ran the ranch and slept under the Altadena stars with him every night (except when it rained) for 45 years.

The Nymphs of Zorbacchus (Alma Cielo, Jennifer Patton, Lisa Ann Davis, Sara Streeter & Monica Himmel) are joined by Pan (Fernando) as they dance and welcome the Spring. Photos: Alex Saglimbeni, Lydia Teez, Eban Lehrer & Big D

When the chatter had risen to a roar, I picked up my glass of Agavero, and stepped up to our Spring-flower-and-Yale-pendant-festooned podium on the stage in front of Zorthian's large, lush study of female proportions "5F." Flanked by "Erotica,""The Awakening" and "The Feast" to my left and "Red Coat" and "Untitled" (a gorgeous celebration of female genitalia that I call "The Pussy Cathedral") to my right, I welcomed the crowd.

Col. Jirayr H. Zorthian meets Dr. Susan Block at Stage Blue of the
Yale Tricentennial

I began with my own tale of the Colonel and I meeting at a Yale event, the 2000 Stage Blue Tricentennial, where we were drawn to each other like birds of a feather, being the most exotically turned out creatures in a sea of navy blue and grey suits. Then Dabney Zorthian, like an animated art history prof, regaled us with her memories of the tales behind the art, most notably "The Awakening," providing an interesting contrast with Zorthian's own versions of those stories, which we heard later in the short film "ZORTHIAN: Art & Times." Next upon the dais was their son Alan Zorthian, charmingly rakish in his porkpie hat, who gave us a glimpse of life on the ranch. Then came the artist's favorite model, Jennifer Patton, whose lovely image can be seen in almost all of Zorthian's erotic art now hanging in the Speakeasy Gallery.

Next up was Zorth's favorite lawyer. "Where would we be without our lawyers?" I asked. "The current administration denounces lawyers. That’s because they’re frontmen for the big corporations that lawyers sue when you get screwed. So thank God and the Goddess for lawyers who defend the little guy and gal, especially civil rights lawyers like…John Burton." JB told an engrossing tale of Zorth, Charlie Parker and, not surprisingly, a nude woman. Nymphs Lisa Ann Davis and Sarah Streeter and Satyr Fernando followed with their own stories of entering the magical, mystical World of Zorthian, art, and nude dance on the ranch in the Altadena Hills.

Dr. Suzy gets NYMPHED! And Alma Cielo (Yale '95) speaks to the crowd. Other nymphs and satyrs include Jennifer Patton, Lisa Ann Davis, Sara Streeter, Monica Himmel, Daryn Songbird and Fernando Photos: Alex Saglimbeni, Lydia Teez, Eban Lehrer & Big D

Then it was film time! Over 100 Yale alumni and Zorthian friends and fans lined up to go to the movies. Yes, the brand new BlockStudios Theater opened its doors for the Grand Sneak Preview Premiere of "ZORTHIAN: Art & Times," our new 15-minute promo/documentary that had friends, fans, family and Yalies laughing, beaming and, once or twice, sniffing back tears.

The film weaves our interview with Zorthian at the ranch with footage of his art, his work at Yale, his erotica, the Eros Day opening at the Speakeasy Gallery and Zorth's last two Primaveras, featuring those breathtaking nymphs in action.

Having seen them on film, it only remained to be blessed by the heavenly Nymphs of Zorbacchus in person. Everyone filed back into the Gallery and assembled around the stage, which had been transformed into a sort of Pagan Altar to Spring. The curtains parted to reveal a gracious pile of sleeping nymphs. One rose from the group, and the Spirit of Zorbacchus--the spirit of life lived to its fullest and most sensuous--seemed to rise with her as she stretched and proceeded to play a beautiful, haunting melody on her violin. The others rose and danced, filling the Gallery with the visual ecstasy of the nude feminine form. The five females, violinist Alma Cielo (Yale '95), Jennifer Patton, Lisa Ann Davis, Sara Streeter and Monica Himmel, were then joined by two males, flutist Daryn Songbird, and a very distinctive Horny Devil, Satyr Fernando, also known as Pan. The men stepped up the dance, spinning it off into a short frenzy of flower-tossing, couplings and triads amongst animals and angels, nymphs and satyrs, music and motion, a "Midsummer Night's Dream" of Zorbacchus in the Soul of Downtown LA.

As I came back onstage to thank everyone, I suddenly felt a breeze and something fluttering around my head, accompanied by gales of lilting laughter. What was happening to me? In a moment, I knew: I was being "nymphed."

Partying, posing, prancing and dancing in the Spirit of Zorbacchus. Boolah! Boolah!
Photos: Alex Saglimbeni, Lydia Teez, Eban Lehrer & Big D

What does it mean to be nymphed? Well, in my case, it meant being surrounded by a gaggle of giggling nude nymphs who snatched my hat and impishly placed a glittering platinum wreath on my head. Then I remembered that there was one more individual who had been close to the ear of Zorbacchus who had not yet spoken. It was now the Yale Nymph's turn: Alma Cielo (BA Anthropology, Yale '95), stood nude and proud before her fellow alumni and friends, eloquently recalling the artist's interaction with her baby son. At Zorthian's last Primavera, as he sat amongst the dancing nymphs, he kissed the infant's tiny head as it poked out from the baby sling around Alma's shoulder, a touching scene that we had all just witnessed in "ZORTHIAN: Art & Times." At the next Primavera, the Great Man's chair stood empty, until Alma's boy crawled into it and sat there comfortably as Zorbacchus himself, surrounded by the nymphs, the music of his mother and the pulsating Spirit of Life.

More Speakeasy Gallery Fun & Passion - "For God, For Country And For Yale" ! Photos: Alex Saglimbeni, Lydia Teez, Eban Lehrer, Big D & Theron Marks

That spirit was embracing us all, and off we all went into a bacchanalian swirl of dance and joy and flying flowered wreaths that engulfed Yalies, nymphs and satyrs alike, as the paintings seemed to dance off the walls. If you were here, you know it was as spiritually uplifting as it was sensuously wild. One participant, Mark Kampe, put it best in an email the morning after:

"Last night you blew me away. What I thought was going to be an art exhibit and party turned out to be an inspirational celebration of a life that was itself an inspirational celebration of life. You did a wonderful thing for Zorthian's family and friends. You did a wonderful thing for Yale. You used art, stories, and eros to teach, without a hint of lecture. As we left, I could not help but counterpoise the Zorthian portrait I had just seen against the ubiquitous portraits of John-Paul II. On one hand, a humble and pious man who took perpetual joy in being able to share Christ's message with everyone he touched, and who sought perpetually to help the world find its conscience. On the other hand, a bon vivant who took perpetual joy in sharing the gospel of "life more abundant" with everyone he touched, and sought perpetually to remind people of their need to exult in joy and beauty. One man's life iluminates a path of piety and service, while the other illuminates a path of orphic joy ... and yet they do not, to me, now, seem that far apart at all. Kudos and thank you, ---mark---"

Personally, I am not a big fan of the reactionary reign of JP-II, but Mark's comparison of the pope with the artist is so apt and eloquent, and yet so outrageous (what would Cardinal Law say?) that I'm sure it would bring a twinkle to the eye of Zorbacchus....

© April 18, 2005, Dr. Susan Block
For reprint rights, please contact rox@blockbooks.com

Dr. Susan Block is a sex educator, cultural commentator, host of The Dr. Susan Block Show and author of The 10 Commandments of Pleasure. Vist her main website at http://www.drsusanblock.com. Send all questions, commentary, hate mail, love letters and confessions to her at liberties@blockbooks.com.

"The Awakening" .... .......... Col. Jirayr H. Zorthian

Get high quality, inexpensive limited edition prints of

View a selection of Zorthian's Erotic Art

Read more about Col. Jirayr H. Zorthian and see photos of the Dance of the Nymphs at one of his Primaveras: http://www.drsusanblock.com/editorial/Zorbacchus.htm

See some of Zorthian's Other Works:

See the Zorthian & Yale Art Salon Press Release

PRESS: Please contact David L. Ross at 213.749.1330 or press@blockbooks.com.


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