Leslie pines for her shrines

Leslie pines for her shrines

David (left) and Leslie Kramer, 31 Ledgewood Road, Kingston, Rhode Island, 1994 [Photo: Shrine creator]

Talker readers know the omnipresent presence of Leslie Kramer: in parks, on trails, in parades, in space suits, in arcades, in cemeteries, in vintage automobiles, in universities, in South America, in beach houses and in weddings.

Less well known is that Leslie’s mother established shrines throughout the family home when Leslie moved to California and broke her heart.

Leslie is always the goody-twoshoes daughter: well behaved, neat, high achieving, polite and sweet tempered. By contrast, I am the ADD-ish son.

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Wood sign kept over the door of Anya and Louis Kramer’s summer home in Woodstock, NY (1969)

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mid-1960s. Davey and Leslie

To absolve my sins, from Steever's on Park Avenue I bought Leslie a white chocolate Easter bunny. Not fully rehabilitated, I did take a few bites.

To absolve my sins, from Steever’s on Park Avenue I bought Leslie a white chocolate Easter bunny. Not fully rehabilitated, I did take a few bites.

Case in point.  One Easter we both received white chocolate bunnies. I impulsively ate mine in as few bites as possible.  Delaying gratification, Leslie stowed her white chocolate bunny in her closet for future consumption.

I then periodically snuck into the closet, slicing off and eating small portions of the bunny. After enough thievery, I realized the bunny had shrunk so substantially my crime was sure to be detected.  So I confessed.  True to her nature, Leslie forgave me, merely suggesting I could make it up to her — and my conscience — at a future date.

Years later, Leslie was accepted into Brown University. A few years later, I too applied — and was accepted! Naturally, public sentiment was that I was a legacy selection, riding on Leslie’s coattails.

This weekend Leslie was visiting, making her usual pilgrimage to the artistic and photographic shrines adorning the home.

This painting in the dining room — created in childhood in 1967 when she was seven years old — is generally considered Leslie’s precocious masterpiece made before she was formally introduced to cartography. Critics marvel at her imaginative rendering of the continent of Europe of which apparently she had no knowledge — now considered a preternatural homage to Matisse.¹

by Leslie Kramer in her childhood.

by Leslie Kramer at age 7 before she knew what a map or Europe was. (1967)

When not viewed from a restrictive literal lens, the red flower-like blob on the left is France. Beneath France is the Iberian Peninsula in orange. Above France is the English Channel and the United Kingdom and Iceland above.  The pinkish image is clearly Italy jutting into the Mediterranean.  The sunfloweresque blotch is either Sardinia or Corsica. In the center of Europe in blue is Germany; Switzerland in orange; the Low Countries are white with a black center. Above Germany is Scandinavia: Denmark, Sweden and Finland on the Baltic Sea. Poland is yellow with Warsaw imagined as a red dot. The Balkans are positioned next to the Adriatic.  As Europe merges with the Levant, Turkey and the Holy Land become highlighted. The vast Steppes of Russia fan out in a blue expanse, while Estonia and Lativa are enigmatically pictured in the upper right, striped in yellow and red. The problematic and person-looking figure in the center of the swath of Russian blue complicates geographic interpretation: some view the image as a political symbol of the clash between the then-existing USSR and NATO.


A contemporary map of Europe for comparison.

In my reading, the painting deconstructs and defamiliarizes notions of fixed geopolitical boundaries by reconfiguring nations as potentially fluid — malleable aesthetic entities rather than immovable structures of power. The work anticipates an unsettling globalist future.

On her pilgrimage, Leslie visited the shrine installed in the bedroom of her girlhood.

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On the wall are Leslie’s creations in various genres.

Here Leslie poses in the kitchen shrine.

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On the wall is a photographic history of her life.

As her visit reached its conclusion, Leslie attempted to abscond with artifacts. Her intemperate shrine-robbing escape was ultimately thwarted.

Leslie's failed attempt at repatriation.

Leslie’s failed attempt at repatriation.

¹ Dr. Andrew Weinstein, Department of the History of Art at
SUNY Fashion Institute of Technology, says of Leslie’s piece: “Nice painting in the tradition of Asger Jorn and other Informel artists.”

NOTE: Opinion varies as to whether Leslie, 1967 represents Cold War Europe. Some see nothing. My artist friend in California does.  Thilde writes,”I see Europe I see France I also see Italy’s underpants


Death past and present by Leslie Kramer

Marie Kondō, can you green up your act? By Leslie Kramer


About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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