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I spent Wednesday night, Nov. 8, at a party with a bunch of lawyers, and I didn’t hear one peep about politics. Nothing about recounts, injunctions, democracy or the future of the republic. Just brie, chardonnay, oil and acrylic. This was a party of artsy lawyers. The occasion was the opening night of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York’s 38th annual Art and Photography Exhibition, which runs through Nov. 21. “Who says lawyers who buy and sell companies for clients can’t have another dimension?” asks Stephen Siller, who is both name partner at Siller Wilk and an accomplished glassblower. The first polymath I chatted with was Emily Simons, who specializes in zoning and real estate at Kurzman, Karelsen & Frank. I tried to goad her into a fanciful analogy between art and law, but Simons is of the school that believes in the separation of art and law. “It takes me a day or two to clear out the crap from my head before I can do any artwork,” she says. “You have to change your brain from right to left, or left to right, whichever it is.” Simons wasn’t kidding. She does law Monday to Thursday, takes off Friday to “numb out,” and then turns to her lithography on weekends. As I wandered off in search of a more analogy-friendly artist-lawyer, I heard Simons berating the curator for not displaying her two works side by side. She had a point: Each was a still life inspired by childhood memories of Woolworth’s and sewing circles, one a stone lithograph of stacked thread spools and the other of thrown thimbles. “I’m mad because I care about this stuff,” she said. Leaving Simons to fight her own battles, I pulled aside Don Shaw, the clarinetist and leader of the Bar Association Ad Hoc Jazz Band, who provided the night’s entertainment. He was happy to play the analogy game. A solo litigator and former federal prosecutor, Shaw compares art and music to criminal law: first you have to learn the rules, and then you can figure out how to ease your way around them. He feistily suggested that clarinet music takes more life training than visual art, but his sometime vocalist, Ondine Darcyl, objected. The flamboyant Darcyl is a triple threat. She is a solo music contracts lawyer; an artist whose textured, greenish, jungle-inspired “Manatee” collage won first prize for the evening; and a singer who this summer released her first jazz and bossa nova CD. Darcyl was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, into a French-Romanian Jewish family, but her artistic sensibility was formed on visits to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She finds the term “world music” meaningless, yet she would seem to give it new meaning. “Society makes us choose between professions,” says Darcyl with understatement, “but I think most of us have more than one side.” Jo Ellen Silberstein is one artist-lawyer who sees no need to keep her sides separate. She nabbed third prize for a painting that featured an open litigation bag and a portrait of half of Judge I. Leo Glasser. David Rheingold, of plaintiffs’ firm Rheingold, Valet & Rheingold, is another. His photo series on mannequins and female objectification is linked to the cultural insecurities he sees in clients who sue over breast implants or fen-phen obesity drugs. The featured mannequin photo shows a clownish, disembodied head in a Saks Fifth Avenue window, crowned by light reflected off a nearby marquee. Steve Mairella is only just figuring out how to integrate his career and passion. “Once I went to law school I didn’t touch a brush for 17 years,” he says. Long the general counsel of land developer Sterling Forest, he rediscovered painting after his son took a course at Montclair (N.J.) Art Museum, and he became jealous. Mairello took a sabbatical this year to set up an art studio in New Jersey. He won honorable mention for an untitled acrylic seashell still life, with a sophisticated play of shadow. “It’s my first exhibit since high school,” he says excitedly. Siller tells a similar story. He used to express his artistic yearnings by collecting glass and glass paperweights. He discovered glassblowing after his back surgeon ordered him to take long walks. On one of the walks, he stumbled upon The Glass Workshop in New York’s Little Italy. Now his work is displayed and sold by that gallery. “Pure Hearts,” which also won honorable mention, explores one of Siller’s favorite themes, layering white hearts of different shapes and sizes over a black glass vase. I completed the circuit of displayed works and bumped into Simons on her way out. She was beaming. “It took an hour of sheer will, determination and obnoxiousness,” she said — but the powers-that-be had agreed to put her thimbles and spools side by side. “After 13 years of fighting for the City Planning Commission,” she said, “I have some negotiating skills.” It’s enough to make you think maybe art and law aren’t separate after all. Are you a lawyer with a passion? Do you know a lawyer’s tale that should be told? Please contact Michael Goldhaber with feedback and ideas. Phone (212) 313-9110 or e-mail [email protected]

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