Monday, April 26, 2010

Art at the MoMA

Friday was the most beautiful wonderful New York day! I made it a holiday of sorts, and devoted myself to the pursuit of pleasure. In my case, that means sunning in Central Park with a book and a crochet project. After a few hours of laying blissfully in the spring grass (it's kind of ironic to think that I've got to get my fill of laying in the grass while I can, here in New York City, because in North Carolina you can't lay in the grass unless you want to be eaten alive by ticks, fire ants, spiders and other scary monsters), eating a strawberry FrozFruit (my favorite Central Park food-vendor treat!) I meandered down to Whole Foods and ate a healthy lunch. Then I visited the Museum of Arts and Design in its new location at Columbus Circle. It's a wonderful small museum, with a wonderful collection of American jewelry, glass, and sculpture. Two of the floors were being installed with a new exhibit while I was there, so I was able to view the artists constructing their pieces on location, which was fascinating, as well as beneficial, because they gave me a free ticket for future admission since the exhibits weren't completed yet. I'll have to go back and see the completed exhibition, which looked very interesting. It focuses on art made from dead things (bones, fur, insects, seeds, wood) which might sound disgusting, but can be quite interesting. However, I have taken a stand against the use of insects and feathers in art, which I will no doubt blog about in the future.

After that, I went to the Museum of Modern Art, to visit for the last time in a long time, my favorite paintings there. While I was there, I decided to make a list of my favorite pieces in the MoMA. Of course, not all the paintings that the museum owns are on display, so there are probably other pieces they have that would be on this list, but as of now, these are my top five favorites at the MoMA:

Christina's World by Andrew Wyeth. I don't understand why this painting is relegated to a hallway next to the escalator. Well, I do know why, but it makes me mad. These days Andrew Wyeth is looked at as passe, little more than an illustrator who just painted in an almost photo-realistic style the same old bleak scenes around his country neighborhood, with nothing groundbreaking or controversial (to today's eyes) about them. The stark emotionalism, pathos, and subtle genius of this exquisite painting is lost on the hordes of teenagers and tourists that mill through the museum snapping their bubblegum and striking disco poses in front of more ridiculous works of art. The people pass right on by and don't realize they are missing out on one of this nation's artistic masterpieces.

Stuart Davis. I love anything by Stuart Davis. Currently on view is his Egg Beater V, a still life from his series that focused on egg beaters. Yes, the common egg beater is a strange and curious thing to do a series of paintings on, but Davis loved to paint things with rounded and interconnecting shapes and, as an object, what could be more interesting and than an egg beater? Davis imbued his paintings with a sense of humor and whimsy that isn't saccharine at all, but somehow straightforward and easy on the eye. Add whatever psychological implications you'd like, and you've got yourself a great piece of modern art.

Dance (1) by Henri Matisse. This is actually a study for a painting commissioned by a rich Russian merchant for his palace, but it's not much different from the final version, which was paired with a contrasting painting titled Music. And, similar to Christina's World, this piece used to hang in a corner of the museum behind a staircase, where I would seek it out and visit it alone, since no one else bothered to look over there at it. Gladly, they've moved it to a much more prominent place, where viewers can better admire the simple--primal--beauty of the composition: earth, heaven, and mankind joined in a beautiful circle of joy and dance. I just love it.

Vincent Van Gogh's Portrait of Joseph Roulin. Perhaps the most famous of Van Gogh's works, The Starry Night, hangs near this portrait, and steals all the attention away from it, which is fine with me, because it gives me more room to stare at the strange and beautiful head with its curly beard and feminine floral background. My favorite painting subject is the portrait--people's faces are the most interesting landscape there is--and Van Gogh imbues this one with all his roiling emotion, marrying a long tradition of stark German and Dutch portraiture with the vibrant colors and joyous mood of the South of France. The form of Roulin is solidly placed in the center of a whimsical background, perhaps mirroring the dynamics of the friendship between the old stolid postmaster and the mentally tormented young artist.

One: Number 31, 1950 by Jackson Pollock. So what's the big deal about the splatter painting? These days it's almost like been there, done that when you think about Jackson Pollock's signature style. Still, it's very hard not to be arrested by the sight of this painting when you enter the room where it is housed. Commanding an entire wall, it draws you into it's spell, and the painting is best viewed up close, where you feel surrounded by the frenetic motion of it's drips, splatters, strokes, and expression. I can't really explain Pollock's genius, except to say that he did what no one else had ever done before, and did it beautifully. His paintings make me think of writing, music, city-life, nature, humanity, chaos, and order.

Honorable Mentions: Drowning by Roy Lichtenstein and Campbell's Soup Cans by Andy Warhol. Both pop artists are iconic and these two pieces are excellent examples of their work. It's easy to think of these as silly or gimmicky, but they have an undeniable charm, and are so much more interesting in real life than on the pages of an art history book. Then there is one corner of the MoMA that I call the "De Chirico Corner" because there three pieces by this master of surrealism are all hung together (one of them is pictured here). I love De Chirico's bright palette, mysterious choice of subject matter, and bold, flat painting style. Every one of his paintings is a treat to look at. Oh, and I can't forget to mention the skinniest painting in the world! The Wild by Barnett Newman is an oil on canvas seven feet tall but only 1.75 inches wide, which is hilarious because it is hung next to one of his monumental works. It always makes me laugh.

Last but not least, in the "Too Amazing to Categorize" category, is Picasso. Picasso was an utter and undeniable artistic genius, and I can't put him in my list of favorites because there are too many amazing pieces to choose from. His long and extremely prolific career is in an artistic universe of its own, so I'll just write a whole separate post about him later.

I recommend a visit to the MoMA for anyone. Among the pieces I've mentioned, the museum also houses incredibly famous paintings such as The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali (you know, the one with the melting watches) as well as some of the most revolutionary paintings in modern art history, such as Picasso's Les Demoiselles D'Avignon. There is always some crazy special exhibit going on, too, so it's always a fun place to go.

Also, later I'm going to blog about crazy things I've seen happen at the MoMA, the art that "anyone could do" and the stuff that just looks like something you might find in a Harlem alleyway.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Goodbye Harlem Churches

The people of Harlem are full of faith, said our stake president today as he gave a talk on the importance of doing missionary work in our own neighborhoods. He said that there are more churches concentrated in Harlem than in any other place in the United States. I readily agree with him, and I hope to have a chance to walk the streets of Harlem this week before I move away, to go down the little streets I have yet to venture down, and capture more pictures of churches so that I have a store of them to pull out and share even when I am no longer a resident of this faithful place.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Shoes of Silver and Gold

I bought these little silver flats several years ago, to wear with a vintage ballgown to a fancy work event. They were some of the most expensive shoes I've ever bought (which isn't even that expensive, really), but their price was justified because they are cute, comfortable, and have made me look cute on many an occasion since then. At first I used to treasure them and only wear them for special occasions, to keep them nice. Now, they are nearing the end of their lives, and the New York City streets have worn them down to paper-thin soles and shredded silver leather. I've been wearing the heck out of them these past few weeks as I've traipsed all over town. As I try and pare down my belongings to a manageable move, I figure I might as well wear these shoes out to their last thread and then ditch them on my way out of town. But they're holding up really well, and maybe they'll still have enough life in them to see North Carolina again.

These silver shoes and I had a great time yesterday, walking all over town. It was a shopping day! Even though I can't afford anything, I decided to go walk around all the fancy stores, starting with Bergdorf Goodman. More like a museum visit, a trip to Bergdorf's for me is to stare in wonder at the intricately made dresses, the artful displays, the luxuries spread before my eyes. Bloomingdales was pretty much the same, although if I was dedicated about it I might have been able to find something semi-affordable on a sales rack. But like I said, I'm trying to downsize my personal collection. I did buy some makeup, however, as Christian Dior was having a rare free-gift promotion and I do love their foundation. A crazy Chinese makeup lady pancaked me up with it, going a little overboard, but if I use a light touch, it will work wonders for my wedding day complexion.

Speaking of the wedding day, it started to rain while I was walking downtown towards Saks so I ducked into Nine West and tried on some shoes I'd seen the other day. I think they will be perfect with my wedding dress. Pale gold and retro, and very me! The dress is still at the cleaners, so I can't really tell, but I think they will look perfect. I also stopped in the fashion district and bought some fabric to match my dress, because somehow I have to construct sleeves for it. It was very hard trying to find the perfect match--my dress is around 60 years old! But I found some silk satin that seems to be pretty darn close. I'll begin the alterations when I get back to North Carolina--it's too much of a project to start here when I'm about to move. I don't want to rush or make any mistakes.

My day of shopping took me to Saks, Macy's, and then down to So-Ho, and back up again. My treat of the day was Pop Burger, which is definitely in my top three cheeseburgers of New York. The chocolate shake was delicious too! Sitting outside the Apple store, people watching, drinking a chocolate shake--this is the type of New York experience I love and am going to miss.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spring Storm in Harlem Town

I've only got one more week until my mom and dad drive up here in their big old suburban and help me move back down south. That's only seven more days to fill up with all the things in New York I've never had time to do! I don't think it's even possible. Anyway, I've got to get organized about it, because yesterday I wasted all my time just wandering around the streets of Harlem. I did laundry, so that was useful, and then I decided to try and find a thrift shop where I could donate a bunch of stuff I've been winnowing out of my belongings (the suburban will only be able to fit so much stuff!) but the closest ones that came up on a google search turned out to not exist (a common problem with businesses in Harlem) so I ended up walking all the way across town to the east side, where there is a big Goodwill store. But over there, there is also a lot of scary neighborhoods. Maybe they just seem scary to me because I'm not from there, but it seems like there are more poor loiterers, beggars, and "street" guys over there. I made sure to walk quickly and with a purpose, eyes making contact with no one. I passed groups of men loitering under "No Loitering" signs, and guys playing chess in a housing project playground, men doing the "Harlem shuffle," and I passed a lot of really interesting churches, but I didn't have my camera, so I might have to go back!

As I walked, I encountered one of the problems with life on Manhattan. No matter which way you walk, the wind is blowing against you. Scientists ought to come here and study this phenomenon, because it is truly perplexing. The liner of my rolling cart acted as a sail, and the dust from the streets pelted my eyes, but when I could open them, I looked downtown and saw a big storm rolling up the island. Skyscrapers in the distance were ensconced in a dark blue haze, and the clouds were lowering. It was a long walk, but I dropped off the items and then hightailed it home, arriving just before big fat drops of rain began to fall.

But I was going out to meet friends downtown, so I quickly got ready and then dashed out the door and over to the subway. I didn't even bring an umbrella, but it was okay because when I arrived at Grand Central Station and came up from the underground, the rain had come and gone already. While the storm rolled up the island of Manhattan, I had passed underneath it and come out the other side. Ah, spring weather!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Random Update on My Life

Dried cranberries from Fairway are my new favorite snack, and I'm eating them now and getting my keyboard all sticky, but I have to eat something because I'm starving and my roommates aren't coming home for another hour, but when they do we're going to have an enchilada feast with nachos too, and fancy cream soda, and even a few guests. But it's been a long time since lunch, a dried out street kebab on a bun, eaten on my too-short break from my too-long work day. The Park Avenue Armory has been my home for the past five days as I've been working the SOFA show. I'm ready for it to be over, but tomorrow is the last, longest, day. And I've got no Harlem church picture to post today because I have had no time to even take pictures. All my waking hours have been spent working. Then again, the work is kind of fun. Despite being on my feet all day on an old creaky wooden floor, I've been surrounded by a magnificent assortment of sculpture, jewelry, and objects d'art. Each exhibitor surpasses the next, and the pieces are all truly amazing. And I get to wear some pretty spectacular jewelry. Today I was bedecked in a silver spider-web made of delicate chain that draped over my shoulders and fell around me like a shimmery veil. It attracted much attention, which I could then deflect to the artist, who was there with me, putting her jewelry on any woman who stopped long enough. Then there are the people, the shoppers, the rich aesthetes of New York. One-of-a-kind would describe each one, each trying to surpass the other with her arts and crafts clothing, huge chunky jewelry, and artfully sculptured hair and makeup. Or, they are so rich and eccentric that they look like they've wandered in from a Central Park bench, and don't care. One woman today was describing to me an item of jewelry she owns, a very expensive item, which "must be somewhere but I can't find it under all the newspaper." It's times like this that make me think that wealth is wasted on the rich. If I had money to spend on those sorts of things, I would do a much better job of it. For one thing, I wouldn't make myself look like a clown to show off my wealth, and I wouldn't lose my treasures in a messy house. I would, however, take taxis everywhere instead of running in my heels all the way from Park Avenue to Madison in order to catch the crosstown bus that took me to the subway train where I had to wait a full half hour for my train to come and give me a very slow ride uptown with very interesting underground views of noisy construction work. Yes, I would be fine spending my money on taxi rides.

Monday, April 12, 2010


So what if I have been laying in my bed for the past 3 hours watching old episodes of America's Next Top Model? It's better than doing nothing. ...oh. Well, I just needed an escape for a moment. This week I've been sucked back into work, to help with a special event, and it is stressing me out. Add the stress of wedding planning, and I just don't feel like thinking or doing anything at the moment! It's a shame though, because New York is at its absolute most beautiful right now and, while I have been trying to enjoy it as much as possible, I resent having my time taken up with unneeded stress. Sigh... But the week will go by fast, and by this time next week it will all be over with! Then I'll have about ten more days to enjoy the beautiful city before saying goodbye to it. What do I plan to do? Visit musuems, walk through the parks, go to the opera, see sights, take pictures, party with friends, and generally just enjoy and revel in each moment and place. Oh, and pack!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mt. Olivet

The Harlem church of the week... from the side. With its neoclassical columns, this church looks more like a bank, and maybe it used to be one. The churches of Harlem often spring up in buildings once used for other purposes.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bad Day

Bad Things About Today:

1. I had to go to work.
2. When I got home from work the freezer was open all by itself and everything was melted.
3. I went dress shopping and had a good time but didn't find my dream dress.
4. My ipod suddenly stopped working and nothing will revive it.
5. I got lost on the subway to Queens.
6. I got three bug bites (I'm a magnet, I tell you!)
7. The friend's number that I thought I had is mysteriously not in my phone (and I don't like my new phone either.)


Good Things About Today:

1. I got to see people that I like at work.
2. C sent me an adorable e-mail, like he does every single day (I am so lucky!)
3. The weather was SOOO gorgeous, and the city so pretty.
4. Last night my roommate bought me an apple fritter (okay, so it was last night, but last night falls within the span of the last 24 hours.)
5. I learned about the Amber Room.
6. I witnessed a completely freakin' crazy person acting like a cat in the 14th Street 1 station. (ha ha! I'm so glad this is on the good list!)
7. I got to hang out with my stylist Rachel and shop for wedding dresses, which is fun even when its fruitless.

So you see, there were good things that happened today. I'm trying to look on the bright side! But I'm so sad about my ipod!

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Dress Dilemma

Trying to find the perfect wedding dress is so much more frustrating and harder than I ever thought it would be! C says I just have a low tolerance for things I find to be below my standards of aesthetics and taste. That's a nice way of saying I'm picky and a snob. Well, I guess I'm owning it, because I really have had very little luck finding wedding dress options. They are all either strapless, practically strapless, too tiny, too fairy-princess, too youthful debutante looking, too Vegas, too winter-wedding, trashy, or just plain ugly. Or too expensive! Sigh. Money is wasted on the rich. However, I am not completely without options.

Option 1: The Project
In a moment of weakness and a perfect example of good salesmanship, I purchased a dress from Cheap Jack's Vintage. It has lovely lines and structure, but is definitely a fixer-upper. Simple and sweet, it has a portrait neckline with short capped sleeves and a front panel that frames a sort of sweetheart bodice that is fitted with darts and then flows down to the floor. Made of chiffon, it flows nicely and fits me perfectly. But the sequins are horrible, the material old and tired, and the dress itself unlined. So I bought it thinking I could easily just unpick all the seams, lay it out on some gorgeous new satin or silk and make myself a brand new dress using it as a pattern. I don't think it would be hard at all. The question is... do I want to take on such a project? I'm an okay seamstress, but don't know if I trust myself with such an important task. What if I botched it?

Option 2: The Pretty
On Saturday I went shopping all over Brooklyn and Manhattan with my dear friend Rachel, hitting all the best vintage stores we knew about, hoping to hit the jackpot and find the perfect dress. In between stops we happened to pass a store that wasn't on our list, but looked promising. There we found a wedding dress from the 1960s with a lacy high-neck, empire waist, and long frilly train. It had long sleeves and glued-on pearls, but it fit me perfectly and all the gay-guy employees of the store were oohing and ahhing and calling me resplendent. Plus it was only $36! So I had to get it. When I got it home I cut off the long sleeves, which made it much cuter, and tried it on a few more times. Everyone loves how I look in it, but I don't know if it's really me. When I wear it, it sort of seems like I'm in a costume, not my own wedding dress. Maybe it's the zipper that does that. For some reason I feel like having a zipper on the back of a wedding dress cheapens it. Is that crazy? I think a real wedding dress should have hooks and eyes or a row of gorgeous buttons. Something more heirloom than a zipper. Then again, the dress fits me very well and is quite pretty.

Option 3: The Perfect
My perfect dress has not been found yet, but I feel like I'll know it when I see it. It is long and lean, without a train or a puffy skirt. It is simple and yet has beautifully intricate details that make it special. It feels comfortable and is unfussy, yet formal. It is glamorous and unique, mature but feminine. I don't want to look like a little girl or a matron, but like a beautiful woman. Will I ever find the perfect dress? Only time will tell. The search continues...


Nothing is prettier than spring flowers! Also, I fulfilled a lifelong desire this weekend when I decided to buy the clementines with the leaves on. They are so pretty!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Church of the Crucifixion

Coming upon this church, in the middle of old Harlem brownstones, is like coming across a large mushroom in the woods. You wonder how it happened to grow there, and what it's purpose is. I had to look closely to even see doors on this building, and I wonder how dark it is on the inside. The iron gate around it is spiked, like the spears of Roman soldiers.

Well, today is Easter, so thoughts of the Crucifixion and of the Resurrection have been on my mind. I'm so grateful to know that although Jesus was crucified, He was resurrected, and in so doing he brought about the salvation that makes my life infinitely more meaningful and hopeful. Because of His sacrifice, my sins can be forgiven, and I can be made whole again, spiritually and physically. It is such a profound gospel principle that I can hardly even understand, but my spirit feels hope and joy because of it, and I know it to be true.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Spring-Time in New York

Spring has come to New York! It's beautiful. I'll be walking down the street and become suddenly arrested by the sight of daffodils or yellow and pink tulips or electric blue hyacinths, springing forth from little patches of earth within a huge gray concrete city. In the park, clouds of bright green among long-barren branches signal the emergence of new life. Blossoming trees take my breath away. This morning I walked around Roosevelt Island, where it was warm and sunny enough for people to be out grilling. Pretty soon they'll be turning on the AC and wearing mosquito repellant. For the moment though, it's just right.

Even though I was only gone for a week and a half, since I've returned to New York I feel like I've been gone for a year! Maybe it's the fact that Spring has come to the city that was still in Winter when I left it, or maybe it's the fact that I had such a wonderful time in North Carolina that I forgot all about New York, or maybe it is that I'm no longer working and feel free and renewed. I'm able to wake up each morning and plan my day with things that I want to do and see, and not be tied to a work schedule. This is such a luxury, and so far removed from just a few weeks ago, when I was a slave to my job. The last time I wasn't either working or in school was the year 2000. Eleven years ago. I think I deserve a break! So I plan to enjoy myself this month. Of course there will be things to do like pack and plan, but for the most part, I intend to enjoy these Spring days to the fullest, just soaking in the beauty and energy of this city that is so alive, and sprouting more life each day.