Monday, May 31, 2010

O! Pioneers

I've been reading a lot of Willa Cather recently, aligned with a weekend at home to celebrate the wedding of very dear friends. Cather's writing always shocks me in its anger for this land and its people. You would expect her to be romantic, or nostalgic at the very least, but she refrains (thank goodness) and writes with a grit that captures a young nation. She loved Nebraska, that much is clear. Yet she understood its harshness and its unfair emptiness, climate, and spirit.

I value O! Pioneers at the level that I hold Fitzgerald, Alcott, and Dickens. And, like Gatsby, Little Women, and Great Expectations, I return to this text year after year. Reading it again while here, at Griffith Prairie, with its open vistas, small valleys, steep cliffs, and uncut loess hills, I'm reminded why Cather is great and why she has been so influential to a girl from the Great Plains who, like Cather, moved to New York City despite my clear and intense affection for the vastness of this prairie.

"The great fact was the land itself, which seemed to overwhelm the little beginnings of human society that struggled in its sombre wastes. It was from facing this vast hardness that the boy's mouth had become so bitter; because he felt that men were too weak to make any mark here, that the land wanted to be let alone, to preserve its own fierce strength, its peculiar, savage kind of beauty, its uninterrupted mournfulness."

-Willa Cather, O! Pioneers

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Karen O at MoMA

If you ever have the chance to attend one of MoMA's parties in the garden, GO. Especially if the weather is a perfect 75 degrees, the sky is full of stars, and Karen O is singing the Where the Wild Things Are theme on a tiny stage right in front of you.

It was the type of party that I always imagined people in New York attending when growing up so far from here, reading the third chapter of The Great Gatsby so many times the pages fell from their bindings. They dress that little garden in twinkle lights and hang paper lanterns from those dripping willow trees JUST like Jay Gatsby did every summer, I swear.

It makes for a stunning evening-- so much so that you might just mistaken Midtown for East Egg, Rodin for Eckleburg, and Maps for a love song. (It isn't. It's a terrible song about a rockstar who travels the world sleeping with his fan base. Everyone knows that, but it STILL made me gasp into happy tears.)

Don't be fooled, though, into thinking that my life really looks like that, with those silly people, under those tricky stars. In the end, I have more in common with Nick Carraway than Daisy Buchanan, and one day from now I will be floating down the Loup River in Nebraska in a cow tank with a cooler. I'll be wearing mud shorts and a baseball cap, with the Yeah Yeah Yeah's blasting from my boom box. Can't wait :)

PS, Wish I had a better photo than the blur of Karen O above taken with the camera on my phone. I was apparently too busy dancing to take anything of the garden itself, whoops. And thanks again, J, for inviting me. It was just lovely.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Great SWINTON article in this week's NY Mag. I read the page-long piece three times on the train this morning, as I knew that anything I read after this article would probably be a disappointment. Highlight:

"If one has to be banal and think of a favorite filmmaker, mine is Robert Bresson, who so often looks at people who have never seen themselves onscreen and who of course made a film about a donkey, which I think is the greatest performance ever. The donkey. That’s what one should aspire to be: the donkey.”

Well said, SWINTON, well said.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Boys Drule.

Sidewalk art by a young neighbor of mine. I kind of want to start a club with the little sass-- we could build a fort, create a handshake, rule the world, and work on our spelling, among other things.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Josh Goldberg at Dunham Place Salon

Last night carried me from Soho to Cobble Hill, then a stop in Brooklyn Heights, a few beers in Clinton Hill, a gallery opening in Williamsburg, and then a nightcap in the West Village. Hello, New York!

The stop that most deserves your time (not that Alison's office, or that little Thai place on Bedford don't), is Dunham Place Salon, Amanda Schneider's new Williamsburg art venture. Amanda recently opened up her enviable loft apartment for the purpose of showing art. I was fortunate enough to have been passed an invite for one of her first parties in the space before she opens her 'real' (as stated by Amanda herself) gallery later this fall, Alison and John in tow.

The artist featured was Josh Goldberg, a very talented young painter who uses shellac, enamel, flock, and gold leaf to create paintings so perfect they make your teeth hurt. His strength is held in the balance between gesture and control, subtlety and glossy brightness. Emailed forwards of his work bounced around my office Friday afternoon, trying to figure out where the gold leaf entered in these seemingly straightforward paintings. I am pleased to report that it is used in the cleverest of ways-- he builds a thin layer on the canvas's top ledge that quite literally makes the work glow.

It's such a small detail in an otherwise perfectly fine execution. If you didn't know it was there, you wouldn't have known why these canvases seem a bit ethereal, a bit... well... breathtaking. Congrats you two, can't wait to see what comes next.

Alright, off to the East Village check another neighborhood off the ol' list and to drink spiked Arnold Palmers on a patio all afternoon. Cheers, New York.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

William Powhida


Cobble Hill in the Morningtime

Want to join me on my morning walk?
There are lots of Brownstones, that will always remind me of Sesame Street.
And the Cosby Show.
This morning my little neighbor friends were learning about butterflies.
I joined them for a bit.
We have a dolphin in the playground...
...and lots of crawling ivy...
...and fire escapes that look like tinkertoys...
...and a blue tarp that created a fort.
And at the end of my walk, there is an art store that sells invisible dogs.
Not a bad ten minutes at the top of my day.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Monet at Gagosian

FANTASTIC little Jerry Saltz piece in this week's NY Mag on Larry Gagosian's Monet show. Despite my reluctant agreement with site commenter 'WHYGODWHY's statement that Monet had cataracts (this is laying into the argument that Monet's lilies held that fuzziness because he couldn't see, and impressionism is actually based on the late invention of working eye glasses rather than his, shall we say, verve, therefore disassembling everything we know about painting post Impressionism) I appreciate Saltz's smart enthusiasm for an artist that has been-- as he so cleverly states-- passé since 1909. Whew, long sentence.

I love that Larry hung this show and I love that Saltz bullet pointed its importance to New York's impatient readership and judgey and art crowd.

"This show (a) is free to the public, (b) is something no American museum has done, and (c) teaches us to see a great artist better. Get thee to Gagosian."

(Article HERE.)

Monday, May 17, 2010


And the bookend to my Hot Bird post... Alma.

Very few invites would have willed me to leave my apartment at 8:30 last night after said epic weekend, where I could be found enjoying a Sunday evening in the exact fashion that I prefer to be enjoying a Sunday evening-- finishing a project on the floor in sweatpants while watching Tracy Lord berate C.K Dexter Haven.

However, when a call came to grab a late dinner at Alma, I leapt out of the sweatpants and into-- oh, ya know, clothes-- and practically ran the four blocks from Congress to Degraw to drink in the sunset with a nice, tall cucumber margarita in hand.

The food is perfectly fine and the prices slightly annoying for tacos, but that margarita was divine and that view-- that view!-- worth leaving even Cary Grant in the dust for.

But the real reason that I went to Alma--the reason that I've been dying to go since hearing of it exactly one month ago-- wasn't for the short distance or even for the sunset. I've wanted to go for its name. Alma, in case you have forgotten, is the name of both female leads in Nicole Krauss's The History of Love.

And why would someone ever chose a restaurant based on its name? I don't really have an answer for that, other than that the name itself is significant in the text, and is in many ways, the driving force behind the story. And because sitting at a place named 'Alma' reminds me of chapters such as this:

"So many words get lost. They leave the mouth and lose their courage, wandering aimlessly until they are swept into the gutter like dead leaves. On rainy days, you can hear their chorus rushing past: IwasabeautifulgirlPleasedon’tgoItoobelievemybodyismadeofglass-I’veneverlovedanyoneIthinkofmyselfasfunnyForgiveme….

There was a time when it wasn’t uncommon to use a piece of string to guide words that otherwise might falter on the way to their destinations. Shy people carried a little bunch of string in their pockets, but people considered loudmouths had no less need for it, since those used to being overheard by everyone were often at a loss for how to make themselves heard by someone. The physical distance between two people using a string was often small; sometimes the smaller the distance, the greater the need for the string.

The practice of attaching cups to the ends of string came much later. Some say it is related to the irrepressible urge to press shells to our ears, to hear the still-surviving echo of the world’s first expression. Others say it was started by a man who held the end of a string that was unraveled across the ocean by a girl who left for America.

When the world grew bigger, and there wasn’t enough string to keep the things people wanted to say from disappearing into the vastness, the telephone was invented.

Sometimes no length of string is long enough to say the thing that needs to be said. In such cases all the string can do, in whatever its form, is conduct a person’s silence."

And this:

"My brother and I used to play a game. I'd point to a chair. "THIS IS NOT A CHAIR," I'd say. Bird would point to the table. "THIS IS NOT A TABLE." "THIS IS NOT A WALL," I'd say. "THAT IS NOT A CEILING." We'd go on like that. "IT IS NOT RAINING OUT." "MY SHOE IS NOT UNTIED!" Bird would yell. I'd point to my elbow. "THIS IS NOT A SCRAPE." Bird would lift his knee. "THIS IS ALSO NOT A SCRAPE!" "THAT IS NOT A KETTLE!" "NOT A CUP!" "NOT A SPOON!" "NOT DIRTY DISHES!" We denied whole rooms, years, weathers. Once, at the peak of our shouting, Bird took a deep breath. At the top of his lungs, he shrieked: "I! HAVE NOT! BEEN! UNHAPPY! MY WHOLE! LIFE!" "But you're only seven," I said."

And then I'm reminded of another character in The History of Love whose name is Bird. Like Hot Bird, get it? A bookend, indeed.

Hot Bird

Hot Bird! Not only does this new bar on the corner of Atlantic and Clinton have the best new bar name around, but it also has a great outdoor space that isn't yet taken over by bouncers and motorcycles. It's just around the corner from my old stomping ground, rocks an antique tap, and served as the jumping point for what turned into a certifiably epic weekend.

Plus, they played vintage Dolly Parton for us all night long, and if Dolly doesn't put you in a good mood, I don't know what will. (Well, until happy hour ended at least, and we got hungry. Hot Bird isn't serving food yet, which is confusing as the name DOES allude to chicken. Although it is obviously named after those awesome yellow ads that have graced Atlantic Avenue for years, everyone knows that.)

***NOTE: This bar is so new and random that I am actually one of the first people to have written about it, or so it seems post-google search. NY Mag hasn't picked it up, and I can't find a website for the life of me. Just remember that you HEARD IT HERE FIRST. Lovely Day: On the pulse.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

This American Life: The Parent Trap

If you have ever wondered what my most popular post is on this blog (that was a joke), wonder no further. It is my This American Life post from sometime last year. Here it is. This makes me very happy, as I think it is one of the more important things that I've written about. I really believe that this show has the ability to inspire change, challenge thought, and open minds. LOTS of things on the radio do that, actually. While we're at it, might I suggest The Writers' Almanac, Radio Lab, and Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me? So good!

Well, I listened to an episode of This American Life--by way of Radio Lab-- on the train this morning that tilted my world on its axis. Too dramatic? Well, YOU try listening to the second act of The Parent Trap and not be changed. It is compelling, to say the least.
(You can do so here.)

The story starts out familiar enough-- its about a chimp named Lucy raised by humans in a domestic setting. Early highlights include scientific observations, like Lucy's clear understanding of the English language. She starts inventing her own words (in sign language, clearly) like 'candy-drink' for watermelon and 'hurt-cry-food' for onion.

But THIS story goes to a completely different level, as it follows the chimp from a suburban neighborhood to the jungles of Africa. Then, as both Radio Lab and This American Life do so very well, it poses questions that get to the gut humanity. What designates a species? Where does animal end and human begin? And of course that old nature vs nurture argument.

What the story doesn't do is point fingers, as its listeners clearly will. In fact, it can easily be viewed as irresponsible storytelling, as the story goes wrong in SO MANY ways. But that isn't the point, now is it? Semantics will get you nowhere in a story distressed from its onset. The point that Ira Glass so keenly hands us is a very rare observation of The Human Condition.

And the final question-- one that you will be left wondering with a dropped jaw and tears STREAMING DOWN YOUR FACE-- is if Janis Carter was crazy, or if she was merely doing the right thing. Not bad for a Thursday morning commute.

Note: The other two stories on the episode are really good as well. The prologue story doesn't have much of a point, to be honest, but I found it endearing and entertaining as, again, human observation. And the first act is... sad. But I like sad things, apparently.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

La Vita Nuova

Allegra Goodman wrote a beautiful short story titled La Vita Nuova in last week's New Yorker. (Two weeks ago? The white one with the line drawing.) It's the story of a young woman learning to cope after her fiance leaves her, but it's about is love in its many forms. It's about that tricky transfer of love that inevitably follows loss.

I emailed Goodman's story to my friend Lo, who immediately shut her computer in horror of the first sentence and then in horror of the girl recommending that she read it. It's sad, of course it is. But there is something significant to be gained from stories like this one. Besides being absolutely gorgeous prose, this story hit a very raw and honest note of grief without hinting at Sadness's comrades, Bitterness and Pity.

I remember hearing Katherine Paterson, the author of Bridge to Terabithia (who shares my birthday! Thanks, Wikipedia!) speak on NPR one morning about the shift in children's books and films from learning to shielding. We are so much more apt to shield children today from anything remotely harmful or upsetting than we are to let them experience life on their own terms. Paterson touched on topics like loneliness, tragedy, and jealousy--emotions that she truly believed children faced and needed to empathize with in literature.

She spoke of her interest in helping children learn how to feel. How to cope, how to be brave. She wasn't interested in teaching lessons, showing healthy examples, or shielding children from harm. She was interested in helping them cry, helping them grow, helping them learn how to love. Paterson's books were therefore at the center of the banned books witch hunts of the late 70's-- something which she talks about with pride. She firmly stood her ground, never abandoning her young adolescent fans who were affected and healed by her words.

Ludwig Bemelman also has an ever poignant line in his first Madeline book. 'They smiled at the good and frowned at the bad, and sometimes they were very sad.' I'm always so touched to read this inclusion in the happy lives of the twelve little girls in two straight lines. It's a testament to Bemelman's clear understanding of young minds, and to an era not so concerned with shielding children of all that is not-so-good. It's the same point on protection that God of Carnage snuck in there between bites of clafoutis, remember?

And like Bemelman and Paterson, Allegra Goodman refrains from teaching her audience a lesson. She doesn't lecture us or chide her character for neglecting societal norms in grieving. Goodman writes, 'Amanda tried writing a card or something. She wrote that she and her fiancé had decided not to marry. Then she wrote that her fiancé had decided not to marry her. She said that she was sorry for any inconvenience. She added that she would appreciate gifts anyway.'

So good, right? I actually have a lot more to say about the story's prose, and the effectiveness of interweaving the main character's inner dialogue with the physical plot. Isn't that how it always is? That continuing reassessment of past conversations despite our best efforts to forget? Talking with your boss, but thinking about how he once told you that you were his best friend? I also like stories that reference real books within the text, so that we have the option of reading the same books that the character is reading. So fun! (And extremely nerdy, I'm realizing as I type this.) In this case, Dante's La Vita Nuova plays a big role (obvs). At any rate, I need to get to work, so here's a link. Enjoy!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Kiki Smith: Sojourn

Thursday night was a busy one for me, but I managed to zip up to the Brooklyn Museum on Eastern Parkway to catch the tail end of the American High Style opening party in time for two quick glasses of bad Chardonnay and a scurried look at the new exhibition.

The fashion was lovely, to say the least. I'm still a little unsure of the overarching theme of the show other than "The Brooklyn Museum Is Now Partnering With The Met's Costume Institute And Look At All Of The Pretty Clothes We Have Now", and it seemed a bit small to be all that cohesive in terms of American Fashion-- but we loved the shoes, the gowns, and the big fashion house names. Dior, Chanel, Balenciaga, and Biambattista were all represented in their full regalia. Rachel should have been there, she would have loved it.

Like I said, the fashion was great. Really, really pretty. But what I'd rather discuss is the Kiki Smith exhibition just in the next wing. As usual, I have more to say about art than I do about fashion.

The last time I saw a Kiki Smith solo show was at Minneapolis's Walker Art Center in 2006. It was dark, VERY dark, but worked with a sickly fascination that college girls crave. That exhibition, titled A Gathering, included umbilical cords hanging from the ceiling, vats of 'puss', 'urine', and 'saliva' on a solid ledge, women's portraits covered in hair, and one remarkably memorable sculpture of a deer birthing a woman.

It was gruesome, indeed, but absolutely had purpose. Her sculptures were rooted in folklore, in Western biblical tradition, and in sharp focus with her own experience as a woman in the male dominated art world of today. In the end, it wasn't shocking (good art never is!) but it was significant.

So, last night upon entering her current exhibition, Sojourn, I felt the need to warn my fellow viewers that Kiki Smith's work can be, um, disturbing. Disturbing and weird, I think I so articulately put it. However, much to my surprise (and delight), Sojourn was quite the opposite. While A Gathering was dark and solemn, Sojourn was light and transient.

Smith's newest works are a self described 'exploration of womanhood'. One need not look further than the materials themselves to get this strongly driven point-- her materials include needlepoint, tissue paper, paper mache, glitter(!!!), and silk flowers. She uses these, shall we say, 'flimsy' tools to trace themes of womanhood from cradle to coffin.

The mystical and religious symbolism are once again present, most literally translated in her works The Annunciation and The Immaculate Conception. Paper mache light bulbs dipped in glitter hang on fishing line. Gold leafed birds drip stars in their wake on sculptures made of toothpicks. Life sized portraits of women seated with their mothers watch us with wide eyes and eighteenth-century expressions of solitude. It's what I imagine women on the prairie always looked like. Unhappy, but strong.

We wound our way around the thin white paper held up with pushpins to the coffins sprouting tiny glass flowers, transfixed with Smith's quiet reflections on a life's journey. While her tone hasn't shifted since her days of Wolfgirl, her execution clearly has. Was it mind blowing? No. But perhaps it wasn't supposed to be. It was, in the least, a nice contrast to the fashion in the next wing over-- a quiet, white world in the midst of all that female distraction.


When John and I lived in Martinique 'studying French', we watched the sunset every single night. We would race from class down to the water, and sit there on the rocky pier (topless!) while the big neon sun dropped below the horizon. Afterwards we would skinny dip in the turquoise waters so salty we could effortlessly float and bob around for hours. Alors! C'est magnifique!

We swore to each other then and there that we would continue the tradition when we got home, because, well, doesn't the sun set everywhere? Why couldn't we pause for forty minutes in Minnesota each night as did in the Caribbean? Well, we didn't. Not once. Evenings in Minnesota were instead filled with hot cocoa and sledding and rousing choruses of Um Ya Ya. (Not that I romanticize my college experience or anything.)

Thinking back on it, I said the same thing about tea-and-biscuit-time while living in London, and about only eating local foods while living in Tuscany. Neither of those lasted either. And perhaps that is the reason we travel. Because despite globalization and gentrification and the Internet and McDonalds opening at the Louvre in Paris, some experiences cannot be translated outside of their resting place.

But luckily... LUCKILY... I am once again living by water, and can see the sun drop into the East River each night from my apartment windows if I so chose. Perhaps I can finally fulfill my sunset goal.

I ran for my camera the other night to catch the almost-pink-it-was-so-orange sun falling quickly. But alas, by the time I was back at the window, it had just dropped out of sight. The after effect was nice though-- the orange sky and the blue water... the silhouette of Brooklyn's dirty windows there to the left. That splat almost forms a smile, though, if you're an optimist like I am. I will, however, save the skinny dipping for Martinique. Some experiences just shouldn't translate to the East River. Ew.

Walter Martin & Paloma Muñoz: The New Pornographers NEW Album Cover

Don't you just love when bands use the work of contemporary artists on their album covers? In fact, I admittedly judge bands who use lame photographs of themselves making sultry eyes, and give graces to those who chose an appropriately felt piece of art instead. (This is an exception. You can use your own photograph if you also have a sword and an old car from the 70s and no shoes. IRONY, get it?)

The New Pornographers released a new album a few days ago and imagine my thrill when low and behold, one of my favorite photographs was proudly displayed it's glossy cover. The album is 'Together' and the artists are Walter Martin & Paloma Muñoz, who I've seen multiple times at P.P.O.W. in Chelsea. Also, my friend Kim owns a print of theirs that hangs modestly in her kitchen hallway of which I'm insanely jealous. (Oh, is that a good artist? I just bought it at an auction, I thought it was pretty!)

Anyway. I've yet to listen to this album as, well, let's not get into my difficulties with itunes and the checking account fraud that victimized me Wednesday morning, but Neko seems to be there in the snow singing her little heart out on the website version, so I'm not worried. But I need to start listening soon, as one Miss Katinka Henly has warned us all that The New Porns are singing exclusively from this album on their upcoming tour of which we are all attending. Crossing my fingers for Myriad Harbor, though. Please, Neko! It's been a rough week...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Art Chicago and NEXT Art Fair

Mitsuru Takeya, "Shark", Megumi Ogita Gallery, Tokyo

Judy Pfaff
Judy Pfaff

Matthew Abbott, Electric Doorbell Machine, 2010, acrylic and oil on linen

Richard Bosman

Rob Wynne, "Oops!", Rebecca Ibel Gallery, Chicago

Rob Wynne, Rebecca Ibel Gallery, Chicago

Barry Lategan, Twiggy

Art Chicago and NEXT Art Fair took place last week in Chicago's towering Merchandise Mart there on the river. I spent two days winding my way through booths, chatting up dealers, and clicking photos with my phone camera.

The Chicago fairs are inevitably much more conservative than their New York/Miami/Basel counterparts, and less shocking to say the least. Chicago's scene is much more 'hangable', as they say in the biz. It's art that we want to own, live with, hang over our sofas. Rothko called this type of art 'mantle paintings' for that very reason. Yes, he meant it as an offensive critique, but there is a time and a place for art that we relate to on a aesthetically visceral level.

Take Barry Lategan's Twiggy. There is nothing new or radical (let's use the word 'radical' more, shall we?) about those sepia tones and familiar coal eye liner, but its just so good and iconic that it still works. No one would care about such a portrait at the Armory Show, but in Chicago we gape. Brooklyn's Judy Pfaff is an old favorite of mine, and I would KILL to get a Rob Wynne exclamation for my bedroom. I've used that Richard Bosman piece on this blog before, and seeing intaglio so beautifully executed actually made me salivate.

NEXT is Art Chicago's cooler, hipper, younger, and more affordable counterpart, and took place just a short elevator ride away. (Actually the elevator service at the Merch Mart is nuts! Can someone please get in there and restore those cables before they all start plummeting, as is one of my worst nightmares post The Tower of Terror circa 1992.)
Ryan and I ate up the tiny watercolors by unknown (until now!) Japanese painter Mitsuru Takeya at the Megumi Ogita booth who painted that shark up top. He's also living as my phone wallpaper at the moment, grinning all the while. We were introduced to the work of Brooklyn painter Matthew Abbott who has an opening in his Williamsburg loft later this month and you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be there showing my support. (Congrats Matthew and Amanda on the space!)

The art was good. It was solid, clean, and worthy. But, let's be honest, I'll be ready for something a little less 'solid' come Basel. I'll side with Rothko over Picasso any day.
(Note: sorry about the formatting on this. Much to my annoyance, Blogger just can't seem to get it together when I try to add multiple photos to a post. Gar.)

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Wednesday Chef: A Helluva Town

A nice start to my Monday morning--- Luisa's very sincere tribute to New York on her blog, The Wednesday Chef. Enjoy.

***Note: although I read her blog daily, I have only attempted one of Luisa's recipes. During Meghan's last visit to Brooklyn (second to last visit, if you include that rushed dinner at Cafe Luxembourg a few weeks back) we made Testaccio's Gnocchi alla Romana. Despite looking nothing like the photo and tasting somewhat bland, it ended up being one of my better nights in this city. We squeezed the ghocchi assembly in between Up in the Air at BAM, a rushed trip to Whole Foods on the Bowery, and a few bottles of Olivino red. I should cook more, I really should.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

This Summer

This summer you will find me-- and those ding-dong friends of mine-- here. On Kate and Helen's patio on Avenue C, just past that massive weeping willow on 10th Street. We will be drinking Cava, listening to Paul Simon, and hoping that that guy in cut-offs crawls out the window again. Off to a good start, wouldn't you say?