Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Children's Museum of Art: Maps inside out

Yesterday the girls had off school for Eid Al-fitr (Muslim holiday to celebrate end of Ramadan fasting.) You gotta love religious diversity if you grow up in New York schools. I only got Christian holidays growing up in Kansas. To celebrate in our own way we decided to make a list of all the amazing things we saw and did. I told the girls to be on the look out. Here's what we found:

1. For breakfast we ate an unknown but delicious fruit/vegetable that we found in the secret garden yesterday. It was reddish-yellow and round in shape, like a small squash. But it didn't taste anything like a squash. It had a semi-hard skin on outside and inside the texture and crisp taste of cucumber, but tangier, like a cucumber/tomato hybrid. Perfect with a little salt.

2. Sofia was coloring in an outline of Van Gogh's Starry Night when the same image came on as Mister Rogers' "picture picture" (as Sofia calls it.) The first season of Mister Rogers is now playing on Netflix as of this month. I'm floored at how good it is, much better than I remember. Yesterday we noticed that the picture on his wall, the one that slides back to reveal the Neighborhood of Make-believe, is different every day. So it was amazing to Sofia to be working on Starry Night and then see it appear on Mister Rogers wall.

3. Stars on a starling's wings. Walking to the 7 train we saw a Starling. I pointed out to the girls that you could tell it was a starling because there was a constellation of iridescent stars on its black wings.

4. On the way to the 7 train we opened up the Free Library (a re-purposed newspaper stand on Queens BLVD.) There was no book. But there was a torn off back cover of a book showing cow jumping over a new moon, amidst a sea of stars.

5. On the 7 train we sat next to a woman in her early 20s, wearing glasses, a black dress with a floral pattern on it and reading To Kill A Mockingbird. I asked her if it was the first time reading the novel. She said she was reading it again in preparation for reading the "new" Harper Lee novel, Go Set A Watchman. She said it was so good reading it the second time. We talked about things we had enjoyed as children that held up and got better with age. Like Mister Rogers. She said Lemony Snicket held up for her. And the TV show Wishbone. She also recommended the children's theater Ta Da!

6. At the Times Square Metro station we saw a tile mural in which a gentleman was handing a woman a fruit/vegetable that looked suspiciously like the mystery one we had eaten for breakfast. Sofia said the woman was looking at the man like, "Really? For me? I can't believe it!"

7. Once we got to the 1 train we saw another tile mural, by a different artist. This one was sea turtles swimming through a subway station. I told the girls that's what it would be like if Manhattan was underwater. She asked what the art was trying to say. I told her I thought it might be saying that life goes on, even if everything is underwater.

8. Lucia said she noticed something amazing. I asked her what and she said, "the wind blowing her dress up."

9. I got into a conversation at CMA (Children's Museum of Arts, our destination) with one of the staff, Annie Moor, as the kids were making art. At one point, during a pause in the conversation, she started singing Patsy Cline's "Walkin' After Midnight." I got chills that went all the way down to my marrow. It was so beautiful, what I imagine the song would sound like if Billie Holiday sang it.

Meanwhile Lucia painted

10. Annie Moor suggested a podcast to me that she was involved in called We Love Bedtime Stories, wherein actors play out stories told by actual parents to kids. Definitely going to check that out.

Sofia painted

11. Another mother that was sitting next to us overheard the conversation, one thing lead to another and she was recommending the Smithsonian Folkways recording of Lord Invader, Calypso In New York. Lord Invader? Calypso music? Gotta be great.

Meanwhile funhouse mirror

12. One of the great things about CMA is the ball pit, a room full of giant exercise balls, one of the girls' favorite places to play in the world. I asked the girls if they were ready to go up there and jump around and a boy, about 8 or 9, said that the balls were gone for this month and had been replaced by scary chairs. I asked him why they were scary and he said, "You'll see!" So we went up to see. The chairs were giant toys that you could sit in and spin around like a top. They toppled easily and a few kids did get hurt. But the danger was part of the fun and the laughter of girls playing on them for over an hour was, indeed, amazing.

13. Sofia wanted to make a painting, but couldn't find paper. A grandma overheard and said that they had brought their own paper and offered Sofia a piece. Sofia made a lovely splatter painting (see below) and then gave it to the woman as a gift for having given her the paper. Very sweet.

14. Lucia painted one of her little people. When we went back to pick it up one of the staff showed me that she had copied Lucia's drawing because she liked it so much. I liked her version, but she still had a way to go to reach Lucia's mastery.

15. Jil Weinstock, who does the curating of the gallery section of CMA, does a stellar job. The last two themed shows I've seen there, "Far Away" and "Pixilated," were both outstanding, and this one, "If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home," which had the theme of mapping, was equally amazing. Hat's off.

16. We stopped to eat a snack at James J Walker Park, on the way back to the 1 train . There was a co-ed softball game happening. It seemed pretty amazing to me to be watching a softball game in the middle of Lower West Side Manhattan on a Thursday afternoon.

17. As we were watching the game I asked Sofia if there was anything else today I should mention for our list, and she said the apple cinnamon rice cakes we were eating for a snack were pretty amazing.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Brooklyn Museum: Basquiat/ Faile/ Sneakers

    Lobby of the Brooklyn Museum. Girls dwarfed by their avatars.

We started the day out with lunch at Prospect Park. These snake handles slithering into potted flowers greeted us at the gate.

So many good trees to eat lunch under...

These twin girls joined us for some summertime leaf collecting.

This was our view. You can see the playground we are heading to after lunch on the left, made from all repurposed wood from hurricane Sandy destruction and turned into playground toys.

Now at the playground, at a water pump fountain. The girls could have stayed here all day.

On the way to the museum we stopped by the Brooklyn children's library.

First stop at the Brooklyn Museum is the Faile exhibit. I had never heard of Faile but it was incredible. Old broken down ruins give it an ancient feel, as if the present were long past.

But then you enter the arcade, and there are dozens of re-purposed pinball and video games. All of them playable, with a specific cultural critique.

This one was pure design manipulation.

Here you wield spray paint and tag a wall. Then the po-po comes and you have to get away.

This re-purposed driving game was one of my favorites. You drive a pixie stick and suck up all the pixie dust being dropped by a fairy. The game was called Camino De Dolor. The girls enjoy the game without understanding the irony supplied by the title.

After spending an hour playing video games we checked out the sneaker show. This was my favorite pair. One size fits ONE. A black man runs and a nation follows him.

Then onto the Basquiat:

This was a show of his notebooks, mostly, which were intimate and yet with a sense of the public gaze already in them.

I love this text on translating. A good example of his poetic prowess. It took me a while to decipher the last couple lines. "Tight\ I'm a spring bouncing." The hand-writing has loosened up and looks like a spring bouncing!

Painful this one, since less than a year later he did step down.

"It all depends on who you are on what street. Podium scaling his way to a bed."

Portrait of the artist's mind

Love this notebook page...

Spotted this Brooklyn ephemera on the way home. Nice color scheme.

The sweet potato monsters I made for the girls for dinner have a little Basquiat influence.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Whitney: floors 8, 5, 3 and 1

This Edward Hopper is from the original Whitney collection, on the 1st floor of the new building, and has probably the biggest aura in the room. We talked for awhile about composition and its effects using this painting as an example.

Each floor of the Met is broken up in chapters, this one, on the 8th, is all about visualizing music, so we talked about synesthesia.

We tried to imagine what this painting "sounds" like. When I told Sofia this painting could be thought of as music for the eye, she said that it looked like an eye. And I saw a figure, perhaps the Virgin Mary in the blue space with a parti-colored robe.

We loved this painting by Agnes Pelton and spent some time making up a story for it. It is Selena's wedding night. (Selena the swan, from EB White's novel that we just finished, Sofia's first chapter book, The Trumpet of the Swan.)

This one by Stanton Macdonald-Wright caught our eye too. We eventually found figures in the painting and decided this was the inner life, the inner aura of the scene.

This great study in natural patterns was benefited by reading the title, Cricket Chorus in the Arbor, and description. See below.

I've been seeing the Esso gas pump a lot lately in different art works, so it was interesting to find this abstract version. The girls have a replica of the Calder mobile in the background in their bedroom, so that helped bring it all home. You can see Sofia is too busy making art herself to care. And Lucia has fallen asleep. Later I put on that new band with the great name, Sylvan Esso, for her. 

I love this work by Paul Chan, essentially (a projection of) light streaming through a window sill onto the floor. But it is really a small movie and eventually things start rising in the air like cellphones and eyeglasses, then cars and buses, then people start falling from the sky. The rapture in reverse. I felt free when everything started rising up (no more smart phones!) and then grounded again when the people started falling. The hand shadow in this detail is mine.

Here's Sofia in front of an Ed Ruscha. Another good painting with which to talk about composition.

Pixilated clouds

Real clouds

Love the pool of light in the sea

This almost made me cry, because it reminded me of Warhol's Marilyn on a white disc, which in turn reminds me of seeing Marilyn in the moon during a "trip" with my friend Mikhal, something I can still see today when I look at a full moon.

This performance on the 3rd floor was a surprise, mixing live music, poetry, weird electronic looping, tarot card reading, and images. In this image a confederate flag is morphing into African-American Confederate soldiers. A stark reminder of the ugly remainder of racism.

All told a good day at the races. Thanks Whitney!