Iran do Espírito Santo: Playground

October 3, 2013

Perched on the southern border of Central Park, Playground is a sculpture by Brazilian artist Iran do Espírito Santo. The work, a single piece of cast concrete, is incised to make it appear as though it was constructed of large blocks of stone, precariously stacked atop each other.

The artist describes Playground as a kind of “idealized ruin” and a metaphorical playground. Metaphor or not, the children (and many of the adults) who encounter Playground can’t resist climbing upon, and scrambling inside, the cool, inviting space.

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Public Art Fund
Designboom: Concrete Playground by Iran do Espírito Santo


Heydays in Bay Ridge

September 27, 2013

Some of the most charming works of art in New York City are hidden deep underground in subway stations.

The 86th Street Station in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, is the site of a mosaic entitled Heydays. The wall-sized work by Amy Bennett pays homage to the neighborhood’s bucolic past, depicting three family homes and a church with a tall steeple, all surrounded by grass, trees and a winding brick pathway.

A close look at the pieces of glass reveals numerous finely-crafted details including a man peering through binoculars, empty lounge chairs upon a balcony, an old woman leaning out of a window, an umbrella-topped picnic table, and a dog sitting on a wooden porch.

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MTA Arts for Transit and Urban Design
Amy Bennett
New York Magazine: Neighborhood Profile, Bay Ridge


The SCAR Project

November 5, 2011

It began when David Jay learned that a 29-year old friend had been diagnosed with breast cancer. A fashion photographer, Jay’s instinctive response was to take her picture. The result was what he called a “beautifully disturbing portrait.”

That photograph, which unflinchingly displayed both the woman’s beauty and her mastectomy scar, was the genesis of the SCAR Project. Jay went on to photograph dozens of women who underwent mastectomies while between the ages 18 and 35. All of his subjects courageously displayed what is usually hidden from the world: the devastating physical changes wrought by their disease.

The SCAR Project images have been gathered into a book (The SCAR Project), a DVD (The SCAR Project documentary), and a traveling exhibition, which is currently at the Openhouse Gallery in Soho.

The gallery has two levels. There is a folding chair near the front door. A few votive candles are burning, a lucite box holds printed guides to the exhibit, and a table, draped in white, displays a visitors’ book, the DVD and the Scar Project book. A glass container for donations is perched on a nearby ledge.

Otherwise, the space is empty. There is nothing to distract from the portraits, which are blown up to much larger than life-size and hang against stark white brick walls. Each photo has a label with the first name and initial of the woman pictured and the age at which her cancer was diagnosed.

The women in the photos gaze directly into the lens of the camera and reveal their disfiguring scars, discolored flesh, misshapen breasts, puckered skin. The images are shocking, moving, powerful and beautiful.

The printed guide contains statements from each of the women on display. It also reminds us that these should not be considered a collection of pictures of cancer survivors — some of the women involved in the SCAR Project have died.

One lost her battle with cancer before Jay was able to shoot her photo; the place where her portrait would have been displayed is marked by a large black rectangle. Another died only days before the exhibit opened; a vase of flowers was placed below her portrait.

Below are excerpts from the participants’ statements:

I am glad I didn’t listen to people who thought I was too young to get breast cancer. I listened to my body instead.

I thought about my body, and all that it has been through. It almost felt like my body did not belong to me, but to the medical community.

A scar that marks me, separates me. Makes me wonder if anyone could love me and not be scared of my death.

My breasts did not define me as a woman, and without them, I am still curvaceous, sexy, and confident.

I never thought I would do a project like this, but I never thought I would have a mastectomy.

It is about demystifying the physical scars left, and even celebrating them as war wounds from a heroic battle.

Cancer took many things from me, but the one thing I may never get over losing is my sense of security.

With my participation in the SCAR Project, I hope that other women will find comfort in these images knowing what to expect …. having our breasts removed doesn’t make us any less feminine and we are all still beautiful.

I stare into the eyes of my corpse. But I still feel, so I know I still live. And for life, for my life, I will continue to fight.

I … see it as something to leave this world after I’m gone. Something for my family to look at and never forget the fight that I fought for my life.

The SCAR Project has replaced a huge piece that was missing within me and I feel in control of my life again.

I’d love to see a beautiful photograph of something I find so ugly. Maybe if my scars were viewed as art it would help me to heal.

As part of the SCAR Project, I can “just be me”. No covering up or masking the truth. No pretending that everything is fine. Here I am. This is me now. This is my life.

I am a force of femininity to be reckoned with even without the organs that have come to define womanhood in our culture.

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The poster for the exhibit

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The gallery door

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View from the street

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Reading the guide on the upper level

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The lower level

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Looking at the black “portrait”

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The table and guest book

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Diagnosed at 17, she died shortly before the opening

The SCAR Project
The SCAR Project Exhibition
Utne Reader: The SCAR Project
Openhouse Gallery


Canon Expo 2010

September 2, 2010

Canon Expo is held once every five years to showcase the wide range of advanced imaging technologies from the Japan-based corporation’s divisions: Vision, Consumer and Home Office, Office Equipment Print Production and Graphic Arts, Professional Photography, Video and Projection, Broadcast and Communications and Healthcare Technologies.

The exhibit filled 150,000 square feet of the Jacob K. Javits Center on Manhattan’s West Side. Sections of the Expo were designed to replicate art galleries, research laboratories, theaters, printing plants, offices, stages, call centers, photographic studios, medical facilities, a football stadium, fashion shows, printing plants, a skating rink, stadiums and tourist attractions — the types of environments in which Canon products are frequently used.

Canon displayed items that are currently for sale as well as models and prototypes of gear that may be available in the future. One of the most interesting gadgets exhibited was the Cross Media Station, a device still in the planning stages. Simply by placing still or video cameras atop the Station, a user could wirelessly download, view and transmit images — even from multiple devices — while simultaneously recharging them. The designers of the Station were present to answer questions (via a translator) and aid with the demonstration.

A fascinating area dubbed the Canon Gallery displayed outstanding photos as well as the work of the Tsuzuri Project, joint effort of Canon and the Kyoto Culture Association. The Tsuzuri Project is designed to preserve Japan’s cultural heritage by employing the most advanced technology to create and print full-sized high-resolution digital images of screens, paintings and other precious fragile cultural artifacts. The near-perfect replicas are donated to the owners of the original works, who put them on display while placing the treasures themselves in a safe, controlled environments where they can be preserved for future generations.

In another section, physicians (yes, real, licensed ophthalmologists) operated equipment that scans the eye and instantly provides information about whether a patient has, or is developing, a range of serious medical conditions including diabetes, hypertension, glaucoma and macular degeneration.

I was delighted by the opportunity to use Canon’s professional-grade cameras and join the pack on mock-ups of a TV stage and a fashion show (first lesson: those professional cameras and lenses weigh a ton!), and I consulted with the product and technical geniuses about my next camera purchase. One of the most important features? It must be lightweight.

Towards the end of the day, a Canon rep who was answering my questions took me aside and, sotto voce, said, “I’m not supposed to talk about this, but …” He then told me about a camera that Canon is currently developing, noting that it will address just about everything on my “most-wanted feature list” and will be (almost) within my budget. I’m going to start putting my pennies aside for the camera that cannot say its name.

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The Expo’s slogan displayed on a wall

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Entering the Canon Expo

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Printing books on demand

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Attendees used HDTV cameras on the set

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In the Canon Gallery

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At the sports stadium

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A professional explains his techniques

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Model at the fashion show

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Model shot with Canon EOS 7D

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On the runway

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Model shot with the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III

Canon Expo 2010
PC Magazine: Canon Shows Off Concept Cameras at Expo
The Tsuzuri Project (Cultural Heritage Inheritance Project)
Canon Unveils The Future Of Imaging At Canon EXPO 2010 New York
MarketWatch: Canon Unveils the Future of Imaging


No more photos! No more photos!

September 1, 2010

“No more photos!,” cried the guard, waving his hand in front of my camera. “No more photos! The museum is closed! You go now!”

Well, not exactly closed, but almost. It was 5:20 and the Metropolitan Museum of Art was getting ready to shut its doors for the day. I was part of the throng heading towards the main entrance when the guard saw me pause at the entrance to the Greek and Roman galleries to snap a picture.

I responded to his excited command with a smile and a nod. I briskly moved forward again, keeping my camera in hand but concealing it from the guard’s gimlet eye.

As I hurried out of Greek and Roman, I captured this shot of a tourist inspecting the work known as Fragments of a marble statue of the Diadoumenos (youth tying a fillet around his head), ca. A.D. 69–96.

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Viewing a Roman statue

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art: Fragments of a marble statue of the Diadoumenos
Metropolitan Museum of Art: Greek and Roman Galleries
Metropolitan Museum of Art: Greek and Roman Art


The Last Word

August 16, 2010

In 2008, when the magnificent but crumbling 1887 synagogue on Eldridge Street was restored, it was renamed the Museum at Eldridge Street. Currently, on the lower level of the Museum, near the tiny gift shop, an odd structure stands against one wall.

Made of brown cardboard, it resembles a tall, rectangular honeycomb. Tightly rolled slips of white paper protrude from most of the cells and a nearby sign provides both an explanation and instructions.

There are always things left unsaid. The perfect ending to a conversation with a stranger. A clever comeback in a debate with a colleague at work. A farewell bid to a loved one. Missed opportunities to get in the last word. What do you wish you had said? Now is the time to say it.

Please feel free to remove a white-side out piece of paper and share your last word, returning it to the honeycomb with the red-side exposed. You may also read the last word of other participants, but please be sure to return all pieces of paper.

Here are some of the Last Words that were left in the cardboard chambers. Please excuse the poor quality of the photos; they were taken with my phone.

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The cardboard honeycomb

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Why does my mother still not know

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Your my sister!

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A farewell bid to Betsy

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Please forgive me

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I hate pie

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Boo freaking hoo

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All I want for my b-day

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I miss you very much

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Je souhaite tout le bonheur

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I wish we could have really talked

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Te estrano monita

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Thank you for everything you have done.

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I still dream about you

Museum at Eldridge Street
Museum at Eldridge Street: About
Museum at Eldridge Street: Blog
Illegal Art
NY Times: A Final Word


The Lorelei Fountain

July 26, 2010

At the corner of Grand Concourse and 161st street, directly across from the Bronx County Courthouse, stands a seven-acre patch of green known as Joyce Kilmer Park. Originally called  Concourse Plaza, in 1926 the park was renamed for Alfred Joyce Kilmer, an American poet who lived in New York City and was killed in action in France during World War I.

The highest point in the park is the setting of the Lorelei Fountain, which is dedicated to the memory of German poet Heinrich Heine and one of his most famous works, Die Lorelei. The poem tells the story of the Lorelai, a legendary siren with a magical voice who lures sailors to their deaths on the Rhine. At the foot of the white marble fountain is a large plaque which says:

The Heinrich Heine Fountain (also called the Lorelei Fountain) honors the German poet and writer (1797-1856) whose poem “Die Lorelei” immortalized the siren of romantic legend. The marble sculptural group depicts Lorelei seated on a rock in the Rhine River among mermaids, dolphins and seashells. The bas relief around the pedestal include a profile  of Heine as a result of a campaign by many German writers and scholars.

The sculptor Ernst Herter (1846 – 1917) was commissioned with the financial assistance  of Empress Elizabeth of Austria, to design the fountain in 1888 for the writer’s home city of Düsseldorf, which declined the monument on aesthetic as well as political grounds. The fountain was purchased by a committee of German-Americans in 1893 and dedicated in what was then known as Grand Concourse Plaza on July 8, 1899. It was moved to the park’s north end in 1940. In 1999 this monument was restored, relocated to its original location and placed in a newly landscaped setting in Joyce Kilmer Park.

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The view from below

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Approaching from the left

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A closer look

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The poet’s face is below the Lorelei

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From the right

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Rear view

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A mermaid reaches for Heine’s laurels

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Birds enjoying the fountain

NYC Department of Parks & Recreation: Joyce Kilmer Park
Forgotten New York
Dialog International: Heinrich Heine Takes New York


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