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


Found Treasure

March 29, 2010

For more than 30 years now, sharp-eyed New Yorkers have been finding them on ledges, windowsills and store counters — poker-chip-size coins that reveal themselves to be something far more mysterious than loose change.

The inch-wide ceramic discs, painted in iridescent colors, have the rough, weathered feel of ancient treasure. Each is embossed with a short, cryptic message, a year and two humble letters: “bw.”

Those, it turns out, are the initials of Beriah Wall, a Brooklyn artist who estimates he has knocked out hundreds of thousands of these handmade tokens since the late 1970s, quietly dropping them in public places or the hands of bewildered strangers. His latest batch, minted over the last few months, carry the message “Stuck in Brkln.”

The article appeared in the New York Times a few weeks ago, and it left me feeling both somewhat awed by Beriah Wall’s creativity and a little bit miffed. After all, I’m a sharp-eyed New Yorker. I’ve been in Brooklyn for years.  Why haven’t I found — or at least spotted — one of Beriah Wall’s coins?

Of course, the city contains more than 8 million people and Wall has produced, at most, a few hundred thousand clay coins. Odds are that the majority of New Yorkers have never seen or even heard of his tiny artworks. Why should I expect to locate one? And with that, I forgot about the article. Until …

Yesterday I was walking near the entrance to the Clark Street subway station when I noticed something gleaming on a low, shallow window ledge. I thought it might be a metal button, perhaps even a large coin, so I paused and picked it up. It took a moment for me to recognize the object as something I’d recently read about: one of Beriah Wall’s token-like creations. A fragment was missing, chipped off at some point during its travels, but I tucked it securely into my pocket and am now enjoying this little found treasure.

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Coin-like treasure found on a window sill

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Reverse side of clay coin (note damage)

New York Times: Statements by an Artist, for the Palms of Strangers
Beriah Wall


Mysteries of Manhattan: The Painted Car

November 28, 2009

It was parked at the corner of Second Avenue and 27th Street. A big old Ford LTD Crown Victoria with taped up windows, dented fenders, smashed tail lights and rusted chrome. But really, on this vehicle, who would notice a few flaws?

Thickly covered with images, objects and phrases garnered from sports, politics, pop culture and fantasy, this is a car with a message. Or, perhaps, several messages. But what is it trying to tell us? Who created it? And why did he or she decide to paint a car rather than a wall or a canvas?

I have no idea. Guess I’ll just have to categorize it as another of Manhattan’s many mysteries.

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Left front corner

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Hood

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Right side

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Gas tank cover

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Tire

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Religious symbols and phrases

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Rear door

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Driver’s side window

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Broken tail light

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Rear window

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Trunk

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Rooftop collage


Flying Home: Harlem Heros and Heroines

November 9, 2009

Faith Ringgold is an award-winning artist, writer and teacher who was born and raised in New York City. In 1992, as part of the city’s Arts for Transit program, the Metropolitan Transit Authority commissioned her to create two thirty foot mosaic murals for the 125th street subway station platform — one of the busiest locations in Harlem.

The murals were inspired by a song by Lionel Hampton, Flying Home Harlem that Ringgold heard when she was a child. They depict iconic men, women and places that were influential in Harlem’s history.

“I love every one of these people,” Ringgold told the MTA. “I wanted to share those memories, to give the community – and others just passing through – a glimpse of all the wonderful people who were part of Harlem. I wanted them to realize what Harlem has produced and inspired.”

The mosaics were fabricated in a small town near Venice, Italy and installed at the stop for the 2 and 3 express in December 1996. On her Web site, Ringgold says, “When you are in New York, go to see them. And then have dinner at Sylvia’s, the famous soul food restaurant just a block away.”

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Mural in the 125th Street subway station

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The Harlem Opera House

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Madame C.J. Walker and her College of Hair Culture

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Abyssinian Baptist Church

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Billie Holiday

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The Ink Spots and the Apollo Theater

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Marian Anderson

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The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Council of Negro Women

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Jesse Owens and his Olympic gold medals

Faith Ringgold
Faith Ringgold’s blog
MTA Arts for Transit: 125th Street
Sylvia’s


Where Every Night is New Year’s Eve

July 6, 2009

While most of us have watched the Times Square New Year’s Eve celebrations on television, joining the festivities in person can be daunting. Those who manage to attend must pass through extensive security checkpoints, stand in the cold for hours, tolerate being crushed in an enormous crowd and having no access to public restrooms.

Fortunately, there is another way to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Times Square. In fact, you can join the festivities anytime, even in the middle of summer.

A series of mosaics entitled The Revelers was installed in the Times Square subway station in 2007. Created by Jane Dickson, the work is installed in several busy underground passages. It portrays 70 life-size partygoers boisterously welcoming in the New Year with hats, noisemakers and confetti.

They make it possible to join Times Square’s New Year’s Eve festivities every day — and night — of the year.

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Celebrating with the kids

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Laughing

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Revelers meet in a corner

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Kicking up their heels

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Holding the baby aloft

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Dressed in blue and red

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A hug to bring in the year

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With open arms

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A kiss for luck

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Tooting a horn

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Arm in arm

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In a green coat

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Holding a hat and noisemaker

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In a fancy hat and high heels

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Blowing into a noisemaker

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Holding a child’s hand

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Dancing

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In a red hat

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Jumping for joy

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In a miniskirt

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With a real kid

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On piggyback

Pace University: Professor Dickson’s ‘Revelers” Bring Party Underground
Harvard Magazine: Underground Party
Frequently Asked Questions about New Year’s Eve in Times Square


The 31st Annual Museum Mile Festival

June 9, 2009

There are two things I dislike about the Museum Mile Festival:

1) It happens only once a year.
2) It lasts only three hours.

There simply isn’t enough time to take in everything that happens during this event which stretches along Fifth Avenue from 82nd Street to 105th Street — 23 blocks offering nine museums (all providing free admission) along with concerts, clowns, jugglers, face painters, and arts and crafts projects.

In past years I’ve started at the lower end, near the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 82nd Street, and attempted to work my way up but never made it past the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum at 91st Street. This time I decided to start at the northern end of the festival, heading down from El Museo del Barrio at 105th Street.

Unlike the rest of the institutions on museum mile, El Museo does not have its own building. Instead, it is one of variety of Latino arts organizations housed in the massive, block-filling, neo-Georgian Heckscher Building at 1230 Fifth Avenue (other tenants include the Raíces Latin Music Museum Collection of Harbor Conservatory and La Casa de la Herencia Cultural Puertorriqueña).

Although El Museo is currently closed for renovations, the Latin-flavored music issuing from their loudspeakers inspired passersby to dance in the street. Inside the Heckscher Building, through corridors of worn linoleum and flickering florescent lights, they offered a mask-making workshop, a salsa jam session, and promises that they will reopen in the fall.

The next stop was across the street to the Museum of the City of New York, which is charged with a “unique mandate: to explore the past, present, and future of this fascinating and particular place and to celebrate its heritage of diversity, opportunity, and perpetual transformation. A variety of exhibitions, public programs, and publications all investigate what gives New York City its singular character.”

The current programs are tied to NY400: Holland on the Hudson, a celebration of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Dutch. In 1609 the Half Moon, guided by Captain Henry Hudson, landed on the shores of what is now New York City. Hudson’s arrival led to the establishment of New Amsterdam and the New Netherland colony.

This was my first visit to the museum and, while I was eager to rejoin the celebrations outside, I couldn’t drag myself away from the programs including exhibits about Manhattan before Hudson’s arrival, the Dutch city, and the acapella concert by the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus.

I kept checking my watch, thinking that I was missing the rest of the festival, but remaining unwilling to leave as I learned about the many Dutch influences that continue to touch our lives in New York City today. I lingered at a map that shows areas of the city with their original Dutch names: Breuckelen (Brooklyn), Vlackebos (Flatbush), Boswijck (Bushwick), Conijne Eylandt (Coney Island), Midwout (Midwood), Nieuw Utrecht (New Utrecht). I listened to recordings based on diaries and letters written by the Dutch colonists. I gazed at the rare artifacts, books, manuscripts, maps and globes.

I stayed until the museum was ready to lock its doors for the night. When I got back to the street, the festival was over. The street had reopened to traffic and a few stragglers were using discarded pieces of chalk to make their marks on the sidewalks and walls.

Perhaps next year I’ll take in more than one or two museums during the festival. Then again, perhaps not. Why rush to “get through” a good experience?

I once read a highly-recommended guide to Paris by Rick Steves which included instructions on how to see the Louvre Museum in less than an hour (maintain a brisk pace and glace at certain key works in case your friends back home ask what you thought of, say, the Mona Lisa). When I got to Paris I ditched the book and spent an entire day inside the Louvre, lingering after dark to watch the skateboarders clattering on the stairs and terraces above the Seine. The “in a hurry” crowd never knew what they missed.

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Dancing in the middle of Fifth Avenue

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Drawing in the street

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Another little artist

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Inside the Heckscher Building

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Jam session in El Museo del Barrio

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Viewing the NY400 exhibits

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Photographs of Dutch citizens

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Moving up and down the stairway

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Exploring the galleries

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A figure originally used to hold a compass on a ship

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Looking at Dutch photographs of New Yorkers

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A guide to Nieu-Nederlandt

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Viewing a video about New York history

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Map of New Amsterdam

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Inside the galleries

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The crowd straggles out of the Museum of the City of New York

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Writing on the walls with chalk

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Chalk message on a museum wall

Annual Museum Mile Festival
El Museo del Barrio
Museum of the City of New York
NY Times: Voyaging Up the Hudson to Rediscover the Dutch
NY400
New York City Gay Men’s Chorus


A Sign With a Picture of a Doorway

March 29, 2009

Sometimes I must leave the city, and this was one of those days. I headed to Pennsylvania Station to take a train but, due to a delay on the subway, I arrived a few minutes after it departed. With nearly an hour to wait until the next train, I passed the time exploring the enormous maze of floors and passageways.

While walking through one of the lower levels, I noticed a doorway crisscrossed with yards of yellow tape ominously marked “Police Line Do Not Cross.” I stepped closer and saw two paper notices fastened on and near the tape.

The both bore the same message: a notice to Amtrak employees telling them that the entryway was closed (apparently, the yards of tape weren’t enough of an indication) and that they should use another entrance. And, in case any Amtrak employees weren’t sure what an entrance was, both notices were helpfully illustrated with photographs of doorways. A pair of uniformed Amtrak workers strolled by while I was reading the signs, and we joked about management’s assessment of their intelligence (“I guess they figured if they didn’t put up a sign, we’d just walk through the tape.”).

I unpacked my camera and began to photograph the doorway. Suddenly, my lens was dark. I looked up and saw a large, red-faced man in a dark jacket who’d placed himself between the doorway and the camera. He demanded to know why I was taking a picture.

New York, as you probably know, has no shortage of crazies. I deal with them all the time, usually simply by putting as much distance between us as quickly as possible. This fellow, however, was already close enough to touch me. I felt I’d better say something, so I asked whether he had a problem with me taking pictures. He did, he said. I told him to get over it and, wanting to avoid a confrontation even more than I wanted the photo, I quickly walked away.

A few minutes later, I heard an announcement that my train was ready for boarding. I ran down the stairway, jumped on board, settled into a seat and began to read a magazine. Suddenly, I was aware that someone was standing over me.

I looked up and saw two police officers. They told me that they’d received a report and that I fit the description of the person involved. “Were you taking pictures in the station?,” asked one of the men. Yes, I was. “Can you tell me what compelled you take pictures?,” he asked.

Compelled? I didn’t feel compelled, I explained, I just thought it would make a good picture. I thought it was funny. They asked me to describe what happened and I did. They exchanged looks, then asked why I’d left the scene rather than talk to the man who’d approached me.

A horrible thought occurred to me. “Was he a cop?,” I asked. “He didn’t identify himself as a cop.” “No, he was no cop,” said the officer. “He works for Amtrak.” I explained that I’d left because thought he was a nut. Why would I stick around to talk to an angry nut?

The policemen asked more questions: why do I take photographs? What do I do with them? Just then, one of the officers glanced down at the magazine in my hands. It was a thick, glossy issue of Art in America. “Are you an artist?,” asked the policeman. I thought a moment, and decided that even though it is not the occupation I list on my tax returns, my photos are a kind of art. “Yes,” I replied.

“An artist,” he said. He turned to his partner and repeated the words. “An artist.” They both nodded. “Oh, well, you were taking the pictures for your art,” said the policeman. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”

They told me that the man who’d blocked my view should have identified himself, but since he had called the authorities and reported me, they were obligated to follow up and investigate.

We began to discuss art, photography and Brooklyn when we heard a signal — the train was about to depart. The officers hurriedly gave me their names, shook my hand, and, repeating the words, “You didn’t do anything wrong,” stepped onto the platform just before the doors slid shut.

Thanks, NYPD. Thanks, Art in America.

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The doorway

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The sign on the tape

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The sign beside the doorway

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Art in America magazine

Art in America
The Late, Great Pennsylvania Station
New York Architecture: Penn Station
Amtrak: Penn Station


No Parking … Anytime

January 5, 2009

I was walking past Brooklyn’s 10th Street when the signs on this garage and doorway commanded my attention. Believe me, I wouldn’t dream of parking there. In fact, I don’t even want to ring the bell or knock hard … anytime.

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The garage and doorway on 10th St.

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No parking … anytime

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Chow baby enj (?)

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All deliveries today ….. ring bell and knock. Knock hard.


Public Prayer Booths

November 13, 2008

On an excursion to the Upper East Side, I noticed what appeared to be — from a distance — a telephone booth. Sort of. But something about the booth seemed a little bit “off.”

I went closer to investigate and saw that it wasn’t a phone booth at all. A sign posted on the nearby fence explained that this was a sculpture called Public Prayer Booth by artist Dylan Mortimer and said that, “According to the artist, this work is meant to spark dialogue about how private faith functions within the public realm.” Constructed of aluminum, plastic and vinyl, it combines the ideas of a telephone booth and a prayer station and includes a padded, blue flip-down kneeler.

The Kansas City-based artist says, “My goal is to spark dialogue about a topic often avoided, and often treated cynically by the contemporary art world. I employ the visual language of signage and public information systems, using them as a contemporary form of older religious communication systems: stained glass, illuminated manuscripts, church furniture, etc. I balance humor and seriousness, sarcasm and sincerity, in a way that bridges a subject matter that is often presented as heavy or difficult.”

Two Prayer Booths are on display in Tramway Plaza (near the entrance to the Roosevelt Island Tram) until the end of this month.

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Booth near the entrance to the Roosevelt Island Tram

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The sign on the fence explains the work

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Instructions for using the kneeler

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Someone has slapped stickers on this booth

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Most people don’t seem to notice the booths

New York City Department of Parks & Recreation: Dylan Mortimer
Dylan Mortimer


The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill

October 30, 2008

This is the final week of the art installation known as The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill. Located in a former shop in Greenwich Village, the exhibit by secretive UK artist Banksy provides an original view of pets, food and the ways they intersect.

At first glace, it seems that the space is outfitted like a standard pet shop: the walls are lined with tanks and cages, rows of cat food and dog treats. But a closer look reveals that the Village Pet Store contains no live animals.

Instead, there are fish sticks swimming in a bowl, animatronic Chicken McNuggets dipping themselves into a cup of barbecue sauce, sausages wriggling beside a bowl of olives, a rabbit at a vanity applying makeup, and a rhesus monkey, remote control clutched in his paw, transfixed by a television program about gorillas.

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View from the street

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Sign in the front window

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Fish sticks swimming in a bowl

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Chicken McNuggets dip into cup of sauce

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Merchandise displayed on wall

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Menu above front windows

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Leopardskin coat lounging on a branch

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Sausages with toothpicks

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Sliced salami with bowl of olives

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Hot dog with bottle of mustard

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White rabbit with makeup

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Monkey watching television

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Monkey and observer

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Molting bird in a cage

The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill
NY Times: Where Fish Sticks Swim Free and Chicken Nuggets Self-Dip


Koons on the Roof

October 15, 2008

What to do on an unseasonably warm day? How about going up to the roof?

While nearly everyone knows that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has a vast and wonderful collection, fewer visitors are familiar with its roof garden. Opened to the public in 1987, the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden offers a spectacular view of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline and generally displays the work of a single artist.

The current show puts the spotlight on controversial American artist Jeff Koons, featuring three works that have never before been on public display. The sculptures, all created in the 1990s, are Sacred Heart, Balloon Dog (Yellow) and Coloring Book.

All three pieces are made of high chromium stainless steel with transparent color coating and are set in the dazzlingly dramatic space atop the museum. If you can go on a sunny day, do it. Weather permitting, the exhibit will be on display through October 26, 2008.

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Sign and brochures near the elevator to the roof

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The group on the roof

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Work entitled Balloon Dog

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It is called Sacred Heart

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Tourists taking photos of themselves beside Sacred Heart

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The title is Coloring Book

Metropolitan Museum of Art: Jeff Koons on the Roof
Jeff Koons


OHNY: Tom Otterness’s Studio

October 4, 2008

Once again, the organization known as Open House New York has planned a weekend-long celebration of the city’s architectural wonders. Places that are normally off-limits (or at least, very difficult for most people to enter) throw open their doors and allow curious visitors inside.

This is the sixth year of Open House New York Weekend, and each year the number of people and places participating grows. While many sites allow visitors to wander in and out, quite a few require advance reservations. Spaces are few and they fill up quickly, so I considered myself extremely fortunate to nab a spot on the visit to Tom Otterness’s studio.

It would be fair to call Tom Otterness New York’s favorite sculptor. While his name might not be familiar, his work is displayed in public and private spaces around the city. Depending on your point of view, you might consider them whimsical or political, witty or simplistic.

In Manhattan, many of his cartoon-like figures, particularly those in the 14th Street subway station, have been embraced and fondled by so many admirers that their dull finish has become a polished gleam. They also scamper around the Hilton Hotel in Times Square, public schools and parks in Manhattan and a children’s hospital in the Bronx. In Brooklyn, his depiction of an alligator escaping from a sewer is a centerpiece of the MetroTech business complex.

Today, he began greeting visitors to his cavernous Brooklyn studio shortly after 10:00 a.m. The artist showed works in progress, projects still in the planning stages, commissions that were cancelled and completed sculptures. He fielded questions, explained his creative process from initial clay model to finished bronze, sold miniatures and posters of his work, signed autographs and posed for photos with admirers.

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Works at different stages

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Plaster caked clamps on a studio wall

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Sketches and model

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Boy inspecting statue

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A corner is filled with work by friends, this by John Ahearn

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Tom Otterness speaks to OHNY participants

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Rendering of a public project

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Drawings and model for playground

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Castings in progress

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Vistor and plaster cast

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Model of the balloon he created for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

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Small figures and pennies are recurring themes

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Otterness’s Frog and Bee at NYC’s Public School 234

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Otterness’s alligator coming out of a sewer at Brooklyn MetroTech

Open House New York
Tom Otterness


Art In-Site on Governors Island

September 20, 2008

Governors Island is slowly being transformed from an abandoned military base to a public arts and recreation center. Many of the old houses have been stabilized and are open to visitors who can walk freely through their empty, echoing rooms.

The Sculptors Guild has organized a large 70th anniversary exhibition on the island, with works displayed out of doors and inside one of the recently restored and reopened buildings. The show, called In-Site, will close on October 1 and the island closes for the season on October 5.

If you have the time to go, take one of the free ferries from Lower Manhattan; they go to Governors Island every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Don’t miss the boat or you’ll have to wait until next year.

By the way … I wasn’t able to match up all of the works I saw with their creators. If you can identify the sculptors, please let me know.

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Wooden sculpture by Beth Morrison

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Sculpture on Governors Island by Renata Schwebel

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Sculpture by Judith Steinberg

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Sculpture on Governors Island by Mary Ellen Scherl

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Sculpture made from shingles by Lucy Hodgson

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Bench by Steven Ceraso & John Fekner

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Work by Anti Liu

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By Jerelyn Hanrahan

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Work by Rune Olsen

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Mummy’s Desire by Katja Jakobsen

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Work by Jeremy Comins

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Sculpture by Mary Judge

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Work by Rick Briggs

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Woman by Lloyd Glasson

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Doorway by Julie Tesser

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Sculpture by Patricia Anne Mandel

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Man by Stephanie Rocknak

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Sculpture

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Wooden bust

The Sculptors Guild
New York State: Governors Island
National Park Service: Governors Island


A Stray Dog in the Park

August 29, 2008

There is is, right near the lamp post, a dog standing all by himself. When you get closer, you can see by the harness he wears that he is a service dog, trained to help his disabled owner. But … where is the owner? And why isn’t the dog moving?

This is Stray Dog by New York-based sculptor Tony Matelli. Lifelike and life-sized, created in resin, he stands beside the park at Brooklyn MetroTech center, baffling and delighting those who spot him and attempt to come to his rescue.

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Stray Dog

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Stray Dog from another angle

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Stray Dog by Tony Matelli

Brooklyn MetroTech
New York Times: A Fertile Garden Of Sculptures
Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design: Tony Matelli


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