ETHEL at The Winter Garden

June 24, 2014

“Don’t Call It a string quartet. It’s a Band.”

— Steve Smith, The New York Times

If the words ‘string quartet’ conjure up an image of stuffy, somber classical music, then you haven’t met ETHEL.

ETHEL is a string quartet that incorporates elements of jazz, blues, folk, post-rock and
new-classical music in their performances, including improvisation, choreography, lighting, and video. While based in the traditions of classical music, ETHEL performs its original work as well as pieces by prominent contemporary composers, many of them written especially for the group.

ETHEL’s unconventional approach to the string quartet reflects the musical backgrounds of its members: in addition to leading orchestras, they have played and recorded with rockers Sheryl Crow, Roger Daltrey, Tom Verlaine, Thomas Dolby, Joe Jackson, David Byrne, Jill Sobule and Todd Rundgren.

Tonight the River to River Festival featured ETHEL and guest guitarist Kaki King in a performance of “…And Other Stories” in the Winter Garden Atrium at Brookfield Place.

The program included an interpretation of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #6 as well as works from ETHEL’s repertoire, original compositions by Kaki King and a rearrangement of Serbian composer Aleksandra Vrebalov’s Logbook.

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Ethel
Kaki King
ETHEL performs “…And Other Stories” with Kaki King at the River to River Festival
Facebook: ETHEL


Bang On a Can Marathon

June 22, 2014

Founded in 1987, Bang on a Can is an organization dedicated to bringing new music to new audiences. Based in New York, Bang on a Can performs, presents, and records diverse musical works worldwide.

They are best known for their annual Marathon Concerts, usually performed in the Winter Garden at Brookfield Place. During a Marathan, an eclectic mix of pieces are performed one after the other. Some audience members stay for the entire Marathon, while others feel free to wander in and out during a program that can last anywhere from 12 – 27 hours.

This year’s Marathon, held once again at the Winter Garden, lasted nearly 13 hours and included the following artists and compositions:

  • Great Noise Ensemble
    Armando Bayolo: Caprichos
    Carlos Carrillo: De la brevedad de la vida
  • Adrianna Mateo, violin
    Molly Joyce: Lean Back and Release
  • Great Noise Ensemble
    Marc Mellits: Machine V from 5 Machines
  • Bearthoven
    Brooks Frederickson: Undertoad
  • Anonymous 4
    David Lang: love fail (selections)
  • Dawn of Midi
    Amino Belyamani and Aakaash Israni: Excerpt from Dysnomia
  • Roomful of Teeth
    Judd Greenstein: AEIOU
    Caroline Shaw: Allemande and Sarabande from Partita for 8 Voices
  • Contemporaneous
    Andrew Norman: Try
  • Meredith Monk & Theo Bleckmann
    Meredith Monk: Facing North
  • Jherek Bischoff & Contemporaneous
    Jherek Bischoff: Works TBA
  • Meredith Monk, Theo Bleckmann, & friends
    Meredith Monk: Panda Chant II from The Games
  • Jace Clayton, electronics; David Friend, Emily Manzo, piano; Arooj Aftab, voice
    Julius Eastman and Jace Clayton: Julius Eastman Memorial Dinner
  • Bang on a Can All-Stars
    JG Thirlwell: Anabiosis
    Paula Matthusen: ontology of an echo
    Julia Wolfe: Big Beautiful Dark & Scary
  • So Percussion
    Bryce Dessner: Music for Wood and Strings
  • Bang on a Can All-Stars & friends
    Louis Andriessen: Hoketus
  • Mantra Percussion
    Michael Gordon: Timber

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Bang On a Can
Band On a Can Marathon
NY Times: Eight Hours of Free Music at Sunday’s Bang on a Can Marathon


The 21st Annual Hot Chocolate Festival

February 21, 2013

The holidays are over. The winter feels as though it will last forever. You long for an escape from the cold but you can’t leave the city.

In Manhattan, City Bakery has the solution. Every February, when the weather is at its bleakest, they host a  Hot Chocolate Festival. Now in its 21st year, the Festival celebrates the rich, creamy drink by featuring a different special flavor every day of the month. This year, the flavors range from Bourbon (February 8) to Vietnamese Cinnamon (February 10) to Creamy Stout (February 15th).

Today, I’m being a bit of a purist, with Darkest Dark Chocolate Hot Chocolate (so thick you can eat it with a spoon) topped with one of City Bakery’s home made marshmallows. And suddenly, February doesn’t seem long enough.

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The City Bakery
The City Bakery Hot Chocolate Festival


The Land Where St. Patrick Walked

March 17, 2011

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Avenue is the world’s biggest, noisiest, happiest celebration of Ireland and its patron saint. Between the dancing, drinking and green hair, it is easy for an observer to think that those who hail from “the land with 40 shades of green” have always been welcome and accepted here.

But the story of the Irish in New York has many a tragic side. Most terrible is the reason that so many Irish citizens arrived on our shores 150 years ago; they were fleeing the disaster known as An Gorta Mór (the Great Hunger). The devestation began in the late 1840s, when a virus attacked the potatoes planted in the fields of the land where St. Patrick had walked.

Cheap, filling, and easy to grow, potatoes were an essential source of nutrition for poor, rural Irish families. When the virus caused the potato plants to wither and their crops to fail, it wasn’t long before starvation set in.

The Great Hunger, also known as the Great Potato Famine, lasted from 1845 to 1852. During that period approximately one million Irish people died and two million more emigrated, many of them landing in New York Harbor. Now, in a quiet corner of Battery Park, near the spot where those desperate survivors arrived, stands the Irish Hunger Memorial.

Created by New York artist Brian Tolle, the memorial opened in 2002 on a quarter-acre of land shaped to resemble a burial mound cut from an Irish hillside. The base of the memorial is made of slabs of concrete interlaced with bands of plexiglass-covered metal bearing excerpts from reports, poems, songs, sermons and letters describing the desperation and destitution of the victims of the famine. These are intermingled with information about world hunger today.

After walking around the base, visitors walk through a short, dark corridor where recorded voices recite facts about the Hunger and emerge into a small atrium lined with stone walls. A dirt path winds up the hill past thirty-two massive stones, each marked with the name the Irish county that donated it, a roofless stone cottage, wildflowers and grasses, all imported from Ireland.

Every aspect of this small patch of land is significant and symbolic; even the size of the space reflects the Irish Poor Law of 1847, which denied relief to those living on land larger than a quarter of acre. Small, subtle and enormously moving, the Irish Hunger Memorial helps illuminate the wonderful, terrible history of the Irish in New York City.

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Approaching the memorial from West Street

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Closer to the entrance

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Plantings overhanging the concrete

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Through the entry corridor

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Words on the walls

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More quotations on the walls

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The words stretch on

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Climbing the hill

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The view from the top of the hill

CRG Gallery: Brian Tolle
The New York Times: A Memorial Remembers The Hungry
New York Magazine: Irish Hunger Memorial
NYC: Battery Park
Battery Park Conservancy


01.01.11

January 1, 2011

I wasn’t thinking about the significance of the date when I made an appointment for December 31 on the Upper East Side. It was only when I was en route that I realized that to reach my destination, I had to change trains at Times Square. It was still early in the day, but the place was already a madhouse.

When I got to my appointment, I sadly told the person I was meeting that my route had taken me through Times Square. She laughed and said, “Now I know you’re a real New Yorker! Only New Yorkers try to stay away from Times Square on New Year’s Eve — the tourists can’t wait to get there!”

She was, of course, correct, and as soon as our meeting concluded, I made a hasty retreat to Brooklyn, where I spotted this reveler on Montague Street. Happy new year!

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Woman celebrating the new year in Downtown Brooklyn


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


Seasons Greetings from the City of New York

December 25, 2009

This wreath is hanging above the plaza of the Manhattan Municipal Building, a magnificent limestone structure at the intersection of Chambers and Centre Streets, just north of the Brooklyn Bridge. Happy Holidays to you and yours from the City of New York.

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The view from Chambers Street

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A closer look at the wreath

The City of New York: Manhattan Municipal Building


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


Father’s Kingdom Plates

October 15, 2009

These memorable dishes are for sale in a discount store on Harlem’s 125th Street. Only $9.99 for a set of four. According to the package, they are called Father’s Kingdom plates and they come complete with wall hooks.

No, I didn’t buy them.

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Leaning right and left

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Assorted designs


A tile with a smile

August 15, 2009

It was late, I was tired, and I couldn’t wait to get back to Brooklyn. The last thing I wanted to do was descend into the hot, stagnant air of the Chambers Street subway station, but down I went.

As I walked along the platform, waiting for a train, I saw something completely unexpected: a lopsided little smile, carved into a tile. Perhaps the smile was created by a mischievous worker, perhaps by a bored commuter, but either way, it brought a smile to my face and made the night a little bit brighter.

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The tile

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The smile

Subway.Org: Chambers Street (IRT West Side Line)


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


I’m sick of seeing coq au vin

January 24, 2009

Whole Foods is an international chain of upscale supermarkets. Located in affluent areas and focusing on natural and organic items, the stores sell premium goods at premium prices; in fact, wags have dubbed the chain “whole paycheck.”

Whole Foods currently has five stores in New York City, all of them in Manhattan. The store in Union Square includes a message board where management replies to a selection of customer-submitted “rants and raves.” On a recent visit, I was struck by a complaint regarding the prepared foods section.

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The board

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The card

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The rant

Whole Foods
Whole Foods Union Square
New York Daily News: Whole Foods tries to shake ‘whole paycheck’ image
CNN Money: Whole Foods, The Whole Truth


A New Ball for a New Year

December 31, 2008

The tradition began on New Year’s Eve more than a century ago, when an iron and wooden ball covered with light bulbs was lowered from a flagpole at One Times Square.

Over the years the ball has been replaced several times, and tonight a new Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball is making its debut. The latest version is a 12 foot geodesic sphere, twice the size of previous balls, and weighs 11,875 pounds (5,386.5 kilos). The new ball is covered in 2,668 Waterford crystals and illuminated by 32,256 LEDs, giving it a palette of more than 16 million colors and the capability of producing billions of kaleidoscopic patterns.

In another first, the new ball will not be put into storage on New Year’s Day. Instead, the New Year’s Eve Ball will now remain on display at One Times Square all year round. Here is a sneak peek at some of the patterns and colors the ball will display tonight.

Have a happy new year!

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Times Square NYC: The Ball
Wikipedia: Times Square Ball


Trees in Lights on Fifth Avenue

December 26, 2008

The building at 575 Fifth Avenue is undergoing renovations and the facade is shrouded in plywood painted blue. However, despite the lack of windows and doorways, those responsible for the location managed to find a way to add a bit of adornment for the holidays.

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575 Fifth Avenue


Where a Girl Can Find a New Best Friend

December 15, 2008

A kiss on the hand
May be quite continental,
But diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

A kiss may be grand
But it won’t pay the rental
On your humble flat
Or help you at the automat.

Men grow cold
As girls grow old,
And we all lose our charms in the end.

But square-cut or pear-shaped,
These rocks don’t loose their shape.
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

–Jule Styne, 1953

Midtown Manhattan is home to the world’s largest shopping district for diamonds and fine jewelry. The quiet, elegant shops of Tiffany, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpel, Harry Winston, DeBeers, H. Stern, Bulgari, Mikimoto, Dunhill and Piaget are clustered in the area around 5th Avenue and 57th Street.

Ten blocks further south, on West 47th St between Fifth Avenue and the Avenue of the Americas, is an entirely different type of jewelry shopping experience. Over 90 percent of the diamonds that enter the United States go through New York City, and most of those spend some time on here, in the Diamond District.

The District, confined to a single city block, holds close to 3,000 jewelers, most of them working in booths within the marketplaces known as exchanges. Inside the exchanges, haggling is expected. The deals often involve great displays of emotion with buyers and sellers gesturing wildly and shouting in dozens of languages.

Out on the street, barkers stand outside the shops, urging passersby to enter and offering to buy unwanted gold, silver and platinum. Couriers rush along the sidewalks, briefcases holding fortunes in jewels handcuffed to their wrists. Rich and poor alike stop to gaze at the glittering windows, behind which, it is said, total receipts for a single day’s trade average $400 million.

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Banner on a lamppost

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Sign outside a diamond exchange

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Two diamond-topped pylons mark each end of the District

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Diamonds on holiday decorations

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Sign for a diamond exchange

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Shopper inspects a window

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Necklaces hang in a shop window

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Jewelry on display

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Window at a diamond exchange

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Sign at a diamond exchange

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Diamonds on an awning

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A row of diamond shops

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Window shoppers

The Diamond District
Reel Classics: Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend


It’s a Zoo in There!

December 9, 2008

Central Park has a wonderful zoo designed to teach children about wildlife and conservation. But the hours — especially during the winter — are short and the price of admission can be prohibitive.

Here’s an alternative to the zoo itself; the Fifth Avenue subway station, which is the station closest to the zoo, has brought some of the animals inside. No matter what the weather, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, you can duck underground and visit the cheerful mosaic animals created by artist Ann Schaumburger.

You can even pet these creatures. Just don’t try to feed them.

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Penguin family with three babies

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Penguin family with two babies

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Mother and child horses

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Snail family heading towards a stairway

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Mommy snail

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Family of butterfiles

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Butterfly close-up

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Monkey family

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Baby monkey holding onto Mommy’s belly

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Mommy and baby polar bears (click to see larger)

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A flock of parrots

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Parrots with purple torsos

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Closer view of parrot

Central Park Zoo
Chelsea Art Galleries: Ann Schaumburger


You have to have standars

December 3, 2008

I couldn’t help noticing the sign on this truck, which was parked at 41st Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Apparently, the business that owns the vehicle is committed to maintaining a certain “standar” of quality. Good thing they are builders and not publishers.

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Parked on 41st Street

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The Standar of Quality


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


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