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.

Stray Dog

Stray Dog from another angle

Stray Dog by Tony Matelli

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

He went away without me

August 24, 2008

I’m so sad. I dropped in to see an old pal and found that he’d gone on vacation without telling me — or inviting me to come along. My only notification was a small sign he’d left at the door.

OK, actually, the sign is posted in the main branch of the New York Public Library in front of the room that has contained, among other treasures, the original Winnie the Pooh bear (the one that inspired the stories, films, cartoons and toys), his pals Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga, and Tigger, and a copy of the Gutenberg Bible.

The room is now closed for renovations and the lovely people at the information desk have assured me that Winnie will soon be back in a new location. When makes his next public appearance, he will be residing in the new children’s division of the library.


Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
Winnie the Pooh at the New York Public Library
Gutenberg Bible at the New York Public Library

Rector Gate

June 17, 2008

More from the archive.

Several large pieces of public art are installed along the Esplanade in Battery Park City, where they stand under the watchful eyes of the doormen at the surrounding luxury apartment buildings. If you go to see the installations, you should expect the uniformed men to scrutinize you carefully, as they consider the art to be “theirs.”

This one, Rector Gate, forms a 50 foot high archway at the intersection of Rector Place and the Esplanade. Built by R.M. Fischer in 1989, Rector Gate is made of stainless steel, bronze, and granite and is illuminated at night. The artist is said to have drawn his inspiration from the past and future and included elements from skyscrapers and science fiction.

The gate

The sides look like enormous cheese graters

From here, you can see across the Hudson River

The top seems to be a combination radio tower, weather vane & weapon

Looking through the gate to New Jersey

Top of the sculpture

Looking up

Birds have built nests in the light fixture

Battery Park City
Rector Gate
Sandra Gering Gallery: R.M. Fisher
Culture Now: Battery Park City Map

Post-Bang with Lynda Barry

June 6, 2008

Author, teacher, humorist, cartoonist, muse, Lynda Barry is an American original. She is brilliant, creative, dedicated and inspirational, yet somehow the fame and fortune (especially the fortune) she deserves have managed to elude her.

Instead of being a household name, she is more of a cult figure. While a devoted fanbase worships her every jot and scribble, she still struggles to have her work published and derives most of her income by selling sketches on eBay.

Tonight, Lynda spoke as part of Post Bang: Comics Ten Minutes After the Big Bang!, a symposium on the growing cultural significance of comics sponsored by New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU with the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA). This was a serious academic event which described Lynda’s appearance thusly: “Harvard scholar Hillary Chute in conversation with one of the country’s foremost alternative cartoonists, LYNDA BARRY (Ernie Pook’s Comeek, The Good Times are Killing Me, What It Is).”

I’ll never understand why Americans think nothing of paying $5 for a fancy cup of coffee that lasts only a few minutes, or $100 for a pair of sneakers that will wear out in a few months, yet balk at paying $20 for a book that is sheer genius and will last a lifetime. C’mon, give the red-headed lady some respect.

If you have any interest at all in creativity, writing, conquering the internal demons that prevent you from telling your stories or learning how to be your own muse, please buy (or at least read) What it Is.

What it Is

Lynda Barry

What It Is
Lynda Barry’s shop on eBay
Marlys Magazine
Post Bang: Comics Ten Minutes After the Big Bang!
Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA)
Drawn and Quarterly publishers
NY Times: How to Think Like a Surreal Cartoonist
My Shrine to Lynda Barry
National Public Radio (NPR): Lynda Barry on What it Is
Salon: Lynda Barry, Barefoot on the Shag

Selling Toilet Paper

May 31, 2008

Today was the opening of the “What’s the Hook” exhibit at the Kentler Gallery. The photo I submitted to the show, entitled Keeping the Toilet Paper Safe, was sold before the opening.

Keeping the toilet paper safe

Kentler Gallery
Kentler Gallery: About

Looking forward, looking back

May 19, 2008

Well, it looks as though I have to buy a camera. The repair shop examined the one I broke and gave me the bad news: fixing my old camera will cost about as much as purchasing a new one.

I haven’t shopped for a camera in years, and I do have a rather small budget, so I think I’ll have to do a lot of research and investigation. Do you have any ideas about the current crop of cameras? Any and all suggestions and advice are welcome.

In the meantime, until I have another camera in my life, I’ll be posting older images that for one reason or another never appeared in this blog.

This photo was taken last summer. It shows a mural entitled “Red Hook Works,” which is painted on the side of a brick building on Van Brunt Street in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn.

Red Hook Works


May 6, 2008

Did you ever look at something displayed in a gallery or museum and wondered why on earth the experts had chosen to show that? Ever think you could do a better job of selecting works worth displaying?

Well, now you can. Yes, you, too, can judge an art show in a major museum.

Here’s the deal: the Brooklyn Museum, the second largest art museum in New York (and one of the largest in the country) is holding a new photography show that allows the public to participate in the exhibition process.

The exhibit, entitled Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition, was inspired by a book, The Wisdom of Crowds, which says that a diverse crowd often makes wiser decisions than those made by the so-called experts.

For Click!, anyone who is interested can go to the museum’s Web site and, until May 23, rate how well the photographs reflect the theme: The Changing Faces of Brooklyn. The crowd’s ratings will determine which photos will be exhibited at the museum and how they will be displayed.

Um, yes, in case you are wondering, I did submit a photo and no, I cannot link to it on the museum’s site.

From the museum’s Web site:

What do you mean by “the changing faces of Brooklyn”?
Brooklyn, like most of New York City, is in a constant state of change. Population growth and environmental causes have altered the borough’s terrain, transforming commercial and residential areas and impacting the borough’s residents and activity. Considering Brooklyn’s transformation over the years, its past and its present, please submit a photograph that captures the “changing face(s) of Brooklyn.” We welcome a wide variety of visual interpretations of this topic.

Who is on the jury?
Anyone and everyone! We are asking as many people as possible to evaluate submissions. In crowd theory, it’s important that the crowd be diverse, so we encourage people from all backgrounds and geographic locations to participate.

Why can’t I send a link to a friend and tell them to vote for my work?
We don’t allow linking directly to works to avoid having the results skewed by promotional methods. Your work will be displayed without attribution [my name doesn’t appear], and all evaluation data will be withheld until the exhibition in June. Although you can’t send a direct link to your work, we want you to encourage friends, family, and colleagues to participate in the evaluation process. Please help us spread the word.

Want to give it a try? Start here: Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition and register on the museum’s Web site. The rating period ends May 23, 2008.

PS: If you do come across my photo (below) I’d appreciate a good rating. Have fun!

Legalizacion Para Todos Los Inmigrantes
Legalizacion Para Todos Los Inmigrantes

Brooklyn Museum: Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition
Brooklyn Museum: Click! exhibit blog
TechCrunch: The Brooklyn Museum Lets the Crowd Curate a Show
Museum 2.0: Brooklyn Clicks with the Crowd: What Makes a Smart Mob?


April 28, 2008

My camera fell and broke.

It wasn’t a big fall, only the distance from a chair seat to the floor, but I guess it was enough to kill it.

I’ll take it to a repair shop, but I’m afraid they won’t have good news.

What’ll I do with no camera?


April 27, 2008

Recently, the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art held an innovative exhibition called blog.mode: addressing fashion. The ideas behind the show, which closed on April 13, were that (1) fashion is a living art form and, like all art, open to multiple interpretations and (2) it is important to promote critical and creative dialogues about fashion.

The exhibition included forty costumes and accessories that were recently acquired by the Met, and visitors were encouraged to share their reactions using computers set up in the Costume Institute galleries. You can see all of the clothes, and read comments on the exhibit blog (sadly, comments can no longer be added) by clicking the links below.

These are some of my favorites from the show, where the question wasn’t “Is it attractive?” or “Would I wear that?” (after all, most of these things were never intended for everyday wear) but rather “What does that garment say?”

Entrance — the Costume Institute is on the lower level.

Long dress

Gray constructed dresses

Pleated dresses

Three white dresses

Pink gown

Pink shoe

Blog.mode: Introduction
Metropolitan Museum of Art: Blog.mode Exhibit

The Upper Room

March 30, 2008

Until the 1960s, this section of Lower Manhattan was the site of struggling small businesses, busy commuter ferry docks and dilapidated shipping piers. When the World Trade Center was being built, more than one million cubic yards of earth and rocks were excavated, moved across West Street and dumped here to create 92 acres of landfill. The newly-created area became a massive business and residential development known as Battery Park City.

The most attractive features of this prosperous planned community are the small harbor and 70 foot wide Esplanade along the Hudson River. The riverfront walkway contains rows of trees, beds of shrubbery, low iron fences, benches, lampposts and several significant pieces of public art.

If you were to walk south from the World Financial Center Plaza (about mid-point along the Esplanade), you’d soon come to the Upper Room. Created by Ned Smyth in 1987, the Upper Room stands at the corner where Albany Street meets the Esplanade.

In summer, when temperatures soar, the Upper Room will be shaded by nearby trees and filled with visitors. Early spring, before the branches burst into bloom, is the perfect time to see the Middle East-inspired details of this red-hued colonnaded court built of pebbled concrete, bluestone, brass and mosaic.

View from the Esplanade

The still-bare branches of the trees

The view from Albany Street

Looking toward the Hudson River

Detail of bench

Detail of mosaic

Battery Park City
The Upper Room
Battery Park City Parks Conservancy: Parks & Playgrounds
Culture Now: Battery Park City Map

Signs of Life in the Subway

February 5, 2008

The Metropolitan/Lorimer Street subway station features Signs of Life, a series of mosaics by Taiwan-born artist Jackie Chang. The project, completed in the year 2000, was commissioned by the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority. It brings a much-needed touch of wit and beauty to an otherwise dingy underground section of Brooklyn.

Faith Fate
Faith – Fate

Same Sane
Same – Sane

History Your Story
History: Your Story

Use Less
Use Less

MTA: Permanent Art
Dephography: Jackie Chang
NYC Subway: Artwork
Art in Context: Jackie Chang

Grand Central Kaleidoscope Light Show

December 24, 2007

Today, Grand Central Terminal will be packed with those travelling home for the holidays. Although the train station will be crowded, the travellers’ waiting time will be made less painful by a spectacular, free holiday sound and light show called Kaleidoscope.

Every half hour, from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., tourists and commuters watch as the marble walls and painted ceiling of the main concourse are washed with choreographed audiovisual effects. If you want to see the show in person, you’ll have to hurry; it ends on New Year’s day.

Here are a few images from the show, along with happy holiday wishes from Blather in Brooklyn.

The main entrance to the station

Suddenly, the music starts and the walls begin to change color

A traveller stops in his tracks to watch the show

Patterns cover the pale marble walls

The music swells and images of fireworks appear

The lights cover every surface

Twinkling stars are projected onto the ceiling

Grand Central Terminal


October 21, 2007

It is time once again for the Annual Gowanus Artists Studio Tour (A.G.A.S.T.), a weekend when visitors are welcomed in many of the art studios in the area around the Gowanus Canal.

The Gowanus Canal is one of Brooklyn’s most notorious neighborhoods. Built to connect a marshy inland area of South Brooklyn with New York Bay, the canal was intended to serve two purposes: draining the land (thus enabling development) and serving the transportation needs of a rapidly growing industrial region. When it opened in the 1860s, the Gowanus was hailed as one of the world’s most important waterways.

Unfortunately, the factories, mills, tanneries, slaughterhouses, gas plants and coal yards that stood alongside the Canal produced great quantities of toxic materials, most of which were dumped directly into the water. There, the industrial pollutants mingled with the raw sewage and household waste discharged from the nearby worker’s homes. 

Due to a lack of sanitary methods and sound management practices, the canal rapidly became stagnant and poisonous. By the time of the outbreak of World War II, it had gained fame as one of the world’s dirtiest bodies of water, a foul, opaque pool locally referred to as “Lavender Lake.” The filthy passageway was renowned both for the stench that rose from its depths and the debris, including corpses, that often rose to the surface.

In recent decades, governmental agencies, technological developments and community activists have combined forces to improve the quality of the water. Their efforts are bearing fruit, as the waterway is widely acknowledged as “stinking a lot less.”

Many of the large commercial buildings and warehouses along the canal, no longer needed to support the much-diminished shipping industry, have been converted into residences, shops, restaurants, bars and — most notably — scores of artists’ studios. 

This weekend, more than 130 of the visual artists in 26 different Gowanus-area locations invited the public into their studios, free of charge. Visitors were able to meet with painters, sculptors, photographers, printmakers, glassblowers, videographers and others in their working environments and gain insight into their creative philosophies and processes.

Banner on Smith Street across from subway entrance

Corridor in building with many studios

Tamara Thomsen speaking with young visitors

Visitors discussing a painting

This artist keeps a photo of his grandmother in the studio

Artist and her mother greet visitors

Daniel McDonald speaking to an admirer

Wall of Curtis Wallin

Couple falling in love with a painting

Large canvas propped up in corridor

Pop gun

AGAST Brooklyn
Curtis Wallin
Tamara Thomsen
Ernest Concepcion
A.J. Mascena
Annie Leist
Kathleen Collins
Kathryne Hall
Hilary Lorenz
Dave Marin
Rachel Zindler
Daniel McDonald
Joshua Dov Levy
Ilan N. Jacobsohn
Lavender Lake

A Trip at the Whitney Museum

September 14, 2007

All summer long, I heard about the Summer of Love exhibit at the Whitney Museum.

Four decades after hippies gathered at a “Human-Be-In” in Golden Gate Park, the Grateful Dead released their first album and LSD was outlawed in the US, the Whitney Museum of American Art revisited this period of psychedellia, flower power and civil unrest, examined the creative and cultural explosion that took place in San Francisco, New York and London, and put it all into an historic context.

All summer long, I met former hippies and wannabees who assured me that the exhibit was “far-out, man,” and an authentic representation of their drug-soaked youth (at least, as far as they could remember).

And all summer long, I thought I’d eventually get around to making a trip to the Madison Avenue and seeing the show. Then, suddenly, I realized that this was the closing weekend.

I ran to the Whitney and spent the evening in psychedellic bliss, gazing at the intricately-drawn concert posters, watching the light shows, viewing “mind-blowing” experimental films, wearing goggles intended to create distorted visions, crawling through brightly-colored, sculpted environments, blinking at the strobe lights and spinning metal circles and listening to Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead.

Listening? Yes, this is the first major museum show I’ve seen where the audiotour included a complete soundtrack, with songs tied to most of the major works. For example, stand in front of the case full of underground magazines, push the number posted on the wall and you’d listen to Bob Dylan singing Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin’ ship / My senses have been stripped, my hands can’t feel to grip / My toes too numb to step / Wait only for my boot heels to be wanderin‘.

The program’s musical selections included:

* The 13th Floor Elevators – You’re Gonna Miss Me
* The Beatles – All You Need Is Love
* The Beatles – Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
* The Beatles – Revolution No. 9
* Big Brother &Amp; The Holding Company: Piece Of My Heart
* Eric Burdon – San Franciscan Nights
* Butterfield Blues Band – East-West
* The Byrds – So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star
* The Charlatans – Baby Won’t You Tell Me
* Chicago – Someday
* Country Joe & the Fish – Acid Commercial
* Country Joe & the Fish – Bass Strings
* Cream – Crossroads
* Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young – Ohio
* The Doors – Break On Through
* Bob Dylan – Mr. Tamourine Man
* Fleur Des Lys – Circles
* The Fugs – Kill For Peace
* Allen Ginsberg – Tonight Let’s All Make Love In London
* Grateful Dead – I Know You Rider
* Great Society – Somebody To Love
* Hapshash And The Coloured Coat – H-O-P-P Why
* Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced (Live)
* Jimi Hendrix – Foxy Lady
* Iron Butterfly – In A Gadda Da Vida
* Jefferson Airplane – White Rabbit
* Jefferson Airplane – Won’t You Try Saturday Afternoon
* Janis Joplin – Mercedes Benz
* Janis Joplin – Raise Your Hand
* Moby Grape – Dark Magic
* David Peel – I Like Marijuana
* Pink Floyd – Interstellar Overdrive
* Purple Gang – Granny Takes A Trip
* Quicksilver Messenger Service – Mona
* The Rolling Stones – Street Fighting Man
* The Rolling Stones – Wild Horses
* Santana – Samba Pa Ti
* Santana – Soul Sacrifice
* The Velvet Underground – Venus In Furs
* The Velvet Underground – What Goes On
* Frank Zappa & Mothers Of Invention – Willie The Pimp

I descended to the Museum’s lower level to catch a glimpse of one psychedellic masterpiece that didn’t fit into the main galleries: Janis Joplin’s painted Porsche, exhibited on the museum’s patio. As I passed through the gift shop to reach it, I happened upon workers busily setting up seats for a one-time-only performance of Hotel Cassiopeia: The Backstory.

Part of the museum’s “Whitney Live” series, the show, hosted by Anne Bogart and playwright Charles Mee, was based upon the life of artist Joseph Cornell. It included an excerpt from the play Hotel Cassiopeia and presentations by filmmaker Jeanne Liotta and Cornell’s former assistant, sculptor Harry Roseman.

I joined the audience for what proved to be the perfect end to the evening: as part of a small, curious company tucked away below Manhattan’s busy streets and engrossed in an hour of art, film, music, magic and love.

Summer of Love brochure

Men in dark gallery watching light show

Janis Joplin’s Porsche (rear view)

Janis Joplin’s Porsche (front view)

Whitney Museum
Whitney Museum: Summer of Love
Timothy Leary
Poets: Allen Ginsberg
Charles Mee
Brooklyn Academy of Music: Hotel Cassiopeia
Joseph Cornell
Jeanne Liotta
Vassar: Harry Roseman

New York Burlesque Festival

September 1, 2007

Advertised as “4 Days and Nights of Glitter and Glamour in Gotham,” the New York Burlesque Festival takes place over four days at several locations around Manhattan.

Tonight I attended the festival’s Saturday Spectacular hosted by New York showbiz legend Mister Murray Hill. The evening featured about 40 acts with names like Gwendoline Lamour, Panty Raid, Lux la Croix, Peekaboo Pointe, Vivienne Vavoom and the Peach Tartes.

If you haven’t seen a burlesque performance, you might anticipate something similar to the raunchy grind-and-grab found in go-go bars and so-called “gentlemen’s clubs.” But in fact, modern-day burlesque is a form of entertainment that combines glamour, dance, performance art, a tad of titillation and more than a touch of humor and its practitioners attract equal numbers of male and female fans.

Most of the women onstage resembled WWII-era pin-up girls come to life, dressed in elbow-length gloves, tightly-laced corsets, veiled hats, fluffy boas, slinky satin, yards of rhinestones and towering heels. They flirted, teased, waved feathery fans, twirled their tassles, dusted themselves with enormous powder puffs and shimmied until their fringes flew.

Each act on the bill put its own twist on the form: Miss Saturn danced with hula hoops, Gravity Plays Favorites did intricate acrobatic moves on a pole, Diamond Back Annie was inspired by the rock group Kiss, Lux La Croix portrayed a lawn jockey and Imogen Kelly (using a French accent) was a witty Marie Antoinette.

Mr. Murray Hill
Mr. Murray Hill

Mr. Murray Hill helps replace a lost pasty

Tassles twirling

With red sequins

Diamond Back Annie

Diamond Back Annie

Using feathered fans


With red feathers

New York Burlesque Festival
Backstage Blog: 5th New York Burlesque Festival
Mr. Murray Hill
Angie Pontani
Amber Ray
MySpace: Bastard Keith
Belladonnas De Lux
Big Apple Burlesque
Miss Delirium Tremens
MySpace: Diamondback Annie
Gravity Plays Favorites
Gwendoline Lamour
Lux La Croix
Panty Raid
Peach Tartes
Peekaboo Pointe
Miss Saturn
MySpace: Tigger
Vivienne Vavoom
MySpace: World Famous *Bob*
NY Post: Vavoom Town
NY Magazine: The Return of Burlesque in NYC
Riverfront Times: Gravity Plays Favorites
Secrets in Lace
Thirsty Girl Productions

Howl on the Road

August 11, 2007

After a couple of years’ absence, the Howl Festival is back. The event, named in honor of Allen Ginsberg’s landmark poem about love, madness and death, is designed as a celebration of art created in Greenwich Village and the East Village.

This year, the ultimate downtown festival has taken a detour uptown to participate in Lincoln Center Out of Doors: Summer of Love: Celebrating the Spirit of the ‘60s.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the “Summer of Love” gathering in San Francisco—a defining moment of the era …. For its own “Summer of Love” 2007, Lincoln Center Out of Doors offers music, dance, street theater, and family events highlighted by artists and styles of the period.

Held on Josie Robertson Plaza, the celebration included art, music, dance, puppetry and even a fashion show. Participants dressed as hippies sang, danced and distributed flowers, incense and love beads. 

Three interactive art installations added to the experience: Block Busting by George Spencer, Howling and Other Justifiable Actions by Terry S. Handy, and Wink by Jan Lynn Sokota.

In early September, the complete, full-blown Howl Festival will return to its home turf downtown, in and around Tompkins Square Park in the East Village.

Minds! New loves!
Mad generation!
down on the rocks of Time!
Real holy laughter in the river!
They saw it all!
the wild eyes! the holy yells!
They bade farewell!
They jumped off the roof to solitude!
carrying flowers!
Down to the river! into the street!
Allen Ginsberg, Howl

From Howling and Other Justifiable Actions by Terry S. Handy

From Howling and Other Justifiable Actions by Terry S. Handy

From Howling and Other Justifiable Actions by Terry S. Handy

Wink by Jan Lynn Sokota

Hippie chicks

The self-described “Goth Ethel Merman”


Hungry Marching Band

Block Busting by George Spencer


Monsieur Pierre (Todd Shaffer)

Paper peace dress

Channeling the spirit of Janis Joplin

Flower child

The Federation of East Village Artists
Howl Festival
Terry Hardy
Jan Lynn Sokota
Hungry March Band
Wikipedia: Bob Holman
East Village Dance Project
Howl at Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center Out of Doors
Josie Robertson Plaza
Footnote to Howl
Wikipedia: Howl
NY Times: Special section on Allen Ginsberg
Literary History: Allen Ginsberg
The Beat Page: Allen Ginsberg
Lawrence Ferlinghetti on Howl’s 45th anniversary
Lawrence Ferlinghetti on Howl & Banned Books (click under his photo)
GOH Productions
Bonnie Sue Stein
Village Voice: Ed Woodham
Martha Tornay

Lord Ganesh of the Lake

August 5, 2007

The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Races are held on Meadow Lake at Flushing Meadows Park in Corona, Queens.

The ground around the lake is swampy and slippery, full of tall reeds, grasses and deceptively deep, muddy hollows. On Saturday, as I moved closer and closer to the edge to take photographs, I cautiously kept my eyes pointed downward.

When I reached the shore, I noticed something bobbing on the surface of the water. It appeared to be the back of a picture frame. I carefully reached down, grabbed it and turned it over.

To my amazement, it was an image of the elephant-headed Hindu god, Ganesh, the god of intellect and wisdom. The picture had gotten a bit gritty, but being submerged in the lake didn’t seem to have done it any real damage.

I wrapped the dripping frame in a plastic bag and brought it home. It now occupies a space in my tiny Brooklyn kitchen.

However, I can’t help wondering: How did Ganesh get into the water? How long had he been there? And — was there any significance to the fact that, out of the thousands of people assembled by the shore, he washed up at my feet?

Any theories?


Wikipedia: Ganesha

A plea to readers

August 1, 2007


I’ve never written a post like this before, but the issue is too important to ignore. If you are a New Yorker, ever plan to visit New York or just care about freedom of speech and expression, this is a plea for your help. 

A controversial new city proposal would require formal permits for a wide range of casual photography and would affect visitors and residents alike.

“Some tourists, amateur photographers, even would-be filmmakers hoping to make it big on YouTube could soon be forced to obtain a city permit and $1 million in liability insurance before taking pictures or filming on city property, including sidewalks.

New rules being considered by the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting would require any group of two or more people who want to use a camera in a single public location for more than a half hour to get a city permit and insurance.

“The same requirements would apply to any group of five or more people who plan to use a tripod in a public location for more than 10 minutes, including the time it takes to set up the equipment.”
— New York Times, June 29, 2007

It seems absurd, doesn’t it, that a city like this would crack down on people taking photos in public places, but the threat of that happening is very real — and implemention of the rules imminent — unless we make our voices heard.

Following a request from the NYCLU, New York City has agreed to reopen the period for members of the public to submit comments about this proposal. The City will accept comments until Friday August 3.

Comments should be sent as soon as possible to the following person:
    Julianne Cho
    Assistant Commissioner
    Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting
    1697 Broadway
    New York, N.Y. 10019

An ad hoc coalition of working artists, filmmakers, and photographers have joined together to fight the proposed rules. Calling themselves Picture New York, they have launched a blog and an online petition which will be closed on Friday, August 3.

If you believe, as I do, that we should remain free to take photos and shoot videos on the streets of New York City, please let officials know before it is too late. They will stop accepting comments in only two days.

If you live outside the city, or even outside the U.S., you might hesitate to contact the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting.

You may think that it wouldn’t be appropriate for you to get involved in what seems like a local fight, but the city needs to hear from as many people as possible, no matter where they live. Please help us keep New York accessible and open to all photographers.


Award-winning newscaster and commentator Keith Olbermann has named Julianne Cho Worst Person in the World for July 31, 2007.


“Responding to an outcry that included a passionate Internet campaign and a satiric rap video, city officials yesterday backed off proposed new rules that could have forced tourists taking snapshots in Times Square and filmmakers capturing that only-in-New-York street scene to obtain permits and $1 million in liability insurance.

“In announcing the move, officials at the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting said they would redraft the rules, intended to apply to commercial film and photography productions, to address complaints that they could be too broadly applied. They will then release the revised rules for public comment.

“It appears that the mayor’s office on film has come to their senses,” said Eileen Clancy, a member of a group formed to protest the rules. “Clearly, they did not anticipate the way in which the rules were likely to affect so many different groups of people.””

For the rest of this New York Times article, click here.


Picture New York blog
Picture New York petition
New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU)
Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting
Text of Proposed rule (Amendment to Title 43) [pdf]
NY Times: Artists Organize to Fight Camera Permit Proposal
NY Times: City May Seek Permit and Insurance for Many Kinds of Public Photography
Sewell Chan: A Shout Out to the M.O.F.T.B.
Olde English: Free NYC Rap video
Keith Olbermann
NY Times: After Protests, City Agrees to Rewrite Proposed Rules

Building Sand Castles by the Sea

July 28, 2007

Today was Coney Island’s 17th Annual Sand Sculpting Contest and the weather was perfect. The competition, which lasted all afternoon, was open to children, adults and groups of all ages and skill levels.

The City Parks Department trucked in 50 mounds of sand, Astella Development Corporation provided cash prizes to the winners (top prize was $200) and dozens of beach-loving, suncreen-wearing New Yorkers participated.

Enthusiastic entrants created castles, creatures, monsters, mermaids, images of Coney Island itself … even a construction site belching smoke on the beach right next to the fabled Boardwalk.

Sand Sculpting Contest
Sand Sculpting Contest banner

Underdog & creator

Finishing the sleeping mermaid

Curled up next to her tail, the sleeping mermaid’s mer-cat

Construction site

“Construction workers” at the site (please note the smoke)

Coney Island castle

King Neptune

Two sand sculptors with their creation

Sand sculptures along the Boardwalk


Man in the sand

Banner on trashcans

Sea creatures

Eagle over USA


Little entrant shows off her creation

Clown holding flowers

Bay News: Fairy tales still thrive in Coney Island
NY1: Sand Sculptors Compete
Astella Development Corporation
New York City Department of Parks & Recreation

Blocks of Color on a Block in Brooklyn

July 16, 2007

You may not know his paintings. You might not even be familiar with his name. But the legacy of Piet Mondrian’s work is inescapable.

The Dutch artist, who was most active in the period between World War I and World War II, created deceptively simple works that reduced painting to its essential elements.

In 1917 Mondrian, along with a few other artists, founded the De Stijl movement which rejected representational painting and advocated a visual vocabulary that was restricted to straight lines, bright blocks of color and shades of black, white, and gray.

Mondrian dubbed the minimalist style neoplasticism and believed that it both freed him from traditional contraints and allowed him to portray his spirituality via images of clarity, purity and harmony.

The style, if not the spiritual message, of Mondrian and the other De Stijl artists spread rapidly across Europe and America, influencing the design of everything from wrapping paper to architecture.  

In the early 1940s, seeking artistic and political freedom, Mondrian came to New York City. He spent the last years of his life working here and is buried in Cyress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn.

When I saw this painted structure on a run-down block near the Brooklyn waterfront, I was reminded of how much the city influenced Mondrian’s work, and how — whether or not we are aware of it — his use of line and color affect the way we see our surroundings every day.

Composition with Color Planes and Gray Lines 1
Composition with Color Planes and Gray Lines 1

Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow
Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow

New York City
New York City

Broadway Boogie Woogie
Broadway Boogie Woogie

Mondrian's Studio at the Time of His Death
Mondrian’s studio at the time of his death

Fence on DeGraw Street
Fence on DeGraw Street

House on DeGraw Street
House on DeGraw Street

Artcyclopedia: Piet Mondrian
Encyclopedia Britannica: Piet Mondrian
Snap Dragon: Mondrian
Cypress Hills Cemetery

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