In keeping up with our resolution to see more art this year, I wanted to spend last Saturday at one of the major museums. When I brought up MoMA with the girls, I was surprised to hear that neither of them really remembered which museum I was referring to. Had it really been that long? I remember chaperoning a field trip during preschool 2 years ago, but maybe that really was the last time. Once we got to MoMA, each of them remembered certain things like the sculpture garden and the helicopter suspended from the ceiling, but this visit really was a new experience for them and one where Claudine has been asking to go back soon ever since.
The Inventing Abstraction Show, which runs through April 15th, really is worth a visit (no photography allowed at the show so the photos here are from other exhibits). I do have to admit that years of art history study in high school and college, particularly the ones where weekly museum classes were mandatory, may have desensitized me to artwork from certain periods. I think because the association with certain artists and works were closely tied with school and curriculum, I was never too interested in seeing another Monet or Kandinsky. I think a certain amount of distance cures that because the Abstraction show which focuses on art and musical works produced in a 15 year period from 1910-1925 was truly fantastic. I was particularly enamored with the Malevich paintings, whose work I had always loved, but it’s been quite a number of years since I’ve seen his graphic paintings up close. As in many cases with abstract artworks, print or web reproductions don’t really serve the works justice.
Mark was thrilled because the show drew the connections between some of the early 20th century composers to the artists of this era. Original scores of compositions from Schoenberg and Varese were displayed and pieces played in listening rooms or through speakers directly overhead the musical scores. There was a certain first time thrill to seeing these scores in person from composers that we had studied and even modeled some of our compositions after.
But the one thing that made the museum visit completely engaging for the girls? Getting those handheld audio tours, something that we never thought to do. MoMA had fun kid-specific audio commentary for select artworks in their permanent collection and so it became like a scavenger hunt to find the kid icons on the plaques of as many artworks as they could find. The audio tours kept them completely engaged and provided a structure in which to view the art and they even enjoyed the regular adult tours for the special exhibitions. Long after Mark and I were “done” with the museum, the girls wanted to keep going. It sort of became a game for me too as I started anticipating or guessing which of the artworks in each gallery room might have kid commentary.
I feel like this was really the first museum outing where we spent 4-5 hours taking our time to really look at the art. The girls admittedly weren’t too excited when I announced that we were going to MoMA that morning, but it turned out to be such a great day with a leisurely lunch at the cafe. Such a far cry from spending an hour chasing after your toddler making sure she isn’t touching anything she shouldn’t be touching. I think we have finally arrived at the age where the kids are perfect museum companions.
Incidentally, the couple seated next to us at lunch was a grandfather and his grand daughter, probably around age 8 or 9. It was clear that they were having a museum date, just the 2 of them. One of the sweetest things I’ve seen in awhile.
ps. that yellow glowing square up there in the first few photos? Can you guess what it is? I bet you can’t. It’s pollen from hazelnut. Crazy.
Posted by Jenna | 9 Comments
The cemetery. Not the first place to come to mind when thinking of an outing to take the kids on a weeekend, but why not? Especially when you have one as beautiful as the Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn. I believe it’s one of America’s oldest cemeteries and perhaps, one of the most beautiful. Some notable people are buried here: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Leonard Bernstein, the Steinways, Peter Cooper (the Cooper Union founder where I went to school), members of Theodore Roosevelt’s immediate family, and most recently just last year, two time Pulitzer Prize winning American composer, Elliot Carter, who Mark and I both admired during our music studies in college.
I think the girls were a little confused when we got off the bus and I told them that we were going to the cemetery, but you gotta love kids. For the most part, they just go with the flow no matter how random. Soon enough, however, they discovered why I love this cemetery so much. At nearly 450 acres, it’s easy to meander and get lost through the narrow cobblestoned paths that cut into the hills. They started foraging for leaves, stray flowers that got blown away from their graves and other little nature treasures. They went on a quest to find the oldest tombstone they could find and stopped at mausoleum entryways to bow down in their own little ceremonies. We talked about what cemeteries were and why we needed to respect the land and the graves.
I’ve never been to Greenwood in the winter and it was sort of fitting that it was a gray, slightly foggy day. It rendered everything a bit colorless and desaturated except for the gold, moss green and amber hues found in the ground and the few surviving leaves on the trees. There’s something beautiful about the starkness of dark, bare branches against a white sky, isn’t there? (hey, trying to see some positives in this bleak weather). And something peaceful about the weathered statues and the graves below. We vowed to return in the Fall when I’m sure the landscape is spectacular, though the cemetery did suffer severe damage to nearly 300 of their 7,700 trees during Hurricane Sandy. Some of the damage has yet to be cleared away.
By the way, do teenagers still hang out in cemeteries or is that just a thing that new wave goth kids did in the 80s? (we have a lot of cemeteries in NYC).
Photo of me and C taken by Megan McCormick. And yes, the symbolism of that last grave site is quite something.
Posted by Jenna | 16 Comments
So far we’re making good on our resolution to see more art. I have only been to the New Museum once since it moved to the Bowery around 5 years ago. I used to go more often when it was located in Soho on Broadway when I was in art school and graduate school in the 90s. It was much smaller then – 2 floors in the Astor Building – but now the New Museum is a 7 story building with a skyroom on the top floor with views of lower Manhattan. This is where they hold activities for kids on First Saturdays for families. The monthly event is free, but keep in mind that you only have access to one of the gallery floors during free hours, but the Museum does have free admission to the public Thursday nights from 7-9pm.
This is our first time at the museum as a family and I think the girls really enjoyed themselves. Like with some of the other activities we’ve been to in the city lately, the girls always seem to be among the oldest in the crowd now, but ironically they might be at the perfect age to really get the most out of these art outings. In this particular instance, they made observations between 2 images by drawing comparisons and noting shared elements as well as the differences, both conceptually and visually.
Now that the girls are at an age where going to museums are actually very enjoyable (oh, you know what I’m talking about – taking a toddler and a preschooler to an art museum could very possibly turn into the 9th circle of hell if all the cards fall in the wrong place), I’m going to seek out more of these family art days at other museums. Most of them are free and that is one of the reasons why we live in NY, isn’t it?
Posted by Jenna | 9 Comments
I don’t make many new year resolutions, but one thing that I want to do this year is to see more art.
While I somehow managed to miss the Cindy Sherman show at MoMA this year, there was no way that I could miss Ann Hamilton‘s installation at the Park Avenue Armory. Hamilton is one of my favorite, if not perhaps my very favorite living artist. It’s not often that she exhibits in New York so experiencing her work in person is a rare treat.
The Park Avenue Armory, a 55,000 square foot space on the Upper East Side that allows works of art with unique and unconventional space requirements, is a treasure in and of itself. The last time we were there was nearly three years ago to see an installation by Ernesto Neto. Like the Neto, the Ann Hamilton installation is a multi-sensory experience that invites the audience to participate, inhabit and control the movements of the piece.
It never really occurred to me that unless you have a kid, swinging on swings might be something that some adults haven’t done in years, even since they were children. That’s the sentiment I kept hearing when we were there on a rainy Saturday after the holidays. It was crowded when we went, but because the pull and push of the swings control the undulating movements of the massive curtains in the center of the space, the installation was very active, kinetic and visceral. Unlike playground swings, the length of the chains are enormously long which resulted in a ride that was more akin to sailing through the air in long strides. You didn’t ever really go high or fast, but these swings took you farther. The whole experience was surreal and oddly soothing.
I also didn’t expect that laying down underneath the curtain would be as relaxing as it was. I heard one man describe the experience as feeling like a child laying on the floor and looking up a woman’s dress hem. For me, it almost felt like I was floating in water even though I was laying on a hardwood floor. The rise and fall of the curtains swirling above had a transporting effect.
Ann Hamilton’s work often has an element of performance art. Dotted along the space are 42 radios hidden in paper bags that you can pick up and carry around with you. 2 speakers wearing wooly capes broadcast passages of text from various authors to the radios. In front of them are homing pigeons which are said to be released to fly around the space at the end of each day. On the other side of the space sits a writer at a desk. Also at the end of each day, a singer serenades the audience from the balcony and the performance is cut on a record lathe to be rebroadcast the next morning. On the day that we were there, someone had seen my instagram photos and tweeted that he was the singer for that evening.
“The Event of a Thread” is at the Armory for 3 more days, closing on Sunday, January 6th.
Posted by Jenna | 19 Comments
We had a fantastic weekend. How was yours? It always feels good to have a stellar day at a holiday market, particularly when you’ve stayed up late preparing for the show after a hard week. It makes it all worth it. Thanks to our friend Megan who took both the girls for a sleepover Friday night which enabled us to work uninterrupted through the night organizing for the market and made setup in the early morning easy at the event site. Since the girls weren’t home, I put on the first season of American Horror Story while we worked and pretty much powered through the entire season in one sitting. What a crazy show (though Breaking Bad is still my first love). After the holiday fair, we went to our neighbor’s annual holiday party where she made this (among other yummy things) and now I want to eat it every day. We don’t go to many holiday parties if at all because of the busy season so we appreciate that our neighbor Amy puts on a fantastic party every year that makes it easy for us to say yes and makes us happy that we live where we do.
And another rare thing happened on Sunday. Brunch. Can’t even tell you the last time we went to brunch as a family. I’m telling you, it is a rare thing. We decided at the last minute since we would be taking the car out anyway that we weren’t limited to places in our neighborhood and I remembered Buttermilk Channel. This restaurant is on my long list of places to eat that everyone raves about, particularly for brunch. We got dressed quickly, threw some stuff in a bag for the day and headed over to Carroll Gardens. There was a line already forming as we drove by, but we luckily found a parking spot nearby and made our way in as they were just seating people. I love a good brunch and wish we did it more often!
The big outing of the day, however, was the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden up in the Bronx. I don’t know how well known this train show is to anyone outside of NY, but this is a holiday tradition in the city and one of those things that I’ve wanted to do every year but never really had the time for. The photos here don’t do the show justice. Besides the fact that I seemed incapable of taking a decent photo all day (which was frustrating), this is something that needs to be experienced in person. All the buildings and bridges are replicas of iconic landmarks and historic townhouses, the majority from NY, and made from leaves, bark, fungi, twigs and other plant matter. The details as you can see are amazing. The show is large with 140 buildings in total and winds all around the conservatory.
Here are some tips about the show if you’re planning on going. You can buy tickets online and they’re timed in 15 minute increments because the show is so popular. Don’t be late. Once you get there you’ll still wait in line to enter because they need to wait for people to exit the show before they can let more in. But that’s not it. Once you are in the show you are still waiting in line to enter the main exhibition space. This is deceptive because the models and trains do start here in this large room and the line is “loose” since people start taking photos and the crowd is milling about, but it’s slow moving. This is when the kids start getting antsy and complain that “this is boring” and you wonder whether you’ve made a colossal mistake spending $100 for tickets for the entire family (tickets aren’t cheap), just to wait in line to be herded at a painfully slow pace. But don’t give up hope. Once you get into the main exhibition space, the crowd thins and you can leisurely take your time around the show. There is still a path and a line to follow, but at that point, it is very pleasant. For this reason I would go on the early side of the day.
Also, if you can find parking right outside the Gardens do so because parking costs an additional $15 which was sort of a shocker when we pulled up to the parking booth. Aside from that, we had a nice time at the Gardens. It’s been quite rainy the past 4 days so the weather wasn’t great which prohibited us from wandering around the gardens but there was plenty of stuff for kids to do at the Gingerbread exhibition as well.
Ok, now you know that it’s not all fun and roses when a family outing is involved, right? There’s always some sort of National Lampoon’s Vacation-type mishap that happens at some point, right? Because it was rainy and we were parked a bit away from the entrance, Mark decided he’d get the car and pick us up. I started to get suspicious when quite a bit of time passed and he didn’t show up. Turns out that he couldn’t drive to where we were and he was forced to exit the garden because he was on a one way road. So you know how when the Griswolds go to Paris in European Vacation and they get stuck in that circular road around the Arc de Triomphe and can’t find the way out so they keep driving around and around? Well, the girls and I decided to head out in the rain towards where the car was parked and when it was clear that he wasn’t anywhere in the parking strip, we walked and walked around the perimeter of the garden to look for an exit onto the street which we couldn’t find. Meanwhile, Mark was driving around the perimeter of the garden looking for us through the iron gates. Let’s just say that there was a lot of driving around and a lot of walking around and a lot of missing each other and a lot of cursing…
Posted by Jenna | 11 Comments
Sometimes I wonder if this blog has run its course. I’m not planning on shutting it down, though I must admit if it weren’t for our business, I do think that I would at least consider it. But aside from that, writing and taking photos and connecting with people still give me joy, but I will fully admit that these days, I struggle a bit to find something to write about every day. This has always been a personal blog and in that sense I never needed to search for content – it always came from whatever I was feeling and doing at the moment, but in the last few months I’ve been wanting to close that door a little more. Not long ago I wondered where the line should be drawn when it concerns the kids and now I know. Now that they are older I won’t be posting about the girls so specifically. I want to respect their right to privacy. This is the right thing to do. Maybe I should have done it much sooner when the blog gained more readers. Maybe I was wrong not to do so. What I do know is that I don’t have regrets about anything I have posted in the past, even posts that were very personal or ones that compelled some people to leave some harsh comments. I think there are lessons to be learned from everything.
I do love this blog and I can’t even begin to count all the wonderful things that have happened because of it so I know that I will continue on, but I’m not exactly sure where to go from here. Maybe the answer is just that it will happen less often. If a personal blog starts getting less personal where does it go? (ha!)
Photos taken at the grounds of the Nassau County Museum of Art on the former Frick estate. The abandoned house built in 1862 is on the wooded trail near the museum.
Posted by Jenna | 31 Comments