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Row of construction guys on their cell phones

Row of construction guys on their cell phones

One day not so long ago, construction workers on their lunch break oogled the girls strolling along.  Now, like everyone else, their heads are in their phones.  So much for “Standing on the Corner Watching All the Girls Go By.”

I passed these guys on Madison Avenue on my way to The Whitney, part of my whirlwind tour of the new fall museum exhibits. Ranging from the lovely Pictorialist photograph of Julia Cameron to slightly prurient paintings of pre-adolescent girls by Balthus to delicate and lovely eighteenth century pastels to the sublime international textiles show to a modern photography show highlighted by Martha Rosler’s hilarious kitchen demonstration video, the Met once again has an interesting lineup.

Peter Heinemann, Untitled, 2005

Peter Heinemann, Untitled, 2005

Tenderizer in hand, Rosler would likely take off the curatorial heads at the National Academy Museum, where their new show of seven post-war (which means after World War II) artists has taken over the entire museum.  It’s a very male show and a non-challenging  one at that.  Where’s the female voice?  Come on NAD!
The Whitney does its thing again.  Is anyone really excited about Robert Indiana’s derivative pop art?  This is a funny statement, since I’m suggesting his art is derivative of something that’s already derivative.  “In the Air”by T.J. Wilcox isn’t particularly original either, reminiscent of Robert Haas’s panoramic mural at New York Historical Society.Still I enjoyed its mesmerizing quality as one panoramic rooftop view of downtown Manhattan flows at high speed through one full day and night all around you.  In the darkened gallery, the experience takes on an unexpected reverence.
Is that worth the price of admission?  Maybe, if you can get in to see the wonderful Hopper show, too, before it comes down.  Sure beats having your head snared by a cell phone.

iPhone Photography

The Creative Arts Workshop offered a class today on iPhone photography.  I loved playing around with filters on an app called Snapseed, getting fun distortions as seen in this slide show.  By the way, the images are based on a display of pastries at the Farmer’s Market at Wooster Square.

But my heart is in what’s called Straight Photography–as we see it, on the streets, in the market, wherever.  You can check out the images from today’s exploration on this page.  Here are a few highlights from the walk to the farmer’s market at Wooster Square and at the market itself.  Enjoy!

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Some things that never change and those that do

On the Edward Hopper tour in Greenwich Village, I got to see some of the places where he and Jo created their lives.  He lived in the same apartment on The Row across from Washington Square for over forty years, and Jo moved in with him after they married.

Built in the 1830s, the creme de la creme of New York society lived there.  It was the site of the Henry James novel.  A hundred years later, Hopper moves in to the fourth floor walk up with a shared toilet.  In the 1950s, the landlord tried to kick him out.  They went to court, and Hopper won.  New York real estate is tough.  No indication that they ever got a private loo.

2013-09-15 11.25.30My architectural favorite on today’s tour wasn’t connected to the Hopper’s at all.  Robert Deforest, President of the Met Museum, moved from The Row to 10th Street.  You can see how he was inspired be East Indian motifs in this elaborately carved wooden window corbels.  Built in the 1880s and named one of the ten most beautiful homes in America,  NYU has now gutted the interior, so little remains of the Indian craftsmanship.  Sigh.2013-09-15 11.25.38
Worse was the famous Tenth Street Studio building, torn down and replaced by a ’50’s modernist apartment building.  It was this tear down, as well as Penn Station, that led to forming the Landmark’s Commission.

Across the street is what is left of Gertrude Whitney’s Studio Club, in which even the reclusive Hopper partic2013-09-15 12.00.34ipated.  She assembled eight townhouses and the rear stables into exhibition space celebrating living American artists and their current work.  All that’s left is the patriotic, streamlined eagle above the doorway, the staircase, and the fireplace, which is a piece of art in itself.


The stables next door?  The sign was painted for a movie.

So in this city that’s always changing, today we celebrated an artist who doggedly stayed the same–despite the discomforts of his home and marriage and in the face of art trends that turned in a very different direction.
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I saw another example of this juxtaposition at NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts.  Lynda Benglis has four works there.  Look at the contrast between her famous latex pours from the late 1960s and the 1904 classically-inspired mansion that houses the art history doctoral program.  What a place to take a class, as you can see in this slide show.

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My day wrapped with a new opera of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, my favorite of her novels. Some things never change, like the poignant charm of this Austen story, which worked fairly nicely as an opera.

Hot Air

Perhaps it’s fitting that a museum about P.T. Barnum and his hokum would have been wrecked by a lot of hot air.  Not Hurricane Sandy, but a tornado took out the historic building of the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, CT.  The building is still standing, and the collections are safe, but a lot of money and work are needed to get the circus doors open again.

I got a private tour by the curator of the “visual storage” of the collections in the adjacent bank building.  What fun this museum is going to be again someday.

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Not only did Barnum call Bridgeport home with his four houses, but so did Tom Thumb and his wife Lavinia, also a little person.  She wanted to look her best and used the House of Worth to design her clothes.  Here’s her tailor made dress form from 1878, which has two corsets underneath (yikes), apparently needed as she grew stouter with age.



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A number of tiny chairs and carriages are also on view.  Tom Thumb used a show carriage to ride the streets and market the circus, different from his everyday conveyance.  My favorite though was the diminutive carriage used by Commodor George Washington Morrison Nutt, another little person.  Doesn’t it look like the pumpkin carriage from Cinderella?


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Apparently, Tom Thumb was a charmer and during the tour with Barnum in London, swept Queen Victoria away.  She gifted him with this bed.  It is really, really small.  Can you tell?

The chairs and such simply appear child-sized.  This bed?  Well, it’s really something to see, as it’s clearly not made for a child.

Not to overlook Barnum, I particularly liked this carved wooden chair rail on a set of upholstered chairs from one of his houses.  Can you make out the circus tent?  Absolutely delightful!2013-09-10 12.26.59

He also patronized artists, with a collection of sculpture busts, including one of Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale.  He didn’t even know her vocal abilities whe2013-09-10 12.29.10n he hired the already famous Lind to work with his circus extravaganza.  You can see her bust in the corner.

The man himself P.T. Barnum carved by Thomas Ball c1888

The man himself
P.T. Barnum
carved by Thomas Ball








The museum is raising a whole lot of $ to get the hot air back into this wonderful collection and its historic home venue.  Wouldn’t you love to see all these objects back in their proper setting?

Be the Hero of Your Story

Be the hero of your story

That’s the lesson a father teaches his young son at the opening of the new musical Big Fish.

Big Fish is another Susan Strohman show, sweeter and smaller than her typical production.  Even with the magic and the big numbers, this is really a show about a family.  The act one finale is a duet–not typical.

I do love the way Norbert Leo Butz moves and will remember his little tap riff with three enormous elephant rear ends.  And he has charm to spare.  He’s perfectly cast as the tall tale teller.

This is the first time I’ve seen Kate Baldwin, and I particularly appreciated that she, as an older woman, got a torch song, albeit a short one.

The show has that entertainment pleasure, but it’s the small sweetnesses that characterizes it.   “Time Stops” reprised in the second act, is supposed to be the break out number, and it’s a solo.

The show ends quietly, not with a rouser.  The audience gave it a standing ovation, while I think it warranted a more reserved and more sincere seated, straight play acknowledgment.  I liked it as a piece of theater and have a couple of the songs stuck in my head.  But it wasn’t as rip roaring as I expected.

Will its subdued and sad subtlety sell on Broadway?  It’s based on a beloved movie (aren’t all Broadway shows now?).  Is that enough?  I’m interested to find out with time that in real life doesn’t stop.

Rear Window

On this Labor Day so wet and dreary, I was still deciding if it was a foggy day or just dawn, when color dotted the gray palette.

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Like Jimmy Steward in Hitchcock’s Rear Window, I grabbed my camera (phone) and started to snap.  But no foul murder was taking place.  It was the gathering for the New Haven Road Race.  The Green is one launching point for the run, taking place all over the city.  On this day, when the Long Island Sound isn’t even visible from my other view, I had a rear window seat for the race.

And they’re off…

The video is brief.  The scene went on and on.  Their efforts made me get into my own labors, at least before the band starts playing in the after-run party!