Thursday, August 30, 2007

Just Ask the Locals

Yesterday Mayor Mike Bloomberg kicked off a huge campaign to encourage tourism to the city. The 'Just Ask the Locals' posters, postcards, and billboards remind visitors to ask for help and advice -- and to remember that New Yorkers are friendly. A Times article about the campaign quotes Bloomberg as follows: '“New Yorkers want to say hello,” Mr. Bloomberg said, responding to a suggestion that the city’s residents might require hospitality lessons. “They want to be helpful. I don’t think we need to teach them anything.”'

Julianne Moore, Robert De Niro, Jimmy Fallon, Tiki Barber, and Chuck Close lent their likenesses gratis to the campaign, along with suggestions about places to eat, shop, and visit. The campaign also gives visitors such tips as 'many delis are open 24 hours a day.'

I've heard that, at any given moment, there are around 3 million visitors in the city. Depending on where you are, though, it sometimes seems much, much higher.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Storm King Art Center IV

Apologies for the visual self-indulgence, but it seemed that all our pictures from Storm King were worth showing. More than 100 post–1960 sculptures sit on 500 acres in upstate New York. On Saturday, we walked most of them to see almost all of them.

Storm King Art Center III

Storm King Art Center II

Storm King Art Center I

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Wave Hill

Unintentionally, we chose the hottest day of the year (thus far) to visit Wave Hill, a 28-acre public garden in the Bronx that overlooks the Hudson River way, way below and the cliffs of the New Jersey Palisades. But walking around the grounds, which include such gardens as monocot & aquatic, flower, dry & herb, and wild, was refreshing nonetheless.

Unlike some gardens, Wave Hill lets visitors go off the gravel paths, onto the lawns and into the woods. There's also a cultural center and art gallery: the most recent exhibit is work by eleven artists that reinterprets some piece of writing by Henry David Thoreau.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon

The first time I really saw this painting was a couple of years ago, when MoMA moved to Queens while the Midtown building was being renovated. Sure, I’d seen Picasso’s 1907 masterpiece, which depicts five naked women at a brothel, before, but its force only truly struck me in Queens, when I overheard a mother lean over to her daughter and, in a strong Long Island accent, stage-whisper, "That's the most important painting of the twentieth century."

She was right, of course; even Newsweek thinks so, naming “Les Demoisselles d’Avignon” the most influential work of art in the past 100 years. But none of this changes the fact that I kind of hate it. Don't get me wrong: whenever I'm at MoMA, I always pop in to see it. That I find it absolutely aesthetically unpleasing doesn't damper my attraction to it, perhaps the ultimate modern mash-up of artistic styles and influences. Picasso was 26 when he began "Demoiselles."

Right now MoMA is celebrating the painting’s centennial by displaying it in its own gallery, along with several preliminary sketches. The gallery notes explain that Picasso filled sixteen notebooks before putting a single brush stroke on canvas. (One thing I love about this kind of additional material is that it always puts the lie to our romantic notions of the work, complete and perfect, springing fully formed from the artist's head.) One thing is for sure: the painting hasn't lost an iota of creepiness in the past 100 years.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Peaches at the Union Square Greenmarket

Alice Walker once wrote, "Life is better than death, I believe, if only because it is less boring, and because it has fresh peaches in it." She'd be over the moon about the peaches at today's greenmarket. Delicious!

Locally grown fruit is often dirty and misshapen, but what it sometimes lacks in looks it more than makes up for in smell and taste. Really, I think one bite of the real thing would be enough to transform the most ardent supporters of chain supermarkets (and their waxy fruit) into locavores, Birkenstocks optional.

Photo copyright: © 2005 Mennonite Central Committee
Frankly, these are probably too perfect to resemble those I saw at the greenmarket today. If I were handier with the cell phone camera, I'd be able to prove it. Alas, you'll just have to trust me on this one.

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