Mary Cassatt & Mom

 

Today is Mary Cassatt’s birthday. As long as I can reminder, we have had a print of “Children Playing on the Beach” (1877) on our wall at home. Cassatt is one of my mom’s favorite painters and she always said this painting reminder her of my cousin Caitlin and I as little kids.

Although, Cassatt is not my favorite, I basically always get warm fuzzies when seeing her work, because she makes me think of my Mom. So, Happy Birthday Mary!

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Adventures in Seattle

I really really liked Seattle. I just got back from a three day trip – one day for work, and two days to explore. And I always suck about blogging about my trips (where is that Hawaii blog? NYC July trip? huh!)

So, I liked Seattle – I liked that it was walkable, I liked the sky/clouds, I liked the neighborhood feel, I liked the food, I liked the fall colors. It got very grey and rainy and I was even hailed on. But, honestly, I didn’t mind. I don’t know what it would be like to live there full time, perhaps it would be tiresome, but for three days it was great. And I hope to go back, so that I can explore a whole lot more.

I also saw some excellent art at the Frye (including the above painting) and the fabulous elles:pompidou exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum. So much to say about that…. but for now a quote from the website:

Elles: Pompidou is a landmark exhibition of more than 130 works of art made by 75 women artists from 1907 to 2007. Organized by the Centre Pompidou in Paris, home to the Musée National d’Art Moderne—one of the largest collections of modern and contemporary art in Europe—this exhibition is an unforgettable visual experience that will challenge visitors’ assumptions about art of the past century. This ambitious survey of daring painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, video, and installation by innovative women artists offers a fresh perspective on a history of modern and contemporary art

There is a lot more to say about this, and the whole trip. Hopefully that will happen soon.

Corsets, clothes and Photographs – Jean Paul Gaultier at the De Young

After months of meaning to, I finally made it to From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier.

Kate and I ventured through the wilds of the Sunset on Friday night and headed to the De Young. I lost my Sunset-native card by not bringing a jacket or a sweater with me, and froze a little bit on the walk from the N at 9th & Irving to the museum. But it was wonderful to see Kate, and to actually use the museum membership!

We got in right away, which was great, and the first tableau was quite impressive – a row of a dozen or so mannequins clothed in Gaultier’s impressive work against a vibrant blue background. And the shocker – the mannequin’s faces moved! Through projection, they spoke or sang or merely blinked their eyes. This created a disturbing and beautiful opening look at the collection.  According to the exhibit’s website, “Gaultier partnered with the Montreal-based theater company Ubu Compagnie de Création in the design of 30 animated mannequins who talk and sing in playful and poetic vignettes.”

It was wonderful to go to a special museum exhibition that was not afraid of cameras! I took some shots of my favorite things on my phone, but didn’t know ahead of time, so I didn’t have my DSLR.  I think that if the taking of pictures won’t damage the work, then it is something that should be allowed – it helps me to remember the exhibit better and show to others that they should go.Good job De Young!

There was a ton to see, and it was decently crowded, but not too overwhelming. (of course, I compare this to the sea of bodies at the Savage Beauty/Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Met a couple of year’s back). There was a nice juxtaposition between the actual pieces, runway videos, and wonderful photographs of the work.

“Invitation to the the Dance” with Elena Sudakova.
Photo by Solve Sundsbo Gown by Jean Paul Gaultier, Pirates collection (2008)

Although I loved getting to see the detail on the pieces – all super impressive – I often found the photographs of people in Gaultier clothes much more interesting than the pieces themselves. As Kate said, clothes feel dead without a body inside them, and the photos are capturing that life. (I think that is also why the first room with the projected mannequins worked so well – it brought back some of that life).

Gaultier and Madonna’s collaboration was well documented:

Sketch of stage costumes for Madonna’s Blond Ambition World Tour (1990), “Dick Tracy” Segment

In addition to the sketches, they had lots of interesting pieces from their work together.

I liked this commentary on feminism and the corsets that Gaultier uses:

Unlike the eighteenth-century court corsets revived by his contemporary Vivienne Westwood, Gaultier’s corsets were born of the pin-up girls and movie queens of the 1950s. Gaultier’s women, though corseted, did not negate the feminist struggles of the 1960s and 1970s; rather they expressed a new female emancipation.  The liberation of this era and paradoxically established a new tyranny of beauty, one that imposed a new ideal of women – ultra thin, even desexualized. Pushing for a another redefinition of femininity, Gaultier excavated twentieth-century corsets and 1940s and 1950s waist-cinches out of his grandmother’s closet to create “underwear as outerwear” that celebrated a voluptuous feminine body, culminating in his modern classic, the cone bra.

Here is one of my favorite pieces from his more modern work:

Calligraphie gown, Cages collection

It is a great exhibition and runs for another two weeks. I recommend checking it out!

We finished our Friday with a lovely dinner at Nopalito. I highly recommend their Tamal de Queso Estilo Corunda. Super delicious!

Art in Transit – Literary Journeys

So, as per usual, I have a million half-written blog posts. But today, like a month ago, what is actually getting me to blog is transit-related-art.

Last week, I noticed an interesting ad in the Montgomery BART station, or what I thought was an ad – this illustration had wolves running through a snow-filled BART train. Upon looking closely, I noticed that the person in the foreground was reading Jack London’s Call of the Wild. And indeed, the poster was not really an ad, but an artistic interpretation of reading on a train, and imagination taking hold.

I meant to research what these were or who had done them, but forgot until I saw a second one this morning:

Pretty neat!!

Not only does this capture one of the joys of a daily transit ride, but the books are all from Bay Area authors. So, when I got to my desk today, I did a little poking, and learned a little bit more about the posters.

The full article is available on the BART blog here.  The posters are created by artist Owen Smith, and are the third in a BART public art project.

Smith took the broad mission of the poster art program – providing riders with the opportunity to enjoy original artwork while traveling through the BART system – and pitched an idea inspired by literary icons with Bay Area connections.  The series “Literary Journeys” depicts BART riders immersed in books by Dashiell Hammett, Jack London and Amy Tan, with scenes from the books coming to life in their imaginations. “I love the idea that there could be something interesting and different to look at while you are waiting for a train,” Smith says.

 

Smith’s art posters – like the previous two series – contain no explicit messaging, which is an important concept of the series.  “If it’s a little mysterious, that’s OK,” he says.

Gina DeLorenzo, a member of BART’s communications team who manages the poster program, said train stations provide “a unique gallery setting” for Smith’s art. The posters, 60 in all, are placed in unused advertising spaces throughout the BART system. “We want the artist to really think about the rider experience, and then bring to it their own interests and interpretation,” she said.

I recommend keeping your eyes peeled for the posters as you go about your daily commute. I haven’t seen the last in person yet, so I will be searching for it over the next few weeks. I think this is a great project – a simple way to bring some joy to the daily commute.

Will Wonders Never Cease? – Harry Houdini

Today on lunch I wandered over to the Contemporary Jewish Museum. I have spent more than one lunch hour in their lovely courtyard, but have never been in before.

Today I went in, primarily to see:

It was a fun exhibit – showcasing artifacts from Houdini’s life and career (example: show posters and the milk jug & steamer trunks he escpaed from) and short film clips of his escapes – which, even silent and grainy, are very impressive. They also looked at his cultural impact, with him as a character in books like Ragtime and Kavalier & Clay, and modern magicians building on his legacy.

One of my favorites, was a photograph by Bruce Cratsley –
Hat & Wand of Houdini at the Louvre

I think the shadow of the photographer on the case allows the photo to evoke Houdini’s spirit and memory in his remaining artifacts.

I would recommend checking out the exhibit before it closes.

The CJM Building is also pretty cool – buildt on the existing Jessie Street Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) Power Substation, a 1907 landmark designed by architect Willis Polk.  According to the CJM website: “The architect [Daniel Libeskind] based the extension’s conceptual organizing principles on the two symbolic Hebrew letters of “chai” (life), the “chet” and the “yud.'”

My Photo of the Stephen & Maribelle Leavitt "Yud" Gallery

On display as well was Hagar in the Desert (1969)

The semi-abstract piece depicts Hagar and her son Ishmael. The best part of seeing this piece was the excellent analysis on the centuries of interpretation on the story of Hagar – from ancient and modern Jewish scholars, Muslims and Christians. I learned a lot about this story from the bible, and the interesting cultural implications it has had down the line. Very cool, and very well done.

Oceans, wolves and cults – life in California

So, all-in-all, the transition back to California has been great. I like my job, my family’s pretty great, and the weather!  The weather is awesome. I will always be happiest when it is between 65 and 75 degrees, wearing a light sweater, with an ocean five minutes away.

Rodeo Beach in the Marin Headlands (a little farther than 5 minutes, but way worth it)

One of the constants in the last (almost) three months, has been TV and movie consumption with Syche and Drew.

Though…we’ve tended to pick semi (or very) depressing or disturbing material…

This started with the addicting Game of Thrones, which we plowed through in about 2 weeks. (S&D had both seen it before, and wanted me to. I’m going to return the favor and introduce them to the amazing BBC Sherlock very soon).

I liked Game of Thrones a lot, way more than I expected, despite insane amounts of violence and unnecessary amount of breasts – I guess the adorable Dryer Wolves* made up for the latter. But the violence was what stuck with me.

On Thanksgiving we saw The Descendents with George Clooney- which I cried through 2/3 of. (But it did make me excited for my January trip to Hawaii!)

So violence and tears were the standard operating procedure when we gathered last night.

But boy, did it take the cake.  We watched the excellent Martha Marcy May Marlene** directed by Sean Dirken and starring Elizabeth Olson. I liked it a lot, but will probably never watch it again.  Olson plays Martha who has recently returned to her sister Laura’s life after a two-year abscene. During that time, she joined a cult group somewhere in upstate New York, where she was renamed Marcy May.  Dirken tells the two stories simultaneously as Martha aka Marcy May tries to create a life in both worlds.

God, I started this whole blog post to talk about this movie and I don’t even know how to say what I want to say…. I liked the acting – everyone did a great, understated job of portraying their generally fucked-up characters. I thought it was beautifully shot, if a bit dark at times. I was compelled…

But… fundamentally, the movie was terrifying. That’s what I took away from watching it.

Scenes themselves were creepy, I spent the whole thing being worried of who was lurking in windows and down long corridors. (I like this type of scary much more than gross-out torture porn of recent horror flicks).  The film’s ominous feeling was amplified by the very smooth transitions from present day to flashbacks – as a viewer I never knew where I would be taken next. But even more terrifying was the emotional turmoil Martha underwent as a cult member – her insecurities were masterly manipulated, and as an audience member we went along that journey with her to a stressful degree.

I think the New Yorker review described the tone best, when talking about Patrick (John Hawks), the cult’s leader:

The source of Patrick’s power, in short, is not just violation but the rite of violation—the same pain being inflicted again and again, until it acquires the patina of the mock sacred. (Full Review)

Friend Alex, a film devotee, talks better than I can about this movie and a few other recent flicks that deal with madness here.
I would recommend seeing the movie, but as we continue to venture into Award season, my next few picks may have to be on the happier side of life. Who can recommend a good comedy?
*Actually called Direwolves, but I mistakenly called them this in the beginning and it stuck.
** In the lead up to seeing this movie, I think I substituted every M name out there – yes, Melinda Mary Michelle Matilda, was very good, wasn’t it!

What Would Erin Do #1

When I was beginning to think about leaving New York, a few friends commented on that I had “sucked the juice” out of New York City.  Meaning, I think, that I tried to take advantage of all the different things that NYC had to offer.  This was aided by being a student for my first three years in town – I didn’t have a ton of free time, but I could often do random things at random parts of the day.  But, I always have been someone who loved going on adventures.

Therefore, my friend Justin recommended I create a blog called WWED (What Would Erin Do), full of all the things I would attend (slash, drag him to) if I was still living in New York.  As I can barely regularly update this blog, I figured I should just make it a segment and not a separate entity.

So here we go – Week 1 of my picks for NYC today and in the coming week:

1) Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival (Sept 16-18)

I was actually a small kickstarter backer for the Festival, created by Mirman, a great standup and the voice of Gene on Bob’s Burgers.

If you have time tonight or this weekend, and can still get tickets, head out to the Bellhouse in Brooklyn and laugh your face off. (Also, the Bellhouse is a quality venue, one of my favorite places I heard live music in NYC).

If I was there, I would attend:

Saturday, September 17
The Talent Show Presents: The Drunk Show

The Bell House / 9PM / $20
Hosted by Kevin Townley and Elna Baker
Featuring John Hodgman, Ira Glass, Eugene Mirman, Jen Kirkman, Jessi Klein, Leo Allen, Ptolemy Slocum and more!

Sunday, September 18
A Special Food-Themed Comedy Show For You
The Bell House / 6PM / $20
Hosted by Eugene Mirman w/ Sarah Vowell, Larry Murphy, Ron Funches, delicious food, chefs and the world’s first caviar eating contest!

Pretty Good Friends
The Bell House / 9PM / $20
With Eugene Mirman, Michael Showalter, Marc Maron, Hannibal Buress and more!

2) de Kooning: A Retrospective at MOMA

September 18, 2011–January 9, 2012

This is the first major museum exhibition devoted to the full scope of the career of Willem de Kooning, widely considered to be among the most important and prolific artists of the 20th century.  Bringing together nearly 200 works from public and private collections, the exhibition will occupy the Museum’s entire sixth-floor gallery space, totaling approximately 17,000 square feet. 

I always recommend going to major exhibitions early in their runs, before they get crazy.  I had insane crowd experiences with both the Tim Burton and the McQueen exhibits.

I’m not very knowledgeable about de Kooning, but the retrospectives organized by MOMA are always great, informative, and a wonderful part of getting to live in NYC.

3) The Mountaintop by Katori Hall

Previews begin Thursday, September 22nd at the Jacobs theater.

Taking place on April 3, 1968, THE MOUNTAINTOP is a gripping reimagining of events the night before the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. After delivering one of his most memorable speeches, an exhausted Dr. King (Samuel L. Jackson) retires to his room at the Lorraine Motel while a storm rages outside. When a mysterious stranger (Angela Bassett) arrives with some surprising news, King is forced to confront his destiny and his legacy to his people.

I was very excited to see this play, and disappointed to be missing it.  A good friend of mine was involved in the West End production which one the 2010 Oliver for best play.  Plus, seeing Samuel L. Jackson on stage would be pretty neat!

Go see it and tell me all about it!

General Rec:

Also, if you want a great place to see basically everything happening in NYC, I recommend checking out NewYorkology: A New York Travel Guide.  I followed on twitter to see what was new and exciting each day, and the site’s calendar is very comprehensive. A great site to check out when a visitor or a local.