Art Ownership and a Zoltar Encounter (and Warhol)

Because the art expo was during the day, BG figured I’d be up for it because it was well before my bedtime. Because it was at a brewery, I was iffy at first because I don’t drink and I don’t eat—I live on air—and I don’t like going to things where I’m not going to support the business. Then I realized, I could buy him a beer, so I was like, We’re doing this. Because MD has been trying to get us together to go to an outdoor summer concert and because there would be live music at the art show, I told her about it, and then we, all three, were finally in the same place at the same time in the blazing sun with creative minds all around us.

When I go to fairs, I want one of everything. My strategy, then, is to visit every table and then circle back. It works because I get to then figure out if I really, truly want something, and also I don’t need to carry it around with me. If it’s gone by the time I go back, then it’s not meant to be. Because I recently paid a pretty penny to have my kitchen wall light switch repaired for the third time in two years and bought two air conditioners and paid to have them installed and had my gutters fixed and cleaned, I can never move from this house. Therefore, I’m finally looking to decorate my living room wall. It’s a big empty space. Art can go on it.

I didn’t buy anything to go on the wall. Instead, I bought magnet art and a sticker. Baby steps.

Artwork credits: Deena Hadhoud, Emily Rubenstein, Ahlicks, and JGA Creations

The bathroom was inside rather than a port-a-potty. Bless you, Great South Bay Brewery. Y’all know how I rely on bathrooms, so in MD and I went as BG stayed at a table taking a survey about his life so he could buy a custom-made notebook. As soon as we got in the door, MD was like, Omigosh it’s that thing from that movie! Helpful. I was like, what? where? Off to the side beyond the bar was a Zoltar machine. I’ve seen them in real life before and had my fortune read by one with a few broken fingers. MD had never seen one up close, and so I was like, You’ve gotta do it, handing over a dollar to her as my gift of fortune. Zoltar is pretty loud as he moves his head and hands. This one has no broken fingers but even after the fortune card spat out, his hand kept moving, and it got a little creepy. The fortune was fun, and she got some lucky numbers out of the deal for the next PowerBall.

Before leaving, BG and I made one more lap and then asked the band for their name. They played covers from a variety of decades, and at one point, they were singing a song by Four Non Blondes and I literally thought the lead from the band was singing and had to look up to see if it was her. It was not. It was The Drinkwater Brothers. BG was like, what if they were the Drinkbeer Brothers, ’cause we’re at a Brewery.

Another jaunt into the art world came in the form of another Sibling Adventure! When we last adventured, we cleaned up some garbage. This time, we planned for indoor activities. My brother’s school year finally finished, so I booked us tickets to the Nassau County Museum of Art. Because I’m now a full professor, I’m making more academic choices, which means I bought myself a membership to the museum that came with a membership to NARM, a reciprocal museum thingie that allows me to get into a bunch of other museums, too. So I didn’t actually buy art here. I bought the museum! This paragraph needs more hypertext, no?

The first part of the adventure was all about the unbearable New York traffic. My brother, who never runs late, was running a little late. I knew he thought he’d get to the museum from his house in twenty minutes. I also knew he didn’t realize traffic. I waited a bit and then went into the museum. The guy at the front said I could check in for both of us and he’d let my brother in later. My brother arrived after a 45 minute drive, all apologetic, and I was like, You were cursing in your car, weren’t you? He was like, No matter where I went, for no reason, no construction, I just couldn’t go anywhere. Yup, that seems about right.

Sidenote: Apparently, the traffic is due to not only those who usually take public transportation now driving cars but also more delivery trucks for more people shopping at home. Hey, everyone? Go back to doing things the way you did them please and thanks.

Before he got there, I got a bit taken aback by the number of people in the building. I didn’t feel unsafe—I’m not talking pandemic—I’m talking how usually I’m one of three people there. Instead, there was what seemed to be a field trip of teens roaming about. Also, there was a video shoot happening in one of the galleries. The guy at the desk was like, Gallery 1 is closed at the moment. Then another guy came over and was like, No, it’s not. So the first guy was like, Okay I lied, everything is open. Ha! The doors had been closed, but the people filming said patrons could come in while they were on break. There was equipment everywhere, so taking in the artwork from La Belle Epoque while navigating state-of-the-art video tech was quite the juxtaposition. Toulouse-Lautrec probably would have enjoyed it.

My brother found me outside Gallery 1 as I read about the art movement, and he was like, I want to see the Warhol.

Warhol again? you may ask. The answer is always, Yes, of course, Warhol again.

Up the winding stairs we went. Some of the artwork we’d seen in person before—the animals and some of the flowers. Some of the artwork was new to us: Mt. Vesuvius, portraits of characters using diamond dust, portraits of Jewish people, drawings of flowers, album covers.

Here’s a quote that sums up Warhol’s main pop aesthetic that made the two of us go, yeah wow:

Business art is the step that comes after Art . . . I wanted to be an Art Businessman or a Business Artist. Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art.

Andy Warhol

Then? Soup cans. Whoa.

In the midst of this Warhol extravaganza, a fire alarm sounded. It was one of those deafening, piercing alarms. We poked out of the small gallery we were in. A semi-frantic man was quickly walking through the hall. I gestured into the air and asked, This means we leave, right? He was like, yes, please exit now! Down the stairs we went and outside into the 100 degree weather. I entertained my brother with how I handle fire alarms on campus: I walk away from the building, and my students ask if they should follow me, and I ask, Do you want to be close to the building if it explodes?

After about ten minutes, the alarm had stopped and no authorities arrived, so back into the building we went, up the stairs, back to the Warhol. Then back down the stairs to finish off La Belle Epoque. We went to the back gallery and found a lot of Tiffany lamps. Fact: I didn’t know Tiffany lamps were named after a guy with the last name Tiffany. On the wall in the hallway hung a very detailed timeline. In very un-history-teacher-like-fashion, my brother did not read every single word of it. That proves that it really was a lot to take in. We did some scattershot observing, pointing out things we recognized. At the end of it all, he was like, Basically, a lot of stuff happened in a really short period of time. History lesson done.

At this point, Gallery 1’s doors were closed. I asked at the desk if it would reopen soon, and the guy was like, It should be open. I was like, The doors are closed. He went to see if either set of doors would be open, and they weren’t, and he was like, Sorry they haven’t told me anything different. I was like, I totally get it—there was a lot going on still. The gift shop was open, though, so back up the stairs we went. Because I bought a membership, I got a free poster. I really thought about what I wanted on my wall and also what meant something to me. I got the poster from Fool The Eye. It was between that and Energy: The Power of Art! The former won out because it may look better on my wall. Also, it may not go on the living room wall at all. I may move things around now that I’m staying in the house forever. The women at the register had a dandy of a time trying to ring it up until finally they were just like, Thank you very much for your support in being a member and we will figure this out later. Heh heh, they’re wonderful people at the museum. Also, “dandy of a time” is my new fun phrase.

Because our time schedule was off, we hadn’t eaten lunch and were starving. We found some shade and ate. Then I was like, We can drive up the hill or walk. My brother chose to walk, so in the 100 degree heat, we made our way up the road to the Manes Center for Pop Art.

The number one reason to see this exhibit together was to be able to say, Good God, it’s a Lichtenstein! in the same room at the same time. We checked out the Robert Indiana and Katz work along one wall.

Then there at the end, Good God, it was a Lichtenstein! Everything else paled in comparison.

Good God, it’s a Lichtenstein!

On the final two walls were Rivers and Rauschenburg, both very interesting. Over the final piece, a light was flickering, which caused the piece to look different every moment. This seemed to be accidental, but also, it was like performance art. Like we were part of the art. That’s what I’d like to believe.

Measure of Existence (Apparently, A Tribute)

Two or three weeks ago, I planned to do two things and wound up doing four. Happy to take myself into the city to see art and exhibits and make myself think.

For the past week, I’ve had a stress headache because COVID 19 has taken over the world. It has shut down the city and the suburbs.

So here’s a way to get out of your head if not out of the house. I’m going to remember my experience in a way that might let you live it for yourself. (My creative writers and my lit readers would be very excited that I’m practicing what I preach about second person pov). And away we go.

It’s the first time you’re using the MTA app’s eticket for your train ride into the city. You don’t have any idea if you need to leave it open, leave your phone on, if you can use other apps. You brought your charger in case your phone died on the ride but also you charged it until the minute you left the house even though it was already at 100% and you thought somehow it would suck in some energy reserves. You are in a car with the bathroom because nine times out of ten, you manage to sit in the car with bathroom. You activate your ticket only to realize there’s like a quiz to take to make sure you mean to activate your ticket, and really, this is not the kind of decision you thought you’d have to make, so now–as usual–you’re breaking out into the nervous sweats. Then the conductor comes by and barely says anything to you because your little eticket is flashing pretty colors. You let your phone sleep as you read your book that you started a few weeks ago and haven’t gotten back to because all those papers and meetings. You change trains and your eticket continues to work as you continue to read. You stop sweating. Sweet relief.

You take a walk downtown to find the David Zwirner Gallery. You already missed the doppleganger exhibit, so there was no way you were going to miss the Doug Wheeler one. You walk down and across and down and across and finally get to the street where the gallery is, and there are other people trying to find the same gallery because there are a lot of choices of doors. The sun is out and it is windy and the galleries are by the water so you are a little chilly as you try to choose the door that will get you to the exhibit. It’s kind of like Let’s Make A Deal for the art world.

The couple with the stroller ahead of you have chosen the correct door, which means they win! Which means you win because you get to see the artwork, too! The exhibit on view is a light exhibit. It looks like this.

Zwirner Gallery February 2020 (1)

And maybe that looks interesting but also some may ask, Why did you walk all that way on a windy day to see a framed box of light? Then you realize that this photo does the exhibit no justice. Here’s what it looks like again:

Zwirner Gallery February 2020 (6)

Ahhh, an entire lit up room wall thingie of light! It’s pretty groovy. You walk up to the light to see where it’s coming from. The wall curves under the floor. The light emanates and radiates from all around the wall that seems to be attached but also not attached to anything. You stay for at least twenty minutes, watching people look at the wall.

When you decide you have seen enough of the light wall, you leave the gallery and see a sign for Basquiat. The other side of the sign says Warhol. Go you must. So instead of keeping with the plan to go straight to the museum, you head over to Taglialatella Gallerieson 10th Ave. Your first fun find there is Einstein. He’s got a good message.

Free Art NYC February 2020 (4)

You go inside for the Basquiat, but before you even get to that, you’re floored. They’ve got Keith Haring. They’ve got a bunch of sparkly silkscreens from Russell Young. There are artists with names like Jerkface and Mr. Brainwash. And then you turn the corner and Good God! It’s a Lichtenstein! (That’s for your brother). You do find the Basquiat and the Warhol, and you bask in their artistic genius. (For more about your experiences with Basquiat and Warhol, you can go here ).

Because you’re so close to it, you head up onto the Highline. It’s got free public art! And RuPaul!

You realize that it’s cold up here on the Highline, so you walk quickly. The sun comes out, and you slow down to bask. The sun goes back in, so you pick up the pace. Some young woman runs up behind you, calling out, Hey excuse me! You turn and see she’s holding out a $5 bill. She says, You dropped this. You say, Oh, hey, thanks! She runs off, and you almost skip the rest of the length of the park because there’s still human kindness in this world.

So happy are you that you overshoot your landing and get down off the Highline around 14th when the Rubin is on 19th. Then? You. Get. Lost. You look at street signs, expecting to see numbers and instead you see the word Washington or something. What is this non-numbered sign all about?

You decide to walk away from the water. Two reasons that will help: 1. it’s warmer away from the water. 2. it’ll take you closer to 7th, a cross street. Your spatial ineptness is in full swing, but this decision makes sense a little at least.

A few more turns and double backs, and you finally find The Rubin, your new home away from home. You are so thankful that you’ve found it because you’re super cold now and you have to pee really bad. They have a bathroom! You know that bathroom well because it’s the bathroom you brushed your teeth in when you slept there a few months ago. (Here, “slept” means “had weird half asleep dreams while half asleep writing them down only to find they make no sense and your handwriting looks like the writing you find in a journal kept by a murderer).

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You check in on your old friend, the Bodhisattva.

Rubin February 2920 (13)

Then you venture into the exhibit you’d been itching to see, Measure Your Existence. The main reason you wanted to see it is it has interactive components, and you love to touch things in a museum.

The first piece is a carpet of candy. You get to take a piece of candy. As the pile dwindles, the museum replenishes it. Measure the existence of candy.

You take some candy. You eat a piece of candy. You enjoy the candy. You enjoy the fact that you got to take something from the museum even more than the candy itself.

Then you come upon a wall of letters. Anyone can write a letter to anyone. You can seal the letter and address it. You can seal the letter and not address it. You can leave the letter open for other visitors to read. You read a letter. And then another. A lot of people have a lot of guilt and write a lot of letters apologizing. Some ask for prayers.

Then you see a little booth. You have to take off your shoes to go inside. You can write a letter in there, too, so you do just that. You seal it and address it. The museum will eventually send it.

When you emerge from the letter hut and put on your boots, you notice a woman sitting at the other writing desk, and she’s weeping. You teared up writing your own letter. You assumed a lot of people probably cry when writing. Here is the proof.

Around the corner you watch a snippet of a film about a guy calling different companies and talking to whomever answers as if he’s talking to his mom, and then he realizes his mom is dead. It’s subtitled. It’s a weird concept. You stop watching.

You then watch an animated film and listen to the meditative soundtrack. You’ve got those big headphones on again. You always wear headphones in some capacity when you come here.

Then you decide to shake hands with a bronze hand. You’ve seen it before and have not shaken the hand. Today is the day you shake the hand. It’s not creepy. But actually, yes, it is.

You think about going to see the Impractical Jokers movie but the movie times don’t jive with your train times. You walk back to Penn, taking in more art along the way.

You wind up waiting at Penn for half an hour, which gives you plenty of time to start worrying again about using the MTA app eticket. It also gives you time to read more of your book, and you get halfway through it.

Then about a week later, you get some mail that makes you smile.

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You know that the only true way to measure existence is in gratitude. You thank the universe for everything, every single thing.

Warhol Ukrainian Style

In keeping with the theory that there’s never enough Warhol, I stayed at work late one night to hear a lecture by the author of The Factory. There were slides and a good amount of Warhol history. Then there were YouTube videos of interviews. I kept texting my brother with excitement: Now he’s talking about this! Now he’s talking about that!

Then on a sunny yet rather chilly Saturday, I made my way from Penn to Cooper Square, wandered around looking at the map on my phone and street signs in a rather circular path, and then found 6th Street mostly by accident. There stood The Ukrainian Museum. Inside was Warhol, awaiting our presence.

Once my brother arrived, we headed straight to the second floor where the rather small but really neat exhibit stood. There were some ink and paper drawings, one of which is a collaboration between Warhol and his mom who did calligraphy. There were pieces that copy his soup cans. There was his mom’s prayer book that had a cover make out of a Chivas bottle’s box. The main show were several prints of endangered species that looked pretty psychedelic.

Side Note: We didn’t find this on our own. S’s mom tipped us off. How she knew about this tiny exhibit in this tiny museum is a mystery. I mean, I could ask, but what fun would that be?

We couldn’t take pictures, so I took some pictures, and all the while my brother was like, The guard is right there…the guard is right there….the guard is right there. I’m not a jerk. I’m not sharing the photos. I did take a picture of his signature on the wall which was before the sign that said no pictures, so I’m assuming that’s not copyrighted.

On the first floor was an exhibit of Ukrainian garb. Lots of intricately woven shirts stood in several displays. Interspersed throughout were also skirts and table cloths, and we realized that telling the difference between them was difficult unless we read the labels on the displays. Both kinds of textiles have very pretty intricate patterns.

When we were about to leave the museum, the guy at the front desk told us to take the elevator to the basement because there was one more exhibit. Enter Christina Saj’s Re:Create–the best exhibit around. Each painting uses a steel canvas so that you can add your own magnetic pieces. My brother became a bit focused on finding birds to add to each piece. I added some abstracts to several pieces. Then we found these magnetic sticks and collaborated on a piece together. We could have added letters to make words, but then a group of children came in, which cued our departure.

Ukrainian Museum ReCreate (3)

Portrait: Bird

Ukrainian Museum ReCreate (5)

I added the flowery things.

Ukrainian Museum ReCreate (7)

Another bird! The light hits this one perfectly.

Ukrainian Museum ReCreate (10)

We added the straight lines. 

Now that we were artists, we stopped by one final small gallery on the first floor and headed out. I was fortunate enough to get an impromptu tour of former music venues that my brother pointed out as we looked for a place to eat. (You, too, can soak in this NYC knowledge by booking a tour with my brother who can’t help but give tours whenever we’re walking around NYC. Greenwich Village, East Village, Brooklyn Bridge, he’s got the skillz: http://newyorkbroadwaytours.com/private-nyc-walking-tours/).

We found a BBQ place that I tried to reserve on OpenTable to get points, but this location didn’t offer points. (BTW: If you’re on OpenTable, make sure you toggle on. There was an app update that made earning points a choice–why else use the app other than to get points? Whatever. Toggle on, people.)

When we went inside, we saw it was an order-at-the-counter place, which is why I couldn’t reserve. What I lost in points, I was made whole by the decadence of sweet potato casserole. We feasted. Thank you, Mighty Quinn’s, you do good BBQ.

Mighty Quinn BBQ (4)

After following my brother to get to a subway (he’s a tour guide! he knows how to get to the subway!), we took a train back to Penn where I left him to get home. I found a train waiting for me–this keeps happening, perfect timing!, no jinxing–so I settled in. Then I saw this little guy hanging out on the ride home.

Train Fun