This week, I’m thrilled to bring you my interview with vocalist and composer Jocelyn Medina. I first met her a year or so ago, when I took her (beginners) class at the New York Jazz Workshop. In addition to jazz, Jocelyn has also embraced other musical traditions, including Ghanaian drumming and Hindustani voice. In our interview, Jocelyn talks about her musical journey from classical to jazz, and how her travels and immersion in other cultures have infused her style. She’s already cut two CD’s of original compositions, and will start working on her third in July. This weekend, along with some of the other musicians who will appear on her next CD, Jocelyn will be performing at Club Bonafide and then on Saturday, May 28th, and at the Bar Next Door on Monday, May 30th. If you can’t make either of those dates, she hosts a jazz performance followed by an open mic every Sunday night at Rue B – your chance to hear some great talent and have fun!
Last night I got to the opening of the lovely new show “Landscape: A Sense of Place” at Site:Brooklyn gallery in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn. I got lucky and snagged an interview with the exhibit’s curator, Annette Rose-Shapiro. I’ll let her tell you about it.
Liz Daly: How did this show come about?
Annette Rose-Shapiro: Denise (Amses) and Chris (Cosma) had asked me to come up with an idea for a show, and I wanted to do something on landscapes.
I was wondering, do people do landscapes anymore? It’s not the Thomas Cole, Hudson River School kind of thing, but what are people doing in terms of landscape.
I was very happy to see the kinds of works people submitted, using all types of media, all very, very different – there was a lot of great work. There were over 1200 submissions to the show, and I had to narrow it down to about 75. Which was not easy.
So how did you decide?
I looked at whether they all had a sense of place, which was part of the title of the show; and whether they all had a place that I would personally want to go to. That’s how I thought about it: I want to go to that place, I want to see what it’s like, I want to explore there, I want to see what that person saw in that place.
I noticed that some of the pieces had environmental themes.
Yes, there were some that did, and there were some traditional landscapes, there were some very abstract ones, there was a quilt; that was great.
As an embroiderer, I’m always drawn to fibre pieces, so I noticed the larger quilt (A Time and Place by Rosemary Hoffenberg) the smaller one (Quilted Construction #1 by Sara Drower), and the felted landscape (High Country by Ginger Summit).
The great thing about this show is that people express themselves in many different ways, but it was all about a place. As I explained before, when I was choosing pieces, I said, “I want to go to that place, I want to explore it; maybe I’m afraid to go there, maybe I’m interested in going there.” That’s what drew me in – I saw a specific place. And that’s what I based my choices on.
Where did the submissions come from?
All over the country. It was the same with the show I did last year on portraits – people from all over the country submitted, and they came to the show – from San Francisco, Atlanta, Texas, Wisconsin, even Hong Kong. They came to see their work, and that was such a wonderful thing for me. They all said, “This is the first show I’ve had in New York, this is great!”
It was wonderful to see people so excited about their work. I love giving people a chance to show their work, people who wouldn’t ordinarily get to show it. Because they’re not going to get into Gagosian, or Pace, or Marlborough – which is those galleries’ loss – and that’s too bad, because there’s a lot of wonderful work that never gets a chance to be seen. The greatest thing about doing shows here is that people get a chance to be seen, and they should be.
The German Center for Research and Innovation will be hosting the Falling Walls Lab New York on August 30, 2016.
Falling Walls is an international platform for leaders from the worlds of science, business, politics, the arts and society, that also promotes the latest scientific findings among a broad audience from all parts of society.
Initiated on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, the question of every Falling Walls gathering is: Which walls will fall next?
Falling Walls Lab New York is an exciting forum for scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs to present their ideas in 3 minutes, with the chance to win a travel grant to participate in the Falling Walls Finale in Berlin on November 8, 2016!
Participation is open to bachelor’s and master’s students, PhD candidates, as well as post-docs, junior researchers and entrepreneurs.
All disciplines are welcome: from agriculture, medicine, economics, engineering to the humanities. Click here for application details.
Rail transportation has been key to NYC’s growth, as well as central to the city’s identity. Even when disused or abandoned, trains and their tracks still retain their hold on our imaginations – think about the High Line, the wonderful elevated park along former rail tracks on the West Side. And now there’s a very active move afoot to turn an underground trolley terminal – that hasn’t been used since 1948 – into a green space. Underground park? Yup, you heard right. At first blush, this might sound like an improbable concept, but a visit to the Lowline Lab might change your mind.
James Ramsey and Dan Barasch conceived of the Lowline in 2009, and in 2011, they revealed their idea publicly in a New York Magazine article. It sounded nuts, but hey – why not! In 2015, the Low Line Lab, a prototype of the proposed subterranean park, opened its doors in an abandoned warehouse on the Lower East Side. With sunlight. And real plants and trees. The Lab makes use of cutting-edge solar technology in the form a a “remote skylight”: sunlight passes through a glass shield above a parabolic collector, and is reflected and gathered at one focal point, then distributed via a solar canopy.
Right now, when you walk through the Lab, you can see 3,000 plants, including 65 species of subtropical plants.
When realized, the Lowline will comprise three city blocks, on the site of the former Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal, just below Delancey Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan (next to the J, M and Z lines). The Lowline aims to build a new kind of public space — one that highlights the historic elements of a former trolley terminal while introducing cutting-edge solar technology and design, enabling plants and trees to grow underground.
The Lowline Lab has gotten a one year extension until March 2017, but don’t wait that long to see it. Located at 140 Essex Street, it’s open on Saturdays and Sundays, from 11:00 to 5:00 and is FREE!
Last week I saw Dale M. Reid’s fabulous photos of oyster mushrooms (review in a separate post below) at the National Association of Women Artists gallery. The photographer, who was in town for a few days from her home base in Toronto, graciously sat with me for an interview about her work. Here are excerpts from our conversation.
Could you talk about how you got into photography? You mentioned you had been a banker for 25 years – that’s an interesting shift.
I’m an accountant by training – accountants have to be precise, and I have to be precise when I print, so there are some common elements in these two professions. Also, I think my business background brings a lot of depth and understanding to the art world and how to approach it. The art business can be more business than art.
I have always enjoyed photography – I would shoot when traveling to the Canadian East Coast. However, I think it became more of an outlet after my partner was diagnosed with MS. Then in 1999, I started looking at photography differently, more as an art form. When it’s a hobby, you don’t think about that, you’re out having fun. I took Introductory Photography at Ryerson University (Toronto), and people said I had the eye for it. The class gave me presentation skills, and I got into the darkroom. For the next five years, I started putting an exit plan in place, working on my eye, and developing my skills. In downtown Toronto there was a darkroom that you could rent, so I started stealing time for photography; a couple of nights a week I’d come home from work, have dinner, and turn around, go back downtown, and use the dark room for three hours.
My exit strategy looked at financing as well as developing my photography, so it wasn’t until after I hit my “magic number” that I left banking.
That was in 2004. I rented a gallery for the month of May for the Toronto photography festival. I had about 20 pictures in the show. I had never printed in a wet darkroom before – the space I had previously rented only used processors – but the framer I was working with knew a photographer who had a darkroom, and he coached me. When he backed out of the scene, I rented time and space with another photographer, who later got kicked out of that building when it was sold. Then I came across this spot not too far from where I live. They were charging $1/sq. ft., and I found one open space on the 2nd floor, with no walls, so I could design what I wanted from the floor up. I’ve been there eight years now.
Have you always done black and white photography?
When it was a hobby, I did color, but when I started looking at photography as an art form, I switched to black and white. I like it. Often people will ask me, especially with my floral photos, “Why don’t you shoot in color?” I say, “Why?” With black and white you see so much more. Color’s a distraction. A photographer friend used to say: “With color, you are moved by the color; with black and white, it’s spiritual.” When developing black and white, you’ve got to be dead on – you can’t be close.
What has been your favorite subject to shoot?
It’s hard to say – initially I was doing a lot of maritime themes, and landscapes, because we were visiting the East Coast. In 2006 I got into a group show called Urban Optics at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto. I had no idea what I was going to come up with, but Toronto is known for its tree cover, so I went out and started shooting trees from the beginning of January until the end of March. We had very little snow in Toronto that year, which is why you don’t see any snow in the pictures. I did most of the shooting in High Park in Toronto, which is similar to Central Park but not as big. I would go out at random; some days I’d go out and get nothing; some days I’d get more.
The trees were like models – without the leaves you see the structure, the character, and that’s what I was focusing on. I saw a tree stripped down to stubs – and wanted to get that picture. The cloud cover was facing west; I walked on the other side, and the sky was crystal blue. So within half an hour I got two pictures of the same subject, each looking totally different.
Now I’m doing primarily studio work with mushrooms, pears and floral studies.
I think with photography, patience is important.
Yes, patience and a bit of luck at the same time.
Do you know before you go into the darkroom what you want your image to look like?
Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. For example, in the florist’s shop one day, there was a bunch of deep dark purple flowers just sitting in a cooler, and it immediately struck me that I could do something with them. Because the stems were very fluid, I called the picture Purple Tango – it’s as if there was a dance going on with the flowers. I shot the picture the day I got the flowers, and I shot it again about a week later – then I had to throw them out – I really pushed it ‘til the end.
It’s funny you should talk about movement, because in all of these photographs of oyster mushrooms, there’s a lot of movement. Before we talk about your current exhibit, could you tell us about the series of photographs of pears that you made?
I’ve done two series of pears dancing in the rain; one was Jiving in the Rain – it took me about a month and five shoots to get the right images. Up until the fourth shoot, I was getting glare, because I had the water coming straight down on the pears. On the fifth shoot, I came up with the idea of doing a double exposure: on the first shot, I had the water going behind the pears, and on the second one it was in front of them. The pears stayed still, but this technique created so much life, and eliminated much of the glare.
Last year I had some zebra-print material with a lot of texture, so I set up two pears on it; one, of two pears hugging I called Cuddle Time. If you look at my logo, it is based on one of my first still life images taken in 2004, two hugging pears. The other picture had three pears – two together and one off to the side a bit, and I called it Can I Join You? My pear images tend to have a whimsical feel to them.
Let’s talk about your current exhibition here at NAWA of these mushroom oysters. You started the series in 2011. How did the idea come to you?
A friend mentioned seeing oyster mushrooms at a farmers’ market. So when I went to the one near me, I started looking at them. They caught my attention, with their shapes, forms and textures. Working with film, I can bring all those things out.
There’s a certain energy in your work, but what really struck me was the depth and especially the composition, which is not so easy; it’s almost like you’ve shot portraits of each of them.
Last year, I submitted to a competition that provided me with a critique – which is very unusual. They also brought out the strength of the composition. In addition with my images with two mushrooms, they found it a distraction. Because of that comment, when I decided which images to bring for this exhibit, I left out the ones with two mushrooms. But it worked out, because I still had enough images (27) for this show.
Do you ever shoot people or animals?
I haven’t done those. Although, for one of my first shows, after leaving the bank, I did what I call my Mystery Girl Series in which the shots are all below the neck, and it was me – I was the Mystery Girl. I guess it was a way for me to come out without anyone knowing. A year or two later there was a show with a mermaid theme, and I did Queen of the Sea/Queen of the Deck (like a deck of cards) – I was the mermaid and it was all self-shot. I’ve been thinking I want to do something figuratively, but I don’t know yet what I want to do.
Do you know what your next series will be?
I’m not sure; I will continue with my floral studies and I’m going to play with the mushrooms more; a reviewer suggested I put some oil on parts of the mushroom, so I’ll try that and see what happens.
For most people, food is often their first entryway into a foreign culture. One of the great advantages of living in the Big Apple is that you can eat your way around the world without ever getting on a plane. In that spirit, I’m reviewing two food-related shows.
I’ve always loved the oil paintings of groaning tables of food by the Old Masters, so I immediately jumped up when I hear about a show entitled Dejeuner! Organized by the National Association of Women Artists, it features over 30 fabulous black and white photos of oyster mushrooms by Canadian photographer Dale M. Reid. Ms. Reid still uses film and traditional darkroom techniques, and I think that is what gives her pictures their depth and resonance. Her photographs capture the contrasting textures and detail of these fungi. She also has an eye, and a serious way with composition; through her lens, mushrooms can seem to be so much more (like that game you played when you were a kid, and tried to see the images in clouds)
The series was begun in 2011 – you can find it on Ms. Reid’s website .
NAWA’s gallery is on the 5th floor of an office building at 315 West 39th Street and is only open Tuesday-Friday, 10:00am – 5:00pm (their website still has their old address) Take a long lunch and see these photos!
NAWA also has a very interesting on-line gallery featuring the work of women artists.
I followed Ms. Reid’s show with a trip up to MOFAD – the (relatively) new Museum of Food and Drink Lab in Williamsburgh. Given the importance of food to NYC’s economy and cachet, I’m surprised somebody didn’t do this sooner. Their current show, Flavor: Making It and Faking It takes you inside the $25billion flavor industry. It starts off with a short video explaining how our bodies and brains process flavors (it seems humans have over 10,000 tastebuds). From there, you can wander through exhibits which are a combination of explanatory text, flavor testers and artifacts. The show focuses mostly on two flavors: vanillin (for vanilla) and citral (for lemon). Today vanillin is the most ubiquitous flavor the world over. Originally derived from the Mexican vanilla orchid, it was rare and expensive – for one thing, it flowers only for one day – and for another, it needed to be pollinated by hand (even today). Additionally, it takes six months of curing to create vanilla extract (but it undisputedly enhances a lot of baked goods!)
To increase production for European markets, this orchid was planted in other tropical climates. In 1858 the scent was chemically recreated, but it wasn’t until the 1960’s that flavor technology took off, used primarily in packaged foods. Since artificial flavors are chemically identical to natural ones – making them indistinguishable to humans – by viewing flavors as chemical compounds which could be analyzed, reverse engineered and recreated, food scientists could go beyond salt, sugar and spices. One of the more interesting facts I unearthed during my visit was the number of natural sources for a given flavor: for example, citral can be derived from lemon peel, lemongrass, lemons, or lemon-myrtle, while vanillin can be made from cloves,coal, pine bark and paper pulp.
According to the FDA, Natural flavors just have to be taken from a natural source, not synthesized in a lab. On their website, MOFAD has more interesting information on this topic.
Throughout the museum, you’ll find individual stations, which release natural and artificial versions of various flavors so you can compare them, as well as machines dispensing tablets infused with a given flavor. There’s also the Smell Synth machine, where you can experience flavors one at a time, or in combination; on the wall in front of the machine are illustrations of foods such as pancakes, cheese, soda, etc. and the flavors that they contain. (You’d be surprised where the smell of nail polish remover shows up!)
You’ll also a display on Umami – the fifth taste (after sweet, sour, salty and bitter) -which is basically the “yum” factor. Another exhibit explains the discovery of MSG, which was originally derived from Japanese seaweed, but today is manufactured from wheat gluten (and, contrary to a lot of what’s been written, has not been proven unsafe.
Throughout the exhibit you’ll also find antique food tins and bottles, as well as early advertisements (note the repeated references to “purity”)
This exhibit will really get you thinking about what goes into our food, and how advertisers, manufacturers, and others in the food chain tell us only what they want us to know.
MOFAD also hosts talks on food-related topics: On May 19th, they’re hosting a discussion and tasting of North Brooklyn’s Polish Food Heritage, and there will be other talks in Chinatown, Jackson Heights, Arthur Avenue and other neighborhoods known for their ethnic cuisines. You can find the complete list here
Check out their gift shop for cook books and original foods!
Well as you know, life happens, so I only caught two shows this past weekend – but what shows they were!
1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair’s second iteration, was as good as its first. Held once again in Pioneer Works in Red Hook, Brooklyn, this year the fair featured 17 galleries, which made it quite manageable, and accounted in part for the high quality of the work shown. It also made it easy to talk with the gallerists (and sometimes the artists).
As an embroiderer, I immediately gravitated to the fibre art pieces, which melded modern sensibilities and politics with traditional craft techniques. I especially liked the embroidered Statecraft – Invitation to Exile by Athi-Patra Ruga, whose viivid red sky and roiling blue seas captured the internal turmoil of the exiled. Close by was Infinite Yield by Otobong Nkanga, which used traditional tapestry weaving to depict a human figure, whose identity is obscured by diamonds, astride a Namibian mine.
Billie Zangewa had two lovely silk appliqué pieces – Angel and Mood Indigo – each with a powerful narrative of loss, and Laurence Lemaoana’s fabric pieces – Rat King and Derision – gave new vibrancy to word art. In the same vein, All Miller had a fabulous tapestry of beads made from Obama’s election posters.
Gastinau Massamba’s God Save the Queen, a large scale embroidery on linen, featured a fantastical animal (combination giraffe and zebra) in a field of flowers, had a delicate feel, with an underlying note of healing.
Other standouts include the six intricate and elaborate oils on cardboard by Omar BA. Your eye is drawn to the lush, intricate backgrounds, which could be tropical settings or fireworks or gun flares, but it is immediately confronted by the struggling men, either prone or kneeling in the foreground, evoking themes of war and power.
William Kentridge had an amazing woodcut, For Mantegna; 2 meters x 2 meters, composed of a dozen panels pieced together, it is part of a series about Rome’s political and cultural history.
There were about 60 artists showing in the fair; in addition to fibre and oils, other artists employed acrylic, gouache, pastels, photography, and sculpture. You can find more information on 1:54’s website. I’ve also posted some pictures on my Instagram feed.
If you find yourself in London in early October, catch the 1:54 Fair at Somerset House.
Traveling on to Lower Manhattan, specifically Federal Hall, I found the fabulous Portal show, which ended Tuesday. Organized by 4heads – who also produce the art shows on Governor’s Island – this exhibit featured work of almost 30 artists, across media ranging from photography, sculpture, oil, ink, and discarded consumer electronics. There was also a lovely sound installation by Aaron Taylor Kuffner of javanese gongs with robotic mallets that would sound at various intervals.
In the center of the ground floor rotunda was Will Kurz’ re-creation of a disconcerting New York street scene replete with lamp post, fire hydrant and garbage pail, and life-size street people fashioned from plaster, wire and newspaper. Also in the rotunda was Becky Brown’s Personal Effects, a mixed media installation of found computers and electronics, most painted white, that she re-purposed into art, which was both calming and thought provoking – where do all our devices go to die? Do they have an afterlife?
Some of my favorites were housed upstairs: Nikki Lederer’s sculptures from re-purposed plastic bottles; Alexandra Pacula’s Progressive Current, a large (around 7’ x 9’) oil painting which looked like Times Square shot with a strobe and fish-eye; Maximus Clark’s 3Dolatry digital print portraits which were meant to be viewed with 3-D glasses (one red and one blue lens). Marie Koo had two oils which would be great illustrations for children’s books, especially her Bad Moon Dancing (have you ever wondered what the animals in the forest do under a full moon?), and Simona Prives had some delicate digital collages with monotype and ink. On the lower level, Taezoo Park’s Digital Being made from circuit boards, solar panels and LED’s was great, as was Jackie Mock’s Breaking One Wishbone a Day for One Year, which consisted of broken wishbones inside hand-made specimen cabinets – brought back many happy memories of Thanksgiving dinners.
There were lots of other works in this show. I hope the US Parks Service, which is responsible for Federal Hall, hosts more of these types of shows. Federal Hall – on the site of the first US Congress, Supreme Court and Executive Branch offices and where George Washington took the oath of office – is an important part of US history; uses such as this enliven what is an otherwise boring space. Perhaps they could work with groups such as 4heads to re-imagine Federal Hall.
You can find the on-line catalogue for the Portal show here
In honor of Cinco de Mayo, this week, we shine the spotlight on Mexico. Not to be confused with Mexican Independence Day, Cinco de Mayo commemorates the victory of the Mexican army over the invading French forces of Napoleon III, in a battle that took place on the outskirts of Puebla on May 5th 1862. The Mexican soldiers were under the command of Benito Juarez, Mexico’s first indigenous president.
To find out more about Mexican visual and performing artists in New York take a look at the website of the Mexican Cultural Institute New York You might also want to visit their current show: Indomitable: Contemporary Photography from Chiapas This exhibition presents an overview of Chiapas’ contemporary photography through images captured by young artists in search of new paths and answers. You’ll find a wide array of styles in this show of about 40 photographs.
At The Americas Society through June 18th, you can see the site-specific installation Hemispheres: A Labyrinth Sketchbook by Silvia Gruner (Mexico City, 1959) who significantly contributed to the creation of a distinct vocabulary for Mexican contemporary art exploring the relationship between identity and the collective.
Dzul Dance fuses dance with aerial arts, contortion and acrobatics as a means to communicate indigenous pre- Hispanic, Mexican and Latin culture, and create bridges between contemporary art and historical heritage.
Through May 21st you can see Javier Dzul’s choreography in Cocoa Díos, a high-energy show of transported rituals, music, song and dance – choreography by Javier Dzul – that tells the ancient Mesoamerican legend of how chocolate came to earth. Performances are simultaneously in Spanish and English. I haven’t yet seen it, but friends have highly recommended this show.
Lotería Perfoming Arts is a sponsored project at Artspire, a program of the New York Foundation for the Arts, dedicated to promote original collaborations between Mexican and American artists through performances and educational programs
Since 2008, Mexican jazz singer Magos Herrera has been living in NYC. Catch her performances when she’s in town!
Let me also give a shout out to the US-Mexico Chamber of Commerce, NE Chapter here in NYC, which has been very active bridging the business communities of the US and Mexico.
In school, we studied a bit of Greek mythology, and I always enjoyed the stories of the gods of Mount Olympus – much better than any TV show! So it was a real pleasure to see the exhibition, Gods and Mortals at Olympus: Ancient Dion, City of Zeus at the Onassis Cultural Center in midtown. Centered on an excavation at Dion, the exhibition features more than ninety artworks and artifacts—including mosaics, sculptures, jewelry, ceramics, coins, glass, and implements—dating from the tenth century BCE to the fourth century CE. And they’re all magnificent.
Dion lies on the slopes of Mount Olympus, which is located in the northern range that separates Thessaly from Macedonia. By the end of the fifth century BCE, the city of Dion had become the federal shrine and religious center of the Macedonians. Yearly “Olympian games” were celebrated at Dion under the rule of King Archelaos, the great-grandfather of Alexander the Great.
The show is divided into sections, each featuring objects from the different sanctuaries at the site, which were dedicated to a specific god: Zeus Olympios, Zeus Hypsistos, Demeter, and Isis, as well as artifacts from the Great Baths, the Villa of Dionysus, two private dwellings and the necropolis.
I recommend that you start by viewing the video, which will provide a look at the landscape, the excavation and conservation and give context to the exhibit.
Some of my favorites are a late 4th Century BC marble head from a statue of Demeter, and a marble relief stele depicting Isis as Demeter from the second half of 3rd – early 2nd century BC. The shift from the Greek to the Egyptian cult was facilitated by the rise of the Ptolemies, and the similarities between the deities. Both of these goddesses protected childbirth, fertility and the harvest, and they each searched to recover a lost loved one: Demeter, her daughter Persephone, and Isis, her brother and spouse Osiris.
There are also two very large table legs (at least 3 feet high): one depicting Leda and the Swan (I wonder what the other legs looked like), and the other in the shape of a very stylized lion, supporting a sideboard.
Throughout you’ll find some fantastic mosaics, especially the ones from the private dwellings; against one wall is a lovely mosaic with birds – streaked with red, blue, yellow and green – resting on a Kantheros (drinking vessel).
At the Villa of Dionysius you’ll find a group of statues of four philosophers in front of an enlarged photo of the excavated site. There are splendid mosaics in this section, especially the three depicting heads of theatrical masks. But the showstopper is the Epiphany of Dionysius (5’ x 7’), depicting the god riding triumphantly in a chariot drawn by a sea panther.
In the next section, stop to admire the two copper-alloy oil lamps, especially the larger one with the sinewy decorative head of a panther. In other cases you’ll find fabulous jewelry, coin impressions and other objects and implements – take a close look at the iron plowshare, and the iron key – I would not want to have to carry that around!
As you go through the exhibit, you’ll hear a specially commissioned soundscape by Kostas Ioannidis. Inspired in part by W.B. Yeats’s poem The Man and the Echo, he uses the natural sounds of the mountain to immerse you even further into the exhibition.
Before heading to the show, you might want to take a look at the videos on the website of the Onassis Cultural Center to get an overview of the different aspects of this exhibit. You’ll also find an app game for the kids!
The Center is also having several events: Let’s Walk, which features a conversation between philosopher Simon Critchley and a guest, as well as special tours conducted by Museum Hack.
The exhibition and events are FREE.
Gods and Mortals remains on view until June 18th. Be sure to see it.