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from cave to cave

maura @ 10:32 pm

Art! There is suddenly lots of art right now, of varying expiration dates. The whole of it seems very springy, beginning as it has last month and this month when spring is finally here. The botanic gardens have been nutso — the long late winter made lots of flowers bloom at the same time that don’t usually bloom together, a couple of weeks ago we went and there were tulips and cherry blossoms and the beginnings of lilacs. Everything seems to be happening in an intense brief burst right now with a short timespan.

Art can be tricky for us: the spawn has a limited tolerance for some but not all art, and the precise combination of factors that produce a successful visit is not always predictable. Luckily I have a few get out of jail free cards I can cash in around this time of year, Mother’s Day and my birthday. I used the MD card last weekend to take us to the Brooklyn Museum to see Submerged Motherlands, a huge installation by Swoon. I’ve loved her work ever since the woodcut pasteup graffiti down by the Gowanus that we used to see on the way to Gus’s elementary school. This piece is incredible — she’s taken over a large room with a vaulted ceiling and built a huge tree covered in cloth and paper cutouts in the center. There are two handmade wooden boats around the tree, plus lots more woodcuts and a neat little hut with cardboard honeycombs which I found utterly charming (and took bad photos of). I tweeted that you could look forever and not see everything and I think it’s totally true. Luckily this one is open through August so I could go back, conceivably, when I have a summer Friday off and Gus is in camp.

The other two exhibits I hope to see are much more time-sensitive. One is the Kara Walker installation A Subtlety at the old Domino sugar factory in Williamsburg. From the photos and descriptions it looks amazing, and the line was pretty long today as I was driving Gus to parkour so it’s definitely generating lots of interest. This one might work for Gus — we’ve had some conversations about her work when we’ve seen it in the Brooklyn Museum, and I think we could have some good conversations after seeing this. But I don’t think an hour wait is really feasible for him, so I might have to figure out how to get to see this on my own. I also love the painted ribbon-like stripes (kind of wallpaper patterny) on the plywood around the construction site, though they’re so pretty as to be a bit distracting as I drive by on Sundays.

Last but absoLUTEly not least is a Lynda Barry show at a gallery in the city! OMGxinfinity!!! This is in anticipation of a new book with collections of all of her old stuff, fittingly titled Everything Part 1. I have lots (maybe all?) of her old books of comics but I will probably buy this one too because she is one of my favorites ever. That Marlys doing the funky chicken comeek was on our fridge in our 57th St. apt. for at least a year. And then when she did the 100 Views of Marlys that you could buy and she’d autograph them Jonathan bought me Top 40 Marlys and she signed it and added “Am I doin’ it?” in a speech bubble because she is the greatest. All the grownups in the house want to see this one so we’ll have to figure something out some weekend, maybe there’s a tasty eatery nearby that we can go to? Looks like it’s near the Central Park Zoo, that might do it.

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from the phone

maura @ 9:47 pm

Wait! I forgot! I walked Gus to and from camp on Friday and was pleased as punch to find these 2 bits of incidental art along the way:


A little line of spray-painted pigs! So cute! So orderly! Look at their curly tails!



Skimmy the milk carton sticker! Skimmy, dude, why so on edge? Try to relax! Though I guess if someone was about to drink me, I’d be all aggro too.

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what you see

maura @ 10:28 pm

Now that things are (somewhat) slower I’m trying to get back to some old, good habits, things I’d stopped doing when I was too busy or too tired. So I walked to work both yesterday and today. Today I even walked the old, preferable way, which is much more scenic and much less vehicle exhaust-y but takes between 5-10 more minutes. Which is nothing, really — barely a drop in the time bucket, practically zip in the great scheme of things. And something I should totally be doing for mental health, etc.

What I’ve missed in the past couple of months is new street/public art, which is everywhere! Photos of the stuff closest to work coming soon, but also there’s a great installation on a building on the scenic way to work. I didn’t stop to take pictures today, and anyway tonight I found much better photos than I could probably take. E.g.:


Really a cool project, and I haven’t even had a chance to walk around the entire building yet. I actually kind of adore that part of Brooklyn, that intersection of Livingston and Hoyt. True that it’s grungy and dirty and rundown and sad, plus the horrible commercial crowdedness of the Fulton St. Mall (where–UGH–xmas carols are currently being played so loud you can hear them 2 blocks away!). But there are amazing and beautiful historic buildings, and a Mexican grocery with 50 cent bags of chips for after summer-camp snacks, and lots of people people people coming and going and just trying to make it work.

Here’s an article about the artist, who sounds like a cool guy.

Image credit: sabeth718


art update!

maura @ 9:35 pm

The silver inflated cow is back! And a big coffee bean, too.


Sadly the big ball is now deflated. It’s been cold + windy here — hard for inflatable art to survive, I guess.

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mer du japon

maura @ 8:17 pm

A few weeks ago I promised to tell you more about the new art near work. On Wednesday I finally had a chance to take some pictures. Here’s an art tour just for you!


This is the first piece of sculpture I encounter on my walk through the plaza on the way to work. According to the sign, this is a collage of objects that represent the top results of a Google search for the word sculpture. Funky!


I don’t know what the story is with these. They’re inflatable, and I could swear that one of the middle platforms had a cow on it a few weeks ago. Maybe it popped.


This is very cool: a photo of rushing water on a board strapped to most of the trees (the same photo on every tree). I should go back and get a closeup. It’s a neat effect.


These are the Louise Bourgeois-esque cubes — there are actually 3, but only 2 would fit in the photo. During the day you can’t tell that there’s anything in them because they are slightly reflective, as you can see.


Bat chair!


Here’s what one of the cubes looks like at night — internal lights illuminate everything within, which includes shoes, plants, bottles of cold medicine, and liquor. Good times in a box!


Yay for art! If I remember correctly these pieces will all be up through the spring, so come on out to Downtown Brooklyn if you’d like to take a peek.

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surprise art

maura @ 9:29 pm

I was crabby on my walk to work this morning, tired + out of sorts. It’s been a long week. Superbusy at work. Rainy and yucky yesterday. Gus went camping w/school which is always fun for him (and us!) but is also very strange (quiet house!). And I’m having weird, waking-up-before-the-alarm insomnia lately, which is just infuriating.

So there I was, grumble grumble grumble on the way to work, when I rounded the corner onto the plaza near my job only to see that new public art had been unveiled since the last time I walked to work. There are at least 3 big sculptural pieces, including one that’s a series of glass boxes w/stuff inside that sort of reminds me of Louise Bourgeois. I didn’t have time to look closely (9am meeting) or take pictures today but will soon. And now you have something to look forward to in a future post, yay for you!

It was surprising how quickly my mood lifted when I saw the art. Art in the morning, it’s a mood inoculation! Need to find a way to stumble upon art every time I am grumpy.


we don’t need any kind of big parade

maura @ 10:45 pm

Yeah, I’m phoning it in tonight. I had 2 classes this evening and, while you’ll be happy to hear that they went well, I am wicked tired. 12+ hrs at work is a long time.

So here are some photos!

This is from the art windows that I pass on the way to work. It’s a mandala made of lots of little things on the floor inside this storefront.

It seems to change every few days. Perhaps this is why:

Yay for public art!


5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0

maura @ 9:08 pm

At times like this I’m glad I have a picture on my camera I’ve been meaning to upload:

I took this picture last week — it’s of the big jello mold art in the Willoughby Windows that I mentioned, one of my favorite things to walk by in the mornings on the way to work. After I wrote that post I searched all around Flickr, thinking that someone had to have taken a photo of the big jello mold on a table, but I couldn’t find anything. So here it is for your delectation.

I should probably join Flickr. I don’t know why I never have, just hasn’t occurred to me, I guess. I don’t take that many photos (though I do take more now that I have a phone w/a camera) and I’m not sure that I would ever remember to upload them. But it would be nice to add to the pool of Creative Commons-licensed images out there in the world, so maybe I’ll take the plunge soon.



maura @ 9:41 pm

I didn’t ride my scooter to work all last week, because the week before I took a spill. I know, I know, why didn’t I tell you, internets? Well, I was (understandably, I think) embarrassed: as I keep saying, the only thing dorkier than an old lady in an orange helmet riding a kick scooter is the same eating it on the broken pavement near the Atlantic Center. Duh. It wasn’t the end of the world — a couple of small scrapes and a bruised shoulder and a chunk out of one hand, and thankfully the worst of it is on my left side (I’m right handed).

With my (minor) injuries I’ve been walking to work the past week or so. It’s funny how sloooooow it seems to me now when I walk to work. It only takes 40-ish minutes, but it’s easily twice the time it takes me to scoot. (Though I’m pretty sure that walking is better exercise, even with the uphill scoot home.) I do listen to podcasts or music during the walk, which I can’t do when I scoot, but it still seems long and a little boring.

Until I get to the art, that is. Then things get more interesting. You may have seen this story in the Times last week about the rise of pop-up art galleries in vacant storefronts around the city. I know it’s not a good thing to have vacant storefronts, but I have to admit that I vastly prefer the art.

I actually walk by two of the galleries mentioned in the Times piece. The first is a long stretch of storefronts with a ton of space, and lots of interesting sculpture and paintings inside. Right next door is an Applebee’s* which just increases the artistic tension, as far as I’m concerned. The Kenny Scharf mural (photo in the Times) is there, and a weird industrial chunky sculpture that’s all wood and oil drums and pipes and water. There’s also the melting waffle from the plaza near my work! I was so glad to see it — it disappeared from the plaza a few weeks ago and I’ve missed it.

* I’ll never get used to this Applebee’s being there. It’s so incongruous.

The second set of gallery spaces is smaller but also pretty cool. There are a couple of pieces with an anti-consumerist bent, which I totally groove on. It’s also nice that the old store signs were left above each storefront; the 1 Hr Photo, Check Cashing and Taco Rico signs really add to the effect. One of my favorite pieces has a table with two chairs and a huge jello mold on it. It’s the spiritual sibling of the enormous melting waffle. Go weird big food art, go!

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and then the next thing you know

maura @ 10:16 pm

Oh dear, I seem to have fallen into that beginning-of-the-semester-hole again. I meant to blag all week, really I did, but I was just so tired at night and now that Dollhouse has gotten interesting it was much easier to watch than write.

Last Friday evening I met Jonathan and Gus at the MOMA to see Projects 90, an exhibition by the Chinese artist Song Dong. Since it was just before a holiday weekend I’d hoped the crowds wouldn’t be too bad, even though it was the free Friday night dealie. But it was packed and Gus was crabby, despite the gelato we bought him in the sculpture garden. Sigh, 3rd graders are not so easily bought off, I guess.

Still, Gus was reasonably content to sit in a corner reading while Jonathan and I took turns looking at the exhibit. It was fascinating, totally worth the grumpy kid. The story behind it is that the artist’s mother became somewhat unhinged after his father died, and she took the traditional Chinese thriftyness to a whole new level and refused to throw anything out. She packed it into their tiny house and it spilled out all over their yard. Finally the artist was able to convince his mother to move out of the house and allow him to create an exhibit of all of the stuff, which she then helped him curate.

The result: a wooden-framed house skeleton in the center of a room at MOMA surrounded by neatly arranged stuff: tied bundles of magazines, folded clothing, rows of toothbrushes, scads of plastic bottles, a stack of soap cakes, a pyramid of pill boxes and bottles, furniture, etc. Watch the installation video — it’s mesmerizing (as was the exhibit). Of course the stuff is just recognizable, normal stuff, but as Jonathan said when you actually walk around it all and see the arrangement close-up it’s almost like a model of a city. Here’s the crayons neighborhood, over there is where the shoes live. So cool. And, you know, full of implications for our modern lives and all the stuff we use and whether it’s necessary etc. etc. Sometimes I miss thinking about material culture, so I was really glad we got to see this before it closed.

And then this week, with the busy, and now it’s now. I’ve been doing a bunch of reading about writing lately and last weekend I got all fired up about setting aside time to write on a near-daily basis. But then this week was busy at work (and it was short to begin with) and I ran out of time as usual. I’ve been thinking all week about Song Dong’s mom’s house, just an empty timber frame, as a physical manifestation of my goal: one empty hour to write most days. As ever, the problem is partly my fault and partly not. Not my fault because, well, objectively, it’s busy at the beginning of the semester. But my fault because my list is too long to begin with. And my fault, too, because I tend to fall into the trap of procrastinating writing with other work. Yes, sometimes the other work seems to scream loudly: “pay attention to me!” But it’s rarely truly urgent, and certainly can wait an hour.

I was wondering today whether Anne Lamott would be disappointed in me since I didn’t meet my writing goals this week. But then I thought that she’d probably understand. And she’d probably make me a cup of tea and tell me that next week will be better.

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