panorama of the city of new york

Today I was in Queens. Eh, not my favorite borough of New York, but it was a good change of scenery. It’s amazing how open and full of space Queens is … really does not feel like the New York I’m used to. I went to the Queens Museum of Art, where there’s this gigantic architectural model of the city of New York. It’s massive. And it’s pretty cool. It was constructed by Robert Moses for the New York World’s Fair held in 1964-1965 and is updated to 1992, but that’s still pretty old school. I wouldn’t call it particularly beautiful, but the sheer scale of it is just amazing.

Unfortunately the rest of the museum collection seemed pretty lacking. The museum itself wasn’t very easy to get to either since you have to trek through Corona Park, which on a normal day might not be so bad … but today it was kinda rainy and yucky. Overall it was an okay experience and great to see the panorama … but it’s not a trip I’m likely to repeat.

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libraries are scary

I’m not a big fan of libraries. I just don’t like the smell or feel of musty dusty books. Don’t get me wrong though, because libraries are amazing places. Why should you buy books when you can have access to them for free? However, not all libraries are created equal. And the stacks are always the worst part of any library.

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The C. V. Starr Library is great in terms of its content and I go there quite often, but I have to spend most of my time below ground where the stacks (and majority of books) are … and it’s not a very happy place. The ceilings are low, not all the lights work, and I’m always afraid I’m going to drop something down to the floor below, get my foot stuck in one of the openings, or take a tumble down the stairs in some of the aisles. Sigh. Those stacks always make me so anxious!

moma – art not canvas

When you think art, you probably think of the traditional paintings on stretched canvas. Of course if you were to expand your mind a bit, you’d acknowledge that there’s also sculpture in marble or bronze casts, photography in black and white or chromogenic color prints, and maybe even that there’s newfangled media art in video and 35 mm film.

But what about all the other art out there? Well MoMA, being for modern art and all, has a wide range of types of art. And in the modern world, a bunch of art is not on canvas. So let’s explore a bit, shall we?

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Alighiero Boetti. “Tapestry of the Thousand Longest Rivers of the World” (1976-1982). Embroidery on cotton and linen.

Let’s start with a textile, cotton and linen here. It’s on fabric but not canvas and it’s embroidery not painting. Embroidery and the fiber arts often get lumped into the category of craft or folk art, but this isn’t craft, it’s art.

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foreground: Gerald Summers. “Lounge Chair” (1934). Bent birch plywood with pigmented lacquer.
middleground: Alvar Aalto. “Paimio Chair” (1931-1932). Bent plywood, bent laminated birch, and solid birch.

Next up we have plywood chairs. Some would say that it’s a chair, it’s furniture, it’s obviously a piece of craft. Then again, it’s on a wall! It’s on a podium! It’s in a museum! Does that elevate it to the level of painting or sculpture? Must craft and art be mutually exclusive?

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Donald Judd. “Untitled (Stack)” (1967). Lacquer on galvanized iron.

This isn’t furniture, it’s art. Because it’s in a museum, it’s a really pretty green color, and it’s not obviously a chair. But, um … what is it? You don’t just see it, you walk around it, you scooch down to look at it from a different angle, and you treat it like sculpture. But you could set your purse down on it if you weren’t so afraid of the guards and gee, wouldn’t it look cool as shelves in your living room?

So yes, I sort of hijacked this post into a discussion of art versus craft. As an architect, this question is fairly central to my profession – because where does architecture fit with the two? It’s aesthetic and visual, but it’s utilitarian and has a purpose. Architecture that is solely concerned with art neglects issues of climate, place, structure, and suitability. Architecture that is solely concerned with craft is nothing more than a building devoid of life and fails to respond to the social, cultural, and visual implications of its existence.

Huh. Eh, whatever. It is what it is, isn’t it?

tutorial: frito pie

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on a now-deleted blog and is being re-posted here for my own sake.]

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, so I’m going to start up again with a fun one.

Is it really necessary to have a tutorial for Frito pies? Most would say no, unless you’re not from Texas, at which point, yes, you do need a tutorial. In New York, people look at you with eyebrows raised and an expression somewhere between disgust, horror, and confusion if you mention a Frito pie. They usually have the same expression after I explain what a Frito pie is. But they’re really yummy! It’s a staple dish!

So here we go. There are three main ingredients: Frito chips, chili (preferably with no beans … but whatever floats your boat), and shredded cheese (I usually go with plain ol’ cheddar).

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1. Get yourself a bowl. Really any bowl will do as long as it’s big enough for all the yummy goodness that is to come.

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2. Open the bag of Fritos. Pour some of those corn chips into bowl. Oh, and as a side note: If you’re in Texas, enjoy the low price and ease of obtaining Fritos, because there’s only one grocery store in my area that carries them and a bag cost me $3.50!

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3. Open the can of chili, heat it up on the stove, and pour some of it over the Fritos. Well, I suppose you should have had the chili on the stove before you even got out the bowl … but stop criticizing me! I usually go with Hormel’s no beans chili because (being from Texas) beans do not belong in chili and there’s no Wolf brand chili up here and I’ve never been good at making my own chili.

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4. Open the bag of shredded cheese. Grab a handful of it and sprinkle it oh so gingerly over the chili-covered Fritos.

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5. Get yourself a fork. Plunge that fork into the concoction, stir it up a bit, and use that fork to stuff your face with Frito pie.

It’s not really healthy, and I make no recommendations in regards to feeding it regularly to children. Everything in moderation. I merely say that it’s yummy, it’s easy, and it’s cheap (except in certain states like New York where cans of chili and bags of Fritos and bowls, shredded cheese, forks, and life cost more than they should). It’s one of those foods that just makes you happy. Maybe it’s because I grew up eating Frito pies so it’s kind of a nostalgic thing, but anyway, I really like ’em.

The end! I hope you’ve been enlightened.

jennifer west on the high line

Today I was in Chelsea for an interview, and I had time to kill before work in the West Village. So what’s a girl to do? I wandered around Chelsea Market for a bit and was kind of annoyed that Privé (the store that has designer sample sales) only had bedding today. Eh. But I stopped by Tuck Shop (an Australian meat pie place) for a sausage roll, so that was yummy! And then, because I was in the area, I headed over and up to the High Line.

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And whaddaya know … there was a piece of art by Jennifer West! In 2010 she had an exhibition at the CAMH and this summer when I was an intern there, I digitized the catalogue, so I recognized the name immediately. You can see the catalogue here. There was this long strip of film taped to the High Line, and this was some kind of performance art – or at least part one of it. The film was only here for today (Thursday) for people to walk across and mark it up with their shoes. Part two of the deal will be when the film is treated and then shown sometime in October.

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It’s kind of an interesting concept and it’ll be neat to see how it looks in the end. I had no idea that they were doing this today, so I was really confused at first. But for the most part it seemed pretty vanilla and most people avoided stepping on it … because they didn’t realize they were supposed to walk on it.

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In a few places there were gaps in the film (oh the horror!) probably from when someone tripped and took out parts. For the most part I didn’t walk on the film itself because it was actually kinda slippery and not the easiest to walk on. But it will be interesting since the film was on a few different textures, from the rough concrete to the smooth railroad, to the regular grate.

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I don’t really have an opinion of Jennifer West’s work because I’ve never actually seen it. Yes I’ve seen the catalogue, but since she works in moving image, I’ve never seen any of her actual work. The High Line piece is called “One Mile Parkour Film” and you can find more information about it here. I’m intrigued and will definitely be seeing the resulting film when it gets shown in October! It was kinda cool, like a New York-ified yellow brick road.

[UPDATE: I didn’t manage to attend the screening due to work, but the resulting film can be viewed online here.]

danger danger … déjà vu

Remember last year … just about now? I had just moved into my new apartment and whaddaya know, New York had a hurricane AND earthquake. Being from Texas, I’m used to hurricanes coming around, but the earthquake was trippy. It was my first earthquake (however slight it was) and it was pretty unusual for New York as well. Today, THERE WERE TORNADOES. IN NEW YORK. TRIPPY.

The tornadoes touched down in Queens and Brooklyn, which means I’d be safe in my new apartment – right? Except today of all days I went to Queens. Whups. The weather was nice in the morning when I ran some errands. As I was getting on the subway, it seemed like it was sprinkling a bit but nothing major. Thankfully I had my umbrella with me, because as I exited the subway in Queens, I was greeted with a torrential downpour and emergency text messages on my phone telling me to seek shelter! Um … right.

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I didn’t see the tornado, so I still have not seen a tornado in my life despite having lived in some tornado-prone states. Eh, probably for the best that I have never seen any funnel clouds barreling towards me. Maybe there’ll be a blizzard this winter and I can add one more natural disaster to my list of experiences. I think the lesson here is that I really should check the weather.

where in the world is carmen sandiego?

I have made it back to New York! And I have an apartment! Whew! I came to New York without a place to live, so for a week I was going all over the city looking at places, and in the process did some sightseeing. New York of course has an international bent, from the historic ethnic neighborhoods, to the United Nations, to the zillions of languages spoken in the subways, to the hoards of foreign tourists.

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Exhibit #1: Even my grandmother’s little New York apartment has a gigantic world map. Sure, it’s a tad outdated (depicted is the USSR … it also had East and West Germany labeled over in Europe) but whatever, you get the gist of where countries are. I don’t think there are many grandmothers in Idaho with world maps on their walls.

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Exhibit #2: There is a large globe at Columbus Circle, which is the southwest corner of Central Park and a major subway stop. How much more “this is an international city” can you get other than to display a statue of a globe in a high-traffic area? Okay, so the steel globe isn’t really part of Columbus Circle itself, but it’s part of the Trump International Hotel and Tower, which is at Columbus Circle … so it still counts.

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Exhibit #3: Alighiero Boetti’s embroidered world maps, currently on display at MoMA. I know the Italian artist better as Alighiero e Boetti, which is what he was referred to during his exhibition at the CAMH. I remember reading about his exhibition at work this summer, and was completely surprised when I walked into MoMA and saw his stuff! His retrospective at MoMA is called “Game Plan” and will run until October 1st. Those tapestries are pretty amazing.

I took a few more pictures from MoMA and the Met, which I also went to, but those will have to wait for another post. Yay for New York!