New York City’s major cultural institutions are
temporarily closed to help minimize the spread of coronavirus, but many are
making their exhibits and programs available virtually, and have websites that
really engage, that make the time spent in enforced hibernation that much
richer and more productive, and frankly, less maddening.
When the Met reopens,
it will offer a series of special exhibits marking its 150th anniversary:The exhibition Making The Met, 1870–2020 will present
more than 250 works of art from the collection while taking visitors on a
journey through the Museum’s history; The reopening of the galleries for
British decorative arts and design will reveal a compelling new curatorial
narrative; Transformative new gifts, cross-cultural installations, and major
international loan exhibitions will be on view throughout the year; and special
programs and outreach will include a birthday commemoration on April 13, a
range of public events June 4–6, and a story-collecting initiative.
galleries may be closed, but never fear! Social media never sleeps.”
Follow @metmuseum on Instagram for Tuesday Trivia, #MetCameos, and daily art
Being confined to home is a perfect time to take advantage of the Museum of Modern Art’s free massive open online course What Is Contemporary Art?, available now on Coursera. This course offers an in-depth look at over 70 works of art from MoMA’s collection—many of which are currently on view in the expanded Museum—from 1980 to the present, with a focus on art produced in the last decade. Learners will hear directly from artists, architects, and designers from around the globe about their creative processes, materials, and inspiration. What Is Contemporary Art? can be found at mo.ma/whatiscontemporaryart.
I can’t wait for MoMA to
reopen so I can see Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures,
the first major solo exhibition at the Museum of the photographer’s incisive
work in over 50 years. The exhibition includes approximately 100 photographs
drawn entirely from the Museum’s collection. Dorothea Lange: Words
& Pictures also uses archival materials such as correspondence,
historical publications, and oral histories, as well as contemporary voices, to
examine the ways in which words inflect our understanding of Lange’s pictures.
These new perspectives and responses from artists, scholars, critics, and
writers, including Julie Ault, Wendy Red Star, and Rebecca Solnit, provide
fresh insight into Lange’s practice. (Scheduled through May 9, 2020).
American Museum of Natural History while closed, the
website is a treasure trove of information and engaging photos and ways to
explore and interact on your own. At the section of its site labeled “Explore” https://www.amnh.org/explore, there are
videos, blogs and OLogy: The Science Website for Kids, where kids of all ages
can play games, do activities, watch videos and meet scientists to learn more
about fossils, the universe, genetics, and more. (Check out https://www.amnh.org/explore/ology/brain)
New-York Historical Society is closed so you will have to wait to experience “Women March,” presidential/election exhibits (take a selfie in Reagan’s Oval Office) and “Bill Graham” (phenomenal and surprising exhibit with fabulous musical accompaniment about this iconic concert impresario). Meanwhile, the N-YHS website offers sensational online exhibitions featuring some of their important past exhibits, including ‘Harry Potter; A History of Magic,” and “the Vietnam War: 1945-1975” and Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion (https://www.nyhistory.org/exhibitions/online-exhibitions). You can also delve into its digital collection, with selections from the N-YHS Museum and Library’s holdings paintings, drawings, photographs, manuscripts, broadsides, maps, and other materials that reveal the depth and breadth of over two centuries of collecting. (http://digitalcollections.nyhistory.org/). (See: Many Pathways to Mark Centennial of Women’s Suffrage)
some outdoor venues are open, as of this writing (the situation has changed
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden remains open to
the public, having implemented stringent cleaning protocols and posted new
signage on-site about best practices in personal hygiene. “We hope that the
Garden might offer you some comfort and beauty even during a particularly
stressful time.” (https://www.bbg.org/visit)
Central Park, Prospect Park and Flushing Meadows may well provide needed respite. However, the Wildlife Conservation Society has temporarily closed the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo and New York Aquarium, effective Monday, March 16. Check wcs.org for updates.
by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
“Solar Impressions,” a new art exhibit featuring works using the innovative Solarplate print-making process, has opened at the Gold Coast Arts Center in Great Neck, Long Island. The exhibit, which runs through April 10, 2020, brings together the works of more than 40 artists including internationally acclaimed American painter Eric Fischl. Each work of art is a representation of an ongoing exploration of the Solarplate etching process developed by Dan Welden, and reflects the extraordinary diversity of applications of the technique.
Noted artist, master printmaker, educator, and author, Dan Welden, was among scores of artists and art lovers on hand at an opening reception that took place on Sunday, January 26. Welden, director of Hampton Editions, Ltd., in Sag Harbor, is the developer of the Solarplate etching process, which uses light-sensitive material applied to a metal plate, and then hardened by the sun. The innovative process is a simpler and safer alternative to traditional etching that uses corrosive acids and is now used at universities and art schools all over the world.
sunlight and water to fix an image from a photograph or drawing into a steel
plate which has been treated with polymer. Artists can apply color by hand into
the ridges and grooves, or use a silk-screen process.
What is impressive is
the versatility of the Solarplate process for artists across various media –
photographers, painters, printers, collage makers – as well as the materials
they use – paper, textured paper, Mulberry paper, fabric – which is very much
on view in the Gold Coast exhibit.
“Rather than using all of these harmful materials that get inside an artist’s lungs and immune system, solarplate etching uses sunlight and water,” Welden said in an interview with Robert Pelaez of Blank Slate Media. “It’s pretty easy to grasp for people of all ages, and you don’t need an extensive artistic background for this.”
Solarplate is a light-sensitized steel-backed
polymer material. Artist can work on the plate directly, with opaque materials
in nonwater-based pigments, or by expose the plate through a transparent film
with artwork on it. The artwork is printed on the plate through UV exposure for
2 to 5 minutes depending on light exposure, time of day and other variables.
Welden first developed the technique, he called fellow artist Jude Amsel. and
current Gold Coast Gallery Director Jude Amsel. More than 30 years later,
Amsel, the Gold Coast Gallery Director, brought together 40 pieces of
solarplate etching from across the country for the Gold Coast exhibit.
first I definitely had some questions about the process,” Amsel told Pelaez
during a studio tour. “But once I did it, I realized how revolutionary an art
form this would be for artists all over the world.”
a common ground of personal creativity,” Amsel said. “Some feature nature,
traveling, or aspects of life that resonate with an artist, but there’s no
limit to what can be done with solarplate etching. It’s one of the many things
I think is fascinating about it.”
said artists from all backgrounds are able to use the technique. Even
photographers can use the art form by reprinting and then shading in the
outline of their subject through etching.
of them, photographer Kelli Glancey, has two pieces in the exhibit. Using the
process, she has created photo images – shot in color on a phone – that harken
back to Steichen and Stieglitz. Two of her works, “Freedom Tower, Pier A”
(2019) and “The Conductor” (2019), are images taken from the 1907 Lackawana
train depot in Hoboken, NJ, pay homage to Steiglitz who lived in Hoboken.
herself as a “newbie” to solarplate, Lori Horowitz said, “Artists are so
fixated on making art we poison ourselves. This is safe process for print
making.” She holds up the original color photograph from which she made the
realm of possibilities is really endless with solarplate,” Amsel told Pelaez.
“My personal relationship with Dan makes this exhibit even more special.
Watching him work and being a part of the early stages of this art is a
innovated the process but says he has not patented it. “I did it to
share, not to own.” He travels around the world giving workshops in the
which is almost 2,000 years old, developed in China with the invention of
paper, is a process used in art to transfer images from a template onto another
surface. The design is created on the template by working its flat surface with
either tools or chemicals. Traditional printmaking techniques include
engraving, etching, woodcut, lithography and screen-printing. In the 1970’s,
Dan Weldon, a Long Island printmaker created Solarplate, a new printmaking
with Solarplate is a simple approach and safer alternative to traditional
etching and relief printing,” Amsel writes in the introduction to the exhibit. “Solarplate
is a prepared, light-sensitive polymer surface on a steel backing for artists
to produce fine prints. Since Dan Welden’s development of the process in the
1970s, printmakers, painters, photographers and art teachers interested in
multiple impressions have found printmaking with Solarplate a new tool. All an
artist needs is inspiration, a graphic image crated on a transparent film
(acetate or glass), sun or UV light, and ordinary tap water. Both positives and
negatives can be utilized; intaglio and relief printing techniques can be
“Universities and art schools all over
the world are using Solarplate as part of their curriculum. The simple,
spontaneous approach also makes it faster and more economical for use in
professional printmaking workshops and collaborations with artists. Educators
are replacing traditional acid techniques with Solarplate because of safety
regulations. Photographic in nature, Solarplate incorporates a broader range of
techniques than any other printing medium,” Amsel writes in the introduction to
Welden’s 50-year career
includes collaborations with numerous artists, including Willem and
Elaine de Kooning, Jimmy Ernst, James Brooks, Kurt Vonnegut, and Eric
among those on display at the Gold Coast Arts Center Gallery. Fischl’s work
graces the cover of the “Solar Impressions” souvenir catalog guide.
Artworks in the exhibit are available for sale to the public, according to Regina Gil, Founder and Executive Director of the Gold Coast Arts Center. The artists have priced the art well to make them affordable to art lovers and collectors.
presents the public with a display of unique and creative works of art using
Dan Welden’s innovative process now used by artists and art students around the
world,” Gil said. “This is an opportunity for everyone to acquire some of these
The gallery is open to the public and is free. For more information about “Solar Impressions,” including gallery hours, visit www.goldcoastarts.org. For tour information or to register for classes, visit https://goldcoastarts.org/art-gallery/ or call 516-829-2570.
Gold Coast Arts Center is a 501(c)(3) multi-arts organization dedicated to promoting the arts through education, exhibition, performance, and outreach. For a quarter-century, it has brought the arts to tens of thousands of people throughout the Long Island region. Among the Center’s offerings are its School for the Arts, which holds year-round classes in visual and performing arts for students of all ages and abilities; a free public art gallery; a concert and lecture series; film screenings and discussions; the annual Gold Coast International Film Festival; and initiatives that focus on senior citizens and underserved communities. These initiatives include artist residencies, after-school programs, school assemblies, teacher-training workshops, and parent-child workshops. The Gold Coast Arts Center is an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts “Partners in Education” program and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
One of my earliest memories of New York theater is of seeing the D’oyly Carte production of “The Mikado,” one of Gilbert & Sullivan’s most iconic works. So I am jarred when the curtain rises on a very different production –a first scene which I don’t recall, in which composer Arthur Sullivan, librettist William S. Gilbert and producer Richard D’Oyly Carte himself appear, reflect on the new exhibit of Japanese art at Knightsbridge, and Gilbert imagines a new opera set in Japan. When the curtain rises on the fictional town of Titipu, instead of elaborate Japanese kimonos, the Gentlemen of Japan look a lot like Englishmen with odd hats and outfits, and so do the ladies when they appeared in their modified flowing dresses.
I soon appreciate the bold innovation including the new opening scene and characters, and costumes that make clear these are Victorian Englishmen pretending to be Japanese – as the new character of Gilbert says “They dress like us,” except with bright colors. The device, to address the sensibilities of a modern audience, puts the focus of Mikado properly where it should be: a satire on human nature. And in revising the work in this way, a new generation can be delighted by the magnificent music and ingenious lyrics. If anything makes us laugh, especially at ourselves, that is a gift.
Indeed, Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic operas – basically inventing today’s musical theater form – are on par with Shakespeare and similarly deserve to be tweaked and reinterpreted, just as “Much Ado About Nothing” was at this year’s Public Theater production, and performed generation after generation.
This production, was first introduced in 2016 as a response to an outcry from New York’s Asian-American community in 2015 over the political incorrectness and insensitivity of the original, regularly performed with Caucasian actors in yellowish makeup and taped-back eyelids. There is no danger of that: this cast is multi-racial.
“NYGASP listened for a simple reason – it was the right thing to do. One year later we created an imaginative new production which all communities, audiences and artists could embrace,” the program notes. The show opened to sold-out crowds and critical acclaim in December 2016; this is its second New York City run. Run to see it before the season concludes, January 5.
The new opening scene and costuming make sure there is no confusion that the Mikado represents Englishmen satirizing Victorian society and politics, capitalizing on British fascination with all things Japanese in the 1880s, to defuse the pointed references that might have gotten Gilbert & Sullivan, who were under censorship of Lord Chamberlain, into trouble. And frankly, the depiction of The Mikado (who doesn’t even appear for the first 2 ½ hours of the three-hour show) as a cruel but ridiculous tyrant is reminiscent of how the Red Queen is depicted in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (1865). If anything, that character is more relevant today than in 2015 or even 1885.
Of course British audiences of 1885
could have cared less about “political correctness.” The object of Gilbert
& Sullivan’s satire was British society and human nature and the human
condition, and they created their fictional Titipu, Japan, to make their satire
We take advantage of seeing the December 30 afternoon “Grandparents” performance, geared to families, which features a before-show talk introducing the plot and music and an after-show backstage tour in the company with the players.
During the talk, by the Conductor and Musical Director Albert Bergeret, who founded the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players 45 years ago, I learn that my comparison of “Mikado” for Gilbert & Sullivan to “Madame Butterfly” by Puccini is not entirely unfounded. While the music that Sullivan composed runs the gamut of British musical styles (ballad, madrigal, march), he incorporates the Japanese five-note scale and an actual Japanese folk song, Miya-sama (though for this production, new English lyrics are substituted for the Japanese) – music which Puccini also expropriates in “Madame Butterfly.”
“We took out what’s incomprehensible or inappropriate,” Bergeret says, who adds that Sullivan was a brilliant, classically trained musician who was well versed in all genres of music and composers from around the world. In “Mikado” Sullivan demonstrates his virtuosity in writing in many different forms.
Just as Gilbert incorporated contemporaneous digs, so too does this Ko-Ko, a common tailor taken from the county jail (for flirting) and elevated to Lord High Executioner, update his “List” of those who shan’t be missed, to be as current has yesterday’s tweet, changing it each performance, surprising even the rest of the cast.
Ko-Ko, brilliantly played by David Macaluso, includes “the wealthy narcisscist, he never will be missed” on his list and manages to spell out T-R-U-M-P in the subheads of the long, long list as the scroll unfurls.
The premise of “The Mikado,” is a
society under the thumb of an all-powerful sadistic but ridiculous ruler who
makes ridiculous but cruel laws on a whim: flirting as a capital offense, then
demanding to know why no executions have been carried out.
The Mikado, played by David Wannen,
exclaims, “My object all sublime/I shall achieve in time/ to let the punishment
fit the crime.. And make each prisoner pent/Unwillingly
represent/A source of innocent merriment.”
The Mikado’s updated
list of who to punish and how, includes the instagrammer “made to endure a
dungeon cell without not one cellular bar” and “political pundits, who must
sail for weeks on a boat full of leaks on a sea of alternative facts.” (That
gets tremendous laughs.)
They do manage to slip in a few names, carefully spreading their barbs more or less equally: but one placement in particular is rich – Pooh-Bah, marvelously played by Matthew Wages, signs the execution order with all his official positions, but adds to the list signing of those supposedly witnessed Nanki-Poo’s execution Attorney General William Barr and the chair of the Judiciary Committee (balance).
The Mikado then looks to execute Ko-Ko (the Lord High Executioner), Pooh-Bah (the “Lord High Everything”) and Pitti-Sing (one of the “three little maids from school” and Ko-Ko’s wards, played by Amy Maude Helfer) for carrying out the Mikado’s orders to execute somebody but unwittingly executing the heir to the throne. The Mikado appreciates the effort (he only wishes he could have witnessed the execution) but insists they still should be executed for, well, killing the heir and looks for the entertainment value in their lingering death.
The Mikado justifies killing the three because, after all, this is an unfair world where the virtuous suffer and the undeserving succeed. This leads to the song that probably best sums up the moral of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Mikado,” in which the three condemned sing, “See how the Fates their gifts allot/For A is happy, B is not/Yet B is worthy, I dare say/Of more prosperity than A…If I were Fortune which I’m not/B should enjoy A’s happy lot/And A should die in miserie/That is, assuming I am B.”
In the end The Mikado is less a jab at all-powerful monarchal misrule, than a comic contemplation of what human beings do when in that situation. Their focus is on human nature and the human condition. In Mikado, we see self-preservation – even by Yum-Yum who is willing to marry Nanki-Poo who loves her so much he is willing to be executed after just a month, until she realizes that as the wife of an executed man, she would be buried alive.
This production makes another change at the end, stopping the show for a return to the Gilbert & Sullivan characters trying to figure out an ending that would not rely on a magical or fantastical device like the “magic lozenge” they used in their 1877 opera “The Sorcerer” and almost breaks up their collaboration. (Gilbert finally gets to use the device in “The Mountebanks,” written with Alfred Cellier in 1892). Instead, Gilbert comes up with an argument that actually makes sense given the circumstance: Any order by the Mikado must be carried out, so having given the order, it must have been carried out (not much more absurd than “He was too stupid to know withholding military aid to a vulnerable ally in exchange for political favor was illegal”).
Another part that young
people might assume was added as a nod to “Me Too” to make relevant, is Katisha
espousing on ‘beauty’ –her face might not be much (and doesn’t cruelty hold
some allure?), but she has a shoulder blade, a right elbow, and a heel that
admirers come miles to see.
“The Mikado,” the ninth of 14 collaborations between Gilbert & Sullivan, was immensely popular when it opened on March 14 1885 in London, running for 672 performances, the second longest run for any musical theater production. By the end of 1885, some 150 companies in Europe and America were performing the operetta. It even was widely performed in Japan (apparently they took no offense).
There were decades when a
production of Mikado could be seen somewhere in the English speaking world any
day of the year. Performed for the last 135 years, some of its word inventions
have entered the lexicon, such as “the grand Poo-Bah” and “Let the punishment
fit the crime.”
The new Prologue, written by NYGASP Director and Choreographer David Auxier-Loyola (who also plays W.S. Gilbert and Pish-Tush), appears actually a distillation of the actual background (or rather the mythology) to Gilbert & Sullivan creating “The Mikado,” especially their references to avoiding a similar plot solution of a magic lozenge. Apparently, the Knightsbridge exhibition of Japanese art came after Mikado opened, though British fascination in Japan had built up from the 1860s and 1870s, after Japan opened to Western trade in 1854. (The 1999 film “Topsy Turvy” is a marvelous film depicting their lives around this time.)
Gilbert & Sullivan actually invented musical theater. At the time Gilbert & Sullivan were writing, there were opera, light opera and music hall theatricals, but nothing like a musical show with story – music that had both class and pop – with real story lines, music advanced the story, Bergeret tells us. This is where musical theater started,. Watching “Mikado” you see a straight line to Rogers & Hammerstein and Stephen Sondheim.
that are being presented this season are family friendly, but some have special
events attached. We had the marvelous experience of attending a “Grandparents”
performance which featured a before-show talk introducing the show (especially
to children), and a most marvelous after-show backstage tour with cast members.
(David Auxler, who plays the Gilbert character said they only had five
rehearsals) and so enjoyed going backstage with David Macaluso (Ko-Ko), who
showed us the various props including his giant executioner’s ax.
This not-to-be-missed production of the iconic comic opera is fabulous, featuring original choreography and direction by NYGASP Associate Stage Director David Auxier, who also authored the show’s prologue and plays Gilbert and Pish-Tush, and Assistant Direction by Broadway performer/director Kelvin Moon Loh.
The show’s sensational cast includes: dynamic bass David Wannen as The Mikado; clever patter man and comic David Macaluso as Sullivan and Ko-Ko; blustering Matthew Wages as Richard D’Oyly Carte and the pompous Pooh-Bah; creative David Auxier as author Gilbert and town leader Pish-Tush; charming tenor John Charles McLaughlin as romantic hero Nanki-Poo; formidable Caitlin Burke as lovelorn and overbearing Katisha; beautiful soprano Sarah Caldwell Smith as self-aware Yum Yum; Rebecca Hargrove as maiden sister Peep-Bo, and mellifluous mezzo Amy Maude Helfer as adventurous Pitti-Sing.
The production showcases
magnificent scenery designed by Anshuman Bhatia, costumes by Quinto Ott and
lighting by Benjamin Weill. The
Mikado is produced by
NYGASP Executive Director David Wannen.
Since its founding in 1974, the New
York Gilbert & Sullivan Players (NYGASP) has presented more than 2,000
performances of the Gilbert & Sullivan masterpieces throughout the United
States, Canada and England, captivating audiences of all ages.
NYGASP has been hailed as “the leading custodian of the G&S classics” by New York Magazine and has created its own special niche in the cultural mosaic of New York City and the nation. According to the Company’s Founder/Artistic Director/General Manager Albert Bergeret, NYGASP’s mission is “giving vitality to the living legacy of Gilbert & Sullivan.”
“Everyone loves The Mikado and our new production, with its celebrated premise of imagination, keeps the revered story alive and colorful,” he says. “I’m delighted to once more be involved in elevating the humor and musical values of this evolving and very theatrical production, while alternating on the conductor’s podium with my colleague, Joseph Rubin, as part of NYGASP’s commitment to the future development of the Company”.
“The Mikado” is the showpiece of NYGASP’s 45th season, presenting eight family friendly performances after Christmas, Dec. 27 through Jan. 5, 2020 at The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College. An encore Family Overture presentation will take place at 12:45 pm before the Jan. 4 Saturday matinee at 2 pm which features a musical introduction and plot summary made entertaining for the whole family (free to all ticket holders).
Tickets are $95/orchestra, $50/balcony; $25/rear balcony; special discounts: 50% off for children 12 and under accompanied by an adult, 10% off for seniors 65 and older;order by phone: 212-772-4448, order pnline: www.nygasp.org, or purchase in person at the box office (Monday-Friday, noon-7pm).
The next NYGASP production is Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Gondoliers,” April 18-19, 2020.
The Kaye Playhouse, 68th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues.
Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
Philadelphia is a jewel box of unique and spectacular, even life-enhancing attractions, a trove of national treasures of history, heritage, culture that glitters particularly during the holidays. The holiday splendor is eye-catching and warms the heart, but any visitor still has to make time to experience first-hand at least some of these iconic places. I manage to bookend my holiday merrymaking with a mix of art (Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia Magic Gardens) with history (Independence Hall) with heritage (National Museum of American Jewish History) with science and enlightenment (Philly is the hometown of one of our most enlightened inventors, Ben Franklin, and so I end this visit with the Franklin Institute.
We spare no time once we drop our luggage
at The Roost East Market, park the car in the garage, but grab an Uber to race
over to The Barnes Foundation. The Barnes Collection is one of the world’s
greatest collections of impressionist, post-impressionist, and early modernist
paintings, with especially rich holdings in Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, and
Picasso. Assembled by Dr. Albert C. Barnes between 1912 and 1951, the
collection also includes important examples of African art, Native American
pottery and jewelry, Pennsylvania German furniture, American avant-garde
painting, and wrought-iron metalwork. In fact, we are told, Dr. Barnes has the
greatest collection of Renoir anywhere – 181 of them acquired by Dr. Barnes
between 1921 and 1942 that you actually see (as opposed to museums that keep
most of their collections in storage). Plus 69 by Paul Cézanne; 59 by Henri Matisse; 46 by Pablo Picasso;
21 by Chaim Soutine; 18 by Henri Rousseau and the list goes on and on, as
you walk from gallery to gallery to gallery.
The building complex is new, but the
gallery rooms re-create the rooms and how Dr. Barnes displayed his art,
intentionally juxtaposing masterworks by Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse and
Pablo Picasso next to ordinary household objects – a door hinge, a spatula, a
yarn spinner; a French medieval sculpture displayed with a Navajo textile;
African folk art with Modigliani and Cubists. Dr. Barnes called these dense
groupings of objects from different cultures, time periods and media his
“ensembles.” He meticulously crafted the ensembles to draw out visual similarities
– even the source of inspiration. He meant them as teaching tools, essential to
the educational program Dr. Barnes developed in the 1920s.
“He believed you could
as likely learn about how to do surgery wandering through a hospital as art
wandering through a gallery – you have to be taught how to see, what to look
for,” a docent explains. “He wanted people to appreciate how culture influences
art.” She adds, “He wasn’t an artist himself.” In fact, she relates, 10 years
ago, Central High School (Dr. Barnes grew up in a working class family in
Philadelphia), came across his school books. “He got A’s in everything but
At the Barnes, you experience these
masterworks in the most intimate manner, as if visiting a home (albeit a
mansion). We are exceptionally lucky to visit when the museum is not at all
crowded (actually we are there until closing) – I even get to have some of the
art completely to myself. It is very comfortable to view – many of the rooms
(and they seem to go on forever, one after another) are small and there is
seating in each one, with guides to the artwork at hand. But you should try to
take a docent tour. At one point, the docent pulls up a photo of Henry
Matisse, sitting on the very bench and gazing at his own painting in that very
In every room, you are astonished to see art that is amazingly familiar – because they are so famous: Georges Seurat’s “Models” (the basis for “Sunday in the Park with George”); Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Postman”; Paul Cezanne’s “The Card Players”; Edouard Manet “Laundry”; Pablo Picasso “Acrobat and Young Harlequin”, and a plethora of Renoirs – so many, you get a sugar high. Every gallery takes your breath away, and for that moment, the art, the masterpiece, is yours.
And then there are the surprises – the art and artists you “meet” for
the first time. I fall in love with a Van Gogh country scene I have never seen
There is a wonderful painting of Dr. Albert Barnes (1872-1951) by
Giorgio de Chirico (1926), which makes you wonder more about who he was to have
assembled such an astonishing collection. Dr. Barnes was born and raised in
working-class Philadelphia, earned a medical degree from the University of
Pennsylvania and went on to study chemistry in Germany. After starting his own
business and making a fortune in pharmaceuticals, he began collecting art.
“Dr. Barnes believed that art had the power to improve minds and
transform lives,” the notes read. “In 1922, he established the Barnes
Foundation as a school for learning how to see and appreciate art. He had a
gallery built in Merion, a suburb of Philadelphia, to house his growing
collection. He held classes in the gallery so that students could learn
directly from the artworks.”
In 2012, the collection was moved to Philadelphia, to a building
designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architecture. The collection gallery
replicates the original gallery building in Merion.
From here, we go to a family gathering at the mega-popular Zahav Restaurant (the Uber driver can’t believe we are getting in there since lines are usually around the block), an award-winning restaurant which elevates Israeli cuisine to gourmet status. The small plates menu is designed for diners to sample the variety of cultural influences on Israeli cuisine, from Eastern Europe to North Africa, from Persia to the Mediterranean. “Creamy, nutty hummuses, sizzling skewers of meat grilled over hardwood charcoal, and laffa breadar, the soul of Zahav, baked to order in a wood-fired Taboon.” (237 Saint James Place, 215-625-8800, zahavrestaurant.com).
holiday happenings (see:
Holiday Happenings Give
Visitors to Philadelphia Even More to Enjoy) are bookended by visits to several of Philadelphia’s
incomparable sites and attractions. Next: Independence Hall (you need to get a timed
ticket, either walk up for free or in advance online for $1 fee, www.nps.gov/inde/planyourvisit/independencehalltickets.htm); a fabulous exhibit
devoted to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Notorious RBG) at
the National Museum of American
Jewish History, located within the Independence Hall area
(thru Jan. 12, at 5th & Market, mnajh.org, 215-923-3811); Philadelphia Magic Gardens (doesn’t
need any holiday embellishments, 1020 South St., 215-733-0390, phillymagicgardens.org);and Franklin
Institute (222 North 20th St., 215-448-1200, www.fi.edu), before having to pull myself away from Philadelphia.
Staying at The Roost
East Market apartment hotel really enabled us to be part of the city, most
of what we wanted to see within walking distance. It’s not hyperbole to say the
comfort of a fully-equipped, gorgeously furnished apartment meets luxury
amenities of a boutique hotel. All of the apartments feature
full-size kitchens with cookware and utensils (I especially love not having to
go out for breakfast) and king size beds. A third-floor is
devoted to guest amenities including a well-equipped 24-hour fitness center,
magnificent and comfortable lounge areas and library, a huge demo kitchen, a
private screening room, an outside, 20-meter heated lap pool, barbecue area,
landscaped terrace, community vegetable garden;
and bike-share program. There is also 24-hour front desk and concierge,
security (you need your card to access the elevator and public areas); and
direct access to a parking garage. They
even arrange dog-walking and grocery delivery services. (The Roost East Market, 1199 Ludlow
Street Philadelphia, PA 19107, 844-697-6678, https://myroost.com/philadelphia/east-market/).
A Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package includes
overnight free parking and perks, and is bookable at Greater
Philadelphia’s official visitor website, visitphilly.com, 800-537-7676 where you can explore things to do, upcoming
events, themed itineraries and hotel packages.
Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
transported in time, place and even space. Immerse yourself into the realm of
ideas and imagination. Come in from the heat or whatever the weather is doing
outside by taking in one of New York City’s museums. Here are just a few
highlights of summer’s blockbuster attractions:
Met Museum Welcomes ‘Saint Jerome’
Metropolitan Museum of Art is about to welcome a very special visitor: Leonardo
da Vinci’s Saint Jerome. To
commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci
(1452–1519), The Met is presenting the artist’s painting Saint Jerome
Praying in the Wilderness (begun around 1483), a special loan from the
Vatican Museums. The exquisitely rendered work represents Jerome (A.D.
347–420), a major saint and theologian of the Christian Church. The scene is
based on the story of his later life, which he spent as a hermit in the desert,
according to the 13th–century Golden Legend. The unfinished painting provides
viewers with an extraordinary glimpse into Leonardo’s creative process; a close
examination of the paint surface even reveals the presence of his fingerprints.
The display of this monumental masterpiece pays homage to one of the most
renowned geniuses of all time. Opening July 15, the painting is on view
through Oct. 6, 2019.
the oldest works of art to the first forays of civilization into outer space, ,
the Met Museum is marking the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11
mission with Apollo’s Muse: The Moon in
the Age of Photography, on view through September 22, 2019. Apollo’s Muse traces the progress of astronomical
photography and attempts to produce ever-sharper images of the moon,
particularly during the 130-year period between the invention of photography in
1839 and the moon landing in 1969 as astronomers and artists capitalized on
technological improvements to cameras and telescopes to create ever more
accurate visual records of the lunar surface. Exhibition highlights include two
newly discovered lunar daguerreotypes from the 1840s, believed to be the
earliest existing photographs of the moon, and works by such pioneers of lunar
photography as Warren De La Rue (1815–1889), Lewis Morris Rutherfurd
(1816–1892), and John Adams Whipple (1822–1891). A stunning photographic atlas
of the moon, produced at the Paris Observatory between 1894 and 1908 by the
astronomers Maurice Loewy (1833–1907) and Pierre Puiseux (1855–1928), will be
displayed for the first time in its entirety.
these scientific achievements, the show explores the use of the camera to
create fanciful depictions of space travel and life on the moon, including
George Méliès’s (1861–1938) original drawings for his film A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la lune, 1902) and
a large selection of “paper moon” studio portraits from the early 20th century.
Also featured will be artists’ evocations of the otherworldly effects of
moonlight, including major works by German Romantic painter Caspar David
Friedrich (1774-1840) and American Pictorialist photographer Edward Steichen
The night of the Museum Mile Festival, I popped into the opening of this year’s P.S. Art exhibit, an annual celebration of achievement in the arts in New York City public schools. This juried exhibition of the work of talented young artists showcases the creativity of 122 prekindergarten through twelfth grade students from all five boroughs, including students from District 75, a citywide district serving students with disabilities. The exhibition consists of paintings, prints, sculptures, photographs, mixed-media works, collages, drawings, and video. Each work of art demonstrates personal expression, imaginative use of media, the results of close observation, and an understanding of artistic processes. Some of the works on display are completely astonishing
Met is three museums.
At the Cloisters, “The Colmar Treasure: A Medieval Jewish
Legacy,” is on view July 22-January 12, 2020. A cache of jeweled rings,
brooches, and coins—the precious possessions of a Jewish family of medieval
Alsace—was hidden in the fourteenth century in the wall of a house in Colmar,
France. Discovered in 1863 and on view in an upcoming exhibition at The Met
Cloisters, the Colmar Treasure revives the memory of a once–thriving Jewish
community that was scapegoated and put to death when the Plague struck the
region with devastating ferocity in 1348–49. A generous loan of the Musée
de Cluny, Paris, the Colmar Treasure will be displayed alongside select works
from The Met Cloisters and little–known Judaica from collections in the United
States and France. Although the objects on view are small in scale and
relatively few in number, the ensemble overturns conventional notions of
medieval Europe as a monolithic Christian society. The exhibition will point to
both legacy and loss, underscoring the prominence of the Jewish minority
community in the tumultuous fourteenth century and the perils it faced.
the Met Breuer,
“Home is a Foreign Place:
Recent Aquisitions in Context,” through June 21, 2020.
residents still can pay what they wish, by presenting proof of residence;
out-of-towners need to pay the regular admission).
The iconic Metropolitan Museum of Art is at 1000 Fifth Avenue, on Central Park, (definitely take a Highlights tour when you visit), The Met Breuer (945 Madison Avenue) and The Met Cloisters (99 Margaret Corbin Drive, Fort Tryon Park). Visit metmuseum.org to plan your visit.
Jewish Museum Pays Homage to
Leonard Cohen With Multi-Media Exhibition
“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect
offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets
in.” from Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem”
from the album The Future (1992), provides the title for the special exhibit at the
“Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything”.
The contemporary multi-media exhibition devoted to the imagination and legacy
of the influential singer/songwriter, man of letters, and global icon from
Montreal, Canada can be experienced through September 8, 2019.
Cohen: A Crack in Everything includes commissioned works by a
range of international artists who have been inspired by Cohen’s life, work and
legacy. A world-renowned novelist, poet and singer/songwriter who inspired generations
of writers, musicians, and artists, Leonard Cohen (1934-2016) supplied the world with melancholy and urgent
observations on the state of the human heart. In songs such as “Suzanne,” “Bird
on the Wire,” and “Hallelujah,” he interwove the sacred and the profane, mystery and accessibility. Collectively, it is
the oddest, most creative biographical tribute. Featured works include:
Your Man (A Portrait of Leonard Cohen) (2017), a
multi-channel video installation by Candice Breitz, brings together a community
of ardent Cohen fans who pay tribute to the late legend. Each of the 18
participants was offered the opportunity to perform and record his own version
of Cohen’s comeback album I’m Your Man (1988) in a
professional recording studio. At Breitz’s invitation, the album’s backing
vocals were reinterpreted by the Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue Choir, an all-male
choir representing the congregation in Montreal, Canada, that Cohen belonged to
all his life.
Ari Folman’s Depression Chamber (2017) allows one visitor at a
time into a darkened room, where they are confronted by the demons of
depression, a theme that can be traced throughout Cohen’s body of work. After
the visitor lies down, Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat” plays while
the song’s lyrics are projected on the walls, slowly morphing into letters and
icons that symbolize Cohen’s multifaceted thematic universe.
Heard There Was a Secret Chord (after the 2017 work of the same
title, 2018) is a participatory humming experience by the art and design
studio Daily tous les jours that reveals an invisible vibration uniting people
around the world currently listening to Cohen’s Hallelujah. The
work is an exploration of the metaphysical connection between people on a
common wavelength. At the Museum, real-time online listener data is transformed
into a virtual choir of humming voices. The number of voices played back in the
gallery corresponds to the current online listener count, which is visible on
the hanging numerical display. Participants can sit or lie down on the
octagonal structure, and by humming along with the choir into the microphones,
low-frequency vibrations are generated, closing the circuit of collective
resonance with their bodies.
Organized by the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC), the exhibition is curated by John Zeppetelli, Director and Chief Curator at the MAC, and Victor Shiffman, Co-Curator. Following its New York showing, the exhibition will tour to Kunstforeningen GL STRAND and Nikolaj Kunsthal, Copenhagen, Denmark (October 23, 2019 – March 8, 2020) and the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco (September 17, 2020 – January 3, 2021).
During the run of Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything, the Jewish Museum will open one hour earlier than usual on Saturdays and Sundays, from 10 am to 5:45pm. Advance tickets are available online at thejewishmuseum.org/buy/general-admission. For questions about ticket sales, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 866.205.1322.
Founded in 1904, the Museum, on Fifth Avenue’s fabled Museum Mile, was the first institution of its kind in the United States and is one of the oldest Jewish museums in the world. Devoted to exploring art and Jewish culture from ancient to contemporary, the Museum offers diverse exhibitions and programs, and maintains a unique collection of nearly 30,000 works of art, ceremonial objects, and media reflecting the global Jewish experience over more than 4,000 years.
Admission: $18 for adults, $12 for seniors, $8 students, free for visitors 18
and under and Jewish Museum members. Free on Saturdays and select Jewish
holidays. 1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street, New York City, 212.423,3200, email@example.comTheJewishMuseum.org.
of the City of New York: New York at Its Core
make it a ritual to visit the Museum of the City of New York during each year’s
Museum Mile Festival. I never cease to be fascinated and intrigued by the
York at Its Core
is the first-ever museum show to comprehensively interpret and present the
compelling story of New York’s rise from a striving Dutch village to today’s
“Capital of the World,” a preeminent global city now facing the future in a
changing world. There are different galleries that tell the story, but most
fascinating is The Future City Lab, where you get to design the city of the
future, tackling the most pressing problems like housing, public spaces, water
supply. You even get to put yourself in the picture.
to be missed: Timescapes, the museum’s popular and
critically-acclaimed multimedia experience, brings the sweeping narrative of
New York City from the early 1600s to the present day. The 28-minute,
award-winning documentary explores how NYC grew from a settlement of a few
hundred Europeans, Africans and Native Americans into the multinational
metropolis of today, re-inventing itself multiple times along the way.
Activist New York, an
ongoing exhibit, examines the ways in which ordinary New
Yorkers have advocated, agitated, and exercised their power to shape the
city’s—and the nation’s—future, from the 17th century to the
City of Workers, City of Struggle: How
Labor Movements Changed New York, traces how New York became the most
unionized large city in the United States.
in the City: A 200–Year History, on
view through October 6, 2019, tracex how the bicycle transformed urban
transportation and leisure in New York City and explores the extraordinary
diversity of cycling cultures, past and present.
Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Ave., Manhattan, NY 10029, 212-534-1672, mcny.org.
Guggenheim: Summer of Know
in the Frank Lloyd Wright building, a major attraction in itself (just walking
through the spiral is an experience),from June 18 through September 3, the
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is open until 9 pm for Summer Tuesdays, offering
music and refreshments in the museum rotunda in addition to exhibitions on view
in the galleries. Films, conversations, and performances enhance opportunities
for visitors to engage with the museum and the Frank Lloyd Wright–designed
building that celebrates 60 years as an architectural icon in 2019. Also
starting in June, Summer of Know, a conversation series addressing urgent
issues through the generative lens of art, returns to the Guggenheim, featuring
artists, activists, and other professionals discussing topics such as LGBTQIA+
rights in a global context, environmental activism, and housing rights. Details
are available at guggenheim.org/calendar.
Biennial has long been one of America’s
foremost showcases of emerging artists. Every two years, the exhibition serves
as a bellwether for the culture, both reflecting on and mirroring the country’s
political and social moods. No surprise, then, to see that this year’s work—on
view now at the Whitney Museum of American Art—offers plenty of tension, with
pieces that focus on gender identity and race, among other issues. Curators
chose the works because they represent “a snapshot of contemporary art making”;
read on for more about a few of our favorites. (See: https://www.nycgo.com/articles/whitney-biennial-2019) (99 Gansvoort
St., Meatpacking district).
of Natural History Presents T.rex, The Ultimate Predator
At the American Museum of Natural History’s blockbuster exhibit, T. rex: The Ultimate Predator, you encounter a massive life-sized model of a T. rex with patches of feathers—the definitive representation of this prehistoric predator, T. rex hatchlings and a four-year-old juvenile T.rex; a “roar mixer”where you can imagine what T. rex may have sounded like; a shadow theater where a floor projection of an adult T. rex skeleton seems to come to life. At a tabletop “Investigation Station,” you can explore a variety of fossil casts with virtual tools including a CT scanner, measuring tape, and a microscope to learn more about what such specimens reveal about the biology and behavior of T.rex. Finally, you encounter a massive animated projection of aT. rexand its offspring in a Cretaceous-age setting. which reacts to visitors, leaving you to wonder, “Did that T. rex really see me?”
T. rex: The Ultimate Predator is the first major exhibition of the
American Museum of Natural History’s 150th anniversary celebration. Plan your
visit (you could spend weeks in the museum), check out the special programming
and events, and pre-purchase timed tickets at amnh.org.
Hayden Planetarium Space Theater, see “Dark Universe” (through December 31,
Open daily from 10 am – 5:45 pm. American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, NY 10024-5192, 212-769-5100, amnh.org.
Summer at New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, the oldest museum in New
York (and directly across the street from the American Museum of Natural
History on Central Park West), is presenting a Revolutionary Summer. A Museum-wide
exploration of Revolutionary War times, Revolutionary
Summerpresents outdoor events every weekend featuring characters
from the era; 18th-century art and artifacts; a diorama of the Continental Army
and a host of programs for all ages, including trivia nights, DJ evening, and Revolutionary
Drag Tea Party. On select weekends, visitors can explore a replica of George
Washington’s Headquarters Tent at an outdoor Continental Army encampment, meet
Living Historians portraying soldiers and spies, and learn about the many
facets of camp life during the War for Independence. (Through September 15,
Also on view: LIFE: Six Women Photographers showcases the extraordinary work created
by Margaret Bourke-White, Hansel Mieth, Marie Hansen, Martha Holmes, Nina
Leen, and Lisa Larsen. (through October 6, 2019); Stonewall 50 at New-York Historical Society, through September
22, 2019, commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising and the
dawn of the gay liberation movement; Hudson Rising explores 200 years of ecological change
and environmental activism along “the most interesting river in America” (through
The Big Picture,
opening August 23 through December 8, 2019, explores wide-angle, bird’s-eye
imagery from the 17th to the 20th century, revealing the influence that
panoramas had on everything from mass entertainment to nationalism to imperial
expansion. Through more than 20 panoramas, the exhibition presents the history
of the all-encompassing medium in New York City, San Francisco and beyond.
New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West (77th Street), New York, NY 10024, 212-873-3400, nyhistory.org.
Spy v. Spy
Want a real escape? Visit Spyscape, which offers a different twist on spy museums, and is more of an experiential attraction, immersing you into the psychology and ubiquity of surveillance and espionage, and literally, with the ending “profile” (developed with the a former head of training at British Intelligence) showing you where you might fit into this world (I’m an analyst). SPYSCAPE, which opened in 2018, illuminates secret intelligence, from espionage to hacking, and investigative journalism. It offers a balanced perspective on big issues – privacy, security, surveillance. You get to engage in real spy challenges, including lie-detection in interrogation booths, surveillance in a 360 degree environment and test strategy and agility in special ops laser tunnels. The museum also features quite a good Spy Shop, a Book Shop, Café and multiple Event Spaces. (928 8th Avenue, entrance on SE corner of 55th Street, spyscape.com).
And in a very real Spy v. Spy scenario, a very different
experience awaits at another new entry to New York City’s museum scene: the KGB Museum. This place presents the
artifacts and history of the KGB in a kind of antique-shop setting but the
items are chilling. You realize that the spy movies, even the satirical “Get
Smart,” didn’t so much fabricate as reveal the tools and techniques and
paranoia of Cold War spying. (KGB Spy Museum tickets are available online or in
the museum. (245 West 14th Street, New York,
NY 10011, 10 am -8 Mon-Sun).
Museum of Illusions
The Museum of Illusions, which opened September 2018 in New York City’s West Village, contains three-dimensional illusions on the walls and floors which will mesmerize visitors of all ages. You might assume by its name that it is a children’s museum or about magic which depends so much on illusion. Nor can it be considered an “attraction” although many of the exhibits are interactive and you get to help create the illusions. It is really about educating about the physical and psychological science behind illusion – placards posted near each exhibit provide the explanations for what you sense. And while the museum does not explicitly delve into magic, when you leave, you will have a better understanding of how some magic tricks work. (77th 8th Ave, New York, NY; newyork.museumofillusions.us)
Cradle of Aviation Museum: Countdown to
Apollo at 50
out of this world, beyond the city limits, to Long Island: The Cradle of
Aviation Museum and Education Center is one of the great space and aviation
museums, home to over 75 planes and spacecraft representing over 100 years of
aviation history and Long Island’s only Giant Screen Dome Theater. Currently,
the museum is celebrating “Countdown
to Apollo at 50”
sponsored by the Robert D.L. Gardiner Foundation, showcasing Long Island and
Grumman’s significant role in the Apollo program. The Museum was recently
recognized and listed on New York State’s National Register of Historic Places
as a significant part of American history. The museum is located on Museum Row,
Charles Lindbergh Blvd., in East Garden City. For more information call
(516) 572-4111 or visit www.cradleofaviation.org.
So often, when reviving a theater icon like Fiddler on the Roof, there is the need to find a new, unique, creative way to make it their own, to reinterpret, re-envision to give new audiences a different entry way. And too often, that manipulation warps or distorts what made the theatrical experience so precious to begin with. But you don’t have to insert modern inventions into Fiddler for its moral, both universal and specific, to be relevant to today’s audiences. In fact, it is much more profound to be transported back to that time, 1904, for its truth to be fully realized.
Fiddler on the Roof has that most important aspect of a true classic, to touch every emotion, make you see things more insightfully, to have a real moral to the story, and leave you a better, more understanding person afterward – and be entertained.
Directed by Oscar and Tony Award-winner Joel Grey, Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish (in Yiddish, A Fidler Afn Dakh) adds new depth and dimension to this heart-wrenching story of a community struggling to balance traditions against the forces and threats of a changing world. The little town of Anatevka reverberates with the sounds of mame-loshn (ancestral language).
Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish, brings you closer, more engaged, immerses you. The experience seems even more authentic, more intimate.
Partly this is because the Yiddish language, is so expressive – some of the earliest musicals in New York were in Yiddish (Yiddish theater thrived in New York between 1888 and the 1920s; there is even a Museum of Yiddish Theater, www.museumofyiddishtheater.org) – and in a surprising way even familiar. There are words we New Yorkers know very well (meshuganah comes up a lot), and it seems every so often the Yiddish word is similar to English. But you can follow along, opera-style, with titles (in English and Russian!).
But it is also because Yiddish is the mame-loshn, the ancestral
language. It gives the story more authenticity. You are there, in this
place so far away. Perhaps you even understand the challenge when the
inhabitants of this village, indeed all the Jews from all the villages, are driven
from their homes on three days notice to a strange place where they will
understand no one and no one will understand them.
One of the most
celebrated musicals of all time, Fiddler
on The Roof, based on Sholem Aleichem’s Tevye the
Dairyman stories, features the sensational music
by Jerry Bock,
meaningful lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and smart book by Joseph Stein, with original New York stage production directed and choreographed by
the greatJerome Robbins. This production, brilliantly
directed by Joel Grey, has staging and new choreography by Stas Kimec.
We noticed just small deviations from the original
book, and a new song that emerges from Pertshik’s biblical lesson, that enhance
the experience (not too smart or gimmicky), but otherwise, it is gloriously
faithful to one of the best musical theater works ever created.
The direction by Joel Grey is exquisite – just the
right timing, emphasis, emotion. These characters seem more approachable,
especially without distractions of a complicated set. The Tevye character,
played by Steven Skybell (who won the 2019 Lucille Lortel Award for Best
Lead Actor) is more sensitive, loving, nuanced than the character is
The Jews of Anatevka are clad all in grey, white and
black – as if looking back in time at old photos or film, or perhaps as letters
out of a book – only the Russians have a touch of red and Fiadkah’s outfit is
sufficiently differentiated from his erstwhile comrades.
The set is sparse, but you don’t even realize it –
long strips of what looks like parchment of Torah scrolls with one with the
only world, in Hebrew lettering, Torah that binds the community throughout the
ages and is the underpinning to tradition. That hones the message but also
focuses attention on the people.
The staging and choreography is fabulous – there are
all our favorites: the bottle dance at the wedding; the Russian dance. I loved
the way the dream sequence is staged. The voices and acting of a brilliant
company are sensational.
And most importantly, a timeless tale more important
than ever that needs to be told in these times.
Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof, which opened in 1964, was the first
musical theater production in history to surpass 3,000 performances, won
the 1965 Tony Award for Best Musical in addition to eight
other Tony Awards that year and has performed in
every metropolitan city in the world from Paris to Beijing.
translation, so artfully crafted by Israeli actor/director Shraga
Friedman, was originally performed in Israel in 1965 just one year after its Broadway debut.
Born in Warsaw, Friedman was a native Yiddish speaker who escaped war-torn Europe
with his family and made their way to Tel Aviv in 1941. “Well acquainted with
the works of Sholem Aleichem, Friedman used his translation to infuse Fiddler
with rich literary references to the original Yiddish stories.”
production, which was originally staged at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, marks
the first time the Yiddish version has been performed in the United States.
There is no
problem following what is going on – much like opera, there are supertitles in
English and Russian on both sides of the stage throughout the entire
performance that translate what is being said or sung on stage in real time.
The show is so familiar that it isn’t even necessary, but I enjoyed reading the
nuances of difference. And the great surprise is how familiar some of the words
are, either because Yiddish expressions have entered the vernacular (at least
in New York), or because of the connection to English.
The complete cast of Fiddler
on the Roof includes award-winning Steven Skybell (as
Tevye), Emmy Award nominee Jackie Hoffman (as
Yente), Jennifer Babiak (as Golde), Joanne Borts (as
Sheyndl), Lisa Fishman (as Bobe Tsatyl), Kirk Geritano (as
Avrom), Samantha Hahn (as Beylke), Cameron Johnson (as
Fyedka), Ben Liebert (as Motl Kamzoyl), Stephanie
Lynne Mason (as Hodl), Evan Mayer (as Sasha), Rosie
Jo Neddy (as Khave), Raquel Nobile (as
Shprintze), Nick Raynor (as Yosl), Bruce Sabath (as
Leyzer Volf), Drew Seigla (as Perchik), Adam B.
Shapiro (as Der Rov), Jodi Snyder (as
Frume-Sore), James Monroe Števko (as Mendl), Lauren
Jeanne Thomas (as Der Fiddler), Bobby Underwood (as
Der Gradavoy), Mikhl Yashinsky (as Nokhum / Mordkhe),
and Rachel Zatcoff (as Tsaytl).
Ensemble members include Michael
Einav, Jonathan Quigley, and Kayleen Seidl. Swings
include Abby Goldfarb and John Giesige, and Moshe
Lobel serves as understudy for the production.
The creative team for the production
features new choreography by Staś Kmieć (based on the original
choreography by Jerome Robbins), musical direction by Zalmen Mlotek, scenic
design by Beowulf Boritt, costume design by Ann Hould-Ward, sound
design by Dan Moses Schreier, lighting design by Peter Kaczorowski,
wig & hair design by Tom Watson, and props design by Addison
Fiddler on the Roof is produced off-Broadway by Hal Luftig and Jana
Robbins, in association withSandy Block.
This production of Fiddler on the Roof is the winner of the 2019 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical Revival, a 2019 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award Special Citation, and star Steven Skybell is the winner of the 2019 Lucille Lortel Award for Best Lead Actor in a Musical, as well as numerous nominations for Joe Grey as director, for orchestration, Lucille Lortel nominee for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Jackie Hoffman.
Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish, a production of the remarkable National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene (NYTF), began its life with a celebrated run at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, where it had been extended multiple times and played its final performance on December 30, 2018. This production at the Stage 42 Theater has been extended multiple times as well, and now is extended again, through January 5, 2020.
NYTF has its own remarkable history: founded in 1915 the award-winning NYTF is the longest continuously producing Yiddish theater company in the world and offers regular productions. The company is presenting a season of four mainstage productions, concerts and readings curated to accompany the exhibit Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away. now on view at the Museum of Jewish Heritage through Jan. 3, 2020 (https://mjhnyc.org/exhibitions/auschwitz/).
Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish is a theater
experience not to be missed.
on the Roof in Yiddish is at Stage 42, 422 West 42nd Street (between 9th and
10th Avenues), New York, NY, 10036. For the most current performance schedule
and tickets, see http://fiddlernyc.com. Tickets
are on sale for performances through Jan. 5, 2020. https://nytf.org/fiddler-on-the-roof/
Imagine a structure 120 feet high that can fit 2000 people for a concert, but that can move, expand, shrink or be completely removed to expose an open-air plaza. An “anti-institution” cultural institution to provide a home and nurture the full spectrum of the arts, where emerging artists, local artists, and established artists have parity, and audiences represent the diversity and inclusivity of New York with low-priced ticket holders dispersed throughout the house.
This is The Shed, the
newest cultural center to open in a city which prides culture above all, sure
to be gain a place among the pantheon of iconic art institutions, along with
its leading-edge approach to harnessing the arts as a force for social action
and public good, its astonishing architecture, flexible, versatile and
adaptable enough to enable artists of today and tomorrow and fulfill their
vision to be a platform across multi-disciplines.
It’s “the Swiss army knife” of culture,” said Daniel L. Doctoroff, chair of the board, during a press preview prior to the April 5 grand opening, when the principals involved with the genesis of the project spoke of what The Shed, and its mission, meant to the city and society.
Indeed, they noted, in a city of 1200 cultural attractions, The Shed had to be different, beginning with its commitment to commissioning new works, creating a platform – the space and place – for artists across disciplines, engaging audiences across a spectrum of backgrounds and interests, but most significantly, creating a building, that like a “living organism” would keep morphing to accommodate artists’ visions today and decades from now, accommodating the unimaginable ways art and culture might change over time.
Six and a half years ago, after seeing a 60-second animation of what The Shed could be, purpose-built to house various forms of culture and building would move, John Tisch, vice chair of the new institution, told his wife, “The Shed is about future of NYC and we need to be involved.”
“6 ½ years later, here
we are discovering the future of NYC and how we as citizens and creators of
this institution will discuss culture and humanity, how we all need to be
together in the 21st century in NYC.
“There are many cultural institutions – many are about the past. The Shed is about the future.”
“The dictionary defines ‘shed’ as an opened-ended structure with tools,” said Doctoroff. “We designed The Shed as a platform, uniquely adaptable, to liberate artists to fulfill their dreams.”
More than a dozen years
ago, Doctoroff said, The Shed “started as small square on map, a placeholder
for To Be Determined cultural institution.
“Mayor Bloomberg said ‘Make
it different from anything else in New York City.’ That’s not easy in a town of
1200 cultural institutions. It had to play a role in a new edge of New York
City, keeping New York City as leading edge of the cultural world.”
Liz Diller of Diller
Scofidio + Renfro, lead architect, and David Rockwell of Rockwell Group, collaborating
architect, responded to the mandate for flexibility, a one-of-a-kind structure.
“Just as it was to be designed
to be flexible, we wanted it to be of and for our time and inclusive of artists
across all disciplines,” Doctoroff said. “We proposed commissions of emerging
artists across all art forms – the mission drives our work.
“It is a remarkable
public/private investment of $500 million to design and construct building and
create original works of art.
“New York City continues
to be perfect partner under Mayor DiBlasio. The city provided $75 million and
“We are standing in The McCourt,
a spectacular space that can do anything an artist can imagine. It was named
for the Board member who gave $45 million.
“Griffin Theater was named
for one of most generous philanthropists, Ken Griffin, who gave $25 million.
“Altice USA is the
founding fiber network partner – so that The Shed is an accessible arts
organization with global reach, the first cultural institution with connectivity
“Above all, Mayor
Bloomberg, who had vision to transform West Side and create cultural
institution as beating heart. The Shed is housed the Bloomberg Building, named
for Mayor Bloomberg.
“It’s been a 14-year
journey – kind of crazy, new kind of cultural institution in a completely new
building in new part of town, new board, new team, performing miracles every
day, producing our own work.
demands great purpose,” Doctoroff said.
Alex Poots, the Artistic Director and CEO, said, “I started to imagine the possibilities: a flexible building, built on city land. That was the draw to lure me from England –a public purpose. It was a no brainer, building on what I had been doing for 15 years. [Poots is also involved with the Manchester Festival and with the Park Avenue Armory.]
“Parity among art forms;
the ability to commission art – visual and performing arts. And it would not
matter if the artist were emerging, established, or a community artist – we don’t
need a false hierarchy.
“The Shed is place for
invention, curiosity where all artists and audiences can meet.
Alongside all the
venerable institutions of city, we hope The Shed can add something.
“It’s rare for a place to be open in the day as a
museum, and in the evening a performance center.”
Poots introduced the 2019 inaugural season’s first commissions (and the press were able to watch some rehearsals):
a new live production celebrating the unrivaled impact of African American
music on art and popular culture over the past 100 years, conceived by
acclaimed filmmaker and artist Steve McQueenand developed with music visionaries and academic experts
including Quincy Jones, Maureen Mahon, Dion ‘No I.D.’ Wilson, Tunji Balogun and
Greg Philliganes, is a five-night concert series (April 5-14) celebrating the
unrivaled impact of African American music on contemporary culture, with performances
by emerging musicians.
a live performance/exhibition pairing works by master painter Gerhard
Richter with a new composition by Steve Reich and an extant
composition by Arvo Pärt, performed by The Choir of Trinity Wall Street
(April 6-June 2).
Jeane Baker of Troy, a reinvention of Euripides’ Helen by
poet Anne Carson, starring Ben Whishaw and the opera singer, Renée
Fleming (April 6-May 19).
Björk’s Cornucopia, the
multidisciplinary artist’s most elaborate staged concert to date, directed by
Lucrecia Martel (May 6-June 1).
Dragon Spring Phoenix
futuristic kung fu musical conceived by Chen Shi-Zheng and Kung Fu
Panda screenwriters Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, with
songs by Sia, choreography by Akram Khan, and production design
and costumes by Tim Yip (June 22–July 27);
There are also, expansive exhibitions devoted to
extant and newly commissioned work by trailblazing artists Trisha Donnelly and
Agnes Denes; and an unprecedented opportunity for New York City-based
emerging artists of all disciplines to develop and showcase their work
throughout The Shed’s spaces via an Open Call commissioning program.
Beneath the stands and
stage in The McCourt is the only permanent art installation, “In Front of
Itself,” a large-scale, site-specific work by artist Lawrence Weiner embedded
into the plaza. It serves as a walkable outdoor area when the movable shell is
nested over the fixed building, or as the base of The McCourt when the shell is
extended to the east. The 20,000-sq. ft. work features the phrase, “In front of
itself” in 12-foot high letters fabricated with custom paving stones.
These first commissions,
Poots said, “shows the range of The Shed.” The flexibility of the building
makes it possible to transform from one show to the next in just two days.
Art as Social Action
Tamara McCaw, Chief Program Civic Officer, is responsible for fulfilling the mission of The Shed to use art as social action.
“It is my responsibility
to serve the community, particularly those under stress or have barriers [to
artistic expression]. ]
McCaw oversees the Open
Call program, an unprecedented opportunity for 52 New York City-based emerging
artists and collectives to develop and showcase their work throughout The
Shed’s primary spaces, free to the public (May 30-August 25) and continuing in
The 52 artists were
selected from 930 applications in its first open call. Alex Poots said that The
Shed will embark on its next round of emerging talent in 5-6 months.
The Shed has year round
social justice residencies, serving 700 students a year
“We are providing a platform for local and
emerging artists – selected by diverse panel and Shed staff (2 are on the panel
– to present in principal spaces, plaza, theater.” These performances and
exhibits will be free to public.
“It is our civic
responsibility to reflect, respond to the diverse communities of NYC – with
affordable tickets ($10; free for 18 year olds and under and CUNY students),
and reserve 10% of low-income seats that will be distributed throughout house
(not the back or nosebleed section)
Addressing how The Shed
intends to be responsive to diverse audiences, Doctoroff noted that the
building is open – the restaurant, café and lobby. Anyone can come through
without a ticket, and every gallery and theater can be separately ticketed. The
goal is to make access to exhibits and performers and accessible as possible.
McCaw added, “People
from public housing are already are coming because they are of process. We did
outreach for open call. There are artists who live in public housing here. When
you come with respect, people want to be involved.
“We are creating inventive
new work, supporting creative expression, cultural equity and belief in power
of art to effect social change.”
Ticket prices are
intentionally low. Every gallery show – except Richter – is $10 ticket and free
for those under 18. Open call programs are free (18 weeks of programming)
At the end of the first
year, he expects that half the entire
audience will be admitted for $10 or free.
The Shed, a
not-for-profit arts institution, expects to operate at a loss.
“That means we have to
raise money,” Doctoroff said. “But we regard it as investing in society, not as
a loss. The less box office, the more generous we are. There are high ticket
prices for those who can afford it and low for those who can’t – low cost
tickets are equally dispersed through theater, to promote equity.”
A good source of real
money, though, could be in renting out space in The Lizzie and
Jonathan Tisch Skylights and The Tisch Lab on the top floor, Level 8, where there is a
1,700-square-foot creative lab for local artists, a 3,300-square-foot rehearsal
space, and a 9,500-square-foot flexible, multipurpose space for events.
“The Top floor is engine
for that flexible space – dinners, small performances – will be rented year
round while operating as not-for-profit art center.”
Frank H. McCourt Jr., Shed board member and entrepreneur, reflected, “There is something else here – civic imagination, ideas put into action to serve people – address societal issues, change lives, make a better nation, a better humankind.
“It is artistic creation
but also social innovation. Human creativity for the greater good. My hope for The
Shed is that it is home for both art and other intellectual activities. This
place, including the institution created to animate it, is a bold, living
example of civic action. An idea put into action for greater good.
“It’s not finished, just
getting started. This week a milestone. In a world replete with cynicism, The
Shed is the opposite.”
An Architectural Marvel
“We started the project 11 years ago – when it was a dotted line on a satellite photo and a question mark. It was the 2008 recession,” reflected Liz Diller, lead architect, who described what it was like to design a building around a mission.
“Arts in New York are
siloed – dance, theater, music, visual. That’s not how artists think today, but
how will artists think in one or two decades? We can’t know. We started a project
without a client, an anti-institution institution, to serve artists of all
kinds in a future we could not predict.
“How could architecture
not get in the way of that? Art is in flux, so the building had to be able to change
on demand, be flexible without defaulting.”
What she and collaborating
architect David Rockwell devised is a fixed building with column-free exhibit
and performance space, the Bloomberg Building.
Shed’s Bloomberg Building—an innovative 200,000-square-foot structure designed
by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Lead Architect, and Rockwell Group, Collaborating
Architect—can physically transform to support artists’ most ambitious ideas.
Its eight-level base building includes two levels of gallery space; the
versatile Griffin Theater; and The Tisch Skylights, which comprise a
rehearsal space, a creative lab for local artists, and a skylit event space.
an iconic space for large-scale performances, installations, and events, is
formed when The Shed’s telescoping outer shell is deployed from over the base
building and glides along rails onto the adjoining plaza. The McCourt can have theater seating for 1400,
or open the glass wall to expose the balcony for 300 seated and have 2000 on
When the movable shell is nested over the base building, the 20,000-square-foot
Plaza will be open public space that also can be used for outdoor programming;
the eastern façade can serve as a backdrop for projection with lighting and
sound support. The Plaza is equipped with a distributed power supply for
outdoor functions. Oversize deliveries can be brought by truck up Hudson Yards
Boulevard and loaded directly onto The Plaza and into the base building or the
shell when deployed. Those doors can be opened while the audience is under
cover, for an open-air effect.
“It is the architecture
of infrastructure: all muscle, no fat,”
Diller said. “Alex, an inspirational alchemical force, challenged the building
to be smarter, more flexible, agile. This is a perpetual work in progress –
always getting smarter more agile.
It will respond to the challenge
of artists and challenge the artists back.”
“New York is so defined by art and its artists. Art creates community, at its best, and empathy with audiences,” said Architect David Rockwell.
“What we created
is a Swiss Army knife of culture,” said Doctoroff. “A beautiful design with
practicality to respond to the notion that we don’t know where art will go, or
where artists will be in 200 years.”
eight-level base building includes two expansive, column-free galleries
totaling 25,000 square feet of museum-quality space; a 500-seat theater that
can be subdivided into even more intimate spaces; event and rehearsal space;
and a creative lab.
outer shell can double the building’s footprint when deployed over the
adjoining plaza to create a 17,000-square-foot light-, sound-, and
temperature-controlled space, named The McCourt, for large-scale performances,
installations, and events for audiences ranging from 1,250 seated to 3,000
standing (when combined with space in the two adjoining galleries of the base
building). When space is not needed, the movable shell can nest over the base
building, opening up the plaza for outdoor use and programming.
explained how the movable shell travels on a double-wheel track based on gantry
crane technology commonly found in shipping ports and railway systems. A
rack-and-pinion drive moves the shell forward and back on four single-axle and
two double axle bogie wheels that measure six feet in diameter; the deployment
of the shell takes approximately five minutes.
exposed steel diagrid frame of the movable shell is clad in translucent pillows
of durable and lightweight Teflon-based polymer, called ethylene
tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE). With the thermal properties of insulating glass
at 1/100th of the weight, the
translucent ETFE allows light to pass through and can withstand hurricane-force
winds. Measuring almost 70 feet in length in some areas, The Shed’s ETFE panels
are some of the largest ever produced.
“Systems were adapted from
other things but it is novel in the way we put together,” Diller said, adding
that the architecture is “based on industrial crane technology, brought to 21st century”
with an emphasis on functionality. But there were no real models among arts
“It was a constant process
of invention, reinvention,” said Doctoroff. “We have 14 blackout shades. We had
to rethink the system of shades – particularly when Alex came and knew he wanted
concerts. They needed to also provide sound protection. We went to the sailmakers
who designed sails for America’s Cup boats to design shade system. Extra
performance capability of holding back 108 decibels (loud). The thickness,
density had to be able to roll up.”
Asked why New York needed another cultural institution, Doctoroff retorted, “Why have we been so successful raising money? Because people sense New York does need this. The criteria was that this had to be different from anything else in New York. We went to talk to artists and leaders of cultural institutions around the world to ask what do they not have and need. There were similar themes –the internet era gives artists the capacity of collaborating across distances and disciplines, but also producing work that didn’t fit in traditional institutions. Out of that came idea of flexibility.
“This is different: our
mission of inclusivity embedded in value system,” said Doctoroff, said in a
small discussion group with journalists.
“We prove it every day.
This is personal for me: 36 years ago I imagined a new West Side – saving the
Highline [now one of the most popular attractions in NYC, with 8 million visits
a year], the subway. I always believed having a cultural heart to the new West
Side was critical and would need to change over time to keep New York leading
edge in culture. I believe cultural institutions are critical to New York,”
said Doctoroff, who is also chairman and CEO of Sidewalk Labs, an Alphabet
company that looks at sustainable solutions to designing urban communities.
“The Shed will never be
finished,” said Doctoroff. “The word ‘unfinished’ ends with ‘shed’. It will
always be evolving because what we’ve done is created a platform for artists to
use as their own. The building enables their vision – they will push, stretch
us in ways we can’t imagine, they can’t imagine today. The Shed is an organism
that keeps morphing.”
And that’s how Liz
Diller expects not to go through post partum blues. “We will respond to the
challenge of artists and challenge artists back.”
Gold Coast Arts Center, Great Neck, Long Island presents an exhibition of “Chinese
Artists in America.” The works by eight contemporary Chinese-American artists
is on view through March 20.
exhibition reflects the creative vitality of Chinese and American cultural interaction
and growth through the arts and its historical and aesthetic links to other
communities,” Gallery Curator Jude Amsel writes.
artists created a new visual language that embodies aspects of traditional
Chinese art while responding to a time of great transition. Their artworks
express personal beliefs, national pride, and international awareness.”
Gold Coast Arts Center is dedicated to promoting awareness and understanding
through the arts and through public events that bring people together,” stated
Regina Gil, founder and Executive Director of the Gold Coast Arts Center. “We
are proud to have enabled artists from around the world to share their vision
and craft with our audiences. The exhibition of art by Chinese-American artists
weaves the heritage, experience and craft that has emerged from each artist’s
personal exposure to Chinese and American culture and education.”
opening reception for the art exhibition was accompanied by a cultural
performance, music and dance presented under the aegis of the Great Neck
are highlights, with the artists’ own statements.
Zhen Guo: “With ‘Muted Landscape; I present a view of the world, and we who live on its surface, that is at once expansive and frightening. The images, created (I do not say painted because there is no obvious brush work in the ink on rice paper creation) present a landscape as if from 36,000 feet, muted by both the gray color and by the distance. Mountains, lakes, a sheer rock face wall, caldera, fields of snow, high and pointed peaks and rivers are joined and blended but not necessarily in the places or ways we expect. It is as if the vision of Ansel Adams has been stirred shaken and kneaded merged a late Autumn vision of the natural world. As our eyes travel over the painting the view changes and rivers become shadows, mountains become fields, and lakes become snow covered peaks. We are entranced and at the same time afraid that, if we landed, there we could not find our way out. Perhaps this is a place for own internal search for a perch for our soul or to find our way forward.”
Xiangdong Shi: ““Food: Chinese beauty, taste and auspicious meaning. Chinese cuisine is not only delicious, but also the pursuit of form and color, such as Sweet Dumplings, put in a few red medlar, and immediately look happy, and eat the Sweet Dumplings at the Lantern Festival, so the Sweet Dumplings are also called Yuan Xiao, means the first full moon night of the year. Chinese cuisine is rich and auspicious Meaning, such as birthday, Chinese people often cook a bowl of noodles, called longevity noodles, meaning healthy longevity. Another example is the Traditional Chinese Rice-Pudding, is the exclusive food of the Dragon Boat Festival, it is to commemorate the ancient Chinese famous poet Qu Yuan, in addition, often in the Traditional Chinese Rice-Pudding have any jujubes, white rice and red jujubes are put together, the color contrast is strong. Red has a special meaning in Chinese culture, and represents good luck. Therefore, the food series I painted not only expresses the taste of food, but also the sense of form and meaning of food. This is the true essence of Chinese culture.”
Arthur B. Liu is President of Queens Art Education Center, New York, visiting professor of the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, member of the Watercolor Society of USA, artist of the National Art League of USA, director of the Chinese Culture Art Association of New York, USA. He is the Educator, Artist and Inventor. He is the only one Chinese American artist who has been granted patents for inventions. He is showing “The flowing colors Chinese painting series” in this exhibition.
Ping Wang: “The initial idea of my “In and Out” series were body parts extended from a “Square”(space ) merged into a background. The background scenes are from Chinese illusional landscapes to recent New York City landmarks and daily life. After a year or two reminiscing in depth I subconsciously escaped in the collision between China and American culture. I was enormously inspired by traditional Chinese composition and techniques. In the ‘Fight Club; series, I tried to combine some oriental perspectives and compositions into a Western story. Now living in New York for several years, I can see the integration of eastern and western cultures.”
Yulin Huang: “In the face of the canvas, I have never forgotten all the so-called knowledge, just by intuition, in a simple, primitive, child-like way, straightforward and quick to smear. “Sacrifice the Body to Feeding the Tiger” (2018) is a “Dunhuang” mural from the ancient East, painted on the walls of the grotto 2000 years ago. It tells a Buddhist story. A prince, giving up his life and helping his hunger with his own flesh The hungry tiger mother and son are born into Buddha after death. Like the cross that Jesus passed. In “Chinese New Year,” red lanterns, dragon dances, lion dances, firecrackers, fireworks, spring couplets, red envelopes… The people celebrate the biggest festivals, joyous and lively. But I feel a very loneliness.”
Hai Wei: “Even though we all advocate tolerance, different habits and beliefs sometimes constitute an offense. Each different culture and art is connected of each other while learning from each other and integrating with each other. When the plane flies over the Arctic Circle, across the window, the outside is a mountain like a scarf, inside is a scarf like a mountain… All things connected, miraculous conversion. Similarly, in the body, the blood, the fresh life, can also be converted and reincarnation? We have been watching ourselves for too long and rarely look at them. Most people think the sheep is weak ,ordinary, silent. In fact, they still have power and charm of wildness. The art created by nature is life, the beauty of life, and it does not depend on us. It is a kind of dignity.”
Yafu Wang: Yafu’s works are varied and diverse. Those selected art pieces cover his early works in road, shadows, posters, and temples etc. Yafu always states that his work expresses his deep love and awe for the mighty God. It fulfills all the missing parts in his life.
One of the many delights of Parks & Trails NY’s 8-day, 400-mile Cycle the Erie bike tour from Buffalo to Albany across New York State, is coming up beautiful murals that describe the history and cultural heritage of the Erie Canal and the canaltowns that were spawned. Through the course of the ride, you travel 400 miles but also 400 years through history, and see the whole story of how America came to be unfold in front of you.
Here are some of our favorites, as we bike along the Erie Canalway, on brick, on barns, on bridges, on benches, on fences:
The 20th Annual Cycle the Erie Canal ride is scheduled July 8 – 15, 2018 (www.ptny.org/canaltour). In the meantime, you can cycle the trail on your own – detailed info and interactive map is at the ptny.org site (www.ptny.org/bikecanal), including suggested lodgings. For more information on Cycle the Erie Canal, contact Parks & Trails New York at 518-434-1583 or visit www.ptny.org.
The entire Erie Canal corridor has been designated the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, Waterford, NY 12188, 518-237-7000, www.eriecanalway.org.
More information about traveling on the Erie Canal is available from New York State Canal Corporation, www.canals.ny.gov.
“Nature has been inspiring artists for centuries, and its beauty has been captured in paintings, sculptures, photographs and a variety of other medium. But some artists take the relationship between art and the environment a step further, creating works from nature itself or producing artworks that make bold statements about the natural world and the imprint mankind has left on it.” This is what curator Jude Amsel was looking for when she put together the exhibition, COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS, on view at the Gold Coast Arts Center Gallery in Great Neck, Long Island through April 1.
The seven artists whose works are represented “are commenting on man’s relationship with our planet. These artists have the power to make environmentalism a priority and bring green initiatives to the forefront of cultural conversations,” she stated.
“With all the gloom and doom, we can feel sad with what’s happening in the world. But these artists bring an awareness,” a literal consciousness of our role and responsibility, Amsel said at the Artists’ Reception, March 4. The viewer is left with a sense of optimism that man’s better impulses will rise to the fore.
Yoon Cho’s work – multi-media performance art which combines video superimposed with digitized drawings – is the starkest commentary on this theme: her project was inspired by a difficult pregnancy after 10 years of marriage and the birth of her son, she and her husband traveled to barren landscapes to comment on extinction and procreation, the images of life forcing its way through.
Beth Williams Garrett created feminized Buddha head sculptures out of plastic bags.
Linda Cunningham turned the blighted industrial waterfront of the South Bronx into striking images on torn, furled canvas.
Nancy Gesimondo found solace in creating assemblages of natural materials, where mussel shells appear as butterflies, a metaphorical prayer flying to heaven; water chestnut seedpods are like flying bats, and peacock feathers are like tall grass.
Lauren Skelly Bailey re-creates the natural world of coral reefs in meticulous glazed ceramics, mimicking the surprise you have when you touch coral, which seem to be fluid and flowing to discover they are rock hard.
Charles Cohen uses realistic photography to get reduce household products to the shape and color of their plastic containers to force a different perspective.
Luba Lukova, whose graphic artistry can be seen in the New York Times, brings her timely commentary to an image of a green plant shielded by a hand as bombs fall, in her silkscreen, “Peace and Planet” (2015).
What is so interesting is to see such variety of media and approaches that come together to the essential message of human impact on the natural world: a collective consciousness of our responsibility.
Here’s more from the artists about their works:
Lauren Skelly Bailey’s ceramics are uncanny in the way they so realistically, meticulously yet artistically represent coral. You appreciate the beauty of nature’s own design. And like nature itself which is deceptively complex (think of a wasp’s nest), her work is exceptionally technical. “Stacking Up” (2016) for example, is crafted of porcelain, stoneware, slip, glaze, resin and flock – the pieces are each fired five to seven times. There are pieces gilded with real gold on the last firing.
She began her arts education studying painting and cartooning at Adelphi, graduating with a BA and MA, then went on to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) to earn her MFA. She produced many of these ceramics during a residency at the Museum of Arts & Design and had two grants from the NYS Council for the Arts.
“My work explores methods of making assemblage sculptures, conglomerations, installations, and figurines. There’s that sensation of falling for process, the chase of finding the unexpected and learning how it occurs. From that knowledgeI make intentional decisions regarding textural surfaces, glazes, slips and clay applications, changing the context of the piece from a study to a solution. I respond to changes and observe balance in my work, seeking to push an uneasy tension between materials and form. Each new sculpture is a moment, something new that has been achieved or understood, taking me further into my experience with ceramics.” (laurenskellybailey.com)
The first reaction to Nancy Gesimondo’s assemblages is how they evoke Native American references. Nancy is from Sunnyside, Queens.
“My work is an exploration of materiality and science that results in new visceral narratives. I create assemblages comprised of natural materials such as shells, feathers, seedpods, semi-precious stones, rocks and crystal formations.The juxtaposition of these found elements results in surreal landscapes, imaginal creatures and hybrid specimens that aim to suggest the exploration and sense of mystery of an archeologist assembling vestiges of a distant past with no true reference of their origin.
“My work is a reflection of my appreciation of nature’s beauty and diversity, as well as my concern for its decline. The delicate fragments imbue the work with an ethereal quality that portends a futuristic glimpse of the place we call home.”
Her assemblages draw upon natural materials she regularly collects – feathers, shells, seedpods, semi-precious stones, rocks and crystal formations. “It shows a reverence for Earth.”
“I’ve been collecting feathers forever – they are like little signs from beyond to me.”
She added, “I let the materials guide me towards the image. I very rarely see the composition in advance.”
The overall feeling is of tranquility, a peacefulness, a poetic aesthetic. The natural elements are used as metaphors.
“A Winged Victory for the Sullen” (2016) is an assemblage with amethyst crystal, iridescent feathers, and water chestnut seedpods (collected at Beacon NY), that look like flying birds. It is mounted on 300 lb watercolor paper, and she explained how she had to puncture roofing nails from the back, then glue the seedpods on.
“Evening Prayers III,” (2017) draws upon mussels that look like butterflies, and a strip of peacock features that look like tall grass. “It’s difficult to find mussels that are still together, but after my father died, I wanted to go to the beach. I went to Long Beach where I know there are mussels, but on this day, I never saw so many whole mussels as then. I collected four bags worth. I felt it was a sign from my father, “Abundance. Don’t worry.”
“The shells poetically morph into butterflies. They are like prayers – wishes and wants that fly to heaven.,”
Linda Cunningham makes an artful plea on behalf of South Bronx in her series, “South Bronx Waterfront Sagas-shards: The New Vision” (2016).
“Collaged canvas with torn edges convey contradictions documented with photo-transferred images, layered with acrylic and pastel revealing a broken South Bronx history, an urban renewal tragedy, an area once the retreat of choice for fresh air and greenery. The shards of information and vistas evoke the Port Morris harbor where barges once docked and youth swam off a pier in the East River. The beautiful open vistas are now inaccessible to the residents of the Mott Haven and Port Morris areas of the South Bronx, abandoned and dominated by deteriorating remains, rotting remnants of piers, power stations and City Waste transfer stations.”
Cunningham’s work centers upon time, transience, contradictions, and compelling environmental concerns juxtaposed against industry and urban blight.
The canvas itself is twisted and tortured in its way – not at all the neat rectangles that fit into frames.
“Life doesn’t come in a convenient box – I can’t work in a square (or rectangle). Life is one torn edge to another.”
Beth Williams Garrett, who studied painting at the Rhode Island School of Design and has shown her artwork up and down the East Coast, said, “I was a painter for 30 years, until 2010, when I felt the need to make sculpture. I was searching for a suitable sculpting material, I stumbled upon using plastic bags as a medium… Plastic bags were being thrown away – that’s no good for environment. They present themselves to me as a material to make sculpture with.”
“The inspiration for my first sculptures came from my travels to Buddhist temples in Japan and ancient ruins in Rome.”
Indeed, the sculptures fashioned of plastic bags evoke Buddha, but then there is a twist. “I have always felt my work was autobiographical, as a woman and focused on the female figure.
The result is a feminized Buddha – “girl Buddhas” she said.
Her skill as a painter comes through in the way she uses the colors and patterns in the plastic bags to great effect. One of the pieces draws on both her painting and the sculpting.
“Since then, I have been exploring what I can do with the plastic bags. My newest endeavors have been combining the 3-dimensional work with the 2-dimensional work as relief/multi media pieces and I continue making heads as I love how the plastic bags lend themselves to creating facial expressions.”
“It happened by accident in the studio. I propped the plastic bag head on a canvas to take a picture and decided to combine the two. I usually paint bodies without a head, so it made me laugh to make plastic bag without the body. (bethwilliamsgarrettart.webs.com)
Yoon Cho’s Desert Walk Photo and Video Series explores the connection with our environments by featuring America’s diverse desert landscapes with superimposed digital drawings of various biological life forms over the artist’s walk performance. The silhouette graphics of biological life forms such as cells, pollen, reproductive organs, embryos, and skeletons in the sky tell a story of the cycle of life and our co-existence with the Earth.
Cho’s personal journey from a difficult pregnancy to motherhood and upbringing in a family of physicians encouraged her to examine the relationship between the biological life forms and their habitats. The Desert Walk encapsulates beauty, destruction, and preservation of the land we live in.
The work is based on photographs from 20 different sites in four states (New Mexico, California, Nevada and Arizona). The final scene is at the Array where astronomers listen for signs of life from outer space. “That represents the future,” she says.
Her work was supported by the Puffin Foundation and New York State Foundation of Arts. (www.yooncho.com)
Charles Cohen uses photography to change perspective.
“From the threshold between participation and observation, I break with day to day experience. Familiar with the ethnographer’s dilemma, I embrace this betwixt state as the key to being human: we act as protagonist and critic in our own lives so that we can bridge the gap between individual and collective.
“My work exposes reductive dualities and challenges the ordinary relationship between perceiver and perceived by provoking reflexive thought… My work explores a range of subjects, literal and figurative, in an embrace of liminality and in confrontation with a binary view. The result transforms the subject/object relationship from real to metaphor and liberates a state of being—one. (www.promulgator.com)
Luba Lukova creates images that she hopes will catalyze action and change the world. Her thought-provoking posters address essential themes of humanity and injustice worldwide. Her messages help viewers develop empathetic understanding for social and cultural issues through indelible metaphors and an economy of line, color, and text. Lukova’s work is included in the permanent collections of MoMa; Denver Art Museum; Bibliothèque nationale de France; Hong Kong Heritage Museum; Centre de la Gravure et de l’Image imprimée, La Louvière, Belgium; the Library of Congress; and the World Bank, Washington, D.C. (www.lukova.net)
The Gold Coast Arts Center is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting and supporting the arts through education, exhibition, performance and outreach. It offers classes for tots to seniors in art, music, dance and performance;, events, gallery, film festivals and outreach programs.