Tag Archives: blog

The MTA Hates Staten Island Too

It’s no secret that Staten Island is the awkward outlier of NYC’s boroughs. Born and raised New Yorkers will easily list Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx for out-of-town friends, and then pause before tacking “Staten Island!” onto the list of the city’s components. Suburban and distant, having more in common with New Jersey or Long Island’s character than the stereotypes of the other boroughs, Staten Island is easily forgotten and maligned as an afterthought, a poser, the lower-class, remote fifth wheel to the Bronx and Manhattan’s double date with Queens and Brooklyn.

I’m no fan of Staten Island myself, but I like to think that has more to do with the Staten Islanders I’ve met and its distance from my more centralized haunts than anything else. I’m known to poke fun at all locales—Jersey, Canada, Staten Island, Williamsburg, Westchester, Connecticut, Kansas, Boston—every area with a reputation is fair game to me. But when I’m not ridiculing inanimate locations, I’m a word geek. I pay attention to the way we speak and think; sometimes words are just words, but at other times, I find that word choice highlights how we think about certain topics.

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10(S)ubjects @ Castle Fitzjohns

This month at Castle Fitzjohns Gallery, Colin C. Jorgensen’s, or Cojo’s, first solo show takes on individual psychology through an accessible and exciting project. A combination of bold pop style, thematically organized colors, and exaggerated comic book personas, 10(S)ubjects bombards the viewer with intense images and themes from the moment they enter the show until their exit. This is not to say that the show is overwhelming or disorganized, but that it has a wealth of content within each of its paintings, and they are not easily exhausted, even after multiple viewings.

(S)traphanger, via www.10subjects.com

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Can 3-D Printers Produce Art?

This past week, I was lucky enough to attend a panel discussion about Innovation in the Arts put on by Bates College and my part-time employer, Zoomdojo, a career services startup. Facilitating a discussion about the art world and its intersection with modern technology hits our sweet spot of promoting independently compelling thought with professional discussion by successful individuals in the humanities.

At the end of the panel’s discussion, we took questions from the audience. One gentleman brought up the topic of 3-D printers and their usage in the production of art. He questioned whether the literal mode of production affects a work of art—is it different if a piece is printed out all at once, or crafted by hand? “Art goes beyond just seeing something,” he said. “Technology is a useful tool—and maybe I’m old fashioned—but doesn’t technology take the creativity out of things?”

He posed this question to Sandra Jackson-Dumont, the Met’s new Director of Education. She has proven her ability to drive exciting and engaging activities as a curator, and brought her frank and passionate manner to our event. Completely in character, she engaged right away, countering that the 3-D printer is perfectly acceptable as a tool in producing art. She was quite clear on the details of this point—the artist’s voice must shine through for a work to be valid. The tool, whether it’s an artist’s hand-held paintbrush or mechanized printer, is a method of expression. If an artist is in fact just mimicking others by reprinting their work, and the only evidence of a creative voice is an imitation of someone else, the viewers will see through this right away. In effect, the spirit of a work is more important than the method of production.

Another of our panelists, Moenen Erbuer, joined in the discussion. Moenen is the cofounder of the app Curiator, which allows users to create a digital art collection that is not meant to replace owning or viewing works in real life, but to supplement these activities while feeding its users’ artistic palates and encouraging exploration. Curiator allows users to hone their aesthetic tastes, keep track of pieces they have seen but do not or cannot own, and explore other users’ digital collections. However, it is dependent on virtual reproductions of pieces to stock these virtual collections. Moenen pointed out that while he personally agreed with Sandra’s assessment of the question, it is intriguing that a work of art found to be a fake instantly loses its value. Again, the issue of the artist’s own voice is essential. In a forgery, the mimicry is of the subject and the voice—but it is still mimicry. He, like artists who sanction reproductions of their work, holds this apart from imitations for the purpose of demonstration and allusion to the original.

The question of imitation and reproduction is not a new one, and has been explored in literature as well as visual art multiple times. The examination closest to my heart, as a student of Spanish literature, is a Jorge Luis Borges story published in 1939. “Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote,” (in translation, “Pierre Menard, author of Don Quixote”) tells of Menard’s attempt to recreate, or rather, create an even deeper version of Cervantes’ Don Quijote by reproducing it exactly, line by line, in the present day. Within the context of Borges’s work, this endeavor is successful. Borges’ short story is not a printing of the transcribed Quixote, but a review of it—and the reviewer finds the new text to be a worthwhile piece in and of itself. Central to this effort is Menard’s intent not to copy the Quixote but to create something further. Although I question whether or not this work would actually be considered a success and could resonate with reviewers, the point Borges makes through his fictitious reviewer is that this project is successful because Mendard’s voice and creative efforts shine through the transcribed text. Menard studies the Quixote and does not intend to simply reproduce it. Instead, his copying moves beyond mimicry to add another layer of meaning and art to Cervantes’ writing. Menard is not a forger, as he credits Cervantes with the original creation of Don Quixote, and draws upon his work as part of the existing artistic canon although his final product is literally a reproduction of Cervantes’ efforts.

I recall viewing my fine arts TA’s final thesis project as an undergraduate. Her work amounted to re-creating the Hall of Mirrors in a gallery on campus, via various types of print work. While the project did not come close to perfectly imitating Versailles, the point of the show was to question the grandeur and intricacy of the original locale by transplanting and reflecting it through her own artistic medium, the printing press. The final product was still impressive, but the alteration of materials and time period made the differences between her Versailles and the original quite clear, unlike the project Borges’ Menard undertakes. In addition, their intents were completely at odds: my TA’s project was critical in nature, while Menard used the original Quixote as a building block for a more substantive work, one that he endeavored to grow immensely close to before leapfrogging past. But in both cases, the reproduction of an existing work of art is examined, and in both cases, the literal reproduction is secondary to the pursuit of artistic expression.

So the question of whether a 3-D printer cheapens work is really not what we should be asking at all. It doesn’t matter whether an artist or forger uses a 3-D printer or finger paints to create or copy someone else’s work: what matters is the creation itself. Is something new and valuable coming into existence? Or are we settling for an imitation of existing pieces? A reproduction of a beautiful painting can suit a living room or restaurant without adding to the artistic canon, but in the context of the greater art world, it adds no additional value and pales dramatically. In that critical space, the artist’s voice must be considered, as well as the technical and aesthetic value of the work. The artist’s voice exists independently of the medium—3-D printed object, screen-printed Hall, or typeset text—that they employ. That voice, that creative intent, is what gives a work value beyond its appearance. The media available to an artist will change over time, but the value of the artistic voice remains constant.

Media in Moderation

We millennials get a lot of flack for our addiction to electronics. We text more than we talk in person, and calling someone on the phone is reserved for times of emergency or broken touchscreens. Social media—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or more specialized networks like LinkedIn and Snapchat—are a second home, a mirror of the real world that not only echoes aspects of our lives but takes on a shape and importance outside of them. Whose Facebook or Twitter perfectly reflects their personality, or garners the same type attention they do in the flesh? Our profiles are a way for us to present a curated version of ourselves, and a way to connect with each other without the flaws or awkwardness that plague our in real-time interactions. So it’s logical, that with these perks, with the assistance of autocorrect, when we can take the time to consider how to react to an email or text, and have the liberty to ignore a ping that strikes an uncomfortable emotion, that we’ve gravitated towards these virtual communications over old-school, in-person contact.

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Looking Skyward

When I was a little girl, one of my many career aspirations was to be an astronaut. When I wasn’t dreaming of dinosaurs or teaching or writing, I wanted to go into space forever (I’m still mad at myself for never applying to be sent to Mars).  My father and I would lay out in his mother’s small backyard on Long Island and wait for what he always insisted was the International Space Station to appear and travel across the sky, a steadily glowing star crawling from the top of the tree where we hung wasp traps over to the roof of her little two-bedroom-plus-attic-and-basement cape house.

I wanted to go into space and soar away forever, I suppose. But with the exception of the Mars mission that hasn’t happened yet and will probably be postponed for decades, space exploration doesn’t even accomplish that. We shoot some objects out into space to roam until they die a fiery galactic death or simply fall to pieces and disappear or are swallowed by an immensely lonely black hole, or we boomerang missiles up towards the heavens that quickly return to circle our home planet.

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The Simple Life

In preparation for my impending move from Boston to New York, I’ve been simplifying my life. Excess clothing and trinkets are stored at my parents house. My bed, the one I’ve slept in ever since I graduated from the top bunk in the double-decker I shared with my sister, is up for sale on Craigslist. I haven’t signed a lease in Boston, but don’t yet have an apartment in New York. My current roommates and I made our last rent payment, and as two of them moved out, I have no furniture outside my bedroom. We no longer have internet or cable. At the end of the month, I’ll pack up my car, return it to my parents, and bus south. I have never felt more free. Continue reading

The Value of a Drive

For someone with only a passing interest in cars and a minimal understanding of their mechanical beauty, I love driving.  As long ago as my high school days, I remember drifting aimlessly around town with my best friend, an escape limited only by how much gas we were willing to put in the tank and our unwillingness to drive so far that we’d have to skip school the next day. In my first college years, cars were a rarity, but it was no coincidence that one friend with a car became a pseudo-therapist for our clique. With a mobile safe space, removed from the cramped university life where no conversation was safe from eavesdropping neighbors or interrupting roommates, he provided an unexpected safety net.  When I brought my own car to school, being able to escape campus under my own power, isolated from friends and strangers alike provided a comforting sense of freedom and autonomy.

Talking through and mulling over problems was easier behind the windshield, I found, whether from the drivers or passenger seat. Climate control, choice of music, a cigarette smoked out the window, all with the calming act of driving itself providing a distraction to free the subconscious— the ‘big mind’— from the chatter of everyday life: a car was the perfect isolated space to decompress without distraction. Five hour drives home from school were long but not despised, and road trips and bus rides offered essentially the same environment with admittedly less control over the details. I almost enjoyed being trapped on long drives, because I could switch off the chaos of life outside the automobile and focus on organizing my mental space. Continue reading