Art Without Austerity

March 13th, 2011 § 0 comments

Wandering through the Scope, Pulse, and Armory art fairs this past weekend, in that order, I was reminded of the fashion buzz after Oscar night. The Fashion Police bantered and bickered over the different colors, gowns, styles, and designers on our stunning leading ladies, with Joan Rivers lamenting the lack of flashy, eye-stopping gowns and jewelry. Even Hollywood in its finest hour, however, followed the fashion trends of the past few seasons by scaling back and pairing down. Minimalism, a kind of toned down sobriety, has been the dominant fashion trend since the recession began. Though there must be irony to arriving in a designer gown to walk the red carpet, and being called “austere” for not being covered in diamonds, the Sex in the City fashion of the early aughts has since been deemed inappropriate for our current national mood—unemployment is still above 9 percent. Though at the Armory I overheard a couple disdainfully commenting that artwork masquerading as fashion had no business being shown, I can’t help but compare the art I saw to the recent trends of fashion. While some sense of austerity descended upon the fashion market over a year ago, it seems to have missed the art world completely. With my mouth slightly ajar, I wandered Scope and Pulse feeling as though I were living through the great depression while stuck within a Shirley Temple film of never-ending happiness—which is not to say the art wasn’t fun and entertaining.

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A Small Sense of Community

December 30th, 2010 § 0 comments

Most artists are trespassers at heart, and most of us want to explore the places we are unable to see, to go inside, or to photograph at all. If I could somehow break into strange houses and apartments to photograph the interiors without going to jail afterward, I would. Having spent a great deal of my childhood in the backseat of various cars, watching images pass by the car window almost like I was inside the camera frame of Lee Friedlander, I dream of one day being able to shut down portions of the Los Angeles freeway system in order to capture those fleeting images. I’ve tried to use the camera as a means of time travel, and I’ve tried to photograph ways of life that no longer exist, or that might never have existed at all. It seems photographs can be about our denied fantasies as much as they can be a documentation of our immediate reality.

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Caught In a Satire

November 11th, 2010 § 2 comments

The day began at two o’clock in the morning, when I woke after a few hours of sleep, dressed, and made my way to the Port Authority. My bus was scheduled to leave at 3:45 am, and a long line of sleepy, restless twenty something’s waiting for a similar bus to Washington D.C. welcomed me at the station. I know bus stations, and I know that lines for buses are like queues in Europe, where there is no guilt in cutting and no shame in pushing. The redemptive quality of buses is that there are usually more of them than people who want to ride them. This morning was an exception everyone was prepared for except the bus companies. There was no Arianna Huffington to greet our sleepy line, but we were able to wait indoors unlike the Megabus riders. I met one rider in line who realized, after a small tantrum and some puzzled glances at people holding signs, that he had picked a very unfortunate morning to travel to D.C. After three hours of waiting and a certain amount of mutiny, I was able to look backward into the station, still full of upset travelers left temporarily stranded, from the safety of my seat aboard a bus I wasn’t supposed to be on, and hadn’t really bought a ticket for. It was the chaotic beginning of a frustrating but thought provoking day.

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The First Time in a Long Time

October 15th, 2010 § 0 comments

pacific coast highway

Place, where we live, how we live, and why, is an old and favorite topic of interest. Not long after leaving California for Chicago, I realized that while I might never move back to the west coast, it was inescapably the place I am from. These undesired or unavoidable connections, between the place we come from and the places we move to, affect us as much as family ties, even if we talk less about them. For better or worse it is the place we are from, more than the places we move to, that shapes our initial perspective like early parental teachings or our varied experiences of grade school education. Living elsewhere forces (rather than allows) you to recognize that there are people you understand, a landscape with which you feel familiar, and a culture you might not like but are never baffled by, existing with or without you in that place you left. Living in different cities for two or three years at a time reminds me of the first two years you spend in college, fulfilling the “general education” requirements of any degree. Who really knows what classes or subjects they like or dislike until a little bit of everything has been tried? I never moved planning to love or hate anyplace, because I didn’t have much in the way of expectations—that it would be “different” from the place I was leaving was the only given, and the only real constant of travel. I knew each place would be interesting, however, and certain a kind of indifference, such as blatant curiosity, is sometimes a good way to get a neutral perspective. Honestly, what do we know about where we might want to live in our early, mid, or late twenties?

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New Notes on Nostalgia

May 22nd, 2010 § 0 comments

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New York City is a place that inspires a great deal of nostalgic sentiment, so passionate and opinionated that it often feels exclusive, like how we sometimes feel when talking to our grandparents. While the elderly tend to remember their past with exciting fondness, their dismissal of the present is always a little unnerving. Growing up with one great-grandmother born in 1905 instead of two younger grandmothers, I was always captivated by her quaint stories. At the same time I felt a bit wary of them, like the children in a Ray Bradbury novel who simply can’t believe that the elderly were once young. Just as we all feel a little like the first children to ever roam grassy backyards, it’s hard to accept that there ever was a time before our vivid present.

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