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Showing posts from May, 2009

Drawing Sessions: The Walk-In Ateliers of New York

An accomplished figurative artist friend came to visit this week, and it was quickly decided that we should spend a night drawing from life. While she has taught life drawing for many years and shown her work in solo exhibits, I'm am occasional sketch artist , coming late to drawing but with huge enthusiasm. Tuesday night's session of "Jazz & Sketch" at the Society of Illustrators (link below) perfectly fit our needs - a beautiful setting in the society's home on E. 63rd., one with a rich artistic and social history, the exquisite additions of live jazz and a cash bar, excellent models, and a congenial atmosphere. I can't wait to go back. Several individuals, societies, and studios in New York host walk-in ateliers, sessions of three or so hours with an emphasis on figure drawing with live models. While many follow the traditional format of short poses followed by increasingly longer poses, some sessions emphasize one or the other. Drawing, like exercise

Welcome to Times Square. Please Have a Seat.

From Summer 2009 This morning the crews put out lawn chairs for visitors to Times Square to sit back and enjoy themselves for this Memorial Day. On one block were these colorful chairs, the kind most associate with the backyard picnic, and on another were lounge chairs, the kind you adjust to lie back, catch some sunshine and look up at the sky. Normally I avoid this pocket of urban insanity, but beginning with this weekend, the famous sections of Broadway through Times Square and another from Herald Square to Duffy Square have been turned into a pedestrian mall. Today at any rate, the street became the city's big neighborhood block party. As I have been writing for nearly two years about the pleasures of seeing the city on foot, I looked forward to this day. It was a great morning, clear skies and perfect temperature, to walk the two miles from Greenwich Village up to Times Square, and it was great, once there, to find so many places to finally sit down and rest. Read more

Into the Memorial Day Weekend

The time has come to start the summer, and a hot day today in New York serves as a sneak preview for coming attractions. Walking Off the Big Apple is taking the long Memorial Day weekend to see museum exhibitions, explore new vistas, and to map out exciting summer adventures. See you soon.

Opening Day at Washington Square Park: Thoughts and Images While Strolling

Around 8 a.m. on May 19, 2009, park workers started pulling down the chain fences surrounding the newly renovated sections of Washington Square Park, including its signature fountain, and early risers in the Village streamed in. Several were out on morning walks with their dogs. I happened to be there, too, killing time before my dog's vet appointment, and quite stunned when I saw neighbors stroll past the fountain. Many looked like convalescents taking their first steps in a garden they only half remember. As my dog and I joined them, curious to explore new paths, shady places, expansive paths, and new plantings, I felt like I was walking into a long boarded up room. I think we were in shock. Whatever I thought about the park's new design quickly became sublimated by the pleasures of just walking through the park again. The northwest section and the fountain area had been closed a year and a half, a time that has felt like forever. I still have thoughts and opinions about t

WOTBA New York Events Calendar: Howdy, Sailor! Edition Monday, May 18 - Monday, May 25, 2009

Hard to believe that next Monday, May 25, is Memorial Day. On Wednesday, Fleet Week begins and with it a multitude of events to welcome service members to New York. See the link for Fleet Week below for more information. • Monday, May 18. American Ballet Theater Opening Night and Gala. 6:30 p.m. The Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center. Standing room tickets ($30) available today by phone and at the box office. The First Lady, Michelle Obama, will be in attendance. • Tuesday, May 19. Joey Ramone's Birthday Party. 8 p.m. Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza. 17 Irving Place. Tickets: $25, $30. • Tuesday, May 19. Allen Toussaint's The Bright Mississippi Band at the Village Vanguard, 178 7th Avenue South, through May 24. • Tuesday, May 19. The New American Wing opens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. * Wednesday, May 20. FLEET WEEK May 20-26, 2009 Parade of Ships 10:30 a.m. See schedule of events at the Intrepid Museum website . Also related: South Pacific , a revival of the 1949 musi

Weekend Trifecta: A Park, A Bike, and A Dance

For those of us who frequent Washington Square Park, the first phase of the park's redesign, a subject of heated argument, looks like it's drawing to a close. The newly-designed northwest quadrant, along with the massive moving and reconfiguration of the central fountain, will open once again to the public this coming week. It's been long in the making, and though the park looks more formal and polished than it has in years, I would like to give the park a chance to prove itself. As the workers test the fountain, set in the remaining pieces of granite, and pick up the stray newspapers that have blown over the fences, the anticipation has become acute. I'll be delirious to explore the park again. My guess is that some of the apparent formality of the park will diminish rapidly. As soon as the visitors stake out favorite places on the new benches, sprawl out on the newly seeded lawns, or when my dogs find something interesting under a well-planted hosta, the park will hav

After Walking, A Place to Sit: Greenacre Park, E. 51st

Strolling may be the best way to see New York, but after shopping, walking, or other forms of exertion, it feels great to sit down. Sometimes, while out and about the city, it's absolutely necessary to find a quiet spot to take a time out, make a phone call, or just stare into space. One such place while in the East 50s is Greenacre Park , a beautiful oasis tucked into the north side of E. 51st St. between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. These types of pocket parks in the city, some privately owned public spaces, sometimes function well, but others do not. Greenacre Park, with a 25-foot waterfall, a stand to buy snacks, comfortable movable chairs, and a zen-like design, provides one of the most successful types of spaces in our urban fabric. From Spring 2009 Built in 1971 by the Greenacre Foundation and designed by Hideo Sasaki and Harmon Goldstone, Greenacre Park was meant to provide a sense of serenity within the city. When I visited yesterday, waiting for a friend who was checking i

Revisiting Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party in the Age of The Da Vinci Code

The Dinner Party , a multimedia work created by Judy Chicago and many volunteers between 1974-1979 and now permanently housed, or perhaps the word is enshrined, inside The Brooklyn Museum, is essential viewing for fans of art. The monumental installation, a triangular dining arrangement with place settings for thirty-nine honored women guests (among them, Amazon, Sappho, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Mary Wollstonecraft, Georgia O'Keeffe ) embodies the values of women-centered artwork such as collaboration, the elevation of "craft," and the restored honor of women who have been left out of the history books. More than a million people saw The Dinner Party when the worked toured the country and subsequently the world, but it's good to have the party in Brooklyn. Those familiar with the work through reproductions or slides in art history class (and congratulations for finding such a teacher) but haven't seen The Dinner Party in person may very well be surprised by its

WOTBA New York Events Calendar: Kick Off Your Shoes Edition Monday, May 11 - Monday, May 18, 2009

While some people are sadly out of work and many more subsist on freelance wages, with the latter now said to make up 26% of the U.S. workforce, New York is still a workaholic city full of people with incredible drive. One subset of the city, however, gets a little break this week - namely, many members of the university community. The big NYU commencement ceremony takes place this Wednesday at Yankee Stadium, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as speaker. Columbia University Commencement will be held the following week on Wednesday, May 20, 2009, and other area colleges and universities ceremonies are scheduled in the next two weeks. Many parents are in town to help pack up dorm rooms and to take their sons and daughters out to eat. If you are a college student reading this, repeat after me: "Per Se, Masa , Daniel, Le Bernardin , Jean Georges." Yesterday, while leaving City Bakery on W. 18 th , I came across a pair of high heel shoes on the curb. They look like someone

Friday Night Lights, New York-Style, From the Village to the Hudson

In the opening chapter of Moby Dick , Herman Melville describes a common wanderlust among Manhattoes for the sea . Sometimes, however, for those of us raised among flatland and spread-out landscapes beyond New York, a walk to the river's edge comes not out of longing for seafaring adventure but just to look at the sky. The city's density and urban canyons can become overbearing at times, and while not nearly matching the terror of closing walls of Edgar Allan Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum , it's sometimes necessary to escape them. A walk along the river provides the quick vacation, a time and place to reflect on the meaning of rivers, life, eternity, and New Jersey. Once refreshed, it's time to return to the city for coffee and a lightly toasted buttered bagel with cream cheese. Or, at night, some vino and pasta. Near the closing of the day, a look west may suggest the potential for a beautiful sunset, especially the presence of pink, rose, and lavender in the

When the Cherry Blossoms Fall: A Walk through the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

A walk through a spring garden in New York during cherry blossom season at just the right time can be an exquisite experience, but sometimes personal schedules and the weather can throw off a well-timed visit. If you're slightly late, you're still lucky, because walking on the earth covered by millions of pink petals is the special and more surreal experience. Actually, a visit to a garden at other times of the year can be full of interest, even during the snow-covered days of botanical sleepiness. But the most welcome time for New York is early May. In the weeks following the average last frost in mid-April, petals unfurl, new shoots emerge from perennials, and the city becomes suddenly green again. In terms of seasons, New York is two different places - the one of fall and winter, and the other of spring and summer, and the emergence of one or the other feels like crossing over into a new country. I highly recommend visiting the Brooklyn Botanic Garden after a visit to t

Gustave Caillebotte: Impressions of Water

People often lose umbrellas, but I've held onto a special one for many years - a large parapluie (literally, for the rain, in French) with a wooden base and curved handle that upon opening reveals the painting Paris Street, Rainy Day by painter Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894). That particular work, housed in the Art Institute of Chicago, shows a well-dressed couple walking arm in arm down a sidewalk on a boulevard of Paris. The man is holding an umbrella, and just to the right another man walks forward into the picture, pulling his umbrella out of the way so as not to bump them. Behind these subjects in the foreground we see many others in motion crossing the street. With an elongated perspective that draws the eye back toward a building near an intersection of Gare Saint-Lazare and then back to again to the cobblestones up front, the painting established the painter-flâneur, an upper-class Parisian from a prosperous family, as the leading urban Impressionist. With so much rain

Back on the Boulevard: A Review of Bob Dylan's Together Through Life

Memory and forgetfulness...the varying international rhythms of an accordion, sometimes street French but often Mexican...chilly breezes and open streets...that gravely now are locked hearts, emptiness, but we find here too, among other things, a break-out jazz number with the swish of the drummed downbeat and the lowest note any troubadour can reach...Many dualities are at play in the new Dylan, Together Through Life , his 33rd solo album, but there's always an articulated wisdom of the street: "I know the streets. I've been here before," he sings. He has walked the sad boulevard a million times, this Bob Dylan, but now a chill is in the air, and the sun is sinking lower. Bob Dylan is no flaneur, with a top hat and cane, but he has always expressed the sensibility of a street-wise boulevardier . While in real life we've lost him to an estate in Malibu, New Yorkers can take pride in Dylan's formative years on the streets and avenues of Greenwi

WOTBA New York Events Calendar: Rainy Day Slacker Edition Monday, May 4 - Monday, May 11, 2009

This week appears to be one of those weeks that highlight change and transition, a tentative time between before and after. Nothing seems settled. Students at local universities and colleges are studying for finals, with commencement and graduation ceremonies coming up soon. For those of you not in college, WOTBA gives you permission to take the week off. That's right. Go to a play. Read a book. Bike around town. Stroll through the garden. Many people are under-employed or working as freelancers anyway, so why push it? You don't want to exploit yourself, do you? Let's spend the entire week watching others work. • Monday, May 4. k.d lang and Meaghan Smith. St. George Theatre. 35 Hyatt St (at Central Ave). Staten Island. $50, $65, $85. 7:30 pm. • Monday, May 4. Salman Rushdie and Kamila Shamsie. Barnes & Noble. 33 E 17th St. Free. 7 p.m. • Tuesday, May 5. Branford Marsalis Quartet. Through Sun 7:30pm, 9:30pm. Jazz Standard 116 E 27th St. Tickets: $35 * Wednesday, May 6.

A Slide Show and Description of My Vacation in Tribeca: Three Nights at the Tribeca Grand Hotel

During the middle decades of the previous century, it was not an unusual practice for some travelers to take slides of their journey and then once back home bore their friends and neighborhoods by inviting them over to see a slide show of their adventures. Usually held in the venue of a living room on in the sprawling den or a ranch house, these events were often accompanied by beverages and the passing around of Fritos and dip served on a festive platter. The host traveler would set up a portable screen, the kind you see in schools, and load a carousel on the slide projector with the slides, often placing one or two upside down by mistake. The images most often centered on the subjects, sporting sunglasses and bermuda shorts, standing immobile in front of a well-known attraction, be it the mighty Grand Canyon or the Sphinx or the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The more exotic, the more likely this event would occur. So, it is my great pleasure to present to you a slide show of my three nig