Sunday, July 31, 2016

From Queens To Coney Island

That beautiful morning view from the Long Island window.
When my good friend from Toronto planned to visit New York City for two weeks whilst house sitting in Queens, she kindly invited me to stay with her. Most wonderful to be given such a cordial opportunity, I welcomed the latest NYC adventure. She shared with me not just Queens-- Westbeth Artist Community, Coney Island's fantastic freak show, and beaches were new sights to behold. I showed off art spots and vegan fare.

My first stop was to funny, wise, talented Gloria Miguel's 90th birthday party-- a dear respected thespian my good friend knew very, very well. Gloria stays at the renowned Westbeth Community in the West Village. There was plenty of food, cake, ice cream (even vegan varieties from Trader Joe's), live music, and dancing. After the party and cleanup, we packed everything up to Gloria's. Her place was magically divine. She had vintage posters of her past performances as well as her children's. beautiful photographs of her past everywhere. Uniquely decorated apartment certainly felt distinguished and packed with history.
Classic performing Gloria from Spiderwoman Theater's site.
During Coney Island Part I, we saw the most amazing freak show. Justin Weber caused effective illusions when he rolled a glass ball around his limber arms and hands without dropping it. Later on he showed off mad yo-yo skills. Betty Bloomerz swallowed sharp tipped knives and got "sliced" in the old wooden "box of death." Nola Star consumed fire and blew smoke on her arms and legs to Purity Ring's catchy "begin again." Afterwards we left the amazingly fun show of magical wonderment to be caught up in a terrifying rain storm, not knowing that Coney Island had not only been put on a lash Flood Warning, but a Shark Warning as well! Yikes! We were safe for a while inside the hilariously bad candy and comedy shop-- Williams.
On a trip to MoMa, we saw their recently acquired Faith Ringgold massive painting Die.
Ringaround Arosie, pencil, acetone, varnish, enamel paint, ink, and cloth-covered electrical wire on papier-mache and masonite, Eva Hesse, 1965.
A part of Black Girl's Window, wooden frame with painted pasted papers, lenticular print, framed photograph, and plastic figurine, Betye Saar, 1969.
My Grandparents, My Parents, and I (Family Tree), Frida Kahlo, oil and tempera on zinc panel, 1936.
Dun Well Doughnuts is always an exciting place to visit!
Colorful doughnut splendor on rounded wood grain.
The "Be your own kind of beautiful" heather grey tank dress was found at H&M for $9.99. The statement fits an individual not playing by societal rules-- especially a doughnut aficionado like myself. While my friend had a soy milk iced coffee, we split lemon, strawberry-lemon, chocolate peanut butter, and traditional glazed doughnuts. Yummmmm!!!
I arrived late to The Greene Space, having to resign myself to standing in the back. However, Deborah Willis, Tisch University Department Chair and prime reason for going to South Africa in November, fled past me. Plus the ever fashionable Kimberly Drew creator of the informative blog, Black Contemporary Art was standing by.The urge to say "hello" and flash my camera grew and grew. But alas, I never had the courage to anything. Other than stare out of eye corners.
As for the talk, thankfully I hadn't missed a huge majority of amazing conversation. This year's graduating crop of Studio Museum in Harlem's artist-in-residents were figurative painter Jordan Casteel, performance artist EJ Hill, and poet/author/photographer Jibade Khalil-Huffman. For the second consecutive year, the collective three were invited to Greene Space for a lively discussion with a Studio Museum in Harlem A.I.R. alum of their choosing. Kerry James Marshall, Kevin Beasley, and Dave McKenzie were selected among the many.
Jordan and Kerry pondering answers to intense questions. Jordan's response to a question about painting black males struck a cord.
"I feel very strongly that I am present in these paintings, that the black woman is not absent. Every person is reconstructed through my lens and my experience as sister to brother to cousin.... there is great power in that vein. The power of a man painting the female has been present throughout history for decades, for centuries. Not many questions are asked around that.... Breaking a bridge as much as building one. Diversity is where we say 'getting numbers in the room.' Inclusivity is actually making voices present. "
EJ with host Q2 Music's fabulously dressed Helga Davis.
Kerry, Kevin, and Dave discussing artistic life post Harlem.
I met Kerry James Marshall-- one of my favorite painters in the whole wide world. His phenomenal works, often large scale and filled with enriching perspective, places ebony skinned models in contemporary and historical context. To render forms so convincingly, to see their distinctive facial features carved in darkness of their flesh, next to array of vivid schemes truly showcases the full scale of black being the presence of all color.
I excitedly shook Kerry's hand and exclaimed, "I'm such a huge fan of your work!"
He chuckled and beamed, responding with, "thank you! You must be a painter too."
A vegan soft serve gelato spot on Bleecker St. that I will visit someday.
Further down Bleecker St is a Vicki Khuzami's Bohemorama acrylic painted mural celebrating Greenwich Village geniuses. James Baldwin (with "Another Country" being typed out behind him) is in good company.
Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and Woody Guthrie.
Billie Holiday next to Patti Smith with Charlie Parker and Miles Davis in the front roll.
This part included Elaine de Kooning next to John Sloan (PAFA alum and former faculty), Edie Sedgewick, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollack, Lee Krasner, Mark Rothko, and Marcel Duchamp.
On Wednesday, we visited Coney Island again-- this time on a clear, hot day. The Art Walls called our names.
Tatyana Fazlalizadeh creator of Stop Telling Women to Smile.
Nina Chanel Abney captures the fun, fabulous symmetry of playful black mermaids in her signature abstract shapes with mingling symbolism and word play. Her work is discussed at length here.
John Ahearn.
Sam Vernon's collection of Coney Island stickers and torn photographs create a homage collage.
Closer inspection.
Anonymous concrete ground "not art."
"I am a story told walking..." a piece from Stephen Powers' massive collection of catchy phrases used like commercialized pictionary.
Your lighthouse saves me from the perilous shadowed waters?
Lifeguards on duty.
It was my first time ever coming to the beach. In singly landlocked Ohio and Pennsylvania, there no places to dazzle in plentiful sunlight, an endless body of rippled water, and beige sand simultaneously. The air is cool and pleasant. Weather is perfect. The breezes are welcoming wonders against a face that cannot stop smiling.

On Wednesday evening, we took a walk down to the pier, viewing Long Island view at night.
Gorgeous sight to behold!

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