Tag Archives: visual art

Consulate General of Greece in New York Proves That Current Greek Art Matters

26 Oct
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The new art exhibion Colors of Greece at the Consulate General of Greece in New York is a phenomenal display of artistic diversity. I was thoroughly impressed by the variety of subject matter and aesthetic style of Greece’s contemporary artists.
 
Contemporary Greek art—be it visual art, as it was in this case, or the literary arts—matters to me a lot. Now, more than ever.
 
As a Greek, I am proud of my country’s rich Classical history. Our ancient art and architecture is revered the world over, and for good reason. To this day, I still stand in awe every time I look up at the Parthenon. How could anyone not? And yet, as well-meaning individuals speak to me about Olympia and Homer and all the beautiful work of Greece’s centuries’ old history, a part of me feels frustrated that only the Greece of the past is recognized. It is as if the Greece of today is nonexistent in their eyes. I think most Americans would be hard-pressed to name any Greek artists living today.
 
This saddens me because Greeks and Greek Americans have done much to enliven the postmodern art world. As a scholar of the Beat Generation, I have often turned to the art of the 1940s and ’50s. Specifically, I have researched the abstract expressionists who hung out at the Cedar Tavern and mingled with the Beats. Several of the most famous abstract-expressionist artists were Greek American: Wiliam Baziotes, Theodore Stamos, and Peter Voukos. Another famous artist of that time period was neon-sculpturist Stephen Antonakos. Today, there are artists like Maria Fragoudakis, who continues the collage and pop-art work of that era. These artists have done exceptional work that does not hinge on their being Greek.
Colors of Greece, likewise, demonstrates the vast scope of Greek art in 38 works. The artists cast their eye far and wide, landing on people swimming in blue, blue bodies of water; dramatic flora; city streets; the human face. Their style is photorealistic, figurative and full of emotion, abstractions. In a small exhibit hall it may perhaps seem jarring to view dissimilar works, and yet that is what makes this exhibit so special. It only captures a small sliver of the variety of work Greek artists today are doing. 
 
At a time when contemporary Greece is looked at through a negative political and economic lense, drawing attention to contemporary Greek artists’ work is a political statement. The Consuate General of Greece in New York shows that there is more to Greece than what you see on the evening news and read in history textbooks. There is a Greece that is vibrant, full of life, energetic, and colorful. There is a Greece that sees beauty among the ruins. It is the artists who perhaps will raise Greece up, who will innovate, who will create a new Greek generation.
 
Colors of Greece runs until October 30, 2015. Free of charge, the exhibit is open to the public from 9:00am to 2:30pm at the Consulate General of Greece in New York, located at 69 East 79th Street.
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Also, I’m pleased to announce Hellas, a 2016 wall calendar that I created using photographs I took while in Greece this past summer. You can purchase it here.
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Have a Slice of Espresso Cheese for National Coffee Day!

29 Sep

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Happy National Coffee Day!

…Just don’t post a photo of your coffee or you might anger Rant Chic. Although, apparently there are coffeehouses that “print” your selfies into your latte with edible brown powder. The latte selfie is real!

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I had my first pumpkin spice latte of the season on Sunday. Oh how I love my Barnes & Noble Cafe discount!!

What I really want to tell you about, though is that I discovered espresso cheese!! I road tripped out in Connecticut with two of my very dear friends whom I’ve known forever and ever, and we went out to Stew Leondard’s. Have you been there? It’s amazing. Maybe it’s all my city living, but grocery stores in suburbs amaze me with their wondrous wide aisle lit with bright lights showcasing jalapeño potato chips and refrigerated dog food. This one was one was particularly exceptional. They have cupcakes shaped like cheeseburgers and animatronic butter.

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The employees are all super nice too. One saw me pondering an espresso cheese. I was so curious, I immediately answered “yes” when he asked me if I’d like to try it, even though I normally bashfully say no because I don’t want to bother them or appear greedy. Let me tell you: I am so glad my eagerness betrayed me. Made by Sartori, Espresso Bellavitano is earthy and sweet, decadent, and complex. It’s the perfect cheese to impress guests. I’d pair it with red grapes, raisins, currants, and cherry chutney. A hearty red wine would go well with it.

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Here are a few of my past coffee-related posts to celebrate @NationalCoffeeDay:::

The Coffee Habit of Jack Kerouac

Kerouac Opened a Million Coffee Bars

Caffe Reggio is one of my favorite coffeehouses in all of New York City. I recommended their cup in my Beat gift guide.

Places to drink coffee in Grand Rapids

From the Ottoman Empire to Greenwich Village: Coffee Houses’ Literary History

What’s Your Coffee Personality? Get Greek-American author Dean Bakopoulos’ take

Not to be outdone by my Greek side… The Starving Artist Gulps Down Konditori’s Swedish Coffee

A habit I got from my mother.

Coffee not your drink of choice?

Stir up Kerouac’s Big Sur Manhattan

Or toast to Ernest Hemingway with a Daiquiri Recipe

Take a road trip to Monterey and visit Bargetto Winery for an apricot wine

Or hop on the subway and try the orange wine (not orange flavored!) at Brooklyn Winery

Go Greek with Pindar’s Pythagoras Wine

Speaking of lemonade… How ’bout some Champagne Pink Lemonade Punch?

Want something sans alcohol?

Hibiscus Nectarine Tea: A Trip to Hawai’i in a Glass

Holla for some Jalapeño-Infused Lemonade

Or if you’re a starving artist, Jazz Up Your Tap Water

Road Trip: Under the Balls in Washington, DC

28 Sep
I road tripped out to DC for the weekend recently to see one of my dear friends from Scripps. She and her husband are both museum people so I always get to soak in a museum with them and learn fascinating history. It was fantastic seeing the greater DC area through their eyes, as most of my previous trips have been boringly touristy. I never realized how much I liked DC til this trip!
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 Crème Brule donuts @ Astro 
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 The Beach exhibit @ the National Building Museum
 
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Veggie tacos @ District Taco
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Like the Beat Generation reader I am, I spotted Amiri Baraka’s book in the window @ Busboys and Poets (named after Langston Hughes!)
 
My friends were the perfect hosts! We talked about our mutual love of Dateline, accosted people with adorable dogs, and confided in one another about working in the arts.  
 
I can’t wait to go back to visit them.

A Collage of Art and Literature at the Guggenheim

14 Aug
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Carol Bove, Vague Pure Affection, 2012, wood and steel shelves, paper, brass, concrete, and acrylic, 85″ x 35 1/2″ x 16″. © Carol Bove, photo courtesy Maccarone Inc., New York
When I was growing up, I wanted to be an artist. So I became a writer. At Scripps College, I majored in English literature and minored in studio art. I wrote my thesis on the influence the Abstract Expressionist painters had the Beat Generation. At The New School, I studied the collaboration between the poets and painters of the New York School, which also touched on a lesser extent on the Beats. Next month, at the Festival of Women Writers in the Catskills, I will be teaching a writing class called Cut-Ups, Jazz-Poetry, and Picture Poems: Writing Under the Influence of the Beat Generation.
 
So you can imagine how excited I am about the Storylines exhibit at the Guggenheim. Robert Anthony Siegel did a provocative write-up on it in The Paris Review.
 
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You can pick up your copy of Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” here.

Please Touch the Art

3 Aug

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JEPPE HEIN: PLEASE TOUCH THE ART

If there’s one art event to check out this summer, it’s Jeppe Hein’s Please Touch the Art. Brooklyn Bridge Park brings art outdoors, making it accessible and fun for children and hipsters alike. Please Touch the Art is an experience. It’s a scavenger hunt of touchable art.

From the Brooklyn Bridge Park website:

Danish artist Jeppe Hein’s parkwide installation, Please Touch the Art, presented by Public Art Fund, features 18 playful sculptures designed specifically for public interaction. Jeppe, now based in Berlin and Copenhagen, studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Art and the Stadelschule in Frankfurt. His works have appeared all over the world. This exhibition includes three distinct bodies of work: Appearing Rooms, a series of “rooms” formed out of jets of water that appear and disappear throughout the day; a large Mirror Labyrinth, featuring evenly-spaced vertical elements of varying heights made from mirror-polished stainless steel that multiply the surrounding landscape; and 16 Modified Social Benches that upend the idea of a traditional park bench with their unconventional angled, curved, twisted, and bent forms.

Such fun! Definitely one of the most memorable things I’ve done so far this summer.

Walt Whitman Was the Original Kim Kardashian

1 Jun

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Walt Whitman himself!

If you visit the Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site and Interpretive Center, you’ll notice that there are a LOT of photographs of the Good Gray Poet. I don’t mean three or four distinguished portraits artfully framed and hung. I mean an entire wall is covered with various portraits of the great American poet.

The tour guides at the museum will tell you that Whitman understood the power of portraiture as a branding tool and harnessed it for all it was worth when it came to marketing his literary output. In fact, he believed his self image was even greater than his name. When he published his poetry collection Leaves of Grass in 1855 he included Samuel Hollyer’s engraving of him in work clothes and a hat [pictured above] — and didn’t even bother including his own name on his book!

With all those selfies, you might say Walt Whitman was the original Kim Kardashian!

Friday Links: Helping Others Is More than Wishful Thinking

17 Apr

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Make a Wish matches!

It’s been forever since I did a link roundup! I’ve been trying to focus more on my memoir writing these days, but I’ve run across so many great news stories and websites lately that I wanted to share with you:

  • My friend Gregory Andrus has been taking these stunning photographs of the Jersey Shore. The other day he posted this article about NJ musician Jon Bon Jovi opening JBJ Soul Kitchen in Toms Kitchen, where there are “no menu prices, to help the fiscally challenged, and the restaurants try to serve organic produce whenever possible.”
  • My friend David Sung, the pastor of the Upper East Side-based Christ Resurrection Church, told me about this New York Times article about how Dan Price, who attended the Christian college Seattle Pacific University (which, by the way, offers a creative writing MFA), slashed his $1-million salary to give his lowest-paid workers a raise. The minimum wage at the company he founded, Gravity Payments, is now $70,000/year.
  • Meanwhile, this article reveals that 25% of “part-time college faculty” (and their families) receive public assistance. You know who this includes? Professors. Many colleges rely on adjunct professors, who get paid per class instead of being salaried.
  • My editor Jordan Green is obsessed with Clickhole. Obsessed. I particularly enjoyed the satirical buzzfeed-style listicle “How Much of a Grammar Nerd Are You?” he posted. My favorite line: “I got a tattoo of a comma splice and then had it removed.”
  • Via Pure Wow I discovered the loveliest named jewelry company: Wanderlust + Co. These gold arrow earrings are super cute. Arrows are so hipster.
  • Another company I discovered recently is Moorea Seal. I love the fact that sales from their goods benefit charities and that you can shop by cause. I also love these Make a Wish matches!

Happy weekend!!

Cinat Paints Light — and Dark — to Explore Spirituality

14 Sep
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Close up of one of Cinat’s paintings; image via Eventsy
The members-only networking club Eventsy invited me to attend a special viewing, co-hosted by CATM New York, of Argentine artist Mariano Cinat’s thought-provoking exhibition “New Works” in The Narthex Gallery of Saint Peter’s Church, located at 619 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan, on September 12. From dark and haunting to fluid and ethereal, his work elicited a visceral response, an impulse to examine one’s own beliefs and feelings through the cryptic scenes depicted in the paintings.
Average-sized paintings, the canvases ranged from 12” x 9” to 69” x 48”. During the Q&A, Cinat explained that his work was a particular size by request of the Louvre. He said, “I wish they commissioned me, but it was more like a competition.” Untitled, the paintings felt like a cohesive collection covering three intertwining themes: the Classical world in earthy tones; the spiritual realm in light, bright colors; and a mysterious interior of saturated colors.
Displayed in a gallery situated within a Lutheran church, the paintings took on perhaps more spiritual meaning than the artist intended. This religious interpretation of the artwork was helped along by the press release, which stated:
Be not afraid of spiritual idiosyncrasies but rejoice in the continuity of life. Experience the nuance of a master of color and emotion as Cinat refreshes the senses.
Many of the paintings varied from landscape scenes reminiscent of the Biblical-era Middle East, showing walls like one would envision in Jericho and simple homes in which one would imagine people tucked away breaking bread together, to more dream-like settings suggestive of ascension into heaven.
In one painting in particular, hung on a far wall, an image of a cross seemed to shine over a stone wall. And yet, the artist himself seemed put off that his work might be interpreted through a Christian lens. When I told Cinat of the cross I had discovered, he asked which painting I’m speaking of. He informed me he had not painted a crucifix in any of his paintings and sounded incredulous that I had seen such specific religious imagery in work. He told me:
“I’m spiritual but not religious.”
I suppose we all see what we want to see in art, or what we’re predisposed to see. Interpretation is left up to the viewer. Despite his surprise at my reading of his work, Cinat himself prefers not to explain his art to viewers. He said to the crowd of onlookers:
“Each one of us interprets it in other ways.”
Though he did reveal:
“I have a search for spirituality, and light is an element I use. It’s not a real place.”
His painting of figures seemingly ascending into heaven, then, may just as likely have more to do with a state of mind. The spiritual significance therefore changes from the physical presence of heaven and hell of Judeo-Christian to perhaps a transcendence of one’s mind through meditation in an Eastern religion. It could even be a bodily movement from one dimension into the next through portals. Of course, one may also interpret the work through a more metaphorical lens. In that case, a viewer could see it as impetus for change in one’s life, of moving on from the past and entering a future full of potential.
While those paintings seemed more clearly tied to positive spiritual themes, there were a series of paintings that seemed more secular, more human, but perhaps too almost more sinister. Unlike the other paintings, which used the browns and blues readily found in nature, and which depicted outdoor scenes, these paintings ensconced figures dressed in flame-like red and deep violets in rooms pitched in black. As with the other figures, their poses and placement on the canvases suggested an almost hypnotic state. If taken with the others as a reflection on religious matters, one may view them as agenda-oriented leaders of the Church—whether cardinals or kings—because of the way the figures are clothed in rich colors as they move about an interior that though sparsely decorated is vast and foreboding. These paintings hearken back to the works of Renaissance painters such as Raphael.
Taken to a more extreme secular interpretation, these darker paintings bring to mind the psycho-sexual Stanley Kubrick film Eyes Wide Shut, starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Cloaked identities suggest secrecy and positions of power.
But again, this is just what I personally saw in the works. They may actually be situated in much more real and less portentous places. Cinat said he imagines everywhere from Utah to Japan, as he paints in Harlem.
When asked during the Q&A what inspired him, Cinat said it was opera that had inspired his work. “I went to see The Magic Flute,” he said.

Clip: Resource Published My Article on Flashes of Hope

28 Aug

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The summer 2014 issue of Resource features an article I wrote that I’m extremely proud of. I interviewed the founder of Flashes of Hope, a nonprofit that takes photographs of children with cancer, to talk about how the portraits empower these children. The professional portraits also serve as lasting mementos for the families of the 25% of the children photographed who don’t survive. The nonprofit shows just how powerful art can be.

Cancer is a personal subject for me. This summer I did a few readings from a chapter I wrote called “Grief Gone Wild” about the summer I lost both of my grandmothers to cancer a month apart from each other. I was glad to likewise get to put my creative nonfiction to positive use to write this article on Flashes of Hope and show that moments of strength, beauty and even joy can be found even in the midst of trying times.

Happy 88th Birthday, Allen Ginsberg!

3 Jun

ginsbergAllen Ginsberg at the Miami Bookfair International on November 7, 1985. Photo by MDCarchives via Wikipedia.

 

Today would’ve been Allen Ginsberg’s eighty-eighth birthday, and in honor of the Jersey-born poet’s powerful and beautiful work we asked people on the Burning Furiously Beautiful facebook page what their favorite Ginsberg poem was. I’ve loved hearing the results! So far we’ve heard:

My favorite is “Sunflower Sutra,” in which Ginsberg writes about Kerouac and him sitting under the shadow of a train as the sun set and spying a dried up sunflower amdist the machinery. The line “when did you forget you were a / flower?” slays me every time.

What’s your favorite poem by Allen Ginsberg? Leave it in the comments below or on the Burning Furiously Beautiful facebook page.

Want to read more about Ginsberg on his birthday?

And if you’ve ever been curious about how Allen Ginsberg met Jack Kerouac in the first place, you can read all about the early origins of the key people who came to represent the Beat Generation but who are all really so much more than that in Burning Furiously Beautiful.