Tag Archives: art

Unframed Ellis Island, an Art Installation by JR

While visiting Ellis Island a few weeks ago, we got to see a new art exhibit titled “Unframed – Ellis Island”  by French artist JR. The exhibit includes a number of life size and larger than life historic photographs of immigrants who came through Ellis Island, pasted onto the walls of 16 rooms.  The artist’s intent is to evoke a sense of time and place and give context to the human lives that were touched by their time at Ellis Island.

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Real faces of immigrants on the broken windows

A boy with his bags moving down the hall

A boy with his bags moving down the hall

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The images are only semi-permanent. They are pasted to the walls in a way that is meant to disintegrate over the time. To me this neatly mirrors the transitory nature of the island and the many people who came through over the years.

Tongue in cheek image of the copper kitchen hood with the juxtaposition of an image of a steam ship that would have carried immigrants to Ellis Island

Tongue in cheek image of the copper kitchen hood with the juxtaposition of an image of a steam ship that would have carried immigrants to Ellis Island

Part of the pasted photo is already coming off, as it is intended

Part of the pasted photo is already coming off, as it is intended

To me, the installation was really powerful. It brought a kind of life and realism to the seemingly fantastical sites of the hard hat tour. It puts faces to the experiences of the immigrants that came through the island and spent time detained in quarantine. It also made me think more about the people who spent their lives on the island as staff. Doctors, nurses, maids, kitchen staff and administrators lived on the island to facilitate its needs. These people did what they could to ease the stress of the process and take care of those who were sick or injured.

A medical team

A surgical team

Images of nurses on a surgery room wall

Images of doctors and nurses on a surgery room wall

An image of a doctor

An image of a doctor

JR is known around the world for his his “Pervasive Art” exhibitions which are designed to raise questions through juxtaposition and their placement. Though he is traditionally a street artist, he has also partnered with the likes of the New York City Ballet in 2014 (http://www.nycballet.com/Videos/Evergreen-Special/JR-Art-Series.aspx).

He received the TED Prize in 2011 for his Inside Out project. See http://www.insideoutproject.net/en for more details.

Salvation Mountain

A little over a year ago, I took a detour after hiking in Joshua Tree National park to visit Niland,  CA to pay homage to Leonard Knight’s “Salvation Mountain”. My first exposure to Salvation Mountain was through the film “Into the Wild” in which there is scene where Christopher McCandless ( played by Emile Hirsch) is staying in Slab City and visits Salvation Mountain.

Leonard Knight (born 1931) was the creator of Salvation Mountain. As the story goes, one day in 1967 Leonard was visiting family in San Diego and went out of the house to sit in his van. Something came over him and started to repeat the Sinner Prayer – “Jesus, I’m a sinner, please come upon my body and into my heart.” Supposedly he accepted Jesus into his heart and was never the same again.

One of the painted vehicles on the premises

One of the painted vehicles on the premises

I am not a religious person and I don’t have any particular affinity for folk art. I had almost no expectations about my visit. To me it was just something interesting and unique to experience. I have to say though that it was a wonderful experience. The mountain is part pilgrimage and part playground, but its all about being positive.

Welcome to Salvation Mountain

Welcome to Salvation Mountain

Years a fter the San Diego van incident, Leonard ended up in Niland and Slab City and found that he liked it there. He returned to finally settle there and to promote his undying love for God. He had tried other ways of expressing his devotion, but never felt successful, until he started to build the mountain.And build he did. Beginning with a single bag of cement, Leonard started to built the mountain monument in the flat desert from the ground up in a dried up riverbank. It was a slow process with a little work every day.

A portion of the front of Salvation Mountain

A portion of the front of Salvation Mountain

A view of one the slopes

A view of one the slopes

Four years into the task,  the mountain he built collapsed from unstable ground, poor construction and weak cement. Apparently this did not shake Leonard’s devotion to the task. Per the Salvation Mountain website, he “thanked the Lord for showing him that the mountain wasn’t safe. He vowed to start once again and to ‘do it with more smarts’.” So, he began again, this time using straw and native adobe clay.

Partial View from the Top

Partial View from the Top

Another topside view

Another topside view

Once the adobe dried, Leonard would coat it with paint to keep he wind and the rain from eroding it away. He quickly learned that the more paint, the better  and stronger the mountain became. Per the website,Leonard once estimated that he had put well over 100,000 gallons of paint on his mountain.

The backside of ongoing construction

The backside of one of the walls and pathways

Along the way, Leonard started to build Hogans, the domed-shaped home of adobe and sticks used by the native Navajos. This little rooms were great escapes from the hot sun of the Colorado Desert. I found the hogans charming  and in a way they offered a more private way to experience the mountain.

Interior of on the of hogans

Interior of on the of hogans

Another Hogan View

Another Hogan View

Leonard Knight passed away in 2013, but for now Salvation Mountain lives on.  One of the things that made Leonard most proud was a plaque that he received from Senator Barbara Boxer of California. The plaque documents the  Congressional record of the United States proclaiming Salvation Mountain as a national treasure.

My favorite line from the congressional record states “American folk art is found in all corners of out nation. Perhaps one of the least likely locations would be the desert where Salvation Mountain is found. Leonard Knight’s artwork is a national treasure, a singular sculpture wrought from the dessert by a modest, single-minded man. It is a sculpture for the ages – profoundly strange and beautifully accessible, and worthy of the international acclaim it receives.”

And indeed it is profoundly strange, but welcoming and accessible. The mountain is a monument to Leonard’s faith and religion, but it is also a monument to love… for god and for one another. Without getting too whimsical, I’d say that I felt that positive energy while I was there.

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Beat It Brooklyn

Brooklyn can be a very interesting place to live. It has everything from artisan foods to avant garde art, nude beaches to topless pizza places, historical sites to  the latest trend. It is a borough that seems to have a bit everything and some things you didn’t know you wanted.

This past weekend, I had friend from out of town visiting, so we started with the obvious and went to brunch complete with  chicken and waffles, bloody Marys and cocktails. Afterwards, once we were fortified with liquor, we headed to a  more “Brooklynesque”event called “Beat It”. Beat It was described as “an interactive art installation where viewers are invited to take foam bats and let out their aggression on over-sized stuffed animals and giant pinatas.”

Beat It Poster

Beat It Poster

The event was thrown by Jo Firestone, a local figure most famous for hosting Punderdome, a monthly pun telling competition.

As in any organized society, there were rules to the engagement. Though, you’ll note that the poster for the event asks you to bring your own bat, but the rules prohibits use of your own bat or “hitting device”. No one brought their own “hitting devices” as far as I could see, so this miss communication didn’t have any ill effect.

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Them’s the Rules

After signing a waiver and questionnaire about what makes us mad, we were handed foam noodles and were invited in to beat various objects to our hearts content.

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I have to say there is something delightful about watching fully grown men and women take their aggression out teddy bears and pinatas. Feeling silly and giddy, we stopped to take some silly pictures with the props.

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Pinata Headed Friends

After we battled the toys to our hearts content, we headed to a shuffleboard bar for more cocktails and board games. I’d like to say that it was a unique Brooklyn day, but honestly things like this happen every day in my neighborhood. It may be weird, but I call it home.

Garden of Circus Delights

Every week day, on the way to work, I exit the subway at 34th Street/Penn Station and walk past one of the most beautiful and prolific subway mosaics that I’ve seen. Comprised of several panels of various sizes, The Garden of Circus Delights by ERIC FISCHLis a homage to the circus, which performs at Madison Square Garden above of the subway station.

Panoramic view of one of the panels

Panoramic view of one of the panels

Fire Breathers and Clowns

Fire Breathers and Clowns

The 34th Street/ Penn Station subway stop is perhaps one of the busiest in the city. During rush hour, the stairs, entryways and halls are often packed body to body with commuters making it hard to take in the full breadth of the mosaic series. But, in quiet moments, you can see exotic animals, clowns, fire breathers, dancing bears, jugglers and acrobats. The idea being that the mural allows a commuter to leave the ho hum day and be pulled into the circus, where he experiences the magic of the circus. On the other side of the tent, the commuter emerges from “the white light and harmony, a commuter again, but transported and transformed.”

The commuter entering the circus tent

The commuter entering the circus tent

To find the mural, you’re best bet is to enter at 34th street and 8th Ave on the East side of the intersection, and follow the stairs all the way down to the lowest level – following signs toward the platform for the Uptown and Downtown A train. The mural is on the lowest level.

Fancy dancing bears

Fancy dancing bears

Of the work, the artist says “I thought it would be amusing, to do a contemporary Dante’s Inferno, to turn commuting into a spiritual quest.” Spiritual quest or not, the murals certainly brighten my commute.  I hope you find the opportunity to experience them for yourself.

Juggler

Juggler

Animals, oh my!

Animals, oh my!