Monday, February 21, 2005
New York City
We are heading home today after having spent the last four days in New York City. Primarily, we came to see The Gates by Christo and Jeanne Claude. And pictures will follow if they are any good. I have to say that I thought it was a great installation. The observations I have heard over the last few days run from 'Neat' on down to "Just think of what could have been accomplished or how many people could have been fed with the $23 million it took to complete this project." Conceptually, I wonder if there isn't a more dynamic subject in New York but it is hard to dismiss the effect of all the burnt orange trails winding through Central Park in winter. But is it frivolous? Yes, probably. The money went somewhere though just as it always does; and jobs were created; people brought together; the arts were/are supported and promoted; ideas and conversations were provoked, exchanged, encouraged; the materials will be recycled; the park was transformed, then returned to itself again with no sign of construction, no downed trees, no holes, etc.; and though I haven't read the fine print, I understand that proceeds go to the New York City Park System and I believe a conservancy as well. So, though it may be frivolous, something wholly original did take place.
I am basically of the opinion that much of art is frivolous when considered solely for its direct material impact upon the lives of others. Mine included. So much navel gazing, so many idle obsessions and esoteric thoughts. But collectively there is an intangible power in the process. Crafting objects and caring about them is what made earlier societies different from, and essentially more beautiful than ours. In all of our rampant production and crass materialism, the percentage of objects that are carefully and lovingingly made today is getting smaller and smaller. This point was underlined for me as well this weekend, when we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We checked out the Temple of Dendur, funerary crafts, armor and arms, ornamental jewelry from earlier cultures, great impressionist works, and so on throughout 5000 years of man trying to realize his/her potential, connect somehow with hisown existence. And those of us who were lucky enough to be milling about, in our machine stitched clothing, with our cell phones on vibrate, our uplinked PDA's, with our robot-fashioned cars waiting outside, we are lucky to have anything unique at all in our lives. Unless we have made it ourselves. So, all things considered, I thought The Gates was excellent really. And of course, the Met was amazing as well.
Last night, it snowed about six inches, and so I got up early to check out the park in the snow. While there, I noticed a small group of people sort of moving as a group and learned from a couple of circling photographers that it was Christo and Jeanne Claude. They were out to see how their work looked in the snow. It was very sweet really. They are small people, made smaller by age, and were walking arm in arm through the park seemingly oblivious to the posse around them. But pleasant. Smiling and walking and talking to themselves. It was raining and pretty dark actually but I think I might have recorded their blur. We'll have to wait and see. But the memory is good. Anyway, some newer images will follow. I haven't made that digital camera purchase just yet, so it will be a few days.
Also, I should mention we made it to the International Center for Photography, the Museum of Modern Art, The Lion King, Slava's Snowshow, a few random galleries, several excellent restaurants, including Gramercy Tavern with good friends. A great trip, this one.