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Appreciating the Art Work

Nic Bitting- Woke up to snow this morning.  It was a welcome tradeoff from the brutal winds that tore through New York yesterday.  Snow takes on an interesting character in this cement city; as it hits the ground it turns murky, soaking up the oils of the city.  The only white snow rests on the roofs of parked cars.  Friction from a million footfalls turns snow to slush.  Slush slides under taxi tires into sewers.  Out of sight underneath the city that never sees.

Since our arrival in New York I’ve developed a breakfast routine.  Today was no exception.  Picked up my standard street vendor breakfast – hot chocolate and a muffin.  The hot chocolate was watery, but I’ve learned not to buy it for the taste.  I use hot chocolate as a hand warmer.  Met up with the group and we began our trek from 23rd St. up to 50th.  I slipped six times on the way - snow on these streets is slippery.

Our first stop was at the International Center of Photography.  It was a great way to begin the day.  The work was aesthetically pleasing, but not conceptually challenging.  We eased our minds into art.  Its good to ease your mind into art in the morning.  Leaving ICP we took a brisk walk to the Museum of Modern Art which finalized the process of waking up.  My mind was ready to be engaged, and MOMA delivered.

The contemporary galleries at MOMA housed a number of innovative and conceptual artworks.  One of the most successful was created by contemporary Palestinina artist Mona Hatoum.  In the center of the gallery floor rested a 10-foot. by 1-foot. silver disk.  The smooth metal disk was filled with fine white sand.  Spanning the diameter of the disk was a rotating metal arm.  As it rotated half the arm created grooves in the sand while the other half erased the marks. 

The piece was a continuous realization of creation and destruction.  A perpetual interaction of life and death beautifully, simply, and powerfully realized.  Images communicate on a level that words cannot.  Words are not enough.  I want to bring the art to you.  Or bring you to me.  Bring you to New York City.  Then we wouldn’t need words.  You could stand next to the piece.  That would be enough.     

Despite my enthusiasm for the artwork my body began to protest.  My feet and legs insisted that I stop walking.  It was at this point of end of day exhaustion that our group began split.  Some members hung around the MOMA, a few went out to explore the city, some searched for food, and a small group chose to finish out the day with two more museums.  When in Rome…

First, came the American Museum of Folk Art where we witnessed the obsessive, repetitive, large scale drawings of a schizophrenic outsider artist – Martin Ramirez.  Other highlights included bottle cap snakes, towers of golden chicken bones, canes made whale bones, and a wooden chair constructed by a philosophical Indiana craftsman.  After seeing the unique and eccentric art of the Folk Museum we made our way over to the Museum of Art and Design where the featured exhibit was “Radical Lace and Subversive Knitting.”  I’ll admit I was rather skeptical of either lace or knitting being valid artistic mediums much less subversive.  However when I saw a table covered in a doily whose outermost lacings took the form of 3-D skulls my perceptions changed a bit.  This ain’t your grandma’s lace.

After the enjoyable, but exhausting day in the museums I had the opportunity to have dinner with my girlfriends aunt and uncle.  Their intimate knowledge of New York, and their vibrant embodiment of life well lived provided the perfect punctuation at the end of a long day.  As I wandered back toward the hostel a few notes of Nerbie Hancock drifted out of a nearby jazz bar.  I let my mind sink slowly into the rhythm.  It reverberated long after I left the street, but finally calmed when I laid my body to sleep.