Sunday, December 20, 2009

Almost Solstice

Each year, I yearn to post pictures of my tree with its ornaments gleaming in the morning light and each year I resist fearing to fall into worse kitsch than catblogging or posting autumn foliage pictures. Given the cats' delight in the tree I could have gone one step further and included a little catblogging as well. I have allowed this one picture to slip in because it is of a very old ornament which I refer to as the Ancestor. I like how weird it looks with its stars for eyes, its round styrofoam body and the tassel for hair.

Last night, two days before the winter solstice, we had a snow storm. It was a fine blizzard drifting down throughout the night and blanketing the city. I love when it snows at night and the falling flakes reflect the street lights. It seems as bright as day outside and the sky turns pink from the light. In the early morning, things were still quiet for a moment, the city transformed.

Cars vanished under the drifts.

The Grand Theft Auto ad looked almost festive.

The silence was soon broken as people shoveled walks, dug out the lost cars. The snow plows growled, the sun came out. The children were soon outside shrieking and flinging snow boulders left in the wake of the plows. Perfect solstice weather.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Tree Sellers

In December, people are allowed to sell Christmas trees on the streets of New York. Although we call them "Christmas" trees, I think of them as something distinctly pagan. They are the evergreen of Solstice which reminds us that spring will come again.

I love the way the sidewalks become temporary forests.

Walking through, there is often a passing scent of pine, although it is always wise to use caution when sniffing in the city. The good smells quickly dissipate leaving the underlying funk which assaults the unsuspecting nose.

I find it hard to resist the trees, though.

Everything seems more festive when they are around.

There was salsa music playing at this place.

The sellers disappear abruptly with the arrival of Christmas. And then almost immediately, the tree disposal begins.

The city collects the trees and mulches them, using the mulch in city parks and giving it to gardens. The ritual return to the earth of the trees gives a nice pagan end to the holiday. There are more discarded trees which I photographed last year here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Some December Light

It has been busy. In the midst of the holiday weekend I was printing images for a group show. I battled with my little recalcitrant printer which does not like the paper I was feeding it. I have not had time to work on a next round of street art or the next hanging sculpture which has been dangling from the ceiling, imbalanced, for months.

Today was the first calm day in a while. I went out to photograph a faded image on brick over on Bowery. Unfortunately, it had already been covered up by a giant movie poster. From there I just wandered around aimlessly. The picture above is of the new Cooper Union Academic Building. I was sad about the building it replaced which was nothing special but had an elegant simplicity. But the new building is unexpected and fun.

I was further amused by this private garden. It is behind that building on Astor Place that looks like a three dimensional puddle. I seem to remember some grumbling about the garden I am not sure why. Maybe there was concern that pedestrians would cut across it. That would explain the aggressive shrub plantation.

Because basically this private garden is a densely planted shrub patch with some trees and decorative kale in the middle. There are no paths or benches.

I thought there might be a path near the wisteria but I was mistaken. Maybe the garden is meant to be viewed from above. Oddly, there is a perfectly serviceable public plaza on the other side. It is a little bland but at least there are tables and benches as well as a view of the shrub garden.

Hoping to get some more work done in spite of the next round of holidays looming.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Gathering Moss

I finally got some potting soil and gathered some moss which I planted in these trays I found in Chinatown.

I am fussing at the moss a bit more this time, trying to get the soil on the bottom of the moss to settle into the soil on the tray. Some of the moss came from the stairs of the empty townhouse. When I pulled it up, old paint from the stairs was embedded in its soil. I have been tweezing the chips out along with some small stones and bits of styrofoam.

The moss from the stairs is different from what I usually find on the sidewalks. It is more fern-like with long tendrils.

It grows more loosely, as if it were woven together.

I also found this little patch of moss that has a little red coloring. Some of my previous moss turned reddish brown before it died. I hope that is not what is happening with this one.

This is the moss I usually find, the intrepid sidewalk moss. It is dense and velvety and hopefully will prosper.

I planted this bit in a broken votive candle. I hope it spreads out like a pin cushion.

I have been keeping the moss trays in the bathroom, the steam from the shower is making the moss very happy.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Never quite reaching the river

It has not been easy to get any work done. The weather has been mostly overcast except when brilliant beautiful light makes a brief appearance. The November school schedule being what it is, I have the young son scampering around. This is fine, I have enlisted his help in the light graffiti pictures I have been working on. We are still figuring things out and his penchant for using the lights as sabers creates a lot of static images. I had silently vowed to stop taking pictures of fall foliage, but these leaves would not be denied.

This picture doesn't really count as fall foliage since it is mostly about the branches.

Last Friday, under sparkling sunlight that would cloud over by afternoon, I finally made it to the Harlem River. As I feared, the distances are somewhat sprawling, everything is designed for the automobile.

Just beyond the Crack Is Whack Playground I found a place that reminded me of my Bronx dreams.

Although it may look quite ordinary, this view resonates with me. It was more dramatic in the dream. There was a hospital or a university, maybe both. In real life there is a Hyundai dealership.

But the bridge...

...and the ramp are almost the same.

Then when I started crossing the Triborough Bridge, I got that apprehension that crossing bridges in dreams cause. It is also a very noisy bridge that vibrates a lot and the cars speed pretty close by.

This image pretty much sums up my impression of East Harlem. There are so many things to brutalize the soul here. The constant speeding traffic, industry, chain link fences.
The Harlem River is of course bounded by highways which form a barrier. The closest I got to it was looking down from the bridge. The noise was exhausting. My dreams were mostly silent.

On the way back to the subway, I found this tree.

Poor little thing, sideswiped by a car (the tire treads are visible in the mud), it never stood a chance. I was there on the day of the Yankees victory parade and this tree reminded me of why I had to stop cheering the Yankees. When they built their new stadium, they cut down 300 mature trees. They are supposed to plant more, but clearly there is a difference between a healthy tree that has adapted to city life and a young sapling. Life is not much greener on the Bronx side of the river. I can't believe they cut down those trees.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Yearning for the Harlem River

I have been thinking of going up to the Bronx to take pictures for a while. Earlier this year I kept dreaming that I was there. Looking at the subway map, I realized that the area of my dreams was in Manhattan near the Harlem River Drive. I could take the subway up to 125th and check things out.

I heard the rain this morning before I saw it. The light was so dreary. It was another nightday with lights struggling to dispel the gloom. The rain soaked through my clothes, even with an umbrella.

It was hard to work on anything today. I plodded aimlessly through the rain. I did find trays for planting moss, but I was too discouraged go back out and gather some. Well, at least the moss will be flourishing out there. I read about a woman who made a moss carpet for a bathmat. The dampness of the bathroom keeps the moss happy. Maybe I can cultivate my moss there over the winter.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More about moss

One of my friends was talking about my moss pictures recently. She said she missed the adventure of my explorations (I'm paraphrasing here). It is true that I have been neglecting the moss. The rainy spring and summer would have been the perfect occasion to work on moss painting. Another opportunity lost, but my mind just hasn't been on the bryophytes.

Then I remembered seeing some moss glimmering on the steps of an empty townhouse nearby.

It is pretty happy moss. And there seem to be different varieties.

I started to think about growing moss again. Maybe I could grow enough to experiment with painting in a controlled situation. I decided to check in on some moss I left on the fire escape last autumn.

When last I saw it, the pot contained the pitiful remnants of early experiments. The previous summer had been cruel.

But now the pot is all filled in with velvet green, except for the parts with rubble. I remember reading that moss does not like pebbles and twigs and you are supposed to clean it out with tweezers. This pot of moss survived the winter, so it can handle the cold. I would really like to make something with moss...

Meanwhile, I have some more pictures of the mossy steps and overgrown garden. There is a sort of Victorian moodiness which has caught my fancy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Back at the High Line

I have been restless, unable to settle down and get any work done. Maybe it is the changing weather. I went back to the High Line to see if things looked different in the autumn light. My problem with this park is that everything is so neat and orderly. There is not much for me to say except that the wildflowers still make everything smell nice. That is saying a lot for New York. There is this one spot where a building under renovation makes a covered walkway. It is a little wider and emptier than the rest of the park. My favorite kind of light was in the shadows and the greenery seemed more poetic here.

One thing that has changed is the wood. It has bleached out in the sun.

There was some controversy regarding the wood used for the High Line. According to the Gothamist people were protesting that the wood came from ancient forests in the Amazon and was not sustainable as the Friends of the High Line had promised. Apparently the group certifying the wood is not so reliable and was even implicated in a "timber-laundering" ring. Considering all the drama, perhaps they should have used that nice post-consumer plastic for the benches, especially seeing the weathering this wood is showing.

This bench looks as if it might give splinters, and that is not its only problem.

The view from the bench is of four-story high Posh and Becks peering over the railing wearing nothing but their skivvies.

I sat there, did not get splinters and contemplated Posh's hair. Becks seems to be missing his pupils which gets creepy after a while. I moved on...