Friday, August 28, 2009

The Nearly Pointless Trip To Flushing Meadow Park

The Tent of Tomorrow Has Seen Better Days

I read on Gothamist that the Unisphere was sprouting grass because of the wet summer. Weeds growing on the icon of the '64 World's Fair, this called for investigation. Unfortunately, the Park's Department is planning on cleaning it all up after the US Open which starts this weekend. So I really had to go today. This is unfortunate because Tropical Storm Danny is milling around off the coast sending loads of rain our way. The Unisphere is in Flushing which is one of those parts of nyc that are so far away, one might as well go to Vermont for all the effort it takes.

I resigned myself to taking the car. It is fitting really. The 1964 World's Fair was something of a celebration of the automobile with the world's largest road map contributed by Texaco. The park is bounded by highways; the Long Island Expressway, the Van Wick, the Grand Central Parkway. The weather was miserable bringing out lots of heavy traffic. I regretted my decision the instant I neared the horribly decrepit Kosciuszko Bridge
. I finally made it. To my disappointment, there did not seem to be much grass growing on the Unisphere. There were a few tufts in the fountain but nothing to get excited about. Maybe the Parks Department has already cleaned it up. I glowered at the Unisphere in the rain (you can see the drops blurring my picture) I decided that the stylized globe perched on its jaunty angle made me slightly nauseous. I also noticed that it is very hard to make out Europe on the globe.

There was some wild grass growing in a woebegone fountain out past the Tent of Tomorrow. It is near a bridge that crosses one of the highways. I have always wanted to walk across the bridge and yet it always seems to be too far away. The whole park is rather sprawling.

This fountain is totally neglected, its disconnected water jets had an odd iridescent hue.

There is a happy little ecosystem sprouting up in the neglect. It looks a little like marshland.

The concrete fountain has developed a lovely patina of algae moss and dead leaves.

I would have taken more pictures of the Tent of Tomorrow which has some of my favorite decay. But it has been closed off to the public. I would love to stand inside under the skeletal wires. I couldn't see any trace of the road map when I looked through the fence.

Here is a cool web site about the Tent of Tomorrow.

I will be taking a little break for the end of summer. Be back in about two weeks.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Visitation - Lene Lenape Woman: Part II

The night was cloudy and the air was heavy when I went out. I didn't really want to go, but things had dragged out too long. Daylight crept in slowly it was more a lessening of the gloom than an actual dawn.

The wonderful book Gotham by Edwin Burrows and Mike Wallace was helpful in giving me and idea of where to go. There was even a map of Indian encampments. One was in Dumbo, so I thought that would make a good starting point.

I went to the end of Jay Street near the Con Edison power plant and placed the woman in front of a trendy home furnishing shop. The picture I chose is odd in that the woman sometimes looks as if she is smiling and sometimes as if she is frowning. It was probably my imagination because the light was pretty there, but she seemed to be smiling.

It was as if she liked all the clean lines and the grey tones.

The sun broke through the clouds briefly over the Con Ed plant.

There was a habitation near Battery Park, but I felt it was just too weird for the woman. What would she make of the tourists? According to Gotham, Pearl Street got its name from the piles of oyster shells left behind by the Lene Lenape. I thought it might make an easier transition.

It took me a while to find a place. There were a surprising number a people milling around. There must be some kind of club down by the seaport. It was hard to find a quiet spot without either party goers or security guards or police.

The spot was typical of Wall Street, dark canyons with the muffled hum of air conditioners. In the morning gloom it was even more depressing. I worried she wouldn't like it there. It started to rain.

But when I came back on a sunny day, there was a lot of activity, a small crane was lifting something nearby and she seemed amused by it.

I was planning on placing her near Foley Square where the Lene Lenape would camp by a deep pond. But I was so depressed by Pearl Street that I had to find somewhere else.

So I took her to the Time Landscape on Laguardia Place. It was planted by eco-artist Alan Sonfist and is composed of native plants. It is supposed to look like a scrap of land before human intervention.

It was a little awkward hanging her up as there was an all night cafe across the street. A few people were at the tables outside, the waiters were bored. There was really nothing happening except for me with my ladder hanging art off a street sign. I tried to find a more discreet spot but the only place that worked was right across from the tables.

I liked the way she looked with the poster for the Yinka Shonibare exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum and the ghost bike. It was all a little eerie.

Things were quiet here and she seemed serene.

Minetta Street traces the path of Minetta Brook which was buried in the 19th century. I though she would like it here because there is a pretty garden and the street is twisty.

She did not seem to be happy here at all.

She clung to the street sign. It was hard to find a good angle. It looks as if her picture has picked up some grunge.

She appeared to scowl at the American Apparel store.

The last place I chose was Gansevoort Street near the High Line where the Lene Lenape fished and planted. I thought her spirit would enjoy the wild flowers of the park.

I took only one picture in the muted pink dawn light. The High Line was too dark. When I came back, she was gone. I should have put her across the street. Clearly some territorial park employees saw her and took her down. They keep things really tidy on that side of the street and her spirit had flown.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Visitation - Lene Lenape Woman: Part I

Perhaps it was from the celebration of the Henry Hudson's arrival in Manhattan 400 years ago that inspired me to imagine the original inhabitants. In the spirit of the celebration, there has been a lot attention to the Mannahatta project which explores what the island looked like before it was developed and built up. The Lene Lenape who lived there were sort of rambling groups rather than tribes living in villages. They wandered from one campsite to another depending on the time of year, living in accord with nature, never taking more than was needed. The women tended the crops and the men hunted. Everything was in balance. The Europeans did not approve, of course, thinking everyone was lacking in the proper entrepreneurial zeal. I remember learning about the Lene Lenape and how they were lazy drunks. I think the woman who taught this had never seen a Native American of any tribe so how would she know anyway. But I am guessing that the original impression of the colonists had filtered down. They did not understand why the men did nothing but hunt, which they considered to be a leisure activity, hence the laziness.

The Lene Lenape were chased west and finally ended up in Kansas and points west, mingling with other tribes. There are really no images of the original inhabitants of Mannahatta. I found this image at the Library of Congress. She was from the area that might have welcomed the Lene Lenape.

It made me feel sad to go through the pictures on the Library of Congress site. The people in the portraits are staring directly into the camera like most pictures from those times. But there is something else in the eyes of the Native Americans. I feel deeply ashamed by our history with the people who were here first. It is hard to meet their gaze.

I will post the pictures of the visitation very soon.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Stormy Weather and Obstructions

I don't have many pictures to post. The weather has been stormy and the light unpredictable. This shot of the Chrysler Building is one of the few pictures I like from the past week.

I had planned on doing a round of street art last weekend. Unfortunately, outside forces intervened, forces of the family variety. This is probably why so many artists choose the solitary life The single artist has only to wait until it is late enough to go out and do street art, afterwards collapsing into a pile of dirty laundry to sleep. I have to prepare my outings, doing most chores on Saturday, getting to sleep somewhat early and waking at 3am. I try to sleep the next day but usually stumble around in bleary fog. I hate waking up at three and I have to steel myself for it all day. Last Saturday there were several lines of drama that reached a fever pitch somewhere around 8pm. I realized that by the time it all settled down it would be too late to get any decent amount of sleep. Besides my focus was totally shifted to the dramas swirling around. On Sunday, instead of trying to rest in the glow of a successful outing, I sat scowling out the window at the heavy rainstorm and winterlike darkness.

Perhaps it is not such a bad thing to have the occasional outside obstruction or two. Since Sunday, I feel as if something has been reset. I am getting things done more quickly. I am inspired to start a new hanging sculpture. Hopefully, I will be able to do my next street work this weekend.

This was the best shot from my attempt to photograph the stormy weather. It was not an exciting storm in terms of lighting. It just sort of slouched across the skyline.