Boston Strong

With the rest of the world, I watched the news unfold out of Boston last Monday with a sickening feeling of impotence and helplessness. It was heartbreaking to see such devastation inflicted on an event that had always been a celebration of the human spirit. Marathons show people at their best: from the runners, who persevere and endure against all odds, to the wonderful supporters, who go to great lengths to spur on everyone on the road, whether it is a runner near and dear to them, or a complete stranger who seems to need an extra boost. Remembering the kindness of supporters during my own marathon experience, it broke my heart that it was people like them who were the main victims of this act of terror.  

In the face of such a horrific tragedy, what does one do? 

"Maybe we can only run. But that's something," said four-time Boston Marathon winner Bill Rodgers, when he announced that he would come out of retirement to run in the 2014 Boston Marathon. 

Confronted by terrorists who aim to destroy a way of life, the only way for most of us to fight back is to refuse to be cowed and keep on going. So, like many runners all over the country and the world this week, I laced up my running shoes and ran. NYRR dedicated today's 4-mile race to Boston, and in a show of support, runners turned up in Red Sox caps, Celtics jerseys, and "I run for Boston" bibs and t-shirts. About $30,000 was raised from the sale of t-shirts, which will be donated to One Fund Boston, to help those affected by the attack. There's no way of undoing the horrors of last week, but we can hope that every small gesture of support, every prayer and every donation will contribute to providing some measure of comfort to those who suffered through and continue to suffer from this tragedy.

Gravity and Grace

"If you leave your country, you develop a kind of nomadic mentality.
If I had lived in Ghana, my mind wouldn't have roamed.
I wouldn't have expanded my experiences,
or I would have been too comfortable."
- El Anatsui

It's not difficult to connect with El Atansui's art. Monumental in scale, dazzling in sight, and dense in subtance, his pieces are striking at first glance and utterly absorbing the closer you get. From afar, the glimmering, undulating forms have the appearance of extravagance; they fall and drape as the rich fabric of a medieval aristocratic woman's skirt might, displaying a sheen that might come from being threaded with gold and silver. Seen up close, however, you're startled to realize that each piece is, in fact, an intricate mosaic constructed out of the most humble of materials: salvaged bottle caps and labels from liquor bottles manufactured in Nigerian distilleries.

Delve into Anatsui's creative process and his art becomes even more enthralling. A Nigeria transplant born and raised in Ghana, Anatsui injects commentary on African history and culture into his work. His choice of materials is, on one hand, practical: the bottle caps are malleable and come in a wide variety of colors and textures, providing him seemingly infinite possibilities for his work. But it is also a cultural reference: to alcohol's ties to Africa's colonizers, who brought drink to the region and whose slave trade was fueled by the production of rum. The linking of each bottle cap to another also holds poetic significance: by interconnecting bottle caps that have been touched by different individuals, various personal histories are linked, as well.

Anatsui identifies as a nomad and reflects this identity in his art. His pieces do not have a specific orientation and is tailored to each space it occupies. He encourages those installing his piece to fashion his art in their way, so that each interaction leaves a mark on the piece. 
I loved this exhibit on many levels. Viscerally, there is just something about these pieces that delights, uplifts and inspires. Without over-thinking it, being around Anatsui's art simply made me happy. Intellectually, I appreciated his references to the effects of colonialism on a culture, coming from a country whose identity has been and continues to be shaped by its colonizers. And on a more personal level, I feel an affinity to Anatsui and how he identifies as a nomad. We belong to that third culture of those who choose to live in a society different from the one they were born into. I could identify with how the decision to live that kind of life inevitably changes you, making you malleable and expanding your horizons. It can be difficult and unsettling, but it's a way of life that allows some truly unexpected and breathtaking things to emerge.
is on display at the Brooklyn Museum until August 4, 2013.

Happy Days are Here Again

I'll let you in on a secret: Every time it's time for me to travel away from New York, I get a nagging feeling that I don't really want to leave. One of my friends pinned it down as a fear of missing out. So much seems to happen here in a day that leaving, even for the most wonderful of vacations, means you'll lose some things in the process.

With a big life change looming in the horizon, it may be awhile until I take a big trip again. But when a weekend as lovely as this past one comes along, it doesn't feel like much of a sacrifice to stay put. We had a gorgeous weekend in Brooklyn—one made for a languid brunch full of girl talk, sunshine, and lovely bites of ricotta crostini, monkey bread and shrimp 'n grits at my favorite neighborhood spot.
The Brooklyn Flea opened in Fort Greene on Saturday, which meant I got to spend an afternoon picking through through knick knacks and checking out the wares of local crafts folks, all while enjoying a cone of Blue Marble peach ice cream.

On Sunday, Smorgasburg reopened at the Tobacco Warehouse in Dumbo—which would've been enough of a treat for me. But life brought me a little something extra: the amazing Kate, from all the way in London! Those who followed my 30 Before 30 Project might remember her from our road trip adventures. It's such a treat to have her back, even if it's just ever so briefly.
Kate is a fantastic knitwear designer and artist (as you'll see in her lovely blog/sketchbook), so there was no better person to spend an afternoon in Brooklyn Museum with. We had a lovely time checking out an exhibit by El Anatsui (which deserves, and will have, an entire post on its own), as well as the rest of the art spread throughout the Museum's five expansive floors. My favorites: Valerie Hegarty's Fallen Bierstadt, which shows a landscape painting in a state of decay; a watercolor and collage by Santi Moix displayed against a wall drawn on by the same artist using charcoal; a stack of vitrines containing whitewashed tokens from artist Terence Koh's childhood, friends and lovers, and flea market wanders; and Maximum Sensation by mounir fatmi, wherein 52 skateboards are covered in prayer rugs—a meditation on cultural hybrids by an artist raised in a Moroccan Muslim family while living in France. 
After a seemingly endless Winter, Spring has finally sprung in New York. The air feels thick with promiseand I can't wait to see what a new season will bring. This time, I won't miss a New York minute of it!

The New York Easter Parade

After almost seven years of living in New York, I finally got to experience the spectacle of the Easter Parade. It's a tradition that dates back to the 1800s, when New York society's upper crust would do a promenade on Fifth Avenue dressed in their finest after Easter Sunday mass. The practice is even immortalized in the movie The Easter Parade, which shows Judy Garland and Fred Astaire sashaying down the avenue as photographers snap away. These days, the Easter Parade is a far more inclusive affair, where pretty much anything and everything goes. In keeping with tradition, there were gentlemen in top hats and gloved ladies aplenty.
There was no shortage of colorful characters. I particularly loved the vibrant colors of these two gents' suits (and who can resist that doggie!), as well as the organic flair of the grandmother-granddaughter team below.
I was amazed at how committed people were to creating a spectacle. Not only did the gentleman below wear a Les Miserables tableau around his head—he even had Do You Hear the People Sing playing from his iPod as he walked! And the lady with the gigantic flower-covered heart on her head? There are no words.
The tiniest attendees were all decked out—and instantly swarmed by photographers who couldn't get enough of the cuteness. I wish I had something like the Easter Parade to look forward to when I was a kid. I'm sure creating crazy, unique hats was an incredibly fun project to work on. And that Lego hat? Too cool for school.
Even pooches joined in on the fun! I could not stop cooing over the pug decked out in a fascinator and fur stole. And when that cute little bunny crossed paths with that pooch, we just melted!
This wouldn't be a New York event without a bit of a freak show, of course. As we walked down Fifth Avenue, a man dressed in pink full body spandex started to shout that he needed help making a phone call because he couldn't see. The crowd around him laughed until he said with some urgency, "I'm serious! I need help!" I gallantly strode up to him and helped him dial up his friend Sasha, then I hung around, of course, to eavesdrop on what his great emergency was. "Oh my god, Sasha! I got my picture taken by Bill Cunningham!" he shrieked. I guess we all have different ideas on what can and cannot wait. 
The Easter Parade is open to everyone, so if you'd like to experience it, make the craziest hat you can think of and pop on over to Fifth Avenue anywhere between 45th to 57th Streets next year. Heck, get decked out from head-to-toe if you feel so inclined! The crowd will love you for it.
I, for one, have a feeling I'll find it hard to stay away next year. A million thanks to my dearest Zoe for taking me along on yet another wonderful New York adventure!