Wine in a can sounds at first like a punch line. My inner grape snob wanted to giggle and point when I stumbled across this bucket of chardonnay, rosé and Bordeaux-style red blend in cheerful aluminum containers at a beautifully curated wine shop in Clinton Corners, New York. Hal, the trustworthy proprietor of Harker House Wine & Spirits, assured me the display was serious business. So I thought, "Why not?" and bought some. The enjoyable Bridge Lane line (above) from small producer Lieb-Cellars in Long Island comes unapologetically in an $8 can equal to half a bottle. Poured in a glass, you can't taste the difference. First craft beers, now craft wines, in light, portable containers with trendy type and graphic design. After trying it, I think wine in a can is set to become a thing by summer. But please, no straws.
Who doesn't love blue? The color of trust, the color of mood, the theme of a favorite Joni Mitchell song. A scientifically proven boost for creativity. Blue is also the color that brings the Internet to its knees. How? You can do a lot of amazing things online, but one thing you can't ever do is International Klein Blue (IKB). That "pure energy" ultramarine color, invented by the French artist Yves Klein in 1960, requires a matte synthetic resin binder to preserve and promote the color's intensity. I amped the blue in this graphic shot of red tree buds, but I still couldn't photoshop my way to IKB. It's material. It's texture. It's layered. Like nature, IKB doesn't live online. The other day I counted sixteen people near me in a subway car. All of them were glued or tethered to their phones. I hope they get a chance to walk outside unplugged.
Photos of people taking photos are so delightfully meta. But not everyone feels that way. Here, I had to shoot quickly and move on before security could approach. My sidewalk lens was a random element in the otherwise tightly controlled chaos of the star-making machine. The event was the Manhattan premiere of the new hit movie, "A Quiet Place" (nationwide April 6, 2018) and the see-through street tent with red carpet was erected to create and control visuals of stars like John Krasinski and Emily Blunt. The inside group performed their roles with intensity. Strong men and steel barricades walled off media and stars. Photographers scurried around like they were covering breaking news (though they were actually shooting portraits in front of a logo wall for sites like celebmafia.com and snowceleb.com). Interviewers got themselves camera-ready in well-oiled motions. Not a hair was out of place. It was all very serious business. The movie made $50 million on opening weekend.
I love blank space. To me, it speaks of luxury and potential rather than the absence of things. But is it possible that inside every minimalist there's a hidden maximalist? The trendy gallery wall (above) at the special exhibition, "Forever Young: Selections from the Joe Baio Collection of Photography," certainly called to mine.
The Joe Baio Collection was one of three special collections (also "A Time for Reflection" curated by Elton John and "All Power: Visual Legacies of the Black Panther Party" curated by Michelle Dunn Marsh) at The Photography Show presented by Aipad (April 5-8) held annually at Pier 94 in New York City. The premiere photo show featured fine art galleries, book dealers, publishers and photography organizations from all over the world in mostly spare and chic grey booths.
Joe Baio, however, opted to create the feeling of a luxe Manhattan townhouse inside the vast pier space. The collectors brought in large oriental rugs, plush sofas, and antique tables and painted display walls in dense red, cobalt and light blue hues. More than 200 photos of children and adolescents ranging from the 1850s to the present were hung in intricate and beautifully executed arrangements.
Passionate maximalism ruled. People came, sat and stayed. Here, the fine art of hanging lead to the even finer art of hanging out.
It was a dark and stormy night when a scofflaw snuck this unloved TV with shattered screen out to the curb. I've seen a lot of random refuse in my time, including an entire piano soundboard and a sweet hand-painted sign saying "Mom loves Norm" (was it Mom or Norm who put it out?). But this was my first sad and forlorn flat screen stuck out in melting spring snow.
All trash tells a story: This one's a double crime in progress. New York City law requires e-waste to be taken to an electronic recycling station. Also, household garbage is banned from sidewalk sanitation baskets. Who could do such a thing? Maybe there's a registered serial number here. No doubt the perp is chomping popcorn and streaming Netflix on a newer model at this very moment.
The questions ask themselves. How did the screen crack? Did the TV fall off the wall or was an object thrown at it? Who opts for Vizio over Panasonic? Let's look at motives. Did a lazy owner with a guilty conscience think, "Nah, not lugging it on the subway. But I'll almost do the right thing." Or in blind denial, "Perhaps someone will want it?" The plot lines are endless.
Spring cleaning can be ruthless. Could have been a condo-owning Kondo-izer (The Life-Changing Magic of Cleaning Up by Marie Kondo) or a foresighted Swedish death-cleaner (The Gentle Art of Swedish Death-Cleaning: How to Free You and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson. Broken TV's certainly do not spark joy or thrill heirs.
The only thing I know for sure. It was a dark and stormy night. All better to avoid the $200 fine.
In Wes Anderson's fabulous film Isle of Dogs, canines are removed from daily life and banished to a remote island. Here in Manhattan, it's the opposite. We're an Isle of Dogs that has Aisles of Dogs. I've seen pets tucked, lifted, dragged, walked, seated and scooped just about everywhere, including to Starbucks and the movies. Trendy owners now bring fur babies to the office, or even the post office (above). The problem is not all breeds are good walkers. Some tire easily on skinny little legs; others may be heavy as bowling balls. Enter, four wheels. Compared to, say, bringing an emotional support peacock to the airport, doing chores with a bulldog in a baby stroller is a walk in the park. But the sight of a regal dog in a cushy throne always makes me wonder. Who's the real master?
The protesters were young and their mood was serious at Manhattan's March For Our Lives on March 24, 2018. Among the estimated 175,000 demonstrators were many New York City students and teachers. Post-rally, it was hard to wind down. Many wore signs as they shopped, stopped for food, walked in the park or took public transport home. Three high school friends (above) walked up Sixth Avenue with a "Books Not Bullets" crown and stopped to snap a proud photo in front of Robert Indiana's iconic pop-art LOVE sculpture. After a day of sincere political action, they had a reminder that love was in the backdrop. Others left their signs in a temporary wall of dissent (below) against barricades where the crowd dispersed. Their fierce statement would remain for a few hours more, or at least until street sweepers arrived.
March in New York is not for the impatient. On the second day of spring, the city was repainted in winter white. It was the fourth snow of the month. Lacy shrugs covered buildings, trees and cars. On sidewalks, shovelers raced the heavy, wet snow while joggers sprang through it. Children headed with shouts and saucers to the nearest park as dog walkers put tiny red rubber galoshes on shivering paws. A giant inflatable pink swan sled swooshed down a steep hill and floated up it. On Riverside Drive, a yellow taxi left a wake on the street like a boat. The snow fell and fell and fell all day. It was so cold you had to put on winter gloves just to check out the view through an open window.
This is the largest line I've ever seen in my life. Literally. Made up of towering 25-foot-tall paper cutouts, it was pasted outside the popular art fair, The Armory Show (March 7-11), by the French artist JR in partnership with dealer Jeffrey Deitch and Artsy. JR's idea was to secretly photoshop contemporary faces of Syrian refugees onto historical photos of Ellis Island immigrants. The piece, "So Close," not only asks the question "Who is foreign?" by mingling historical and contemporary images but also slyly points out the privilege of waiting in line for upscale experiences like, say, an art fair, brunch, or a Cronut. Dualities were evident on the sidewalk below "So Close," too. As art lovers in mink and down coats lined up outside the show's entrance, a man in traditional Pakistani garb handed out Subway discount flyers to anyone who would take them. The day was bitter cold, and he shivered in his lightweight clothes.
Humans aren't the only species who invade and conquer. Plants are guilty, too. I was awestruck by acres of red-tipped green succulents flowering under a blue California sky next to a turquoise ocean. Then they were outed as a lethal beauty. An expert at the California Coastal Trail Association identified my fan photo as Carpobrotus edulis, or Ice Plant, and warned me by email that it "forms a large, thick mat that chokes out all other native plants and alters the soil composition of the environment." Even worse, as "a coastal invader, it competes with many endangered, threatened, and rare plants." Ice plant shows that colonialism is built into natural design, but the forward-thinking imperative is for us to weed it out.
It's a mysterious truth that even a road to nowhere must lead somewhere. I’ve always loved the news item about the couple who followed their GPS so closely they ended up driving their rental car right into the ocean. An ocean of nowhere to them, certainly, but not to the people who walked the beach or splashed in its water. The furrowed tracks on this dusty old ranch road in Templeton, California, end in an infinite distance I'll never see but some locals might know well. Above them, a plane's white contrail pierces the deep blue sky like an arrow. When you think about it, nowhere can seem like a noun, but it's really just a point of view.
Sometimes rebellion is as simple as a pair of bright red boots with matching handbag. A flare goes up. Color, like hope, may be contagious on an utterly drab day in February. Inspired, a young woman in weathered Uggs checks out a spring shoe window display, perhaps imagining a new red pair of her own.
King of the Mountain is serious business in Manhattan. It's not easy ruling the unruly kingdom (ask any builder or Wall Street trader). Usually, kids are on the losing end of the city's scale. Tall buildings shrink them down to mice. Elevators threaten to eat their tiny hands and sneakers. Dogs bark or growl nose to nose. Even kind strangers engulf like giant lampposts. But every now and again—on a swing, a parent's shoulders, or atop a manmade snow hill in Central Park—perspective reverses. Buildings become Lego blocks. Traffic runs on Matchbox toys. A snowscape becomes a moonscape; the sky tastes like cotton soup. Suddenly, the city is entirely theirs.
Public art is never static. People, traffic, birds, squirrels, weather and time of day all change things up. Take, for example, Ai Weiwei's 37-foot-high steel cage in Washington Square Park (until February 11, 2018). By day, it was a total selfie magnet for tourists. At night, it ruled the park. Darkness transformed Weiwei's center silhouette (modeled after a 1937 gallery doorway by Marcel DuChamp) into a beckoning giant keyhole. Floodlights on the arch turned park walkers into miniature moving cut-outs. Perhaps the conjoined couple in the cage had just stepped out to explore the world around them? I wondered if they might snap back into place at dawn, like two missing puzzle pieces.
New York City's public art performances are seldom singular. Passersby often jump in with their own twist, like this street mime in gold sequins and metallic face paint perched inside Ai Weiwei's giant Victorian birdcage structure near Trump Tower. With 300 outdoor sculptures installed across five boroughs from October to February, 2018, Weiwei's work— "Good Fences Make Good Neighbors" —evoked the global refugee crisis and the divisive nature of borders and walls. The mime wouldn't say, of course, if he was going meta on Weiwei by impishly layering a migrant street performance on a public art performance about migrants. Or was it simply a great spot for tips? I had so many questions and he had so few answers. Just a signaled preference for peace.
Lately, everyone and everything seems to be getting louder. Yelling on cable news, ALL-CAPS on Twitter, amped-up music, you name it. My hunch was confirmed this week by this New Yorker piece by Amanda Petrusich. She notes in it that ubiquitous dynamic range compression is "the audio equivalent of writing in all capital letters," that "productive discourse has been reduced to simply securing the most deafening bullhorn," and even the ocean "is getting progressively less quiet." Noise pollution, like other kinds, is stuck on high.
One way to turn down the volume is to remember that whispering also commands attention. I've seen teachers quiet a noisy classroom by lowering, not raising, their voices. At the Women's March 2018 in New York City on January 20, the protester in the photo above stood out in a crowd with a cheek sign tinier than a button. Quirky and memorable, it proved you don't always have to shout to be heard.
Balloons are not for the faint-hearted. They wilt, pop, fly away and teach children the true meaning of tragedy. Here, I saw two dozen helium balloons hanging like golden fruit in the leafless branches of a lonely sidewalk tree. This was not on purpose. But for karma's sake, I decided to pretend it was. The cheery cluster looked like a big bunch of grapes ready for harvest. They shimmered like soap bubbles. They gave the street a festive party mood that triumphed over freezing temperatures, trash and slush on a grey January day. All you had to do for things to look up was look up.
Women's shoe choices often give mixed messages. At the 2018 Golden Globe Awards, actresses wore #TimesUp black gowns with precarious stilettos. High shoes lend power but are destabilizing. It's so much easier to protest in flats.
Not all flats are created equal. I stumbled across a high-end shoe sale and wondered if, as with social media, shoe designers had to shout to be heard. The parade of wallflower racks held the inane, the insane, and the downright hilarious. There were leftover platformed Timberlands with a stainless steel retainer tip, a burgundy brogue with a pink feather and rhinestone side buckle, and gold-dipped booties tied up with a dainty bow. You had to smile. The ultimate punch line was a zipped fake foot in a red stiletto heel that made me think of the creepy 1971 movie, Klute.
Maybe outrageous times call for outrageous footwear. But the Golden Globes showed that when it comes to silhouette, some shoes are just too beautiful to #resist.
I don't know about you, but I'm mighty glad to have 2017 in rear view. I share Whoopi Goldberg's 2018 resolution: "To be more resolute." I look around for inspiring images of fortitude all over. Above, Fernando Botero's mighty "Eve" in the Time Warner Center projects an air of unshakable strength. Naked but not vulnerable, she towers over scores of bundled-up winter shoppers seeking shelter from the record cold.
As the New Year approaches, the thought of changing up things appeals. This morning I peered out the window through the bottom of my unfilled water glass like a sailor with a spyglass. It turned a rooftop water tank into a bird and nearby buildings into canyon walls. Little kids lean back on swings, spin in crazy circles and look at the world upside down through their legs. They play with perspective on a daily basis. I want to do more of that this year. By refreshing our view, we refresh ourselves, too. What could you see differently?