Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Trash Talk

Going to Woodstock is kind of like entering this parallel universe, untouched by time. If it weren’t for modern cars that roll down Tinker Street, for a moment, I might think that I had entered 1969. Woodstock is still the place for hedonists with an interest in activism. Much of the same music is still shared and sold around town and depending on which scraggly local you encounter, tie-dye is still the rage. What you’ll find in Woodstock may be a little hokie—more costume, imitation hippie, than what was really seen or worn during the greatest festival of all-time. Still, it is the remembrance for the decade and the spirit of peace and love, which keeps this small-town alive. 

One thing that does always change about Woodstock is the art. In front of a store selling zen essentials was this unusual mosaic sculpture tiled with random knick knacks such as I Love Lucy memorabilia and doll parts. 

Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild 34 Tinker Street Woodstock,  NY 12498 

One of my favorite galleries I’ve ever been to is the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild’s Kleinert/JamesArts Center.  The space itself is extremely modest; the gallery is essentially a one-room home-y space, curating local Catskill work. However, it is here that I have encountered some of the most refreshing and magical art moments over the years. Their latest installation (which just finished on August 12th, 2012), “Beautiful Garbage” was suffice to say one of their best. One of the first pieces I noticed when walking into Byrdcliffe were the trash bag vignettes that were painted, collaged, and weaved into by artist Josh Blackwell, to give the illusion of fabric.  Trash bags are so ubiquitous---common at any convenience store or department store, but I love how Blackwell makes them alive again with new vigor.
As a writer, I’m occasionally asked to review art openings, and the art that strikes me most are one with a story. I think it’s so interesting to think about the trajectory of trash, where it’s been, who it’s been with, and how it ended up here.  Like, if your trash could talk, what story would it say? In our culture there’s a certain dissociation between the person and their trash, that once we discard of it it’s no longer in our possession, but trash makes, among other things, such a big eco-logical footprint, that we should really be looking at it more personally.  I really did fall in love with the exhibit. It’s a perfect example of “another man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” so I ended up buying one of the artists’, Josh Blackwell’s book, “Plastic Bag as Humble Present,” to remind me of this serendipitous art treat.   

I had to match my vintage garden gnome skirt to this beautiful garbage!
Kristen Wicklund, another eco-artist featured at Byrdcliffe, not only makes tie-dyed dollies, but also somehow crochets each piece using recycled trashbags. How she does this is beyond me, but the effect is amazing, and makes each piece look like a dreamcatcher.

The pieces that surprised me most on display at “Beautiful Garage” were the Christy Rupp’s sculptures, placed on pedestals around the gallery. From afar, Rupp’s art look like expensive and breakable glass vases, vessels, and jars, but their genius is that they were really sculpted from plastic bottles of the soda variety. 

Guerilla street art hits Woodstock. 
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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Stamp On My Rubber Soul

There’s an ongoing debate in my family whether Veniero’s or De Robertis is the better East Village spot to get Italian pastries. Ultimately we can never agree, so we end up going to both: Veniero’s for sit-down dessert and coffee, and then afterwards, we head across the street to De Robertis to take home a box of pine nut cookies.  

I love restaurants that have menus with pictures of their food. That way it's the anti-blind date; you know exactly what you're signing up for when you order. Veniero’s menu especially is like a gallery--each photo is its own supersaturated cake canvas to choose from.  Their Camilla cake was chosen to be highlighted on The Food Network, which they so kindly alert you of on the backside of the menu so you know which one is the real deal. 

A couple doors down from Veniero’s on 11th street is Casey Rubber Stamps, which is a whole wunderkind of its own.  Every inch of the small shop is packed with a different square design, creating a wooden 3-D wallpaper effect that follows every step taken inside. John Casey, proprietor of Casey Rubber Stamps, emigrated from Ireland to NYC when he was just 16, where he made his first stamp, a rabbit shape. But since then, the stamps in his store are always evolving to meet the needs of his East Village neighbors and make custom designs for everyone from artists to scientists. 

I often use phrases such as “my favorite, ”“I love this,” and “it was magical” a lot, but it’s because I am unabashedly emphatic about the people, places, and things I like. So when I say Casey Rubber Stamps is legitimately one of my favorite places in New York, I hope it doesn’t become a diluted statement. Visiting Casey Rubber Stamps was almost overwhelming. Each stamp was its own art form and I could see a different use for every one of them, from the yin yangs to the vegetables. Rubber stamps are the best because you can use them to become Martha Stewart, they’re small and you don’t have to worry about them, and they're also really great way to expel pent up aggression.

It was really hard not to spend all of my money on the entire store, and so narrowing down the ones to purchase was not an easy feat. Each stamp is marked with a letter which corresponds to their price in a flip book that sits on one of the tables. For such a beautiful craft, I think they’re extremely affordable (they range anywhere from $3-$10 depending on the size). I almost went with the bandana handkerchief stamp, but in the end, I bought a hand, a safety pin, and a Buddha to remind me of my recent trip to India. John didn’t have the Buddha on any of the shelves so he sweetly went in the back of the shop and carved it for me on the spot.

Three drawings I made in my sketchbook to incorporate my new stamps. 

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