Thursday, December 26, 2019

The Rubin Museum - Home to Himalayan Art in NYC

Wish-fulfilling Tree
New York City is home to many small museums that highlight specific areas of art or history. One of the best is he Rubin Museum, which focuses on the people of the Himalayas.

The Rubin Museum was founded by Shelly and Donald Rubin. They first bought art from the Himalayas in the 1970’s. Over the following decades they amassed a large and diverse collection. By the 1990’s they had decided to use their collection as the founding basis for a new museum to showcase and preserve art and culture from that part of the world.

Shiva Vishvadura (Tibet)

In 1998, the Rubins purchased the former Barney’s building on 17th street, in the Chelsea section of New York. By 2004, when they museum opened, they had converted that site to a world class exhibition space. It’s six floors offer a comprehensive look into the past, present and future of art and culture from the Himalayas, and also relating to social justice campaigns around the world.

Breathing Room by Nari Ward

One of the things I like about the Rubin is that they usually keep exhibits up for a longer period than many other museums. Most are up for a full year. This offers the chance to return and explore ones you like in more depth.

Strike by Hank Willis Thomas

One exhibit that I really enjoyed was called “Capping with Stones” which presented contemporary artists from around the world with pieces on the theme of non-conformity and a person’s potential for action.

There was also a wonderful exhibit on prayer-wheels. The belief is that by spinning the wheel, the person is given the chance to send their thoughts and prayers into the universe. Also the act of spinning the wheel offered a chance to enter a meditative state. There were wonderful traditntal wheels, and a modern, computerized version, that allowed the visitor to add their hope or thought to a collection that was offered for all to see.

Hand held Prayer Wheel

Prayer Wheel

As I walked to the museum, I happened to come through Times Square. It was at the new staircase over the TKTS booth, that I notice a different kind of removal from reality. Here I found dozens of people, standing around, all watching the world through their phones.

Once again, heading to a smaller museum gave me the opportunity to take my time and enjoy the journey, along with the visit.

Nuts and Bolts:
The Rubin Museum is open Thursday though Monday from 11:00 -5:00 (later on some days). Admission is $19 for adults/ $14 for seniors and students.

Friday, December 20, 2019

December Lights in New York City

Met Life Building
Just a short piece this week. December in NYC is a time of lights. So this week I took a walk through the center of the city, camera in hand. Here is some of what I saw.

I started at Lincoln Square, on the Upper West Side. The tree in the square offered a wonderful sight on a snowy day with Lincoln Center in the background.

Lincoln Sqaure

snowy tree for sale

From there I walked down Broadway to the Time Warner Center, where the colored stars were beautiful.

Time-Warner Center

Time Warner Center

Time Warner Center

My walk continued east to 6th Ave. and then south towards the big tree.

Garland, with a little surprise

The Time-Life building has big, uh, ornaments

From Radio City, it was a short walk to the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Happy Holidays, No Service

The Rockefeller Center Rink

The big tree

The last leg of my walk was over to Grand Central Station.

Park Ave. Lights

Helmsley Building

Grand Central Station
 The best thing about this walk is that everything (except the ice skating) was free. No entrance fees. Nothing hidden behind fences. All you need is a warm coat, comfortable shoes, and an ability to deal with the very large crowds that are also out to see the show.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Small Brooklyn - Visit some of the Boroughs interesting if smallest museums

I love small museums and galleries. They are a great way to enjoy art or history, without being overwhelmed. On a recent day I had a chance to visit three interesting small museums in Brooklyn. Each offered a unique view of art and history.

Brooklyn Art Library

Take the L train to Williamsburg and you will find a truly unique museum. The Brooklyn Art Library is the only user-sourced museum that I know of. It is a collection of over 45,000 sketch-books created by people who just want to contribute to art in the world. That’s right, even you can add your creative touch to their library. Anyone can purchase a 30 page blank book for $30 and create your own work. When done, just mail your book back to the library. It will be added to the collection.

Taunting Sweater by Lance Holden

Time and the Way We Travel by Lance Holden

When you visit the Brooklyn Art Library, it can be a little overwhelming. The walls are filled, floor to ceiling with books that people have created. One place to start is with the 10 or so “staff picks.” Or you can head to one of the tablets perched around the room. You can use them to search through the catalog for books by subject, genre or author. Make your choices, take a seat at a table, and one of the staff will bring the books to you. There is a plethora of art to look at.

The City Reliquary

About a half-mile away you will find a wonderful museum that is an amazing collection of NYC memorabilia. The City Reliquary Museum.

In 2002, Dave Herman began displaying his collection of NYC souvenirs in the ground floor window of his apartment in Williamsburg. He even set up a system where a passerby could push a button and hear a recorded description of the items on view. As his collection continued to grow, he created the City Reliquary Museum as a not-for-profit community organization. It opened in a former bodega storefront, even keeping its iconic red and yellow awning.

Today the City Reliquary consists of three rooms packed with New York City ephemera. It includes a large collection of Statue of Liberty figurines, seltzer bottles, subway memorabilia, and item celebrating both the 1939 and 1964 Worlds Fairs. It also includes a new community based project every year.  These projects usually involve one of the local elementary schools.

Building 92 @ The Brooklyn Navy Yard

Travel two miles south-west and you will get to one of New York City most storied places, the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The Navy Yard was established in 1801, and it served as the primary naval ship-building facility in the United States for 165 years. It was here that the USS Monitor, Missouri and Arizona were built and its dry-docks were always busy carrying out repairs..The Navy Yard was in service until 1967, when operations were moved to Norfolk Virginia.

While it was largely abandoned for several years, in 1981, New York City began the process of rehabilitating the buildings to bring in new industries. Today, the Navy Yard is home to the Steiner Studios, many small and medium industrial companies, and now, it even has NYC’s only Wegmans.

Building 92 was built as the Marine Commandant’s residence. Marines were used as guards for the Navy Yard through-out its military history. The building has been fully restored and renovated. It now includes a Brooklyn Roasters Company Cafe, an employment agency and a three story exhibition space dedicated to the Navy Yard’s past, present and future.

USS Maine

USS Ohio

North Brooklyn is home to many cultural institutions, some large, some small. But they are all interesting, and worth the time it takes to explore them.

Nuts and Bolts:

Brooklyn Art Library - Admission is free to visit. If you wish to contribute a sketch book, prices start at $30.

City Reliquary - Admission $7 adults/ $5 seniors, students, educators

Bldg 92 -Admission is free

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Taos is a place to celebrate American and Native culture and art

A visit to Taos is really a visit to two different places. There is the town of Taos, with its history and thriving artist community. There is also Taos Pueblo, with its own history and a very different artist community.

Taos Pueblo

The Taos Pueblo reservation is the home to around 4500 Tiwa speaking people. It is considered to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the United States. The old part of the reservation sits at the foot of the Taos mountains, along the Red Willow Creek, which runs from its source at Blue Lake to the Rio Grande River. Its most famous feature is the multistory complex of houses constructed out of adobe bricks that was built between 1000 and 1400 CE. Today around fifteen families live in the pueblo full time.

I started my visit with a tour of the pueblo. The tour started at the Iglesia de San Geronimo (Church of Saint Jerome). The current version of which was built is 1850. The previous building had been destroyed by American troops after an uprising by Natives and Mexicans against the American occupation. The thirty-minute tour was led by a young woman who was born and raised on the reservation. We walked among the adobe buildings while hearing about the history of pueblo. Our guide answered questions about life on the reservation, and about the construction and maintenance of the structures. One thing that she would not speak about was their traditional religious ceremonies. The people of Taos Pueblo are very private about that part of their lives.

After the tour we were encouraged to walk around and explore the pueblo, with proviso of respecting areas that were marked as private. Many people run businesses out fo their apartments, selling jewelry and art, or food. I enjoyed a traditional fry-bread, and bought some earrings for The Amazing Ms. D.


The town of Taos was established by Spanish settlers in 1615. It became part of the United States territories in 1848 after the Mexican-American War. Historically, Taos is remembered as home to Kit Carson, who commanded Union Army troops during the Cvili War, and in campaigns against the Apache and Navajo Indians.

For those interested in art, Taos is best known for the Taos Society of Artists, founded in 1915. The town became a Mecca for artists in the early 20th century. Many famous artists either spent time or moved there, including Georgia O’Keefe and Ansel Adams.

Today Taos still draws artists and photographers. It is filled with galleries, and is home to several excellent museums. One that I visited is the Taos Art Museum, in the Nicolai Fechin House. Nicolai Fechin (1881-1955) was born in Russia, where he studied painting at the Imperial Academy of Art. He moved to the U.S., with his wife Alexandra and his daughter Eya, in 1923, and after developing tuberculosis, came to Taos. They purchased a house, which Nicolai preceded to renovate. He was a master wood carver, and his work is visible throughout the building. The Taos Art Museum is home to a collection of works by artists who lived in Taos during the Early 20th century.

Eya by Nicolai Fechin

Wood Cabinet by Nicolai Fechin

Balinese Dancer by Nicolai Fechin
Juan Braiding by Marjorie Eaton

Another wonderful museum to see is the the Harwood Museum of Art, which is part of the University of New Mexico. The Harwood collection goes beyond the Taos Art Colony to include Native, Hispanic and American artists from throughout the towns history up to current times. When I visited the main exhibition was a Judy Chicago collection titled “The Birth Project.”

Baking Bread by Susan Folney

Creation of the World I by Judy Chicago and others

Taos is a wonderful place to visit when you come to New Mexico. You can celebrate art, history and Indian culture. You can also enjoy nature, with hikes in the mountains surrounding the town. So make the drive up from Albuquerque and Santa Fe. You won’t be disappointed.

Nuts and Bolts:

Taos Pueblo - Open M-Sa 8-4:30, Su 8:30-4:30. Admission: Adult $16/ Seniors and Students $14. Taos Pueblo is subject to unannounced closures for religious activities. Call ahead.

Taos Art Museum - Open T-Su 11-4. Admission: Adults $10/ Seniors $9/ Students $8

Harwood Museum of Art - Open T-F 10-5; Sa&Su - 12-5. Admission: Adults $10/ Seniors and Students $8