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SistersIn 2011 I watched a movie on cable TV called Sisters. It’s a very early (1973) Brian DePalma thriller/murder-mystery about a local Staten Island journalist (played by Jennifer Salt) who sees a murder from her apartment window—my apartment window!

Well, my apartment window or the window of one of the other five apartments directly above or below me. What a strange experience to watch an actress (in my living room) look out a window (in my living room) while I’m sitting in said living room. I couldn’t believe my eyes, so I kept watching for clues to location. Was it really my apartment? Soon enough I see the actress leave through the front door of my apartment building and get into her car on my street. (more…)

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Photo of urns created by Sheri Mendelson. New York artists Barbara Lubliner, Bernard Klavickas, Shari Mendelson, Janet Nolan, Olivia Kaufman-Rovira, Ilene Sunshine and Tyrome Tripoli are upcyclers. They turn garbage into art. Upcycling, according to wikipedia, is “the process of converting waste materials…into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value.” The term is on everyone’s lips these days—and why not? With increasing numbers of shopping bags flapping in trees and plastic six-pack yokes skittering down streets, it shouldn’t surprise us that environmental detritus would get funneled through the creative process as often as the recycling plant. (more…)

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Happy news! Artists and the people who love them meet at last, on mutual ground. No more stark, unfriendly gallery spaces where some intern behind the front desk refuses to acknowledge your arrival. No more standing around at openings with a plastic cup of lousy wine in one hand and a gussied-up Ritz cracker in the other, hoping for a chance to speak with the artist. No more stratospheric prices that make you feel like a dwarf star in the vast art world universe. Really? Really! (more…)

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Sounds carry historical and political significance, even when they are intended as pure entertainment. Alternative meanings shimmer just beneath the surface as accepted meanings—safer meanings—give way to the attentive listener. Consider the sound of fireworks. According to Wikipedia, fireworks “were originally invented in ancient China in the 12th century to scare away evil spirits, as a natural extension of the Chinese invention of gunpowder.”

In the twenty-first century, fireworks and other forms of explosive entertainment continue to fulfill their ancient mandate to scare away “evil spirits.” When we pack a blanket and join our family and friends on the beach to experience the fireworks, we banish loneliness, depression and tiredness, as well as our anxieties about the economy, our worries about the country’s values and the concerns we have about the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (more…)

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thiebaud_cakesA commercial display of baked goods is an art form built on the strategic use of separation.

Example: We step from the mean streets of our little town or big city into a store scented with vanilla, cinnamon and coffee, pull a tiny paper ticket from a stingy red dispenser and read the number that tells us… nothing, really, except that we must be patient. We are. We take our place among the many suitors craning to see the confectionery vision laid before us. Glittering gustatorial gems are staged in Busby Berkeley arrangements on gold foil laminated cardboard platters and white paper doilies.

When we finally reach the front of the line we bend down to peer through the glass encasement—the border fence, the high wall between us and our object of desire. Trays and rows of frosted, sprinkled, drizzled, confettied, and powdered morsels tease our eye and our pallet. (more…)

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n516515620_8993I took this photograph with my cell phone a couple of months ago, at a local Staten Island diner. It is not an unusual scene in a diner. The monster cookies. I was enamored of their inflated forms piled high on a metal pedestal. Who eats these cookies? Does anyone? Does anyone eat the lemon meringue pies with the fake egg white swirl that’s higher than Elvis’ hair? I’ve never seen a person eat a slice from one of those pies. Do the same cookies and pies stay in their respective spots, uneaten, forever? Are they immortal props that complete the “authentic” diner experience? Maybe they were bought 25 years ago when the diner first opened and have stuck around ever since — dusted occasionally — along with the framed first fiver over the cashier’s counter. (more…)

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jjustillPresident Obama brings out the best in everybody! (Well, almost everybody.) This is especially evident in the creative community. It’s no secret that visual artists have been particularly captivated by Obama’s message and visage. But they are not alone. It seems that writers, poets, composers and musicians have been inspired as well.

I was happy to hear “Praise Song for Day” read by poet Elizabeth Alexander during the inaugural ceremony yesterday. It wasn’t the strongest poem I’ve ever heard but she did take up the limitations of language itself — a worthy topic for any self-respecting poet. It certainly was stronger and more well-crafted than Maya Angelou’s poem for President Bill Clinton. (more…)

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