Bright, Floating Buses of Skeletons: The Paradox of the East Village

Rick Prol-1

Part of the charm of the East Village lies in the paradoxical nature of its identity. It’s defining characteristic is the struggle to maintain its 1980’s, “authentic” version of itself. There’s this angst associated with the nostalgia of the area. Veteran storekeepers and residents proclaim “…it’s not the same anymore” or “…it’s changed so much, I don’t recognize it.” This mournful description has become part of the neighborhood’s identity, and a badge of honor worn by card-carrying tasters and makers of the original neighborhood flavor. The result is an interesting mosaic of art, culture and attitudes quite distinct to the area between 1st and 14th Street, from 1st Avenue to the East River.

The Dorian Grey Gallery, a tiny space on 9th Street, is currently showing works by Rick Prol – dubbed the “Veteran of Gothic Angst” by Art in America. The exhibition presents a dark, macabre look at the neighborhood from above and within. Floating buses of skeletons amidst a Manhattan sky and cramped, decrepit one-room apartments paint a picture that’s as off-putting as it is romantically-nostalgic…and pride-inducing. The scenes are depressing yet vibrant at the same time. It’s an interesting juxtaposition and captures the old East Village brilliantly.

We’re all headed on a floating bus to death. Yet we are doing so in one of the coolest, most culturally-influential neighborhoods in one of the world’s most culturally-influential cities. Yes, there’s a 7-Eleven on 11th and Avenue A, but there’s also Empire Biscuit 2 blocks north, with its friendly husband-wife pair serving an exotic menu of sweet and savory biscuit-sandwiches, with an impressive variety of cheeses and jellies (try the Snuggaboo!). Yes, the Annual Tompkins Square Park Dog Halloween Parade now has a commercial sponsor (Purina), but it makes for an even bigger celebration of the creative and compassionate dog-lover community, that it’s hard to see a downside beyond the principle. Artists like Rick Prol preserve the paradox of the East Village, and its struggle between mourning and appreciation for the old and the new, preservation and flux. At least, that’s my interpretation. Live in the area? Would love to hear your take.


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How to Write For the Web: A Haiku

Web writing is weird:
Social, blogs, website copy.
I get to write for work.

Since we all do it,
We all think we do it well.
Yet this is not true.

Long Facebook posts…and
Overly wordy blog posts…
Boring and dull tweets.

Avoid filler words.
Learn how to use a comma.
Maybe try spell check.

Sorry I’m a bitch;
Actually I’m not sorry.
Please learn how to write.

Read more, to improve.
Not for vocabulary,
But for style and voice.

Read Copyblogger.
Use as few words as you can.
Know that less is more.

“Yeah, but SEO!
You need more content to rank!”
NO. You need readers.

Return visitors.
To show actual value,
Have something to say.

Say it well – and quick.
Ain’t no one’s got time for FLUFF.
Spit it out. EDIT.

Have someone else look.
Cut out half of what you wrote.
Keep it short and sweet.

Writing for the web
Is more than Facebook posting.
OK, everyone?

Possible Alternative Titles for My Blog

Help me pick a title for my blog. OK? We don’t even know each other and I’m seriously going to consider your suggestion as though it were my own. That’s how much I hate making decisions. 

This evening I ate a large Italian dinner with my family and I feel fat and sassy and not in the mood to write. Yet I promised myself I’d write every day for NaBloPoMo and since I already missed about 1/3 of the days, I’m going to go ahead and get this list of potential blog titles out of my head and onto this magic screen:

  • Someone Who Watches a Lot of Law & Order SVU
  • The Tale of the Social Media Specialist with Social Anxiety and Other Horror Stories
  • Thoughts From My Couch and Other Unoriginal Titles
  • How to Write a Shitty Blog Title, by Mostly Everyone
  • My Daily Reason for Hating the Entire World Including Myself
  • Contradictions, Opposites and Vertigo
  • Why I Wish Olivia Benson Would Comfort Me After a Hard Day of Work
  • Steppenchik (like Steppenwolf but a GIRL)
  • Will Change Soon (same idea as Title Under Construction; symbolizes both a lack of commitment and a dangerously open mind)
  • The Fated Urchin (both a pun and a tattoo)
  • Blah Blah Blah
  • Burp
  • This Is The Worst Blog Post Ever
  • Don’t Hate Me (Or Unfollow Me)
  • These Aren’t Even Titles, They’re Literally Just Thoughts Written in Bullet Form with Capitalization

What do you think? Some of these are jokes but some are dead serious. OK thanks bye!

The Brooklyn Night Bazaar: Tagging Nostalgia

Brooklyn Night Bazaar

At the Brooklyn Night Bazaar the other night, I traveled to Thailand, Berlin and Israel. Three places I’ve actually visited relatively recently. You walk into this warehouse in Williamsburg, where illuminated paper lanterns on the ceiling offer a warm glow to a large, one-room space. Aisles of vendors extend back into the darkness.

A dark-light miniature golf course with celebrity cardboard cut-outs sits to your left. To the right is an art installation in another room with ping-pong tables in the middle. “Never-ending trails of color” create a 4-wall, floor-to-ceiling graffiti piece by Brazilian artist Raphael a.k.a. SLIKS. His work comes from a lifelong sense of loneliness. Puma sponsors the exhibit, and there are glass cases of brightly-colored sneakers which add a dash of corporate flavor to the site. Instagram is in full use, with iPhone users snapping photos from creative angles. They’re tagging photos of tagging. How meta.

Night Markets in Thailand

I felt pretentious telling my friends how much the place reminded me of the night markets in Thailand; in Chang Mai, where the biggest night market stretches for what feels like miles; or in Pai, where the night market is more manageable in size but not in terms of the endless variety of creative wares, produced by artisans and craftsman you hope are local. (It was a running joke, seeing the same fabric elephant coin purse at literally every market and souvenir store across 3 different South Eastern countries. The first time I encountered the elephant, the woman selling it said “I make, I sew.” My travel companion and I loved commenting on how well that woman must have been doing, to have such a robust distributor network.)

Bars in Berlin  

A beer garden shoots off the main room, where low wooden tables sit facing a white wall loosely covered in black-outline illustrations. The casual intersection of art and alcohol and the reminded me of a 5-story place in Berlin calledTachlas. The place is covered floor to ceiling in decades of graffiti, with 5 different types of music on each floor and a sand-covered outdoor beer garden on the bottom level.

Street Art in Tel Aviv

We left the bazaar and walked down a quiet street. The light of a street lamp illuminated a drawing of a crouched, girl-like figure done on the side of the 2nd story of a building – and for a second I felt like I was in Jaffa. The quiet road, the ubiquity of art in odd places, the subdued yet powerful presence of an underground art scene brought me back to the backstreets of industrial, southern Tel Aviv.

Brooklyn Street Art

These comparisons and memories and nostalgia all feel good and bad at the same time. I make these comparisons yet don’t know for what purpose, or what to do with them. My gut reaction is to share them with others, yet I instantly feel pretentious; “Have any of you ever been to Thailand?” is a question usually met with silence.

The silence echoes inside my own head as I ask myself what to do with those comparisons and memories. Tagging them – on Instagram and my blog – makes them seem captured and categorized.

 

The Art of Promoting Others’ Art

Image

Israeli multi-media artist Oum Kultuv

I’ve had an idea for about 6 months but haven’t done much about it. Now I’ll write about it on my BLOG on the INTERNET so that it comes TRUE or at least CLOSER TO TRUE. Stop yelling at you? No. Read on.

There are parts of Marketing I like: creating compelling content – both visuals and copy. Static copy (websites, ads, emails) is more rewarding and interesting than the transient channels of social media and blogging. But all of these buzzwords really blend together and you can theoretically call all of this and none of this “marketing”, “branding”, “advertising” and “business development”.

I encounter an artist with an incredible vision, body of work and voice. This person has a Facebook page, isn’t on Etsy and doesn’t know how to effectively “market” themselves. Then I appear, in a ray of sunlight wearing a black pantsuit but some edgy accessories. I’m here to make you internet famous – at least, as famous as your art allows you to be.

I want your art to speak for itself. But I want to give it a microphone.

$100 Million in Life Advice

Today I learned some valuable life advice tonight at a celebration in honor of Wix’ IPO, at their NY office. Lots of the original employees from the Israeli office were there. I wound up smoking on the roof with a bunch of the senior developers (felt just like old times) and one of them gave me some really legit advice on leading a balanced life:

  1. Find something you don’t despise doing and aren’t morally opposed to. This can be your job. Or, you can work at a gas station.
  2. Set strict limits on how much of your time/energy is devoted to work (sorry Joe, my manager, if you’re reading this-slash-obviously you’re reading this you love me hello hi I’m coming in late as usual) but make the most of that time and work smartly and quickly.
  3. Work on art projects with other people. It will force you to complete things, is a valuable learning experience and can be extremely rewarding.
  4. Do small, hassle-free things you enjoy during wait times, at work, etc.  like 5-minute sketches

This came from someone with 30 years of development experience (or maybe 12, one or the other). OK sleep time bye.

The Anxiety of An Artist Who Doesn’t Create

“From the point of view of one who creates, everything is a gamble, a leap into the unknown.”

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama wrote this in her autobiography, Infinity Net. She’s an 80+ year old Japanese artist of international fame, who made a name for herself in New York during the 60’s as “doyenne of the counter-cultural art scene”. After returning to Japan in the 70’s, she checked herself into a psychiatric hospital in Tokyo where she currently lives – and continues to produce art that’s shown worldwide.

Artist autobiographies are powerful pieces of literature. Perhaps the strongest type there is, when it comes to escaping one’s self by identifying with the thoughts of another. Vincent Van Gogh’s letters to his brother and Yayoi Kusama’s book are the two works I’ve read in recent years, and each one resonated with me in a way that may or may not be healthy. Obviously these are two individuals who were as dark and tormented on the inside as they are brilliant and electric on the outside. Both suffer(ed) from psychiatric stress, yet both created such expressive and magnificent artwork despite (or because) of this disposition. This dichotomy is overwhelmingly encouraging to me.

All the anxiety I have about the unknown, the time it would take to create truly remarkable art, to get back into the practice, to set aside time to be alone and nurture my creativity for no purpose other than to nurture my self…I’m encouraged to transform the anxiety into something remarkable. I know I have the energy in me just swirling around with no place to go – a kettle of  water on the stove, screaming that it’s boiling and has been for years.

I remember in college leaving art class on Thursday evenings and heading toward my car, excited to spend the night at home pouring over a piece I felt was on its way while my friends went out clubbing or bar-hopping. Staying in — staying inside my mind — was more satisfying to me than going out. Not necessarily more “fun”, but definitely more interesting and more important feeling. I have something great bubbling inside of me waiting to get out and this blog is sort of the prelude to whatever that is.

I do know this: it’s not to be found on social media. It’s somewhere inside my own mind, in my own space.

As Kusama said:

Before and after creating a work I fall ill, menaced by obsessions that crawl through my body – although I cannot say whether they come from inside or outside of me.