Category Archives: look

look: i see a red chair and i want to paint it black

Because why should I be the only one with that song stuck in my head for days? Thanks for nothing, Cousin Mick.*

So, these chairs. I picked them up–back when they were purple–from the street the first year of grad school, horrifying my suburban roommate. I cleaned them up, and my room for years was green and this sort of deep pinkish mauve. Then a few years later I painted them red, using leftover paint from our kitchen, and then yesterday I painted them black. Perhaps this is the inevitable sombering & darkening passage of time, or perhaps we just had too many colors going on in the living room, and much as I love the classic bentwood shape of these chairs, my patchy red-on-purple paint job was beginning to wear. So $17 later, we had a quart of glossy black paint (specially designed for painting over multiple layers of paint – Rustoleum brand, I believe) a brush, a sheet of sandpaper (the sanding was cursory at best) and then, a little later, these:


Please to excuse crappy iPad photography. But trust me, they are much better, and basically indistinguishable from these hundred-dollar bad boys from Crate & Barrel:

cb chair

Thank you, bountiful person of 112th Street. I like “free” much better. And I don’t mind a few brush strokes.

*Cousin Mick = Mick Jagger, my dad’s second cousin. For real!

love: engineering prints

Most of the many hours I spend on design-porn websites are totally wasted – I’m only juuust getting the hang of Pinterest to actually store the images I like (follow me? I guess?) and most of the time it’s procrastination, pure & simple. But occasionally something will stick with me, usually if it’s ingenious and crazy cheap. Like engineering prints! These are giant black & white prints for drafting, architectural/engineering plans, etc, but they also work for black & white photos, if they are pretty bold and contrasty. They are available at Staples, and cost less than a pint. I first saw a DIY of these here, via one of the sites I regularly visit (How About Orange) here, I think, then was reminded of them by a post on Jenny Komenda’s interior design site Little Green Notebook. With the added bonus idea of… foam core display board. No frame required! For our dark hallway, it was perfect. Here’s the finished object sitting (stylishly) above our bikes:


So, I converted one of our wedding photos to b/w and upped the contrast a bit, then uploaded it to the Staples website (there’s an option for “engineering prints” under Copy & Print > Banners & Signs) and chose the biggest option, 36×48 in. It was…. $7.86. A few minutes later (seriously, go Staples) I got an email to say it was ready.

One trip to Staples and a little less than $25 later, we had the print, a 30x40in piece of black foam core for another $7, a roll of double-sided tape and a pack of Command velcro picture-hanging strips. The assistant at the copy center chopped the big white borders off our print for nothing, and they came in at almost exactly the size of our board. We took it home, carefully attached the print to the board with tape, and hung it with the strips – and it looks pretty great. (Now, to do something about the ugly yellow-beige wall paint… baby steps.)

Here’s a closer look. It helps that the photo, taken by Sarah, is so great.


explore: do it (outside)

It’s hotter than balls in New York right now, but it’s cooler by the river, in the evening, if you can fight off the bugs. I’m writing a piece for my dear friend Ali’s fantastic online art review Artvehicle about the current exhibition at Socrates Sculpture Park (which will have a more decorous lede) so this evening I walked down there to take some pictures. I’ve written about Socrates many times before, and it might be my favorite outdoor space in the city. I love the combination of a community-minded space and a genuine curatorial vision; I love being able to visit a farmer’s market in an outdoor gallery, and I love the juxtaposition of picnic space, views of the city, and weird, challenging, quirky, colossal, and silly art.

Here were some of my favorite pieces from the main show, Do It (Outside), conceived and curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, which presents a series of instructions from artists on how to create a piece of art, which cannot be permanent and must be dismantled at the end of the show. It raises all sorts of questions about creation vs. “realization,” and highlights the importance of space, collaboration, serendipity… plus, there’s candy (courtesy of Felix Gonzalez-Torres) and lounge chairs.  Continue reading

look: hello Columbus

If you’re in New York, you still have a few days left to visit Signor Columbus at home. It’s a bit of a climb, but worth it for the wallpaper.

The Public Art Fund is behind Tatzu Nishi’s whimsical, perspective-upending “Discovering Columbus,” in which the artist has enclosed the weathered old statue in a reasonably ritzy apartment in the sky. Usually exposed to the weather, the old sea dog, hand on his tiller, is temporarily aloft on his own coffee table, while visitors admire his bookshelves, furniture, and enviable view. You’re not allowed to touch him (or borrow his copy of the Steve Jobs biography) but you can get pretty comfortable, and forget you’re standing on a platform wrapped around a 75ft-high column.

Before long Columbus’s real-estate-obsessed guests settle into the same conversations they adopt in any stranger’s apartment: where did he score that vintage leather chair? What’s his taste in books? Is that wallpaper custom? And most importantly – how much do you think he pays for a place like this?

Go speculate before December 2nd, by reserving your tickets here.

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look: roman tragedies

So thanks to my wonderful, culturally savvy compadre Susan, I was lucky enough to go to the mind-blowing Roman Tragedies at BAM last night: a spectacular six-hour production of Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, and Antony and Cleopatra, staged by Toneelgroep Amsterdam and the director Ivo van Hove. Yes that’s right. Six hours. In Dutch.




Continue reading

look: brooklyn botanical garden

A few photos from after the hurricane and before the snowstorm, a brief lull of mild fall weather in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. All taken with my 50mm/1.8 lens, in late-afternoon sunshine. Happy autumn.

look: after the superstorm

I sincerely hope these don’t become annual posts.

Hurricane/Superstorm/Frankenstorm Sandy pounded the east coast yesterday, and much of the city is underwater, without power, or otherwise struggling, so we are extremely grateful for our high ground in Astoria and the large local contingent of dedicated small businesses, most of which are up and running, if they ever closed. There was a line outside Bareburger this afternoon (Tuesday) waiting for tables. We’re not going to go hungry, and save for a little light-flickering anxiety, we were able to eat, drink, and watch weather-disaster-porn in safety and comfort. The best collection of pictures of the storm’s impact in NYC and surrounding areas is here, via the inimitable Alan Taylor.

Here are a few pictures of the aftermath in the neighborhood. It’s cold and blustery out, but dry, and things are getting back to normal. I have a new camera lens, too, a manual-focus 50mm/1.8 which I LOVE and am trying to master. Here goes:

Worst downed-tree damage I saw – 31st Avenue

More common sight: leaf litter & general mess. 31st Avenue

Skies clearing over 30th Avenue

The Apple House still open for business

Sandbags and tarp outside the Academy for New Americans

Tree down across the street from us, 30th Drive

look: don’t call him a dissident

The lives of Chinese artists are marked by remarkable multiplicity and confusion, change and disorder, doubt and destructiveness, a loss of self and the emptiness that follows, hopelessness and its attendant freedom, shamelessness and its accompanying pleasures.
– Ai Weiwei’s Blog

I had the pleasure of seeing the fantastic documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry at the IFC Center this week, and writing a roundup of books on the artist & his work for Biographile, a beautifully curated new site focused on biography and memoir. Before going in I didn’t know much about Ai Weiwei, who strides through this film like some kind of ancient statue come to life, and frankly, I expected it to be a worthy but not especially fun hour and a half.  I couldn’t have been more wrong. Here’s the trailer:

Continue reading

look: historic pool photograph

Astoria Pool, summer 1940

This is my current desktop image. I love all the high-waisted swimsuits. And that beautiful bridge? I’m planning to get married underneath it, in the park just a little beyond the pool.  (I wrote about the pool, in its modern dress, last summer.)


look: a grown-up film for grown-up people

We went to see “The Artist” last night at the Paris Theatre, the beautiful old single-screen cinema on 58th Street at the southeastern corner of Central Park, opposite the Plaza and the glass-cube Apple store, a corner that smells of horse dung and money. As Joe Queenan put it in this 2008 Times article about its 60th anniversary, ‘The Paris also has an understatedly elegant décor and does not cater to Irony Vixens who think that watching Icelandic films makes them morally superior to truck drivers.’ Indeed. Plus, it has a balcony!

For all these reasons it was the perfect venue to watch the film that’s going to get Oscar nominations, tons of press and a backlash, but for now let’s just enjoy. Since words like “whimsical” and “charming” usually make me run a mile, I’ll try to avoid them – and besides, the film is so inventive and elegant and grown-up it deserves more respect. It’s also proof that it’s possible to make a film that you could take your grandmother or your eight-year-old son to see and be pretty sure that they’d both love it. Here’s the trailer. But see the film: