Big Stink Down in the Subway

Who doesn’t enjoy a rousing No Good Deed Goes Unpunished story? I find them irresistible.

With all good intentions, the city launched a print ad campaign in the subways targeting teens. The ads warn about the hazards of an unplanned pregnancy. The tone of the campaign is a bit harsh and it caused an immediate backlash. The ads feature weeping children hectoring their moms about how miserable their lives are going to be because they had them as a teen.

The mayor’s office said the intention was to send a strong message that teen pregnancy has negative, life-altering consequences. It sure does! Planned Parenthood was furious. They released a statement saying the ads stigmatize teenage parents and their children and reinforced negative stereotypes about teen moms.


(I’ll vouch for the statement above. It’s a fact!) This one is my absolute favorite. Imagine you’re a pregnant teen and just want to take the R train to 34th Street. You board, someone gives you their seat because of your delicate condition, you look up and see this:


 That’s right, girl. He gonna dump yo pregnant ass. And teen dads aren’t spared either, although I’m pretty sure a 17-year old boy with raging hormones is wholly unaffected by this threat.


Further, Planned Parenthood said, “It’s not teen pregnancies that cause poverty, but poverty that causes teen pregnancy.” I’m not so sure I agree with that. The area of Cleveland I grew up in wasn’t poverty stricken by any means, but it certainly wasn’t a wealthy community and teen pregnancy wasn’t a problem. Is it an economic issue or is it a lifestyle/cultural issue? Dare to speak what’s on your mind.

*     *     *

Bonus pic from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Here’s Constantin Brancusi’s beautiful marble sculpture Bird in Space from 1923. It’s framed by two Max Beckman paintings in the background. I’ve developed a real affinity for the German Expressionists. Ernst Kirchner did some pretty interesting things.


The Tale of the Ugly American

Each summer, The Metropolitan Museum of Art sponsors a site-specific instillation on their roof. Most of them have been pretty satisfying affairs. The best of the lot was Doug + Mike Stern’s Big Bambú in 2010. Roxy Paine’s Maelstrom in 2009 worked for me, as well.

I read the description of The Roof Garden Commission: Imran Qureshi, this year’s installation, and my enthusiasm was dampened. I am not a fan of political art. The collision of politics and art rarely works for me. The political message almost always sucks the life out of whatever artistic merit a piece might have. I usually end up feeling harangued.

This year, Pakistani artist Imran Qureshi’s work is said to be an emotional response to the violence in Lahore, where he lives. He’s painted a landscape across the stone floor. The images of red foliage is meant to reflect Central Park. Using red acrylics, detailed, delicate leaves were painstakingly, drawn across a huge span of the floor.

photo-22 photo-12

But when you pull back, what you see is the foliage dissolving into splatters of blood.


What I suddenly realized is that for many people, this degree of horrific violence is an everyday occurrence. I found myself unexpectedly overwhelmed and quite moved. My preconceived notions about pedantic political art, not to mention my lamentations about my daily commute, were turned to dust.


After I left the museum I was pretty rattled. If you have an ounce of compassion for innocents who suffer, you can’t help but to be moved. I was wondering how the piece is being received by the media so while riding the 5th Avenue bus downtown, I looked up the review in the New York Times. Mid-column I read this:

“A curious, illustrative thing happened on the day of my visit to the Met. Across the terrace I saw a large man lying face down on the stained floor pretending to be a bombing victim as his wife and several children laughed and took pictures. Then the kids piled on top of him in a heap of chortling bodies.

I was chatting with Sheena Wagstaff, the Met’s chief curator of modern and contemporary art and the exhibition’s organizer, and we were dumbfounded. Ms. Wagstaff went over to ask the man what he was thinking. She reported back that he said, ‘A sick sense of humor runs in the family.'”

I raged as I re-read these paragraphs over and over again. I’m basically a pencil pusher. I’ve had exactly ONE fight my entire life ONE! I was in sixth grade. I’m so complaisant and prone to run from a fight that sometimes I worry that I have low testosterone. But I kept thinking that if I had see this unfold in front of me I’d have snapped and kicked him right in his sick sense of humor. In front of his family. Then I realized that this piece was inspired by witnessing acts of violence! Are we all monsters inside?

Daughter in a Maelstrom

On a summer day/evening, the best view in town is from the roof garden of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. You can look over the tree canopy of Central Park to the west, some of the most expensive real estate on the planet along 5th Avenue to the east and the Manhattan skyline to the south. It’s a pretty site.

As if that weren’t enough, every summer, the Met hosts a spectacular sculpture exhibit. Last year is was a set of playful sculptures by Jeff Koons.


I took daughter to the roof for this year’s exhibit, the appropriately named Maelstrom by Roxy Paine. It’s a series of polished metal tree branches that twist and snake over the expanse of the roof.


I wondered what the perception was for someone half my size. I watched her walk around the perimeter of the sculpture and then inside and it really did seem to consume her.


The exhibit runs through late November, so if you’re going to be in town or are just a subway ride away (Jason/Leah) it’s worth the trip. Just don’t go on Friday night. It’s packed with after-work office drones who just want to drink and hook up. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but it tends to spoil the experience. I’m not sure the Friday night crowd cares about the art so much. They seem distracted.

Here’s a very cool video of the installation.