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Staten Island, New York, United States

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Creative Process: Making Miniature Tango Collages for Holiday Fairs

I've been spending all my energy the last two weeks, with time out for Thanksgiving, on creating collages for local holiday art fairs. I've been focusing on making tiny collages, 4"x4", using the same methods and images of tango dancing that I use in my slightly larger collages. As is always the case in any creative process, I've noticed some interesting developments.

getting small collages ready for holiday fairs in my studio
I find I really like working on this scale. When I shrink the paper lithographs (a fine art process using etching inks and xeroxes as the printing plates) down, the line details show up and I can frame them and focus the eye in a more simple way. Also, I have a tendency towards "more is more" and often get bogged down in applying multiple layers when the image isn't developing well. With the small pieces, I don't feel bad about tossing the piece aside if it's not successful. And, anyway, I can always turn it over and use the back side. I use very high quality heavy paper so that it can stand up to collaging different weights and textures of material and I prepare both sides of the paper so that it will stay as flat as possible. I learned all these collaging techniques from Miriam Shapiro when I was her studio assistant in the '80's. I'll write more about that in another blog entry.

Collages #110 and #111,  tango shoes from patterned paper
The materials I'm using for the small work has changed slightly, too. I have been collecting images and decorative papers for years.  I've had some scraps of handmade decorative papers from my friends at Four Hands Design Studios here on Staten Island http://www.sagereynolds.com/paste. The scraps are from papers often used in hand bookbinding. Sage and Colman at Four Hands have impeccable craftsmanship and color sense, so the papers are very precious. I find that the patterns in the paper, scaled to the intimacy of a book, work well in these collages. I especially had fun using my cuticle scissors to cut out tiny shoes from them, in combination with some origami paper. Okay - full disclosure - I was also influenced here by my first adventure in scrapbooking at a recent baby shower for a friend. THAT was fun - sitting in a room surrounded by beautiful patterned papers and new artmaking tools, all available for us to play with. I mean, all available for us to create a meaningful gift for our friend.
Collage #120, using envelope

I have another friend, Phyllis Forman, who makes the most exuberant and original collages and assemblages, all from discarded materials. She has been using her junk mail as raw material for years. Lately, inspired by Phyllis, I have incorporated some envelope linings from my own junk mail that have beautiful colors and patterns. I am also recycling my old prints and collages that haven't worked in whole, but that have some small parts that I can use.

All of this flurry of activity is in preparation for a couple of holiday fairs on Staten Island that I am doing in December. The first is this Saturday, Dec. 3 at the Noble Maritime Collection  at Snug Harbor (see flier below) and the second will be at the JCC on Dec. 11.  I wanted to have a new product that was even more affordable than my $60 collages. These mini pieces will sell for $23 unframed. And, as with all my collages, each one is handmade and unique. NO computer-generated images here! If I'm successful, I may add this size to my Etsy shop as well. http://www.etsy.com/people/DeniseMummArt

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Visiting Editions/Artists' Book Fair in NYC

I visited the Editions/Artists' Book Fair on Friday evening, Nov. 4 at the invitation of my friend, Susan Happersett. She makes books with Purgatory Pie Press and was at their booth. 
The fair's website http://www.eabfair.com gives a complete listing of all the participants and a little background information about the fair. The little catalogues given away at the door are beautiful objects themselves, even moreso than those for the big splashy art fairs. In addition to having an image for each exhibitor, they contain a helpful description of their mission and focus.
 Green Topia Chairs by Barbara Gallucci
The moment I stood in the doorway I remembered how impressed I had been with the quality of the art the last time I had visited. There is a wide variety of styles, scale, and approaches to books and multiples,  but the craftsmanship and originality was inspiring and reassuring to me. I could very much feel the hand of the artist throughout. Despite the technology available to us to create masses of multiples, I'm very happy to see that the traditional methods of production are thriving, that artists find them relevant and also find ways to be innovative with them.

I stopped at the booth for the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop. The first thing I did was poke (with permission) at the odd cast-paper catfish "nests" that Willie Birch had made from real catfish nests in his backyard. 

The second thing that caught my eye were some prints made by Chakaia Booker. I'm a great admirer of her sculpture made from castoff tires. My printmaking teacher, Herman Zaage, had said that sculptors make some of the best printmakers and I think these prints proved that. The Workshop representative shared with me the approach that Chakaia and the printshop worked through so that she could be comfortable in the printmaking process. The resulting prints look "built", with fluid embossed lines and chine colle elements in addition to the printed lines. A picture of them would not catch the subtleties.

I remember meeting Bob Blackburn when I was working at the Bernice Steinbaum Gallery in the eighties. He came to an opening for Faith Ringgold. He had done a series of prints about war with Faith in the sixties and I believe that was Faith's first printmaking experience. He was a printmaking evangelist, approaching me as I worked behind the gallery desk with a "you should come over and make some prints". The Workshop carries on his mission of helping artists discover something new about artmaking through making prints.

Kristen Martincic's work is in the middle booth,
with her old fashioned swimsuit print/sculpture.
Another booth that grabbed my attention was The Print Center. They were featuring simple, quiet iconographic prints that were really sculptures by the artist Kristen Martincic. In addition to her delicate paper swimsuit in this picture, she was showing some small printed "pillows", 3" in diameter, that were intricate and masterfully executed monotypes printed on rice paper and then stuffed. They were priced at an incredible $110 each. See more about this artist at http://printcenterstore.myshopify.com/collections/martincic.   But, you have to see these pillows in person.

My next stop was to see my friend Susan Happersett at Purgatory Pie Press. Susan makes math-based art. See her work here http://www.happersett.com/home. She shared some books she had made, completely by hand, which included complex original drawings based on chaos theory. She also pointed out some lovely new handprinted postcards by Dikko Faust, one of which had a dizzyingly intricate pattern of circles on it. Purgatory Pie uses a letterset press to produce their material. Check them out here  http://www.purgatorypiepress.com/.

My parting glance of the fair was a wall-sized print created out of variable modules by Daniel Heyman. It's a commentary on war and a very ambitious project. I was drawn to it because of the rough quality of the print, with a woodgrain background. It was well positioned on a back wall and a fitting parting tribute to a fair that features artists pushing the envelope through editions and books.

Where Photographers are Blinded, Eagles' Wings are Clipped, at left, by Daniel Heyman

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tango Collage Suitcase Show & Sale: July 22 at Triangulo, NYC

Next Friday July 22, from 4:30 to 8:30 pm I will be presenting another Suitcase Show & Sale. It will be held at the Afternoon Milonga at Triangulo, which is hosted by Maura and Richard. My tango collages and I will be ensconced in a corner of the room, some on the wall, and some in the antique suitcase I use for transportation and display.  All the collages are one of a kind. The prices range from $50 to $75. The Afternoon Milonga at Triangulo is my regular hangout on a Friday night and I'm so excited about sharing my art with all the friends I've made there.

This will be the second time I am bringing my collages directly to the NYC tango community. The first time was at the invitation of Anthony Blackwell. He asked me to show my work at his Monday night milonga, Casa de Tango. I was pleased to share my tango art with a tango audience, people I dance with  and talk to every week, but who  have no idea what else I do. Our conversations throughout the evening were about hand and feet positions, the importance of the embrace, and their own creative endeavors involving tango. They got the work in a way that my artist friends don't.
my setup at Casa de Tango
table with unfinished collages in my studio (fig tree outside window)
I've been furiously creating in the studio in the intervening time since the Casa show. I've been rummaging around in drawers, pulling out "bad" prints and partial prints that had the germ of an idea but were never developed. As I am thinking in terms of building a collage, these pieces look more like inspired jumping off points than failures.

I'm also doing new drawings, based on recent photos I've taken at Volvo Tango on the Christopher Street pier. That early evening milonga gives me a rare opportunity for  some well-lit photos of dancers.  I recycle images ad nauseam, giving myself permission to do that when I saw how Rauschenberg used the same images over and over, always making them fresh. Now I feel I've reached the point of saturation for the current set of images I've been using, so I want to refresh them with a whole new set.

(c)2011 Denise Mumm      
new drawing 
I'll make xeroxes of the drawings and then take them to the Noble Maritime Collection and use their etching press to crank out a series of paper lithograph images to use in collages. You can check out my website to see a series of process photos explaining the paper lithography process denisemumm.com . The website shows some pictures of finished collages like the small ones I am working on now. I am also selling the small collages at my Etsy shop DeniseMummArt

The Noble museum has been very welcoming, allowing me to use their press in between children's classes. When I go there, I bring along a variety of papers, some patterned, some colored. I also bring a lot of extra images, including some that are just patterns. The patterns I will print onto other patterned papers to use in building translucent layers, or onto a background surface to use as the bottom layer that will be built upon. I usually print for several hours and I never know what direction the session will take, so I try to come prepared for spontaneity, whether it comes from inspiration or failure.

I still have lots of collages to finish, mat, label and package for Friday, so I'd better get back to the studio!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Art on Staten Island: Lumen 2011

I had heard reports last year about Lumen, a multimedia arts installation festival,  from my friends. I live in the neighborhood where it was held and had stood outside the gates, pondering whether to go in or not. Nothing was visible from the street and I had just had news that my father was gravely ill, so was in no mood. I just went home.

So, I was determined to attend this year and see if it lived up to the hype. The publicity leading up to it was astonishing for a Staten Island art event. We are used to being overlooked by the mainstream media, despite a LOT of effort. The Daily News will cover us sometimes, but the NY Times sends us a Metropolitan section in our Sunday Times, which is all about New Jersey (?????) and NEVER includes Staten Island listings. However, this year Lumen was covered prominently not only in the NY Times (in a couple of places AND with a picture!), but also in Time Out New York. And those were only the items I saw.  The director of our arts council (COAHSI), Melanie Cohn, told me that it was due to the very hard work of two marketing interns from CSI. Kudos to them! 

Staten Island Ferry boats as seen from the neighboring pier.
Lumen took place from 6:00 pm to midnight. This being the time of the year with the longest days, that meant that this festival featuring projections and lights took place during some daylight hours. That gave us some time to check out the site itself, a nearly abandoned "public" space which includes a recently renovated pier with some public art, a couple of plaza areas with permanent tables and seats, several large fenced-off abandoned historical buildings that were to house the National Lighthouse Museum (now moribund) and one small but beautifully renovated building. This was the site for SICC's Art by the Ferry festival in 2010.

The Verrazano Bridge as seen from the pier.
The pier was the site for performance artists, although there was one lone dancer performing in the dark near the abandoned buildings. You never know, she could have been moved by the moment and the ambience and was actually a talented interloper. Anyway, I was more distracted by the view on the pier than the performance artists; one lounging in a tent, one getting her hair cut, another performing what looked like a Santeria ritual (I steered clear - the machete made me nervous).

Sculpture made from construction buckets

After the sun set, my sister (my companion for the evening) and I planted ourselves at one of the permanent tables and chairs. For the next hour or so, we just pivoted in our seats, taking in the action around us. We were perfectly situated to see several projections on both screens and buildings, a very effective but simple sculpture made from alternating red and white construction buckets, some costumed people and the crowd.

This woman had to have been influenced by Ana Mendieta
who did many "silhueta" installations. 
Ana was a grad student at the University of Iowa when I was an undergrad there. She was a big influence on my own work when I was exploring female empowerment images.

We were greatly entertained overhearing a 20 minute conversation between a young man with a cooler, trying to explain to his friends at the ferry how to reach the site. I was astonished that so many people actually managed to find their way to the site. Every obstacle possible is put in the way of the most direct route; blockaded areas, signs that say "danger", "no entry", narrow almost invisible passageways between fences, and car traffic from the ferry. Seriously. Only armed guards with guns could make it more intimidating (but they are usually in the ferry terminal itself). I digress . . . back to the festival.

On the walk back towards the ferry terminal there was an avenue of sorts, with installations at perfect intervals. I especially enjoyed the ones which used the buildings as part of the pieces.

Such a perfect evening and like all successful site-specific art pieces, it highlighted the site as much as the art. The only drawback was that it needed beer, as per last year. It was such a laid back hanging-out-on-a-Saturday-night kind of thing that beer would have made it perfect. This was a big topic of discussion among the friends we ran into throughout the night. The word was that the public organization that controls the site had given an ultimatum "Do you want beer or do you want a festival?" Too bad.

Many thanks to Ginger Lynne Shulick, curator, and to COAHSI for sponsoring this festival. LOTS of people, time, effort and dedication is necessary to pull an event of this scale off and make it a success. AND the luck of good weather!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Summer in NYC: Dancing Tango Outdoors

One of the perks of living in this city is all the free outdoor culture offered in the unique public spaces. I've only taken advantage of a couple of them this year, but the summer is still young.

The tango community moves outside in the summer.   Many of us are still mourning the original outdoor Milonga at the South Street Seaport. That was a victim of real estate-development, like so many other good things in this town. Also, I believe the Seaport Museum had something to do with the upkeep of the pier and they have fallen victim to the economy in recent years.

The rustic wooden surface of the pier was always a challenge to dance on, but became dangerous toward the end, with splinters and holes. But the ambience was hard to beat; the Brooklyn Bridge, the stately tall ship Peking docked next to us, the moon and the stars . . . all irresistible to people already under the romantic spell of the tango. Tango has its cliques, but EVERYONE showed up at the seaport.

My first outdoor milonga this year was at the Christopher Street pier. We dance there under a pavilion,which functions to contain the music, keeping it from drifting on the breeze out to the Hudson. 

The wood on this pier is new and we only have to worry about spiked heels getting caught between the boards and a little bit of slipping on the smooth surface. There's always a breeze off the Hudson to cool us down after the warmth of the sun, the exertion and the closeness of each other. 

When the sun sets (ah, the sunset) it cools down even more. The lights from the Lackawanna terminal in Hoboken, the Empire State Building, and The Statue of Liberty are all in view. 

Sometimes we are so taken with the ambience and good company we almost forget to dance.
This time at the pier I was happy to see that some of my regular "pier partners" were there. Some of them I only see at this milonga. Although we knew each other by sight, the names had slipped from memory and we had to re-synch our movements to each other.

The other outdoor milonga I love is at the Shakespeare statue in Central Park. I actually like the surface of the blocks for dancing, with just the right amount of traction. The area is usually swept clean and a little talcum powder applied. Sometimes a guitarist and bandoneon player provide us with music. The cool leafy surroundings and handy benches make it very inviting. Unfortunately, Saturdays are difficult for me to drag myself in for another day of commuting into Manhattan after what is usually a full day of running errands (which I do all on foot) and garden work.

This year there is a new outdoor milonga at Union Square Park. The reports have been positive and it sounds like everyone is showing up in the kind of numbers that used to frequent the seaport. I'm planning to check it out this weekend. I'll do a report.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Suitcase Show and Sale of Tango Collages

I've been graciously invited to exhibit and sell my tango collages on June 6th, 2011 from 6:00 to 10:00 at  Casa de Tango, a milonga hosted by Anthony Blackwell. I will be at the milonga with my antique suitcase packed with collages inspired by the tango. Casa de Tango is held upstairs at Central Bar at 190 E. 9th St. in New York City.

This milonga is very intimate and friendly. I always maintain that a milonga's tone is set by the host. The first time I went, Anthony made sure I was comfortable and introduced me to some of the people there. Due to those introductions, I danced with some really fabulous partners I probably wouldn't have before. The gender balance there is good, too. And, I think because everybody is very visible in the small room, people get to dance.

There's a camera flashing constantly during the milonga (now I know how celebrities feel with paparazzi), but it's a great marketing tool. Anthony will then post tons of pictures from each milonga on Facebook. I know I'm not the only one who scrutinizes the pictures, not only to find myself in them, but also to see if friends and dance partners were at the milongas I didn't attend.

Anthony has been promoting the sale on Facebook as well as on his website http://www.blackwellassociates.com/. Last night I was passing out flyers for the sale at the milonga at Triangulo and people were remarking that they already knew about it from his efforts.

I still have a lot of preparations for the sale this weekend; matting, labeling, etc.  And, knowing me, I will probably want to complete a couple more collages, because I can't help myself. Here are a couple of the collages. All are small and under $100.

(c) 2010 Denise Mumm, Collage #39
7½"x11", paper lithograph, collage on paper

(c) 2010 Denise Mumm, Collage #44 10"x7 1/2", paper lithograph, collage on paper
More peeks of the work I will be selling can be seen at my Etsy shop http://www.etsy.com/shop/DeniseMummArt and more about me and some of the more expensive (but still affordable!) work I do can be found at my website http://denisemumm.com.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Staten Island Festival Weekend, Part 3: Art By the Ferry

Art By the Ferry, an arts festival sponsored by the Staten Island Creative Community in the St. George neighborhood of Staten Island, was the third festival I attended last weekend. Although I am the Membership Chair for SICC and have participated in Art By the Ferry in the past, I just wanted to be a tourist this year and enjoy it. As an exhibiting artist, one has to sit in attendance with one's art display. This way I could move from venue to venue.

Paul Hurst Band
The event takes an enormous amount of preparation throughout the year. It is free to the public and run by volunteers. This was the fourth year, each year a little different. Part of the reason each year is different has to do with the dynamics of the collaboration between entities involved in producing it. This year the festival was scheduled in May instead of June as in years past, to coincide with a run that was being planned. Ultimately, as the event grew nearer, the run was ditched. The permit process to stage a run has apparently become so onerous that the idea was scrapped altogether. However, another government entity, the Department of Transportation, made it possible to use a covered platform just off one side of the ferry terminal for amplified bands to perform there.

Karlus Trapp and The Entrappments
On Saturday I came to this venue to watch three bands, made up of my friends, perform; Queen Tipsy, The Paul Hurst Band, and Karlus Trapp and The Entrappments (consisting of the same personnel as the All Night Lovers from the 1980's).  The bands had plenty of room and the sound system was great, but it was too loud to get very close. Usually I'm right up next to the band dancing, but not this time.

In addition to listening to some truly excellent rock and roll, we got to witness "the rapture" in Manhattan. The skyline (it's a million dollar view from this vantage point) was completely obliterated by a big black cloud at 6:00 pm. That cloud rolled over to Staten Island in the form of heavy rain by 7:00. The rain did nothing to dampen the spirits of the audience.

Art by Joyce Malerba Goldstein and Sage Reynolds, blue grass band
On Sunday I took a quick tour of the visual arts portion of Art By the Ferry, with a brief bluegrass music interlude enroute. My tour started in Tompkinsville Park, to look at the jewelry offered up by the quickly disappearing crafts vendors. The air had a decidedly February-like dampness in it, making it uncomfortable for buyers and vendors alike.

Art at Bay, the community gallery for SICC, had an impressive group show of smallish artwork. I believe this exhibit will remain up through June.

Show Gallery on Stuyvesant St. was my next stop, to check out a posthumous exhibit of Norman Pate's work. Norman was such a fixture in his studio at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center. He was there working every day and so prolific. I don't think there is an artist on Staten Island who was around during his lifetime who does not own a piece of his. I myself have a lovely collage in pinkish tones hanging in my library. In addition to the collages, Norman made many small wooden assemblages, ala Louise Nevelson. The exhibit makes us miss him all over again and it also remains open through June.

Norman Pate collage

The bulk of the visual art at Art By the Ferry was at 120 Stuyvesant. We were greeted there, outside the door, by Saint Philips playing on guitar, bearing the cool weather. Inside, room after room was filled with high quality artwork, the bulk of it made by friends and acquaintances of mine from SICC. There was lots of photography, as usual.
painting by Julius Wasserstein

work by Tai Woong Kang

At least one artist was absolutely new to me and quite impressive, Tai Woong Kang. Wow.

For me, this is what it's all about, finding those wonderful secrets hiding away here on Staten Island. What a strong supportive (and growing!) arts community we have.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Staten Island Festival Weekend Part 2: Maifest

my sister arriving at the entrance to Maifest
Maifest was the second event I attended during last weekend's big festival weekend in Staten Ilsand. It's a traditional German celebration of spring and was held Saturday in an appropriately lush meadow at Snug Harbor Cultural Center. The sun was finally out after days of rain, so there was a good size jovial crowd in attendance.

Actually, the atmosphere was goofy. As I walked under the flower-bedecked entrance arch, I heard the corny oompah band playing drinking songs and polkas I know way too well, to the point of being able to sing along a little bit in German. And, with all due respect to my own heritage, there are few sights as silly looking as grown men in lederhosen.

To tell the truth, the highlight of the Maifest for me was the excellent beer wagon. I come by this appreciation honestly. I was born in Munich during Oktoberfest, so I feel I have the right, if not the obligation to partake in quality German beer. However, this was the third day of partying in a row for me (my sister believes in celebrating birthweeks, not days - and who am I to turn her down?), so I wasn't quite up to sampling all five varieties that were being offered. I can vouch for the excellence of the maibock.

So, it was lunchtime and I needed food to go with my beer. One glance at the Nurnberger Bierhaus tent's menu and it was clear I was going off the vegetarian wagon. I find it hard to resist bratwurst, especially with good German mustard and sauerkraut. In Iowa (where my roots are), you find it on every summer barbecue. Not so much in NYC.

At about this time the other members of our party party showed up to join in the festivities. We bypassed all the crafty tables, cut a wide swath around the baked goods booth and headed to the stage to check out the "skinny German juggler". He was indeed skinny and of course dressed in lederhosen, so he had us laughing from the get-go, but his patter was hilarious. And he wasn't a bad juggler, on a unicycle, no less! He was an appropriate embodiment of the event and a good note on which to end our Maifest celebrations . . . and to move on to birthday cake at my house.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Big Staten Island Festival Weekend Part 1: Maritime Festival

What a great weekend to be a Staten Island resident. THREE big festivals to check out; the Maritime Festival at Atlantic Salt, Maifest at Snug Harbor, and Art by the Ferry throughout St. George. I managed to sample all three. But, I want to share the Maritime Festival first.

The Gazela, adding a 19th century touch to our urban landscape.
My bus stop to the ferry is across the street from Atlantic Salt. On Thursday morning when I started out for work, I saw the Gazela's masts poking up through the fog.

The Gazela, a wooden square-rigger, comes out of Philadelphia. She was built in 1883, part of the Portuguese Cod Fishing Fleet that worked the north Atlantic. She has two small dories on her, which were each used by a single fisherman, pulling long lines baited with many hooks. Basically, if this method was being used all along, there would still be plenty of cod in the Atlantic. The huge drag net method of fishing on motor-powered trawlers that replaced it caused overfishing and did a lot of ecological damage. The Grand Banks had to be closed to fishing in 1992. The Gazela has been repurposed as living history and is associated with the Philadelphia Ship Preservation Guild. Learn more here www.gazela.org.

Friday night was a fundraising event for the Noble Maritime Museum, held down on the Atlantic Salt wharf. Atlantic Salt is an impressive feature in the landscape of my neighborhood. During the winter a massive bucket crane piles salt into a gigantic snowdrift which dwarfs the bulldozer working it. I can hear the engines working throughout the nights during busy times. But, back to the party . . .

The evening started with a tour of the Gazela, docked at the wharf (the ever-present salt mountain covered with a huge tarp), and conversations with the crew. 
A good percentage of the crew is female, I was happy to see. We were shown the working parts of the ship (engine room, galley, etc.), but could only glimpse the below-deck areas where the crew lives.

The party featured Portuguese food, lots of pork and fish. There were special mojitos (yum) and plenty of wine, etc.

One of the reasons I was so eager to go to the event was the promise of dancing to a live band. Sure enough, a real wooden dance floor had been set up  on the gritty (literally) wharf - a good sign - worthy of  changing into my dance shoes.

About halfway through the evening a Coast Guard vessel pulled up to dock, its searchlight seeking the right spot. There was quite a crew on board, for a smallish vessel. They seemed to be shy, though, not leaving their posts to join our party.

Hello Sailor! The Coast Guard crew behind me.
Once I get up to dance, there's not much sitting. I came back to the table several times to eat a little more, only to find my plate had been whisked away. But, I would get distracted by another song and another potential dance partner anyway. Many of my artist friends also dance and we know each other well enough to know who is game for which dance style. My date was a tango partner/friend and plied with enough malbec, I managed to get him on the floor to dance some rock and roll. We waddled away after the party, bellies full of dessert, legs tired and big smiles on our faces. I think it's safe to say we all had a blast.

This morning, on a day as gray as the day she pulled in, I got up to watch the Gazela set out with the tide. The crew had told me she would be hoisting her sails and I was looking forward to that. I was disappointed in that respect, but she was still a stately sight to behold.

If I was between temp gigs, I think I would have joined the crew. I don't have that much holding me here and an adventure like that doesn't come to my doorstep every day. I imagined myself learning new skills, forging new friendships, seeing life from a new angle, making small watercolors while onboard.

I guess I was hearing that old siren song.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tango Dancing on a Friday Evening at Triangulo

There is no better way to start off a weekend than spending a Friday evening after work at the milonga at Triangulo. I walk in the door, into a dimly lit, romantically appointed space and am greeted by our host Richard and hostess Maura. They set the tone for the evening with Richard's "Happy Friday!" and Maura's "Hello Love!", accompanied by a kiss.

the dance floor at Triangulo
There is the dancing. I've had some of those wonderful moments that a tango dancer lives for at this milonga. There is the breathless connection with my partner when our heights and balance match and the places where our chests, biceps, hands and heads connect fit just so. Our bodies interpret the music with the same feeling. Yes, there is the dancing.

Then there's the physical letting go of a week spent working an office job. A glass of red wine starts the process. My shoulders start to drop from their hunched workweek position. A favorite song plays and my lips soften into a smile. The shush, shush of the dancers' feet brushing the floor starts its lullaby. A friend asks me for the first dance and with that first ocho, my lower back unkinks and cracks.

If it's a good dancing night (and we never know what it will be like in advance), I won't sit down all night, but pass from partner to partner before getting to a chair and back to my wine glass. If it's a night when I spend more time sitting than dancing, it will still be a good time. I'll trade soup recipes with the banker from Venezuela, hear about travel escapades from the entrepreneur, talk art with the guy I know from one of my first tango classes 10 years ago. I'll compare notes about partners with the women. And there's always a delicious cake to sample.

Sometimes the chatter level rises as each tango song starts, making it hard to hear the music, but raising the level of conviviality. There seems to be more chatter at this milonga than others. I think it's due to the circle of friendship here.

It's a small dance floor. As with any milonga in New York City, there is the usual share of showboaters glorying in their fabulousness or newbies unsure of their spatial boundaries, imperiling the rest of us who would prefer not to have to worry about getting kicked by a flying stiletto or jabbed with an elbow. An orderly Buenos Aires dance floor it is not. NYC dance floors have their own flavor. We all complain, and we all come back week after week. And I always say "Tango is a contact sport."
tango shoes OFF for the night

We dance until about 8:30. The last tanda is called out by Guy, our DJ "Last few tangos!" I look around to see if that favorite partner I didn't get to dance with all night is available. Hopefully, with luck, if I move quickly and catch his eye . . .

And then the last song of the night, invariably a dreamy waltz that will repeat in my head for the next few hours and keep me smiling and floating. Ahh. If I'm lucky, the night is capped with dinner, beer and a catchup conversation with my friend and tango partner. Then home to a soothing soak in the tub.

To learn more about Triangulo and all that goes on there, visit their website.    http://www.tangonyc.com/    Visit my Etsy shop to see some of my collages inspired by dancing at Triangulo and elsewhere. http://www.etsy.com/shop/DeniseMummArt

Friday, May 13, 2011

Visiting the Affordable Art Fair on Mother's Day

I checked out the Affordable Art Fair on Sunday, Mother's Day.  It was a delight. There was definitely a more casual and approachable vibe than, say SCOPE or the Red Dot Art Fair. The work was not as slick and commercially-focused as in those other shows. It may not have been as ambitious in a careerist way, but felt more authentic to me, closer to the artist's heart. It was also good to see groups of recent art school graduates represented. Their art held its own. 

The fair was held at 7 W. 34th St, NYC.This was the same location as the One of a Kind Show and Sale that I attended last winter.  It may not be fair to compare the two, since One of a Kind was not strictly fine art. However, the traffic was definitely heavier at the Affordable Art Fair and the vendors were cheerier as a result. The fact that it was a sunny Mother's Day probably helped traffic, too. The venue is across the street from the Empire State Building and close to Macy's, so it's definitely on the tourist circuit, although not at street level.

The fair had a surprising number of representatives from the UK. I understand the founder of the event is British and there was a beneficial arrangement for them as a group. The work represented they brought with them had a lot of appeal for me. One of my personal favorites was work by Frances Murray. She did gorgeous earthen carborundum monoprints in units that could be arranged as the viewer chose. They seemed so much more sculpture than print to me.

The fair was very feminist-friendly (yay!), which also makes me a big fan. The women's co-op galleries were represented; A.I.R., Ceres, SOHO20 Chelsea Gallery. The Feminist Art Project at Rutgers University was selling a portfolio of work by famous feminist artists as a fundraising tool. Several of the artists represented by the Bernice Steinbaum Gallery in the '80's when I worked there had work in the portfolio; Harmony Hammond, Miriam Schapiro, and Faith Ringgold. I was lucky enough to go on to become a studio assistant to both Miriam and Faith, two heroines of mine. But that story is for another time.

As you might guess, there was quite a lot of unframed work available at each booth.

I think being frank about prices, even listing work by price point in the printed guide, puts one at ease and removes an obstacle for a nascent collector.