Monday, May 19, 2014

Goodbye New York

Our Class at the Botanic Gardens
As a Senior saying goodbye, I would like to share some final thoughts. I would firstly like to thank my classmates both this and last year for making each trip to Dumbo an amazing experience. I have been able to do, see, and meet more people than I ever expected. I've opened up more to people on this trip than I ever have in my college experience and I've enjoyed getting to know what makes each of you unique. 

I'd like to thank my professor, Marc Dennis as well. He puts so much effort into making sure each student is learning and feeling inspired. I don't know of any other college professor who invites students into such a private setting. We meet his friends and the people he works with, we watch sports and get a drink, we talk about life and our experiences. This whole trip is centered around his connections and knowledge. It wouldn't be anything without him. He's helped motivate me to improve each day. I'm so happy and thankful to be working for him after graduation. 

Marc and I at EC Awards Banquet 2012

This trip has taught me about making art, it's history and application, but what I learned about most was myself. After meeting artists and and other professionals in the field, I've come to understand the immense dedication and sacrifice it takes to "make it." Sure some of it is luck, but you also make your own luck. By putting yourself out there, having the right work and experience, "making it" is closer than you may think. After last year's trip, I felt as if I might not have the extreme drive these art professionals had... yet I felt deeply inspired to work harder.

This year, I feel more confident in my abilities. My sketches are better, I can talk about my work, I'm more confident speaking with people I do not know, and I'm a better painter. Improvement is a slow process and sometimes not the most obvious, but looking back to sophomore year when I became an art major, I see how much I have grown.

I know this is the life I want now, and I will find a way to do it.

Stick to your Shit & Work Harder

Goodbye New York.

Rui overlooking the Brooklyn Heights Promenade 

¡Hasta Luego

We have officially completed Project DUMBO 2014. It’s already hard enough to think that it has been a year since the last one and now it’s time to part ways. We’ve done so much that it is impossible to list everything; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The American Museum of Natural History, The Frick, the MOMA, Chelsea galleries, having ethnic food, meeting alumni, going to the Tumblr headquarters, meeting directors and dealers, meeting all kinds of artists, and more.

 We've been asking each other everyday what has been a high. For me it was simply waking up every morning to the sight of the Brooklyn Bridge and just listening to some Amos Lee .  Each day had such potential, even those days we were out in the rain without umbrellas. Last year I learned how fast the trip goes so I became more appreciative of things like a morning routine.

A majority of the trip was spent looking at art. We saw work by about a hundred contemporary artists through visiting galleries in Chelsea and going to art fairs. This is the most effective way for me to develop my taste in art because there is always an immediate reaction.  Each show was something new from last year so there was either a moment of surprise or a moment of judgement. It was like going to a bunch of free movies. It is helpful in learning about the different ways that art can be presented.

The trip has also taught me that there are many options that I can take with this career. Some things will work out and some will not. I still have some of the same doubts from last year, but now I am more confident in my decision to be an artist. Every year I become more excited about what I do. By coming to the city, I get a dose of reality and a lot more motivation at the same time.

This career is very dependent on connections. I think the most lasting connections I will have from the trip are with the other members of the course.  Apparently we all have things in common? I was not expecting that. I'm glad that I have other people to share this experience with. Even after we pursue our own professions, we will be able to say that we got our start together with Term III. I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to leave them all. If i continue to meet people like those who I have encountered on this trip, I think I will be pretty good in life. Cue the sad graduation music.

I wish our time here had lasted longer because I’ve just had some of the best times of my life. Well anyways, time to get back to making some art. See you soon, Dumbo!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Gluten Free Ethnic Food

In honor of Celiac Awareness month, I decided to make a summary of ethnic food that is gluten free, or could easily be modified to be gluten free. For those who do not know Celiac Disease, it is :

 "a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley"

Before coming on the trip I researched gluten free food based on meals we had last year, which included Egyptian, Indian, Vietnamese, Thai, Mexican, it turns out that this was a very good idea. We ended up eating at the same types of restaurants this year. I mainly looked at blogs. I've compiled a list of foods are believed to be safe for gluten intolerant people to eat. However, I do not recommend celiacs doing this at home! ( well actually, yes cook at home, its much safer for cross contamination reasons).

 From my research I also found these awesome gluten/celiac translation cards. The group thought I was a bit crazy, but it turns out that it was very helpful for places such as the  Vietnamese restaurant. Here is the link to them: celiac travel cards. I almost ordered something wrong and the card clarified it. I ended up eating Pho, which similar to a stew with a thin sliced meat and tons of vegetables, very filling, very healthy, and very safe. I’ve also heard that spring or summer rolls are gluten free, but since there are so many variations of ingredients, I was hesistant to try them that day. 

Spring/ Summer Roll

Pho with beef

There is also a Mexican restaurant, Cascabel Taqueria, close to the Metropolitan Museum of Art ( a regular visiting place for Project Dumbo), which offers a wide variety of gluten free tacos and they are made from corn tortillas, there is one, most likely the battered fish, which isn’t safe to eat. I recommend the cornitas, which is a pork taco with rice and onions. The staff is knowledgeable with gluten free in case you are unsure about the other dishes as well.

Pad Thai and Massaman Curry
My favorite food to eat was the Massaman curry, which is Thai Food. I was reading the forum and one blogger suggested it because it is made from coconut milk, thai red chili paste, veggies and spices. From the Thai Food I ordered pad thai, which is another rice noodle. I see a lot of pad thais being sold in organic food stores so this is very easy to find outside of a restaurant setting.
Just ask for no soysauce.

Indian curries are popular gluten free dishes, as long as wheat is not used as a thickener.  We didn’t order chicken curry this year but it always a favorite for me. Tikki Masala and tandoori chicken are also good. This blog really helped with researching about Indian food Gluten Free Indian Food blog

For Egyptian I recommend plain grilled meats, lamb is a popular one, with some baba ghanoush which is cooked eggplant mixed with onions, tomatoes, olive oil, and various seasonings.  And hummus, mashed chickpeas blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic.There are also olives. Just make sure nobody dips their pita bread into your hummus.
Baba ghanoush


A new addition to the list this year was Cuban food. Information about the food being gluten free is scarce although I have read that most of the dishes are naturally gluten free based on the ingredients used for most dishes. I decided on the Arroz con Pollo because it is basically just roast chicken, rice, and beans. I didn't get a picture of this one because I was too excited about eating it. Based on my research there is some confusion about how the chicken is prepared, it could be seasoned with ingredients that are not completely gluten free . This is still a good and modifiable dish for cooking at home.

When you can't order dessert, sometimes the drinks end up being just as sweet as the food. My favorites were Hibiscus Tea, Bubble Tea, and Thai Tea

Again, I am not an expert. Always research and double check. More than just avoiding food, my biggest suggestion is to drink enough water and eat fruits and vegetables. Quinoa will change your life.

Friday, May 16, 2014

DUMBO Chicken

   Yesterday morning, as I walked along the streets of DUMBO to meet my classmates, I knew it would be a good day. I knew it would be a good day because I stumbled across a spray painted sign in my perambulation.

   It was a sign which had not existed the day previous, or which I had failed to notice. Regardless of the reason for my not noticing it, the sign made me pause on my journey. A smile came to my face as I thought to myself of all of the ways in which magic may enter our lives. After a few moments, I left the sidewalk sign and continued on to my destination...

  That night, approaching midnight, I took a stroll through a nearby park to fend off the clutches of sleep and to brainstorm for a blog post. I walked, meandered, gently through the park, eyes on my phone in an effort to write, instinctively following the walkways of the park without truly looking. But, you know how they warn against multitasking.

  I wandered on until I came to a quiet area within the park, underneath a tree. Then, I heard something. A sound I have heard before, but one foreign to my current location in the city. As I continued walking, I lifted my gaze for a moment. It was not a moment too soon, for I realized that I had nearly tripped over something in the walkway. My heart leapt in my chest and I stepped aside to gaze at the object. It was a chicken! I looked at the animal for some time, which stood on the pathway calm and collected in contrast to my own bewilderment. One might call it a feral feast! Never would I have imagined finding a chicken in Brooklyn. I haven't the slightest inkling how it came to be there. Perhaps, it escaped from a nearby restaurant. All that I know for certain is that this chicken brought a bit of magic to my day. And then I took a moment to think about that sign on the sidewalk.

DUMBO chicken

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Ox Rocks My Socks

   Yesterday evening, our group enjoyed another round of riveting cuisine. This time, Jamaican food at The Islands restaurant in Brooklyn. Many of us are familiar with such recipes as Jerk Chicken (which need not be dismissed). However, there are many additional dishes which Jamaica has to offer. 
   For example, last night, I tried ox tail. Growing up in a quiet and reserved family in Maryland, I have had little opportunity to try a dish of this sort. When I spotted the ox tail on the menu, I was instantly inclined to "grab the bull by the horns", as they say. Unfortunately, I must admit that upon reflection, there was a small voice within telling me, "Don't do it. You may regret this decision." But, what's life without regrets?
   I distracted myself with polite dinner conversation as I waited for my food. Our wonderful dinner guests, Chris and Anika, made conversation quite easy and entertaining. In no time, plates upon plates of food began their steep ascent up the stairs to our seating area, each plate landing in front of its respective party. 
   My ox tail was placed before me. There I sat, face to face with my daring decision, preparing to conquer whatever may come. As I made to take my first bite, I turned to my left and asked Alex to witness this instant in time, this moment in history with me. 

   To my overwhelming delight, the flavors I tasted were unparalleled to anything else I have experienced during this trip. If I may describe it, the flavor was similar to a sweet and savory beef. The texture of the ox tail, one might imagine, was comparable to a juicier and softer variety of corned beef. 
   I left the restaurant in a state of elation. I am proud of my accomplishments at The Islands restaurant. I am pleasantly surprised with myself. Despite my meal containing several large bones, no bone in my body regrets what I ordered .

Calypso Shrimp (ordered by several of my fellow students)
Jerk Shrimp

Disclaimer: Truth be told, my experience at The Islands restaurant was not nearly so dramatic. So, I might have embellished a few details, spun you a tale. Still, I'll have you know that the food which we ordered as a group was excellent; the service superb. I would absolutely return, in a heartbeat! 

Figure Drawings Inspired by the Biennial Show

 I did something new this week, I sketched models immediately following a visit to a museum. We went to the biennial show at the Whitney. I compared the sketches that I made to pieces that I liked at the museum. These were pieces from both the temporary show and from the permanent collection. When looking over both the sets of museum work and my drawings, I found some connections.  There was some work that was representational, but a majority of it was conceptual. My brain was stimulated by new patterns textures and variations of color. By comparing the two I could better identify some of my influences and also better comprehend the conceptual nature of the art that I saw. 

I juxtaposed this knitted piece with my first real sketch because of the quote, " If there's any thought about what's next, do not think not worry" and " It's all about developing your intuition". These are pieces of advice that can be applied to sketching or any time you make art. I interpreted this as just to focus on what's in front of me.  Because when I get ahead of myself I tend to stress more, which leads to lesser quality work. I needed this advice when starting the session so that I would feel less intimidated.

I find it much more difficult to find personal meaning in abstract art. I am however interested in Alexander Calder's work. It is extremely balanced, while remaining mobile. The different parts rely on each other to stay in that balance. I found the models' poses to be relying on one another. There is a peaceful tension that is still, but can easily be shifted. 

I followed some techniques of the artists in the permanent collection, such as Edward Hopper and Alice Neel. Both of their paintings were of people in a direct gaze at the viewer. They are also zoomed in  enough that the full figure could not fit on the canvas.  For the Hopper painting( top left), the face takes the focus of the painting. For the sketch below I focused closer more on the facial features more that the other sketches with the whole body. Like Hopper's paintings the features became simplistic shapes. For the other sketch I saw the influence of Alice Neel's painting (top right) because the figure is fully centered while exposing the body in some manner. 

The abstract pieces from the biennial showed me how to be more free in my movements of the charcoal. There is an unlimited way that the human form can be interpreted. I see this more in abstract art because there is more freedom to experiment with different visual elements. It can be one line or a contrast of light and dark. They were also helpful by showing that creating a full drawing is not always necessary, that less is more. 

I thought it was pretty magical that my favorite sketch resembled my favorite piece from the biennial show. I see a resemblance through the composition and the way the heads of the dolls and of the model are tilted downwards. This was a favorite piece simply for the reason that I have a fascination with creepy dolls. My sketch is no where near as realistic as the drawing, but they both have a gentleness through a simple touch of a hand.  I was lucky to have this opportunity because I internalized from another artist and then was able to practice what I had just learned.

The Artist's Condition - Competing with Nature

I find myself entranced by all of the imagery, people, buildings...nature that surrounds me and that I am a part of. Oftentimes, it is the case that we understand the concept of art based upon the confines of canvas, marble, paper, or bronze. Artists try to find new, fresh ways to depict a vision, trying to one-up the last guy or gal. We, as the viewer, gradually come to accept these ways of depiction. The work is shown in the gallery, bought by some rich collector, and eventually sold to a museum - or some similar version of that story. With that being said, I find that visiting museums and galleries to look at art acts as more of a stimulus than anything else in coming to my own understanding of the concept of "art." The greatest art is not defined by a canvas or made solely by hand; the greatest art is created when you can stop, look around you, and truly appreciate that which you are surrounded by.

At West Lido Beach
This past weekend, I had the joy of seeing the ocean for the first time in the twenty-one years of my life...surprising, I know. But as I crested the hill of sand separating the parking lot from the ocean, I immediately - maybe even instinctively - stopped and gazed out at the wonder that is the ocean, basking in all the glory around me. That is what really got my tail wagging. It was a far greater work of art than anything I have seen at the Met or the MoMA - something that could never be made by man. Yet, as has seemingly been the artist's condition in some shape or form, I and many others strive to capture beauty as is already embodied by nature.

Frankie's fitting creation

Still Lookin'

I often struggle with how to begin a piece of writing.  Marc once told us to approach these blog posts like we would a diary entry, which should make it easier for me to just go off on a couple of tangents and call it a day, but I still struggle.  I want this to sound good.  I want a lot of things, to be honest.  I want an endless supply of sour gummies, and a luncheon with John Green, and enviable eyebrows.  But I think what I want more than anything is to know where I'm supposed to be in life and what I'm supposed to be doing.  That's what every college kid wants, right?  In fact, to be fair, I'm pretty sure that's what 96.3% of the population wants (I found that statistic on the Internet, so it's obviously true).  No, but seriously.  It's something that I actually think about a lot.  How am I supposed to know how the decisions that I make now will affect the rest of my future?  It's daunting.  And above all, frustrating.  

There are, however, rare moments when I find a little bit of inspiration and, almost more importantly, reassurance.  I had one of those moments today.  Actually, I had several of those moments, and most of them took place while at the Brooklyn Museum.  It was my first time visiting that particular establishment, but when I was done, I left with a good amount of confidence that it is now my favorite museum.  There were plenty of variables attributing to that conclusion, like the fact that the walls were painted different colors in order to create a more effective atmosphere in each room, or the juxtaposition of so many different centuries of works in one exhibit.  Maybe it was just the frame of mind that I was in earlier, but I think what really sealed the deal for me were the levels on which I was able to connect with a number of artists and their works.  

First was Kehinde Wiley...

Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps

I learned that he is an openly gay, black man who struggled a lot early on with his race and sexual orientation.  He is now an extremely accomplished artist who paints black, "gangster" men and women against classic, regal backgrounds.  It is his goal to bring into question the historical depiction of African Americans, or rather, the lack thereof.  His work is also a commentary on wealth and power in regards to race, both then and now.  Although, on the surface, it may seem like I don't have a lot in common with a gay, black dude, I believe that I can relate to him in the general sense of simply not fitting in.  The motivation behind his work spoke to me because it had to do with finding his place, individually and as a member of a much larger community. 

Next was Paa Joe, a Ghanaian born sculptor who created this... 

Coffin in the Form of a Sneaker 

Yes, it is a gigantic sneaker.  But what you may not realize is that it is also a coffin.  Weird, I know, but if you look a little closer, you'll see this... 

And that makes sense, doesn't it?  That in this life, we cling to and find comfort in anything that defines us.  It's finding those things to cling to that proves to be the difficult part, though.  Because sometimes it's not as simple as footwear.  In fact, sometimes people go their whole lives looking for something that defines them, something to cling to, and they never end up finding it...

Last was Ai Weiwei, the infamous Chinese outlaw.  Of all the artists I saw and all the motivation behind what they were doing, I think Ai Weiwei arguably had the biggest impact on me.  So much of what he stood for had to do with individuality and freedom of expression.  He's controversial because he strives to uncover the truth, despite knowing that his actions carry the promise of consequence.


This bicycle sculpture is a critique on the Chinese culture's tendency to focus on the whole as opposed to the individual, something that Ai Weiwei is strongly opposed to.  And I think that's what I connected to the most.  I would say that Weiwei has begun to find his place--his identity.  In fact, many of the artists I mentioned and most of the ones I didn't have probably found their place too.  And if they haven't, they use art as a means in which to do it.  

Perhaps that's why I'm so drawn to artistic ventures.  Because I'm nowhere near my place yet.  I don't know what I'm doing or where I'm going.  And most of the time, I feel a little lost and confused.  But when I look at artists who have also experienced struggle and uncertainty, it comforts me.  I find solace in the fact that it's okay to not have all the answers.  It's okay to feel out of place.  As in the case of Kehinde Wiley, maybe the best thing to do is to make a place, for yourself.  As in the case of Paa Joe, maybe the best thing to do is find something, anything tangible that you can connect to and build from there.  And as in the case of Ai Weiwei, maybe the best thing to do is rebel.  Accept that you don't know what you want, but realize that you do know what you don't want.  There's a difference, see?  I think that ties in rather nicely with this trip we're on right now.  We're often asked to define what Project DUMBO is and, though there are really an infinite number of answers, I believe that a huge part is narrowing down what exactly we wish to accomplish.  For example, some people come into this having no idea what sort of career path they want to follow, so the trip serves as a kind of preview to all the different possible job opportunities within the art world.  It also allows you to decide whether or not living in a big city like this is something that you can see yourself doing.  Basically, the purpose of this "class" is to try to help you find your place, both by introducing you to things that you never knew you wanted and by exposing you to the things you never knew you didn't.  And what better resource to have, than one that facilitates the discovery of your purpose in life?  If there is one, I don't know it.