I love New York, even though it isn’t mine, the way something has to be, a tree or a street or a house, something, anyway, that belongs to me because I belong to it.
– Truman Capote, American author
Monday midday, after I conducted an interview with a terrific Brooklyn healthcare organization called BHIX, we decamped from Mason’s place to midtown Manhattan. I was slated to give an introduction on big data in healthcare for a dinner event and take notes, record, and informally interview attendees in order to write a piece of content for the company who was sponsoring the event. (Oh, yes, I forgot that this was a business trip!) We had one more destination to make on our to-do list, and that was to go to the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.) Museum, which would complete our museum-focused trip.
Starstruck in MoMA
On Sunday, after Heidi and I walked the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan, we took a cab to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Admission is a whopping $25, so it’s prudent to get there right when the museum opens. I honestly didn’t check out ahead of time or know what art is in MoMA, so I was completely overwhelmed by what I saw.
Admittedly, I was starstruck. All of these masterpieces that I had studied in an art history class at Porterville College as a teenager were right before me – just a few feet from my hungry eyes. I don’t remember all the great artists I had studied in that favorite class, but I developed an appreciation of them, their techniques, and their contributions to the art world. (This is a shout-out to Mr. Howell, an extraordinary teacher who gave everyone who took his class a huge window into an expansive, more colorful and vibrant world outside of our small farming town existence. It was the same feeling I got when I saw the great works in the Prado in Madrid, the museums in Rome, and the Uffizi and other museums in Florence.)
At every turn around a wall or into a new room, I gazed upon countless masterpieces. It was dizzying after a while – so much color, thick and smooth paint strokes, enormous canvases and equally astonishing smaller works of art. Edvard Munch‘s The Scream was on loan, but Heidi let me know that there are several versions of the painting. It wasn’t crowded, which made viewing an even more pleasurable experience. Heidi’s favorite was “The Dream” by Henri Rousseau.
It is difficult for me to choose favorites. I love Paul Klee‘s playfulness. I’ve always adored Vincent Van Gogh since I was a tortured teenager and wrote a report on him in high school. There were some moving B&W photos, as well.
If I had to pick, I have to say that I was really taken by Belgian artist James Ensor‘s “Masks Confronting Death 1888.” The pale colors, the foggy background, the masks themselves, and the ghostly face in the left made the painting compelling for me. I couldn’t stop staring at it.
This is a museum that out-of-towners should have a membership to if they are lucky enough to be in New York three times a year. I wouldn’t tire of seeing these masterpieces again. People don’t tire of religious experiences.
Fashion and Technology: “Without risk, nothing changes the world”
We didn’t get a chance to squeeze in the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.) Museum last September, so visiting this museum was a must-see this time around. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures. The museum, which is free, comprises only two exhibits. After the Brooklyn Museum and MoMA, it was nice to go to a more contained museum. “Fashion and Technology” in the Fashion and Textile History Gallery was the first exhibit and celebrated the ways in which technological innovations influenced and advanced fashion, whether it be production, materials, aesthetics, and function, through the years.
The sewing machine, of course, led to the mass production of clothes. But many may not know that the Spinning Jenny and Jacquard loom, also developed during the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries, were equally important in revolutionizing the conception and manufacturing of textiles. The Jacquard loom was ten times faster than hand weaving, and the Spinning Jenny mechanized the process of manufacturing cotton thread, which made cotton replace wool as the predominant fabric of choice, especially in the warmer seasons. In the mid-19th century, synthetic dyes were developed, which enabled dressmakers to use brilliant, fade-resistant colors – such as royal purple – for their gowns. The invention of the bicycle and its popularity led to the introduction of knickerbockers for women and multi-gored skirts that made riding bicycles possible, and the introduction of the zipper made dressing, especially for women, a lot easier.
Urban landscapes – with the introduction of the “skyscraper” – inspired the Art Deco movement to express the technological changes that the world was experiencing in the first decades of the 20th century in the form of geometric art and design. The Chrysler Building, whose lit-up spire was our view from our hotel room window, is a great example of Art Deco. Around this time innovations in rubber and plastic were finding their way into fashion. After World War II, fashion and technology merged again. An American designer named Claire McCardell designed washing machine-safe sportswear for the suburban housewife. The drip-dry suit was accompanied by a 1968 black-and-white commercial of a man having a smoke and reading the newspaper in his suit in a bathtub. After showering off, he’s seen leaving his hotel, completely dry. The space age also influenced fashion design, as well as created this sense that humans could do – and go – anywhere their imaginations took them.
Textile innovations and collaborations in the later part of the 20th century included blending of metallic threads and synthetic textiles, combining DuPont’s Lycra with cotton or linen to introduce “bi-stretch” material that now characterize sportswear. Personal computers and the internet made their mark and continue to make their mark on fashion. Computer-aided design (CAD) software and computer-operated Jacquard looms changed the way clothes are produced. 3D printing and software-guided lasers are creating amazing fashion. I’m missing other advancements, but that just means you have to go to the F.I.T. Museum. But make haste: This exhibit, which began on December 3rd, runs through May 8th. If you’re a Project Runway junkie, fashionista, or even a historical buff, you won’t be disappointed.
Media Design Club at FIT: Exploring time through graphic design
The second exhibit, “The Fourth Dimension: The Media Club at FIT,” is in the Gallery FIT. The exhibit is an exploration of the changing world of graphic design through individual students’ interpretation of time. It was an unexpected gem for me. The near-empty room was lined with laptops running various programs that employ motion and interactive technology. A larger screen ran about 20 or so animated shorts. Heidi and I parked ourselves and watched around 10 of them. As we finished viewing one called Planned Obsolescence, a young man standing next to us asked us if we liked it. Yes, we did – a lot! He let us know that he had made the short and just happened to walk through the exhibit as it was playing. He was clearly excited and proud, as he should be. It was terrific, as most of them were. I know about the concept of planned obsolescence of products, but I had no idea that it was developed as early as 1932. So the TV and speakers that we’d had for many years, dating back to our college days in the 1980s, meant that those very products didn’t last as long as their predecessors had decades before! You learn something new every day, and it’s these little bits of knowledge that keep life interesting and constantly full of wonder.
We watched an animated short contemplating and trying to define what time is and many shorts on the environment – exploring global warming, overpopulation, pollution, consumption and hoarding, consumerism, and even procrastination, which I loved and wish my 12-year-old son could see (hint, hint). In fact, as I watched these shorts created by college students, I couldn’t help but think how my son, who can spend entire days making stop-action movies with his Lord of the Rings Lego sets, would thrive in this kind of environment. Anyone who appreciates animation and graphic design will enjoy this exhibit. To get a sense of the kind of things the club does, click here. It’s a fantastic message to be and stay creative – so it’s for me, it’s for you, it’s for David and my kids, and it’s for everybody, at any age or stage of our lives. This wonderful exhibit runs through February 9th.
Last night in New York (sniffle, sniffle)
So my stint in New York has ended. The dinner event went well last night. I didn’t stumble over too many words during my introduction and I was able to compose my nervous self to talk in front of all these healthcare chief technology officers and other executives. I sat next to two women who represented the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention located in Harlem. Maureen, who sat to my right, explained that Ralph Lauren quietly donated money to start the clinic in Harlem to allow underprivileged people – citing his own mother who grew up poor and had contracted cancer later in her life – to have access to the same quality of care that he and many of us have. It’s an inspiring story.
I had refrained from drinking any wine before giving my introduction, but needed to take many sips before the official welcome. I told Maureen how nervous I was, and she looked around the room and said matter-of-factly, “You’ll be fine. There’s nobody important enough here that you need to impress.” She – whom you could tell was all no-nonsense and bred of hearty stock – made me laugh, which gave me a boost of energy and confidence. After I presented and sat down, she gave me a firm but familial slap on the shoulder and exclaimed, “Boo-yea!” Somehow, that seemed to me quintessentially New York.
I am now in Dallas for two days, for another dinner event. I’ve only been to Dallas once, back in 2005 for a business conference. At that time, I only frequented the convention center and our hotel. We’ll see what this next leg of my trip brings.