To celebrate Earth Day, I highly recommend a trip to NYC’s first museum, the New-York Historical Society, to see Hudson Rising, their gorgeous exhibit about the Hudson River. Inside you’ll meet a family friend of mine, folk singer Pete Seeger. We were introduced to him by another family friend, Faith Emerson Ward, my father’s childhood neighor. His boat, the Clearwater (a model of it is in the museum’s exhibit and is pictured here), was a common and prominent fixture in the Hudson Valley when I was a kid. At our annual Clearwater Festival, I ate stone soup, boarded the boat, and learned about environmental conservation. There, I first learned that not everyone loved and cared for the planet as we did so we had to show people why it mattered so much. I remember Pete as a kind, gentle, and unrelenting soul. This Earth Day, I’m thinking of him and his message. I’m sure he’d be proud to know how many of us are carrying on his legacy and working hard to help all people live in a way that supports life.
I literally gasped when I turned the corner to see the dinosaurs of the T. rex exhibit at New York City’s American Museum of Natural History. It’s stunning and I learned so much about these magnificent animals. Absolutely go see it if you can! (All photos taken by me at the exhibit.)
This week, I got some very exciting news today about my storytelling dinner with New York City secret history, all inspired by my time in Ireland: my #1 choice for a museum partner is very interested! Friends, swing for those fences and make ’em high. You never know what you can do until you try.
As a recovering Catholic, I rarely spend time in the Medieval section of the Met. But the Heavenly Bodies exhibit, complete with haunting music, is stunning. I had a hard time leaving because I was so captivated by it. I plan to go back several more times to see it and will head up to the Cloisters, too. It’s open until October and I highly recommend it. Beautiful curation.
I understand that museums have engaged in some unfortunate practices when it comes appropriating items from other cultures. It’s impossible to erase the past; we can make amends with respect, understanding, and concern. The Museum of Vancouver has begun the process of repatriation with the Haida Now exhibit, a thoughtfully curated exhibit done in collaboration with the Haida people. I was fortunate enough to see the exhibit while I was there this weekend. I’m still processing my thoughts and feelings about everything I learned, and I wanted to share these photos with you. Visit the exhibit’s website by clicking here.
“The wait’s going to be at least an hour.”
That’s what one of the guides said to me at the Met when I inquired about the insanely long line to see the exhibit Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer. I almost left without seeing it. Almost. But then I remembered my commitment to say yes more often in 2018 (even though it was still 2017.)
So I wound my way through multiple gallery spaces and parked myself at the very end of the line. I knew it would be crowded; I doubted I would be able to get up close to the pieces. And that was okay with me. I just wanted to be in the presence of the work. So I waited. For about 10 minutes, not even close to an hour, and then I was there. The first part of the exhibit was crowded but I was able to get up close to the work in many of the galleries. Very close to it.
“Yes, I’ll stay in line” was the right answer.
Toward the end of the exhibit, I came to this placard. It’s short story hit me right in the gut. I audibly gasped. To give the illusion of perfection, to hide his process and his struggle in his work, Michelangelo burned many of his sketches. He wanted people to think his talent was effortless and god-given even though it was far from it.
Think of all that lost work. Think of everything we could have learned if he hadn’t been so concerned about the illusion of perfection.
I sat there in the middle of the exhibition and thought about how afraid we all are to show our stumbles and missteps, how we savor the performance and cringe at the endless practice it took to get there.
When I left the museum, I turned and looked back at the building in the cold, dark night. I was so glad and grateful to be able to come to this museum any time I want, to live in a city that build castles to creativity. And as I looked at the Met, I thought about how much art has changed my life. And how much effort, how much beautiful effort, it takes to be an artist of any kind.
What if we could all commit to being a little more authentic, to sharing when we’re lost and confused and unsure of how to proceed, to asking for help? What if we could be okay with admitting failure and defeat because accepting them while not being discouraged by their existence gives us resilience and confidence? Imagine what we could learn, what we could inspire, and what we could teach others in the process. I say, yes. Let’s.
To be a writer is to first be a listener and observer. I often go somewhere—a coffeeshop, a museum, a store—and just tune into the conversations of others. I don’t take out my phone or notebook. I don’t have any purpose other than to listen to what people say, how they say it, and then how people respond to them.
I tried this experiment recently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I went to their Astor Chinese Garden Court and sat there for a while as people wandered in and out. It’s a bright and peaceful place in the museum. Good for clearing the mind and opening up the ears.
It was fascinating to see such a diverse set of people come into the space and have a similar experience, of peace and contentment and happiness. It reminded me how hurried and cluttered our lives can become. And it made me more conscious of the power of places that give us time to just be. The expression of “wow” on everyone’s face when they entered the garden made me smile.
As we edge toward 2018 and the cold weather takes us indoors for a few months, I’m looking forward to more of these listening and observing activities. We have so much to learn from each other.
They say that on a clear day you can see forever. On this clear day, I went to see the current rooftop installation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Argentinian artist Adrián Villar Rojas. It’s haunting and beautiful, and you still have a month to see it. Though there’s no sound in the exhibit, I kept finding myself hearing stories from these statues. What happened to them? Why were they at this dinner party? Who are they? What were they hiding? I’m certain these stories will find their way into my second book in the Emerson Page series.
On my way to brunch yesterday, I did a little self-made walking tour from Soho through Little Italy and Chinatown, and then over to the Lower East Side. It included a tour at the Tenement Museum, which I’ll detail in another post. I don’t get to this neighborhood often. After a long, difficult week in our nation, it felt so good to let sunshine and art take over my senses. Here’s what I saw and loved. Wishing you a creative Monday.