Arts in New York City: Baruch College, Fall 2008, Professor Roslyn Bernstein
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Art and Love in Renaissance Italy : There is no other way to put it!


Oscar Wilde once wrote, “All art is useless, except that it is intensely admired”. If so, then what is the use of painting? Sculpting vases, panels or jewelry? What makes them so special that The Museum of Metropolitan Art would exert so much of their resources into obtaining almost over 150 pieces for an exhibit?

The answer lies quite simply in the title of the exhibit. “Love and Romance in Renaissance Italy. All these objects were created as everlasting symbols of status, piety and love. As I trembled in the slightly chilly marble hall where most of the exhibit was housed I could not help but embrace how aptly titled it was.

  The painting of a beautiful woman probably commissioned by a doting husband stared across a blue and white ceramic vase. Celestial cherubs and gods like Venus, commissioned by those who tried in every way to be closer to God were recurring motifs. It is difficult not to generalize or to be overly sentimental in analyzing Renaissance art because the artists themselves deliberately exaggerated the subjects. Immense oil paintings of partially nude women of impressive proportions gazed the viewer out of countenance. This was considered beauty! Past tense is used because standards of what stands for love or beauty has drastically changed in a society that is so insecure.

            Historically, the High Italian Renaissance was a period where the pursuit of perfection was channeled through the skill of artists and their craft. Looking at their preindustrial era surroundings they saw potential for beauty and divinity reminiscent of the grandeur that was Rome. One such man was Fra Fillipo Lippi. He was a painter and monk. I recognized his style instantly as I my eyes skipped across the room. He specialized in profile paintings of Italian nobility and mostly couples as seen in the painting “Portrait of a Woman and a Man at a Casement”. In his pursuit of idealization he focuses on the details of an elaborate headpiece and dress rather than the woman that wore it. Her exaggeratedly high forehead, lack of eyebrows, and wan pallor though disconcerting the viewer was considered beauty. On her right arm he wrote the word “Leal” in Italian. Understandably to further emphasize her perfection as a loyal wife. Lorenzo Lotto also undertook to paint in this time and his portayal of “Venus and Cupid” is awe inspiring. Venus as the godess of beauty reposed and completely at ease with cupid at her feet gives and indescribable sense of serenity and peace. This was art and love in renaissance Italy.

This romantic idealization went beyond the human form. In the artist’s eyes and in my minds eye it transcended into human nature itself.

December 29, 2008   Comments Off on Art and Love in Renaissance Italy : There is no other way to put it!

Tres Bien Mais Triste


“Les Ecailles De La Memoire”, better understood as “The Scales of Memory” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, better known as “BAM”, was a disconcerting piece of African interpretive dance. [Read more →]

December 29, 2008   Comments Off on Tres Bien Mais Triste

The Cage



I titled my collage “The Cage” because I feel that there are two different parts to me. This duality is demonstrated by my mixed use of media and dimensions. I choose first off to put a set of red lips the same proportions as mine. I feel that they are literally the feature that stands out the most in mean and I betray most of my emotions by twisting and scrunching them up by turns. I choose a woodcarving I made to symbolize my ability to create something beautiful out of a simple block of wood using my hands and a chisel. It serves as a pedestal of sorts for my lips as my creativity holds up my sensitivity. 

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December 16, 2008   1 Comment

Susan Meiselas: Capturing real human nature

 Susan Meiselas’s decision to pursue photography has taken her around the world. From Nicaragua, El Salvador, small towns and even South Bronx Mieselas had focused on capturing the horror of war ravaged and impoverished nations. In her series “Carnival Strippers” she focused on following the itinerary of carnival strippers. She took pictures not only of their performances but their own personal moments when they stopped being entertainers on stage and started being human. [Read more →]

December 16, 2008   Comments Off on Susan Meiselas: Capturing real human nature

Sam Freedman Explains “Who She Was”

             First and foremost Samuel Freedman is know to the world as a widely read New York Times columnist, author and professor at Columbia University’s School of Journalism. To our IDC class and to anyone who has read his book “Who She Was”, he is a penitent son.

            Courteous as befits a man of his intelligence he entered our class a few minutes late with an apology and a reminder to Professor Bernstein that he had sent her two messages to alert her to his lateness. Even with deadlines earlier that morning he still took the time to come speak to our class. Mr. Freedman showed us immense presence of mind.           

He confessed in our class, as he looked down at his black patent leather shoes and nondescript dark slacks, “He wasn’t a very good son”. This confession is the first part to an explanation as to why he would write a book about his mother. Mothers are very interesting I suppose because everyone has one it is a universal subject. It was not impulse that drove him as he realized at her burial that he did not know her, it was guilt.

Running his hand back against his prickly salt and pepper hair he admitted he was “complicit on the silence of that subject”. He sugar coated his confession with a lower more even tone as he shifted side to side at the edge of the table at the front of the classroom, that he was at times uncommunicative and condemning of his mother. As he smiled at our questions and raised his shaggy eyebrows at some of them it was clear that he hadn’t quite gotten over this guilt in writing this book. He was as he put it “filled with shame and remorse at not being a more attentive son and better to her when she was sick”.

            I believe his guilt motivated him to research the aspects of her life with a “fanatical” attention to detail. He “knew what she was” but not “how she got there” and in saying that he acknowledged that he unfairly cast judgment on her. According the Professor Freedman if you “write about your own specific experiences and if done right, readers bring own experiences with reading and find connections”. It is sad for a young, idealistic student such as myself to admit this but theme of a son unable to reconcile with a parent is universal. Any adult with that much influence and proximity to a young child is bound to create disputes and disagreements. He believes in the “Periodic table of human nature – everything in material world can be broken down to finite elements; no matter what happens in human existence, everything breaks down to love, hate, disappointment, human personality, as long as you’re true to those, people will find the points of connection”. These themes are not all sad but Samuel Freedman is correct in his assertion that human beings sometimes relate to each other less in aspects in happiness and more in aspects of suffering because the later is just so much more prevalent.

            His final piece of advice to a group of idealistic and high achieving students that compromise Professor Bernstein’s Art’s In New York class addressed the future. As young individuals we will all eventually become parents ourselves. He warned us to be careful of denying our children of their “hearts desire”. If it is not something that “will kill them like drugs or something be careful of denying them that”. His mother was denied a chance of a happy marriage based on her love for Charlie and that is how she changed. I still find it unsettling how he could write in such a detached manner about his mother, someone who was in his life for so long. Only in addressing her past and sharing it was he able to find some sort of redemption. In forgiving her for her he forgives himself for the lack of communication between them. The book is written and published and he can move on to the future now.

December 16, 2008   Comments Off on Sam Freedman Explains “Who She Was”

Frances Richey offers Insight on “The Warrior”


Deep in the bowels of the Macaulay Honors College Building on November 11, 2008 we were privy to a small and intimate reading of Frances Richey poems by none other than Mrs. Richey herself.

She smiled somewhat nervously at the audience and adjusted her purple cardigan set. She beamed at them with her eyes smiling through her square lenses. There was not much to set her apart from an average benevolent looking middle age woman as I observed her from the second row. That was until she started to talk about her son directly and through her poems. [Read more →]

December 16, 2008   Comments Off on Frances Richey offers Insight on “The Warrior”

David Fenton Captures a Jumpin’ Jagger with Flash

Not everything looks worse in black and white.  In the case of David Fenton’s small gem of a photography collection “The Eye of the Revolution”, worse could be more loosely translated to more serious.

These serious images of the seventies revolution are pocketed away in the nondescript Steven Kasher Gallery. This small exhibit is in a high ceiling room with the black and white photo prints interrupting the otherwise stark white walls. Their somber gray tones draw the unsuspecting viewer in with a note of concern. After a closer inspection they either draw back with indulgent smiles. John Lennon and Yoko Ono onstage together, Mick Jagger doing a power jump, bare feet dancing girls with long flowing hair. [Read more →]

December 16, 2008   Comments Off on David Fenton Captures a Jumpin’ Jagger with Flash

Clay Makes a Mould All His Own

Clay as himself

“Let me introduce you to my man Clay!”  The hip one man musical with hip hop, yes hip-hop.

Now any skeptic or Broadway buff that might scoff at the idea of hip-hop or any non traditional form of music on a stage.  They might even deign to hide a condescending laugh at the idea of a white guy going to a bookstore of all places and rapping his way to self-actualization. Just watching the first five minutes of “Clay” can change those judgmental notions and there lies the power of Mr. Sax. Matt Sax’s refreshing rhymes and contagiously energetic performance joins the ranks of such musicals as “In the Heights” a Broadway musical with the enterprising Lin Manuel Miranda. [Read more →]

December 16, 2008   Comments Off on Clay Makes a Mould All His Own

Who He Was: A Family Man

           If he wasn’t working he was driving. Driving south, every few months after the divorce from his first wife Marilyn McClure and the separation from the son he always wanted, he just dropped everything and drove. On his way there he thought of her, how when he married her she looked just like Diana Ross- she still did. He thought of Bryan, their son Bryan who was so bright in everything.  It was the thought of them that kept him awake and heartened on the road. From New York City to Orlando he didn’t even make a stop at to sleep at one of the motels that lined the highway. [Read more →]

December 15, 2008   1 Comment

Falling In Love With Prose!

            “She was so beautiful and doomed and she had a death wish” no, this is not Francine Prose but Myra, an insane character from “Hansel and Gretel”; one of her short stories from the collection “The Peaceable Kingdom”. The real Francine Prose held the audience captive during the reading with her soft, deep intonations. Her hair curtained her face as she drew it back occasionally to reveal the intelligence and wit written not only in her story but also on her face. She peered up to regard the audience that was intentionally shocked into attention by the image of Hecuba and her cat.

                During the talkback, Prose stated she started writing stories as an indirect result of the unruly children she had to babysit as a child. Her face drew back in a smile when she recalled she “did a lot of ghost stories” to entertain the children. Her use of logic and sense of humor led her to discover that if they were scared they might be less restless. Many of her ideas for novels including “Hansel and Gretel” came from personal experience. Prose explained, “As a child I was a huge reader”. She readily cited the highly relevant Hans Christian Andersen and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott Her influences were a revelation. Hans Christen Andersen’s tales even though irreverent, sometimes have dark undertones just like her work. Alcott’s novel is an almost biographical account of a female writer who falls into “vortexes” and “writing fits” and supports herself with them. Francine Prose’s character is such that she remembers staying up all night to start a novel. Initially to her writing was not so much about the freedom of expression but also her livelihood. She admitted she could not “imagine doing anything else” and “just didn’t have a chance for writer’s block”. Her approach to her profession is not only realistic it is admirable

 Her independence is admirable and her spirit shows in her book “Reading Like A Writer”. Prose emphasizes the importance of reading not just for plot but also for the originality of the writer. In opposition to the nature of a short story, a novel focuses more on the character development.  To Francine Prose writing is a novel is “scarier” because there is a chance that it might not go anywhere”. When questioned about her writing methods,” I just write on sentence after another” Her approach at writing maybe considered unorthodox. Yet when she writes, every word is deliberate, and every thought is concise, even at times humorous, just like her. 

November 14, 2008   4 Comments