Sunday, April 13, 2014

Getting Cultured in New York

Last weekend I took a long overdue trip down to New York City to see friends, family and everything else New York has to offer. A friend and I made Saturday a getting-cultured sort of day and spent the entire afternoon-evening viewing some wonderful art.

First stop was the New-York Historical Society for John James Audubon’s original watercolor paintings for his huge (in size and content) print edition of The Birds of America (1827–38).

More about the day after the jump...

The paintings are incredibly large, his initial goal being to paint all the birds to scale. The detail is extraordinary, all being done in watercolor, gouache and some pencil.

Audubon’s Aviary: Parts Unknown, is part two of a tripartite series Audubon’s Aviary: The Complete Flock, as the Historical Society unveils the complete work in portions. It will be on display until May 26th.

Also, currently on display in the Historical Society is the photography exhibition Bill Cunningham:Facades. Cunningham is a New York staple, a fashion street photographer, known for riding around the city on his bicycle, capturing the fashions of the everyday people on the street. In 1968 he began a project with his friend Editta Sherman, going around the city modeling with architecture while dressed in period clothing. The outfits, acquired from various thrift shops, were meant to reflect the time from which the building had been built.

Bill Cunningham: Facades will be on display at the Historical Society until June 15th.

After a dinner of beer and cold sesame noodles, we found our way down to the IFC Theater for a screening of the documentary Finding Vivian Maier. I had heard a little about Vivian Maier - the story of finding hundreds of thousands of wonderful photographs by an entirely unknown deceased photographer had made it around the internet - but this was the first time I truly came to understand the whole story.

In 2005, John Maloof, while researching for an Images of America book on Portage Park, Chicago, came across a trunk of photographs and negatives he bought at auction in hopes to supplement images for the book. While the images ended up not being useful for that project, he had stumbled on to something quite extraordinary. In the trunk he bought were hundreds of thousand of negatives and rolls of film, which as he began to develop and document, he realized (even to his untrained eye) were incredible pictures.

The film follows his exploration into the life of Vivian Maier, learning who she was, what she did and why no one had ever seen her work before. It also follow's Maloof's struggle to maintain Vivian Maier's legacy, trying to gain recognition for her work posthumously while attempting to archive the thousands upon thousands of images she had created.

For me, the best part of the film was really getting to see her images, I think I would have been just as happy learning her history in a book. But the film does allow for interviews though and it's fascinating to hear the stories from people who had known Vivian (though it seems that barely anyone actually knew the real Vivian Maier), especially since so many of them were children for whom she had been their nanny and much of their recollections are flavored by time and childhood understanding.

See more of Vivian Maier's work online at

No comments:

Post a Comment