Meb Byrne

Archive for the ‘museum’ Category

Date Night: Down The Rabbit Hole

In breakfast, movie, museum, music, nyc, romance, song, tour, treasure trove, upcoming on March 3, 2010 at 1:24 pm

This plan for your weekend is courtesy of BLoGT.

In honor of the long-awaited release of Tim Burton’s interpretation of Alice in Wonderland, in theaters March 5, BLoGT presents a special themed Date Night, designed to help you OD on Lewis Carroll’s enduring drug trip. Do a little pre-planning and -purchasing, wear your walking shoes, and remember to update your iPod before you go!

Head uptown early to snag a seat for breakfast at…

Alice’s Tea Cup, 102 West 73rd Street, at Columbus Avenue

Praised by Yelp and Glitter Sleuth alike, this themed restaurant has three locations on the Upper East and West Sides. The whimsical decor, dotted with quotes from the original novel, and the menu, overflowing with pots of tea, trays of scones and tiers of delicate sandwiches, are all designed around Carroll’s whimsical world. A favorite for little girls’ birthdays and yoga-fit mommies’ brunches alike, this is no place for hetero men.

Arrive at the restaurant early, or be prepared for a wait of an hour or more; once ten o’clock rolls around, tables are at a premium.

After you’ve munched yourself into an Alice-themed stupor, head northeast through Central Park to find…

The Unbirthday Party sculpture, at 74th Street and Central Park East, north of Conservatory Water

Meet your favorite oversized characters! You’ll have to jostle for place with the dozens of children who constantly clamor all over this beloved sculpture, commissioned by George Delacorte in 1959 in honor of his wife, Margarita. It’s worth the wait, though, so stick around and takes pictures of your date sitting on a giant bronze mushroom. Better yet, steal a quiet spot on the back of a mushroom and read from the original text to one another. While you’re back there, play Spot-The-Tiny-Bronze-Insect; the sculpture’s details are lovely.

For some time away from the crowds, walk southeast through the Park’s eastern side while rocking out to…

  • White Rabbit, Jefferson Airplane
  • Alice (Underground), Avril Lavigne
  • Eat Me, Drink Me, Marilyn Manson
  • Alice, Stevie Nicks
  • Sunshine, Aerosmith
  • Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, Bob Dylan
  • Alice In Wonderland, Wynter Gordon
  • Heads Will Roll, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • Alice, Alice,Victim Effect
  • Down the Rabbit Hole, Adam Lambert

Many thanks to Lenny’s Alice in Wonderland Site and Spinner for much of this playlist. Check their sites out for more song ideas, and for Wonderland-inspired music videos!

Continue south long enough, and you can spend your afternoon perusing…

Tim Burton at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53 Street, between 5th & 6th Avenues

Don’t be one of the only New Yorkers who hasn’t yet seen this exhibit! Funded by Johnny Depp and Burton’s wife, Helena Bonham-Carter, the must-see retrospective of director Tim Burton’s work traces back to his earliest beginnings, including scribblings and drawings on cocktail napkins. Immerse yourself in his weird world.

Remember to purchase timed tickets online before you go; again, in the afternoons, the museum and especially the exhibit become packed.

Finally satiated? Wend your way home by way of…

“Alice: The Way Out” in the 50th Street 1 train subway station

The Central Park Unbirthday Party isn’t Alice’s only artistic appearance in the Big Apple. Keep your eyes peeled on the subway platform for a series of awesome and oft-overlooked mosaics featuring Alice and her friends in Wonderland, installed by Liliana Porter in 1994. There’s loads of cool art in the subway system; see what else you can spy on your ride home.

And cap off your day with the piece de resistance…

A screening of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland at a theater near you! Wear a campy outfit and join the screaming fangirls, or just stand back and take it all in.

As with everything else on this date, buy your tickets online ASAP and arrive at the theater EARLY. Enjoy!


Gingerbread Gallery

In art, candy, exhibit, holiday, museum, photo op, syracuse on December 30, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Every autumn, the Erie Canal Museum in downtown Syracuse holds a gingerbread house contest. All ages are invited to submit a confectionary creation, with winners chosen for each of four categories: Confectioners Competition, Youth, Family/Group, and Canal Themed. This year’s houses are very imaginative, drawing their inspiration from a construction crew, a backyard shed, a beaver dam, a Central New York aquaduct, and even the Wizard of Oz. Fondant icing is rampant, as are any number of types of yummy shingling. (Chocolate discs, anyone?) The exhibit closes on January 3, so make sure to pay a visit before these sweets are gone!

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Annex NYC

In american, exhibit, museum, music, nyc, recommended on December 28, 2009 at 9:57 pm

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Annex, a branch of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH, opened in Soho one year ago. Before the museum sadly closes on January 3, I highly suggest a trip to rekindle your love of music, youth and dreams.

The Annex is a wonderful homage to rock ‘n’ roll music, deeply respecting its roots, and focusing on the progression of the genre throughout American history. The museum’s exhibits covers the greats, of course (the Beatles, the Rolling Stones), but also ventures into more recent territory: London’s punk rock movement through the Sex Pistols and the Clash, the birth of hip hop with Grand Master Flash, and even modern artists like Amy Winehouse and Coldplay all receive attention. More than anything, the museum acts as a conduit through which to remember the importance and power of this revolutionary art form, whether you’re sixteen or sixty.

Upon entering the Annex, all visitors are given a state-of-the-art headset to hear the myriad television screens stationed throughout the museum. Sensors in the headphones detect which screen you’re standing nearest to (and thus which screen you’re most likely to be watching), and plays the soundtrack to that television’s film clips. The system allows you to individualize your experience, lingering over Tina Turner but skipping Billy Joel, reading each letter written from Paul Simon to Art Garfunkel but buzzing past Madonna’s corset from the Blonde Ambition tour. The Annex succeeds entirely thanks to this technology, continuously piping iconic songs to your ears and immersing you in the music.

The winding exhibits consist of these television screens flashing clips of rock ‘n’ roll shows, and, near them, costumes pieces or musical instruments used in those performances. The collection of artifacts is extensive and evokes wonderful memories: Johnny Cash’s boots, Elvis Presley’s sequin-emblazoned jumpsuit, Elton John’s sunglasses, James Brown’s velvet cape, Bruce Springsteen’s studded leather jacket. Scribbled drafts of song lyrics, set lists once taped to the stage at CBGB’s, letters from John, Paul, Ringo and George to their fans, are barely legible on yellow pad and crumpled loose leaf paper. An alcove devoted to guitars ranges from Clapton’s simple acoustic to metallic silver and Day-Glo green electric contraptions. The space is used marvelously, creating the thrown-together, haphazard sense of an underground concert space with exposed brick walls, white paint, graffiti and band posters.

The museum’s final, self-contained exhibit is entitled “John Lennon: The New York City Years,” a tribute to John Lennon’s experiences in New York created by his widow Yoko Ono. The exhibit is housed in a bright white room, with John and Yoko’s art films, interviews and concert footage playing on the four walls and glass cases of artwork and song scribblings placed in the center. At the entrance hang John’s iconic New York shirt and belt buckle; at the exit, the brown bag of his bloody clothing, given to Yoko after his death. More than a few spectators cry.

The Annex pays homage to its hometown, New York City, as a significant player in the history of rock ‘n’ roll, with a fun room devoted to the city and its venues. An interactive, rainbow-lit map of Manhattan lets you locate hundreds of famous performance spaces and read about their varied histories. From hip hop and R&B way uptown, to folk music in the Village, to punk and New Wave on the Bowery, the Annex encourages visitors to explore the city for themselves and make new memories of rock ‘n’ roll. Before the Annex closes its doors forever, go visit this wonderful museum and get inspired to do just that.


The Star-Spangled Banner

In dc, historical, museum on July 15, 2009 at 3:58 pm

The National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, recently reopened after extensive renovations. One of its most famous pieces, the giant “star-spangled banner” made famous by Francis Scott Key, has been treated to a complete makeover. Too fragile to ever hang again, the flag now lies on display in the solid, smart exhibit, “The Star-Spangled Banner: The Flag That Inspired the National Anthem.”

The exhibit begins, as many popular Smithsonian exhibits do, with a long line. Don’t let the wait put you off: the line moves quickly. A darkened ramp acts as both crowd control and excitement-builder as it leads upwards into the blackness. One side of the ramp’s hall is lined with a mass of information, covering the buildup to the Battle of Baltimore on September 14, 1814, and Key’s subsequent penning of the Star-Spangled Banner.

As you turn the corner, the flag comes into view and takes your breath away. This flag is HUGE, measuring at thirty by thirty-four feet, cut down over the years from its original thirty by forty-two feet. The enormous banner is luminescent in the black room, accentuating its size. The darkness imparts a sense of spectacle, and the awe which Key must have felt, spotting the flag in the breaking dawn.

The most unique feature of the exhibit is an interactive viewing station: a giant screen displaying a slowly shifting image of the flag, located at the end of the exhibition hall. By touching the screen, you can control how the flag moves. As well, you can open various tabs of historical information by touching blinking circles on the screen. The display is a little difficult to decipher, but a good effort on the Smithsonian’s part to incorporate new media and a younger generation into its exhibitions.

The outgoing ramp features the history of the flag’s maker, Mary Pickersgill, and her lineage. Fascinating photos of how the flag was preserved and displayed over the centuries hang above various artifacts, including a fabulous silver punch bowl shaped like a British mortar, with matching cups and ladle. In a final burst of patriotic fervor, the importance of the American flag and “The Star-Spangled Banner” through the ages are highlighted with a montage of famous individuals and groups singing the anthem.

“The Star-Spangled Banner: The Flag That Inspired the National Anthem” is simple, direct, and focused, qualities which often elude the Smithsonian Institute in its quest to successfully impart its gigantic store of artifacts and knowledge to the public. This is one Smithsonian exhibit worth checking out.

Old Stone House

In dc, garden, historical, museum on June 21, 2009 at 10:15 pm

I stumbled across a historical treat in Georgetown the other day. Built in 1765, the Old Stone House is the only remaining pre-Revolutionary War building in Washington, DC. For decades, it was believed to have been the meeting place of George Washington and Pierre L’Enfant, the famous architect, when they sat down to plan the layout of the city of Washington. (Research in the 1950s proved that the two men actually met in a tavern down the street.) The House now serves as an example of a typical 18th century home, since so few survive.

The House has a sitting room, a dining room, two bedrooms for the parents and children, and a kitchen on the ground floor. Small plaques give you historical tidbits about the building. For a more comprehensive history, talk to the National Park Service staffers who greet you at the kitchen door. Interesting details, like the rare presence of a closet in the children’s bedroom, can start conversations about American history with young children or students.

I was initially drawn to the Old Stone House by its garden, located behind the building. A substantial green lawn is bordered by flowers, weeping willows and brick foot paths. A wooden bench at the bottom of the garden evokes the simplicity of colonial courtship, as do hidden paths which wind behind the flowerbeds.

The House’s one problem? Location, location, location. To get to Georgetown, you quite literally need to go over the river and through the wood, only these woods can give you malaria. The House is small, and I wouldn’t recommend it as a sole destination for a trek to Georgetown. My suggestion is to slog the twenty minutes from the Foggy Bottom metro to the House in the mid-afternoon. After you’ve seen the House, relax in the Barnes & Noble across the street, or stroll along Georgetown’s main street and find a cute spot for dinner.

Two Postsecret Shows

In art, exhibit, museum on June 7, 2009 at 10:09 pm

I first heard about Postsecret relatively soon after the blog was started in 2005. (For those of you who don’t know Postsecret yet: you know that famous ongoing art project where people send in secrets on postcards to that guy in Maryland who puts them up on his blog? Yeah, that one.)I read the new secrets, posted by Frank Warren, every Sunday. I have only had one bad experience with the site, when Frank posted graphic images without any warning and I was subsequently seriously messed up for about 48 hours. I would still recommend the site, although the noticeable shift over the years from deep, personal, specific revelations to more nebulous, universal, sometimes-self-pitying statements is unfortunate. Check it out if you have the time:

Since Postsecret became a national phenomenon, Frank has turned some of the postcards into a traveling art exhibit, currently on tour through December of 2010. The current leg of the tour is showing at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, NY, my home town. A smaller, more focused exhibit is also showing in the Hillyer Art Space in Washington, D.C.

I attended both exhibits with large groups of friends, which is the way I recommend you visit the shows, too. Viewing the secrets with lots of friends allows you to share connections within your group’s many viewpoints and life experiences. It also takes some of the edge off the more intense postcards, which commonly deal with heavy topics (eating disorders, abortions, death.)

Postsecret exhibits are simplistic: postcards hung in painstaking order create a sharp contrast to white walls, or are encased in free-standing clear plastic walls, so both sides of the postcards can be seen. A few choice postcards are blown up to the size of giant posters and displayed with the rest.

The Everson exhibit is tailored to the exhibition space, utilizing glass cases and two large white rooms in which free-standing plastic forms stand. My favorite room showcases a shocking collage of postcards, coating an entire wall in a cascading, tattered mess. The spectacle is breathtaking. The Hillyer exhibit, on the other hand, has only two small rooms to work with, and the exhibition style is much more uniform: five or six postcards are mounted on horizontal S-shaped plastic strips and mounted in a line along the two rooms’ walls. While aesthetically simple, the design lacks the ease or comfort of the postcards mounted in rectangular batches in the Everson. The Hillyer does not feature any free-standing plastic walls for patrons to wander around, which is a shame.

The content of the two exhibits differ immensely. Secrets in the Everson run the emotional and topical gamut, from funny to profane, touching to saddening to inspiring. The Hillyer exhibit, conversely, is titled “Confessions on Life, Death & God,” which is also the title of the fifth Postsecret book, due out this year. All the secrets in the Hillyer exhibit focus on religion, which doesn’t create as many opportunities for unexpected connections with others. Several themes are prevalent in the postcards: “I’m an atheist but I think I’m going to hell” is surprisingly common, as are commentaries on why God does or does not exist, followed by his perceived feelings toward the postcard’s creator.

I enjoy Postsecret because almost every week, Frank posts one or most postcards which I could have written. The feeling of solidarity with a stranger, experiencing the same emotions as I am, is powerful. The Everson exhibit provided that feeling in spades, and intensified it because I was with the real postcards for the first time. The Hillyer exhibit, while well-intended, missed the mark: I couldn’t identify with the postcards’ messages, even the ones from reluctant atheists, and so the exhibit passed me by. I worry that the strict focus on religion will turn away other patrons, as well.

The Hillyer space tries to recreate the fantastic postcard collage that the Everson did so well, by providing blank 5×7 note cards and crayons for patrons to put up their own secrets. This is a mistake. Drawing out a postcard in the midst of a thronging crowd (and oh were we thronging) defeats the necessary anonymity of Postsecret. Furthermore, a good two thirds of patrons’ postcards feature the kind of humor usually associated with high school boys, destroying Postsecret’s safe, accepting atmosphere. This, however, brought home another important point: maybe sometimes, even on Postsecret, we just shouldn’t take ourselves so seriously.

Postsecret is on display in the Hillyer Art Space until June 26th and in the Everson Museum of Art until July 12th.