Sunday, March 13, 2011

Balloon-acy on the Bowery

Jean says: On March 3rd, Valerie and I attended an opening and performances at a gallery at 208 Bowery, in the gentrifying Lower East Side. Although the weather was cold outside, the three-story gallery, in what appeared to be a colonial era brick row house, was warm and toasty. Here we are on the top floor gallery space interacting with the art, which in this case involved a large canary yellow helium balloon tethered to a huge rope, secured by a heavy anvil. The heavy rope ran out of the gallery all the way down three flights of stairs (in what I remember to be a black staircase), to coil like a large cobra by the front door. Guests were free to pick up and pull on the rope if they so chose. It was obvious from the get-go that this was an audience-participation event. (Valerie says: I, doing my fragile little old lady thing, was appalled not only by the coiled rope [there is a horrifying scene involving a coiled rope toward the end of the movie The Piano] but by the fact that there was only a right hand bannister. Still up to my right elbow in a cast then, I could not hold the bannister on the steep and very loooong staircase. Visions of sugarplums may dance in some people's heads, but my visions going up that staircase were far more fraught.)

As you can see, Valerie wasted no time throwing herself (literally) into the performance, cast and all. [Warning: Do not attempt this at home, sweeties! Trained professionals at work.] My partner in crime adds new meaning to audience participation. (Valerie points out: I have the utmost respect for artists' work. I did not touch - I mean interact with - the art until given explicit encouragement to do so by the artist.)

Jean says: Let the record refect that while Valerie did recently mention that I ran up to a gaggle of drag queens like a kid to an ice cream truck as she demurely stayed back, waiting to be approached, that is definitely NOT her usual modus operandi! Your honor, if it please the court, I offer these photographs into evidence as proof that the defendant is no shy, shrinking violet.

(Valerie says: I was attempting, futilely, to re-enact the final scene of a marvelous French movie from my childhood - The Red Balloon. Obviously, the secret must be in the color of the balloon.)

Jean says: If a picture is worth a thousand words, need I say more? Luv the colorful lettered leggings! This evening prompted musings of how our shyness manifests itself differently. While Valerie can launch herself into the abyss in front of total strangers, I am reticent to do likewise. When among friends and family, however, the reverse appears to be true. Valerie will appear to be the voice of reason, while I'll do just about anything on a dare in front of friends. Hmmm. (Yes, Valerie nods, why is that?)

Lovely Amelia is the artist responsible for the wonderful balloon sculpture that inspired our mayhem that evening. Not only is she gorgeous but she also has a killer Brit accent. Americans are such suckers for that! :)

Jean says: This trio of downtown dames was a wonderful counterpoint to our art attack. Liz on the left and Hannah on the right flank their friend whose name eludes me. [Note to file: write a note to remind myself to write down names of the wonderful folks we meet.] Click on photos to enlarge. Yes, kiddies, Hannah (a jewelry designer) really is wearing a molded plastic necklace of a cartoon deer, antlers and all!

Jean says: As guests entered the second floor gallery, they immediately encountered this performance piece I like to call the Plaster Princess. She was pulling handfuls of plaster up and coating her body. I waited an appropriate amount of time until all the strategic parts were covered before snapping my picture. While the plaster was hardening, we visited the other rooms on the second and third floor, including the large sculpture of a stick of butter that was about 2'x2'x5' in size. Unfortunately, I appear to not have captured an image of that particular item of dairy art.

(Valerie says: in connection with this art work, I was reminded of the butter scene from Last Tango in Paris, but did not try to re-enact that. As Jean said - and particularly with butter that's 2'x2'x5' in size (and that's feet - not inches, for those of you who are skimming - DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.)

Like a caterpillar emerging from her crysalis as a butterfly, the Plaster Princess extricated herself from her artwork.

Jean says: Here's the behind the scenes look at the perch used by the Plaster Princess from which she could sit, frost herself into a living cupcake, and be able to extricate herself with minimal damage to the final product. Performing the same piece from a flat, seated position on the floor would have been next to impossible. Fascinating process.

Jean says: Here is our beautiful hostess of the evening, Hala Matar, senior art consultant for Matar Art Establishment. (Valerie says: KILLER blouse!) Originally from Bahrain, she's now a resident of the Lower East Side ( We'd just met the previous weekend at an event for Stephen Petronio Company at an Upper East Side apartment of a couple of serious art collectors. Petronio Company is gearing up for its New York Season and opening night gala April 5th at the Joyce Theater. For details, go to:

And in another part of the forest:

In the other half of the second floor gallery was a fascinating installation. Below the incandescent light bulbs were black tubs of water surrounding what appeared to be a sleeping figure in a camouflaging black leotard, whose heartbeat was microphoned. The water-filled tubs amplified the sound, which was projected into the room from the huge speakers.

Jean says: I much preferred this type of aural audience participation. It was strangely soothing to stand there in the warm room, listening to the steady bu-bump, bu-bump, bu-bump of the heart rhythm of the artistic echocardiogram. Having just come in from the cold to the warm room, I was experiencing the puppy-and-the-loud-ticking-clock phenomenon. Puppies and kittens are so used to their mothers' rhythmic hearbeats lulling them to sleep that, when separated from them and fellow littermates, they often have trouble sleeping. One school of thought is to put a loudly ticking clock under their bedding as a substitute. The environment was so relaxing, even with the bright lighting. Needless to say, if I'd been seated, I'd have been snoring in no time flat!

Jean says: Find the pope in the pizza! The bright lights made it difficult to see the performance artist nestled quietly among the tubs of water.

Here's a shot of Valerie in front of one of the large speakers.

Jean says: Hannah was kind enough to take the pictures of Valerie and me together to memorialize the moment. Then we headed to Pulino's Pizza (the latest McNally brother creation, on Bowery and Houston) to meet an Irish gentleman. Valerie had the cabbage and pumpkin seed salad and I had the thin-crust grandmother's pizza (pizza della nonna) with crushed tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. [Note to file: Make note to remind myself that Thursday night is date night, so all of the East Village and LES restaurants and bars are jammed and incredibly noisy. Valerie will never go there with me again, even if the maitre d' was tall, dark and handsome.] (Valerie says: actually, the gent was Irish-American. REAL Irish people are amused by Americans of Irish descent who think they have a connection with the old sod just because their names begin with O', or because they know their grandmother came from County This or That. I have some Irish in me - must be the fightin' Irish - so I can say that.)

No comments:

Post a Comment