Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Art and Perspective

Regular readers know that Valerie had minor foot surgery recently. The doctor prescribed complete bed rest and leg elevation for the first two days, and extremely curtailed activity for the next twelve. The first week, this was really easy - rest is a rare luxury to be savored - and Jean was away on vacation the first week anyway, so there were no temptations.  By the second week, however, plans were percolating.  After all, the foot seemed to be progressing rapidly, Jean was back in town, bloggers always need new cannon fodder, and we had been wondering when we'd get a chance to see the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Punk show again, unobstructed by a gazillion other people.

A quick look on the Met's website confirmed that wheelchairs were available, so the deal was sealed.  Off we went!  We agreed to meet at the information desk just inside the main door.  (As it undergoes renovations, the Met is even looking a bit punky!)  Jean was able to bound up the majestic stairs you see here.  For Valerie, who took a taxi to avoid the staircases down to the subway and the standing wait for the bus, it was very much 'I don't think so'.  She took the Met's side entrance and an elevator, and in no time at all we had procured a wheelchair.

Well!  One's perspective on the world certainly does change from a wheelchair.  Not to say you can't see the entire mannequin, but this is what's at eye level.  They ARE great shoes (love the lucite soles!) but looking at everything else involves some craning of the neck.  We should confess here that photos were not allowed in the Punk show, but wheelchairs, with their armrests and upholstered sides, allow a little camouflage.  Just don't forget to disable the flash or you'll blow your cover.  If you have an accomplice wheeling you around, she can stand between you and the vigilant guards and create a distraction so you can get your shot.

We did actually ask a guard for permission to photograph graffiti that had sprung up on the styrofoam walls since our visit on the day of the press preview.  We have a mole in the museum who informs us that the set designers knew the styrofoam would be a magnet for graffitists.  There were never any signs posted ("Please add your graffiti here"), but no graffitists were deterred, and we saw a lot of clever drawings that we would dearly have loved to show you.  Sad to say, the guard told us that not even the graffiti could be photographed.  And since it was all in the guard's line of sight, we were prevented from carrying out our subversive plan.  Could we add our own graffiti, we asked, still hoping to do something un-little-old-ladylike.  No, said the guard, they had put a stop to that some time ago. SIGH....

When we were little girls and wore stiff petticoats that stuck way out, ridiculous little boys liked nothing better than to try to pull up the whole kit and kaboodle to sneak a peak, the temptation being too strong to resist.  Little girls then had to spend a lot of time defending their dignity and honor by slapping the little boys away and slapping the buoyant petticoats back down.  Really, who comes up with these ideas?  (By contrast, what little boy would think to pull up a shift dress?)

The view from the wheelchair briefly transported Valerie back to childhood, to a mid-century little boy's favorite vantage point.

You can see how a shift dress, even on Audrey Hepburn, lends itself far less to little boys' thoughts of gleeful mayhem.

From there, on to other parts of the museum, where we were allowed to take photos, as long as we disabled the flash.  Above, what young people are now calling a 'selfie'.  No way we could both fit in unless Jean bent down or Valerie stood up.  Valerie has a look of utter concentration as she tries to imagine the best angle at which to photograph; Jean has a look of childlike impishness as she tries to mirror Warhol's Before and After. Finding ourselves in the modern art wing, we happily wandered through.  Jean gets extra special credit for reading all the texts throughout the journey, since Valerie couldn't.  Jean was a great guide, stopping as long as necessary, and choosing great points of interest.  Valerie found maneuvering the Met wheelchair easy and interesting, but life was made far easier when Jean did all the pushing.  Aside from once or twice nearly gashing a couple of visitors' shins (wheelchairs are longer than you think!), she soon became a champ at navigating.

Here Jean looks positively beatific (haloed, as you see) in front of a Kenneth Noland piece.  Having lived in the same apartment building as Kenneth's daughter Katy (now an artist in her own right) when she first moved to Soho, Jean has a nostalgic affinity for Kenneth's paintings.

The perennial question: how do we define art?  Here, Rothko's Still Life with Bootie.

Nothing like a surgical bootie, by the way, with its fenders and bumpers and accoutrements by Ace, to ruin ANY outfit you can possibly imagine.  Anyone who can photograph themselves looking great in booties and bandages, please send us a photo and we'll post it.  Jean also pointed out that Valerie was walking like a duck, so booties and bandages are contraindicated for the stylishly-minded on multiple levels.

After cruising past the Cy Twombly and Jasper Johns, we took the elevator downstairs to a small one-room exhibition called "African Art, New York and the Avant-Garde". Above, Brancusi's Sleeping Muse, which was reminiscent of the traditional 19th century African masks also on exhibit.  Taken from the wheelchair perspective, you do miss a few of the angles. As you can see by the location of the label, reading text is also a bit of a challenge from a wheelchair.

Obviously, some inventors have already considered the wheelchair perspective issue and have developed elevating wheelchairs like this one:

And that's just one of many interesting alternative wheelchair designs that can be found online, each with a different specialization.

Getting a bite to eat at the Museum's cafe is always a treat.  With very high ceilings (20+ feet??) and floor to ceiling windows, the space gets a lot of light.  Looking out onto Central Park, one gets a view of a vast expanse of grass, with birds and squirrels appearing and disappearing, and an occasional runner zipping by.  Above, you can see some of the array of 1970's era safety pin jewelry Jean wore in her own little personal homage to Punk (two safety pin necklaces and a safety pin bracelet, barely visible).

Valerie is also decked out in giant safety pins.  Here she shows off the requisite Punk show tchotchke (that's New York-ese for "souvenir", and pronounced CHOCHkuh): miniature spiked Vivienne Westwood shoes.  Vaguely, vaguely remind you of anything?

Valerie actually stood up (with the help of her trusty polka dot cane) when we were approached by Dennis (not shown, taking picture) and his adorable daughter Audra. We figure she must have liked our hats, because her dad brought her over to meet us.  It turns out that Audra is a Ford model!  Look for her in an upcoming Tommy Hilfiger ad!  (Parenthetical lesson learned from this: never never never take a picture with sunlight in the background.  When will we ever learn?!)

We had a great day, learned that a little immobility doesn't mean you have to stay home, and Audra was the icing on the cake.

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As soon as we can (Sunday?), we're going to report on the Dandy exhibition at the Rhode Island School of Design. In the meantime, if we've piqued your interest (hopefully we have), click on the link to read about Artist/Rebel/Dandy: Men of Fashion. It closes August 18, so if you don't live nearby, make your plans now.


  1. your photos and adventures always amaze me

  2. I wish you a speedy recovery with the foot Valerie. It's always exciting to visit your blog. And always inspiring

  3. I love the photo of your eyes in the foreground, followed by Jean, and the Warhol! It must have been a bit of an eye-opener to tour a museum with the perspective of someone who is confined to a wheelchair - I hadn't thought about how frustrating that must be when the descriptions and art works are most often hung at the eye level of someone standing up.

    Good luck with the foot - here's to be boot-and-bandage free soon!