Archive for January, 2009

on creativity and reinvention

Out of laziness and a coming sickness, I stayed in my room last night, a Friday night, and read almost the entire issue of this week’s The New Yorker. Since subscribing to the New Yorker this summer, I’ve become much more informed I think or at least I pretend to be. I can tell you about V.S. Naipul (a crazy writer with a confusing background), an organic Chinese restaurant in Nanjing, the history of universal healthcare in Europe (and why it is ridiculous that we don’t have it). The New Yorker political writing is like news, but with more research, more depth, opinion and humour. But what I love in the magazine is its essays on people who I usually have never of.

Last night, that person was George Balachine, a Russian choreographer. Besides Balachine’s dance, he was famous for his sayings like “There are no mothers-in-law in ballet” and equally famous for his re-quotes “I am not a man, but a cloud in trousers” (what?) which he stole from some Russian poet. His knack for stealing quotes wasn’t a reflection on his own lack of a words, but his perception of creation as a sort of reinvention. An original Balachine quote: “If you like something of someone else’s, why not take it? The important thing is that it seem natural and fit in.

It reminds me of McGiff in every art class, telling us to walk around and steal from our classmates whether their technique, color, idea, any small tidbit we wanted we should take away. This is all good and nice, but the real question is when does it “seem natural and fit in”? A Goethe quote: “Everything has been thought of before; the task is to think of it again” and to that I would add “at the right time”. It’s figuring out which kind of roof your design really calls for after you spend an hour bookmarking 30 pages in 5 different books. That is the hard part. It is not difficult to find something I love, but oh so challenging to make it work for me.

As the spring studio looms ahead, the questions and insecurities about my own creativity come back again. It’s strange to me that in art major senior year, I was always convinced that I could eventually execute my idea however imperfectly, as long as I spent enough time adding layers of paint. But in studio now, I don’t have that kind of confidence which makes every project feel like the coin toss whether I’ll get it right or wrong.

A final quote from Walton Ford, a watercolorist, also profiled in this week’s New Yorker. “I hope I’m still going to do something more interesting than I do now. I feel like, right now, I am an interesting minor artist, a footnote in art history, you know? I’ve got this territory that’s my own…..but I’m not pushing the language of making pictures in any new direction. There’s nothing I’m doing that wasn’t done better by Gericualt. But maybe that will change. Anyway, I’m not there yet“.


arial bold

sort of looks like helvetica.

Two very simple publicity posters I recently made for Rune, MIT’s literary journal. The first is a bit of a knockoff of Dia Beacon’s cafe napkins and the second was inspired by a  m&m paris poster though nowhere close to their complexity.

Thoughts, criticicms, and possibilities are most welcome.

Rune Poster 1Rune Poster 2

Where the free things are

is where the people are.
This is especially true in New York.
Evidence: Free Friday Nights at MoMA

A free MoMA ticket may be the most wanted museum pass in the city since the place charges $12/student and $20/adult (yikes!).  Not only do you get to enjoy incredibly vibrant architecture (more on that later) and decent art, you get to use that saved money to dine at The Terrace. $12 will get you three chunks of good cheese, 3 slices of very good bread, and 9 fresh berries at the classy, minimalist looking cafe on the 4th floor of the museum

But before all that, we had to wait in a line that wrapped around three corners of a Manhattan block;  we started somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd corner.


We waited 25 minutes (not bad) during which the line got even longer and we twice had to ally with the people behind us to defend our spots from line-cutters. Here is a how you defend: you poke them very hard in the arm (which they ignore), then you must glare and rudely say “EXCUSE ME, but the END of the line is over THERE” and point dramatically at the other corner  (at which point the sneaky line cutter will avoid eye contact and pretend to be a confused foreigner).  It also helps to attract of a lot of attention so people nearby are looking suspiciously at them too. Eventually the line cutters slithered away and we got into the museum.

Being inside MoMA on a Friday night during the holiday season is probably like being in an overcroweded Asian city. Or it also looks something like the fish tanks in Chinese grocery stores in New York where all you can see fish and barely any of the water that’s supposedly in tank. Except that the tank is designed by a Yoshio Tanaguchi and it’s exciting getting through the tank and finding your way around people.


The MoMA building is quite spectacular and actually gets better as you start piling people in. The building capitalizes on the fact that people like being around other people and that a space that feels filled with people feels more vibrant. Also, two reasons why people to New York in the first place.

cimg73101Slight congestion on the escalators.

cimg72941Overlooks galore

The most impressively used space was the central atrium (1st photo) that was exhibiting a video piece being projected on all three 30 ft high walls. In the center, there was a large round couch on a carpet where people were taking off their shoes, laying down, talking, chatting, enjoying. All around the atrium people scattered about sitting against the walls, lying on the ground and even falling asleep. It was a real urban living room.


As for the actual artwork, I was not as inspired except for one of Van Gogh’s paintings and his pre-painting ink sketches, but maybe this will come later?

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