MURALS! What a wonderful way to beautify a city. At a corner of the street where a dingy looking convenient store one day, then another day the front wall of the store is covered with a mural. Suddenly the neighborhood looks different. Under the bridge where dust and grimes of the roads above and the street below mix, murals can be so pleasing to look at when passing by there. I’m always fascinated with murals. Whenever I travel and visit a certain place, I would try to find them, at least one. I’m sort of a mural hunter if I can call myself that. Murals, nowadays, are part of the community as a tool to send messages out, to inspire many and to memorialize ideas and dreams. These murals in particular are located at the farther part of New Haven, far from the busy downtown area and pretty secluded. New Haven is one of the largest cities in Connecticut, the state where I live in. Murals have been popping up around the Elm City, New Haven’s nickname. They are surely the way to adorn the city with art, promote local artists and make statements about the people of new Haven. The murals under this bridge are unique and quite wonderful in their own ways with the styles that I think can be depicted as graffiti, surrealism and expressionism. There are many murals that I’d love to share here with you next time. Until then, enjoy this post and thanks for stopping by.
I get to know Northampton, a small city in western Massachusetts, as my daughter started her college last year. She goes to University of Massachusetts (UMass) in Amherst, a neighboring city of Northampton and we always pass by Northampton before reaching Amherst by car or train. My first encounter of Noho, the city’s nickname, was an eye-opening. The city is so charming with rows of 19th century buildings along its main streets. The downtown area especially, oozes that charm. For someone who has never come here, let alone heard about Northampton, I was in awe and felt dumbfounded. Every time we come to Amherst either dropping-off or picking-up our daughter from her dorm , or me having a solo trip to attend UMass Symphony Orchestra concerts (our daughter plays violin with them), I’d make sure I’ll visit Northampton and strolling down its beautiful downtown area. My love for old buildings, history and architecture find its way in this city. Thomas Cole, my favorite landscape painter who established the Hudson River School, painted the Oxbow in 1836 depicting a romantic panorama of Connecticut River Valley after the thunderstorm as viewed from Mount Holyoke in Northampton. It showed how he loved Northampton and its environment.
The city was called “Norwottuck” or “Nonotuck” by the native inhabitants of the area which was the Pocumtuc. The name means “the midst of the river” and Northampton is situated by Connecticut River. Its splendid surrounding has attracted many, including the “Swedish Nightingale” – Jenny Lind, a famous opera singer, who thought Northampton as “Paradise of America”. That’s how this city’s other nickname is the Paradise City. Noho is known as the city with cultural, arts, educational and historical background where Christian revival, slave abolitionist, artists and people with eclectic lifestyle thrive. Clarke School for Hearings and Speech was established here in 1867 which was United State’s first oral school for the deaf. Alexander Graham Bell was one of their school leaders. Other educational establishment founded in Northampton is Smith College, a private liberal art college for women, founded in 1871. Their famous alumni are Julia Child, Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan – both were US first ladies, and also American poet and writer, Sylvia Plath.
Saturday, January 21st, was a special day for my oldest daughter. On that day, she had an audition in New York City with a music college that she applied for. We, my self and her sister, accompanied her to NYC. We took a train from our town and departed about 8:30AM. When we got on the train, a lot of seats were already occupied. That Saturday also marked a very important day for a lot of people, most of all the women, who live in United States, because that’s the day the Women’s March(es) were held all over the country. Many women, young and old, from many different background and race got on our train to go to New York City to participate with the Women’s March NYC. Some women who boarded the train later a long the way to New York brought along signs and posters. Between them were also some men who were as enthusiast as the women. Our train car felt very energized by the present of these people who chatted and became acquaintances for they shared the same thoughts and opinions relating to the new president. The atmosphere was really invigorating.
We reached our destination, Grand Central Terminal, around 10:30AM. After we went to the restroom on the lowest floor at the station, we went up to the main floor which is where the main lobby is and were surprised to see so many people who would participate in the Women’s March NYC flocking there. Some were children, mostly girls, who were beaming proudly putting on a show of their posters and signs for anyone who wanted to read them. It was fascinating! Of all the times I’ve been to Grand Central, that was the first time that that I felt the place was full of energy. My daughters and I passed by several people who were getting ready for the march. A woman with pink hair sat near one of the pillars while holding on to a poster, while on the other side two young women busy preparing their posters, writing some words with capital letters. Some women wore pink knitted hats that shaped like kitty’s ears. The hats became the symbol of the Women’s March movement. We then continued our journey to the building on West 54th Street where my eldest would have her audition. While we were walking from Grand Central towards the audition studio, we passed by several streets that were being cordoned for the march. New York City was getting ready for one heck of a celebration.
After the audition ended around 1:30PM, as I promised my daughters, we walked towards the lower 50’s street to see the march. But then a chance arose when we saw the street in front of us wasn’t closed and so we blended in with the crowd that already started the march. It seemed my daughters and I started around West 52nd Street and walked towards West 54th Street. People in the march were in a very jaunty mood. They yelled and shouted but not in an angry manner, even though they spoke of disappointment, fear and sadness about the country’s predicament. People were very engaged to one another, saying ‘hi’ and getting acquainted. It was beautiful to be in the crowd.
When we reached the last post (around West 54th Street), the march organizers asked us to disperse and go on our way to the street they showed us to go. So along with some people who stopped marching, we walked to the end of the street and had to walk further because a lot of streets were closed. By the time we got into the 49th Street, we met more people who were still marching. To get to the other side, we had to blend in again with the crowd and made way to cross the street. It was more like a celebration happening rather than a demonstration. It’s a democracy celebration for sure! On and on even after several hours have passed, even after my my daughters and I had a late lunch, when we walked to Grand Central to go home, we still met more people who were still marching. It was 5PM when we stopped by the New York Public Library and saw people gathering on the sidewalk next the building, looking at the signs and posters that some people brought for the march that were laid down just like an art exhibition. We walked through another crowd of people and amazed by the amount of people who participated in the Women’s March NYC. It was surreal! We certainly had a wonderful time in New York that day and had an experience and memories that we can share and cherish for a long time.
I believe people should be able to express their understanding about art. With the reasoning of freedom of speech, that expression can be quite confusing. Some expressing it through an art form that they see fit to their purpose and yet on the other hand, it is considered as rather vulgar. In Times Square, that form of expression lately becomes a popular news because it happens in a public space and some says beginning to feel like a menace. Desnudas or the painted ladies who strut along in parts of Times Square, wear body paint on their bodies as they call it as art. They mostly wear only panties or bikini bottom while showing certain illustration on their bodies. For your information, in New York City, being topless is legal and these ladies who now exhibit their painted body in Times Square really knows well how to sell their artwork. They will pose with certain tourists who are willing to give them some tips. Those tourists who were mostly men looked bewildered and also amused. The rests of us, the other passersby and tourists, parents with children would try to avoid the desnudas. When I saw the lady on these photos, a part of me admired her spunk, but another part of me couldn’t fathom the idea of showing off your body in a public space where everyone can see and even touch, and is considered as art expression. With so many ways to express yourself, why this? In the end, I think because this one is the most profitable way to do without requiring any serious effort.
Notes: When I took these pictures, it was last October, I only saw one Desnudas or painted lady in Times Square. Now that it’s almost a year later, I read that the ladies are multiplying and becoming a handful. The local law enforcement has decided to take care of the desnudas.
In the corner of a busy block in Brooklyn, I came upon some writings on the wall. I stared at it smiling and my mind wandered to once upon a time when the time was younger and nicer. The writings on the wall took me to a story of a girl who loved a boy and a boy who was crazy for her. They were young, indeed, only 19, a pair of fools in love. Each never thought of what would becoming of them. They never shared their dreams and still unsure about their own future. But to be 19 and in love, you’re allowed to go crazy beyond realization that what came next might just be the end of everything. Love made you did something silly. “Would you be my wife?”, the boy asked one day. The girl was astounded. The boy might just got caught up in a moment (it was his birthday anyway). But maybe something more happened deep in his heart. The girl looked the boy in the eyes, wanting to know if what she heard was real.
I read the writings on the wall and I distinctly heard my self said,”I do”.
While I was walking towards Grand Central Terminal, accompanying my two daughters and their friend, I came upon this man. I was taking several shots of the Chrysler Building at night, when suddenly my eyes saw the man sleeping on the sidewalk. He laid down on what it seemed to be two pieces of cardboard. The man crossed his legs and covered his body with a jacket. His face was partially hidden under a baseball cap. The man’s trolley, his primary tool of transporting and to hold his worldly possession laid close to him. Under his head was what I believed to be his clothes, in a bag, that became his pillow. As the dusk set, the wind blew a little bit chillier. People kept on passing by, some would stop to take pictures of the Chrysler Building. Under the dim lights in a somewhat quiet street between some buildings with upscale shops, bar and cafes, a man slept soundly without any care in the world. Scattered litters around him, dusts that settled and blown away by the wind, didn’t bother him at all. I took one shot of the man, and kept on walking. I didn’t want to wake him or maybe I tried getting away before I felt guilty for him. In my head, I could hear a song,”She calls out to the man on the street. Sir, can you help me? It’s cold and I’ve no where to sleep. Is there somewhere you can tell me?” from Another Day in Paradise, a song written by Phil Collins. The night sky had darkened and on a train ride home, the song kept playing in my head. “It’s just another day for you and me in paradise. Oh, think twice, it’s just another day for you, you and me in paradise”.