Carmen Herrera: Prodigiosa y Tenaz

Last spring I did my first translation for a major U.S. museum. I translated an essay by Gerardo Mosquera for the Whitney Musem’s exhibition, Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight. Incidentally, this is Herrera’s first solo exhibition by a major museum, so I felt even more passionate about getting it right.

To prepare, I read everything I could about Carmen Herrera, abstract expressionism, and minimalism in Spanish and English. My initial aim was to familiarize myself with terminology, but even after I got a good sense of the lexicon and determined translations for concepts that were new to me, I kept reading. I was fascinated by the 101-year-old Cuban, American, immigrant artist who received very little recognition before her hundredth birthday but kept painting anyway. I love her. I love everything she symbolizes. Here are some of the coolest things I learned.

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photo via the Whitney Museum of American Art

Carmen Herrera started painting as a child and dedicated her life to making art, despite not selling a single painting until she was 89.

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photo via The 100 Years Show, a documentary film about Herrera

Despite being arthritic and wheelchair-bound, she continues to paint every day.

 

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photo via Lisson Gallery


She explains that her art is driven by the quest for simple geometric abstractions and refutes interpretations of her paintings that contradict her.

 

 

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photo via the Whitney Museum of American Art


Her interviews are incredibly fun to read because she seems to have a witty retort to everything, including art criticism: “‘People see very sexy things — dirty minds! — but to me sex is sex, and triangles are triangles’” (quoted by Deborah Sontag).

 

 

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photo via Gotham Magazine

 

Gallery owners admitted that she was producing better, more innovative work than her male peers and explicitly refused to represent her because she was a woman; the only museums who showed her art were museums dedicated to showing art by marginalized, Latin@ artists; and still, she persevered.

 

carmen_master2
photo via StudioFaculty.com

 

Her success began a few years after her husband died, and people around her asked if maybe her husband––who had been a staunch supporter of her work––was helping her from heaven. In a 2009 interview, she refuted that interpretation: “‘Yeah, right, Jesse on a cloud. I worked really hard. Maybe it was me.’”

 

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photo via the Whitney Museum of American Art

 

Her favorite artist is herself.

The Whitney retrospective closes this Monday, but I hope it is the first of many. That may well be the case because, after it closes in New York, the show is headed to Ohio.

Carmen Herrera: Prodigiosa y Tenaz

Happy Birthday, Bethany!

This summer I visited a friend I hadn’t seen in a while, and the first thing she said to me was, “How do you know ArchedEyebrow?,” which thrilled me because I love Bethany Rutter, and I think everyone should know her.

And since the internet told me that today is her birthday, I decided to answer that question for the world wide web.

bethany rutter

Bethany in front of the Brooklyn Museum, spring 2015

I met Bethany at a wedding, waiting in line for appetizers––they had these little food stations featuring different cuisines in addition to a seated dinner and multiple desserts. It was food heaven (or as I like to call it, heaven. Because if it’s true we get to create our own version of heaven, mine will consist of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, kitchens, and restaurants).

Back to the wedding buffet…

When I met Bethany, I was spending a lot of time with super cool women who unfortunately had terrible relationships with food (like a lot, if not most, women living in our patriarchal, body-hating society), so social eating situations made me apprehensive. (It’s hard for me to hear people make negative weight-related comments about food, especially when I’m about to eat, and all I want to do is enjoy it!) I didn’t realize how much I had come to expect fatphobic food talk before every meal until I heard Bethany exclaim, “This is delightful!”

We bonded over how excited we were to try everything, and honestly, that interaction was enough for me to love her. But that wasn’t all! She was also wearing a dress I still daydream about. And she was the wedding DJ. And she played ***Flawless by Beyoncé for me, so by the end of the wedding, I had a major friend crush.

She lives in London, so I wasn’t sure if I would get to see her again, but somehow we ended up going to see the Kara Walker exhibit in the Domino sugar factory before she flew home. All of the art was made of refined sugar and represented Black bodies, and at the exhibit, there were lots of non-Black people doing awful things to the sculptures (like taking photos in front of the art while making lewd or violent poses). Bethany took in the scene and said, “Someone should take pictures or make a video to expose all the racist things people are doing.”

I decided on the spot that we were destined to be friends, even if she did live across the Atlantic. (Later we learned Kara Walker had been filming us all along because she’s brilliant.)

It’s been two years since that dreamy wedding, and I’ve only found more reasons to love Bethany, including her fabulous fashion blog, her hilarious twitter, her sense of fun, and the way she doesn’t just stand with her arms crossed when she sees something unjust (see, for example, her “You Look Great!” campaign in response to one of the worst examples of fat-shaming harassment I’ve ever heard of).

edama me

arched sushi

Happy birthday, Bethany! I’m so glad you exist.

 

Happy Birthday, Bethany!

NYC Tour

For my birthday, the incredible, wonderful, talented Anja Riebensahm sent me a pop-up model of New York. The best part is that she put little speech and thought bubbles of things I might say or think all around the city (and a sign that says “KRISTY 4EVER” in Midtown). I loved putting it together and remembering all my favorite places.

Lately I’ve been daydreaming about New York more than usual. Aside from missing my friends who live there, I remember how much fun it was to play tour guide in the spring. Last year Devin and I hosted friends from England, Mexico, and South Africa within a few weeks of each other, and we were in tour guide heaven. This spring I am stuck in what feels like tour guide limbo. I’ve written a lot of texts and tweets that say “Go here! Skip this! Do that!” to friends who are visiting the city, but I realized that I almost always give the same advice, and to spare myself from carpal tunnel, I might as well put it all in one place.

Note: I am most familiar with Brooklyn and Manhattan because that’s where I spent most of my time. I am also familiar with restaurants in Queens (the borough with the best food, in my opinion), but I don’t know much about the Bronx or Staten Island.

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GENERAL ADVICE

1. As soon as you arrive, get a copy of New York Magazine, The New Yorker, and Time Out New York. Read them on your first day in town to see if there are any events you want to attend while you’re there. (You can also read their events listings online at the links above.)

2. If you’re going to be in New York longer than one or two days, get a 7-day unlimited MetroCard. You can get almost anywhere by public transit, and aside from saving money and time (because you won’t have to refill your card), the train is one of the best places to people-watch. If you like to tour cities by bus, skip the expensive tour buses, and ride a city bus (also included in your unlimited MetroCard). The buses are empty at prime touring times, and they ride down the same streets. Tip: The option to buy an unlimited card can be hard to find on the MetroCard machines, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

3. Use Google Maps to find your way around. There are New York-specific apps and sites, but you’ve probably used Google Maps before, and its directions are accurate for transit, walking, and biking. I use the app all the time, no matter what city I’m in, and it’s never led me astray.

BROOKLYN

1. IM Pastry Studio (1131 Nostrand Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11225)

IM Pastry Studio is the bakery of my dreams! Perfect cupcakes, savory food, the best
cold brew in the city, super fresh fruit drinks (the mojito mint limeade and the ting ting  
are my favorites), and Dough doughnuts (a.k.a. the only donuts that matter). I’ve been   
known to walk out with a drink and dessert in each hand because the choice was so difficult. Plus, it’s beautiful and close to Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which I also highly, highly recommend.

2. M.O.B. (525 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217)

You know how sometimes you put your phone in airplane mode and it charges really fast? That’s how I feel when I walk down Atlantic Avenue. I can’t explain why, but I can tell you about M.O.B (Maimonides of Brooklyn), my favorite restaurant on that energizing street. It’s a vegan restaurant that aims to “seduce carnivores,” and judging by the reaction of the many meat-eaters I’ve taken there, it succeeds. Go there for brunch, lunch, or dinner. Sit inside at the long communal tables or outside in the garden. The whole menu is excellent, but I have a soft spot for the M.O.B. flatbreads served on plates in the shape of the Brooklyn Bridge.

3. The Brooklyn Heights Promenade (at Montague Street and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway) and Brooklyn Bridge Park (starts at 45 Dock Street and wraps around the waterfront)

If you ask most New Yorkers about parks to visit, you’ll likely be told to go to the High Line, but I find it kind of underwhelming. The Brooklyn Heights Promenade and Brooklyn Bridge Park, on the other hand, never disappoint. They’re perfect for skyline views and photo ops. Brooklyn Bridge Park is built on a series of piers (each with its own features and activities), making it one of the most creative uses of public space I’ve ever seen. Take a spin on Jane’s Carousel, get pizza and Ample Hills ice cream, ride a bike, watch a soccer game, go for a swim in the (admittedly tiny) pop-up pool, roller-skate, have a perfect sunny day.

4. The Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11238)

As far as I know, the Brooklyn Museum is the only museum in the world with a feminist art wing (though I would love to be proven wrong). It is also the home of First Saturdays––my favorite, favorite, favorite free event in New York. Every first Saturday of the month, the museum opens its doors, allowing everyone the opportunity to view its exhibits, make art, and dance to live music for free. Go for the art, and stay for the people-watching. It’s a monthly convention of New York’s most stylish residents, and their outfits regularly left me breathless.

5. Night Train (622 Degraw Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217)

I hear NBC recently filmed Night Train for a TV special, so catch this comedy night ASAP before it blows up and you can no longer get tickets. Wyatt Cenac (of Daily Show fame) hosts and picks an incredible lineup of comedians. For example, in January we saw Erin Jackson, Hari Kondabolu, and Kevin Avery. Bonus: The DJ in residence is Don Will, whose name you might recognize from Another Round!

MANHATTAN

1. Banana Pudding from Magnolia Bakery (various locations)

I don’t have very much wisdom to impart, but there is one thing I know deep down in my bones, and that is “If you go to Magnolia Bakery, get the banana pudding.” You will be tempted by the cupcakes. The cupcakes are beautiful. The cupcakes are famous! But sadly, the cupcakes are dry and boring. Trust me. I have made this mistake many times. However, the banana pudding is worth all the hype and then some. I don’t care if you don’t like banana desserts. I don’t care if you don’t like pudding. Both of these things are true of me, and still, the banana pudding is perfect.

2. Housing Works Bookstore Café (126 Crosby Street, New York, NY 10012)

Housing Works is a superb organization operating the best thrift stores in New York City. I love all of their stores, but my very favorite is the Housing Works Bookstore Café. Located on a cobblestone street in SoHo, it’s everything a bookstore should be, with bookshelves covering every wall on both floors, good lighting, plenty of tables, a grand staircase, and green hanging lamps. It also has free wi-fi, which is important if you’re visiting from abroad or if you don’t have a smartphone. All of that is enough to make it worth a visit, but it also hosts some of the best literary events, including The Moth StorySLAM so be sure to check the calendar.

3. Pippin Vintage Jewelry (112 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011)

Pippin Vintage Jewelry is a luxurious boutique that sells jewelry from seemingly every time period, but the coolest thing about it is that they have pieces at every price point (starting at $5). I bought Devin’s wedding band and my most beautiful pair of earrings at Pippin, and every time I’ve gone in, the staff has answered all my questions and made me feel like a VIP (even when the only thing I could ask was “Um…what’s the cheapest thing you sell?”). Bonus: Chelsea is filled with vintage stores, so be sure and walk around before and after you check out Pippin.

4. Fabulous Fanny’s (335 East 9th Street, New York, 10003)

People often ask me where I got my glasses, and I love answering “Fabulous Fanny’s!” It’s a store that truly lives up to the adjective in its name, with glasses of all kinds, most at much, much lower prices than at other stores. Fabulous Fanny’s stocks vintage frames and new frames made in the U.S.A. They don’t do the lenses in store, but they’ll refer you to a place in Chinatown that does quick work and is also very affordable, making it possible for you to buy a pair as a souvenir!

5. Playing Tourist (various locations)

When I was younger, I thought tourist attractions were for boring uninspired people with no creativity. As a result, I went to Paris and almost missed out on seeing the Eiffel Tower. Thankfully, a nice French family intervened, and now I know the error of my ways. I hope nobody is as silly as I was at 19, but just in case, I want to add this disclaimer. Most tourist attractions are attractions for a reason, and it doesn’t make you any less cool to want to see them. Since there are so many things to see in New York (and you probably want to do some things off the beaten path in addition), I suggest choosing a few rather than trying to see them all. My favorites are Grand Central Terminal (bonus points for all the good dining options, ranging from The Campbell Apartment to Magnolia “Get-the-Banana-Pudding” Bakery), the New York Public Library at 42nd street and the adjacent Bryant Park, Times Square (go late at night for maximum effect and minimal crowds), and the Statue of Liberty. You can see the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry, which is free to ride, and a good option if you don’t have much money or time or if you don’t care about seeing the statue up close. However, in my opinion, going to see it up close is worth it (and before going, I didn’t think I’d like it that much!).

QUEENS

1. Casa Enrique (5-48 49th Ave. Long Island City, NY 11101)

In my experience, most Mexican restaurants in the States are not good––to put it mildly––so I prefer to wait until I go home to Chihuahua where I eat and eat and eat in an attempt to make up for lost time (and tacos). Casa Enrique is the shining exception. I cried when I ate there because I never imagined it was possible to have food that good on this side of the border. Chef Cosme Aguilar is my hero.

2. MoMA PS1 (22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, NY 11101)

PS1 is MoMA’s cool little sister. Focusing exclusively on contemporary art and housed in a former schoolhouse, it’s ideal for visitors who get overwhelmed by gigantic museums and who want to see experimental art they may not encounter elsewhere. I especially like it in the spring and summer because of the outdoor exhibits and the Warm Up concert series in the courtyard. However, I highly recommend that you check the calendar before going. Since it’s a smaller museum, it has a smaller number of exhibits (sometimes the whole museum is devoted to a single artist). I’ve seen some exhibits that I loved and others I regret seeing (and subjecting my mom to…), so make sure you know what’s showing.

3. SriPraPhai (64-13 39th Avenue, Woodside, NY 11377)

The average price for an entrée is $10. The portions are generous. And it is the best Thai restaurant in New York. I would regularly take hour-long subway rides to eat there with whomever I could convince to join me, and considering how far it was, it didn’t take much cajoling to convince anyone after they’d tried it once. The menu is longer than the Old Testament (with a sizeable vegetarian section!) so if you need recommendations, allow me to suggest the papaya salad, the mock-duck salad, the tom kha soup, and the panang curry.

Do you have any favorite NYC places? I’d love to hear them!

NYC Tour

Illustrating Immigration

little red suitcase by anja riebensahm

Dear friends,

As most of you know, I migrated to the United States from Mexico when I was little.

My friend Anja also moved away from her home in Germany as a child, and she happens to be a great illustrator.

Together we are working on a project about what it’s like to see a new place for the first time.

In the past decade, immigration has become a big topic for politicians who endlessly debate whether it’s right or wrong and what to do about it. But in all the talk about immigration, the issue, I think we forget about immigrants, the individuals.

We’re looking to hear stories from people who migrated from/to any country as children and what caught their attention. Snippets from their stories will be illustrated by Anja.

If you know anyone, please ask them to fill out this short survey.

The point of the project is to illustrate that immigration is natural (people and animals have always migrated) and that immigration can be funny, happy, sad, or just plain weird––like any human experience.

Thanks for your help,
Kristy

Some or all of your response may be used as part of an illustrated project about immigration experiences that will be published on BuzzFeed and shared on social media.

Illustrating Immigration

Ilustrando la Inmigración

little red suitcase by anja riebensahm

Querid@s amig@s:

Como la mayoría de ustedes saben, yo emigré de México a los Estados Unidos cuando era niña.

Mi amiga Anja también se mudó lejos de su hogar en Alemania de chiquita, y resulta que ella es una ilustradora de gran talento.

Juntas estamos colaborando en un proyecto acerca de la experiencia de ver un lugar nuevo por primera vez.

En la última década la inmigración se ha convertido en un tema favorito de los políticos, quienes debaten sin cesar si es algo bueno o malo y lo que deberían hacer al respecto. Sin embargo, creo que al debatir sobre el tema de la inmigración a veces nos olvidamos de los inmigrantes, las personas realmente impactadas por esas decisiones políticas.

Estamos buscando historias de personas que emigraron cuando eran niños y lo que les llamó la atención. Fragmentos de sus historias serán ilustrados por Anja.

Si conoces a alguien que ha tenido esta experiencia, por favor, comparte esta encuesta con él o ella: Ilustrando la Inmigración (encuesta).

El objetivo de este proyecto es ilustrar que la inmigración es algo natural (las personas y los animales siempre han migrado) y que emigrar puede ser una experiencia divertida, feliz, triste, o realmente extraña — tal como cualquier experiencia humana.

Gracias por su ayuda,
Kristy

Su respuesta, o parte de ella, puede ser utilizada como parte de un proyecto ilustrado acerca de la experiencia de inmigrar, el cual será publicado en BuzzFeed y compartido en las redes sociales.

Ilustrando la Inmigración

In which my nerdy reputation precedes me and I overuse the word “favorite” with good reason

The other day my friend Anja (co-author of the sweetest dessert blog and creator of my favorite hot cocoa) texted me saying that she had an extra ticket to see her favorite artist ever in conversation with Ira Glass (host of my favorite radio show). She said she thought of all the people she knows who love NPR (the official radio station of U.S. nerds, in my opinion), and I was at the top of the list! I was honored. Flattered. Grateful. I felt like a super-nerd, and it felt great.

The only thing I knew about Maira Kalman prior to the event was that Anja’s wedding cake, which she baked herself like a boss, was inspired by Maira’s illustrations. It’s always nice to learn more about what inspires the people who inspire you, so I was excited to learn more about her, but I was completely unprepared. I haven’t seen much of Maira’s work, and already I love her art.

Hearing Ira and Maira talk to each other and make connections between their work, I was mesmerized. They were there to discuss Maira’s new book My Favorite Things and everything they said was so witty. I kept laughing and laughing and turning to Anja, thinking, “Did you hear that? How can they be so funny and insightful?” Especially Maira.

My favorite part of the night was when Ira introduced her by reading her introduction in the book: “The pieces that I chose were based on one thing only––a gasp of delight. Isn’t that the only way to curate a life? To live among things that make you gasp with delight?”

My jaw dropped when I heard that because that’s exactly what I do when I see something I like. Nobody likes driving with me in the passenger seat because I tend to gasp loudly, and without the context gained by being in my brain, it can sound scary enough to slam the brakes (sorry, Mom). And then I have to explain that no, there was no imminent danger. I just really liked the color of that house. Oops.

It’s nice to know that someone is able to dedicate her life to appreciating things and sharing them with others. (Maybe I’m not a terrible passenger, Mom. Maybe I’m just really good at liking things! I wonder if Maira’s family and friends have gotten used to her gasps? Apparently, she likes going on long walks and maybe that’s why…)

The second best part of the night was when someone in the audience asked Ira and Maira, “What is the last job you had that wasn’t connected to your current profession?”

Maira answered, “A maid in an Irish castle.”

And Ira asked her when.

“Oh, this was just last year.”

In which my nerdy reputation precedes me and I overuse the word “favorite” with good reason

Cartoon City, U.S.A.

Once I went to visit some rad friends in Austin, Texas. They lived behind a cupcake shop with a giant rotating cupcake on top. And down the road was a gym with a bulging muscular arm sticking out of it. A further drive away was a food co-op with a dinosaur on its roof. And in the other direction, a restaurant with a giant burger being towed by a car…on its roof. The city was positively teeming with giant things! But all the Austinites I talked to hadn’t really noticed?

It was weird. I mean, if I drew the Austin skyline it would be giant boxes of fries next to a giant zebra dressed as Carmen Miranda next to a huge boot next to a giant cowboy hat next to a huge boot (there are lots of big boots). If the average Austinite drew the skyline, s/he’d probably draw the state capitol and some buildings.

My mission was clear. I had to go to Austin to appreciate all the under-appreciated things on top of buildings. I ended up living there in the summer of 2010. I lived in a cool co-op and did a cool internship. But the rest of my waking hours were spent visiting all the oversized monuments to mundanity and taking one picture of each of them with a disposable camera. So diligent was my quest that I ended up visiting the studio where all these monuments are created. Being eye-level with something intended to be seen from far below is a really cool experience. I hope you get to try it sometime.

And now, pictures (though not all of them because I misplaced half).

The Gym
Oh you know, just a tattoo shop with a skull-head octopus pirate.
I saw so many giant boots that it was hard to decide which one to photograph. I ended up snapping this shot last-minute in bad lighting just before leaving. Oh well.
Some giant things are independent of their buildings, but they still rule.
I’m absolutely certain this thrift store is sponsored by mid-90s Nickelodeon. It is my very favorite.
A streetlight named floor lamp. (That’s my friend Leah pulling the chain.)
Jury’s out on whether these were actual kids in caps and gowns hanging out on top of a building or just replicas.
¡Olé!
The Art Store
The home of all the best giant things. They don’t usually have visitors, but they let me have a look around. I think this place should be on the official tour of Austin.

Thank you, Austin!

Cartoon City, U.S.A.