History, Diaspora, & Political Smorgasbord In NYC

Black History/Herstory is not over just because twenty eight day month passes at midnight. Stories go on each day. Stories of life and death. Of people making history before February 1st and after February 28th. Us vegans, artists, writers, performers, creators of every waking hour not only vow continuance of to making our dreams come true, but that of others thirsting for eye opening change and awareness- awareness of creativity, health, and strength. We must engage our minds and hearts with nourishing truth and beauty within ourselves. Then we shall see a light that shines so bright.
On this final day of short month granted to celebrating African descended ancestry, I share Thursday’s overwhelming haze of glorious endeavors. A challenge to visit three museums seated in different parts of NYC, I met goals to fruition, determined to see what was set out to be seen. It was a most esteemed journey granting influential discoveries and a new crop of artists all over the globe branching out and sharing origin complexities. They’ve widened the meaning of art- tying creative vision with anthropology, science, and narrative together. Sewed origin threads remain stagnant in my mind, flowing with a fluid poignancy gratifying thoughts and dreams.
I got to New York City at 1:20 PM on Thursday. Missed the earlier bus and would have been there three hours prior. Still, nothing stopped determination to visit three museums. Three. Three before the clock struck 11:10 PM. If I missed the 11:10 Megabus, I would be stuck in chilly NYC until 6AM. Then again, they do have a 24 hour Starbucks/Sephora so….

I tried the new coconut milk by the way. The perfect afternoon lightning bolt to get my feet ready for a lot of moving. Whilst sipping, I mapped out my intended destinations starting with New York Historical Society Museum, then New Museum, and finally ending at Studio Harlem.

It is a challenge being an artist, knowing that MET is across the street, seducing good intentions. I ignored the little voice and came right inside New York’s Historical Society, a place filled with New York history. I learned that slavery was abolished here long before Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War. Yet the grisly details of violent deaths of a people seen equivalent to animals, sometimes less so, hurt me like a cut that never goes away.

Miniature watercolor portraits of former Haitian born slave Pierre Touissant and his wife Juliette Noel. Artist Anthony Meucci, famous for rendering George Washington and so forth painted these little treasures. That means they were well worth cementing into history. Their distinguished, quality clothing showcases their esteem and privilege after being freed in NYC. At 42, Touissant is profiting big as a hairdresser, but eventually began sharing the wealth, becoming a major philanthropist alongside his Mrs.

Second floor awaited. Having seen Ava DuVernay’s Academy Award winning film a few times, I can honestly say that Stephen Somerstein’s long vaulted Selma photographs fulfilled excited expectation. It was like being behind the scenes of documented black and white footage the end of DuVeray’s film hinted. Here in varied sizes, untitled images of people united for justice and equality. A great leader and his legion of devoted followers of all races, economic backgrounds, religion, and creed walking along promised land, singing and praising, hoping that “we shall overcome.” Sights were wonderful to behold and treasure.

Directions are confusing instructions on Google. I had to stop inside a gas station where the man said two streets upwards to Bowery Street. Yet two streets upward I found Blick Art Supplies. An employee indicated that it was two blocks east. Yes! At near four PM, among thrift shops and furniture stores bringing life to old, dated construction, I found ship floating over New Museum. Founded by the late remarkable Marcia Tucker in 1977, a wonderful woman highlighted in the !Woman Art Revolution documentary, I was enthusiastic to spend time in the latest exhibit promising to be epic and profound.

Fifty one artists from twenty seven different countries embody five floors of gallery space. Diversity and culture have been a celebrating part of New Museum’s incredible history, a definitive mastery unlike most NYC museums celebrating male dominance. Here many are joined together in an amazing, unprecedented world that is both overwhelming and majestic. One feels like a small seed implanted in the richest soil and engaging art quenches curiosity and thirst for unknown. This exhibit engages viewers to perform more than typical tasks of deciphering art visually. We are encouraged to read, to listen, to feel. These notions are not entirely new, but it establishes a connection between the digital age of now, of being thrown so much information and having difficulty translating which deserves to be absorbed into broadening human mind.
Some unphotographed highlights includes Oliver Laric’s compelling video Untitled metaphoric morphism animation. Images of characters familiar and otherwise shift and form from human to creature repeating and transforming roles of heroism and emotional layers. Daniel Steegman Mangrene’s virtual reality, Phantom (kingdom of all the animals and all the beasts is my name) places viewers in false dimension of a beguiling forest setting. We must trust intuition as well as hold created imagery into highest regard. Under the glasses, our eyes look up, down, and all around. So captivating to be suspended in a space whilst also having to simultaneously pay attention to true predicament. I must have bumped into walls several times.  It was well worth seeing how art, science, and technology continued this teasing bridge. Definitely a fantastic must see!

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