May 9, 2017

TRAVELIN’ WITH JACQUELINE | Spring Break NYC – Part 2: Museums

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As a college student, it’s important to be aware and take advantage of the student discounts that places like clothing companies, restaurants and especially museums offer, because it’s going to be more than forty years until you can get a senior discount…forty-plus years of dreary adulthood in which you are expected to pay full price for everything—the horror! Seriously though, it’s always nice to save some money, so I whenever I go to a museum, I have my Cornell ID ready. During Spring Break I visited three museums, all of which offered student discounts, but I will only relate my experiences at two of them—the Museum of Sex and the Guggenheim.


233 5th Avenue, NY, NY 10016
5 / 5 stars

On Saturday, after brunching at Friedman’s, James and I decided to walk to the Museum of Sex, which is a great place to visit if you don’t find the other huge art museums in town as appealing, hate the crowds that typically occupy spaces in such museums or just want to explore the history of sex. The first floor of the museum currently has an exhibition called “Night Fever,” which is about the disco scene in the United States, especially New York City, during the 1960s. The exhibit featured a lot of intriguing photos of club-goers engaged in various forms of bacchanalia in the discotheques, but most of the photos I took didn’t show up well, since the lighting matched the theme of the subject of the exhibit. The best photo I got of anything in the dim lighting was this:


According to the blurb next to the photo, this photo was taken in a nightclub called the Carousel. If you look closely, you’ll be able to discern an actual carousel behind the two people in the picture! This picture was probably my favorite of that specific exhibit—I just love the decadence and the placement of it. Notice the topless dancer in the pool and the man in the zebra suit playing the keyboard, the positioning of which calls to mind phallic associations. Then you have the aggregation of light around the center of the photo, which reminded me of the effect that light has when it hits a disco ball—there’s just a bright ball of light within the disco ball itself, which you can see in the photo I took of the decor below:


On the second floor, we found sexual artifacts, the most interesting of which were this artificial hymen,


this fetish ballet boot,


one of Hugh Hefner’s iconic red smoking jackets,


a lotus shoe that was used in the Chinese tradition of foot-binding


and this so-called “Pleasure Menu,” which clarifies to customers the service available at a brothel in Nevada in the late 20th century.


The third floor of the Museum of Sex focused on the sexuality of animals, and while I learned that snakes can have hempenes (plural of hemipenis) and that mallard ducks can display acts of homosexual necrophilia, what I found to be most amusing by far were these (plaster? papier-mâché?) figures of animals having sex:




Moving on, James and I went to the fourth floor, which had an exhibit about the evolution of pornography throughout time. I’m not sure I’ll be able to (or that I’m allowed to) attach the photos that I took on that floor, as they’re definitely graphic, but honestly, that was probably the least interesting part of the museum.

Finally, we went to the back of either the first floor or the basement floor and read about what is one of my favorite types of art—outsider art. Outsider art is produced by autodidacts, as well as the institutionalized mentally ill, making this artform very abstract and erratic. The sex figurines below were part of the exhibit:


On our way out of the museum, we passed through its gift shop, where I saw this hilarious magnet:


Now, I was actually debating between covering the American Museum of Natural History and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, both of which I visited, but I eventually settled on the latter for many reasons. First of all, while both places were extremely interesting, I found myself far more intrigued by the Guggenheim. Moreover, the AMNH is huge, and although I spent over three hours there, I couldn’t get through all they had on display–it’s simply overwhelming. On the other hand, I took my time at the Guggenheim looking at each piece and reading the accompanying information, and I was there for only two-and-a-half hours! It would only make sense for me to focus on whichever museum I was able to fully enjoy. Plus, if you’re going to make me choose between (old) history and (new) art…I’m sorry, but I’m going to choose art, especially because the Guggenheim has so many famous pieces by Picasso, van Gogh, Pissarro and Kandinsky.


1071 5th Avenue, NY, NY 10128
5 / 5 stars

While paintings are the Guggenheim’s primary attraction, these sculptures pictured below captured my attention. They were carved by Constantin Brancusi, and are (from left to right) entitled Kings of Kings, The Sorceress and Adam And Eve. I usually don’t find sculpture all that appealing, but I really liked the variety of material and textured surfaces that Brancusi used in this work, and there’s something about the asymmetry of The Sorceress that compels me to keep looking at it.


Below is Pablo Picasso’s Woman with Yellow Hair, which is his depiction of one of his muses sleeping. Throughout Picasso’s work, you’ll find many paintings of sleeping women, but this is the only one in the Guggenheim’s collection. Aside from the fact that my affinity for this painting may be due to my habit of power-napping, Woman with Yellow Hair caught my attention because I was pleasantly surprised at how the lavender worked well as the color of the girl’s skin. Furthermore, Picasso’s thick, confident brush strokes were just pleasing to the eye.


The Football Players by Henri Rousseau, pictured below, is probably my favorite piece in the entire museum for a variety of stupid reasons for which I feel absolutely no shame. One: I love stripes. Two: I love nature. Three: I started laughing when I saw the title of this piece because I initially thought Rousseau was trying to depict a pair of French mimes running away from another pair of French mimes that wanted to beat them up over a huge orange. I feel like football players are supposed to be hyper-masculine, but there’s something about the way each man carries himself–perhaps it’s the self-conscious angles at which they bend their limbs–that makes them look awkward. To further add to this strangeness, the face of each man is portrayed in such a two-dimensional fashion that initially jars the viewer. Four: The silliness of this painting reminds me of my friends and I traipsing and fooling around wherever we go.


As I have just told you, I love stripes, so it should come as no surprise that this painting by Vasily Kandinsky, aptly named Striped, caught my attention as well. When I look at this painting, I get the sense that there’s this colorful, cacophonous chaos–some sense of entropy–that is overwhelming or trying to defy the order that the black and white stripes represent…yet the colorful figures themselves seem to have some sort of order because they do fit quite nicely between the lines of the stripes, so maybe I’m supposed to see order overcoming disorder? *sigh* Art is so…deep…bruh.

I have genuinely no idea who drew this or even what it’s entitled, but this piece reminds me of the bad posture that one of my best friends and I share. The figures are also just so comically unattractive–they’ve got bones sticking out in weird places, their hips are unusually wide and they’re both displaying what can only be described as “stank face.”


Of course, Piet Mondrian requires no introduction, and the work you see below is named Composition. I’m sure some people aren’t all that impressed with “primary colors and geometric shapes,” which is fine because art is subjective…BUT as someone who can barely draw a pretty circle, much less a straight line, I find Mondrian’s work to be truly impressive. I mean, part of me wonders how many times he messed up before he got these simple yet perfect lengths and angles.


Finally, who could possibly miss the most famous piece of art at the Guggenheim? The architecture of the museum itself!


Before I sign off, lest you all forget that we have a museum of our own on Cornell’s campus, I’d like to remind you all to visit the Johnson Museum of Art whenever you can, as admission is free for everyone. The Johnson usually holds workshops (which are also free to students) in which you are taught to create pieces of art (such as tiles, lithographs, etc.) on Thursday nights throughout the school year, which I highly recommend you attend with a friend! It’s a relaxing yet educational way to end the week. Until next time, stay cool and wear sunscreen!